An incredible adventure with a few mishaps along the way
Travel always brings some degree of risk – especially an extended trip around the world. Most of our mishaps were minor and we learned some good tips.
I started writing this post when we returned from the world trip. Although it has taken way too long to finish it, I hope you get a kick out of the duh moments and avoid some of your own mishaps through our lessons learned.
We went on 29 flights and didn’t miss one! But there was one close call and a double duh moment. The flight from Koh Phangan (via Koh Samui) to Cambodia had a transfer in Bangkok. The inbound flight was late and luckily the staff asked if anyone had a tight connection. The agent let us into the terminal through a side door and then disappeared. As we rushed through the terminal, we had trouble finding the gates and finally realized we had to go through security again. The line wasn’t too long, but we got stuck behind a large, slow moving family. After we made it through, I started to run toward the gate, only to turn back to see Michael taking his time. I kept going and made it just before they closed the door. Yes, Michael made it too – although he did not get all sweaty.
The second getting around mishap was also in Thailand on the boat from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan when the captain tried to drop everyone at the wrong pier. Read about the shady boat captain in the Koh Phangan post >
One of the worst experiences on the trip was when Lori’s iPhone was stolen on a Barcelona metro. See details in the post Robbed in Barcelona >
We learned a new phrase on the trip – ATM skimming, which is when a thief installs a device on an ATM to read the data on debit / credit cards. Michael used his credit card to get cash at an ATM machine just outside a large grocery store in Rio de Janeiro. Within a day, his card was used for multiple transactions in Rio. He had to cancel the card and have a new one sent.
The worst mishap of the trip could have been a trip ender – Michael’s severe case of dysentery in Cambodia. I got a mild case and didn’t need medical care (but felt crappy for a few weeks after). Read all about it in Stomach Gone Amok >
[Travel Tip: get travel insurance. We’re glad we did.]
Four months later, Michael experienced dysentery 2.0 with a mild case in Rio de Janeiro that did not require medical treatment, but kept him in bed for a few days.
It’s all in the Details
Our departure from Singapore was a double duh moment. Michael was recovering from dysentery, so we spent a lot of time at the hotel. Our departure flight was at 2:00 AM, so we had to check out and go to the airport the night before. With all that was going on, I spaced on the departure date. On our last evening in Singapore as Michael slept, I relaxed and caught up on blogging. I don’t know why, but suddenly I had a moment and realized that our departure was that night – not the following night as I had thought. Luckily there was still plenty of time to pack before heading to the airport.
Now for duh number two… The taxi driver asked which airline we were flying and we told him Singapore Airlines. When entered the terminal, we didn’t see our flight on the board. After checking, we learned that Singapore Airlines has two terminals and we were at the wrong one. Since the airport is so big, there is a train between the terminals – but, it had just stopped running for the night. The only option was to take a taxi – which took about 15 minutes to find since the airport was nearly shut down for the night.
[Lesson Learned: From that point on, I looked up the exact terminal name/ number for every flight before we left for the airport.]
As we planned the trip, I made a detailed spreadsheet with visa requirements, best time to visit etc., but overlooked Turkey visas. When our flight landed, we waited in the biggest, slowest immigration line of the entire trip. There was even a computer glitch that halted the line for about 20 minutes. When it was finally our turn, the agent looked for our Visas – which, to my horror, we didn’t have. Luckily, there was another counter in the same room (with a small line) where we could get the visa. A faulty assumption on my part could have ruined our one-month stay in Istanbul.
One fine day in Ibiza, we parked in downtown Eivissa, put money in the meter, returned before it expired, and got a ticket. Due to a huge glare on the meter screen, we couldn’t fully read it and did not see that we had to input the license plate number when paying. Read all about Ibiza Parking Meters >
[Lesson Learned: When renting a car, research parking rules and procedures.]
Not surprisingly, we experienced several minor money-related mishaps.
After leaving Uganda, we could not find an exchange in South Africa that would convert Shillings. So we tried again at the Nairobi, Kenya airport on the way to Europe. The exchange accepted the Shillings, but between the crappy exchange rate and super high fee, we lost roughly 30 – 40% of the money.
[Travel Tip: exchange any leftover currency before leaving a country.]
Despite reading that some Rio de Janeiro taxi drivers overcharge tourists, we were overcharged by nearly 30 Real for the ride from the airport.
Frozen Credit Card
Despite alerting our credit card companies of our itinerary, Amex froze Michael’s credit card several times – once the day after he called to unfreeze it.
[Travel Tip: bring more than once credit card as a backup in case one is frozen, lost, stolen, or skimmed.]
International Bank Transfers
Some of the flats where we stayed didn’t accept credit cards, so the options were to pay by cash or bank transfer. Since we didn’t bring a large amount of cash, we did the bank transfer. When we went online to do the transfer, we found that the bank had a $ limit for international transfers along with a $35 fee. We ended up having to do several transfers and pay a bunch of fees. And, the property manager charged us for the fees they incurred for each transfer – a total of 108 Euro! We later learned that we could have avoided the hassle and expense if we had signed up for the bank’s free online fraud protection service.
[Travel Tip: contact your bank to research the options to get cash and do bank transfers abroad.]
Getting robbed in Barcelona was bad enough; having to pay import tax on the replacement phone made it even worse! My cell contract was close to renewal, so I bought the phone at a reduced price and had a family member send it to Spain. I thought this would be cheaper than paying full price for an iPhone in Europe. When the phone arrived, DHL would not release it until I paid a tax that was twice the amount of the phone’s cost. After much research and many angry emails, DHL acknowledged that they had overcharged me and refunded a portion. But, I sill ended up paying a hefty tax.
[Travel Tip: remember that tourists are subject to import tax in Europe.]
[Lesson Learned: I filed a claim with my travel insurance company and they reimbursed the cost of the phone, but not the shipping and import tax. I should have purchased a phone in Spain instead and then submitted the claim.]
Have you had any Travel Mishaps?
Leave a comment and share your travel mishaps and lessons learned.