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.

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.

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.