11Aug

Rainy Season Diseases

Rain is associated with a throng of things, most of which are good.
So, naturally, the rainy season invigorates these good things such as: running in puddles, the pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof that lulls you to sleep, coffees by the windowsill, and for the love-stricken, it’s the ultimate “cuddle weather”.

However, the rainy season brings more than the comfort hot cocoas and oversized sweatshirts.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but ‘this is also the season for “seasonal” diseases. The quotation marks are there because these diseases are technically always present, however, because the conditions are more favourable in the rainy season, the risk of acquiring them is higher.
Here’s a list of diseases that you need to look out for in the season that keeps on pouring…diseases:

1) Dengue

Dengue is a mosquito-borne, fast-spreading, disease caused by the Flavivirus. It is one of the fastest-spreading diseases at present and, if left untreated, can lead to death.

In the Philippines, out of a total of 77,040 suspected cases, 328 deaths were reported in the first 20 weeks of 2019. Consequently, this makes it an urgent public concern. It is one of the most monitored diseases during the rainy season.

The cases of dengue increase during the rainy season because of the stagnant water that fills up make-shift or incidental “basins” such as pots or bottles which serve as a paradise for the virus-bearing mosquitoes. These areas act as breeding grounds for the mosquitoes. If the area is unkempt or polluted, the happier the mosquitoes.

Further research for the cure for dengue is still underway, and definite
treatment for the diseases is still non-existent. The best way to handle a dengue patient is to bring them to a hospital for supportive care.

The World Health Organization (WHO) encourages early detection, awareness, and preventive measures to fight the spread of the disease. These preventive measures include cleaning the mosquito breeding sites, using mosquito repellents, and nets.

Furthermore, vaccination is encouraged. Aside from dengue, other vector-borne diseases to look out for during the rainy season are Malaria and Yellow fever. However, the incidence of the two is lower than that of Dengue.

2) Leptospirosis

An indirect disease associated with heavy downpour is Leptospirosis which is a bacterial disease caused by the spirochete Leptospira. It can be carried by a variety of animals such as rodents, dogs, livestock, and wildlife however, the poster boy of the disease are sewer rats.

The disease can be acquired when broken skin, just like in cases of lacerations or open wounds, is exposed to water or soil contaminated by the infected animal’s bodily fluids (urine, blood, saliva, etc.). This can also be ingested in cases wherein the water lines in domestic homes are contaminated.

Places, where there is a poor sewage system or sanitation, are prone to flooding. When there’s rain, there’s a flood, and that murky water is a mixture of animal urine and faeces. Hence, people who trudge the flood, especially those with wounds on their legs and feet, are prone to developing the disease.

If untreated, Leptospirosis will cause serious illnesses such as kidney or liver failure, meningitis, difficulty breathing, and bleeding.

Unlike Dengue, antibiotic therapy can be done to fight the disease, but early
detection is vital to the treatment. It is also stressed that prevention can be done by avoiding contact with contaminated water and soil by using appropriate, protective clothing. Prevention of rodent infestation by keeping your area clean is also highly recommended.

Other diseases that we should be vigilant for in cases of flood include typhoid fever, cholera, and hepatitis A.

If you’re travelling anywhere in Asia this rainy season, make sure you have the proper travel insurance cover to keep you protected from emergencies.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.cdc.gov/leptospirosis/exposure/hurricanes-leptospirosis.html

https://www.who.int/westernpacific/news/detail/11-06-2019-dengue-increase-likely-
during-rainy-season-who-warns

https://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/ems/flood_cds/en/

30Jul

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

15Jun

Expat Tips: Getting Around Hong Kong

Some things never change. Hong Kong, for instance, is still a metro titan. At its heart is a booming commercial identity that’s the product of a strategic location. It has aged like fine wine through the years and has been fine-tuned to operate for centuries. One cannot discount how its location and routes easily contributed to its transformation as a central hub of Asia. When people say you can travel anywhere from Hong Kong, they mean every word of it.

Here we break down how travel can easily be achieved from Hong Kong to Mainland China through various forms of transport.

