17Oct

What Insurance Do I Need Abroad?

Living a nomadic life can be an exciting one. The culture of traveling and living in a country other than your own is now more than just a trend but a life choice for many individuals and whole families.

On top of the usual preparations of finding a place to live, knowing where and how to reach the expat community and learning the culture of the country, you also need to make the necessary arrangements to prepare for the unexpected; health emergencies, financial fallbacks and other similar concerns.

The key feature of a good insurance for expats is mobility. Your insurance needs to follow you wherever you are. The second feature of a good expat insurance is that the benefits cover you and your family regardless if you are in the same country or not. And while it is seen as an added expense, the benefits certainly outweigh the costs because being far away from your country and the usual advantages that are given to its citizens may not be the same for every place.

Must-Have Personal Insurance

HEALTH INSURANCE

As an expat in Hong Kong, the number one type of personal protection we recommend is proper health insurance. Public healthcare in Hong Kong is one of the best in the world, however, it may not guarantee immediate and full care if you’re also waiting in line with many others who are also subscribing to public hospitals.

We wrote about the medical charges to expect in Hong Kong and compared the costs and benefits between private and public hospitals. This can give you a general idea of why you need private health insurance in case of emergencies.Remember that  the costs of even minor or routine medical treatment can quickly mount up. A benefit you must make sure is included is transport to a specialist unit and repatriation. You can lower your premium by opting to pay for any excess.

Critical Illness Insurance is also something for expats to consider if they are prone to serious ailments like cancer, heart attacks and other related diseases. Benefits of this policy will pay for therapy, drugs and other maintaining treatments. Some insurance policies may even cover death which means your families are left with a lump sum to pay for medical bills left behind.

We can help you find the right expat health insurance.

INCOME PROTECTION

This type of insurance can either be offered as a benefit along with your employment or you may choose to get one for yourself. This insurance ensures you have a monthly source of income in case you get into an accident or become gravely ill that you aren’t able to work for a period of time. We’ve also created an infographic showing How Income Protection Insurance Works. More importantly, this insurance takes care of your family when you temporarily cannot do so. We strongly recommend this to expats with children. Get in touch with us if you’re interested to see what options are available in Hong Kong.

LIFE

There are a number of good, affordable international life insurance policies for expats. This is usually a combination of two or more benefits such as critical illness plus total and permanent disability. It’s best to buy life insurance while you’re young because premiums are a lot cheaper. You can pay as little as US$33 a month and be covered for 20 years. We can also help find an insurance that suits your lifestyle and budget.

Remember that you need an insurance policy that is able to change as your circumstances change. Cost of premiums is also a crucial factor to consider so take your time when shopping for a provider. Evaluate your needs and determine your plans on a yearly perspective to see any drastic changes.

7Oct

Setting Up Your Utilities in Hong Kong

When you’ve settled in nicely in your new apartment in Hong Kong, the next step is to set up your utilities! In Hong Kong, it’s the tenant who takes it upon himself to sign up for water, electricity, and gas. We’re here to make it easy for you by listing down some supplier names so you can get started on your new life in the Pearl of the Orient.

ELECTRICITY

Hong Kong Electric started way back in 1890 and is now one of the most trusted utility companies in the world. Their service is reliable and affordable as well. They also have a reputation of being environmentally responsible which is a plus for some people. You can apply for Hong Kong Electric by downloading their form and emailing it to customerservices@hkelectric.com or dropping it at their customer service center along with your Hong Kong ID or passport and a deposit equivalent to around 60 days of consumption. Bills are due monthly and you can register for e-bills payment for a more convenient and environment-friendly payment. For more information, you may call them at 2887 3411 from 9AM-6PM, Mondays-Sundays. Once you’re a customer, you can download their Low Carbon App which provides information on energy safety and efficiency while helping with electric consumption estimation and tips on how to save energy. The app is available on the App Store and Google Play.

WATER

Water Supplies Department provides clean and safe water to around 7 million people in Hong Kong. To sign up, you may download theirform WW01 along with a copy of your Hong Kong ID. Applications take about a week to process and bills are sent every four months. They also have a free downloadable app on the App Store and Google Play that provides information about your bill and notifies you in case of suspension. You can also click the Payment icon to access a QR code in order to pay your bills with cash at any 7-Eleven, Circle K, or VanGO convenience stores. For more information, call them at 2824 5000 and press 3 for English.

Make sure to also get home insurance in case of accidental fire from bad wiring and plumbing. We help expats in Hong Kong find cheap insurance for their apartments.

