Tropical vacation tips for the non-tropical peeps

Guest post by Kirsten

The beach where I made it all legal with @mr_blackicingSo what do you do when you are not a tropical person but are headed on a tropical holiday at an all-inclusive resort? I learned the hard way after being gifted with a wonderful trip.

I hadn’t been anywhere even remotely tropical in years, and never an all-inclusive resort, and so I wanted to share some things I learned with those of you who don’t normally head for the beach when you think vacation.

If you even have a hint that you may be going to a tropical destination, go visit your doctor. Nobody told me this. It did not occur to me. I know, it’s a total “duh” moment but I was used to traveling to places that do not require any medical planning aside from having appropriate insurance. There are vaccinations you should check on and that varies by country. If you have health issues or concerns, check that shit out far in advance in case you need to be on different meds or might find out you should not go.

Plan to enjoy your vacation. Are you adventurous? Do you want to be lazy? Is shopping your thang? Do you need to research stuff ahead of time? Be prepared. If you want to do adventures, have some idea of what is possible because the available options can be overwhelming. Ask people you know, ask the interwebz. Alternately, make a reading list of books you want, get the right bathing suit, and/or check out spa options.

If you are traveling with others, discuss your idea of a vacation with them. Seriously. If you’re super adventurer and your friends/family are not, you need to know that. Same goes if you’re planning to read lots of books and have leisurely strolls but your companions are headed on crazy excursions. This will help you prepare yourself and them for the reality that you may do your own things sometimes. DO NOT PRESSURE YOUR COMPANIONS. It’s not cool. You’re on a vacation so let it be a vacation for all.

Bring along Imodium or Pepto Bismol. Or whatever your digestive aid of choice is. Just trust me. While your resort might be super-careful with their food and water, promising that everything is safe to eat, your digestive system may not agree.

Don’t assume you can just buy it there. Again, a “duh” moment. I assumed I’d be able to pick up the odd snack, especially for the plane ride home. Then I saw the price. There was a major hunt for a Gravol alternative when one person realized they’d forgotten theirs back home. Sunscreen was $30+. Bring the stuff you want to have if at all possible.

When you pack, check everything ahead of time. I have bad habits and I know other Homies do, too. Like packing t-shirts that are “mostly” clean. I arrived at our destination to discover that one t-shirt smelled like cookies and had a couple smudges. Oops! Also, check your footwear. Even if you plan to do little-to-no walking or hiking, even a bit can turn flip flops into torture devices. Make sure you have one pair of shoes you could walk in bigtime, regardless of your plans.

Check for dress codes. Our resort had some a la carte restaurants that have dress codes. Ladies generally have more flexibility in terms of their apparel but be prepared to get out of your t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops. Dudes, you’ll need some closed shoes, and possibly some long pants and a dressier polo shirt or button-up shirt at the least. They weren’t super sticklers but I was glad I’d prepared.

Bring more clothes than you expect to need. Normally I try hard to pack minimally. I don’t need a totally different wardrobe every day. Except tropical means you will sweat. You may go swimming and change clothes multiple times a day. Just trust me, take extra including underwear, bras, socks if you plan to wear them, etc. Also take some extra tops and shorts, especially if you sweat easily and profusely. It sucks trying to wash your clothes and get them to dry with high humidity. Some places will offer laundry service, but it isn’t free.

Be ready to be flexible. I was on a family vacation and my plans did not always pan out. And that is okay. It made it easier to fit in with others. This also includes things like reservations at restaurants (we were there during a busy time so we didn’t always get our choice of timing).

Drink lots of bottled water and virgin drinks. I am not a big drinker (like, one alcoholic drink a month, if that). Coming to an all-inclusive resort with available booze where I was expected to drink was a bit outside my lifestyle. So I carried around water. We got lots free in our room and the bars always had a stock as well. Even if you are planning to drink heavily, make sure to hydrate, too. The bar served virgin drinks if asked. Extra good to know for pregnant or nursing travelers.

