E-Scooters: Blessing or Environmental Hell?

Yes, the last few tourist seasons have seen a growth in the electric scooter (E-Scooters) for hire schemes. Every tourist town has them. From Portland to Seattle, Vancouver B.C., Dublin, Edinburgh, and of course London and Rome. It started with bicycle rental schemes, hire a bike and pedal through town. These are not as annoying or fraught with danger, while one must consider not having a bike helmet is a bit of a danger. The problem is, someone takes it a step further and goes for electric scooters. And they are everywhere and have become the bane of many a township. The concept of a mobile transport with electricity you can just grab seems so eco friendly. But is it really?

It seemed innocent at first, but very dangerous if you drive a car. Many impromptu riders don’t dress for visibility or take good road precautions, much less obey traffic rules. Tourists come from all over the country and other countries, and usually the riders of these electric scooters are very young, ages 10 to 25. They do not obey local traffic laws, ride the scooters on sidewalks. And the minute they run out of electric juice, they abandon them, everywhere they can. In Portland, Oregon alone the police have pulled 50 E-Scooters out of the river. Its seems because they are small and disposable looking, that is what people do with them. Apparently the fact they need recharging doesn’t seem to enter the minds of the riders, or the responsibility of planning a route where you can leave one scooter to charge and pick up another is apparently too taxing on young brains.

From Austin and Denver to Chicago and Nashville, citizens have thrown them into trash cans, traffic, and yes, rivers and lakes. The practice has become so commonplace, in fact, that you can find dozens of accounts on Twitter and Instagram dedicated to their destruction. – Conner Cawly

So, why do cities allow these scooters to operate? Or are they clamping down? Or why is it people sick of the scooters are throwing them into rivers and damaging our ecosystems? Police have taken it in stride, asking that you not park the scooters in rivers. How can you make riders more conscious of others and not leave them stranded under over passes, peoples yards, and the middle of the street? Image result for e scooter logo

We expect a bicycle etiquette, well many bike riders have become very militant lately of their right of way and treatment in traffic. However, they adhere to safety rules and self police on dedicated bike routes. The E-Scooter crowd goes anywhere and everywhere, without thought to rules or curtesy. Let’s go to Copenhagen, a city known for free thinking and a very laid back atmosphere. They are not so happy about the recent epidemic of drunk and disorderly E-Scooter riders. It has become quite the thing to get really drunk and grab a scooter in town. Denmark has had enough. They cracked down and made over 20 arrests, citing alcohol and recreational drugs abuse. So beware friends, the police are ticketing in Copenhagen and other cities. The fines start at $300.00 and go up. But San Francisco, the ever on top of it City County city I lived in for years, has topped the list. They have sued, and won a great sum of  money. Now they have a permit system, and will crack down on offenders and have banned several operators from the city.

So how did such a great, eco friendly way of transport get so abused? If you support the environment, why leave them about like trash? Using logic, perhaps that app that allows you to rent the E-Scooter has a locator for safe places to park the scooter? Or, would that would would imply responsibility on the part of the rider? Most towns don’t recognize them as street legal, so some ride the sidewalks. Are you an angry citizen who has had enough? Instead of getting in their faces, or having a scooter rage episode, maybe educate. Contact the scooter companies and explain you want visible assigned places where they can be hired and returned. Contact your city and tell them that the scooters left on any corner should get fines toward the companies not picking them up in a timely manner. Many cities are already attacking the issue. Research a responsible E-Scooter provider where you are traveling to, and look at Yelp or other review sites. Talk to the local constable on the corner. Read articles for the city you are visiting and see what their official take is on the E-Scooters and which ones have a permit, and any guidelines they have so you won’t be fined money.

Please use responsibly, and safely. If you are traveling abroad, places like the UK have very old laws and some new ones on the books that monitor travel with such hedonistic devices. And they have very steep fines. Besides, if you are in such an exciting city, just walk. It’s much more rewarding. If you hire a scooter, use the app, find maps of bike routes and be courteous to lane sharing. You don’t want to go down some cobbled areas with small wheels, you’ll just upend.