Ferries

The ocean has always been the classical route to this city. Even to this day, Hong Kong isn’t short of ferries and boats that could take you just about anywhere. Mainland China is easily connected to Hong Kong through several ports. One can take advantage of ferries from different points such as Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, and even from Hong Kong International Airport.

Turbojet is a popular choice among travellers. It offers 24-hour-transport services that take about 45 minutes for the whole trip. Other options include the Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal, Chu Kong Passenger Transport, and the Shun Tak Centre Hong Kong.

Turbojet has ferry services from Hong Kong and Macau that take about an hour from Kowloon. From the same terminal, Chu Kong Passenger Transport also provides transport between Hing Kong and several cities in the Guangdong province and other areas such as the Zhongshan, Humen, and Zhuhai. Passengers coming in through the Hong Kong International Airport on their way to the Pearl River Delta area have the option to make use of the SkyPier ferry services instead.

Air Travel

It’s easy to travel from the Hong Kong International Airport to any international destination. Almost all carriers that are docked there cater to almost all countries. It is also home to several budget airlines such as AirAsia and Hong Kong Airlines, which are good options for flights within Asia. Just be sure to ready for your passport and other documents such as visas and/or your Hong Kong ID card.

Trains

Another option for transport would be the use of trains. From Hong Kong, trains move to China straight through Shenzen and Guangzhou. There will be short stops along the way like in Dongguan. There are also trains available to other specific areas such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Buses/coaches

If trains or ferries aren’t for you, then taking the long road might be the answer. From Hong Kong, there are buses (or coaches) available that cross the border to Guangdong Province (and its cities).

To a lot of people, which makes Hong Kong special is its ability to self-sustain as a business hub. Most of the time, however, people often miss how it is made beautiful by its ability to connect nations even to this day. For example, these are only lists of how Hong Kong can easily link up with mainland China. The routes to all other destinations are plenty and thriving. This only goes to show that Hong Kong is easily one of Asia’s greatest hubs that are here to stay.

For personal and business insurance in Hong Kong, get in touch with us. We help find the best policies for expats.

20Apr

The Expat life: Hong Kong Edition

Welcome to expat life.

Life in a new city can feel overwhelming. New people, a new language, new work, and new routines.

Being an expatriate has its own sets of pros and cons. A move to a country like Hong Kong isn’t a full turn from life in the west since it’s one of Asia’s top destinations for expats from the UK and the US. It’s a melting pot of different cultures and it’s one of the most preferred places to establish businesses.

Expat life in Hong Kong parallels no other, an experience that’s exclusive to itself.

Whatever city you’re in, the first step is to brace yourself with changes. It’s good to anticipate that there will be a few ups and downs along the course of your transition. Cut yourself some slack.

The expat community in Asian counties is continuously growing. If you need a hand in learning the ropes, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. It will also be your stepping stone in exploring the urban jungle you’re in.

Want to settle in a place with familiar faces? That’s certainly not a problem. Hong Kong, for example, cradles a lot of its expats in the West Kowloon area. Aside from fellow expats, it is home to a lot of amenities that would easily cater to your comfort.

The Expat Community

Expat communities in Hong Kong range from the outgoing to the insular and close-knit. British and Americans compose mainly form the bulk of the community and they often work in the financial sector. Foreigners from neighbouring East Asia countries are also prominent in the country mostly from Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, India and Thailand.

What Language to Learn

Foreigners with good language skills in both Cantonese and Mandarin are going to have a significant advantage. 89.5% of the whole population speaks Cantonese. We recommend you try to at least learn some basic conversational Cantonese.

Housing and Other Accommodations

Hong Kong is known for having one of the most expensive property prices in Asia and even the world. Expect compact condos and apartments with high rent although there are still areas with more affordable housing.

We gathered the average rent for 2 bedroom apartments popular to expat communities in one of our blogs: Finding a Place to Live in Hong Kong

In the end, there’s really no clear-cut guide on how to ease yourself into the expat life. Change takes time and effort. Don’t let the city intimidate you. Sit back and explore your new home. Everything new is just within the tip of your fingertips.

