3 - Pre-trip Planning & Preparation
the old army adage:
'Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance'
Vehicle & 3rd Party Insurance
There are a couple of companies who will cover your vehicle for insurance (all to varying degrees) while travelling through South and Central America.
Check these out:
Third Party Insurance (known as ‘Green Card’ or ‘Yellow Card’ insurance in some countries or continents), which is essential in most countries, can be organised through Alessie or Sunrise. However there are a few countries in South and Central America, not covered with their policy and you are forced to get 3rd Party Insurance at the border.
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Medical & Travel Insurance
For our medical vaccinations and the latest info on malaria, etc, we once again headed for the Travellers Medical and Vaccination Centre (TMVC) (see: www.traveldoctor.com.au).
We've been pin cushions over the last few years of travel and been lots of dollars out of
pocket by the time all the vaccinations and medications were over. We are pretty well up to date and only have to worry about malaria during our time in Brazil.
For more details on the vaccinations and medications you might need for a visit through South America,
contact your doctor or better still visit a specialised Travel Doctor (see above) or try the Travel Medicine Alliance (TMA) which is a non-profit alliance of independent Travel Medicine clinics, formed in 2005 to assist member clinics to provide a better service to their customers.
We shopped around for travel insurance that included medical and evacuation cover. Trying to get cover for a continuous 9 months (some policies that ‘cover’ you for 12 months or so, only actually cover you for a few weeks or a month at a time) is not only a little difficult but also expensive.
The best deal we could find is when you pay for your airfare (or part of your pre-travel accom, travel, etc) through the Commonwealth Bank (other banks have similar plans) using their MasterCard Premium card (see: www.commbank.com.au/personal/credit-cards/complimentary-insurance-cover.aspx). With a Premium Card you get cover up to 12 months (a Gold Card gives you 3 months).
This insurance is issued by Zurich Australian Insurance Limited. Claims and enquiries about it should be made to Zurich, ph: 1800 285 189, or see: www.zurich.com.au.
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LPG for Cooking
Cooking on gas is one of the easiest methods of cooking when you are travelling but getting gas bottles filled, as we have found on our previous travels, can be a bit of a hassle. In fact after our hassles with gas in northern Africa and Europe we went for a Coleman fuel stove for the trip across Europe/Russia/Kazakhstan and Mongolia. That worked well.
This trip we have opted for a normal LPG as that is what the Track T-Van is fitted with, along with two 4.5kg refillable gas bottles. We are also carrying a single burner metho stove and a single burner gas stove (disposable cartridge - pictured left).
There are a number of LPG connectors available and in Australia we generally use three types of connectors for camping stoves/BBQs – the large POL connector (sometimes called a ‘Bullnose’ connector, especially overseas), a 3/8 LH thread Companion type gas connector, a Primus bottle gas connector and a Coleman gas connector.
We’ve got adaptors to go between most of these gas connections, apart from the Primus bottle type. We’ve also made up an adaptor to fill our POL type gas bottles from an auto filling station. It’s probably not totally legal here in Australia but its useful in many other countries. This adaptor goes from an ACME type filler (see pic left) to a POL fitting for the gas bottle.
Camping Gaz (propane/butane mix) and the Coleman bottles (propane) are pretty common but the most common gas bottle and stove we have found on our travels is the butane gas cartridge produced by numerous makers such as Primus, etc, (see pic top left). In the backblocks of Mongolia or Tanzania or anywhere in-between this was the gas stove of choice!
All these gas cartridges are pretty costly to run over a long period and we have them for just emergency use; ie, when we can’t get our bigger gas bottles filled!
In the UK (and many other countries) propane gas is supplied in red bottles and butane in blue bottles. Butane is not so good in cold weather.
Liquid Fuel Names – America’s and elsewhere
|| White Gas or Coleman Fuel
|| Alcohol Desnaturalizado
||Parafina or Petroleo or Queroseno
|| Bencina Blanca
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LPG for vehicles
We’re all running diesel engines but some people use LPG in their converted petrol engines. LPG used in automobile is often called ‘Autogas’ and is generally a mix of propane and butane, while residential LPG in Australia is generally propane gas.
If you have a vehicle running on Autogas you’d better be aware that there are a number of filler connections which vary from country to country. Check out:
and you’ll soon see the main ones around. For a complete range of adaptors and to purchase what you require, go to www.mthautogas.co.uk.
and Water Filtration
We'll be using the same water filtration system we used last year through
Africa, which proved to be okay.
The system we have fitted to our expedition Patrol consists of an in-line
strainer ($20 and washable) before the 12-volt Flojet water pump ($135).
After that comes a 10-inch CDL polypropylene sediment filter ($25 and
good for a couple of thousand litres of cleanish water). A 1-micron
activated-carbon filter ($65) that’s also good for 1-2 thousand
litres of water comes next.
In Australia and most civilized places, that is all you need. However
for Africa and for the very best water, where bad bugs are common, I’ve
added a Trav-L-Pure purifier ($125) for those times I want to produce
water good enough to drink without boiling. These are good for around
600-litres of water.
For more information and links go to: Russia Mongolia Overland / pretrip planning RO 03
For sending out stories and getting spare parts we'll again rely on
DHL Express. They have offices in dozens of South & Central American cities.
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A lot of people ask us about security while family and friends are worried about our security.
The Australian government website, www.smartraveller.gov.au will give you their slant on security in other countries but it always seems to be slanted on the very conservative side, ie: for the UK the warnings include:
We advise you to exercise caution and monitor developments that might affect your safety in the United Kingdom because of the risk of terrorist attack.