Portland Police Pull 50 E-Scooters Out of River

E-Scooter Safety

San Francisco Crack Down on E-Scooters

Vlog 9 – My Experience with Anxiety and Travel — Caitlin Jean Russell

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This particular vlog is something I’ve debated for several months now on whether or not to make it and how to go about doing so. I’d like to preface it by saying that everything I talk about within the video are all examples of my personal experience with panic disorder and anxiety and I am…

via Vlog 9 – My Experience with Anxiety and Travel — Caitlin Jean Russell

Adventures in the UK, Punk, 1982

My Featured 45 for today is Crass’s, How Does it Feel. Crass is by no means for everyone, but they sure could get their messages across. They always had great cover art and posters from their singles.

In 1982, I was a punky 17 year old on my first trip to the UK. I was vagabonding for a month on my own. I was desperate to see where all my favorite punk bands had been and what influenced them, even if it was just to stand in the same city, hop record shops, and try to get to a show. I had to experience Carnaby Street, Camden Market, Portobello Road, and of course I had to travel and hit up other towns in the UK. I learned that each city had it’s own music scene after talking to local kids, each with it’s own flavor. I liked Joy Division, so off to Manchester I went. I then had to visit with some pen pals. So after that it was Wales.

I’ll never forget visiting with my pen pal. Ah, that ancient teenage custom of meeting people from around the world, before there was Twitter and Snap Chat. You dug around in the back of music Fanzines from the UK, the ones you might find in the import section at the record shop. You found names of people who liked the same groups you did. Hand wrote a letter, said “Hello, I found your name and you like some of the same bands I do. It’s hard to find this music here, I listen to college radio to get it. I’ll tell you about California Punk and Rockabilly, or Goth.” And so weird transatlantic bonds were formed. I would of course learn that not everyone you wrote to was how they presented themselves. That’s another story for another time.

A Discotheque in York

I was in Wales, that ancient city with Roman bits still strewn about it. My pen friend and I went down to the local all ages discotheque, me in all my crazy bizarre finery from the markets in London. Yeah, half my clothes got lifted at a youth hostel. London lesson. At least they didn’t get all the 45s I had picked up you couldn’t get back home. We sat in the disco, she with her Shandy, me with a Pernod and Ribena. Two lads started trying to get our attention. This was new territory for me. Boys didn’t give me the time of day at school or in California in general. The Gingery thing. So I let my pen friend handle it, they were Welsh and I figured I wouldn’t get it. But one wasn’t speaking Welsh, and he was in a soldier uniform. I picked up the accent finally. A Liverpool man. I had just gone through on the one day trip there. But he was speaking in tongues I didn’t get, very intensely. Finally his mate, probably seeing the utter bewilderment, and reminding his friend there was an American, tell me in my ear, “Don’t mind him so much. He’s just been through the Falklands business. He’s still not with us yet.” It was the short, fierce little war between Argentina and the British.

I had been hearing of the Crisis through my travels. I had heard something before I left home, and wanted to find out more. But this was the days of no Internet, and American filtered news, even more filtered than now. It was Ronnie Reagan and Thatcher. All about control. The conflict took place the April before I arrived, and cemented Thatcher for upcoming elections. The whole conflict was a mystery to me, and many tried to explain it to me, many of them older and very British. But the punk rock contingency was having none of it, and protests of the violence were being sung about in the music that was released that summer and fall.

I tried to be patient and sadly the young soldier with drink got far worse, and my friend and I had to make our escape. After that night, I felt terrible that such a young man had to go through such violence, and live with the people who had died because of the actions on both sides. I was determined to find out more about the punk scene in other cities. I had been told to try Edinburgh, and hunt record shops there. Maybe even get into a club. So next day, after dealing with Welsh friend’s bizarre Mum, I boarded a train for Scotland.

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Inside poster art. Crass isn’t for everyone but they got the message across.

