30Sep

Expat Guide: Everyday Hong Kong

The thing about Hong Kong is that it never catches a wink of sleep. Like New York City, it feels alive 24/7: a bustling zone of commerce in the morning and an alluring city of lights at night.

Cradling a population of 7.5 million people, it is home to some of the world’s luxe suites and soaring skyscrapers. With an identity aligned with finance, it is a common sight to see many professional expatriates treading about among the city’s vast urban landscape.

According to a report from NBC last June, Hong Kong ranks first in the list of the five most expensive cities for expats, knocking off Luanda from the top spot. However, numbers still show that despite the rising prices of property, tourists and professionals still flock the island metropolis.

Familiar faces in the neighborhood

Despite being known to be a bit further from the main island, West Kowloon is a suburb famous for its growing number of expats in recent years. It is home to a number of suitable amenities including modern housing complexes and shopping centers. It is also the location of Kowloon Tong, a known affluent district in the area.

For both single travelers and couples, the “Mid-Levels” is another popular spot. Unlike West Kowloon, it is in close proximity with Hong Kong’s nightlife areas such as Soho, which makes it ideal for those who constantly seek relaxation and casual fun.

Similar to relaxing sunsets which can be viewed from Kowloon Tong, the Mid-Levels proud itself with a scenic view of the Victoria Harbor.

The area is also suited for families who have moved to Hong Kong to study. Several educational institutions are conveniently situated in the area like the Ying Wa Girls’ School and King’s College.

Useful Basic Phrases

Appropriate cultural know-how is also important while staying in Hong Kong. Communication and values are two of the most important facets of culture. When it comes to linguistics, it is a handy skill to learn Cantonese to aid one’s English as it is spoken by a vast majority of its residents. Try to learn some basic phrases such as “néih hóu” (hello), “dòjeh” or “ng-goi” (thank you) to supplement your daily conversations with the locals.

Whether in business or in personal life, Hong Kong insulars and Chinese people value the custom of “mianzi” or face. This Chinese concept rests on the idea that people should be mindful of their actions and words, so as not to embarrass themselves and others and “lose face” through shame.

Maintenance of interpersonal relationships is crucial, particularly when it comes to work or business. Once a matter is settled upon by two people, it is necessary to cultivate socials. This is reflected by their concept of “guanxi” or connections. New settlers in Hong Kong start with no “guanxi” and are given the task of expand their network of people quickly.

Hong Kong’s charming variety should be enough to cater to the different priorities of every islander or tourist. With its and busy streets and global mark, it is sure to maintain its spot as a city for expats.

INSURANCE NEEDS FOR EXPATS

Whether you’re starting a business in Hong Kong or working as an employee or moving here with your entire family, Village Insurance Direct can help you find insurance cover for your needs. We help find full coverage insurance for expats living in the city. Get in touch with us today.

14Aug

A Beginner’s Guide to First-time Travel

There’s always the thrill of everyone’s first travel. It can be intimidating but it is an experience worth trying.

Like clockwork on the paperwork

Get the must-haves out of the way first. Before day dreaming about your destination and itinerary the first thing to pay attention to are the required travel documents.

International travel depending on the country requires tourist visas as well as passports with expiry dates no shorter than 6 months from your day of departure. Check these details to avoid the any issues with immigration.

Securing your flight dates should be much simpler these days compared to the past decade. There are numerous of mobile apps to make selection and purchase of flights quick and easy plus there are features that show cheap flights for budget-travellers.

Prepare up to three government-issued IDs as well as medical certificates for pregnant women and for travellers who need to take larger volumes of medicine such as insulin for diabetics. Baggage security will need to see these documents during luggage check-ins.

Finally, get travel insurance that covers all your destinations. For some countries, Visas can only be granted if the traveler has the required travel insurance amount coverage.

Smart tip: Email a copy of all your documents to yourself in case you lose any of them.

What’s in your bag?

Pack smart and check for prohibited items (e.g. Don’t bring gum to Singapore). Mind the weight of your luggage and if you plan on purchasing a good amount of souvenirs and goods you may want to bring an extra bag or purchase one before returning.