Do not assume wifi is free. I luckily did know ahead of time not to expect wifi to be like in hotels here where it’s just expected. Actually, I would totally have taken this as a chance to unplug except that my husband was unable to come with us. No way was I going a week without talking to him! I lucked out and was able to get wifi but it cost me as much as a month of internet at home for a week of wifi at the hotel. Check with the people you’re traveling with and you may be able to share the cost. In our case, as long as only one device was using the internet at a time, you could share the username and password.

Have fun. It’s a vacation. Enjoy it.

So what tips might you have after being on a tropical vacation?

Comments on Tropical vacation tips for the non-tropical peeps

  1. This is great, especially the tips about bringing extra clothing, researching and planning ahead, and not counting on being able to buy what you need there. I live in one of Brazil’s top ecotourism destinations (Bonito, MS) and people often don’t realize how much prices reflect the fact that it’s a remote tourist town. Laundry service, sunscreen, and bug repellent are pricey, as is food, and you won’t find organic anything or non-DEET repellent. Also, adventures here operate under a centrally controlled quota system, so if you come in the high season you need to book months in advance for most activities.

    Some health tips (esp. international) I’ve learned the hard way:

    Expect BUGS. Also expect that your reaction to bugs may be much stronger than it would be at home. In addition to repellent (which you should use excessively even if you don’t usually), you may want to pack antihistamine pills or ointment. I’m terrible about using repellent and my first year in Brazil was marked by a Christmas-eve 2am visit to the emergency room for mosquito bites to my ankle that put me on crutches for days, and a trip around the city trying to make sense of the local healthcare options with a painful welt the diameter of a grapefruit on my leg and mono-like exhaustion due to a spider bite. Since then my body has adjusted, but you don’t want a bug bite to ruin your vacation.

    Another tip that I got before going to India: if you’re going to a place where the water supply or food might be sketch, go to your doctor and get a prescription for a round of antibiotics. Bring them with you, that way if something goes wrong you don’t have to figure out the local health system while feeling like you’re going to die. There are plenty of issues with the overuse of antibiotics, but this is one place where being extra prepared can go a long way.

    Bring lots of types of sun protection, and remember that the sun may be a lot stronger that where you’re from. Even dark-skinned people can burn and should pay attention. Where we are, there is a hole in the ozone layer and the sun between noon and about 4pm is particularly harsh. Locals know to stay in the shade, and to make sure to wash any acids (like lime juice) off their skin right away to avoid burns, but tourists may not.

    Finally, don’t just rely on drinking water if you’re not used to sun and heat. Gatorade, coconut water and sugar cane juice can help if you’re feeling woozy, or you can follow the lead of aid organizations in hot countries and make your own oral rehydration solution with salt, sugar and water (just google it for ratios).

    • I keep seeing this tip to bring antibiotics with you on a trip, but I’ve never encountered a doctor who would be willing to prescribe something that is not for a specific condition. Also, how would you know the antibiotic you have is appropriate for the problem without consulting a doctor?

      • *I’m not a doctor*
        A broad-spectrum antibiotic will kill a variety of buggies you may find in the water supply. There are a few commonly known bacteria that cause most of the water-borne illnesses you can catch in a variety of countries, so you’re probably covered if you get an antibiotic that can kill the known stuff.
        Also, in my experience, doctors are more likely to pre-prescribe antibiotics than, say, painkillers, since the risk of you hurting yourself are pretty slim.

        • Yes, it was definitely a broad-spectrum antibiotic like this that I took to India.

          Kahlanamnell, you may have better luck with doctors who are used to seeing lots of travelers. Try a university hospital or health center. That’s where I went to get certain less-common vaccines I needed at one point, as they were used to dealing with students traveling abroad, and may also be more open to pre-prescribing antibiotics. I can’t actually remember who prescribed mine, but I do seem to remember that when I explained where I was going and why I wanted them, it wasn’t a problem.

          • The shortages aren’t really affecting common antibiotics that would be used for food poisoning/traveler’s diarrhea, thankfully. At least my company’s national supplier is not having trouble with those types of medications.

        • Hmm, I was never advised to take antibiotics with me when I went to India. (Just vaccinations, anti-malarials, and lots of protection against mosquitos). I saw both my regular doctor and a special travel clinic.