The Borders

After surviving the strange heat wave that had hit London a week before, I was warned to prepare for Scottish Summer. On the train I would find out what that was. I was scrabbling about lugging the case, my boots and short skirt, my punky self. Slipping and sliding on the wet floors. Trying to avoid all the leering men I kept encountering. Learning life’s mysteries of older men hunting young 17 year old girls. Definitely not something you tell Ma about when you get back. I  finally found a car with mostly women in it. Everyone was going about the weather. In those days, no WiFi to check the actual weather. But as we got closer to Scotland, you could see the bendy trees and debris flying about. Clouds dark as night. The train got thumped by gale force winds. Finally at the border, there was an announcement. All trains cancelled going in. We had to catch the train going back on the other side. Panic.

My Edinburgh Punk Rock history lesson was thwarted! Yes, it was really 4 years after the scene was really happening, but I still wanted to see the streets and venues these kids went through and fought in. I wanted to get in the record shops!

So after the insanity of trying to cram in on the return train on the other side, with no room for me, I found myself sitting on my case on the platform. A young station master strolls up and I ask when the next train will be. There is no next train, not for a few days maybe. Devastation. The Station Master says, ” I’ll call the Missus.” Apparently everything is solved with calling the Missus in the UK. The man came out and said his wife insisted that I stay with them. I was a bit worried as I didn’t know this person, but he was in uniform and looked very worried about my well being. So I was given my Tae and got on so well with their young child, that I was asked if I had baby sitting experience and sat for them while they went round the pub. The Missus wrote to my Ma to tell her I was alive. Sadly, I had to go back down to London and couldn’t get to Edinburgh after all of the trouble I had been through.

This year, a fabulous adventure of a exhibition featuring Scottish Punk and Post Punk music is going on at the National Museum in Edinburgh, Rip It UP! I cannot travel this year, but if you are, take it all in. Tell us how it is.

Got any great stories from 1976 to 1990 about your travels and experiences in the UK and Ireland music scenes? I would love to hear them. If you know any great Punk and Post Punk bloggers/blogs, give me a line. I would love to feature stories here. Got rare 45 and album poster art to share, send it to me, all credits will be made.

Rip It Up Exhibition at the Scottish National Museum

The Outlander Effect on Historic Sites: Careful How You Tread

skye3Last travel season I hit up tours in Scotland and traveled the Bonnie Prince Charlie trail as much as I humanly could on a three week trip. Let’s face it, as filming continues on the fourth season of Outlander, the hit book and television series from Diana Gabaldon’s famous book series, there are many film locations across Scotland, Prague, and South Africa. Enthusiastic fans of both the books and the television series have traveled in epic numbers to reach Scotland, Prague in the Czech Republic, and may be doing so in South Africa. So, what does huge traffic and a huge amount of filming locations to track down mean for travelers, and the environment they trample on? It means Scotland needs to figure out how it will continue to handle the increased human traffic in its borders. Each historic site has seen large increases over the last three years due to the popularity of the series and films.

2018 Outlander Locations Map 

Outlander Filming Locations and Travel Table

Respect
When people travel, they have certain expectations of where they are going. We want accessibility and that the location looks like it does in brochures and travel books. It will never look quite like it did in the film, series, or travel book you bought. When filming takes place, areas are blocked off, and dressed for scenes. It can also be exhilarating and frustrating to fans who traveled to hunt down their favorite series, to get a glimpse of behind the scenes or be close to a star, but escorted off the property. Film crews are trying to work and bring you your favorite show. The instant gratification of selfies and pictures while filming have made some fans go to extremes to get pictures. Everyone becomes a Paparazzi. Producers and studios want to keep the element of surprise for the audience, keep that storytelling secret for the reveal. This can lead to some conflicts. Hopefully as a traveller, you can help promote responsible observance and help keep the area picked up.

