Security and Mindfulness

 

Posted inside a bus!

Security while traveling is critical. We have learned a few things.

The first is mindfulness (tip 1). This means being aware of your surroundings and being present in the moment. At the point you are no longer mindful and your brain is thinking of something else, you have tuned out what is happening around you and you are vulnerable. This includes being on your phone talking or texting someone. Maybe you are reading. Whatever it is, stay mindful. When traveling with others, one of you can do other things while one is staying alert.

Lindie lost her wallet. While she had a wallet that hooked on a belt loop and could be inserted inside her pants, one day she did not do that because it was awkward. She lost the wallet or it was stolen. It is likely it fell out of what was a shallow pocket. If someone picked it there was no awareness at the time.

Fortunately the credit cards were not used and she was able to replace them and her insurance card fairly easily. The replacement Colorado drivers license is still in process. It will catch up to her.

As a result of this, we have added buttons to all pockets in our pants and shirts. This ensures that belongings stay where you want them and someone else’s hand cannot easily slip in (tip 2).

A very flat money belt is useful (tip 3). REI and Amazon both carry ones that are lined so that an electronic device cannot read them. It is an RFI impervious lining (tip 4). You can also get small sleeves that hold three credit cards. When traveling each day, we do keep enough money in our pockets to take us through or part way through the day (tip 5). This prevents flashing what we have.

A new friend recently traveled on the public bus from San Jose to Monteverde. She lost her backpack, including passport and credit cards. They were taken while on the bus. She knew as a seasoned traveler to keep things on her lap or to have her foot through the strap (tip 6). Her mindfulness slipped and her belongings were gone. It is strongly advised: Do not use the overhead bin (tip 7).

We took the same bus route several weeks earlier, and I was glad to see that the bus driver made everyone get off when we took a restroom/meal break. We did take the things we had with us in the seats with us (tip8).

On that trip I discovered that claiming luggage from under the bus was a potential place to lose luggage. Although there were luggage receipts to present, the person pulling luggage out was not checking that the numbers matched. For our next trip we got our tickets early so that we have the front seats behind the steps into the bus. This will allow us to be first off and first over to the luggage, so we can protect our stuff (tip 9).

We have decided that when we travel from place to place, that we will go directly to our lodging via taxi so that we are not carting a lot of things around in unknown places (tip 10). We will use a day pack otherwise (tip 11).

When traveling distances, our day packs contain enough daily essentials that if we were to lose our other luggage, we don’t have to rush to replace things (tip 12).

Since we arrived in Monteverde, we realized how hard it is to stuff our pockets with things we might use during the day. We bought fanny packs and use them for receipts, snacks, replacement camera battery, a little change and a few bills, etc. The fanny pack is worth much more than the things we have in it. This keeps us from digging into our pockets looking for something, only to have things fall out easily as our hand comes out (tip 13). We keep them across our belly, not our fanny.

When we have a choice, we now travel earlier so that our arrival is in daylight. Moving around at night adds vulnerability. Taxis will be used at night and they will be called, not flagged down (tip 14).

Here are two stories from friends.

One was in Bolivia or Peru and mustard was squirted on her. While distracted her backpack was stolen.

The other friend had a man with a bundle over his shoulder walk right into him. Suddenly he felt something at his pocket, reached down quickly, felt the hand and rapidly spun around, knocking the woman attached to the hand into an elderly man.My friend lost nothing, yet the woman yelled at him about how he caused her to fall into her grandfather. Yeah, right.

 

 

Second Passport

 

U.S. Embassy Sam Jose Costa Rica

We renewed our passports last year and they are good for another 10 years. That ought to be more than enough for this trip.

However, a couple of weeks before leaving, I discovered that the State Department allows for a second passport, limited to two years.

The value for us is that:

1. We have back-up passports in case we lose one.
2. Some countries are picky about where you have been. Israel is an                example of a country others don’t like.
3. Should we need to present a passport for a visa and return later to                pick it up or have it mailed to us.

I set appointments with the embassy in San Jose and confirmed via email what they needed and that they could process the application. They responded and also said we could pick them up in 7-10 days and that they would hold them for up to three months.

Update: We picked them up May 23 and they are good for two years! We did have to remind them not to void our other passports.

 

 

 

Proof of Paid Exit Transport

There is the requirement that you have proof of exit transport when entering Costa Rica. I had put off dealing with until two days before our departure to Costa Rica.

I thought that I could get an online bus ticket from San Jose, Costa Rica to David, Panama. Nope. I could not even get one by calling the bus company. It has to be in person and you show passports.

My initial solution was to buy a plane ticket from San Jose to Panama City, Panama. This would at least move us in the direction we want to travel. What a surprise to find out that Travelocity would allow me to buy the tickets and then cancel them, at no charge, within 24 hours.

At the Southwest Airlines boarding gate desk in Houston, they did check our documents to verify that we had exit transportation from Costa Rica. At customs in Costa Rica, they did not ask for proof, so the airlines monitor it.

We flew to Costa Rica, cancelled the flight to Panama City, and the next day went to the bus station to buy our tickets in person.

In the future, I will figure things out a little quicker, as I do not expect to fly again until we leave South America. Panama to Columbia will be by sailboat or ferry as there are no roads connecting the two countries.