Urban Boondocking Safety Tips for the Vehicle Dweller.
Bertha and I boondocking on 17 Mile Drive in Pacific Grove, California in 2012.
Over the past 4 years I have done a fair amount of vehicle traveling, to include 3 trips from Kentucky to California and back, 2 trips from Kentucky to Florida and numerous trips throughout the midwest! I’m happy to report that I have enjoyed safe travels during all these trips!
During most of my travels I boon-dock about 75% of the time. The other 25% of the time, I stay with friends or pay to spend the night at a campground or RV park. Many of my friends ask where “I stay” when on the road. I say boon-docking and then often need to explain what boon-docking is.
Many respond with, “I could never do that… just park somewhere and spend the night… aren’t you worried…” This response is probably common with many of my vehicle-dwelling blog readers who also boondock. I tell my friends that boon-docking can be safe and a lot of fun!
Just in case you’re a new reader, a quick web-search defines boon-docking as,
(boondock) A brushy rural area or location; To camp in a dry brushy location; To stay in a recreational vehicle in a remote location, without connections to water, power, or sewer services.
That definition looks pretty good to me but I would also add that,
(boondock) can also occur in an urban area on city streets or parking lots, where you over-night park or camp in your vehicle without fees,
The more I thought about boondocking, it got me thinking about what tips I would give someone preparing to go boondocking for their very first time, more specifically Urban Boon-Docking. So, I decided to compile a list of tips for travelers new to Urban Boondocking.
Below are a few of my Urban Boondocking Safety Tips:
-Be alert, use your instincts, use common sense.
Be aware of your surroundings, check around your vehicle before exiting. If a particular location doesn’t look or feel right, move to another spot! There are usually plenty of other boon docking spots!
-Avoid boondocking in high crime areas.
Most crimes occur at night and in close proximity to rest stops, gas stations, convenience stores and ATMs, avoid boondocking near these high crime areas.
-Avoid boondocking in high alcohol-sales areas.
Not all people who drink are drunks, but drunks are no fun to deal with late at night, when you are cozy in your vehicle, trying to get some sleep. I recommend avoiding parking near bars, alcohol package stores and other places where you may encounter lots of drunk people!
-Avoid parking in areas that have reduced visibility.
Avoid parking near dumpsters, wooded areas, construction equipment or anything else that may reduce your visibility. You want to be able to see people approaching your vehicle as far out as possible.
– Boondock in well illuminated spots.
Many vehicle dwellers try to find the best “hidden, out of the way” parking spot when Urban Boondocking. They think that if they can find a dark, out of the way spot, nobody will bother them.
I take the opposite approach, when I urban boondock. I try to find the best illuminated spot in plain view. I think if a resident sees a van circling a parking lot and then going to the back corner to park is considered more suspicious than just parking in plain view under a streetlight.
-Lock your vehicle at all times.
I recommend locking your vehicle at all times, even if you leave your vehicle for only a moment.
It doesn’t take a thief more than seconds to open your vehicle door and grab a few items. This includes locking your vehicle when you are fueling up.
-Do not open the door for anyone, unless you know who they are.
Do not open the door of your RV, just because someone knocks on the door! Make sure you can see who is knocking, if you can’t see them, ask them to move to an area where you can see them! Even if someone claims to be a police officer, don’t automatically open the door. There is nothing wrong with calling the local police dispatch to confirm that an officer is at your vehicle door!
-Keep all valuables out of view.
Store all your valuables out of sight! Thieves are opportunists, they are more likely to risk going to jail, breaking into a vehicle they know has valuables, than one they have no idea what’s inside!
-Keep your blinds shut at all times.
If a would-be thief can see into your vehicle, he will know that,
a) You are not in your vehicle and he is free to break-in, or
b) A woman is alone in her vehicle, and maybe in his eyes, an easy target!
Remember, out of sight, out of mind!
-Install a CO / Fire and LP detector.
Portable, battery operated carbon monoxide detector / fire detectors are inexpensive and easily installed on the wall of your van, truck bed or RV. I have a CO / Fire Detector installed in the camper shell of my Tacoma because I often sleep in the bed! Your life is certainly worth the $30 to $50 dollars a detector costs!
-Maintain a low profile.
Try not to bring unnecessary attention to you and your vehicle. If you park in a Walmart parking lot at 2 AM, and look like just another late night shopper, you probably won’t get a second look. But on the other hand, if you breakout the BBQ grill, lawn chairs and clothesline tied to a lamp-post, you will definitely get unwanted attention.
