5 tips for international travelers.

5 tips for international travelers.

In many travel industry news lately, there has been a resurgence of travel, and international travel is part of that recovery.  As the world has sprung back from the many restrictions from the Covid pandemic, so has travel.  Covid restrictions have relaxed worldwide, and Americans now have many more travel options.  There are many tips  I can give if international travel is in your future.  But after talking to a few friends currently traveling internationally, here are five tips for international travelers.

QR Codes.

Although many Americans think of the US as the world’s trendsetter, Covid realities have proven that the US trails the world regarding Covid documentation.  QR codes in the US are far more uncommon than in many international destinations.  Worldwide, digital QR codes allow others to access Covid test results and Covid vaccinations.  Many international destinations require this digital proof for entry rather than a photocopied or scanned copy of a vaccination report or test.  In many cases, you may be denied entry or turned away from your destination without a QR code, so check the requirements and prepare accordingly.

Visa travel requirements.

Again, many Americans think that the US passport is all that is needed for travel.  Although the US passport allows for visa-free travel to many countries, many international destinations require a visa upon entry.  In some cases, a visa upon entry into some countries is available.  However, many travelers will find the error of not considering visa requirements at the airport check-in when they are denied boarding.  Other times they will discover this fact when they are denied entry and never get to leave the airport of the country after hours of travel.  Travelers can apply for travel visas at the country’s embassy, consulate, or online.  Please ensure you apply when necessary and be aware of scam sites using an online platform.

Travel information.

After years of traveling, it’s amazing how many travelers travel with little travel information.  At most international destinations, a landing card or arrival card is required.  This card is considered a legal document presented at immigration and used by the country authorities to collect information on passengers entering their country.  This includes personal details, flight information, and travel details such as hotel stay with name and address.  It’s incredible how many people simply know the destination but not the flight number of the airplane they are traveling on.  Please try to have all this information and a pen in your hand-carry luggage when traveling internationally.

WhatsApp messenger service.

While not as common in the US, the WhatsApp messenger service is used worldwide.  It only requires Wi-Fi in some cases but may incur international charges based on your cellular plan.  Please remember to turn roaming off on your phone to avoid fees.  Most importantly, WhatsApp calls are free when connected to the internet.  The key to using this service when traveling internationally is downloading and setting up the app before leaving your home country.  Additionally, have those you plan to stay in contact with download the app.  I have found that calls and chats are easier on the app if the person you are trying to contact is listed in your WhatsApp contacts.

Medication

If you are taking prescription medications, please travel with your prescription bottle and carry medicines in your hand-carry.  Many people carry weekly pill carriers with medication they may identify on sight.  However, if you ever lose your medication when traveling, having the prescription bottle, which has your identification information and the medication name, will make it much easier to access the replacement medication.  In some countries, you may simply go to the pharmacy with the information and bypass seeing a doctor.

These are but five tips that are useful if you’re thinking of international travel.  There are many more, so look for future blog posts with even more tips and information.  If you found any of these helpful.

Race and nationality when traveling.

Race and nationality when traveling.

Travel comes with some inequities in the travel and tourism industry for people of color.  Often that impact is also affected by race and nationality.  The reality is that traveling while black comes with some individual challenges.  In my travels as a black woman, I have experienced being denied certain privileges because of my race by non-blacks and other people of color.  With non-blacks, I have encountered people thinking I am not good enough or entitled to enjoy the same travel experiences.  With some people of color, there is sometimes a judgment or derision that I think I am better because I am experiencing certain travel opportunities.  Race, nationality, and ethnicity are the realities of traveling while black.  Here are my thoughts.

Race

I define EbonyTravelers, as any traveler of color.  As someone who has experienced the travel space professionally and personally, I am confident that travelers of color are identified primarily by their race.  If someone were to ask me, I would say we are all one race, the human race.  However, the reality is that at first sight, I am recognizably a part of what many define as the black race.  That racial identity is a part of my reality when I travel because, in many countries, my race often defines me as a minority.  Usually, I travel and go into quaint little stores in the tourist areas.  Because of my race, I  prepare myself to encounter issues from those who may not see me as simply a tourist.  I am careful not to put my hands in my pockets or go into my purse, as someone may assume I have taken something.  Unfortunately, this experience is a common one for many travelers of color.