For expats looking to find the best personal or business insurance, get in touch with Village Insurance Direct today. We help find the best policies for expats.

21Feb

Traveling Tips: Hokkaido

When in Japan, the two go-to choices of travelers always revolve around the cities of Tokyo and Osaka. A third option exists to advanced travelers. When you’re just about satisfied with your thirst for urban scenery and deep-rooted culture, you are now welcome to enter the snowy plains of Hokkaido.

Planning a trip to Hokkaido offers an extra challenge to all travelers. It simply isn’t easy because there’s just too much to explore. This is why there will be two parts to planning your travel: the pre-trip checklist, and your actual guide once you’ve reached your destination.

Before the flurry

It’s a fact we have to face. It’s hard to be away from home these days without internet connection. Quite honestly, having no internet connectivity while traveling In Japan will be a nightmare. From translations to map-checking, things will be more complicated. The choice is yours if you want opt for a sim card (for solo travelers) or a standard 4G pocket wifi (suited for group travels).

An efficient public transport is what drives Japan in general. Before heading to Hokkaido, get a reloadable IC card that could be used on all public transport like JR trains, and buses. Pre-purchased IC cards from other regions like Tokyo and Osaka can also be used.

Sapporo TV tower

A famous landmark in the area, this tall structure offers a beautiful view of Odori park. It is the second tallest tower in Japan after the Tokyo Tower.

They charge an entrance fee of 720 yen. Third party services such as Klook offer tickets for a relatively lower price.

Otaru Canal

Beautifully restored and a favorite tourist spot, the Otaru Canal is a sight of beauty, better at nighttime. The place is a serene body of water lit by 63 gas lamps along its promenade. If you travel during the winter period, you get to see the stone houses buried in snow, giving an appeal that reminds you of the western places.

Mt. Hakodate

Standing at 334 meters high, Mount Hakodate is a wooded mountain at the southern end of the area. For cheaper expenses, this perfect spot offers a view of the city from a high vantage point. The facilities are accessible through your choice of a 10-minute ropeway, or through a bus. They charge a fee of 1280 yen for a roundtrip ropeway and 780 yen for a single trip.

Shirugane Blue Pond

We live for beautiful turquoise waters and a sense of peace. This place is a must-visit if you’re after wintry sceneries. During the cold season, the area transforms into a magical view as it gets engulfed by artistic lighting patterns. Even without the light shows, its beautiful waters are enough to surely steal your heart.

Furano Flower Fields

Maybe it’s time to give Sunflower a break. Being in Hokkaido provides a fresh opportunity to fall in love with lavender, which has been cultivated in the area for more than half a century. Furano’s flower fields are lavender heavens which always have a lot of visitors in summer, when everything is in full bloom.

Still uncomfortable being outside your comfort zone? Overestimate your calculated expenses, particularly when you’re planning to go on a budget trip. Pull the extra strings on safety by securing travel insurance which will provide you security from the smallest hassle to the biggest of inconveniences. The snowy plains of Hokkaido will be waiting for your you, but there’s nothing wrong with a little extra precaution. Be it your first time or your 20th, it’s always best to be at ease and not worrying about anything.

7Feb

Travelling in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is easily one of the world’s well-loved and well-trodden tourist destinations worldwide, and, if you’ve visited any of its countries, it’s easy to see the reason behind its appeal.

“Diverse” is the best word to describe Southeast Asian countries. It is already known that the culture in these countries tend to be kaleidoscopic—it takes different colors and figures to make it what it is. This is from the people to the culture. However, what people seldom realize is there is diversity also exist in the activities that they offer.

Are you itching for some adrenaline and want to go to forest or ocean adventures? Is your mouth craving for a food trip? Want to look smart in front of your friends by the end of the summer by going to a cultural or history tour? Want to cap off your trip by spending the day shopping or exploring the night life of a roaring city that never sleeps? (That’s right, New York. You’re not the only insomniac’s paradise anymore.)

All of this can be done in Southeast Asia.