-Always be courteous.
The old saying that you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar is true for boondocking too! It doesn’t matter if you interact with the police, shopping mall security or another patron, be friendly and courteous! That person just might return the favor!
-Have your keys in your hand and at the ready as you approach your vehicle.
When you approach your vehicle, have your keys at the ready. If you fumble around in a bag or purse looking for your vehicle keys, you give a criminal the opportunity to sneak up on you while you are distracted, looking for your keys.
-In parking structures, avoid stairwells.
If you decide to doondock in a Parking Structure, it’s safer to go up or down levels on the ramps and not in the stairwells. Stairwells at night are often high crime areas. On the ramp just remember to watch out for passing automobiles.
-Install a kill switch or vehicle alarm.
Homes with alarm systems have a much lower burglary rate, and since your vehicle is your “home,” think about installing an alarm or kill switch to prevent theft of your belongings or worse yet, theft of your vehicle!
-Strategically park your vehicle.
Park your vehicle in a direction that provides the most visibility on your doors, to include the van rear doors or truck tailgate. If the criminal has out of sight access to your doors, he can more easily break in! When I park my Bigfoot Truck Camper I always make sure the rear door is most visible to passers-by.
-Hide copies of important documents.
Thieves want to spend as little time as possible in your home / vehicle. They can’t steal what they can’t find, so hide copies of important documents like vehicle registration, insurance, etc…
-Record serial numbers of important electronic devices.
Record the serial numbers of important electronic devices like cameras, laptops, GPS units, etc… It may not prevent theft but it just may help you get stolen items back form the police if they are recovered.
-A few places I’ve had safe boondocking experiences.
24 hour big box store parking lots.
Medium sized, chain hotel parking lots, most are extremely well illuminated.
Church Parking Lots, ask first!
Police Department Parking Areas, or rather, close to police departments.
Costco / Sams Club, they often have free wifi accessible from the parking lots.
24 hour Fast Food parking lots, added bonus is inexpensive, tasty coffee in the morning!
I hope these tips help keep you safe during your next Urban Boondocking Experience!
Please comment below if you have other tips!
WAND3R3R’s Top Safety Tips for International Travel;
– Tell Someone Your Travel Plans.
It’s important to share your travel plans with someone. It’s easy to send a copy of your travel itinerary or a short note outlining your schedule to a friend or family member.
Important Information to Include,
-Where you are going, city, neighborhood etc.…
-How you are getting there, by car, by bus, by plane on foot, etc.…
-How long you plan to stay at that location,
-Where you are staying, Hotel, with a friend, etc.…
-Contact information like, hotel phone number, hotel Website, etc. …
-Do Your Homework.
Make sure you do a little research on the country or city you are going to visit. There is plenty of valuable information available on the Internet for every location imaginable. The US State Department website offers great country information as well as other government’s websites like Australia and the UK for example. Countries whose citizens’ travel abroad often, to a particular location, are likely to have travel information on that country. The best thing about governmental websites is that the information is usually fairly up to date because they always have someone on the ground. Sometimes the websites of world travelers can be a bit dated. The situation on the ground can change quickly and just because it was safe somewhere last month doesn’t mean it’s safe today!
-Be the Invisible Man / Woman.
Act and dress appropriate to your environment, I call this being the invisible man or woman. Simply stated, try not to draw a lot of attention to yourself. Try to look like the average Joe or Jane, don’t wear expensive jewelry or inappropriate clothing. When I lived in Rio de Janeiro, I often looked like the starving student when I went out on the street to go shopping or sightseeing. Criminals are opportunistic; ask yourself, are they more likely to risk going to jail trying to rob someone who looks wealthy or poor? A Brazilian friend who lived in a poor neighborhood told me that he never locked his door in the “Favela” because everyone knows he doesn’t have anything worth stealing. If you look like a fat cat you make yourself more appealing to the hungry criminal.
-Treat People Kindly.
I hate the expression, “Ugly American,” or “Ugly German” etc. …
Every country has great people and every country has their 10% of jack-asses. I’ve seen people from many different countries poorly represent their homeland and their fellow countrymen! Don’t be one of the jackasses…
Treat all people you meet with respect. Look people in the eye when you engage them in conversation for directions or ask them the price of something. Take the extra 2 seconds to say please and thank you in their language. Courtesy goes a long way toward good international relations on the interpersonal level!
