Vietnam!

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Vietnam

Vietnam is a one-party Communist state with one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia.  With a land mass about the size of Germany, the countries’ chief exports are cashews, black pepper, rice, coffee, tea and rubber. Officially named the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1976, the country capital city is Hanoi with a population of 6.2 million people.

From subtropical and dry to chilly and wet, the weather in Vietnam is diverse and somewhat challenging.  With two opposing monsoon seasons, be sure to check the weather forecast for the city you plan to visit and the time of year.  April, May or October are considered the best months of the year to travel, but be aware that Vietnam has three very different weather zones: north, central and south.

Before You Leave

Passports and Required Travel Documents

With three major International airports, Vietnam is definitely an up and coming tourist destination.  As a US citizen, you will need a valid passport and a prearranged visa. If you already have a valid passport, check that your passport will not expire for at least six months from your return date. If you need a passport visit: http://travel.state.gov/passport/get/first/first_830.html to find out how to apply for either your first passport or to renew a previous passport.

Visit the Vietnam Embassy website at: http://vietnamembassy-usa.org/ to find out how to get your 30 day visa for Vietnam prior to your departure.  This process may take several weeks and requires your valid passport, so leave plenty of time for all required travel documents.

There are also several private companies that can assist you with obtaining your passport and your visa entry documents.  We suggest checking with: https://www.passportsandvisas.com or http://visacentral.com if you need help or are short on time.

 

Health Concerns and Vaccinations

Any international traveller should be up-to-date with all routine vaccinations such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT), and influenza (Flu).  Travellers to Vietnam should also receive vaccinations against typhoid, hepatitis A and B.  If you will be staying in Vietnam for over a month or will be visiting rural areas outside of the city centers, check with your doctor regarding the recommended Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine and anti-Malaria drugs.  Check: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/vietnam   for information on these vaccinations and current precautions or updates.

Pack all necessary medications in their original containers and bring a letter from your doctor describing any serious medical conditions if you have any concerns.  A small first aid kit with bandages, antibacterial cream, a pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, a sunscreen, mosquito repellent and an antidiarrhea medication is also useful.

Because of the humidity of Vietnam, take precautions to avoid dehydration and drink plenty of sealed, bottled water.  Avoid tap water and use your bottled water to brush your teeth, especially the first few days as your body acclimates to a new diet and a new environment.  Be sure to use a mosquito repellent always as dengue fever and malaria can be present.

Flights/Hotels/Cars

When checking flights to compare travel prices and itineraries we suggest checking:

www.cheaptickets.com , www.travelocity.com or www.expedia.com for airfare and hotel bookings. They often have the best prices for flights and flight hotel packages.

You may also want to look into trip cancellation insurance.  Check out https://www.squaremouth.com/travel-insurance-quotes#single_trip   where you can compare hundreds of travel insurance products.  Oftentimes getting a combination of trip cancellation, medical, and medical evacuation insurances is the best value for your money.

Vietnam does not recognize International Driving Permits. You will need a Vietnamese drivers’ license to rent a car. Unless you’re planning a stay of  several months, it may not be worth your time and money.  We suggest you check other types of transportation, depending on your travel itinerary and needs.  These travel guides should help you with any questions you have about getting around Vietnam:

www.lonelyplanet.com                                 www.fodors.com                       www.frommers.com

 

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

This program is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. This program allows the Department of State to better assist you in case of an emergency. Your itinerary is submitted and you can also receive updates on Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts and other information for a particular country.

You can enroll in the Smart Traveler Program  at https://step.state.gov/step

 

Electricity in Vietnam   

Household electricity in Vietnam is 220 volts, 50 hertz, so you will need a converter and adapter for electronics. Before leaving for Vietnam take a look at the electronics you want to take, laptops, phones etc. to make sure you have the proper adapters, converters and transformers.  If you’re bringing a laptop or tablet with you,  don’t forget the surge protector

Check out http://www.walkabouttravelgear.com/elect.htm  or our Amazon store  http://amazon.com   for more information and pricing on electrical adaptors.