Some ways to maximize storage in your bag are:

  • Vacuum sealing
  • Removing boxed items from their packaging (if possible)
  • Roll clothes tightly instead of piling them flat
  • Choose one versatile outerwear instead of bringing three

A good time to be thrifty and a good time to indulge

It’s impossible to do away with horror stories of tourists who run out of money while on vacation. The danger even heightens for first-time travelers and solo backpackers. One should never make the mistake of a limited and exact budget for the itinerary. It is possible to set a specific amount on less important items like gifts and souvenirs, but never for the essentials like food and lodging. The best way to do this is to always overestimate expenses for everything. It would certainly be better to have financial excess by the end of the trip, but never a deficit.

Call your bank to make sure there won’t be issues with ATM withdrawals or credit card use.

Travel insurance works wonders

The irony in insurance is that people buy them in hopes that they won’t ever need them. Some people say that getting insurance is a waste of money but in reality the losses are higher for people who travel without one. Should anything happen to you like loss of luggage or medical emergencies, you’ll have peace of mind that you will be cared for and compensated.

Be one with the destination

Taste the local cuisine. Engage with the locals. While there is nothing wrong with going to tourist spots, ask a trusted local for a better recommendation. Be wary of tourist traps and enjoy the moment without thinking about posting it immediately on social media. Travel for the experience and not just for the photos.

7Aug

Diseases in Southeast Asia: Commonly Contracted Diseases

OTHER than culture and food, another thing that Southeast Asia is abundant with are, unfortunately, communicable/ infectious and tropical diseases.

So, before packing up and fulfilling that persistent wanderlust for the wonders of Southeast Asia, here are some diseases that all travelers must look out for:

Dengue

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral disease common in tropical countries, including the Philippines and Malaysia.

Classic manifestations of dengue are sudden, high-grade fever, the sudden appearance of rashes two to five days after onset of fever, muscle pain, bleeding gums, and many more.

As a traveler, the best way to prevent acquiring the disease is by avoiding the bites of infected mosquitoes. This can be done with the use of mosquito repellent sprays and lotions.

Malaria

Another mosquito-borne disease, however, instead of a viral pathogen, malaria is actually caused by a parasite that has five species, two of which are uncommon.

Just like Dengue, Malaria is acquired when an infected mosquito, specifically a female, takes a blood meal.

Malaria is suspected when there is a sudden onset of shivering by the patient, followed by a spike in temperature and, lastly, profuse sweating—chills, fever, sweat.

Still, the best way to avoid contraction of the disease is through mosquito repellents and wearing clothes that minimize skin exposure

Gastrointestinal (GI) diseases

Gastrointestinal problems, such as traveler’s diarrhea, can be caused by a myriad of pathogens including enteroviruses which can be found in improperly handled and served street food which is very common in Southeast Asia. Needless to say, it is begrudgingly advised that travelers should venture into these uncanny cuisines with caution. Being a picky eater in this situation is actually a good thing.  Thorough hand washing before and after a meal is also an important practice.

Sexually transmitted diseases

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and their complications are disturbingly common in Southeast Asia. Earlier this year, the New Your Post released an article of the rise of a “super gonorrhea”, a strain of STD acquired by a man who traveled from Southeast Asia, that is apparently resistant to all antibiotic treatments. HIV/AIDS cases have also skyrocketed in a particular Southeast Asian country.

Travelers who practice sex tourism are, of course, of high risk. The blame is commonly pinned on sex workers; however, the bigger liability lies on unhealthy sexual practice, such as having multiple partners and unprotected sex.

This article was not written to scare all the travelers away from Southeast Asia; however, does serve as a reminder. Countless mishaps can happen out there in the big, wide world, most of which you cannot control. So, isn’t it better to take hold of those minute things that you can control?

There’s no such thing as too much security when traveling, especially if it’s in another country or continent. Investing in travel insurance, specifically one that covers Health, is always wise, especially if you’re one who takes long trips. Just always keep in mind, thorough preparation and planning is key to safe travels.

Need travel insurance for your next trip in Hong Kong and other South East Asian countries? We help expats find the best covers. Get in touch today!

6Jul

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.

2May

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.

 

30Apr

Singapore or Hong Kong? Where Best to Do Business

Singapore and Hong Kong are two of the best east Asian countries to start establish a business. Hong Kong has taken the lead for the past years but Singapore has been quickly making great strides to compete further.

Companies and brands from the US and UK have had relatively easy entries to both markets. The most common business has to do with building a regional headquarters for a global company as an expansion strategy and amass the Asian market.