The little effort you make to be kind may pay great returns later. For example, that shop keeper you pass every morning on your way to get coffee may give you information he heard on the local radio station about unrest in a particular neighborhood. Locals know the scams better than you and if they like you they are going to be much more likely to warn you of what to look out for. I have been in the middle of an out of control mob before and a local who spoke the language got us both to safety. You never know when that doorman, waiter, shop keeper or hotel maid will see you out in town and assist you is some way. If you have treated them with respect chances are they will do the same to you in a time of need!
-Have a Plan.
Hope for a trouble free visit to your overseas destination but plan for the worst! Most people travel abroad and have a wonderful trouble free experience but there is always a chance you won’t be so lucky. What are you going to do if your luggage is lost or stolen? What are you going to do if you need medical attention overseas? What are you going to do if you are robbed or assaulted? What are you going to do if you lose your passport or credit cards? Most people never think about the potential problems they could face while traveling abroad. If you have a plan you will already be more prepared than 95% of international travelers.
-Food for thought;
-Make copies of important documents and keep them on your person. Things like your travel itinerary, your passport, your credit cards, etc… can be easily photocopied and reduced in size to fit into your cargo pocket or travel wallet.
-Make a list of all important phone numbers, hotels, airlines, Embassy, Consulate, expat organizations, rental car agencies, travel agencies, hospitals, ect…
-Another idea is to scan those important documents and save them as a draft on your email services website. That way you can access them in the event of an emergency.
-When you get to your hotel or hostel, spend 10 mins and do a walk-through to make an escape plan in case of a fire or other emergency. Where are the emergency exits? Can you escape out your window safely? Can a criminal easily access your room? Where is the fire extinguisher? These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself when making an escape plan.
Be Aware, Be Alert, Use Common Sense
The single most important factor to safe international travel is to use your common sense. If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t…. Follow your gut instinct! I know you want to take in the sights and enjoy yourself but be alert, watch your bags, be carful with your wallet, don’t flash large sums of money, etc… These are all common sense recommendations right? But, I have seen people violate the common sense rule with all of them during my travels abroad!
Water Purification Tips for the Wanderer……
Everyone knows that water is life! It doesn’t matter how tough you are, no man can survive long without water! All smart “Wanderers” should have a plan to ensure they have access to safe drinking water during their travels. I do not recommend simply relying on bottled water at your destination, it’s always prudent to have the means to purify your own water for drinking.
I relied on what I thought was “safe bottled water” while hiking the “Inca Trail” in Peru in 2003 and ended up getting quite ill! I bought what was supposed to be “bottled water” while hiking. It was “bottled water,” but what I didn’t know was that the vendor on the trail was the one who “bottled” the water straight from the local stream. The water was complete with parasites at no extra charge! I learned the hard way about the importance of safe drinking water! Please learn from my mistake and take your own water purification equipment when you travel.
The same methods that your local municipal water-works uses to make water safe to drink at home are available to the smart traveler at a reasonable cost. I take 3 methods of water purification when I travel, a micro-filtration system, an ultra-violet pen and chemical treatment tablets. I don’t use all three methods together, but certainly could if I felt the need in situations where the water source was extremely contaminated. Normally I use the micro-filter system first and then the ultra-violet pen to ensure my water is safe. The filter removes over 99.99% of viruses, bacteria and other nasty critters and the ultra-violet pen kills anything that may have gotten through the filter! If you are really worried about your water supply, you could then chemically treat it in a third step!
The picture below is what I use;
On the right, a “LifeSaver 3000” micro-filtration system. It operates very well in even the most extreme conditions because it is a positive pressure system. Meaning you hand pump it to force the water through the filtration membrane, thus speeding the process. No more waiting 30 mins for gravity to carry the water through the filtration process!
In the middle, the ultra-violet system I use, a “Steri-Pen Adventurer.” It is very handy because it came with a solar charging case, therefore I always have the means to keep the batteries charged and ready to purify water.
Finally, on the left, I have “Portable Aqua” tablets to chemically treat water if necessary.
It’s always smart to have a back-up plan to your back-up plan when it comes to purifying your drinking water…..
Above, the “Portable-Aqua” chemical water treatment tablets, the “Steri-Pen Adventurer” ultra-violet water purifier, and the “LifeSaver 3000” micro-filtration system. I have used them with great success in Latin America and Africa!
