Tag Archives: health

Buzz Off – The search for a longer-lasting and more effective alternative to DEET

Short news clip from ScienceCentral about a study seeking a better alternative to DEET – hopefully a compound that is longer lasting, less irritating and (ideally) is even more effective. Oh yeah, and perhaps a substance that doesn’t dissolve plastics. We wait with baited breath.

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Tiny and Light But Worth Packing

Some things are so light and small they’re not worth leaving home without. Despite the plethora of travel aids and gizmos the best travel knickknacks are cheap, light, small and (generally) multi-use.

SarongsScarf / Bandanna / Sarong

A towel might definitively be the ‘most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have‘ but for my money, with the advent of the micro-fibre towel, this is the new champion. High fashion or improvised basket, sun hat, sheet, towel, sling (with some safety pins) and many other uses besides. Available world-wide and probably more cheaply than at home.

Light strong cord

For use as a clothes line and for securing bags in a pinch. A travel clothesline, designed to hold clothes without pegs, is a widely popular alternative but I’ve always managed to survive without one.

Zip-lock bags

Literally millions of uses – for dirty laundry, snacks, carry on liquids, keeping a travel journal dry, the list goes on. Larger bags are simple replacements for packing cubes.

Universal rubber plug / sink stopper

Cable TiesA must if you’re planning to do your own laundry. Whereas laundry powder is easy to buy most places, it’s worth buying a decent plug at home. Even if you never have to use it, it’s light and small enough to be worth packing and lugging.

Cable ties

A simple and cheap means of securing your luggage during flights – not necessarily tamper-proof but tamper-evident (as suggested by Budget Travel)

Rubber door stop

A small rubber doorstop is the simple and effective means of securing a hotel or hostel room door.

Passport PhotosSmall tupperware container

Useful if you have anything you wish to avoid crushing in your bag. In the meantime, perfect for storing most other things on this list.

Passport Photos

A few spare recent passport photos tucked away in the bottom of your bag may well save some unnecessary grief if you need a visa extension or a replacement passport.

Medicare Card

For Australians travelling to countries with reciprocal health agreements your medicare card is worth taking along.


You should ensure you always have access to:

  • Photocopy of your passport
  • Details of insurer and your policy
  • Contact details for Airlines/Lodging
  • Contact details for your consulates or embassies
  • Bank / ATM or Credit card provider contact details (especially emergency contact numbers)

Photos of your luggage (highlighting any identifying features) and any valuables you’re carrying are also worthwhile. You can keep copies of these details in paper format at the bottom of your luggage or store them or electronically – a good approach is to either email them to your web-based email account (or simply save them in a draft message) or take advantage of a free online storage site. It’s also worth leaving a copy of all of the above with a friend or family member back home.

Anything I’ve missed?

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[Sarong image via somesatellite], Cable ties image via fotocitizen, passport photos image via imperialdoghnut]

WorldNomads.com.au 5% Off Travel Insurance

TopBargains have published another code for a 5% discount off travel insurance through World Nomads.


If you’re in the market in travel insurance check out our hints and tips.

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BA Jet Lag Calculator

BA’s website has a useful little jet-lag calculator which recommends when to seek or avoid light at your destination to minimise jet-lag. Simply enter the time you usually wake, the local time and the time at your destination.

Apparently, if holing yourself up in a pitch black room isn’t an option just wearing dark glasses will help.

If you are desperate to know more they also offer Dr Sleep Podcasts ‘a series of sleep advice podcasts from our resident sleep expert, Dr Chris Idzikowski’. So, that’s the insomnia cured.

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[Image via Kim Pierro]

Travel Insurance – Hints and Tips

What travel insurance learnt from religionTravel Insurance

Religion, it is not frequently observed, is a lot like travel insurance. The marketing involves lots of threats of fire and brimstone (and a promise or two of heaven and nirvana); it’s hawked everywhere (and by a schiester or two) but ultimately there are only a handful of providers; by the time you find out whether it was worth the price you’ve paid it’s too late and if you get it wrong you can be left well and truly up the creek.