COMMON WALL SOCKETS IN VIETNAM

 

Vietnamese Money  

The dong is the currency of Vietnam. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different bills and their colors and values before you leave.  Vietnamese paper bills range from 200vnd to 500000vnd and luckily are not all the same size and color.  You can change dollars to dong at banks, hotels and authorized exchange bureaus.  If exchanging currency at banks or hotels, bring crisp clean US currency when possible.  The current exchange rate from US dollars to Vietnamese dong (vnd) can be found at: http://www.oanda.com/currency/converter. Some businesses may take US dollars, but this is discouraged by the Vietnamese Government.

Travelers checks  can be cashed at banks or authorized foreign exchange outlets for a fee.  Credit cards are also accepted at most banks in major cities, as well as ATMs.  Be sure to have extra Vietnamese currency if traveling away from the city centers.

Time

Vietnam is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. There’s no daylight savings time in Vietnam, meaning that in the summer months, it’s 12 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast, in winter months 11 hours ahead.

Is it Safe?

While violent crime is almost nonexistent in Vietnam, petty thievery and pick pocketing can be a problem.  You will have no problems if you take some precautions:

  • Keep your passport and cash in a concealed travel wallet. Some examples of  travel wallets can be found at http://amazon.com
  • Keep your valuables in the hotel safe.
  • Use your common sense. Stick to well traveled roads and don’t walk down dark alleys.

One of the greatest dangers in Vietnam is road travel and just crossing the street can be life threatening if not careful!  Be extremely careful if you go by motorbike or motorbike taxi.  There are lots of accidents and don’t be scared to ask your driver to slow down.

If you need assistance, the local equivalents to the “911” line in Vietnam are 113 for police, 114 for fire, and 115 for ambulance.

Criminal Penalties

While you are traveling in Vietnam, you are subject to the laws of Vietnam even if you are a U.S. citizen. If you are arrested, contact the US Embassy immediately.

Cell phones in Vietnam

Having a working cell phone while in Vietnam is an essential part of travel. There are many options when looking for a cell phone to use in Vietnam. Some services will only work in Vietnam, so take that into consideration if you’re planning on doing other traveling.

1.  Call your local cell phone provider to find out if your phone will work in  Vietnam.  If they do, find out the rate-it may be extremely expensive.

2.  If your cell phone provider does not offer this option, look into services that can provide a world-wide Sim card  for your existing unlocked phone.  You can also rent a phone for your trip.

3.  When you arrive in Vietnam, you can pick up a local sim card to use in an unlocked phone.  In Vietnam, a sim card is relatively inexpensive, and usually comes preloaded with  40000-50000 Dong for under 20.00 USD.   Note: Check that the sim card or phone rental does not expire after 7- 30 days.

One service you can check for renting or purchasing a worldwide cellphone is www.Mobal.com.

 

Availability of Healthcare:

 

The only high-quality healthcare facilities are in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Your options in rural areas are quite limited, and any major medical issue usually means an uncomfortable transfer to one of these centers or an evacuation to Singapore, Bangkok, or Hong Kong.

 

If you do get sick when traveling in Vietnam, call the US Embassy or US consulate for their list of local doctors who speak English. In a pinch, your hotel should be able to get you a recommended local doctor that speaks English.

 

When traveling in Vietnam, you may have to pay all medical costs upfront and be reimbursed later. Medicare and Medicaid do not provide coverage for medical costs outside the U.S. Before traveling overseas, find out what medical services your health insurance does cover.

To protect yourself, consider buying medical travel insurance. Be clear that the medical insurance you are purchasing covers medical transfers and/or evacuations.