Packing for a Trip and Securing Your Valuable Stuff While Traveling:
Above, 2 available options for securing your money, passport and credit cards while traveling, I highly recommend one of these wallets. Make a pickpockets job as difficult as possible!
1. Travel with only what you can afford to lose.
Nowadays everyone needs at least some money, a passport and the clothes on their backs for international travel, just about everything else is nice to have items. Carefully decide what you take on a trip, if you cannot afford to lose something, like that beautiful gold necklace your Grandma gave you….leave it at home!
2. Carry on your person or in your carry on bag, those things that are absolutely necessary.
There are certain items everyone needs to travel, like a passport, credit cards, cash, essential phone numbers, medications…etc.… It’s a good idea to keep these essential items in a carry-on bag or on your person when traveling. Luggage gets lost more often than you think, so don’t roll the dice and take a chance that your checked-bags will arrive at your destination!
3. Locks are to keep “honest” people out, if something is not with you at all times or under your supervision you do not control it!
No one is safe from a determined thief! If someone wants something bad enough they will find a way to defeat a lock and steal it! That means if you don’t have an item on your person at all times or under your close supervision, you don’t really have control of that item! I’m not trying to scare you but rather, “remind” you that if something is really important to your travel plans like your “passport,” then carry it with you at all times in a secure wallet around your neck or in a waist belt! You need to be the judge, if you have a modern electronic room safe in a 4 star Hotel; your valuables are probably safe. On the other hand if you are in a Hostel sharing a room with 5 new “friends” you might want to have your passport, credit cards, and cash on your person, even when you sleep.
4. Travel as light as possible
Travel should be fun and as carefree as possible. If you have all sorts of expensive electronic devices and other valuables you are worried about getting stolen, you cannot have a stress-free trip. Travel with only what you really need, in other words travel light!
More Travel Advice:
A seasoned traveler told me years ago,
“If you can’t afford to lose something then leave it at home, don’t travel with it.”
The point being, carefully look at everything you plan to take on your trip and decide,
“Do I really need this?”
Quite often, we take things on trips that we think we are going to use and they never leave our suitcases. Make an honest assessment of all the items you plan to take and take only what you will use. Then ask yourself, “can I substitute a less valuable item for something more expensive?” A wristwatch is a great example; can you afford to lose the expensive one? Or will a $20.00 dollar watch serve your purpose? Jewelry is another example; can you take costume jewelry instead of more expensive pieces? The answer is probably yes you can. Like my friend said, “If you can’t afford to lose something, then leave it at home, don’t travel with it.”
Now that you have determined you can survive a 2 week trip to Rio de Janeiro without the $2500.00 Rolex, and that the $25.00 Casio Watch will meet your needs, let’s talk about how you travel with what you really need to take on your trip.
Make a List:
I recommend that everyone make a list of everything they plan to take on their trip, to include the clothes on your back and the things in your pockets. When you have a visual list of everything you plan to take, it’s much easier to take less than you thought you might need! Then take the list and prioritize it from the most important items to the least important ones. If you find that you don’t have room for everything you planned to take, you can leave less-essential items at home!
An example list might include;
1) Travel Clothing (it’s never a good idea to show up to the Airport Counter naked)
c. Socks / Underwear
d. Leather Belt
f. Ball Cap
g. Rain jacket
h. Cell phone
i. Casual Shoes
2) Passport with Visa (worn around neck in secure wallet or in Waist Money Belt)
a. 2 Credit Cards
b. $1000.00 in Cash
c. Emergency Phone Numbers
d. Travel Itinerary
4) Carry-On Bag
a. Lap-Top Computer
c. Nutrition Bars / Snack
d. Water Bottle
e. Power Cords with Adaptors
f. Extra Socks / T-Shirt / Underwear
h. Water Purification Device
i. Extra Cell Phone Battery
j. Pocket Camera
k. Small Combination Lock
l. Sun Screen
m. Insect Repellant
a. 2 Pairs of Travel Pants
b. 3 T-Shirts
c. 3 Pairs of Socks
d. 3 Pairs of Underwear
i. Hiking shoes
j. 2 Dress Shirts
k. Extra Belt
l. Dress Slacks
m. Travel Towel
n. Toilet Articles
o. Step Down Power Converter
Now, take the list and send it to yourself in an email and also print a copy and carry it with you. That way if your bags get stolen or miss a connecting flight, you know exactly what you have lost. Also, make sure your bags are clearly marked with your name and contact information. Another good idea is to mark your bags so that they are unique to you, that way nobody will take them at the baggage claim by mistake. A bright bumper sticker or piece of ribbon secured on your bag them might be enough!
