How we chose a bank

There are a lot of choices, and while it may be tempting to go with what you know and stick with the big names, it pays to do a little research here as well. We started with what we knew, as both of us were happy with our respective financial institutions. However we soon found out that what may be satisfactory requirements here, may not translate to how we want our money managed when we are spending it across the globe. The main thing we were concerned about were ATM fees and services charges incurred for international use. It turned out that most (if not all) of the big banks charge at least a 2-3% fee for each overseas ATM transaction. So one can imagine how that might add up. In the end, after doing a little research, we went with Mechanics Bank, a smaller bank based out of the Bay Area. All the fees charged by other banks and for any regular transactions are paid back in full at statement’s end. We decided to rely mainly on our debit card (Mechanics Bank) and credit card (Capitol One, also which does not charge a fee for overseas use) rather than traveler’s checks or carrying around large amounts of foreign currency, so these seemed to fit the bill.

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How to deal with all those vaccinations

If you have certain medical insurance, such as Kaiser (and depending on your plan), you should be covered. I say “should” because if you’re like us, something may go wrong…like say they tell you they have a whole series of a must-have vaccine and then run out after your first shot. In that case, you will end up paying quite a bit of money in order to get all your shots. A good place to start is checking the internet for local health and travel clinics, as well as the Center for Disease Control. Obviously, which vaccinations you’ll need will depend on where you are traveling. In our case, our vaccination plan consisted of 5 visits to two different travel clinics, and an average of about 10 shots each, including Hepatitis A and B, polio, tetanus, meningococcal meningitis, Japanese encephalitis, and yellow fever.

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Getting Around

We wanted transportation to get us from point A to point B, but we also actually want the experiences of riding through a country’s back roads, sitting next to livestock and gripping whatever’s bolted down in the back of a taxi out of fear. So if it made sense from both a financial and safety perspective to get from country to country overland on roads, this is what we chose to do. After all, we have quite a bit of time and do not necessarily need to be at point B at some exact time on some exact day (for the most part). However, in many cases, we decided to fly. There’s too much we want to see out there. Don’t forget that there are a variety of other travel options, however, as far as by sea (cruise, freight, yacht, motor boat), or land (rental car, bus, camel). We’re looking forward to our transatlantic cruise to get to Europe and feel good about what we are sure will be a pampered mode of transportation because it was more cost effective than flying and there seemed to be something alluring about crossing an ocean via water. When checking for flights, we often used these sights. Just make sure to check different days to leave as it could make a huge difference. Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem the best. We’ve also heard that purchasing tickets on Wednesdays helps. Also, even if you’re going one-way, always check to see if the round-trip tickets are cheaper (they often are). And finally, the book First Time Around the World suggests purchasing tickets online directly after midnight of the destination airports time zone, as that’s when new tickets are released.

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Miscellaneous

For lodging we’re mostly staying in hostels, or in a few lucky places, with very kind friends. One other great resource though that we’ve found is staying with complete strangers in their homes. Communities are linked online by shared traits of traveling, openness and sharing, and the desire for free lodging! There are different networks that do this, but we’ve joined The Couch Surfing Project

We’ve said very little about visas on this site, mostly because we haven’t done as good a job as we should have. But here’s at least the starting point for your research…

http://cir.us.cibt.com/visa_quickcheck.aspx