Important Links:

For information on traveler’s insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, we suggest: https://www.squaremouth.com

For information on medical transfers and evacuations, visit: http://medjetassist.com

 

US Embassy and Consulate in Vietnam

U.S. Embassy in Hanoi
170 Ngoc Khanh
Ba Dinh District
Hanoi, Vietnam
24 hour telephone number: (84-4) 3850-5000
Fax: (84-4) 3850-5010
U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City
4 Le Duan, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
24 hour telephone number: (84-8) 3520-4200
Fax: (84-8) 3520-4244

UPDATED 04/07/2017- Please be sure to let us know if there’s new information!

Chinese Travel Information

Chinachina flag

Boasting the largest population in the world with the second largest landmass, China is a one-party state with a division of power between the National People’s Congress (NPC), the President and the State Council . Officially known as the People’s Republic of China, the political leadership within the state are also the leaders of the party, creating a single centralized focus of power.  Under the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, the NPC (National People’s Congress) is the highest branch of state power in China.

The city of Beijing is the country’s capital and the second largest city in the country. With a population of over 20 million people, Beijing is the nation’s political, cultural and educational center. It is also home to the Beijing Capital International Airport which is the second busiest passenger airport in the world. Most of China’s state-owned companies are located in Beijing and it is a major hub for the country’s highways, expressways and high-speed rail networks.

Traveling to China is best done in the springtime from March to April or autumn from September to October.  Given the sheer size of the country,  the weather can be extremely diverse depending on your destination.  In the northeast the summers are hot and dry and the winters are extremely cold.  The north and central regions have lots of rain coupled with hot summers and cold winters.  In the southeast there is frequent rainfall, semi-tropical summers and cool winters.

Before You Leave

Passports and Required Travel Documents

As a US citizen, you will need a valid passport and a prearranged visa to enter China.  If you already have a valid passport, check that your passport will not expire for at least six months from your return date. If you need a passport visit the State Department’s website to find out how to apply for either your first passport or to renew a previous passport.

A visa is a stamp or endorsement placed in your passport granting you permission to visit China. Visas must be obtained prior to leaving the US and are usually issued by the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC or a Chinese Consulate office located within the US.  Visit the Chinese Embassy website to find out how to get your tourist visa for China prior to your departure.  This process may take several weeks and requires your valid passport, so leave plenty of time for all required travel documents. There are also several private companies that can assist you with obtaining your passport and your visa entry documents.  We suggest checking with: http://www.passportsandvisas.com or http://visacentral.com if you need help or are short on time.

Visiting Hong Kong or Macau does not require a visa for stays of 90 days or less as a  US citizen. You will still need six months validity on your passport and a return or continuing airline ticket.  Be sure to apply for a tourist visa prior to your departure from the US if there is any chance of a visit to the People’s Republic of China while you are in Hong Kong or Macau.  Entering China from Hong Kong still requires a tourist visa. You will need to fill out an entry card on arrival, usually handed out on the plane. The entry card is given to immigration control, who will hand you back the carbon copy. This should be kept until you leave Hong Kong, as it needs to be given to immigration control.

Health Concerns and Vaccinations

Any international traveler should be up-to-date with all routine vaccinations such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT), and influenza (Flu).  Travelers to China should also receive vaccinations against typhoid and hepatitis and make sure their polio vaccinations are current.  If you will be staying in China for over a month or will be visiting rural areas outside of the city centers, check with your doctor regarding the recommended Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine and anti-Malaria drugs.  Check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  for information on these vaccinations and current precautions or updates.

Pack all necessary medications in their original containers and bring a letter from your doctor describing any serious medical conditions if you have any concerns.  A small first aid kit with bandages, antibacterial cream, a pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, a sunscreen, mosquito repellent and an anti diarrhea medication is also useful.  Make sure you get your teeth checked before you travel, and if you wear glasses take a spare pair and your prescription.

 

Because of the humidity of China, take precautions to avoid dehydration and drink plenty of sealed, bottled water. The tap water throughout China is not safe to drink until it has been boiled.  This is true in most hotels as well. Be sure to ask and never assume the tap water is safe without boiling first.  Use bottled water to brush your teeth, especially the first few days as your body acclimates to a new diet and a new environment.  Be sure to use a mosquito repellent always as dengue fever and malaria can be present.