I recommend you invest in a good quality waist money belt or an around the neck wallet. That way you can carry the most important things like your passport, credit cards and cash securely! I wear one all the time. I prefer the waist money belt because it can easily fit under the waistband of my trousers or shorts and it makes a pickpocket’s job virtually impossible. Since you want the “secure” wallet to be a secret, I recommend you carry spending cash in your pocket so you need not access the money belt in public. If you do need to access something from your money belt, go to the restroom and do it privately! That way the potential thief doesn’t know what you are carrying. Hiding valuables in your shoes or socks or for women, in your bra, can be uncomfortable and you will look weird always touching these areas to see if your valuables are still in place. With the waist money belt, you can confirm the belt is still in place by simply placing your hands on your hips!
Remember it only takes a thief seconds to take your unattended items at a café, on a train or in a hotel lobby. There are thieves that actively patrol these areas looking for easy targets. Don’t be the easy target. As mentioned before, keep your bags under your supervision and keep important documents on your person!
Personal Hygiene Tips, for the “Wanderer.”
During a recent flight from Washington, D.C. to Houston, Texas, I found myself waiting in the TSA security screening line for about 45 mins with 100+ other travelers. An attractive, 30-something year old gal was in front of me with her carry-on suitcase. On-top of her suitcase was a large see thru, plastic zippered pouch, filled with about 30+ different “make-up” / “cosmetic” items. My initial thought was, “wow, I’m glad I don’t need all that stuff…” (maybe I do and my friends are just too kind…)
Then I began to think, what items do I take when I travel and what are the absolutely necessary hygiene items one needs while traveling (or at least what I need).
After much consideration, I’ve decided to give my list of “necessary hygiene items” for the “Wanderer.”
– Baby Wipes and Rubbing Alcohol;
Baby Wipes with Rubbing Alcohol added are a great way to freshen-up after a long trip and are a wonderful alternative to the conventional “shower.” I buy unscented baby wipes in the 100 count packs for about $3.00 on-line. I use them to give myself a “cowboy” bath (sometimes called a whore-bath, but not appropriate for this blog). I add about a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol to the baby-wipes before I clean my armpits, crotch, buttocks and feet. The added alcohol helps prevent, athletes-foot, monkey-butt, jock-itch and just plain-old-smelly-pits! Caution, if you already have the early stages of monkey-butt or jock-itch then the rubbing alcohol might cause a brief but intense, “my junk” is on-fire sensation but this sensation will only last about 10-15 seconds (consider yourself warned)!
– Toothbrush with SteriPod;
A clean mouth is a happy mouth. Oral hygiene should be an important part of every “Wanderer’s” daily routine. I have traveled for years with those little plastic toothbrush caps to keep my toothbrush “clean,” but eventually my toothbrush always got that nasty crud on it. Then I found “SteriPod,” the clip-on toothbrush sanitizer. It’s basically a toothbrush cover with safe anti-microbial properties. I have found that the average “SteriPod” lasts about 3 months before it start to lose its antimicrobial properties. I also recommend the small, travel size, toothpaste tubes. They tend not to explode as easily as the large tubes and if one should have a blow-out, you have other tubes as back-ups. Don’t forget dental-floss too.
– Anti-Biotic Ointment;
In the tropics, a small cut can easily become a major medical issue if not properly treated. A small tube of anti-biotic cream, like “Neosporin” or “Bacitracin” can help prevent infection. I apply a small amount of cream to any cuts before they become problematic, remember “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
– Body Wash;
I travel with a few small plastic bottles of body-wash. I find that body-wash alone works fine to clean my entire body and hair, no need for separate shampoo, body-soap and conditioner, one bottle does it all!
– Travel Towel;
I like the micro-fiber travel towels, they are compact, lightweight and very absorbent! Google, “travel towel, micro fiber” and you will see way too many options.
I am of “English-Origin” and am pretty fair-skinned. “Sunscreen” is a must for me! I like the small travel size tubes of sunscreen you can find in the “travel section” of your local Walmart. They cost about $1.49 each and are small enough to fit in your pocket.
