Considering insurance

Travel Considerations Provided by the Following...
by Ryan
Guest Post

Traveling for any reason is a gamble, especially when you face the reality that your at-home insurance [might not] touch the medical costs you incur abroad. Much of the headache of the gamble can be mitigated by travel insurance.

Travel insurance can cover everything. It can be your medical and dental insurance, your life and accidental death insurance, and your car insurance, all wrapped in one. It even allows for the possibility of trip cancellation and interruption. Also, most travel insurance plans allot tens of thousands of dollars for emergency medical expenses, and hundreds of thousands of dollars for emergency medical transportation. This could be the difference between third-world care in Indonesia and first-world care in Singapore. More importantly, many in-state health plans don't cover injuries and illnesses abroad. Other pluses include accidental death coverage and repatriation of remains. Finally, car insurance: you may be a safe driver, but you haven't seen how some people drive abroad!

Other considerations include: coverage of local ambulance services, repatriation of remains (in the event of accidental death), and emergency reunion with relatives. Travelguard, Travelex, and HCC Medical Insurance Services all offer comprehensive coverage options that are as flexible as your budget.


Considering your health

Travel Considerations Provided by the Following...
by Ryan
Guest Post

The inevitable happened. William, who has been traveling to and from Mexico of late, brought back the most obvious stowaway: swine flu. It's made the rounds in the house, but we've survived and managed not to spread it any farther.

Though we in the U.S. have had our brush with swine flu, many of us have largely put it behind us. We understand its severity and that we all know someone who's been affected by it--and survived without too much worry. Online, you'll find articles (like this and this) calling this the year of the 2009 flu pandemic. But personally, I'm not too worried about it. Initially, people speculated that swine flu would rival huge-scale and deadly pandemics like the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Asian Flu of 1957, or the Hong Kong Flu of 1968 (overview here). It doesn't appear to be the case anymore. People get sick, then go on with their lives.

How is it we've gone from crazy to carefree?

My answer is, the same way we forget that malaria, AIDS, cholera, and rabies continue all over the world, largely unnoticed by us. Whatever we have to say about our health care (and recent months have proven that many of us have a lot to say about it, whether we understand it or not), Americans are generally healthy. We fret over the common cold more than malaria, contracting cancer than AIDS. Diabetes and heart disease are more real evils to us than are famine and pestilence.

Changing locales, however, means changing perspectives. Malaria is rampant in many parts of the developing world. Missions to Sub-Saharan Africa to battle poverty inevitably bring AIDS to the forefront. Prepare yourself for the ailments of your destination, rather than those of your origin.

Visit a travel clinic, such as King County's. Travel clinics are often more prepared for travel questions and concerns than your general practitioner. They also usually have vaccines on hand and can write prescriptions for drugs important to travel. For more information about travel ailments, preventative measures and medicines against them--including where and how to get them while abroad--visit the CDC website.
Immunizations, Vaccinations
Get immunized and vaccinated before you go abroad. Shell out the dough and embrace your right to be healthy all over the world. Here's one preventative measure--a kind of prepaid insurance plan--that could save your life.

The vaccines may be costly, but they are most certainly worth it. The rabies vaccine is hundreds of dollars, yet few places in the world are rabies-free. The vaccine allows an infected person more time to get to a facility with the proper treatment. The cost more than makes up for the discomfort, subsequent cost of care, and is worth the extra time it would take to get to a hospital with the cure. [I got it when traveling to places in Africa with lots of animals and little medical care. --William]

It's also important to allow enough time before travel for multiple immunization/vaccination shots, which is the case for the Hepatitis vaccination series. Equally important is the fact that some of these shots cannot be taken one after the other; there is a necessary window between doses of the HepB vaccine, for instance.
Travel clinicians can prescribe drugs, such as ciprofloxacin for traveler's diarrhea or acetazolamide for altitude sickness--among others. Your general practitioner can prescribe the same drugs, but they don't always have the right information about a location at their fingertips. Patronize your local travel clinic, because they often suffer from budget cutbacks, though they often offer cheaper services than your own GP. In the event that you run out of a drug abroad, it's possible to get a replacement in-country. Do some research beforehand though. Fake drugs can be found everywhere.