24Sep

Tips for Staying Fit While Pregnant

Exercise during pregnancy is different for every expectant mother. The most important tip to remember is to get clearance from your doctor before engaging with any type of fitness plan.

Women who regularly exercise and have been physically active prior to conceiving will more or less have zero issues with working in a fitness routine in their day. Walking is considered a safe and simple way to get one’s heart rate up.

CALORIE INTAKE

Although you are eating for more than one person, doctors advise that it is important to keep track of your pre-pregnancy weight to determine your required calorie intake to maintain your body’s and baby’s need for proper nutrition.

If your body mass index (BMI) is in a healthy range (between 18.5 and 24.9), you’ll need to eat about 340 more calories a day in the second trimester than before you were pregnant and about 450 more calories a day in the third trimester

PROPER WARDROBE

Stay comfortable by choosing looser fitting clothes that breath and regulates body temperature. Pregnant women tend to have higher body temperature and may overheat during a workout. In addition, make sure your maternity bra is supportive enough, and choose athletic shoes that fit properly. With your feet a little swollen than normal, choose footwear that is 1 to 2 sizes bigger.

EXERCISE AND STRETCHING HELPS WITH BACK & HIP PAIN

Common problems during pregnancy are increased lower back pain, pelvic instability, urinary issues, or reduced functional strength of the abdominal wall. Exercising during pregnancy helps reduce muscle tension. Prenatal pilates and yoga are popular fitness routines women can safely do to help with the usual discomforts of the condition.

STAYING SAFE WITH PROPER MATERNITY INSURANCE 

Maternity insurance covers costs for pre-natal and post-natal treatments. It also covers cost for natural or caesarean delivery where the latter can get very expensive without private insurance. Maternity insurance with extension also helps with costs incurred for fertility treatments and congenital birth defects.

Village Insurance provides help for expats in Hong Kong in finding the best maternity insurance for all of your needs. Get in touch with our agents for more information.

 

15Sep

Is Localization of Expat Salaries in Hong Kong A Positive Change?

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‘Expat’ has been a word synonymous with wealth and luxury. Being an expat meant living on a generous salary plus benefits and allowances from the company one works for. It meant living in classy locations in swank apartments, sending one’s kids to the best schools, eating in expensive restaurants, and travelling to the most beautiful countries.

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Not all expats enjoy the comforts associated with living in Hong Kong because of work. Research has shown that since 2004, most expats in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai have been given the localised compensation, in which companies give their employees pay that is comparable to those being offered to locals.
With localisation, the base salary is lower than those of regular expats and no longer includes benefits such as:
  • Allowances
  • Social security
  • Retirement
Obviously, fancy dinners, extravagant vacations, and prestigious schools are also no longer in the picture.
Still, expats don’t always see this as a loss on their part and similarly, companies don’t practice localising to reap the benefits. Localisation for expats can be seen as an opportunity to take charge of their own life someday. Because along with the generous salary and benefits of the old compensation came the reality of being tied to the company for an indefinite amount of time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but some prefer the freedom of being able to pick up and leave and move on to another job whenever they want or relocate to a whole new place. Deciding their own future is a big plus.

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This is also why localising isn’t a win-win deal for companies either. Despite the practice saving them money in the face of difficult economic conditions, they also no longer have a financial bind on their employees and thus risk the possibility of losing their talents.
This is why some companies offer a “local-plus” package to aid their employees in managing their finances and adjusting their spending habits over a period of two years. This package also includes benefits such as transportation, housing, and education for their dependents.
Companies also know who to localise versus those they know won’t stay unless given the full compensation and benefits package. The former is usually the younger employees who are grateful for any opportunity while the latter is the more senior employees who have been loyal to the company and therefore deserve such benefits.
While localisation may mean keeping a closer look on the household budget and saving up for the children’s college education, it also means a certain freedom career-wise that isn’t possible with the generous package. And it’s also a desirable strategy in the long run for companies; it helps them maximise the talent they have in their employment and saving themselves money in the future. So it looks like localisation in the expat world is here to stay.
Village Insurance Direct provides expat assistance in finding insurance to cover personal and business needs while in Hong Kong.Contact us or LiveChat with us for more information.
3Sep

How to Prepare Your Kids for Vaccination Day

For expat families, new challenges such as moving and adjusting to another country are already on top of old ones, one of which is keeping up with your kids’ vaccinations. If you’re a family with more than two kids, it can be quite the struggle to stay on top of who has had which vaccination and when they are due the next one. Having the right healthcare practitioner to seek professional advice and support from can make all the difference.