          Maybe it depends what country you’re travelling from, and where you’re going. I was travelling from the UK, and I was never going to be outside the cities in India. So even though it was a long trip, probably less of a worry than if I’d been in a remote resort.

        • Yes, but DO NOT take this as a carte blanche to drink local water, especially in India or China. I got dysentery or something dysentery like (still not sure what, host family called the doctor and I was too out of it to catch the diagnosis) in India most likely by drinking local water unintentionally (my host family’s young son thought he’d given me filtered water…oops). One week, so much puke and poo, ten pounds lost, but I was ok. You do not want this without a family around to care for you.

        • I haven’t had issues yet buying painkillers abroad (I can’t promise counterfeit or tampered products aren’t out there, but it’s never happened to me) – and you can usually get better stuff for less money. I get Imigran over the counter in Taiwan and I managed to get it in Turkey, too. excedrin/Tylenol type stuff tends to be available but more expensive than American CVS or Stop&Shop generics. I’ve bought painkillers with no problem in Turkey, Taiwan, Guatemala, Panama, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Egypt…so far, ok.

    • I second the Gatorade recommendation. Coming from California, I thought I knew about staying hydrated in the heat, but my tricks (cooldanna, spray mister, and lots of water to drink) didn’t do a bit of good when I went to Florida in August (I know, stupid move, but that was the month the convention happened to be, unfortunately) and suddenly had humidity to deal with. Once I started drinking Gatorade also, I felt a lot better, and stayed hydrated longer without that “I’ve just drank 40 cups of water and feel like I’m going to throw up but I’m still dehydrated and overheated” feeling.

    • Really agree on the coconut juice – safe to drink when opened with a machete, cheap, tasty and full of good stuff to keep you energized and hydrated. It can go a long way if you’re feeling like crap due to the heat or humidity, more so than water.

  2. The one thing i would never ever travel without is Travel Medical Insurance. God forbid something bad happens to you, but, you don’t want to be hurt and having to cough up big amounts of cash before someone will treat you. I buy a yearly plan, that auto-renews so even if I dash across the border (from Canada to the US) for a day, i don’t have to worry about the unexpected. But, even if you never usually travel, buy a policy for the trip duration.

    and, yes, like above, i was going to say “bring something to stop itching.” i’ve forgotten it more than once and suffered.

    Also – extra sunglasses, i always lose a pair. And a hat, with a brim.

    Another tip – if you are pale (like me), wear a non-white t-shirt snorkeling – it will save you much pain and burning later. I have tried many waterproof sunscreens, but floating on the ocean seems to render it useless. In that same vein, bring a light weight long sleeved t for the same reason – but remember, you CAN burn through a tshirt so still wear suncreen.

    Things that have been invaluable on longer, more adventurous type tropical vacations (backpacking central America taught me some stuff, let me tell you) :
    – a garbage bag or two (been used as all the following: raincoat, vomit bag for food poisoning, ground sheet when i slept on the deck of a ship, travel bag for wet towels, etc etc.
    – a small mirror
    – handiwipes
    – roll of toilet paper
    – flashlight
    – power bars

    • Another reason to cover your skin rather than just rely on sunscreen is that some places with coral actually forbid the use of sunscreen. Or, you have to use coral-safe sunscreen. The oils in typical sunscreen can damage sea life, so you may not even be able to wear it.
      I’d recommend a long-sleeve rash guard. They’re the swim shirts you see surfers wear, and if you get the right one they have UV protection built into the fabric. You’ll still need to use sunscreen on your legs, face, neck etc, but the shirt will cover a good portion of your skin. This is what my (pasty white) husband and myself will be purchasing for our trip to Hawaii in April.

      • I cannot stress the wonderful-ness that is a rash guard! I got mine from Athleta for about $50, but you can find them at other places as well (check your local sports stores in the swim section) and it’s a lifesaver (or at least a skinsaver)– most of them have at least some SPF, and most have UPF 50! I’m super pale and I go through SPF 50 like it’s water, plus I sweat like crazy so I can’t reapply sunscreen. I got a long sleeved rash guard and wore it all day when we went to Iguazu falls– all the other tourists were trying to apply their nasty runny sunscreen to their backs in the midday equatorial sun, and my husband and I were totally covered. They can be a bit warm in humidity, but totally worth it for the convenience of knowing you have SPF that can’t wash or sweat away.