– Lip Balm;
I take a few tubes of SPF 15 or higher lip balm on all my travels. Chapped, cracked lips are no fun!
– Baking Soda;
I take a small box of “Arm and Hammer” on all my travels. I use it to help settle an upset stomach.
– Nail Clippers;
Your fingernails and toenails will continue to grow no matter what time zone you are in, don’t forget the nail clippers!
– Electric Razor / Disposible Razor:
I know that for most men, shaving is optional when wondering the globe. Probably so, but ….I like to shave my face on a daily basis. I take a Panasonic Wet-Dry Shaver and a few disposable razors on my travels.
I take a small tube of “vaseline” on all my travels. In the event of an outbreak of monkey-butt or a rash in the crotch region, vaseline is great to have!
– Laundry Detergent;
An essential part of personal-hygiene is keeping your cloths clean. I recommend a small plastic bottle of power-laundry detergent. The advantage of powder is that if the container explodes during travel, you are not left with a sticky mess in your suitcase or backpack.
Above, my toothbrush with the “Steripod.” A must have for the “Wanderer.” It keeps your toothbrush “crud-free” for about 3 months!
Great Shoes for the “Wanderer,” the “Teva Mens Riva Leather Event.”
I know footwear pretty well. I spent over 24 years as an Infantry Marine hiking with heavy loads on my back in just about every “clime and place.” Good quality footwear for the Traveler, Adventurer or Wanderer is a must! After I find, and wear a great pair of footwear till it’s about worn to pieces, I usually say, “I should have bought two pairs, because now that model is discontinued…” Before “Teva” discontinues the “Mens Riva Leather Event” model shoes, I will try to buy another pair. The Riva Leather Event shoes are really, really comfortable and very well made! I think at $140.00 (REI price) they are some of the most expensive footwear I have ever purchased (excluding “Gore Tex” Boots), but I am completely satisfied with them! I recently looked at the “Teva” website and they apparently only have them in “bouillon” or (brown) now, but the pair I bought at REI are green and black (see picture below).
Above, the “Teva Mens Riva Leather Event” shoes, great for the Wanderer!
Tips on Frugal Eats While you Wander (Travel).
For me, one of the best things about “wandering” or “traveling,” is the opportunity to eat so many incredibly diverse and delicious foods! I have found that food brings people together, no matter where you are! Some of my most memorable meals have been in some completely unexpected hole-in-the-wall eateries! Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. A little bit of “culinary-courage” will certainly make for some satisfied tastebuds and some great stories! Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with going to a 5-star restaurant and spending a small fortune, if that’s what you enjoy. But there are always less expensive alternatives to the multi-star, multi-$$$$ bistros found in the travel-guides, no matter where you wander!
All travelers know that food can quickly become a significant portion of your travel budget, unless you are careful. You can eat very well on a limited budget and have an incredible experience at the same time!
Below are a few of my tips for saving money on food while wandering / traveling!
– Bring your own Water-Bottle.
I don’t like paying for water no matter where I am! For me, something that is absolutely essential to daily life, like water, should not be expensive or difficult to obtain. Unfortunately, since only a few mega-companies control the global sale and production of bottled water, they also control the price of it! If you doubt what I say, take a little test. Go into a gas station store or mini-mart and check the price of bottled water. I bet you will find that the price of a gallon of water, is almost as expensive as a gallon of gasoline! How about a movie theater, the price of bottled-water there is certainly more expensive than a gallon of gasoline! That just seems so wrong to me! So what’s the solution? Simple, carry your own empty water-bottle and fill up from public water sources. When I travel I carry a variety of water filters / water purifiers. There are numerous UV water purifiers available that easily fit into your pocket or attach to the water-bottle itself! SteriPen and Camelbak are just a few of the companies that make small UV water purifiers, great for the world wanderer / traveler. The UV water purifier will kill enough of the bacteria and viruses to make the water safe to drink. Often when we think we are hungry, we are really just thirsty. Keeping yourself well hydrated with probably save you money too by you not spending as much money on food!
– Buy Food Where the Locals Shop.
Think about where you shop for food in your normal, daily life. When you are at home, you probably shop at the same local markets most of the time. Why, because eating-out all the time can be expensive! When you travel do the same thing, try to shop at markets where the locals shop.