So, if you’re considering Southeast Asia as your next travel destination (and it would be unwise not to), here are some of the must-go, absolutely necessary places to visit depending on what the over-all theme of how you want your vacation to be, along with tips in travelling when there:

Adrenaline rushers

Palawan of the Philippines is one of the most popular go-to destinations for people who are willing to dip their toes into the wild side. From parasailing, to trekking, to canoeing in a cave, to snorkelling, to full-on scuba-diving, the island of Palawan has it all. The island’s diverse marine life is one the reasons why it is continuously revisited by tourists and even locals. It would be a sin not to explore its waters when there. Prepare some cash, though, almost everything comes with a price there but, rest assured, you’ll get your money’s worth.

Other islands in the Philippines that’s slowly gaining popularity is Cebu. The biggest hassle though is the travelling in the island itself. The go-to places tend to be far apart and transportation is a bit difficult to come by, however there are cab drivers that offer their services.

Other things to explore in Southeast Asia:

  • Surfing in Bali
  • Off-road motorbike tour in Laos- this would be more fun if you know how to ride a motorbike on your own
  • Sky-diving in Pataya, Thailand
  • Spelunking in Vietnam
  • Climbing Mount Pulag, Philippines

#Cultured

Southeast Asia is layered with so much history that in any country that you choose, their historical and culture tours would not disappoint. However, here are some of the note-worthy activities:

  • Temple-hopping

One of the most marvelled temples in Southeast Asia is Cambodia’s Angkor Wat Temple. Considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it’s magnificent and intricate design has won the hearts of many tourist and architecture enthusiast

Other temples are:

  • Hue in Vietnam
    • Candi Prambanan and Borobudur in Indonesia
    • The temples in Laos
  • Japan Culture tour

The culture of Japan captured the hearts of many people that is has reached the western countries. If you’re interested in diving deeper, you can arrange for a culture tour wherein you can:

visit Asakusa, Meiji Shrine, Imperial Palace 

explore Gion, and visit a Kimono craftsman workshop, wear an actual kimono, and experience an authentic tea and incense ceremony. You can also opt to have full-course kaiseki dinner, complete with Geisha performance.

Just want to be fat and happy

Singapore is the first place that comes to mind when somebody says, “Food trip!”

Sure, Thai and Japanese food are great, but nothing compares to the hawker stalls in Singapore. Although the city is known for being “fine” because everything there seems to be expensive and comes with a hefty “fine”, the street foods are actually cheap when taking into consideration their quality and serving. Remember that scene from “Crazy, Rich, Asians”? Made your mouth water, didn’t it?

One can map an entire tour, just based solely on your craving. And since the city is quite small, you can burn calories and guilt that came with what you just ate by walking to the next restaurant. You probably won’t, but at least the options there.

From adrenaline junkies to wannabe “cultured snobs”, Southeast Asia is ready to cater to everyone and anyone. All you have to do is do your research and know where to look.

NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE THAT COVERS YOUR TRAVEL THROUGHOUT SOUTHEAST ASIA? We help expats find the best travel insurance. Get in touch with us.

17Jan

Expat Life: Where to Live in Hong Kong in 2019

The peak of every Hong Kong experience lies in the belly of the beast: in the city itself. But when the day ends, it is best to know the perfect place to settle in.

Hong Kong never falls short of choices when it comes to areas of living. There will be a lot of deciding factors that may either make or break you when it’s time to choose. Budget always comes first, and then the level of comfort that crosses with the number of residents that will stay with you.

Kowloon Tong & West Kowloon

Photo from squarefoot.com.hk

The best place when it comes to families would probably be Kowloon Tong and West Kowloon. They are excellent for expats thanks for the accessible transports that lead to the city’s center. It is also home to different international schools, which would be great if children will be living there too.

Mid Levels

Photo from Engel & Völkers

This is the best choice for someone who highlights leisure as the main component of their stay as expats. The Mid Levels offers excellent routes and access to Soho and Lan Kwai Fong, which are basically areas filled with engagement and nightlife. Like Kowloon Tong, there are also schools nearby.