 

Flights/Hotels/Cars

When checking flights to compare travel prices and itineraries we suggest checking:

www.cheaptickets.com , www.travelocity.com or www.expedia.com for airfare and hotel bookings. They often have the best prices for flights and flight hotel packages.

 

You may also want to look into trip cancellation insurance.  Check out travel insurance at squaremouth.com  where you can compare hundreds of travel insurance products.  Oftentimes getting a combination of trip cancellation, medical, and medical evacuation insurances is the best value for your money.

China does not recognize the International Drivers License and you will not be allowed to rent a car in China without a Chinese drivers license. Fortunately, taxis are usually plentiful and very inexpensive in most town centers. These travel guides should help you with any questions you have about getting around in China:

www.lonelyplanet.com                                 www.fodors.com                       www.frommers.com

 

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

This program is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. This program allows the Department of State to better assist you in case of an emergency. Your itinerary is submitted and you can also receive updates on Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts and other information for a particular country.

You can enroll in the Smart Traveler Program by clicking here: Smart Traveler Program

 

Electricity in China   

China uses  220V, 50HZ, AC so you will need voltage converters and plug adapters for any electronics you plan to take with you.  If you’re bringing a laptop or tablet with you, don’t forget a surge protector too.  Check out these sites for more information on voltage converters, plug adapters and surge protectors.

www.walkabouttravelgear.com            www.radioshack.com                     www.amazon.com

 

Common Wall Sockets in China:

Chinese  Money  

 

The Renminbi (RMB) is the currency of China.The primary unit of the Renminbi is known as  the Yuan (CNY). One Yuan is worth ten Jiao and a Jiao is worth ten Fen.  It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different bills and their colors and values before you leave.  Chinese Renminbi banknotes are available in  1 Jiao, 5 Jiao, 1 Yuan, 5 Yuan, 10 Yuan, 20 Yuan, 50 Yuan, and 100 Yuan. The coin used is 1 Yuan and 5 Jiao. The current exchange rate from US dollars to Chinese Renminbi (RMB) can be found at: www.oanda.com.

You can change dollars or travelers checks at border crossings, international airports, tourist hotels and branches of the Bank of China. The official exchange rate is honored almost everywhere and the charge for changing money or travelers checks is standardized, so there is no need to shop around for the best price.  Keep at least a few of your exchange receipts. You will need them if you want to exchange any remaining RMB you have at the end of your trip.

 

Visa, Mastercard, American Express and JCB are accepted on a limited basis in China.  Be sure to have extra Chinese currency if traveling away from the city centers. Never assume the restaurant, bar or hotel will take a credit card.  The Chinese do not use credit cards regularly and many businesses are just beginning to accept them as a payment method.

 

Time

China is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. There’s no daylight savings time in China and since 1949 all of China has recognized one standard time: China Standard Time.

 

Is it Safe?

While violent crime is almost nonexistent in China, petty thievery and pick pocketing can be a problem.  High-risk areas in China are train and bus stations, city and long-distance buses (especially sleeper buses), hard-seat train carriages and public toilets.

You will have no problems if you take some precautions:

  • Keep your passport and cash in a concealed travel wallet. Some examples of  travel wallets can be found at http://amazon.com
  • Keep your valuables in the hotel safe.
  • Use your common sense. Stick to well traveled roads and don’t walk down dark alleys.
  • Avoid traveling alone or walking alone at night or in isolated areas
  • Never flash a lot of cash, jewelry or expensive camera equipment

If you need assistance, the local equivalents to the “911” line in China are 110 for police, 119 for fire, and 120 for ambulance.

Check the “Threats to Safety and Securitiy”  page on the US State Department’s website by clicking here: US State Department.  You will find other valuable country specific information on this website under “International Travel.”

Criminal Penalties

While you are traveling in China, you are subject to the laws of China even if you are a U.S. citizen. If you are arrested, contact the US Embassy immediately.