To add to it, the popularity of film and TV series like Outlander have lead to fans picnicking and causing erosion at historic sites such as Culloden Moor. At the Fraser stone alone, damage has been done due to trampling and it will now have to go through restoration of the surrounding soil to restore the erosion caused by multitudes of fans coupled with extreme weather. Let us not forget, this site has historic mass graves. Those that have fallen are due respect. Leaving tokens causes more work for the grounds staff.

Embrace Balance
When you are a guest in another country, or any historic site, you should always think about leaving it the way it was when you found it. As a society, we like to collect and grab things for remembrance. People also bring in things as tribute, and the curators then have to dispose of hundreds of items. Just think about how you might feel if something was defaced or trampled on and you could not enjoy it when you arrived.

Clan Fraser grave at Culloden damaged amid ‘Outlander effect’

NTS Applies to Extend Culloden Centre Hours

You should always check with a historic site if something is going on that day, or at the very least check out the local papers. Most historic sites have a web page with current conditions and closures listed. However, these may not get updated frequently. Face it, Scotland is now an ever increasing hotspot for film and television. There are websites for local papers and they love to cover filming and will tell you if filming is in the city, such as Glasgow, and what streets are blocked off. Also, go in mind that no matter how much perfect vacation planning you do, something is going to be blocked or not working at one of the places you really wanted to see. Adapt.

Channel 4 Bid for Glasgow

Budget and Transport
How can you get to cram in as many sites for filming a series as possible in a two week span and not blow what little budget you have? Could you do less damage and annoyance to the environment or any landowners if you took buses or bikes to a local site, and not hired a car? Face it, Outlander is an example of massive amounts of filming locations, spread all over Scotland, and some of them only accessible by car. Or are they? On my trips I was only able to make it to a fraction of the sites I could hunt down. I made it to several S1 and S2 sites, and then continued on the Bonnie Prince Charlie. How can you cram it all in? Some Outlander and Game of Throne tours will get you to many of the locations, but are expensive tours and booked very solid, months in advance. Make a list of the sites and find out how to get there on your own.

Roaming Rights in Scotland
Scotland has roaming rights. What that means in a nutshell, is that the public has the right to go to public historic sites without access being denied. Unless a historic site has hired itself out to be filmed in and is shut to the public. There are many historically significant buildings and sites that are on private land, or you may have to cross private land to get to it. Enter these at your own risk, property that has agriculture going on, many of these are adjacent to working farms. Private residences are not right to roam, even though a deer path may go through it. If filming is going on, and you are blocked, or you want to see the filming and think you can get around another way, watch it. Guards are posted and can make you leave.

Too Many Filming Locations
The best way to get to most of the filming locations is by car and hiking in. Problem is rental cars in the UK and Ireland are very cost prohibitive unless you are traveling with a group. Group tours can be expensive as well. Many of these sites are not happy with the excessive car parking, people damage, and noise occurring. So, is it possible to see these filming sites via train, bus and walking a bit? Yes and no.

On my last two trips, I divided up what I could according to the larger cities I visited, Glasgow and Edinburgh. I went two summers and still came back and had only seen a fraction of what there is being filmed in. To get in more sites and manage the traveling better, I started compiling a locations and places table in a Google Doc, with public transit accessible sites. I will be making this accessible to you, my fellow traveler. It’s a work in progress, so if you have had some good or bad experiences with public transit and Outlander sites, send me a line so I can add your info to the table.

It is possible to see many of these sites, if you plan around the larger cities and take trips in sections. Hiring a specialised tour will help, but you can get to many of these sites with planning and not be on a tour timetable.

Outlander Filming Locations

Outlander Travel Itinerary

Bonnie Prince Charlie Trail

Season Five Revealed for Outlander

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-44059430

Outlander Effect on Blocking Development at Culloden Site

 

Glasgow Botanics: Spring Blues Cure All

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A Celtic Muse

It’s slowly crawling towards spring, but you know that last stretch seems to be a huge hill to climb. Especially with this past winter, Scotland has had record snows and storms.It’s a great time if it’s safe to do so, to seek out a place where you can get a tropic feel without having to fly. Whether you are visiting Glasgow or a seasoned resident, having a bit of green during the dreary grey and white filled months, that seem to include Spring, will help those with the doldrums spring. If you find your Seasonal Affective Disorder won’t let go, Glasgow has answers.