I’m generally incredulous towards the insurance industry, but I believe the only way to buy travel insurance is to wade into the morass find a policy that covers what you need without paying over the odds.

Where to Start

A good first step is to read tips in Choice’s fantastic guide to travel insurance, the Insurance Industry Ombudsman’s brochure on buying travel insurance and the Insurance Council of Australia’s Guide for Travellers

My Cardinal Rules For Choosing Travel Insurance

Check what cover you may already have. If you have a credit card, particularly a gold or platinum card, travel insurance may be one of the benefits. A recent Cannex survey judged the insurance offered by many cards quite favorably and even ‘as comparable to stand alone products’.

However, do not assume that your trip will be properly covered by your credit card travel insurance. Before you even consider relying on your credit card insurance exclusively ensure you are familiar with the terms and conditions and the maximium duration of any cover. In particular, check whether it is necessary to charge some or all of the value of flights or other expenses to the card to activate the insurance.

LuggageShop Around – listed below are are list of many Australian providers of travel insurance, including a couple of comparison sites.

But don’t purchase on the basis of price alone. Price is no more and no less important than the policy’s excess, inclusions, exclusions and limitations. Make sure you know these in detail for any policy you are considering. Consider some scenarios (e.g. lost luggage, an extended hospital stay, sudden sickness of a loved one at home, a flight or tour cancellation, a missed connection, a flight delayed for many hours or even an airline going under) and compare policies you’re interested in those situations. Does the insurer have a presence in the countries you’ll be travelling through or a free (from those countries) twenty-four telephone helpline?

Ensure you have faith in the organisation selling the policy and also the insurer underwriting it -you’ll be relying on them to come through quickly and with a minimum of fuss. Double check the policy covers the correct destinations, an appropriate length of time, everybody travelling (for instance dependents) and you’re eligiblility. Finally, check any extras offered by the policy – private hospital cover for example.

Make sure pre-existing medical conditions have been declared and are covered. If you have an existing condition it may not be covered by default. Do not take the risk that your policy may be effectively rendered worthless if your conditions worsens while you are overseas. Ensure the condition is declared to the insurer, but be aware that extra premiums or special terms and conditions may be applied.

Ensure you’re properly covered. Firstly, make sure the policy is as outgoing a you are. Check that any adventure sports, climbing, skiing, scuba diving or the like you’re planning to undertake are covered.

Consider the value of items you’re taking with you – a few grand is generally more than enough when I travel but with a decent camera set-up, if you’re taking a lot of electronic kit or if you like your sparkly things this can be exceeded very quickly.

Get It! I save money on all sorts of things when I travel but personally I think insurance that I feel comfortable with is worth the price.

Reciprical Health Agreements

Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Malta and Norway. This means that as an Australian resident your are entitled to assistance with the cost of medical treatment on presentation of an Australian passport and Medicare card. It is important that you advise medical staff in the country you are visiting that you wish to be treated under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia. Medicare is explicit that this scheme, however, is not a replacement for travel insurance: while you may not be liable for the full cost of treatment travel insurance is still strongly recommended.

Choice’s Travel Insurance Checklist

To find a policy that covers your needs take the following steps:

  1. Read What’s covered and take note of the coverage you need, and any traps to watch for.
  2. Contact a number of insurance companies for quotes and policies.
  3. If you travel regularly, check whether an annual policy might be suitable and cheaper.
  4. Read several policies before making your final decision.
  5. If you have any questions, double-check with the insurer and get it in writing before you sign the contract.

Read the fine print in policies very carefully to understand exactly what’s covered and what isn’t:

  • Is there sufficient cover for medical expenses, personal liability and legal costs? If you’re travelling to the United States, Japan or Europe unlimited medical cover is recommended.
  • Check what excess applies; some policies have an excess buy-out — you pay a flat fee and no excess applies.
  • Do you want to do any adventure activities, such as scuba diving, and are they covered?
  • Do you want to rent a car and is the collision damage excess covered?
  • Check the cover for baggage and especially for your valuables, such as cameras and laptops. You may be able to pay a fee and extend the cover for valuables if the standard limits aren’t high enough.
  • If you have special needs, such as a pre-existing medical condition, check with the insurer whether you’re covered.