Cell phones in China

Most of the cell phones used in the US will not work in China.  Some of the newer high-end phones are compatible, however.  Check with your cell phone company prior to leaving for China. International roaming charges can be extremely expensive so beware.

You can also buy a cell phone in China.  Many well-known brands such as Motorola, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and others are sold in large department stores or franchise stores.  Be sure to ask about a SIM card too.  These do not automatically come with the phone but are necessary to operate a cell phone in China.

If you plan to use your cell phone in more than one city, make sure to activate the national roaming service.  But also check the rates on this roaming service.  It can be expensive.

One service you can check for renting or purchasing a worldwide cellphone is www.Mobal.com.

 

Availability of Healthcare:

 

Medical facilities and healthcare in China are not what they are in the US.  If you take any type of prescription medication or supplements, bring you own supply in the original container, including each drug’s generic name and carry the doctor’s prescription with you.  Many commonly known drugs, vitamins or supplements from the US are not available in China or do not have the same ingredients or potency.

 

In an emergency, it is often quicker and more efficient to take a taxi or other vehicle to the nearest major hospital.  Chinese ambulances are known to be slow and not well equipped.  Be prepared to pay cash upfront for any medical emergency or a deposit for any procedures or hospitalization. Medicare and Medicaid do not provide coverage for medical costs outside the U.S.

 

If you elect to have surgery or other medical services in China, be aware that there is little legal recourse to protect you in case of medical malpractice. The U.S. Embassy and consulates general in China maintain lists of localEnglish-speaking doctors and hospitals, which are published on their respective American Citizens Services web pages.

 

To avoid contamination of Hepatitis, always ask doctors and dentists to use sterilized equipment and be prepared to pay for new syringe needles in hospitals or clinics.  Reuse of medical supplies is not uncommon and foreigners should be careful and diligent.

Medical Insurance

Do not assume your health insurance will go with you when you travel. It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:

  • Does my policy apply when I’m out of the United States?
  • Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation?

 

Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy does not cover you while you are on your trip, it may be a good idea to take out another hea lth insurance policy that will cover you while you are away.  For more information, please see the list of Medical Insurance Companies on the US Department of State website at:

Medical Insurance.”

Important Links:

For information on traveler’s insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, we suggest: http://www.squaremouth.com

For information on medical transfers and evacuations, visit: http://medjetassist.com

 

US Embassy and Consulate in China

U.S. Embassy in Beijing

S. Embassy in Beijing China

No. 55 An Jia Lou Road

Chaoyang District, Beijing 100600

Telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000

Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000

The Embassy consular district includes the municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin and the provinces’ autonomous regions of Gansu, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Inner Mongolia, Jiangxi, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, and Xinjiang.

The U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu

Number 4, Lingshiguan Road, Section 4, Renmin Nanlu,

Chengdu 610041.

Telephone: (86)(28) 8558-3992

Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000

This consular district includes the provinces/autonomous region of Guizhou, Sichuan, Xizang (Tibet) and Yunnan, as well as the municipality of Chongqing.

 

The U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou

5/F Tian Yu Garden, Phase II

136-142 Lin He Zhong Lu, Tianhe District, Guangzhou

Telephone: (86)(20) 8518-7605

Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000

This consular district includes: the provinces/autonomous region of Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, and Fujian.

 

The U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai

Westgate Mall, 8th Floor, 1038 Nanjing Xi Lu,

Shanghai 200031

Telephone: (86)(21) 3217-4650

Emergency after-hours telephone:   (86) (21) 3217-4650

This consular district includes Shanghai municipality and the provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

 

The U.S. Consulate General in Shenyang

No. 52, 14th Wei Road, Heping District,

Shenyang 110003

Telephone: (86)(24) 2322-1198

Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000

This consular district includes:   the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning.

 

The U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan

New World International Trade Tower I

No. 568, Jianshe Avenue

Hankou, Wuhan  430022

Telephone: (86) (027) 8555-7791

Emergency after-hours telephone: (86) (10) 8531-4000

[Please note that consular services are provided only during quarterly outreaches in Wuhan.Contact the Embassy in Beijing for other consular and emergency services.]