Considering the place

Travel Considerations Provided by the Following...
by Ryan
Guest Post

When traveling abroad, your first course of action is to visit the U.S. Department of State travel page. It has important information about visa requirements and travel advisories, and lets you register your travel itinerary with them.
Visa Requirements
American travelers are lucky. Many countries around the world have friendly, diplomatic relations with us and will happily take our money. High-frequency travel destinations (Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand--and many places in Europe, thanks to the Schengen Agreement) have lax visa requirements for American visitors in town for a bit. For everywhere else, there's the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

There are gray areas. Online, you'll see it's "easy" to secure a short-term visa in Indonesia. Compared to Japan and Thailand, however, getting an Indonesian visa is not easy. You wait in one line to pay for it. Then you wait in another huge line that take up ninety percent of airport's international receiving room to pick it up. No air-conditioning, no ventilation. Two hours later, you leave the airport, sticky with sweat, visas in hand.

Of course, you can always secure a visa for many places in advance online.
Travel Advisories
Check out any international travel advisories before you leave home. It will prepare you for the unknown. Tourist havens aren't exempt; anyone who's had her purse or his wallet stolen knows. Moreover, criminals are often unique to an area. For example, in many places it's best to arrange a cab, e.g. through a hotel, rather than hail one off a street. In Indonesia, you may pay too much. In seedier parts of Mexico, it could cost you your life.
Register Your Itinerary
This may seem a little too "Big Brother" for you, but how else will anyone know you were kidnapped and imprisoned in North Korea? Bill Clinton won't know where to rescue you from. Register your itinerary online, and you'll be in a better position, should you get in hot water.

And leave the recreational drugs at home. Singapore would imprison you for even having illegal drugs in your system, let alone on your person. Would you trust an OTC detox kit to save you from prison abroad?


Considering travel (2009-08-19/10-17)

Ryan and Buddha at Ayutthaya Historical Park
Ryan has traveled with me to 10 countries in 6 years (Canada, Mexico, France, England, Germany, China, New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand, and Japan), and has blogged about Paris. As I have traveled alone for work recently, Ryan has written a series of guest blog posts on items to consider before traveling.

Travel Considerations Provided by the Following...
by Ryan
Guest Posts

William has been traveling a lot lately, first for fun, now for work. With little notice, he flies off to Sacramento, CA, USA, or Chihuahua, CH, Mexico. He hopes one day to be sent on assignments in South America--Argentina or Chile--or Europe--especially Spain or Italy, both of which we missed when we were in Paris, France, for ten weeks in the Fall of 2006.
Because of this, we've come up with a kind of regimen for travel. He hates packing, so I often help him, or he waits till the day of to do it. We try to set things in order so that I'll at least have an idea of how things should look when he gets back. Though he drags his feet sometimes, the one thing he doesn't procrastinate about is investigating his destination.
It behooves the healthy world-traveler like William to sit down for a little pre-travel planning. It's one thing to bum around the US--where the laws are familiar and people speak English. Not so abroad, even as close as Mexico. Many people assume that, if American tourists are mucking about, the place must be safe. But you might want exercise a little more precaution...

These guest blogposts will address three areas of particular import for the new and seasoned frequent-flyer--tips to lubricate the often sticky wheels that get you to and from your destination safely. They concern the following: first and foremost, the place you'll be spending all your time at; your health; and finally, as a less than obvious extension of the former, travel insurance--which will preserve your well being as well as your wallet. Finally, I'll give an example of when all three concerns came into play: my and William's trip around China in the Spring of 2008.


