Self-Diagnosing on the Road

Tara Putting on a Bandage

Tara putting on a bandage after a minor motorbike mishap in Laos.

When you take a short vacation from work, you typically wouldn’t visit a doctor during your trip unless a serious matter had to be addressed. Long-term travelers, however, can’t wait months until their return to seek treatment or a doctor’s opinion. They have to find care on the road or risk that a small issue might turn into a larger one. But even if they have health coverage, the hassle of navigating through their plan’s fine print coupled with trying to find a trustworthy physician in a foreign country discourages some from seeking help.

If you recall, when Mike and I were planning our trip, we divided tasks according to our individual strengths. It was my responsibility to find travel insurance that would also provide us with good medical coverage, and I took this job very seriously. We ended up buying 13 months of insurance through STA Travel, with coverage administered by CSA Travel Protection. There were a variety of reasons this insurance won out against our second choice, but one very nice inclusion was that a one-time payment of up to $1,000 could be applied toward your first in-network physician visit during your coverage period. Naturally, we didn’t want to waste that $1,000 by going to the doctor for the common cold or something that would only use a small portion of that monetary offer. But we’ve also never been the type to run to the doctor for every ache and pain anyway. It would be better, we thought, to put the $1,000 toward what would be a more expensive doctor visit, like to treat a broken ankle or – heaven forbid – something major. Continue reading

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Enjoying a Honeymoon Escape in Phnom Penh

This trip is our extended honeymoon, and sometimes we forget that. It’s easy to when you’re walking from the bus station to your guesthouse, sweating in a fan room, and saying “It might not be budget-friendly to have a drink tonight.” Every now and then we give ourselves a bit of a treat, but it’s been a long, long while.

Cheap Foot Massage

Tara thoroughly enjoying a $3 foot massage.

Cambodia might not top the list of worldwide honeymoon destinations, but we could easily make a case for why it should. The activities on offer are more for the adventurous type, but you could also spend days lazing on the white-sand beaches of Koh Rong or getting inexpensive massages among palm trees on Rabbit Island. The value for your money is unbelievable. In Siem Reap, home of the famous and ancient Angkor Wat temple, we got a streetside half-hour foot massage with two beers for a whopping $3 USD (they country uses a mix of USD and riel, the local currency). You could purchase a pitcher of a mixed cocktail for $4 too. Siem Reap also has many luxury properties that are quite affordable, though we didn’t stay in any since we knew our days would be spent exploring ancient temples instead of relaxing in a comfortable hotel room.

Our next destination, Phnom Penh, really made us stop in our tracks. Prior to arriving in Cambodia, we moved at an uncharacteristically quick pace through Myanmar. We only had three weeks there and wanted to make the most of our days. So after an exhausting but fulfilling time in Myanmar and touring the temples of Siem Reap, we gave ourselves an early one-year travel anniversary gift: The Villa Paradiso. Continue reading

Budgeting for Myanmar

5,000 Kyat Bill

5,000 kyat bill

Before leaving Thailand, we did as much research about Myanmar as possible. We have not heavily researched a country this much in many months, and it was mostly because there is an air of mystery surrounding in-country costs.

Tourism in Myanmar is growing at an exponential rate each year, and prices are increasing with it. Johnny may have visited in November 2012, but by May 2013, hotel prices increased around 50%. That might not be a problem in other countries because credit cards are accepted or ATMs are widely available. But in Myanmar, many expenses can only be paid for in crisp, unmarked U.S. dollars (hotels, flights, entrance fees) that you must bring into the country. You cannot just walk into an American Express Foreign Exchange and withdraw dollars. That kind of convenience does not exist there, yet. Therefore, you must have a budget in mind before entering so you can withdraw clean USD outside of the country.

ATMs in Myanmar are a very recent addition, but they only dispense the local currency, kyat (pronounced “chat”). With kyat, you can pay for things like food, taxis, clothes, toiletries, and local and long-distance buses. Before ATMs were installed, travelers had to exchange USD for kyat on the black market (now there are also exchange bureaus). But that used to be the only way for foreigners to obtain kyat. Continue reading

How to Get a Myanmar (Burma) Visa in Bangkok

Many people opt to apply for a Myanmar visa in Bangkok for two reasons: The process is quick and very simple and the cheapest flights into Myanmar depart daily from Bangkok. The visa is valid for three months from date of issue, and once you are in Myanmar you are allowed a 28-day stay.

We went through this process, and it was quick and painless. Shortly after receiving our visas, we traveled through Myanmar for three weeks, visiting eight cities. If you want more information about the country or things to do there, check out our other Myanmar posts!

The Myanmar Embassy

Getting to the Embassy

Address: 132 Sathorn Nua Road
Phone number: (662) 233 2237 or (662) 233 7250 Continue reading

Taking The Bus From Singapore Into Malaysia

 

Traveling into Malaysia from Singapore? Buses are a comfortable, safe and affordable means of transportation to and around Malaysia. Here is one more way you can save some money when traveling to Melaka, Kuala Lumpur or any other location in Malaysia via Singapore.

The View From Inside A Singapore BusBus companies are plentiful in Singapore, but rather than buy your ticket in Singapore and pay Singapore dollars, use public transportation to cross the border into Malaysia and pay in ringgits (this has a far more favorable exchange rate regardless of your country’s currency).

Forget about Singaporean travel agents or bus companies and take the MRT North-South Line to Kranji. Then take the 170 bus headed to Johor Bahru (JB). Be mindful of the end destination before boarding the bus to ensure you’re getting on the correct one going the correct direction. You will pay local public transportation costs, which are measured by distance traveled (roughly S$0.10/kilometer). Continue reading

Can You Drink the Water in…

Cold Water in India

But is it potable?

We don’t travel with guide books. They add too much weight, take up precious space and buying a new one for each country we visit would cost too much. Sometimes we read the ones left behind in guesthouses, but mostly we look to the Internet for a few important answers. Before arriving in a new country, we always look up the following information:

1) the local currency and exchange rate
2) what the tipping etiquette is
3) any local customs or important cultural differences
And, super important:
4) can you drink tap water without getting sick?

This last question has become very important to us. Being in constant travel mode between very foreign places has caused us to miss certain things, and ice on a very hot day is one of them. Sometimes, if you can’t drink the local water, you can’t have ice, a smoothie or diluted juice. But other times, like in Malaysia, ice is made in factories and purchased by local establishments. Thank you, Malaysia! But we wish you the best if you attempt to drink ice water in India.

Obviously this is very important information to be prepared with. Here’s a breakdown of countries we spent significant time in during our trip and whether you can drink from the tap.* Some of them may surprise you:

Continue reading

Explore Singapore on a Budget

Not many people had nice things to say about Singapore before we arrived.

Singapore Skyline

Singapore skyline at night.

“It’s expensive.”
“Just another big city.”
“It’s so not Southeast Asia.”

It’s frustrating to me when people compare, say, Singapore to Bangkok. Well, obviously they’re going to be different. You have to look at cities – like people – as individuals with their own unique characteristics. (While I’m at it, the same goes for the pyramids. Can everyone stop trying to compare them to Petra? They’re completely different!) And Singapore has a lot going for it. Yes, it’s a big city, but that also means there are a lot of activities for visitors, and not all of them will break the bank.

We’re budget travelers and certainly not Singapore experts, but we were successful in experiencing a lot while spending $25USD* per day per person outside of accommodation costs. Here are our best tips for spending a little and doing a lot:

Continue reading