Updated on 04/07/2017. Please let us know if this information is outdated.

Thailand <3

 

wat_pho

Thailand

Officially known as the Kingdom of Thailand, the country is a constitutional monarchy with a prime minister as head of the government and a king as Head of State and  the Armed Forces. The monarchy is an integral part of Thai society and the royal family is earnestly protected and respected. With over 64 million people, Thailand is a newly industrialized country and a major exporter of thai rice, textiles, footwear, fishery products, rubber,  jewelry, computers and electrical appliances. Rice is the most important crop in the country and Thailand is the world’s largest rice producer with over 6.5 million tons of milled rice exported annually.

Bangkok is Thailand’s capital and the largest city in Thailand. It is the seat of all branches of the national government and the home of the Grand Palace and Chitralada Villa, the two residences of the king. Most international flights arrive and depart from Bangkok.  The new Suvarnabhumi Airport was opened in September of 2006 and replaced the former airport at Don Muang for all international flights.

The best time to travel to Thailand is between November and March when it is not too hot or wet.  This is also Thailand’s main season for festivals and the main tourist season.  Check the area that you plan to visit for more specific information on temperatures and rainfall which will vary dramatically from region to region.

Before You Leave

Passports and Required Travel Documents

As a US citizen, you will need a valid passport and a return or continuing airline ticket to enter Thailand.  If you already have a valid passport, check that your passport will not expire for at least six months from your return date. If you need a passport visit the State Department’s website to find out how to apply for either your first passport or to renew a previous passport.  There are also several private companies that can assist you with obtaining your passport.  We suggest checking with: http://www.passportsandvisas.com or http://visacentral.com if you need help or are short on time.

A visa is not required if you are staying less than 30 days and are arriving by air.  If you arrive by land you are only allowed a 15 day stay without a visa. Once you enter the country, your passport will be stamped with the expiration date of your stay.  You must leave Thailand by the date stamped  in your passport or be prepared for daily fines.  Check that your passport is stamped with the correct expiration date of your stay.  Trying to get this fixed later has been costly and time consuming.  You will be charged a Passenger Service Charge payable in Thai currency (baht) when you leave Thailand.

Health Concerns and Vaccinations

Any international traveller should be up-to-date with all routine vaccinations such as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT), and influenza (Flu).  Travellers to Thailand should also receive vaccinations against typhoid and hepatitis A and B. If you will be staying in Thailand for over a month or will be visiting rural areas outside of the city centers, check with your doctor regarding the recommended Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine and anti-Malaria drugs.  Check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  for information on these vaccinations and current precautions or updates.

Pack all necessary medications in their original containers and bring a letter from your doctor describing any serious medical conditions if you have any concerns.  A small first aid kit with bandages, antibacterial cream, a pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, a sunscreen, mosquito repellent and an anti diarrhea medication is also useful.  Make sure you get your teeth checked before you travel, and if you wear glasses take a spare pair and your prescription.

 

Because of the humidity of Thailand, take precautions to avoid dehydration and drink plenty of sealed, bottled water. Be sure to ask and never assume the tap water is safe without boiling first.  Use bottled water to brush your teeth, especially the first few days as your body acclimates to a new diet and a new environment.  Be sure to use a mosquito repellent with DEET at least twice a day as dengue fever and malaria can be present.

Statistically, the most serious safety concern for tourists in Thailand are motorcycles.  Over 12,000 people are killed each year on a motorcycle.  While they present a cheap and easy mode of transportation, they are also the most dangerous and have been responsible for the most injuries.  If you must use a motorcycle, insist on wearing a helmet.

 

Flights/Hotels/Cars

When checking flights to compare travel prices and itineraries we suggest checking:

www.cheaptickets.com , www.travelocity.com or www.expedia.com for airfare and hotel bookings. They often have the best prices for flights and flight hotel packages.