Christchurch (2009-05-18)

Tree Near Water Fountain at Christchurch Botanical GardensAfter a day of mostly sitting in airports and airplanes, I was anxious to walk, especially since that is one this trip's priorities. Ryan and I roughly followed, in reverse, the walking tour of Christchurch from Insight Guides New Zealand Step by Step, taking extra time in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. The garden and surrounding area feel like part of an English city.


New Zealand (2009-05-18)

New Zealand Passport StampAfter a full day of traveling we find ourselves visitors somewhere new. The day was a 2:37 flight to Los Angeles, 5:13 in LAX, a 12:45 flight to Aukland, 2:45 in Aukland going through biosecurity and customs, and a 1:20 flight to Christchurch. Traveling took care of Saturday and the International Date Line took care of Sunday, so Ryan and I arrive Monday the farthest south (approximately 43°32' S) we have ever been, in New Zealand on a new continent (Zealandia in Australasia). The Boeing 747-400 was empty enough to permit sleeping across seats, so we end up with enough energy to walk Christchurch Monday afternoon.


Buying tickets (2009-05-07/08)

William on Lamma Island Path
Furlough travel plans led me to once again purchase international flights leaving 2009-05-16 and returning 2009-07-01. Here's the itinerary:
  • New Zealand (Christchurch to Aukland) 2009-05-18/30
  • Indonesia (Denpasar, Bali) 2009-05-30/06-13
  • Thailand (Bangkok) 2009-06-13/23
  • Japan (Tokyo) 2009-06-23/07-01
A Circle Pacific ticket appears twice as expensive, so these are changeable (for a fee) and refundable flights, in case we want to go to China or return to the US.


Planning contigencies (2009-05-06)

William on Victoria PeakThere's the chance of work in China, but I'm going traveling on furlough. It appears it's possible to obtain a Chinese business visa in Hong Kong, where an American citizen can visit for 90 days without a visa. I liked Hong Kong, so a trip there is a contingency plan in case of work in China.

Planning travel (2009-05-01/05)

William Overlooking Terracotta Army
There's time to travel. Once again the questions are "Where should William go?" and "What should William do?"

Where Should William Go?

I've been to Asia (China) since I last asked these questions on my blog. The continents (besides Antarctica) that I haven't visited are South America (though of course I live in the Americas) and Australia (though I have been to Oceania, which includes Australasia). If I went to South America I'd want to practice Spanish. I'm resuming Mandarin, so Australasia seems good.

In fact, it might be fun to circle the pacific (see "Part II of the Vision" and "How do you arrange your flights?" on The Art of Non-Conformity). Previous comments recommended New Zealand, Thailand, and Japan. I've found friends and friends of friends recommend Bali.

What Should William Do?

Below are my travel priorities:
  1. Photograph wildlife. Since fantasy was an early inspiration to travel, why not photograph a dragon? Another possibility is kiwi-spotting in Trounson Kauri Park.
  2. Walk. While it's almost winter in New Zealand, there might be great walks.
  3. See mountains. The Lord of the Rings movies suggest beautiful mountains in New Zealand. In addition, Ryan offered to climb Mount Fuji to persuade me to visit Japan.
  4. Visit forests.
  5. Sail.
  6. Visit ruins.
  7. See castles.
That's a lot to cover! Aside from living in Paris, my longest trip to date was one month in east Africa. I'd like to travel longer than a month this time.

[Resized photograph.]

Planning furlough (2009-04-27/30)

Sign on Trail to Tian Tan Buddha
Despite the prospect of work in China, there is currently little coaching or development management for me. Consequently my company sent me on furlough. The finances suggest the furlough could stop in 30 to 60 days; sales staff suggest it will stop sooner. Since I've saved (expenses and taxes at home average 52% of income), this seems like an opportunity to both help my employer and to travel while I'm still brave enough to do it. I think it is more likely than not that there will be work when I return.

[Resized photograph.]