How to have stress-free vaccinations

Unlike babies less than a year old, children aged around 15 months and older need to be comforted when faced with the prospect of a visit to the doctor’s. While experts say that talking to your child beforehand isn’t likely to help, it is encouraged rather to psyche them up with the promise of a reward after the injections, such as a tasty snack, a new small toy, or a visit to their favorite play place.
It is also encouraged to explain to your child when they’re above two years old the importance of vaccinations and how it makes them healthy and strong. Liken the process as the reason how their favorite superheroes got their super strength.

One way to mentally prepare your child for their injections is to stay calm because children sometimes feed off of their parents’ moods. When they see that it’s not a big deal to you, it may help them relax. You can also distract them by talking about your plans after the visit instead of focusing on the visit itself. And never ever use a visit to the doctor’s as a form of punishment for bad behavior. It will just make it that much harder to do in the future.
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Family vacations are great fun but vaccinations are once again a needed precaution or requirement before travel to another country. Research on the recommended vaccinations for your child and for a particular destination, and getting the injections one to two weeks before travel are two very important things to consider.
As for diseases one can’t vaccinate against, such as malaria and dengue, preventative measures such as anti-malaria tablets, insect repellent, and wearing protective clothing should be prepared for as well.

Mandatory vaccinations are a duty

One may be aware of the ongoing argument of whether or not to vaccinate a child and it is very important to be on the side of medical professionals when it comes to mandatory vaccinations. Doctors all over can’t stress enough the importance of vaccinating and the claims that they cause autism are unsubstantiated. If one isn’t fully aware of how important vaccinations are, refusing to do so is likely to have consequences of epidemic proportions. One example is last year’s measles outbreak that started in Disneyland in California and spread to Washington and Colorado, and has since been proven to be the effect of low vaccination rates.

There is also currently a worldwide whooping cough (pertussis) epidemic, the worst in the last 70 years. Small babies who have not received their vaccinations are most vulnerable to the disease. However, ensuring that their pertussis vaccinations are up to date can greatly boost their chances of protection.

With the help of the right healthcare plan, preparing a child’s vaccinations doesn’t have to be a daunting task for any parent. Village Insurance Direct helps expats in Hong Kong find comprehensive health insurance that cover the whole family. Ask us about it today.

16Aug

Easing the Process of Moving to Another Area in Hong Kong

For a lot of people, just the thought of moving can be quite stressful. Where do you even begin? Where can you find time to do all that packing? What if some of your things get lost or damaged? But no matter how stressful it can be, the promise of a better location, better house, or a better life is exciting. And the stress can be managed if you acquire the help of a moving company which Hong Kong has a lot of. Once you get in touch with one, they’ll guide you through what to do at the beginning up to the very end.

Here is a step-by-step guide to moving houses or offices:

1. Talk to your mover

This is pretty obvious. But what specifically should you let your mover know? Your packing and moving dates for one thing, that’s a no-brainer. There’s also things like whether you want to move your belongings by air or sea, if you want your things delivered straight to your new door or at the nearest port, if there are customs or quarantine regulations you need to know about, and if you need extra services once you’ve gotten all your things together. You’re not just hiring them to move your moving boxes from Point A to Point B, their professional opinion is also a great addition.

2. Get your quote and insurance

Once you know exactly how you want your home contents moved down to the last detail, the movers will give you a quote. Then you’ll need to take care and submit the necessary paperwork. And most importantly, you need to get moving insurance. No matter how careful your movers are and how well things are planned, accidents can always happen. It’s best to be prepared, get a coverage plan and a valuation for your valuables. Here is a more detailed guide on what you need to consider.

3. Packing time

Actually this is the movers’ job so what you need to plan is being out of the house on the day that they’re arriving so you won’t get in their way. No need to worry about boxes and how to pack what sort of item (whether it should be bubble-wrapped or padded with styrofoam), it’s part of their job to provide and know all those things.

4. Shipping them out

Once your belongings are ready to be shipped off, it’s important to get all the details. The tracking number of your shipment, the vessel or flight details, departure and arrival dates of the shipment, and contact details of the agent who will handle your belongings once they arrive. That last one is important. You need to get in touch with the person responsible for taking care of things like customs, storage, and delivery.

5. New home sweet home

When your belongings arrive, leave it to the movers to do all the unpacking while you peruse a list to make sure everything is accounted for. They’ll even set up your furniture they way you like it and even take care of getting rid of the empty boxes. Then, once everything is squared away, just relax and enjoy your new place!

And remember it’s always best to get Home Contents Insurance or Office Insurance to make sure you’re adequately covered and reduce the stress when things don’t go as smoothly as you would have liked. If you’re renting, we also recommend getting Renter’s Insurance. We can help arrange this for you at Village Insurance Direct.