 

You may also want to look into trip cancellation insurance.  Check out travel insurance at squaremouth.com  where you can compare hundreds of travel insurance products.  Oftentimes getting a combination of trip cancellation, medical, and medical evacuation insurances is the best value for your money.

Thailand does recognize a valid International Drivers License but not a foreign drivers license. To apply for an international license you must visit the US Embassy in Bangkok. Please check their website at: http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/driving_in_thailand.html for more specific information regarding driving in Thailand.

These travel guides should also help you with any questions you may have about getting around in Thailand:

www.lonelyplanet.com                                 www.fodor’s.com                       www.frommer’s.com

 

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

This program is a free service provided by the U.S. Government to U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. This program allows the Department of State to better assist you in case of an emergency. Your itinerary is submitted and you can also receive updates on Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts and other information for a particular country.

You can enroll in the Smart Traveler Program by clicking here: Smart Traveler Program

 

Electricity in Thailand

Thailand uses  220V, 50HZ, AC so you will need voltage converters and plug adapters for any electronics you plan to take with you.  If you’re bringing a laptop or tablet with you, don’t forget a surge protector too.  Check out these sites for more information on voltage converters, plug adapters and surge protectors.

www.walkabouttravelgear.com            www.radioshack.com                     www.amazon.com

 

Common Wall Sockets in Thailand:

LANI- INSERT PHOTO OF WALL SOCKETS PLEASE!

 

Chinese  Money  

 

LANI – INSERT THAI  MONEY PHOTO HERE

The basic unit of Thai currency is the baht. There are 100 satang in one baht.  Coins include 25-satang and 50-satang pieces and baht in 1B, 2B, 5B and 10B coins. Older coins have Thai numerals only, while newer coins have Thai and Arabic numerals. The 2B coin was introduced in 2007 and is confusingly similar in size and design to the 1B coin.Paper currency is issued in20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 denominations. The 10B note was phased out in 1990, but there are still a few in circulation. The most commonly used coin in Thailand is the 10 baht and the most popular note used is the 100 baht. The current exchange rate from US dollars to Thai baht (THB) can be found at: www.oanda.com. Current exchange rates are also printed in the Bangkok Post and the Nation newspaper and any Thai bank can also give you the current daily exchange rate.

 

Changing cash in Thailand is easy and less expensive than trying to change US dollars to Thai baht in the United States.  Forex (Foreign Exchange) booths are common and their daily exchange rates are always posted.  Cash exchanges in Thailand are also not subject to commissions or extra fees.

 

Travelers Checks are usually  only accepted at dedicated foreign exchange shops or banks.  Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are common throughout Thailand and most will accept major international banking networks such as Plus and Cirrus. Major credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, JCB and American Express are accepted at most hotels, airlines, restaurants and larger department stores.  To prevent your credit card from being declined, be sure to let your credit card company know you will be travelling abroad prior to leaving the US.

 

Time

Thailand is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. There is no daylight savings time in Thailand, and the local Thai time is known as ICT time or Indonesia Time.

 

Is it Safe?

When traveling in Thailand, you should exercise caution especially in crowded areas and during demonstrations.  Avoid political rallies and large crowds that could turn angry or violent quickly.  Thailand has experienced political unrest and travelers need to stay alert and aware of any local disturbances. Check the US Embassy website  and the Bureau of Consular Affairs website for current travel warnings and alerts covering the areas you plan to visit.

 

If you need assistance, the local equivalents to the “911” line in Thailand are 191 for police, 199 for medical or fire.  999 connects to all emergency services.

 

Always take extra precautions while travelling, such as:

  • Keep your passport and cash in a concealed travel wallet. Some examples of  travel wallets can be found at http://amazon.com
  • Keep your valuables in the hotel safe.
  • Use your common sense. Stick to well traveled roads and don’t walk down dark alleys.
  • Avoid traveling alone or walking alone at night or in isolated areas
  • Never flash a lot of cash, jewelry or expensive camera equipment

Check the “Threats to Safety and Securitiy”  page on the US State Department’s website by clicking here: US State Department.  You will find other valuable country specific information on this website under “International Travel.”

