Health and Packing

 

 

 

 

The Mayan Traveler Maya Site Overviews Mayan Traveler Tours Colonial Mexico Tours Guaranteed Departures Tour Info Request Health and Packing Inevitable Small Print Why Travel With Us? TMT FAQs

Health / Safety / What To Pack

Your physical fitness is vitally important to us since our programs sometimes feature considerable walking on forest trails, climbing steep ruins, inclement weather, hot humid days and there can be fairly long motor coach rides.

This section includes resources for obtaining practical information on how to avoid potential health problems so that you may enjoy your program and travel to the fullest.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes a continually updated “Health Information for Travelers to Mexico and Central America”, which includes recommendations for travelers; however, this is somewhat technical. But, they can be ordered from the CDC website.

We suggest that you consult your physician, who can consult the CDC directly. Even when no vaccinations are required, it is a good idea to consult your physician for optional inoculations and for an update on any health precautions.

In the U.S. You may call the CDC directly; toll free at 888-232-3228. You may also access the latest information through their website: http://www.cdc.gov. For information specific to Mexico and Central America: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/camerica.htm.

Your country's public health clinic’s travel nurse will be a great assistance since the nurse not only keeps up to date with the CDC, but will work with your physician and provide useful information. Unfortunately, not all counties have this service. Some areas have regional service, but at any rate, a telephone call to your local public health clinic will help you to locate the service closest to you.

For Mexico, no vaccinations are currently required for entry into the country.

Once again, it is a good idea to consult your physician for optional inoculation, prescriptions and an update on any health precautions.

 Practical Tips on Staying Healthy:

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Wash hands often with soap and water.

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Drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks and ice cubes.

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Eat only thoroughly cooked food or fruits and vegetables you have peeled yourself. Remember: boil it, peel it, or forget it.

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Use an insect repellent that works for you.

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If you are ill upon returning home, it is a good idea to consult your physician and let him know where you have traveled.

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Remember the Boy/Girl Scout motto: “Be prepared, always”.

PLEASE NOTE - Even thought we will make every effort to accommodate special dietary needs, it must be noted that special diet requirements cannot always be guaranteed.

A visit to the rain forests of the New World tropics can be either a sublime experience or a hellish ordeal, just like a vacation anywhere else. A little preparation goes a long way toward ensuring that you enjoy yourself on your chosen program.

Since you will find that practical information on touring areas of the neo tropical is hard to come by, therefore we offer some general advice here based upon our own experiences.  Below you will find our tips about packing and equipment you might want to consider bring along on your adventure.

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Rain and Heat

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Clothing

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Camera and films

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Binoculars

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Flashlights

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Batteries

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Insect repellent

RAIN AND HEAT:

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Keep in mind it isn't called rainforest out of whim. In most rainforests you should expect rain at any given time, even during the midst of the dry season.

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Every type of raingear we have tried has had drawbacks in lowland tropical rainforest. Standard parkas and raincoats are unbearable because of the perspiration that builds up inside.  An un-lined Gore-tex parka is a marked improvement, but you may find it uncomfortably warm inside and you will still get damp from inside perspiration. They can't keep you any drier than the air, and if the humidity is pushing a hundred percent, there is no way you can stay dry inside. Ponchos allow air to circulate a little better. Although it may seem ludicrous, umbrellas are a reasonably good way of keeping dry, and they allow you to take photographs when it is raining.

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We have found that the best way to deal with rain in tropical lowland rainforest is simply to ignore it, since the rain is nearly always warm even at night, getting drenched is no serious problem as long as your water-sensitive equipment is protected and you have dry clothes to change. If you are wearing light clothing it will dry quickly once the rain stops.

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Warmth and humidity offer ideal growing conditions for fungi. Feet are especially prone to fungal infections, so it is extremely important to keep them as dry as possible. Whenever we're in camp, we eschew shoes and socks, wearing sandals or thongs. But, never, ever go barefoot outside.

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If you wear glasses you will find that the high humidity causes them to fog at inopportune times. Contact lenses are the best solution to this problem, but if you are unable or unwilling to wear them, you can try using skin diver's anti-fog solution in your lenses. This can be purchased at any good diving shop.

CLOTHING:

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We strongly recommend you avoid blue jeans in the tropical rainforest. They may be comfortable and stylish when they're dry, but when wet they're burden, and they take forever to dry in a rain forest climate. Light, loose-fitting cotton clothes are the most practical in this warm, wet region.

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Long-sleeve shirts are more practical that T-shirts - you can roll the sleeves down if the mosquitoes become tiresome. Insect repellent lasts longer on clothes than it does on skin, and a good dousing in the morning will likely last all day.

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One strategy we have found practical is to wear the same set of clothes in the field for a week at a time. As they get dirtier, you feel less reluctant to plunge into muddy, difficult places and are more at ease squatting and kneeling. When you get back to the hotel, you can quickly change into clean, dry clothes and get a whole new lease on life. We often take old shirts with us specifically for this heavy field use. At the end of the trip we can discard them and have less to carry.

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At all costs avoid standard hiking boots. They are unbearably hot and their heavy lug soles pick up pounds of mud. Perhaps the most practical shoes are the army surplus jungle boots, with light canvas uppers and a sturdy sole. Their high tops allow you to tuck your pants inside, which will prevent unwanted nastiest from sneaking in where the sun don't shine. Some colleagues prefer high-top sneakers, but the soles are a bit thin for our tastes. The nasty spines of palm tress can penetrate soft rubber like a hot knife through butter.  We prefer the added security of the jungle boot's sole.

