I have been asked many times “what advice would you give to photographers travelling overseas?”
I have compiled information which I have gathered from my own experiences and those of other travellers in order to help you prepare for your next overseas adventure.
Do yourself a serious favour and buy a Pelican 1510 flightcase.
They are designed to fit into overhead luggage compartments on planes.
I travelled around the world with mine and all my camera equipment in it, and not one bit of damage (I let them put it into general luggage). They cost about $400ish, but they are simply the best protection you can buy for your camera equipment. While it sounds like a lot of money, it is a lot cheaper than trying to buy new camera equipment overseas.
You will have this flight case for the rest of your life.
I know that if it is in the pelican case I do not have to worry about anything ever. It is also sooooo comfortable to carry (the handles have no-slip rubber grips) and it has extendable handles which turn it into a trolley (the wheels are stainless ball-bearing roller-blade wheels) Dragging this behind you is soooo nice – it rolls beautifully over all surfaces.
The best bit – ALL of your equipment, cameras, lenses, PSD, power cords, power adaptors, adaptor plugs, memory cards, instruction books are all in one place. this makes it easier to find all your gear, easier to pack your gear, and reduces the chance of losing anything because you can see something is missing because the space you have made for it will be empty.
Checkout the PELICAN TORTURE TEST VIDEO
If you still need convincing, consider the Pelican Company Motto: YOU BREAK IT – WE REPLACE IT… FOREVER
Seriously, don’t travel without one.
How will you secure your equipment when you are not in your hotel room? Will you carry it all with you everywhere you go? Trust me, that gets very old very quickly.
The only real option is to leave it at your hotel. Most decent hotels will have a security room where they will hold any valuable items for you.
Make sure you get a receipt, and the name of the person you gave it to. If possible watch them or go with them as they place it in the security room.
But just as many hotels and especially Backpacker Hostels do not have a secure room for your property. Your only remaining option is to leave your property in the room and hope for the best. This leaves you vulnerable since theft from hotel rooms is a major problem all around the world.
Theft from hotel rooms is the single biggest form of crime that happens in the hospitality Industry. Hospitality staff are usually employed on a casual basis and are for the most part transient. They can steal something, leave work the next day and move on to another hotel or even another country. You will never see your stuff again.
Most hotels will not accept liability for anything lost from your hotel room, and your insurance company may not want to pay up either.
Most theft is “theft by opportunity”. You leave something in plain site and someone will take it. I promise you that staff may well go through your possessions very very carefully when you are not there, and they know all the hiding places in your luggage and in your hotel room. Many of them have the keys that open each brand of travel luggage.
Having your stuff stolen will seriously ruin your holiday. Not only will you lose stuff, but you will also suffer from very strong feelings of personal invasion. Not nice, especially in a foreign country.
Never ever EVER leave any valuables unattended or unsecured in your hotel room. Sure, your insurance will probably cover it, but you have to spend the rest of your holidays with no camera, and you have lost all your wonderfull memories.
I know this from experience… For two years I was the Second-in-Charge of the Security Department of the largest off-shore resort in the world – Hamilton Island.
But there are ways you can secure your property and leave it in your hotel at the same time:
The braided, stainless steel cable:
You use this cable to secure your flightcase and luggage to your hotel room bed each day when you go out. They cost less than $30AUS and they are one of the simplest and most effective security measures you can buy. You can buy these cables at PADDY PALLIN STORES AUSTRALIA and KATHMANDU AUSTRALIA and most other decent camping stores.
Only use Combination Locks. That way you don’t have to carry keys with you everywhere, it also means that you wont ever lose your keys when overseas.
To secure your braided stainless steel cable you should use a solid brass padlock. Like all your padlocks it should be a combination type lock. You will have to go to a padlock specialist supplier to get one of these, but it is well worth the effort:
TSA Approved Padlocks can be opened by Airport Security without damaging the locks. Security Staff have a special key which will open these locks.
Cable Locks are very useful for attaching things to other things that a normal padlock wont fit around. Probably not best for use on luggage when in transit since they can get caught or snagged on things.
With today’s wonderful digital technology, we no longer need to carry hundreds of rolls of film around with us, but we do need to store digital files. There are many options available to you in this regard.
You can take a lot of memory cards. But this can get untidy and difficult to keep track of what is on what card, and you can lose cards when you are in a rush.
You can take a small laptop computer, but this presents its own problems.
I personally would not take any type of computer overseas. They are very popular items for theft (especially from hotel rooms) and they are famously fragile.
Also, laptops are are not designed specifically for downloading and storing your images and you may also need to buy a card reader, which is one more item to lose…
My preference is to use a Portable Storeage Device. These cool bits of kit are about the size of two packets of cigarettes – making them very portable [you keep them in your Pelican flightcase – of course]. They are designed to automatically download file and store your image from most popular types of memory cards. I use the Vosonic VP-8360, but the new version is the VP-8870 Portable Storage Device:
The blurb from Vosonic on their new VP-8870:
The all-new Vosonic VP8870 XDrive is not only a personal movie theater to view movies anytime and anywhere, the AV-out function even lets you connect the device to a TV and share the movies and photos with your friends. The VP8870 also provides infinite storage expansion via a customer swappable internal 2.5" hard drive (SATA Interface, 120-500GB). A speedy RAW image viewer, the Vosonic VP8870 not only supports files in JPEG, but also RAW formats. With VP8870’s powerful data management system and CPU, photographers can view their RAW photos on VP8870 quickly and directly without installing any software.
Prices start around $499 for 120GB (which is more than you can use, I have more than 20,000 high-res images on mine and it is only 3/4 full), just make sure it suits the memory cards you use!
You can buy them online at TECHNOBOX
Always use a money belt or document wallet [which you can wear around your neck] and never ever keep anything of value in your pockets.
An excellent tip: keep photocopies of your partner’s passport & other ID in your safety wallet, and they keep copies of your passport and ID in theirs.
Before you leave your hotel room each day you should make your partner . This sounds like a really naff little routine, but nothing sux so much as standing at an airport check-in and realising you have left your passport in your hotel room.
Another excellent tip [from Marjolein Katsma ]:
Keep a copy of all your paperwork [Passport, Visa, Itinery etc…] online. Scan all of your documents then Email them to yourself as an attachment. Now wherever you go – you have online, printable copies of all your paperwork easily accessible via your email account!
I am not saying the world is a horrible nasty place. Its not, but you do have to be carefull. Even I got mugged overseas, and Dad was (unsuccessfully) pick-pocketed, and we are both big solid men.
Personal security while overseas should be your highest priority.