  3. Oh, i have one more tip !
    Two luggage tags on any bag you check.
    One with your HOME address, clearly marked HOME.
    A second with the name and address of your resort AND the dates you will be there.
    Trust me, if your luggage gets lost or misses a plane connection, this can save you.

    • See, I was always told to include *only* the address of the place you’re going. (So on your way out, the address of your hotel, and on your way home, your home address). So that no one can find out your home address, and know that your house is definitely empty.

      Anyone else worry about that, or is that insane?

      • I never worry about it – but also, my home tag has a bit of a flap on it, so my address isn’t readable just looking at my bag. It probably doesn’t hurt to be a bit paranoid, I am just not that way by nature.

        One other tip i thought of later – i have photocopies of all my ID stashed in my webmail. I have them buried deep in my folders amongst real pictures in a folder called Cute Pet Pics! πŸ™‚ This is just handy to have in general, if you ever lose anything, you have access to all the numbers etc from wherever you happen to be.

  4. i think the best thing that we did when invited to a tropical all-inclusive vacation was to plan out our days together, even down to “time to do whatever we want” before we left. we planned out what nights we wanted to go all the restaurants, so we were able to make reservations at check-in for our whole trip… we decided what days we went snorkeling, went into town, ect. having a “loose” schedule was awesome. there was no “what do you want to do today?”, and there was no boredom. we knew when relaxing was/would be, we knew when to get a little more sleep because we were waking up early for activities, ect..

    im normally not an itinerary kind of person, but for a trip with friends it was awesome to have. it eliminated awkwardness and we were all on the same page. also, it was probably the best vacation ever, EVER.

  5. We were gifted the place, but not the ‘all-inclusive part’. This came as a major surprise to our wallet (and cleaned us out!). The people at the resort lied to us and said there was no food to walk to outside, when just outside the side gate (not the main) there were 4-5 places to eat and we could have saved a ton of money (and they use the same isolated, treated water system).

    So that is another item to be wary of when going to a ‘resort’.

  6. seconding vaccinations. There are countries where you will not be let in unless you have been vaccinated, and the vaccine needs to have been delivered at least 10 days BEFORE the day of travel. Saw a family at the airport counter with their Costa Rican vacation plans dashed because they forgot about Yellow Fever vaccination and it is one of those things where you can’t just dash out and get it.

    Although I’m in the “bring from home” camp, it may just be my perception, but I think that deodorant available locally works better than the one you bring from home. Maybe it is that you sweat more, or bacteria are different, who knows, but if you find that your deodorant of choice is not cutting it, you might want to try local versions.

  7. Man, I am one of those people who are not a fan of tropical locations. They are beautiful, but my skin is so white that some makeup companies don’t make a foundation pale enough for me…so pretty damn white. Here are some things I’ve learned (from personal experience) for being in the sun:

    Obviously bring sunblock (high spf!) with a broad spectrum (blocks both UVA and UVB). Also, they have umbrellas with SPF built in. I have one that has 50 SPF, it’s amazing.

    Hats. You have to remember your scalp and it’s hard to get sunblock on your scalp, without getting your hair oily. Hats can save you from painful scalp and ear burn (not to mention, you’ll look adorable :D).

    People usually don’t put on enough sunblock, so make sure and put on more then you think you should. During a full day at the beach. you should use half of an eight ounce bottle. Reapply every 2 hours or more if you get wet or sweat. And make sure you get every spot (even the hard to reach ones), because it sucks to find out you missed the back of your knees.

    I use a different sunblock for my face and for my body. My face is prone to getting the dreaded pimples and a less oily sunblock helps me not to break out.

    Sunblock should go on UNDER clothing as well. Clothing is not sunproof. The SPF of a white tshirt is only 7 and it’s only 3 when wet. You don’t want any surprises when you get back to your hotel.

    Sunglasses with SPF are helpful, because your eyeballs can get burned too! Make sure and protect those beauties.