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Two of the best indoor flora venues are in this town, The Glasgow Botanics Gardens Kibble Palace and the smaller Winter Gardens, and the People’s Palace at the Glasgow Green. Both feature classic Victorian Green Houses and are free to the public, but if you have a fiver, please donate at these free venues and any other museum in the city. It all helps to give you a cheer when you have the grey throughout.

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Glasgow Botanic Gardens

730, Great Western Road Glasgow G12 OUE Tel:0141 276 1614 Open from 7am until Dusk Every Day, Glass Houses Until 6pm, 4:15 in Winter.

Easily accessible by public transportation, near the Hillhead Underground stop, and off the Great Western Road with plenty of bus access. It’s close to the West End and Glasgow University grounds and has great access to fabulous food and other activities in the area. The Heritage walk encompases the exterior gardens off the Kelvin River and links up with the Kelvin walkways. A great way to add to a day of walking the parks in this very walkable town.

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The Kibble Palace is a Victorian Glass House Arboretum that was founded in 1817 by Thomas Hopkirk, and was part of the university in its early days. The gardens began in another location closer to campus, offering support and the teaching of botanics to students. The current site has been in use since 1839, and has a grouping of large glass structures that house several collections of specimens from around the world. The palace houses the main collections, with several other glass structures surrounding it. Glass houses mean protection from the elements for the many plants that are tropic, and this means a great out of the elements exploration for you.

Each greenhouse features different world plant zones, from the tropics to the deserts of the world. There are plants from all of the continents. My favorite is the collection of Carnivorous plants, and any fun Orchid that is dangling. Every inch imaginable is packed with plants. There is even a seed exchange or purchase, but you’ll have to go soon, they are only available until about mid April.

Kelvin Walkway

Maps Courtesy Walk Highlands

The Kelvin Walkway extends the West Highland Way walking trails into the city proper, going through Minlgavie. This a nice river walk/hike that goes through the city and lets you pop up in several neighborhoods. The full pathways route is a good 17 Km. Keep an eye out for blocked access as some of the stairs are under repair and it may be a few streets before you can exit. You can walk portions of the river walkways and come up to view attractions or neighborhoods, there are great eats in the West End. You can start the full walk from the Riverside Museum and do the Botanics and other attractions along the way. Mind the midges.

The Gregory: Belfast Accommodations

IMG_0705The Gregory Bed and Breakfast, Belfast Northern Ireland

30 Eglantine Avenue, Belfast, BT9 6DX, United Kingdom ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ £ £ £ Moderate

One of the best, most comfortable accommodations I had on this last trip was The Gregory in Belfast. I had a quick 48 hour stay and needed a safe place to stay and be able to walk or bus from where I was. I found a place in a great neighborhood by the university, and plenty of local entertainment, including The Cuckoo club around the corner, owned by a GOT alum (Nairn). IMG_0706

I was going on a great tour for one of my days on the trip, a Game of Thrones Tour that would encompass one whole day. I needed a safe, quiet space to rest from travel and get plenty of sleep the night before. This was just the place. Large, spacious room, good flooring and carpet. The decor was not too loud, fairly neutral. The bathroom was very good, plenty of room to turn around in. The heaters were great, yeah summer in Northern Ireland. The bed was very comfortable, one of the few I didn’t have to use the duvet as padding for. The meals in the restaurant were okay for breakfast, accommodating for early departures if you order the breakfast.

IMG_0707.jpgThe shower was well kept and the at the source heater worked well with a good flow. My room faced the back, with a side window that looked on a nice red brick next to the hotel with a good garden space. The restaurant was very accommodating in the am for early departure on tour.