5Aug

Expat Guide: Buying a Used Vehicle in Hong Kong

While there are excellent public transport options in Hong Kong, there are definitely instances where having your own wheels makes life easier.

Here are tips for expats who plan to purchase a used car in Hong Kong:

1. Contact the seller

You might want to ask the following questions that are the most commonly asked in Hong Kong:

“How many previous owners has the car had?”

A car with many owners can be difficult to sell. Bear in mind, if a car has been imported from overseas then the number of previous owners shown will be zero.

“How many kilometres has it done?”

It can be difficult to accumulate kilometres on a car in HK. High-mileage cars are a big deterrent, especially for sporty cars, as these tend to get driven on weekends only.

“What’s the expiry date of the vehicle licence (registration)?”

Registration in Hong Kong is valid for one year. The fee is based on the engine size. Cars that are seven years or older will need a roadworthiness inspection (MOT) by a government-appointed garage within four months of renewing the vehicle licence.

If you’re happy after the initial Q&A, the next step is to meet with the owner. We suggest viewing the car during the day. Have a thorough look at the exterior and interior of the car, and at any maintenance history and receipts the owner may have. It’s rare to find cars with a full history, and the common story is that the missing records were “lost”. Most owners will be hesitant to allow you to test drive a car; instead, they’ll offer a “test ride” where you sit in the passenger’s seat for a drive.

2. Agree to a deal

If you’re happy with the condition of the car and ready to make a deal, what price should you offer? As with most things in Hong Kong, negotiation is common; it’s not unreasonable to offer 20% below the asking price. Once you both agree to a price, a five% deposit should secure your commitment. We strongly recommend you arrange an inspection; these range from HK$500 to $2,500 and can save you a lot of money and grief in the future.

3. Arrange insurance

Hong Kong requires a minimum of third-party insurance for a vehicle. Arranging insurance is quick and easy, and typically cheaper than in other countries. Note: Before committing to a car, make sure you are eligible for insurance. Certain car models require a minimum age and a No Claims Bonus (NCB) percentage. Village Insurance Direct helps expats find Motor Insurance that’s affordable and comprehensive.

4. Finalise the transfer of ownership

The final stage is to visit the Transport Department with the following required documents: insurance cover note, HKID, proof of address (within the past three months), and form TD25 to be completed and signed by both parties, along with a HK$1,000 transfer fee (at the buyer’s expense). The owner will sign form TD25 once they have received the remaining balance for the car. This can be done by cash, cheque or bank cashier order at the seller’s request

12Jul

Expat Guide: Transportation in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s transport system is very fast, accessible and efficient. It does not pose much of a issue for expats because of the array of options to get around the city. Their public transport network includes ferries, trams and even outdoor escalators. What’s very notable is Hong Kong’s MTR system that’s recognized as one of the best globally. Taxi fares are also relatively cheap. This is the reason why citizens have not much need for a private car.

BUSES IN HONG KONG

There is no shortage of bus networks in the city. Rush hour can be quite an experience with the outpour of workers flocking to get to their offices so expect crowding early in the morning and after 6PM. There are also over 4000 minibus services across the city which can service up to 16 passengers. Green minibuses have specific stops and the red ones will stop anywhere along their route.

The bus will stop accommodating new passengers once its full. We recommend getting an Octupus card for easier payment. The signal for “Stop the bus” (if a bell is absent) is “yauh lohk”.

“DING DINGS” or TRAMS

This is a good option if you want a relaxing, chill ride because they are slower than the other forms of commute. The top deck is popular among tourists or locals who just want to slow down and appreciate the city. Trams operate between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan from about 5.30am to 12mn and you pay before exiting.

TAXIS IN HONG KONG

Some taxi drivers do not understand western accents so we recommend having Google Maps and a translator app on hand when getting on a taxi for the 1st few weeks. This form of transport is cheaper when compared to other global cities and they are quite efficient except when getting caught in traffic. Blue taxis are only permitted to travel within Lantau Island similar to green taxis that only operate within the New Territories. Red taxis are for Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, but one important tip is that if red taxi drops someone off on Hong Kong Island, they can only pick up passengers heading back to their designated area and this applies to all networks of taxis

FERRIES

Star Ferry is the most popular line in Hong Kong. Take it if you’re planning to go around Central and Wan Chai to Tsim Sha Tsui’s Clock Tower. Other vessels offer regular services for residents of the outlying islands. Lamma, Cheung Chau, Discovery Bay, Ma Wan’s Park Island, Mui Wo and Peng Chau have dedicated daily services leaving from the Central Ferry Piers. Other ferries shunt from Aberdeen, Wan Chai, Hung Hom and North Point.