HERE ARE HELPFUL INSIGHTS FOR EXPATS WHO ARE CHOOSING BETWEEN HONG KONG AND SINGAPORE TO DO BUSINESS.

As an overview of the two country’s strengths:

  • Singapore has the top destination for maritime trade.
  • Hong Kong is your choice if the objective is to eventually start business in Mainland China.
  • Both have incredibly accessible international airports with hundreds of direct flights from Western regions on a daily basis

LEGAL PROTECTION

It’s a must to have business cover like public liability or product liability insurance. It’s a pre-requisite for any business in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Both countries have strict legal systems with regulations in place to help you with intellectual property rights and dispute resolution departments. However, Singapore wins over Hong Kong in terms of enforcing contracts and property registrations.

GLOBAL RANKINGS

World Bank’s 2017 Ease of Doing Business ranking places SG at #2 and Hong Kong at #5. New Zealand was #1 last year.

In the annual Z/Yen survey of global financial centres Hong Kong beats Singapore but as the entry way to China, Hong Kong is the 3rd most powerful financial hub globally. Singapore is currently in 4th place.

Hong Kong ranks 1st in terms of financial services and financial technology.

The criteria for the rankings above are:

  • infrastructure
  • business environment
  • financial sector development
  • human capital
  • reputation

Business registration can both be done online via website registration.  The headline Singapore tax rate is 17% whereas it’s 16.5% in Hong Kong. There are also many tax exemptions available for both.

In Singapore, one of the directors must be a citizen while Hong Kong allows 100% ownership by expats.

Ready to get started with your new businesses? Get in touch with us for all your business insurance needs.

4Apr

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.

19Jan

Updated Guide to Hong Kong Healthcare

Hong Kong remains as one of the best providers of public healthcare in the world. However, as expats, it is always advisable to prepare one’s self with the proper insurance cover to for any unforeseen circumstances such as the need for repatriation or emergency surgery.

Hong Kong’s public sector has 42 public hospitals, 47 specialist out-patient clinics, and 73 general out-patient clinics, all organised into seven clusters according to their locations.

Here is an updated information on the country’s healthcare system as of 2018.

PUBLIC HEALTHCARE

Hong Kong provides residents with excellent and highly affordable health services. The life expectancy in the country is currently the world’s third highest and infant mortality is the ninth lowest. Here is the list of public health institutions.

DOCTORS

Finding your preferred doctor is easy; simply log on to the government’s Primary Care Directory and select your specialist. Antenatal and postnatal care, well women services and childhood vaccinations take place at 34 dedicated Maternal and Child Health Centres across the SAR.

When attending an appointment, you’ll be asked to register with your Hong Kong ID and pay a small fee, usually by cash or Octopus card.

There are also a good number of private healthcare practitioners in Hong Kong, and access to their services will depend in no small part on your individual insurance coverage. Some insurers provide a pre-approved list of doctors, whereas others will allow patients free choice of doctor according to their policy’s financial limit. Opting to visit a private doctor will usually mean that you can choose your specialist according to your own needs and schedule, with shorter waiting times than in the public system.

Make sure to ask your insurance provider and confirm your cover details as well as payment methods.

HOSPITALS

In an emergency, you’ll be transported by ambulance to the nearest public hospital for treatment. With 17 public hospitals across Hong Kong providing Accident and Emergency services, and air ambulance services available to assist with evacuation from Hong Kong’s less accessible regions, you’re never too far away from help. Hong Kong’s A&E care operates on a triage basis, and is charged at a flat rate of $100 per visit. Once assessed by a doctor, if you’re subsequently admitted to hospital, you’ll be charged a $50 admission fee, then $100 per day, payable by cash or Octopus card.

There are currently 11 private hospitals that are internationally accredited in Hong Kong. Most provide 24-hour outpatient services for urgent cases and can arrange transfer to a public hospital for accident and emergency services if deemed necessary. Many of Hong Kong’s private hospitals are renowned for their specialist areas of expertise, including obstetrics and gynaecology, orthopaedics and ophthalmology, to name a few.

As with private doctors, you should always confirm the hospital’s billing process with your insurer, and check that any extras, such as medicines, private accommodation or out-of-hours surgery are covered.

To get the best insurance for personal or family cover, get in touch with us. We specialise in insurance for expats in Hong Kong.