27Sep

Traveling to Iran: A Quick Guide

What about a change of pace for your next holiday? Maybe it’s time to swap the crowded cities for historical grounds and the sunny beaches for pristine architecture.

Why not let Iran be your next destination?

Don’t let erroneous media portrayal fool you: Iran is a breathtaking country and a refreshing experience that flows beautifully on its own. The beautiful landscapes are one thing, but it’s the people’s warmth that really gets you. Among Middle Eastern countries, Iran is considered one of the safest nations to visit. Backpackers and casual travelers themselves have recommended touring Iran, nullifying negativity surrounding it as mostly outdated and inane. Touring Iran is gradually becoming more of an addition to every traveler’s bucket list.

When in Iran, teach yourself a life hack and go straight for the unexplored gems. For the common traveler, the biggest challenge isn’t necessarily to visit the place but to enjoy it before the sudden rush of other tourists.

The clouds of Filband

In the heart of the Mazandaran Province, for example, lies a scenic “Neverland” in the form of Filband. What awaits is an unparalleled beauty of cotton-like clouds and lush forests that almost makes you feel dancing among the mountains.

Shiraz

Just a little close to the very popular destination Persepolis is Shiraz, the city of gardens and poets. One of its best-known grandeurs is its wine (although reserved for religious practices), that matches perfectly with the relaxed atmosphere that the surreal place offers.

Qal’eh Dokhtar

In Fars is a notable historical beauty called the Qal’eh Dokhtar. “The Maiden Castle” was made in honor of the Goddess Anahita, who represents fertility and wisdom. The structure overlooks the Kavar-Firuzabad Road and features a great variety of architecture: including age-old windows and stairways. It has stood for some 1,800 years and is always a pleasure to visit while in the country.

CULTURAL KNOW-HOW

What sets Iran apart from other countries is its people’s sense of hospitality, which at times, even extends to the good of your safety. Apart from such trait, the locals are always ready to assist you and even look out for you. In fact, the country is known for being one of the safest spots for female travelers, mainly due to its policies on gender segregation.

In return, as responsible travelers, it is apt to show respect by abiding with their conventions. For example, for both men and women, tattoos must be kept covered by clothing. In Islam, tattoos are considered forbidden by tradition. Women must also wear loose-fitting clothing and don a headscarf in public. While all these rules could come off as a shock for most travelers, treat it as part of the experience. All ready? Now it’s to plan that vacation. Just to be sure, don’t forget the cherry on top and also invest in a travel insurance for your next holiday. Your mapped-out trip won’t be complete without the benefit of being worry-free when you’re far from home.

GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

For a more carefree travel, make sure you get travel insurance. Village Insurance Direct helps expats find insurance that can protect you from losses due to flight cancellations, lost of luggage, robberies, as well as possible health-related concerns. Get in touch with us today.

28Aug

Ten Commandments for Stress-Free Travels

You know what can make your travelling more fun? A comprehensive set of rules.

Here are 10 travel commandments that all wanderers have to live by:

  • Thou shall plan ahead

Contrary to the carefree facade that is displayed, travelling actually involves so much planning. What places should I go to and will there be time? Where do I stay? How much money should I bring? How many clothes do I pack? Does my travel insurance cover my destinations?

The truth of the matter is, preparation is the key to a carefree vacation. Planning ahead can save you from a whole lot headache should the unforeseeable comes.

  • Thou shall not travel without insurance

Extra security is always welcome when travelling especially if you’re exploring an unknown territory. Travel insurance may be costly but you’ll be thanking yourself when you lose a bag, miss a flight, or get sick while travelling abroad.

  • Thou shall stay in budget

Sure. It’s nice to buy your 6th mahogany turtle display, but is it really necessary?

  • Thou shall pack smart

Packing has to be the most tedious task in travelling. Always keep in mind to pack only what is necessary to avoid being weightlifter your entire trip, BUT also have at least 2-3 sets of emergency clothes. You don’t want to end up using both sides of your underwear, don’t you? 