    If you do happen to get a bad sunburn, aloe vera can be a lifesaver at night. Also, a bad sunburn increases your risk for skin cancer, so please remember to watch that area for any new moles or any moles that change long after your vacation is over. If you catch it early, it can be treated. It can happen to anyone, even if your skin isn’t as fair as mine.

    • I burned the first day because I stupidly was using a sunscreen I’d never used before. I still have some pretty funny lines just where the top of my bathing suit ended on my chest because I missed spots.

      So bigtime on the sunscreen stuff. I thankfully had good lotion that helped ease the pain and it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. πŸ™‚

  8. Your picture is of Maui. While tropical, it is not a developing country and you don’t need to worry about the drinking water, vaccinations, or finding American brands– you’re in the States! That said, if you do go back to the ”mainland” and feel like you have the worst flu of your life– tell your doc you were in Hawaii and he should check you for leptospirosis. It’s a bacteria sometimes in streams, ponds or mud. It’s rare, but sometimes fatal. It’s almost never found on the mainland. Not to scare you– just stay informed! Also, always check with a lifeguard before going in the ocean. It can be treacherous.

    • Just to be clear for anyone that may be thrown off by the photo of Maui — that photo wasn’t submitted with the article. I just chose it because it was all pretty and tropical and one of mine, therefor easy to find/use. πŸ˜‰

  9. A few tips from someone who lives in the tropics. 1. Maui is tropical but not the tropics, I froze when I went there , so if you are going somewhere really warm be prepared to be hot. Take a book or something you can fan yourself with atany time of day. 2. Sun Protection! I cannot count the times I’ve seen tourists so red they have blisters, so sick with sun stroke they end up in hospital. Not nice. 3. Get an insect repellent with Deet in it, some people get reactions to mossies and sandflys, they get big painful sores. A deet repellent will save you that pain, wear it every day! Then put suncream on as well. 3. Take a rain poncho, carry it with you everywhere, it will rain, without warning. 4. You can get water purification tablets, if you are travelling somewhere with questionable water supplies get some. 5. Camomille lotion is good for bug bites. 6. Bedadine of some sort of iodine will stop you getting any linfections in little cuts and grazes. 7. Light underwear, or you will sweat to much and get chaff. 8. Chill at midday, stay out of the sun, even the locals do that, for good reason too!

  10. This is great for resort style tropical travel, snd many of the tips also workfor non-tropical group vacations. If you are not staying in a resort, however (and it’s totally possible not to if that’s not your thing) – some other thoughts:

    Pre book accommodation – especially at the tourist season. The best way to find the best hotel/cabana/beach hut is to grab a lonely planet or rough guide and then cross check the recommended options on TripAdvisor, where people are super picky so you know that a place with a high rating will be good. Pay for the international call if your preferred place doesn’t have an email address or site (in India, Thailand and Sri Lanka most do, in places like El Nido in the Philippines they may not). Proprietors always speak enough English to take a reservation.

    Be aware that in some remote paradise beach spots, electricity is spotty or only on at certain times of day (usually just before sunset until 10pm or so). Bring a little lantern flashlight and reading light.

    Book somewhere nice – nothing is worse than a grimy roadside cement room with roaches when you could have a hut with balcony on a white sand beach or a room in a homestay with a garden and mountain view. Be smart – just cause it’s a hotel in a tropical beach town doesn’t mean it’s good.

    Drink and brush teeth with bottled water.

    You can get good deals off season, but check the weather. It’s off season for a reason. That said, we got a fantastic deal on a treetop cabin in OSA, Costa Rica, near the beach. It wasn’t swimmable at that time of year but we had the whole resort to ourselves and could watch monkeys and sloths in the trees. If you don’t mind cloudy skies because what you really want is flowers, books and monkeys, this could be fine.

    Get shots and pills – hepatitis a and b, typhoid, meningitis, dengue if there is a vaccine (is there?), malaria pills if necessary (they aren’t always – in parts of countries that tourists are likely to visit in, for example, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, malaria has been eradicated and you may only need the pills if you go off the beaten track). Research the best pill for you – especially for women as some pills muck with birth control.