North Point

Photo from EJ Insights

North Point, by far, is the best choice for expats looking for an expanding community. This is a hidden gem, as most people prefer other areas that are closer to spots of leisure and nightlife. Immersive with Hong Kong spirit, there are a good number of traditional markets and restaurants.

The Peak

Photo from tripleytravelandtours.com

Its name holds what it offers best. The Peak is a scenic place to live in and that’s a given fact. Known to many as an affluent area in Hong Kong, it is impossible to miss as a good choice to live in for expats. The high area is home to various amenities for its residents such as swimming pools and tennis courts. It’s almost as if you never left your house in the West.

Repulse Bay & Stanley

Photo from Saville HK

The lack of easy access to an MTR line is perhaps the only foreseeable setback from living in this area. Other than that, everything else is a win. Between the two areas, Stanley is a more affordable choice. Nonetheless, both areas offer excellent facilities including a number of banks, shops, and restaurants. It is the choice for those who dream of living closer to the beach. Who knows, this might be the best choice for you.

Happy Valley/Jardine’s Lookout

Photo from Savills HK

These two areas provide the best range for people who are still looking for the best place to live as it offers a vast type of accommodation. The choice is at your fingertips: Be it a simple apartment to luxurious townhouses. Happy Valley is also a growing community as a lot of expats have chosen to live there as well. Jardine’s Lookout offers a magnificent view as it is higher up the mountain. It offers a sense of exclusivity with its various facilities.

Wan Chai

Photo from Discover Hong Kong

Last on the list brings this article to a full circle. If you want to live in the heart of Hong Kong, then Wan Chai may just be the place for you. This area is located in the central part of Hong Kong and is jam-packed with amenities that are maxed out for your purpose. There are plenty of restaurants, shops, and hotels and every other form of entertainment that’s meant for you.

For help on property insurance or renter’s insurance, get in touch with Village Insurance Direct today. We help expats find the best covers for your needs.

 

13Dec

Must Know Information for 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.

6Dec

Reducing the Stress When Travelling with Kids

Travelling with a child is not easy. As much as we would want to travel with the whole family, the logistics can be a great source of stress and anxiety. However, just like with anything in life, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Here are a few tips for stress-free travelling with a child:

Take care of yourself before anybody else.

Monkey see, monkey do. If a child sees or feels anxiety from the parents, then they would most likely copy the mood. It’s important to remember that in order to take care of someone, you have to be in your best condition first. So, make sure that you get enough sleep before the trip and your health is conditioned for travel. Take Vitamin Cs to boost your immunity. With all the stress that’s bound to come, you’re going to need it.

Destination, planning, and packing.

Take into account if the place you’re going is suitable for the child. You can save that Machu Picchu hiking expedition for when your 2-year-old is a little older. Also, make sure that you always have a child-friendly room where you’re going, especially if travelling with an infant.

Create a schedule and book the rooms and the places you want to visit in advance as much as possible. It’s better to have an adjustable itinerary in cases of emergency, rather than have none at all.

Pack just enough diapers and pull-ups for the trip to your destination. Book a room near a pharmacy for easy access to your child’s necessities.

Food, water, and first aid

Keep them fed and hydrated with low-sugar snacks. Make sure all their necessary vitamins, medications and formula are in your carry-on.

Distractions

Bring their favourite toy and keep art supplies within your reach for when your child starts to get bored. Load your tablet or smartphone with their favourite shows.

Keep them close

Save yourself from a heart attack and buy a kid’s harness. It’s weird to see a child on a leash but it will keep them close to you. Before going out, write your contact details on your child’s arm and make them wear a bracelet tag with the same information. At night, make sure that they’re wearing something fluorescent, like a glow stick, to easily spot them in a crowd should they stray.

At the end of the day, we just want our kids to be comfortable, happy, and safe. So, it’s important to meticulously plan a child-centred trip. Making them part of that process ensures satisfaction of not only your child but, also, yourself.

FAMILY INSURANCE

We recommend getting family insurance especially when traveling for an extended period of time. Find an international plan that covers the country you’re visiting. We help expats find the right family insurance for expats living in Hong Kong.