Tips for Surviving the Tropics

Travel Tips
Especially during dry season, getting hit on the head by a falling coconut is a real danger!
Especially during dry season, getting hit on the head by a falling coconut is a real danger!
Stepping aside from the idyllic photos, the warmer climates have their downfalls; from falling coconuts, to the heat, to nasty stinging things. Have a look at these tips before you head to the tropics!
I've been spending a lot of time in Costa Rica lately and if you can consider any place tropical, it's there. I also spend a lot of time in SE Asia; also very tropical. There are some benefits to being closer to the equator such as the warm weather and the calm turquoise seas, but there are also a lot of inconveniences or even dangers to contend with.

A particularly large beetle in Costa Rica.
A particularly large beetle in Costa Rica.
Immediately when I say I'm going somewhere tropical, people ask me about bugs, lots of lots of giant bugs to be specific. That's not necessarily accurate. First of all, there are also lots and lots of small insects. From mosquitoes to noseeums, and they'll get you just as bad or worse than the big scary-looking ones. Normally the larger ones are just lumbering along anyway not looking to land on you, it just happens by accident and startles them as much as it does you.

Trying to take a step back to realize some of the things that have become commonplace for me while traveling in these hot and humid climates, I have come up with this list.
  • In your hotel, keep all of your bags shut at all times to avoid bugs (roaches) crawling in. My purse, backpack, day pack, packing cubes are all kept zipped shut.
  • Never put your hand where you can't see what's there. Like reaching under a table to move it, or reaching around a door to close it, or picking something up off the ground. There could easily be something on the other side that's ready to give you a good sting!
  • I actually got stung by this scorpion that was in the threshold of my doorway. :(
    I actually got stung by this scorpion that was in the threshold of my doorway. :(
  • In places with scorpions, always shake out clothing or towels before you use them. It's a common hiding spot for them and they won't take kindly to being disturbed.
  • Always use your flashlight at night, particularly in jungly areas. You don't want to step on anything alive! For example, in Costa Rica, toads and crabs are super common, but also scorpions, snakes, and unidentifiable insects might also be on your path.
  • Always have bug spray with you and optional light-colored long sleeves at night. Mosquitoes are attracted less to light colors and the sleeves can help protect you from bites. (see Mosquitoes 101: Your Guide to Bite-Free Travel)
  • If you're going out and it might be dark before you get back, bring bug spray and your flashlight along with you.
  • Your room will never be bug-free, get used to it.
  • You will always be sweaty - get used to it. (see How to Keep Cool Traveling In Hot Humid Climates)
  • You won't have (or need) hot water in either your shower or sink. Cold showers are nice and refreshing in the heat, but once you do have a hot shower, it will feel so luxurious!
  • You will take multiple cold showers a day, and you will sweat as soon as you get out.
  • The ocean water doesn't itch when it dries like it does in California.
  • Cold beers sweat a lot. To keep from creating a lake on the table, put fold up a napkin to put under your beer, but load it up with table salt! The salt absorbs the moisture, keeping your napkin from getting soaked.
  • Do not touch soft and fuzzy-looking plants! Many tropical plants are covered with a disguised blanket of tiny spines.
  • Put food away as soon as you're done using it. Ants will appear out of nowhere within minutes.
  • This coconut fell right in the middle of that path I had just walked on. Not to mention those palm fronds, too!
    This coconut fell right in the middle of that path I had just walked on. Not to mention those palm fronds, too!
  • Don't put organic garbage in your open trash bin. It will only attract insects or other critters. The best thing to do is to try to get rid of it right away. Find a place in your hotel to put it or, depending on where you are, toss it out into the bushes.
  • FYI, ants like Rolaids and once they find them, you'll have a frenzy on your hands.
  • Get used to putting toilet paper in the bin. (see Essential Toilet Tips for Foreign Travel)
  • Be careful walking under coconut trees! Coconuts and palm fronds fall and are dangerous. There are actually statistics for death-by-coconut.
  • Nail polish doesn't behave well. It gloms up the minute you start to paint with it.
  • Curly hair? Don't fight it. Let it go all out curly in the humidity.

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