    Don’t just stay at the beach – see what the hills have to offer. I’m actually writing this from Ella, a hill town in Sri Lanka, on my own non-resort vacation. It was totally worth it to leave the beach and come up here.

    Check yer privilege – most locals are struggling far more than you ever will and many live in poverty. Shop and eat local, be generous, do bargain and don’t be taken advantage of but don’t be a Scrooge either. You can afford to be there, and that taxi driver needs the extra $1 more than you do. Just don’t go overpaying by huge amounts, as this raises the price of services beyond locals’ means and is actually bad for the economy. One reason I don’t stay in resorts is that while they employ locals, the big profits don’t go to locals, they tend to rope off private beaches from local use, and stink up the environment in ways you dont see. If you do stay in a resort, try to pick a local or locally viable eco-friendly one. They exist, and can make your stay pleasant and comfortable without exploiting locals and local resources.

    Double the bug spray and sunblock you think you’ll need. Don’t tell yourself you’ll wear long sleeves and pants to keep bugs away. It’s too hot and humid. You won’t. Bring aloe for the sunburn and a hat. Bring a strong water bottle and see if your hotel has filter water (better for the environment – most do). Drink a lot. Like, so much that you pee constantly. Bring anti-itch cream, the real stuff from a pharmacy, some antibacterial cream, some hydrocortisone for the butt rash ((you will get butt rash) and an anti-fungal. If you can score something for immediate yeast infection relief, bring that too. Wear a t-shirt when snorkeling. The sun acts like a magnifying lens in the little bit of water above you and burns you worse than you’d have thought possible. Trust me.

    Please please please respect local sensibilities. In some towns you can get away with a bikini or speedo, but in others you really should cover up more. Like boy shorts or longer trunks, and maybe even a t-shirt or sarong. You’re a guest in that country, act like one.

    When snorkeling don’t sit on, kick or touch coral, ever. I am a snorkeling aficionado and this kills me every time, when I see it.

    Don’t be afraid to eat locally except for water or water washed fruits or veggies (most tourist places will wash food served to foreigners in filter water). If a restaurant gives you water, ask if its filtered. In India it usually is. In Sri Lanka it’s usually not. But other than some initial digestive issues, local food is not as scary as people make it out to be.

    Bring a long-sleeved shirt and shawl. It can get surprisingly chilly. Also, bring a beach blanket(a light, cheap calico is a good bet). If you can, bring your own snorkel gear if that’s your thing, rentals can be dodgy, like cracked, poor quality, leaking or not washed properly – hello infections!

    Watch out for monkeys. Thieving motherfuckers. I love monkeys, but…

    Finally, most good deals can be had in groups – car or boat hire for instance. If you are not going in a group, be friendly at cafes and guesthouses/hotels and see if you can team up with others to diffuse costs.

    For women – be careful. I hate to put the burden on victims rather than perpetrators, but you have to be careful. No beach walks alone at night. Try to hang out with groups you meet or female locals. Watch your things. If you are harassed, shout to the crowd. Locals will help you. Trust your senses – if some guy gives you the hairs standing up on the back of your neck feeling, trust that and get away. Try to hook up with groups at night or in taxis, or on hikes. On trains and buses, try to sit near families or women.

    • Your comment about eating locally reminded me of something I learned to do in Brazil: if you’re craving fresh fruits or veggies but don’t want to trust a restaurant*, buy them at a market along with a bottle of vinegar. Wish all the dirt off well in regular tap water, then soak them in a vinegar-water solution for a few minutes. It won’t affect the taste too much (even for delicate fruit like berries) and keeps your belly happy. My current place has tap water directly from the well… it’s completely untreated and unpotable… but I buy drinking water and use vinegar to wash my veggies and I’ve never gotten sick here.

      *when I was in India, I trusted the people who prepared the wedding food… And I got sick. Most of the American guests did at some point. Of the only two who didn’t, one spent a lot of time around animals and in the woods, and another had just spent months traveling throughout Africa. I’d say, be adventurous, but also be smart and prepared to get sick. And, if possible, try to start exposing your body to more “germs” before leaving home to jump start your immune system into being more prepared.

