The Essential Emerging Markets Travel Kit For Bankers

Ambien, sleeping masks, headphones, local currency, and never fly coach. These and other tips on how to survive travel to developing economies from emerging markets professionals.

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If business travel were a sport, emerging markets professionals would be the long-distance runners. These individuals are constantly traveling around the globe to conduct financial analysis on the developing economies in some of the world’s most remote countries.

While boarding a 17-hour flight to Singapore might be part of a dream vacation for most people, it can be a monthly commute for an emerging markets banker or lawyer. Many travel to an assigned region, say Eastern Europe or South America, regularly each quarter, and may be required to make the rounds in other regional markets if their team is on the smaller end.

With this in mind, BuzzFeed asked a group of emerging markets professionals from various banks and financial consultancies what items and advice are essential to emerging markets travel. Here’s what they said:

1. Sleeping Pills

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“I try to sleep as much as possible, and usually take Ambien for the duration of the flight,” said Christian Déséglise, managing director at HSBC Global Asset Management. “I usually fall asleep right away.”

He added: “I travel a lot in South America, and when it’s a very stormy night over the Andes with lightening everywhere, sometimes you think, ‘What am I doing here?’ Sometimes it’s better to be asleep.”

2. Shots! Shots! Shots!

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But not the fun kind. Many emerging market countries require vaccines to fend off Malaria, Yellow Fever, and other diseases.

“You have to get vaccinations for various countries, particularly for Yellow Fever,” said Fernand Schoppig, an asset management consultant who does emerging market analysis and travels to nearly ever continent and multiple emerging market countries each year.

“It’s good to have your shots updated,” said Mike Cirami, co-director of global income at Eaton Vance. “You should be telling a travel clinic where you’re going, to know what you need.”

3. While on the topic of shots, no booze beforehand

“I don’t drink any alcohol,” said Cirami, adding that it lowers the quality of sleep. Of course, these are bankers we are talking about, so his opinion may be in the minority.

4. But do eat before boarding

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Airplane food, as anyone who has ever flown before knows, can be a real gamble. For emerging markets executives, who need to squeeze in every possible second of sleep on a long business flight, there’s no time for a mid-air meal.

“If I’m flying overnight, I always eat a meal first before getting on a plane,” said Cirami. “Don’t be fooled by the meal on the plane because that comes at a cost to sleep. By the time you finish boarding, then you take off, then they serve the first round of drinks, and finally the meal, that’s taken up a lot of sleep time. Plus, the food’s not that great.”

5. Sleeping mask and headphones

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Anything to help you sleep, or forget what a long flight lies ahead of you.

“I board, I put headphones on, put my night shades on, try not to get up at all, try to pretend like I’m some place better,” Cirami said.

6. Passport and Visas

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It may seem obvious, but this is one thing that everyone stressed: Do. Not. Forget. Passport. And make sure it is the RIGHT passport. For emerging markets professionals, having two passports is as common as having two cellphones.

“If you show up without your suit, you can deal with that,” Cirami said. “But if you don’t have your passport that’s a whole different set of complications. Always have the right passport with you — and visas — you might have two passports.”

7. Local Currency

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This is particularly important if you show up late at night, said Schoppig. He advises around $50 in local currency for each country you plan on visiting.

8. A business class ticket at minimum, and never, ever fly coach

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This goes double for longer flights.

“I’d never fly coach to Asia,” Schoppig said. “I’m too old for that.”

9. A flexible wardrobe

Emerging markets professionals are often crossing the equator and transcending climates, so it is important to remember that one country’s winter is another country’s summer.

10. A plan for ground transportation

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In some countries, the infrastructure and ground transportation is so limited that cars aren’t an option.

“In many, many cases, the infrastructure just isn’t there,” Déséglise said. “Even in China, where everyone is saying there has been over-investment, it’s absolutely impossible to get one place to another. The traffic it’s absolutely impossible.”

Ditto for some South American countries.

“I traveled in the countryside in Peru recently, there is no infrastructure whatsoever,” he added. “From Sao Paulo to Rio, the main highway is small and just winding through the hills, and you cannot go faster than 30 mph, and when you think about the traffic between those two cities, it takes you eight or nine hours to go 250 miles.”

11. Shampoo and other “goodies” for the customs agents

This may be a dated reference, but Déséglise said he has encountered customs agents and police on some past trips to emerging market countries that were looking for a little something extra, beyond a passport.

“At the airport you’d have police or customs men asking for goodies,” Déséglise said. “So, you take small little shampoos or a small sample of perfume and things for them. They’d check your passport and then say, ‘So, what do you have for me, my friend?’”

12. Patience and a good sense of humor

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Schoppig, Déséglise and Cirami all stressed the importance of patience, both on long flights and the resulting in-country visits, as anything can happen when you’re way beyond the grid.

“The most important thing to bring is a good sense of humor and some flexibility with you, because you really don’t know what’s going to happen and you just have to go with it,” Cirami said. “If you forget your Malarone and you’re going to be in an Malaria-infested country you can deal with that, you have to bring a good attitude.”

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