Criminal Penalties

While you are traveling in Thailand , you are subject to the laws of Thailand even if you are a U.S. citizen. If you are arrested, contact the US Embassy immediately.

Cell phones in China

Most of the cell phones used in the US will not work in Thailand until they are unlocked.  Check with your cell phone company prior to leaving for Thailand. International roaming charges can be extremely expensive and you should consider other options if you will be using a cell phone regularly in Thailand.

You can also buy a cell phone in Thailand for $50.00 or less from any 7-11 or phone store. Once you purchase a phone, you will need a SIM card and a prepaid phone card.  When you purchase a SIM card be sure to purchase a prepaid phone card from the same company.  SIM cards are usually very cheap ($5 to $10USD) and prepaid phone cards are also very affordable.

One service you can check for renting or purchasing a worldwide cellphone is www.Mobal.com.

 

Availability of Healthcare:

 

Medical facilities and healthcare in Thailand are usually adequate in the city centers.  Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya all have good facilities for routine, emergency or long-term health care.

Rural areas provide basic medical care but English-speaking doctors are rare.  If you take any type of prescription medication or supplements, bring you own supply in the original container, including each drug’s generic name and carry the doctor’s prescription with you.  Many commonly known drugs, vitamins or supplements from the US are not available in Thailand or do not have the same ingredients or potency.  Many Thai pharmacies do not require a prescription and medications are not monitored the same as in the US.

 

Emergency transportation (ambulance) is not common in Thailand.  You will rarely see an ambulance in Bangkok.  Volunteer organizations are normally the respondents to traffic accidents.  Heavy, congested traffic is a huge obstacle for emergency care and you should not assume you will be transported easily or quickly.

Medical Insurance

Do not assume your health insurance will go with you when you travel. It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:

 

  • Does my policy apply when I’m out of the United States?
  • Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation?

 

Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy does not cover you while you are on your trip, it may be a good idea to take out another health insurance policy that will cover you while you are away.  For more information, please see the list of Medical Insurance Companies on the US Department of State website at:

Medical Insurance.”

Important Links:

For information on traveler’s insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, we suggest: http://www.squaremouth.com

For information on medical transfers and evacuations, visit: http://medjetassist.com

US Embassy and Consulate in Thailand

U.S. Embassy in Bangkok

95 Wireless Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

Call Center Service:  001-800-13-202-2457

Email:  visasbkk@state.gov

 

U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai

387 Witchayanond Road, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand

Call Center Service:  001-800-13-202-2457

 

American Citizen Services, U.S. Embassy Bangkok

95 Wireless Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

Hours of Operations: Monday – Friday,7:30 am – 11:00 am

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm, excluding official holidays.

Tel: +66-2-205-4049

E-mail: acsbkk@state.gov

 

American Citizen Services, U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai

387 Witchayanond Road, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand

Tel: +66-53-107-777

Fax: +66-53-252-633

E-mail: acschn@state.gov

Weather Update!

Hi Everyone!

We hope this helps with your travel plans.

Cherry Blossoms HQ
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Manila, Philippines
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Shanghai, China
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Response to a reader concern about travelling to the Philippines.

National Flag of the Philippines

National Flag of the Philippines

Dear Blossoms Blog Readers,

Recently we had a question from one of our readers regarding traveling to the Philippines. We must say, this sparked our interest–and maybe the interest of a few other readers.

Anyone have any comments about traveling to the philippines. US state dept has warnings about travel to the PI. Friend i work with has a filipino wife and says PI isn’t a safe place to go to. Several travel agents said so also. Any comment ? Want to go but want to be safe. National Geographic channel had a special on it calling it the kidnap capital.

–Henry

Well, Henry– Today is your lucky day! We went to the ladies in know–Our Visa Support Team, and they have a few tips for you!

Interested? Keep reading.

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