OUTDOOR ESCALATORS

Yes, escalators. The Mid-level neighborhood is known for its long and extensive outdoor escalators that take you from one block to the next or even farther. Most parts of the Mid-levels are steep streets and these escalators prove to be very convenient for this type of urban terrain. No need to pay when using them.

24Jun

Inheritance Tax for Expats

Did you know that your beneficiaries may be charged a large amount Inheritance Tax (IHT) bill in case of death. The cost of IHT is almost as equally large as the amount being left. In 2012 to 2013, over £4 billion in inheritance tax was paid to the UK government including sums paid by expats from Hong Kong.

WHO WILL PAY FOR INHERITANCE TAX?

IHT liability is based on one’s permanent residence or domicile. There are two types of domicile: domicile of origin and domicile of choice.

A domicile of choice can be established if you can demonstrate that you have severed all connections with your “homeland” and established permanent ties elsewhere.

A domicile of origin may be challenge to change. Note that if you transfer one more time your domicile of origin will revive until you establish a new one. If you are domiciled in the United Kingdom, IHT applies to your global assets.If you are domiciled elsewhere, IHT is charged on your assets held in the UK.

IHT is charged through three main channels:

  • On your estate in the event of your death
  • On any gifts you present to individuals in the last 7 years of your lifetime
  • On any gifts to the most common type of Trust that you make through your lifetime

Everyone is entitled to make a certain proportion of gifts sans taxation and this is called the “nil-rate band”. Current cost is £325,000 which will remain so unti 2021. All excess above this band is charged at 40%.

Generally, property owners automatically follows the IHT net even before taking into account the total value of their investments. But note that it’s possible to reduce your exposure to this punitive tax.

Inheritance Tax is often treated as a “voluntary” tax because its impact may be mitigated. If you have large amounts of assets but don’t want to leave control over these or make gifts, you can still lower the cost of IHT by carefully planning your will.

LEAVING A WILL

Ensuring one has a will in place is a way to protect your loved ones from incurring impossibly high cost of IHT in the case where substantial assets are involved. For instance, a married couple and civil partners can do what the industry calls a “double up” on their nil rates and this implies that up to £650,000 can automatically pass free of IHT. One common myth about leaving your assets to your spouse or civil partner is that they get half if you die. This is not a fact.

Also, it is crucial to remember that minors cannot inherit money or property which means you need to assign someone to make the arrangements until they turn 18.The courts may choose this person for you if you fail to do so in your will.

Expats often have assets in parts of the world and all these have to go through the courts of the different jurisdictions. Delays can happen if one does not make the necessary arrangements in their will. There are also insurance that covers the cost of inheritance tax. Ask us about it. We help expats in Hong Kong.

30May

Expat Guide: Why You Need International Health Insurance

Hong Kong’s medical facilities and inpatient services is one of the best in the world. It is also one of the reasons why it is considered an expat hub in Asia. As a foreigner in a top global city, should you consider international health insurance?

The simple answer is YES.

SPEND LESS ON PRIVATE FOR HOSPITAL CARE

International private health insurance covers a bulk of the expense should one choose to go to a private hospital. Without a Hong Kong ID card, public health care could be a challenge especially for fatal injuries or chronic illness. Although public hospitals and their doctors are world-class in Hong Kong, immediate and consistent attention to your needs as a patient is better guaranteed with private health insurance.

COMPLIMENT YOUR MOBILITY

Expats often find themselves traveling to other countries on top of the new country they have chosen to reside. International health insurance follows you wherever you are and it till give you peace of mind in situations where local hospital may be unable to provide for your needs. The advantage of having this type of insurance is also having glocal service from your provider’s customer support so you know exactly what your policy can cover.

EMERGENCY EVACUATION

This is one of the best features of international health insurance. For expats who live in high-risk areas or live active lifestyles that may hold more risks than usual, getting covered for emergency evacuation could be what separates you from life or death. Repatriation cover allows expats to be flown back to their home country if necessary.

SUPPLEMENT FOR YOUR COMPANY-PROVIDED INSURANCE

Check if the company health insurance covers for family members or for chronic diseases. If you have special medical needs and your company insurance does not cater to its treatment, an international health insurance cover should be able to take care of what’s lacking.

OTHER HEALTH COVER

This health insurance policy is generally comprehensive and can cover maternity and cancer treatment. It all depends on your needs as well as your family’s. Village Insurance Direct helps expat find the affordable and complete international health insurance from established providers in Hong Kong.