      • I think in India pretty much everyone not from there gets sick at least once no matter how careful you or others are. Locals too – Indian friends of mine, born and raised in India, have gotten dysentery and dengue.

        I say just expect it. That’s why my husband wasn’t too bothered when he puked out his nose that one time in Kerala. I’d warned him – he knew me during the “probably dysentery” episode – so he expected it.

        Even relatively developed countries like Turkey – we went through a period where neither of us could eat anything but ice cream (bad as that is for stomach ailments) and I puked up a bag of pistachios at one point. We’d been careful. Sometimes it just happens.

        But I agree on the fruit soaking, although I do wash in filter water.

      • Yup. Also, if you’re in an area with dengue and you start to have flu-like symptoms, aches, etc. get it checked out immediately and DON’T take painkillers, especially anything with aspirin. Dengue is not usually fatal, just miserable, but certain medications can make it fatal. The more you know…

  11. Sunscreen all the things! Also under circumstances where you wouldn’t normally think about it (personal experience from visiting a mountain resort in Ecuador: the temperature might be cool but you’re 3,000 meters closer to the sun, and it burns!).

    Also, make sure to check the country’s passport requirements. Some require your passport to be valid for at least 6 months after your trip.

    • And other requirements! In the Maldives, you can’t leave the airport without an approved hotel booking, and the only approved hotels are tourist resorts. Make sure you have enough fat in your budget for food and drink – don’t think that bc you can scrounge up enough money for the accommodation and plane fare that food will be cheap. It may be, but if it’s a secluded place or a resort, it also may not be. And nothing kills a vacation high like not being able to afford a drink of your choice at the beach bar as the sun sets over palm trees and soft white sand.

  12. I am sitting in one of those inclusive resorts right now in Florida! I’d hardly call Jacksonville the tropics, but there are some things that resonate.
    I live in Florida (I am taking advantage of the swankest place I’ve ever seen by tagging along on my husband’s work conference) and there are a lot of things that apply to any place with a lot of humidity, bugs, heat and potential for getting screwed out of money (i.e. tourist places).

    Ask about anything you are offered. “All inclusive” is rarely true. At the last conference our all inclusive resort asked us if we wanted coffee with our wake-up call. We were all like “ooooooh yes please!” and then come to find out that we were charged $8+22% gratuity for coffee every day, even though it was free in the lobby and at breakfast. This place made the same offer and my husband just said “Will the coffee be charged at the room service rate?” they were happy to tell us that the coffee was complimentary, but it was customary to tip the person who brought it to you. (Can I share how much I LOVE having coffee in a pretty carafe delivered to your door 10 minutes after waking up?)

    Alcohol is very often not included and is jacked up like no other. Who wouldn’t want to have a fancy, fruit drink at the beach? That’s why they charge a crap load for it. We always get a bottle of something to have cocktails in our room so that we don’t spend as much on imbibing.

    Bring cotton underwear. Anything else is the worst.

    Bring baby powder. Unless you are amazing and your thighs never touch each other and you don’t sweat at all.

    DON’T wear your bathing suit all day every day. This is probably gross and venturing into TMI territory, but “swamp crotch” is a thing. A very uncomfortable, awful and wholly avoidable thing! I buy bathing suit separates and always get extra bottoms. All of the heat from your body and the moisture of your wet suit (which will never, ever 100% dry in a humid climate) will create a very uncomfortable problem.

    Depending on your room situation, bring some random food things for the times when you just don’t want to leave the room. It sounds nice to have someone serving you at every meal, but it you’re sunburned or in a fight or just fucking too tired to move, it will be nice to have a cup-o-noodles or sandwich stuff on hand.

    • I second the advice to know what exactly is included.

      It really depends where you go. The last couple of times I went to an all inclusive resort I went to Club Med and they really did include everything except excursions and scuba diving. Even the alcohol was included.