How to avoid problems when you have a claim:

  • Keep receipts or valuations to prove ownership of valuables.
  • If your goods are stolen report it to the police and keep a copy of the report; list all items stolen.
  • If you need medical treatment or assistance contact your insurer’s medical assist hotline.
  • If you have a dispute with your travel insurer you can contact the Insurance Ombudsman Service (IOS), a free and independent ASIC-approved national dispute resolution service, on 1300 780 808 or www.insuranceombudsman.com.au

Source: Choice.com.au

Travel Insurance Providers

Comparison Sites

An (Incomplete) List of Australian Providers

1Cover NAB
AIG Australia NRMA
Allianz Ouch.com.au
ANZ Qantas
APIA (for those over 50, not working full time) QBE
Australian Unity RACV
Bendigo Bank SGIO
BudgetDirect STA
Colombus Direct St George
Commonwealth Bank Suncorp
Covermore Suresave
Downunder Travel.com.au
FlightCentre Traveller’s Assistance (CUA)
GIO TravelInsurance.com.au
HBA TravelInsuranceDirect
HSBC TourSafe
ING Webjet
insure4less Westpac
iTrek WorldCare
MBF WorldNomads (Specialises in long trips)

[Signs image from Jamesbeard on Flickr; Luggage image from mag3737 on Flickr]

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12 Travel Sites EVERYBODY should know (and love)


You may well already be familiar with many or all of these sites, most are very popular – and with good reason. These are websites that you will find yourself returning to again and again.

1 ) Lonely Planet’s Thorn tree

The granddaddy of internet travel forums – not the very best for every country or every topic but no other forum has the breadth, readership or so fully embodies Lonely Planet’s ethos of independent travel. If you have a travel question to ask then there’s no better place to start. The FAQS for each thread can be chaotic but contain a wealth of basic knowledge and useful information.

2 ) Center for Disease Control’s Yellow Book

The first and best reference for travel health -tips for avoiding mosquito or tick bites, FAQs for traveller’s diarrhea, suggestions about what a traveller’s first aid kit should contain as well as information on specific destinations that should be consulted before arrival.

3 ) Onebag.com

Travel with one carry-on size bag. Ditch the ballast: no excuses, no regrets. This site, which has become the most popular online packing resource provides all the packing information you could ever need.

4 ) The Man in Seat Sixty-One

Route details, maps, photos, timetables, prices and anything else you might need anywhere in the world that passenger trains run. Terrifyingly exhaustive and irreplaceable when planning a trip.

5 ) Trip Advisor

Reviews of everything travel related, especially hotels. The sheer number of reviews are likely to give you the details travel brochures leave out and guidebooks overlook, even if I would treat the ratings with a pinch of scepticism.

6 ) oanda.com

There are any number of sites which provide currency conversion, but Oanda’s FX cheat sheets, which can be adjusted to account for a margin to represent conversion costs, lift it above the pack for the traveller.

7 ) Whichbudget.com

There may be prettier alternatives but, in my experience, the most up-to-date listing of budget airlines and where they fly. Not beautiful, but wonderfully functional.

8 ) SeatGuru

The easiest way to ensure you have one of the best seats (and possibly more importantly avoid one of the worst), short of flying at the pointy end. Plans of planes colour coded to allow you to check at a glance where you’ll be seated.

9 ) World Electric Guide

Plugs and voltages worldwide. Never be without you travel kettle again.

10 ) World Airport Guides

Check airport services and transport options before you arrive, but if you’re planing on catching some kip the venerable Sleeping in Airports is your guide.

11 ) MasterCard Global ATM Locator

Find MasterCard, Maestro and Cirrus ATMs in over 210 countries. Far from comprehensive but worthwhile to give an idea of ATMs around your hotel, airport or attractions.

12 ) How to: Use a Squat Toilet

Prepare before you go – don’t learn, well, on the job. Trust me, the first time you come across one of these beauties you’ll be thankfull.

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