 CAMERA AND FILM:

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Most modern travelers keep a camera close at hand. Photography is an excellent way of capturing sights; however, there are certain problems you will consistently run across when you take your camera into tropical rain forest. Alfred Blaker's Field Photography: Beginning and advanced techniques is an excellent guide that we recommend highly. What we are going to discuss here are some of the special problems that plague rain forest photographers and how to get around them.

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If you plan to take pictures in tropical rain forest, you can count on one thing: It will be dark. The forest floor, even on the sunniest tropical afternoons, is deeply shaded world with distressingly little light for photography. There are several strategies you can use to deal with the dimness.

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If you are using traditional film cameras buy high-speed films, they allow you to take pictures under low light conditions, the drawback is the image quality. The film we opt for is a fine-grain, high resolution, relatively slow color transparency.

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Tripods are wonderful photographic tools, but they are bulky, heavy, and inconvenient.

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One way of getting high resolution while using slow films is to use artificial lighting.

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You will need a rainproof container for your camera equipment. Make sure that you keep the film inside the airtight plastic containers in which it is packaged.

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Finally but most importantly, never take a new piece of camera equipment on an important trip without having tested it in advance. If you aren't familiar with your equipment and the basic techniques of nature photography, you are almost sure to be disappointed in the results. The flashiest new cameras are no guarantee of effortless success.

  BINOCULARS

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You will want to have a pair of binoculars when you visit tropical rainforest, even if you're not a birder. Binoculars allow you a close-up look at epiphytes in the trees high above, and many other insights into the world of the forest. Some pyramids are permitted to see them from bellow, in other words it is not permitted to climb up to the top of the pyramid, and you may want to see the carvings and inscriptions on the top of the temple. Even less expensive binoculars are better than none at all, but if you plan to spend much time in the rain forest better quality binoculars are the best equipment. The better binoculars are waterproof, internal-focus roof prism designs; they are generally expensive. Binoculars for rainforest use should have high light transmission because of the dim light that so often prevails. Our favorite binoculars are Swarovski 10 x 40.

BATTERIES:

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You will need batteries for many things, ranging from flashlights to electronic flash. Standard alkaline batteries are excellent if you are making a short trip, but from extended stays you will have to carry too many extra sets.

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You can find batteries of all kinds in Mexico and the Yucatan, even at the most remote villas you will find the normal batteries, and special batteries for cameras or specific electronic equipment you may get them at the major cities like Merida or Cancun.

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We recommend that you don't carry a large supply of batteries from home, they are heavy and consume lots of space.

 FLASHLIGHTS

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The best light is a battery-powered headlamp. This will leave both hands free when you go for a walk through the forest at night.

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A small hand-held flashlight is always good in unfamiliar accommodations and as a precaution against power failures.

 WHAT TO BRING

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Common pharmaceuticals can be bought over the counter in most Latin American countries, so you needn't worry about bringing along a huge medicine kit. Locally recommended treatments for gastro-intestinal distress often work better than anything you can drag along. However you should be aware that contraceptives are not easily obtained in most countries, (Mexico is an exception).

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Always travel with a roll of toilet paper.

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Suitcases are impractical for most travel in tropical America. Soft bags hold more, and more durable and easier to carry.

CLOTHING:

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 Long pairs of pants, fast drying, cotton is ideal.

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 Long-sleeve cotton shirts

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 Walking shorts

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 Swimming suit

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 Cotton underwear, avoid heavy synthetics

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 Socks (Wool is best; avoid synthetics)

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 One pair of light duty hiking shoes or regular tennis/walking sneakers

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 Folding sun hat (Very important if your tour includes traveling by river or estuary, like Celestun or Yaxchilan)

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 One light umbrella

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 One poncho or unlined Gore-Tex parka.

 OPTIONAL EQUIPMENT: 

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1 Penlight

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1 Headlamp

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1 Notebook (pencils are best for writing)

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1 pocket knife (Swiss Army knives are perfect)

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1 Cigarette lighter (even if you don't smoke, they can come in handy)

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1 pair of binoculars.

BAGGAGE

For your comfort we recommend you travel as light as possible. Many airlines allow a checked single bag limit with a maximum weight limit of 50 lbs without charge.  Charges for extra bags may apply. Please check with your airline for details.  Our advice is to take as little as you can (25 to 50 lbs) as you will be on the move a good deal!

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One main piece.

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A daypack large enough to carry what you need for the day including camera, water, sunscreen, etc.

 CURRENCY:

 Depending on your tour you will encounter one or more of these currencies - Mexican Peso, Guatemalan Quetzal, Honduras Lempiras or Belize Dollars.

Like many other Latin American countries, the economies are closely tied to the US Dollar, so it is not necessary to exchange US Dollars prior to, or even during, your travels. You should bring U.S. dollars or travelers’ checks. Traveler’s checks are advisable for security purposes but opportunities to change them are limited outside cities so a judicious mix of travelers’ checks and cash (in small denominations) is best. U.S. dollars are widely accepted but notes must be in good condition - any torn or defaced notes or those with bank stamps may be refused. There are approximately 14 Pesos, 8 Quetzals and 19 Lempira to the US Dollar (as of January 2014). The Belize Dollar is tied to the US Dollar with US$1 = BZ$2.  For an up-to-date guide on current exchange rates go to www.xe.com.

TOURING TIMES:

As a general rule a minimum of 3 hours is spent touring each site on your itinerary.  In some cases as mush as 6 hours may be spent at the larger sites.  The times at site are dictated by the size of the site, the attractions at each site and the realities of traveling between venues.  For the sake of safety and security there is never any intent for our tours to travel after dark.  Therefore, extended times at sites will not be permitted to interfere with the tour’s travel schedule.

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