Local food was very good, being by Queen’s University there were plenty of restaurants to choose from and since school was out for the summer, seating was quick. Remember student restaurants equals great foodie fun and portions. Not all are equal so check the local apps and Yelp.com for reviews. I ate at Molly’s Yard with a huge curry chips I could never finish.IMG_0708

Great price for the comfort, private and crashable after a day long tour. Would definitely stay again.

If you have more time, take the Art Walk Tours of the political murals and community murals in Belfast. Great insight to the wonderful city and it’s history.

Links

https://irishtourtickets.com/game-of-thrones-tour-from-belfast/

Belfast Blast: 48 Hours in Belfast, Northern Ireland

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The Best Laid Schemes: Money Matters While Traveling

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Update March 10, 2018

It is with chagrin that I write this. It has been a few months since my Ireland and Scotland trip. And what I came back to certainly wasn’t fun. Last year I wrote about being careful while traveling, especially where money and safety is concerned. I had two incidents happen to me while traveling, even though I was vigilant and had planned well in advance, was always on guard. One of the big drawbacks of traveling alone, you don’t have a mate to watch your back. You spend a great deal of time watching every corner, when really you want to be watching the sights. How do you tour and enjoy sights while not being targeted is the big question. And even when you plan, you can still get swiped.

In my last article I wrote about how to carry your money, do money belts really work, how hard was it to travel with cash or money. This most recent trip I had gathered up and taken some cash from the UK and Ireland, Pounds and Euros. I kept a certain amount for both on or locked in safes in places I stayed. I only carried small amounts of cash and guarded my concealed chip card fiercely. I still had incidents. I didn’t want to have to access ATMS or anything that would be compromised unless I needed to. Best laid schemes and all.

Cash

Cash is always good to have, especially when you have a desire to not collect chip card fees. It is also a bit of a burden while traveling. You can keep large amounts of cash, but it’s not usually a good idea. Even with a lockable case, or if you are lucky, a hotel room with a safe, you shouldn’t have large amounts on your person as you are making yourself a target. So, I had to decide what the cash budget for a day would be, try to keep that very low, conceal it, stuff a fiver or a tenner in the key pocket of the Levis for cash items, the rest was prepaid travel card. I didn’t want to have to access foreign exchanges too often, there were always fees involved. Card use depended on using for food at restaurants mainly, and I tried to keep that down because fees may be charged again. They may seem minimal, but usage fees can total over £ 50.00 by the end of your trip, and if you are limited to currency because your card company won’t do two or more currencies to your card, you will get exchange fees. So budget £ 5-8.00 for a day if using one for the extra fees.

For the most part, money belts do work, especially if you get a low profile one that you can sling low and hide in jeans it’s not quite as obvious. Cloth money belt may be more desirable due to heat and moisture, but one with internal pockets.

I carried my cash from town to town and through airports using a money belt. Problem was they made me take it off and put in the bins during boarding. This was extremely nerve wracking as it was out of sight and I had to keep chasing down the bin and keep track of everything else as well. The money belt worked otherwise for the most part, I found it was better while traveling on trains. So, even though the belt was made to not trigger alarms at the airport, they still found it. Concealed card holders usually make it through if there is not a metal snap. Better to wait and get the cash there after you arrive.

Backpacks

Most of the cities you will tour are filled with students, and backpacks are the norm. You also want to be able to meet and greet locals and get a feel for a place. You should be able to just talk to anyone, right? But you always have to think the most affable could be sizing you up. Pickpockets have been in the trade for over a thousand years. And they have gotten more sophisticated than you think, think super spy.

If you are touring and doing serious backpacking with a kit and this is your mode for travel as well, you will probably want to take a smaller low profile version along for town day excursions. Back packs are magnets for a lift or slash. If you are touring and need to do several hours away from hotel or other lodging, purses and such are not a good thing. Too easy to slash and grab. You can buy modified purse/backpacks with reinforced straps, but the best thing to do is buy very small back packs with low profile or lockable zippers. While some thieves will still slash a bag, many are subtle and will unzip while standing next to you and you are distracted by the sights or your companions. Be wary of who is next to or near you.