Even fast-food can be expensive too! A meal at most fast-food restaurants in the USA can easily cost 6 to 7 dollars. For me, what you get in the form of quality and quantity at most fast-food joints for a 6 or 7 dollar meal is way too expensive. Don’t be afraid to go to local farmers markets or supermarkets, no matter where you are. You can easily find healthy, fresh foods for just a few dollars per meal!
– Try Street-Eats.
I love food-trucks and street vendors! They are very popular in many parts of the world and are usually less expensive than local restaurants. The best Thai-curry I ever had was from a street vendor in Bangkok and cost just a few dollars. A good sign is when the street vendor serves lots of locals! Just like you know the places close to home that offer a great meal for a great price, the locals in the foreign country you are visiting know the same thing! Even if you don’t speak the local language don’t be afraid, most vendors have pictures of the dishes they offer.
– Bring Small Snacks with you, as you Wander.
When I Wander, whether on foot or in a vehicle, I usually carry small snacks with me. I find that I don’t need 3 big meals everyday. Usually a nutrition bar or small bag of almonds is enough to hold me over until my next meal. Ziploc-type bags are great! Take them with you and use them to bring a snack with you as you wander!
– Check the Web for Local Food Blogs / Expat Blogs Overseas.
Check the internet for local food blogs, you will be surprised how many you will find! There is great information about local farmers markets and local restaurants for every city I have visited. When overseas, it’s easy to find Expat-Blogs written in your native language with information about the local food scene!
– Try Making Lunch Your Main Meal.
Most restaurants offer a less expensive noon-time meal compared to the evening meal. Check prices at local restaurants as you wander and see if you can save money making lunch your main meal of the day!
– Venture off the Beaten-Path.
Don’t be afraid to venture away from the main tourist districts in search for lower priced restaurants. Restaurants in the high-traffic tourist areas tend to be more expensive! Locals tend to avoid the tourist areas when they are in search of good cheap eats, so you will probably find a more authentic food-scene in the areas where locals frequent!
– Try to Find a Hotel / Motel with a kitchenette.
Try to stay somewhere that has a small kitchenette. This way you can easily shop at the local markets and then prepare meals on the cheap!
– Ask Locals for Advice.
Don’t be afraid to ask a local where to eat. 9 out of 10 times you will get great information! This tip goes for all sorts of information, not just where to eat! I have found most people want to be helpful to foreign travelers! Knowledge is power, seek out local knowledge!
Only a few blocks away from where I am staying in Bradenton, Florida is an awesome little Taco-Truck! Today for lunch, I’m practicing what I preach, 2 delicious chicken tacos for only $3.50!
Want a Great Meal While Wandering, Go Ethnic!
I recently blogged about “Frugal Eats” while Wandering (Traveling). Often, the best meals I find are at little hole-in-the-wall restaurants off the beaten paths! A pricy restaurant does not always mean a great tasting meal! I have had great success finding reasonably priced, awesome tasting meals by following the crowds! A restaurant, food-truck or food-stand that is always busy with local customers usually means that the food is great and reasonably priced! Another tip to finding great meals is to seek out ethnic neighborhoods wherever you wander! In Singapore I ate perhaps the best Indian fish curry I have ever had, in an Indian neighborhood. While I lived in Brazil, I ate some of the most incredible Japanese food in the Japanese district of Sao Paulo, the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan. The foreign immigrants to any new country build neighborhoods where they can retain many of the customs and traditions of their homelands! We all know food often ranks at the top of the list of the customs and traditions all ethnic groups seek to hold onto! For at least the last 30 years in America, the largest group of immigrants has been Latinos! One of the largest concentrations of Latino-immigrants in America is of course in Florida, where I am currently wandering. Mexicans are the largest group of Latino-immigrants in Florida, so it goes to reason that finding great tasting, inexpensive Mexican food here in Bradenton should be easy! Oh yes it is! Within a 5 min drive of where I am staying, there are probably 2 dozen “taco-trucks.” Over the past 3 weeks I have managed to sample tacos from 4 of the busiest “taco-trucks” close to home! My friend and his son have never eaten at any of the taco-trucks, even though they drive-by them just about everyday! This week, I took them to my favorite one and they loved it, I’m sure they will be regulars! 2 great tasting, authentic Mexican tacos and a beverage for under 5 dollars is a certainly a great food-find just about anywhere! So my simple tip is, don’t be afraid to venture into an ethnic neighborhood to eat, no matter where you wander, even if that neighbor is just a few miles from home!
Below are a few pictures of tacos from 4 different taco-trucks in Bradenton.