Welcome to the February 2008 issue of "Smart Traveler". The newsletter with tips and information to help make your traveling smoother.
This week an American Airlines passenger died of complications from
heart disease and diabetes.
regulations may vary. If in doubt, advice should be sought from the
airline’s medical department.
If you suffer from a chronic illness, consult your physician before you depart. If you must fly with a condition such as epilepsy, diabetes, or heart disease, wear a Medic Alert Identification Tag, which will immediately alert doctors to your condition and give them access to your medical records through Medic Alert’s 24-hour hot line. Membership is $35, plus a $15 annual fee. Contact Medic Alert at 800/825-3785 or www.medicalert.org.
If you're taking
your laptop on an airplane, there are some steps you should take to
keep your computer safe.
1. Use a well-made, well-padded case to carry your laptop in. Never check it as checked baggage during air travel.
2. Make sure security applications and software updates are current — anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware.
3. Limit confidential information transmission, such as any credit purchases and reservations or anything with a Social Security number. Unfamiliar networks are always potentially dangerous.
4. Set up a remote Web mail account to enable e-mail access from any browser, such as Gmail, Yahoo! Mail or MSN Hotmail.
5. Bring an Ethernet (Cat5) cable with you on your trip, in case there is no wireless connection available and you have to hook up to that little box next to the phone that you'll find in most hotel rooms.
6. Use a system password on your laptop to help slow down the novice thief.
7. Use file passwords when available on confidential files.
8. Do not set your computer down and leave it out of sight (especially in the airport bathroom).
9. If you must leave your laptop unattended in a car, put it in the trunk where it can't be seen. But remember that extreme temperatures are not good for electronic devices.
10. Don't send your laptop through the airport X-ray conveyor belt until it's your turn to walk through the metal detector. That way you'll be able to pick it up promptly when it comes out the other end and prevent anyone else from walking away with it.
Wherever you travel in the world, cold hard cash is your most essential necessity. This is true if you're buying a cup of coffee in Los Angeles, a silk scarf in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar or a bracelet off a street vendor in Hong Kong. That is why the first thing many travelers look for when they step off the plane in a foreign country is an ATM machine.
ATMs usually solve the traveler's dilemma of where to safely and quickly obtain local currency. All cash withdrawals, regardless of size, are exchanged based on the wholesale exchange rate, which is usually a few percentage points better than the rate at a local exchange counter. Plus, these machines are practically everywhere - ATM cards linked to the PLUS or Cirrus networks can be used in more than 135 countries - which makes them the convenient choice of cash-strapped travelers.
Yet some travelers are running into ATMs that, like stingy uncles, refuse to give them money, usually when they try using their debit cards. Recently, debit cards have been the targets of international frauds, prompting banks to block out entire countries where these frauds occur most often. Travelers usually don't even know a block is currently in place until they are standing cashless in front of an ATM, mildly cursing at their debit card that no longer seems to be working.
Countries that have recently been blocked by various banks include England, hailand, the Philippines, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Singapore and Japan, though different banks utilize different criteria when selecting countries. Also, some banks block PIN-based transactions, while others block signature-based transactions; it all depends on their risk threshold.
Unfortunately for travelers, banks are not required to inform their customers about these bans, for they do not want to tip their hand to the countermeasures they're employing to criminals. Travel agents urge you to call your bank or check out its Web site before you leave to find out if your debit card will work at your destination.
Here are some additional tips from travel agents concerning the use of ATMs when traveling abroad:
Take a variety of payment options, such as credit cards, debit cards, traveler's checks and currency, to be prepared for all circumstances.
Go to a bank if you have problems withdrawing cash from an ATM. Many debit cards can also function as a credit card, which will allow you to get a cash advance (though at a higher interest rate than a normal debit transaction).
Bring your bank's contact information when you travel, just in case your card fails to work like you expect.
If your PIN number is longer than four digits, go to your bank and have it changed. Many ATM's abroad, especially in Europe, do not accept PIN numbers longer than four digits.
If your PIN number is based on letters, translate the letters into numbers before leaving the country. Many ATMs abroad only have numbers on their keypads.
Always have your travel agent's contact information with you. It's good to have an ally back home you can call whenever a problem arises.
With these tips and a little travel sense, you should be able to freely explore the world without standing in long lines at the bank trying to access your money.
Remember: Without a travel agent you're on your own
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