Nationality.

With travel, race and nationality are two distinct constructs.  Travel identification first comes from one’s passport, which automatically defines nationality.  When traveling internationally, one’s identity is often determined by the passport one carries.  I travel under an American passport, so my travel identification is based on that nationality.  I’ve found that when I identify as an American, even though my black race is apparent, my travel experiences are more favorable.

Ethnicity.

Ethnicity and nationality are different constructs but sometimes just as important as race and nationality.  Ethnicity is related to race and culture.  I was born in Barbados, even though I travel under an American passport.  The ethnicity of Barbados also includes race, but ethnicity does not seem to be a factor in travel as much as race and nationality.  When I travel, it is not until I have conversations with people that my ethnicity is recognized, so I find that it does not often affect my black travel experience.

Regardless of race, nationality, or ethnicity, there is racism in the travel industry, and it affects the experiences of EbonyTravelers.  There is often a need to produce more identification and a justification of reason for traveling than other travelers experience.  Additionally, people of color are subject to more random searches and checks while traveling than non-blacks.

Despite the realities of traveling while black, I believe there is a need to show the experiences to black travelers more than ever.  While there has been a surge in black travelers, there is still a lack of inclusion in mainstream travel advertising.  As a result, many people of color are unaware of the many travel experiences they can experience.  A more diverse travel perspective needs to be shared so more travelers of color can enjoy the travel experience.  Travel makes us better, and the more black people are exposed to travel, the more race, nationality, and ethnicity mean less.

There’s a reason for airline rules.

There’s a reason for airline rules.

As a former flight attendant, I have seen many travelers take offense to a flight attendant’s request to follow an airline rule.  I can honestly say that flight attendants do not try to make passengers unhappy.  In contrast, happy passengers make for a comfortable flight for everyone.  Flight attendants are simply doing their job, and that job comes with rules and regulations they must follow and ensure that you do as well.  Not enforcing the rules exposes flight attendants to fines and loss of employment.  Here are a few reasons for the rules some passengers take offense to.

Seatbelts.
Although it may be comfortable not to wear a seatbelt, there is an excellent reason for ensuring that passengers wear their seatbelts during the flight. One of the most compelling reasons is air turbulence.  There are times when turbulence occurs without warning.  If this happens and a passenger is not wearing a seatbelt, they can be severely injured or killed.  One of the reasons this does not occur often is because flight attendants ensure seatbelts are worn.

Exit seats.
Airplane exit seats are desirable because of the extra legroom.  However, many passengers conveniently forget that the extra room is there to get people out of the airplane in an emergency quickly.  This reason is why young children and disabled people are not allowed to sit in the exit row.  Imagine a young child trying to open and throw a 70-pound window exit or someone unable to get out the exit quickly.  Flight attendants are required to ask before every flight if a passenger is willing and able to assist in the event of an emergency.  Moreover, there is no time to rearrange seats in an emergency.  Therefore, even when the exit seat is available, there may be a reason a passenger is unable to sit in it.

The seatbelt sign.
Passengers must be seated before the aircraft can leave the gate and stay seated until the seatbelt sign has been turned off.  This rule is not an airline rule but an FAA rule.  Although there are rare cases, flights have had to stop on the runway suddenly, and if not seated, passengers can be hurt.  In addition, airplanes can occasionally collide, which is another chance for passenger injury.  However, these occurrences are rare, and so often, passengers think walking around to be of no danger when that is far from the truth.

Disruptive passengers have become more and more common recently.  However, passengers should understand that flight attendants are doing a job that requires them to enforce the rules.  Not following these rules can impact passenger safety and jeopardize a flight attendants’ job.  Challenging flight attendants on basic rules is simply being rude.  By sharing this information, I hope that the reader will be just a bit kinder to flight attendants next time they get on an airplane and merely follow the rules.

Why I have a maid in Singapore?