I purchased a very low profile, small backpack that really sat against my body. It had hidden, recessed zippers and a compartment for my iPad. However, with careful planning I still was almost a victim. While in Dublin in large crowds, apparently someone went for my iPad. The recessed zippers hadn’t mattered. I had barely noticed the jostle and almost forgot it all together until two young girls came up and said that my pack was open and looked like a grab had happened. I checked everything and luckily the would be thief had not made off with the iPad, or any other valuable item like the passport. The girls said it happened a lot in the area. So, whenever possible, practice looking tragically hip while guarding your backpack, especially in the Temple Bar area.

Cash Card

I went with a cash card again on this trip. However, I did bring my ATM card as a backup if it got stolen. Big mistake. I had been really vigilant about getting cash. I was trying not to use the chip travel card to get cash, wasn’t sure how safe it would be. If I needed cash I went directly to accredited money exchangers after checking Yelp for reviews, and in some UK Post Offices you can use their exchange. I figured if you got a receipt and if they are a chain, you have some recompense if there is a problem. However, depending on remote locations, sometimes the card wouldn’t work for buying meals and such, being WiFi processing dependent. I was doing really well with managing the money, and really thought I had done okay until I got back to the US and found my checking account had been cleared out. The bank got me the records and after contacting Scotland Police by email, I began looking at a trail of how my account was cleared out. It appears the one time I got desperate for cash on a tour, I used a small stand alone ATM at a petrol station. Bad idea. A card skimmer had been attached and as I looked at records, I followed a parallel track to my travels, going through the Highlands and into Edinburgh, the same days I was there for Fringe Festival. Lesson learned, don’t bring anything attached to your bank account and use it to access funds.

Credit Cards

When traveling we often use our credit cards, they usually can be replaced when lost or stolen while traveling if your card is supported internationally. Just be prepared for the the foreign transaction fees. Check with your bank about their rates of exchange before you go. Always plan in your budget for the fees that will hit you when you return. Depending on your countries of travel, you may want to have a card that is with one of the major card companies, Visa or Master Card. Virgin Money is still only available in UK, Europe and Australia.However, the interest rates are terrible. Use credit card sparingly and use the prepaid card for food and expenses.

Large card companies will have the best infrastructure to wire money or replace card overnight in some countries. Travel cards that you preload can be advantageous, but will also accrue per use fees, and if you return and still have money on them, you may get charged monthly fees as well. Close out your cards when you return unless you plan to travel within a year. Contact your card holder for details. I went with Travelex again and for the most part they worked, but the cards were not the latest processing cards and some of the newer chip readers had trouble with them. If you bring your card, make sure you know about any emergency limits. If you have a medical issue in another country, your personal insurance will not cover most expenses. You should buy travel insurance for your trip, make sure that there are allowances for transport fees (ambulance) included. Your credit card will help get you in the door of a medical facility, and you will have to work with the travel insurance later. Pay as you go cards may not be accepted at Casualty rooms.

Travel Cards

I had a Travelex card which is a UK card. Coming from the US, I was told I could only purchase one currency. While in the UK and EU countries, there are cards that allow you multiple currencies on the card. Research this before you go as new card services are popping up, exchange rates will always accrue.

American Express is not accepted by most merchants, if any in the UK and Ireland.

Piece of Mind

There are no guarantees in travel. For the most part, if you have companions you can look out for one another. If you are the single traveler, you have to be even more prepared to be a target. Think about what you really need to do, and do you really need more money in cash. I didn’t want all my eggs in one basket. Even though the travel card was supposed to be the best option, I was concerned about if it got stolen, and considerations about tracking and stopping the old card going to get me refunded funds or were they truly lost. The company claimed it would refund me, but I had my doubts. So, when shopping for your travel cards, research well in advance and talk to them about all their policies. Look at their online interface and see if you think you will be able to access while abroad, or if they have an app for your smart phone. Research through articles and see which cards are performing the best, and in which countries. I found the online web interface really difficult to get to with Travelex. Their app was easy for daily monitoring and topping up.