  • Thou shall eat the local cuisines

Whether it’s the famous hawkers in Singapore or the lechon in Cebu, Philippines, travelling is not travelling if you don’t try the local’s specialty dishes. The food is part of the culture.

  • Thou shall refrain from fast food

I know, McDonald’s is calling you but it’s still going to be there after you’ve gone home. That stew made on goat innards will not be. Live a little and try something different for your palate.

  • Thou shall lessen social media

People travel to get away, to disconnect. Travelling should be an immersion but you can’t really, fully do that if 75% of your attention is on your Instagram “Likes”, and 15% is on your “Stories”.

Just post one photo then go offline. Open it again when the has come to an end. Enjoy your travel in real life.

  • Thou shall know and respect another’s house

Gain hindsight of the place you’re going. Research on their laws and a bit of their culture and, most importantly, respect them. Don’t ever think you’re exempted just because you’re not “one of them”.

  • Thou shall keep an open mind

Hate to break it to you but, believe it or not, cultures and customs other than yours exists. Sometimes your weird is another’s normal, what’s nothing for you can be a sign of utmost disrespect. The world is a kaleidoscope. Try to see it in all its colors.

  • Thou shall be brave

Travelling can be scary, especially if you’re doing it alone for the first time. It takes an outstanding amount of courage to take that literal first step out to the world. And sure, mishaps can happen but think about what a great story you’ll have at the end of it all.

For help with international travel insurance, click here. We specialize in finding the best insurance for expats living in Hong Kong.

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.

5Jun

Backpacking Tips when Travelling in Southeast Asia

Backpacking in Southeast Asia (SEA) can very well turn out be one of the best trips in someone’s life if planned properly. Like in any trip, it is important to get to know your destinations before embarking on them. As amazing as the countries are in this corner of the world with its tropical forests, flamboyant environmental richness and diversity, and deeply seeded cultures, rookie mistakes can lead to very disastrous results. So, here are few things to take into account if you’re planning on travelling to a SEA country or backpacking across it.

Travel Insurance

It is always recommended to have travel insurance, especially during long trips to foreign countries lasting from weeks to months.

Some parts of Southeast Asia are high risk for foreigners and expats. It’s always better to anticipate the worst case scenario when traveling to unfamiliar territories.

Do your research and look for a travel insurance that covers loss of items, missed or cancelled flights and trips, and, most importantly, any medical conditions that can be encountered. Plus, make sure to purchase one that is covered in the countries that you plan to visit.

Vaccinations

As said earlier, Southeast Asian countries are not just hotpots for culture but, unfortunately, for infectious diseases as well. Malaria, dengue, tetanus, hepatitis A, and typhoid are only some of the serious diseases that’s common in most of the 11 states. Acquiring the disease can lead to serious complications and even death.

“Prevention is always better than cure.” Before going on a backpacking trip, consider the diseases common in the locality that you’re going to or even just pass by, take into account the season and which diseases are more common in that season (i.e. high incidence of dengue in the Philippines during the rainy season). Vaccination should start months prior to your trip make ensure completion.

Other infectious diseases that do not have vaccinations but have post-exposure prophylaxis such as rabies or HIV should be covered by your travel insurance.

Apps

Technology has changed the way that people travel. Here are some of the essential apps when travelling Southeast Asia:

  1. “XE currency” and other currency converters, preferably one that works even offline is a must for travellers.
  2. “Google Maps” and “MAPS.me” are some of the recommended map apps by travellers.
  3. “Google translate” can be both your friend and enemy when travelling. Sometimes translations are inaccurate due to local idioms or figures of speech. Learning the local’s language wouldn’t hurt and the best app for that is “Duolingo.”
  4. Ride-sharing or hailing apps available in the region
  5. “Traveloka” and other flight and hotel booking apps for stress-free reservations.
  6. “Food Panda” if you’re not feeling like eating out or you miss fast food, this is the delivery app to go to.
  7. “Trail wallet” is a budget tracking app being that your financial resources are most likely limited during travel

Planning ahead, learning about the place you’re going to, and being smart with your decisions are the keys to a safe and hassle-free travel.

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.