Why I have a maid in Singapore?

Living in Singapore has allowed me the opportunity to employ a helper, more commonly known as a maid in the US.  While this is beyond the imagination for most Americans, both black and white, having a maid in Singapore is a common occurrence.  Many Singaporeans have a maid/helper to help them cook, clean, and look after their pets, elderly, or young children.  In Singapore, employing a maid is not only for the wealthy.  Here are a few facts about having a maid in Singapore.

Foreign Domestic Worker.

Maids in Singapore fall under the Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW) category.  There are more than 200,000 FDW’s in Singapore, and possibly 1 out of every household employs an FDW.  Maids or helpers as they are known in Singapore are from nearby Southeast Asia countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, and Thailand.  These maids work as helpers in Singapore to support and/or educate their families back home and save money to buy land or a business when they return home.

Requirements to employ a maid.

Although costs for having a maid are not as prohibitive as in other places, not everyone can employ a maid.  An employer must meet specific eligibility requirements.  First, they must be over 21 and have the mental capacity to supervise and care for their helper.  In addition, first-time employers must attend a mandatory employer orientation program.  Employers are assessed on their mental and financial ability and other requirements to employ, maintain, and upkeep the maid in acceptable accommodations.

Costs of maid/helper.

The average minimum cost for having a maid in Singapore is $550.00 per month.  Yes, I said that correctly; that is the cost per month.  Of course, monthly salaries are commensurate with the duties required and/or the number of people in the household.  There are also agency fees, health checkup fees, and a security bond to consider.  In addition, there is a monthly levy fee anywhere from $60 to $300.  Employers also must provide health insurance and a yearly round trip ticket for the maid/helper.

Why a maid?

When you consider the costs of childcare, cleaning, eating out, and or senior daycare or a live-in nurse, employing a maid simply makes sense.  Some households have a maid for cleaning and another for the child or elderly care.  The maid/helper is often responsible for running the home, shopping, and cooking to meet dietary restrictions.  In some cases, the Singapore government may help defray the costs of employing a maid/helper.

Personally, I have a helper in Singapore because I don’t cook or clean.  Although that might seem like a vain statement, it is my lived experience.  Having maids in Singapore allowed me to live in Singapore and still work in the USA for many years.  I had help raising my kids, and I could go to work knowing that someone was taking care of my children and home.  Now, as an empty nester, I simply enjoy having a maid who takes care of my dog, grocery shopping, cleaning, and cooking.  In addition, I can travel anytime I want because someone is always there to take care of my home.  If you had the opportunity, would you hire a maid?  Let me know in the comment section below.

 

Five interesting facts about Singapore

Five interesting facts about Singapore

Singapore is a great place to live as an ex-pat. It has an excellent infrastructure, schools, and healthcare system. It is also one of the cleanest cities I have traveled to and one of the most popular ex-pat destinations. I Have lived in Singapore for more than ten years now, and although I’m used to the way of life here, there are a few things I think travelers to Singapore will find interesting.

Drunk in public

In Singapore, you need to worry about drunk driving as well as being drunk in public. The legal drinking age in Singapore is 18. Selling alcohol to anyone under 18 is a punishable offense, but there is no penalty for those under 18 if caught drinking. There are plenty of bars and places to drink in Singapore but being drunk in public is an offense. Anyone who appears in public drunk or annoys another person is guilty of a crime. The punishment can be up to a maximum sentence of six months in prison or a fine of up to $1000.00 for a first-time offender.

Abusing a public servant.

It is not uncommon to see peoples’ frustrations boiling over at government officials in the US. However, doing so in Singapore is against the law. Anyone who speaks or behaves indecently to a public official is breaking the law. Furthermore, any act that prevents a public servant from carrying out their duties is also an offense. Punishment can be up to 12 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $5000.00.

Chewing gum in Singapore.

Most people think it is illegal to chew gum in Singapore, but that is not a fact. The chewing gum ban is on importing and selling chewing gum in Singapore. Currently, the law is less strict as it allows for selling gum for health-related purposes such as nicotine gum. However, you can only buy from pharmacies. Selling gum in Singapore can get you a fine of up to $100,000.00 or up to two years in jail.