Travel Insurance

This is a mixed bag, but  one you really should consider. While you travel within your state of residence, if you are an American, and don’t have single payer insurance like other countries (Canada, UK, EU Countries) just going out of state can be bad, you could possibly face huge expenses if while on that great trip to the Grand Canyon, you fall an break your arm, or worse, get in a car accident in the rental. Just image the expense overseas. While you can pick up insurance renting a car, it very rarely will cover whatever you manage to damage the car with, or yourself. If you are traveling abroad, when you leave domestic air or cross the border into Canada or Mexico, your insurance will not cover you. So, how do you find medical insurance that really travels with you? You will need to look at travel insurance before you go, and sometimes that is really not going to cover what you think it will cover. And read the fine print.

On this last trip I booked through JustFly.com and added on their comprehensive insurance. My main concerns were: Ambulance and Air Ambulance fees coverage, as flights like this start at $5k to get you to hospital and any other fees they will tack on. I was going through the highlands on tours and well, didn’t want to end up being pulled out of a ditch with no way to pay for it. What considerations must you make? How much to buy this type of insurance? My suggestion is, buy 2 insurance packages. Why? Well, just like your regular health insurance coverage, there are deductibles and such for your domestic regular coverage. You need to make sure that you are covered for something catastrophic. Most serious hospital stays and operations can add up to the price of a house, say up to $300k for hospital and and surgeries. Add on the fees for ambulance and any other transport or transfers fees, and you could become bankrupt.

It’s really frustrating to have to think of terrible things happening on vacation, but they do all of the time. It’s better to have the piece of mind. But what can you afford? The basic travel and flight insurance I got, covered flight cancellations, luggage loss, medical coverage, transport coverage. The cost was $60.00 for three weeks coverage. The amounts covered seemed to cover what fees might be for the services, and yes I had looked up random information on average out of pocket expenses in Europe for hospitals. In the EU there is some coverage for this, but their are always situations where if you are coming from Ireland and traveling to France, their are agreements for insurance coverage. And still there will be things not covered. But if you are not from the EU, it will all be out of pocket. Research what policies you should have to cover you if you are traveling to Australia, for example. I now believe I should have had two policies. I should have bought another policy as a back up for what was not covered in the one I got. Insurance companies will always try to not pay out on what it looks like they are covering, it’s part of the industry. Your situation is possibly going to be one they deny coverage on. So, having another plan from another carrier, and one that covers   accidental death is a must. You may have a life insurance policy, but that can even have snags that your loved ones don’t want to come up against. Bringing back a body from overseas is very expensive and customs makes it very difficult. You don’t need the huge fees on top of an already distressing situation for your family. Buying an additional policy may be another $60.00. It’s an expense that you will have to write off.

For more research and making this very important decision, check this review site out:

Travel https://www.reviews.com/travel-insurance/

Medical https://www.reviews.com/travel-insurance/medical/

Hotel Safes

You can shop for accommodations that have a room safe. While you are looking for accommodations on a travel website, contact the accommodation and see if they have room safes. These usually rely on a code that you set yourself, however there are a few locking types which means you have another key to keep track of. In days of old when you traveled, you could rely on a main hotel safe for passports, etc. Try to avoid them. You have no guarantee that the employees won’t skim your funds or access your passport.

UK and EU Travel Cards Information and Articles

https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/credit-cards/travel-credit-cards

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/travel-money-options-cash-cards-and-travellers-cheques#using-pre-paid-cards-abroad

http://www.wisebread.com/travel-and-money-using-prepaid-travel-cards

UK Residents http://www.holidayextras.co.uk/travel-money-card.html

https://www.what-prepaid-card.co.uk

Cards

Travelex

Check if you can have multiple currencies https://www.travelex.com/travel-money-card

Visa Prepaids from Visa Partners https://usa.visa.com/pay-with-visa/cards/card-finder/prepaid-finder-page.html

Virgin https://uk.virginmoney.com/virgin/travel-prepaid-card/index.jsp