Pay close attention to your personal security.
That doesn’t stop millions travelling to the UK – and it shouldn’t - so when you read travel warning for South American or other countries keep it in mind the government website is erring on the side of caution!
Here’s what we have done or continue to do when we are travelling:
We have padlocked every box or case that is accessible on the outside of the vehicle. The canopy is locked and has two padlocks as well for those times when it is in storage or being shipped without our presence. Inside the canopy we have another ‘space case’, which is again lockable.
We also have a small, hidden vehicle safe for valuables (see: www.hide-away-safe.biz). Items such as spare wheels and hi-lift jack have been chained and padlocked.
Fuel caps and water tank caps are all lockable.
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We use a wide range of Pacsafe products (see: www.outdoorsurvival.com.au) which includes normal wallets, travel document wallets, a camera neck strap, while Viv has a handbag. These wallets and bags are inlaid with a fine stainless steel mesh, while any straps have S/S wire through them, making them pretty difficult to slash and pinch and easy to padlock to a car seat or other secure mounting spot.
Of course none of this will stop a determined thief so all our valuable equipment and credit cards are registered with Secure Sentinel (see: www.securesentinel.com.au).
Think about carry a dummy wallet. A few
old credit cards, a colour photocopy of a drivers licence and a few
US$ and Euro notes or cash make a good sacrifice.
We play it pretty safe, and don’t travel at night unless we really have to – whether that’s around a town or through the rural areas.
Still we bush camp a lot when we can - out of sight of any road or houses.
‘Valuable items’ such as stoves and the like, which we sometimes leave outside the tent overnight, are often prone to walk, especially if there are poor villagers close by. We run a light stainless steel cable through them and padlock them to a vehicle or something solid.
Still there are a few simple rules we try and follow:
When travelling through towns we keep our vehicle doors locked.
When travelling through towns and especially when pulling up to the lights or stopping, be aware of where you are and who and what is happening around you. After a while you’ll do it naturally without thinking about it!
Equipment such as handbags, wallets, cameras, etc, are kept out of sight.
We each have a ‘dummy wallet’ filled with out of date credit cards and some useless cash notes.
When paying for something we usually have close to the right amount in a pocket – we never drag out a wallet with a lot of money in it!
If we are in a packed train or in a crowd our Pacsafe wallet is clipped to our belt & not in a back pocket, while Viv’s Pacsafe handbag is safety clipped and over her shoulder and neck.
If we are parked in the streets or a shopping area carpark we rarely leave our vehicles completely unattended. With two or three couples travelling in their own vehicles this is pretty easy to organise, while in some countries (southern & east Africa especially) there are often ‘security’ people around that can be hired for a small amount an hour to keep a check on your vehicle.
You only have to be pickpocketed once to know how much of an inconvenience it can be let alone the loss of money, etc. We have never lost anything – we’ve been close with backpacks partly unzipped, etc, while our travelling companions have had a wallet pinched and another has lost a gas stove and bottle during the night.
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The main language throughout South America is Spanish / Latin American Spanish, the exception being Brazil which is Portuguese. Viv has been trying to learn Latin American Spanish using a software program called 'Rosetta Stone', which works off her computer - there's no English at all, and it works on word association. She's found it quite useful and has actually enjoyed trying to learn words - stringing a sentence together is all together another matter at this stage. Still, as we are way so much and lessons are out of the question, this has been easy to use and been a great help.
We found the Eyewitness Travel (DK) 15-Minute Latin-American Spanish phrase book and CD really good also and you are able to carry it around. The dictionary is very helpful.
We also have an electronic translator which we haven’t found to be of much use in the past – we’ll see how it goes in South and Central America!
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a number of overseas trips we've found a mix of cash, travellers cheques
(both in Euro & US Dollars) and credit cards are the best way to
ATMs are also a convenient way to access your bank accounts overseas,
but not all countries have the same ATM system. To avoid any problems,
• You have a four digit PIN
• Your desired accounts are linked correctly to your cards
• You are aware that 'debit' on most foreign ATMs is equivalent
to 'savings' in Australia.
can access your savings/cheque account using Cirrus & Visa Plus
Many places take only cash when buying fuel and/or supplies.
a handy web site for working out what your money is worth in any country
and for quick currency conversion: www.xe.com/ucc/full.shtml
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Keeping in touch with home is fairly easy. GSM phones work
in most countries across South America.
For info on your mobile phone and where it will work and who the roaming
partners are, check out:
GSM World - International roaming: http://www.mobileworldlive.com/maps/
International Roaming for Telstra (Australia) Mobiles:
Internet Cafes have sprung up in every major city and
holiday destination. So take your laptop, and cables, and connect to
family, friends and business acquaintances.
Phonecards, such as the 'eKit',
available thru Qantas
Airlines - make phonecalls from a fixed line phone very affordable
HF and UHF Radios are frowned on in
some countries, while in others you need a licence to operate them.
Our HF radios we're leaving at home. Hopefully we can use our UHF radios
(hand helds) for inter-vehicle communication without being branded a
spy. We will see.
A normal AM radio with the short-wave frequencies (for
BBC Worldwide Service, Voice of America, etc) is a good way to stay
in touch with what is happening in the outside world.
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informative web sites
To check out the time in any place in Africa see: www.worldtimeserver.com
For up-to-date info on the weather in Africa and elsewhere in the world,
check out the BBC Weather site: www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world