Littering in Singapore.

Singapore is one of the cleanest cities, and it is because littering in Singapore is an offense. Anyone caught throwing anything on the ground, even a cigarette butt, is considered littering. The maximum fine for a littering violation is $2000.00 for the first offense, $4000.00 for the second, and up to $10,000. for the third offense. In addition, there can be a penalty of community service.

Caning in Singapore.

Caning in Singapore is indeed a fact. There are three types of caning, judicial, caning in schools, and parental punishment. Judicially an offender can be caned for several offenses but is compulsory for acts such as robbery, drug trafficking, and vandalism. Caning is only applicable to males under 50 and deemed medically fit for the punishment. Women and those sentenced to death are exempt from caning. Interestingly, the court will notify the offender of their caning sentence but no advance notice of its execution. There is a limit of 24 strokes for an adult and ten strokes for a minor.

I hope you found this information fascinating and that you be careful of local laws wherever you may travel. Singapore is a beautiful country, but it is best not to disregard any laws while visiting or working in Singapore. If found guilty, you may have to serve punishment before being deported. In addition, you will have a criminal record and may not be allowed to visit or work in Singapore in the future.

Must have travel Apps.

Must have travel Apps.

Almost every person has a smartphone and a mobile App they use every day.  Many travelers use their phones no matter the destination.  But now, more than ever, travelers take advantage of mobile Apps to help them through the travel process.  Whether planning a trip or getting help during a trip, some Apps can help you save time and money and make the travel journey much less stressful.  Here are three Apps I think every traveler should have.

Airline Apps.

Airline Apps have significantly improved over the past few years.  While they are not often used to purchase tickets, they are most assuredly used to enhance the travel experience.  Airline Apps allow you to see your travel itinerary and essential information such as booking codes and ticket numbers.  This information is often overlooked but can be crucial when discussing your travel with ticketing agents.  The airline app will also allow you to check in for your flight, change seats or select meal preferences.  In addition, the App will have up-to-date travel information, sometimes even before it displays on airport information screens.  Travelers can also opt-in for travel alerts to notify them of flight delays, gate changes, or flight cancellations.  Some airline Apps even allow you to watch airline entertainment from your mobile device.  These are just a few of the advantages of having the airline App when traveling.  So, if you plan to travel, check if the airline you plan to travel on has an App and download it before you go.

Flight booking Apps.

Plenty of flight booking Apps are available that all claim to help you find the best trip at the best price.  The best perk of a flight booking App is that it compares many flight options all in one place.  The best flight booking App depends on the travelers’ preferences and priorities.  Some Apps will help you with the best time to book and purchase a ticket.  Some are better if you want a guaranteed refund in the event of delay or cancellation.  Most importantly, travelers can set alerts for price drops and can take advantage of flight bargains when available.  Like airline Apps, flight booking Apps also keep all your flight information in one location, even previous booking information.  In addition, many flight booking Apps will also provide options for hotel or rental car information and suggest tourist trips or destination information.  Whether you have precise flight booking needs or flexibility with your travel dates or destination, a flight booking App is a great place to start.

Hotel Apps.

Hotel Apps allow travelers to create a more customized experience and a convenient way to discuss their hotel needs with the hotel.  Many hotel Apps now have a mobile check-in and check-out process and mobile key cards for hotel room access.  With some hotel Apps, hotel guests no longer have to interact with front desk personnel or stand in line for check-in or request a room upgrade.  The hotel App may also link other hotel services such as ordering room service, booking dining reservations, making spa appointments, or requesting your car from the valet.  Like the airline and flight booking Apps, hotel Apps allow guests to have all their booking information in one location.  If you plan a hotel stay, see if your hotel has an App, and take advantage of the many benefits it may provide.

These are just a few of the available travel Apps and I did not name any specifically because I think preference is personal.  If you want a more customized travel experience, travel Apps may help you realize a better service experience.  Do you use any travel apps?  Comment below and let me know.