  13. I haven’t had a chance to read through so I don’t know if someone has suggested this, but a big one to think about if you intend to leave the resort is appropriate clothing for wandering around local areas.
    I live in Uganda, which is pretty conservative, and we constantly have tourists coming through town on tours wearing completely inappropriate clothing, and thank goodness they don’t understand what people are saying! Hot pants and a crop top might be appropriate for your resort but you’re putting yourself in an embarrassing and possibly dangerous situation if you dress like that out in public.
    Here, if you’re seen dressed in skimpy clothes, people will assume you’re a prostitute, and treat you as such! You’ll also be overcharged for anything you buy and be more likely to get mugged.
    If anyone were coming here I’d tell them to always cover their knees and stomach, and preferably wear a skirt or long trousers. Boobs don’t really matter! But that kind of thing is very dependent on where you’re going, so do a little bit of research to find out what’s appropriate and will keep you safe.

  14. as someone who lives in a high tourist area (phuket), let me give a few.

    FIND OUT THE LAW: people come here & swim topless, but in thailand, it’s illegal & yes, people get taken to jail. don’t assume you can do it b/c your hotel says nothing.

    FIND OUT WHAT IS OFFENSIVE THERE: yes, it’s 120 degrees, but you still can’t wear a tank top w/o people assuming you’re a prostitute here. so, it’s best you find that out b/c people WILL assume this & lots of women get attacked here & the men never go to jail b/c of that. good to find out sexist & racist issues before going … it DOES change the dress code. don’t go by what tourists are wearing, go by what locals wear.

    AVOID THE BAR SCENE COMPLETELY: poisoning drinks of tourists in tropical areas is EXTREMELY common. if you want to drink, maybe just buy your own sealed bottles at the grocery store.

    ELECTROLYTES … HAVE THEM: coconut water is one of the best sources, but many stores also have powder you can mix into your water. you need to hydrate in the tropics in ways you can’t imagine & you need to keep your balance up.

    TIGER BALM: keeps bugs away naturally for a few hours & will soothe bites you do get.

    DOXYCYCLINE: if you’re going to an area that has malaria, ask your dr about using doxycycline to prevent & treat.

    KNOW SIGNS OF ILLNESS: heat sickness, local viruses, find out the symptoms & figure out when you need to get to the dr.

    DO NOT BE ALONE WITH ANYONE WHO DIDN’T COME WITH YOU: that includes hotel staff, drivers, etc. you are a tourist. not everyone cares what happens to you in their country. don’t believe me? google evil man from krabi.

    KNOW WHAT THE MAFIA OWNS: tropics, in my experience, are RUN by the mafia. so, find out what the deal is where you’re going. even if you can’t avoid it, it’s good to know.

    RACISM, SEXISM, ETC: find out. is it an area where if a woman is raped she is to blame? if you are tan/darker will it be hard to even get someone at a store to give you water? if you are gay, will you be in danger of violence. don’t trust tourist sites for this info.

    READ FORUMS BY EXPATS: find forums for the ex pats who live in that area & see what their issues are. yes, it’s full of crabby people, but you’ll also learn some important stuff. for example, is there a gang in your area who ride by tourists on motorcycles w/ machetes & chop as they drive by you? good to know.


    • The thing about doxycycline is that for women on birth control it can cause major issues and render both medications ineffective. I’d recommend researching this if it might be a problem and possibly using a different drug instead.

  15. Just thought I’d add, not every tropical destination is third world and dangerous. Most of the comments speak like they are. There are plenty of friendly, as safe as at home tropical destinations to choose from.

    • Very true – a lot of this discussion is about more adventurous off-the-beaten-path travel.

      i’ve been to quite a few all-inclusives (Cuba, Mexico, Dominican…) and it’s always always fine *once* you figure out how they work. The original post is talking about that sort of vacation. And, truthfully, i wish I had had something like that to read before I went to an all inclusive the first time!!! There is always a learning curve with any new experience.

    • Not every – but the majority are. Or they’re third world but not dangerous (Thailand, Sri Lanka, Palau, much of Indonesia, the Maldives – third world and tropical but not especially dangerous). Or others that are not third world and are quite safe but not quite as developed as you may be used to: Taiwan and the various Virgin Islands come to mind. Others, like Singapore, are arguably safer than home (actually, Taiwan also fits that category).

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