Continuing on from Part 1….
9/ Flying from Panama City to Bogota instead of sailing to the North of Colombia, Cartagena.
As we had mentioned in our Panama post, our pre-arranged flight compromised the chance for us to do the famous sail from Panama – Colombia and this is definitely one of our biggest regrets so far.
Silver lining – We were upgraded to business class and made serious use of all the free food in the airport lounge.
Lessons learnt – Before booking the easiest option between cities, research other alternatives. Often there will always be cheaper and better ways to get between A and B.
10/ Getting an AWFUL case of bed bugs in Santa Marta, Colombia
Yes, that is the actual ‘sucker’ !
There is nothing creepier than realising you have creepy crawlies over your body when you sleep. After waking up one morning and thinking I had been eaten by mosquitoes, I was soon shocked when I saw many black stains on the bed and then 2 of the bugs crawling over my pillow. It was absolutely disgusting.
I was itching for up to 3 weeks and had 167 bites! Yes, yes, they were counted. I will never, ever, wish bed bugs upon anyone! Once we went downstairs to tell the receptionist, I was given the option of a clean sheet and that was all. Never mind fumigating the room?!
We weren’t even upgraded to a better room, we had to share a twin bed on the top bunk. Unfortunately, it was after midnight and unsafe to get to another hotel in Colombia so I slept with one eye open…
Silver lining There is absolutely nothing good that can come from this experience.
Lessons learnt – Bed bugs can be anywhere, it doesn’t have to be from a dirty hotel or hostel. If you’re in doubt, always check the bed thoroughly and if you see ANY black or red stains on your sheets, change rooms or hotels immediately. We’ve done this once since this incident and I’m sure it saved me from another god-awful attack.
11/ Having our Debit Card Skimmed in Panama
We were on the island of Boccas del Toro, Panama and we needed money. The island had only one ATM so we had no choice but to use it. Thankfully our bank, Chase is quite on top of things and we soon received an email notifying us that someone was withdrawing money from Miami. They knew we were in South America so this was easy for us to prove it wasn’t us. Our debit cards were cancelled and until we were sent our new ones, we had no access to withdraw money for almost 3 weeks!
Silver lining- Having no access to a debit card for over 3 weeks, resulted in a VERY strict budget. We only had access to credit cards so all the small things we use cash for wasn’t really possible.
Lessons learnt – Avoid ATM’s that looks remotely suspicious if it’s the only one you can access, still avoid it or you are at a higher risk of your information being stolen. Try and use only ATM’s inside of banks and with cameras.
12/ Online Credit Card Fraud
A few months after the skimming incident, we checked our credit card statements and we noticed there were a few charges around $600 at an online retailer in the USA. Of course, our credit cards again had to be cancelled and new ones were sent out to us, but thankfully to us overseas this time.
Silver Lining – We were able to catch it before the products were even sent out to the person using our information. We contacted the company they bought it from. Suckers!
Lessons Learnt- Always check your statements for any suspicious activity, you can’t always rely on the bank.
13/ Misplacing clothes, travel books & toiletries
We’ve managed to lose some insignificant things on our travels. The most frustrating was our brand new South America Travel book, we carried this heavy book around for over 8 weeks and then lost it the first week we entered South America. Go figure. Back to the web for help now. We’ve also managed to lose quite a few items in the laundry on the travels, underwear often never comes back which we find very strange…
Silver lining – Our bags are lighter and losing clothes means you have an excuse to go shopping! 😉
Lessons learnt – They are only materialistic things and most of the time are things that can easily be replaced, so no need to get caught up on it. Be glad it isn’t your passport (or computer charger)…
14/ Pre-booking our flights
(Our flight schedule above)
There are many pros and cons to pre-booking flights and we can’t complain about the awesome deal our travel agent hooked us up with BUT in saying that, there were many times that we wished we didn’t have a flight because it didn’t allow us the flexibility that we would have enjoyed in certain countries.
We booked our flights with a guess as to how long we wanted to spend in each country and although we were pretty spot on with most of them, there were a couple of times we wished we could leave a place sooner or stay longer. Arriving and leaving from the main cities in each country often meant we backtracked through the country.
Silver lining – Saving time and the use of all the airport lounges! Being Priority Pass members through our American Express account, we had access to most of the lounges at the international airports. This means access to good WiFi, free food & drink, comfortable chairs and cleaner bathrooms.
Lessons learnt – Pre-booking doesn’t always work in your favour. After taking a few of the buses around South America, we realised how reliable it is and most of the time very affordable.
15/ Having our bag and flip-flops on separate occasions stolen from right under our noses on the beach in Copacabana
As you can see, the beaches over Carnival are not empty. We’re sitting on the beach minding our own business and a local comes along selling towels which is nothing unusual for the beaches in Rio. A few moments later, I notice another man walking away and Jacob’s shirt falls out from his arm. I point it out to Jacob and that is when we realise our bag has gone too. Realizing pretty quickly, a couple behind us immediately pointed the man out, Jacob ran up to him, knocked it out of his hand and gave him just a gentle push…
These guys are smart and generally work in pairs. As the man was trying to sell us his towels, he was also covering the bag and slowly dragging it back with his foot before palming it off to his walking by friend. Similar sneaky moves to that of Will Smith in the movie Focus (a really good movie btw). Unfortunately for them, after dropping the shirt, their plan was a dud!
Silver lining – We got it back, no thanks to Jacob!
Lessons learnt – In Brazil, Rio and Salvador especially, things can be stolen from you right in front of your face! Keep your eyes on your stuff at all times. We were there over Carnival period so it was crazy busy but even without Carnival, you must take extra care!
16/ Missing our flight from Rio de Janerio to Salvador
We can proudly say this is the first flight we had missed since starting on this trip and it ‘technically’ wasn’t our fault, although it definitely could have been avoided. We arrived at the airport in Rio with plenty of time for our flight at 1:44 pm and we couldn’t find it on the board, not thinking too much of it we went to the help desk and she kindly told us that it actually left at 9:00 am that morning!? Somehow, we missed the memo and never knew of the time change. Whoops!
Silver Lining – Considering we had arrived at the airport well in advance for our original flight, they kindly placed us on a new one in 3 hours and waived the charges and upgraded us to business class.
Lessons Learnt – Check the flight status the night before any flight! In this instance, if we had, we would have made the original flight instead.. 4 hours earlier! Too bad the WiFi didn’t work at our hostel!
17/ Having my phone stolen
We were sitting at a table in Mendoza, having a tasty dinner outside at a highly recommended restaurant when my phone was stolen from right under my nose. I left my phone directly next to my plate and shortly later, a teenager comes up to us in my face with pamphlets trying to sell us something. I told him to go away but in the moment of talking he had swooped my phone under his stuff and walked right away with it. It wasn’t until he had gone that I realized it was missing. Off to the police station, we went :'( Hopefully our travel insurance covers it!
Silver Lining – I had just updated all my photos the day before.
Lessons Learnt – Never leave your phone out on the table, no matter where you’re eating!
We’ve been on the road for a year now, and feel very fortunate that we’ve only had one incident of losing a valuable, we’ve been sick less than 5 times, neither of us has had any trips to the doctor or the emergency department and all of the above ‘mishaps’ have had a solvable outcome.
We spent an arm and a leg on travel insurance with World Nomads (never skip out on this!) just in case of any incidents but we are very lucky we have only had to use this once. Was it a waste of $2000? Absolutely not! It’s reassuring that it’s there and you know the moment you don’t have it, something will go down. If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel! Simple as that.
We hope to have a safe, happy and stress-free travel during 2016!
Married days survived: 387