Using Your Credit Card Abroad: Everything You Need to Know

22 April 2018

Gone are the days of using traveller’s checks while visiting a new country. Nowadays, we avoid the hassle of converting foreign currencies by using mostly plastic money. Although there are still a few remote places around the world where you will need cash, you should be able to get around by using credit cards while travelling.
Here are a few things you should know before travelling with a credit card.

1- Travel Insurance

Most people believe that it’s unnecessary to get a comprehensive travel insurance because they are protected by their credit card company. While this is true in some cases and for a limited number of days, it is advisable to contact your travel insurance agent to make sure that you have full coverage for your entire trip. As any purchase made with your credit card, flights and hotel reservations might be protected with your card in case of trip cancellation. Get all the information from your issuing bank before your departure to avoid any surprises during your trip.

2- Bank Fees

It’s worth shopping around for a bank that has no withdrawal fees when using foreign ATMs. Those fees can add up quickly when both banks charge you. It’s important to note that ATMs located in airports and in central tourist hubs have higher transaction fees. If possible, stay away from those. When using your credit card abroad, your bank will automatically charge you its own exchange rate, which is not always the most competitive. Also, while in some countries it’s illegal to do so, a lot of places will charge you an extra percentage for paying with your credit card instead of paying cash. It’s normally around 3-5%, so make the extra effort of calculating, if withdrawing money or using your card makes more sense. Lastly, be aware that doing a cash advance at an ATM with your credit card might incur extra interest fees.

3- Credit Card Fraud

Always give your bank a call before your departure to inform them of your expected whereabouts. This little step will ensure that your card doesn’t get blocked because of suspected fraudulent activity. On that subject, be extra vigilant with credit card fraud when using an ATM machine or a card machine in a shop. While entering your PIN, always hide it with your other hand and keep an eye on your card at all times. If you think that you are a victim of fraud, have your bank’s hotline number accessible to quickly cancel your card. As an extra protection, consider having two different cards from two different issuing banks in case of theft, loss or fraud. Some cards like AMEX are not accepted everywhere so it’s good to have another card that you can use in those instances. If all else fails, carry a small amount of cash, preferably USD, as a backup payment method.

4- Pre-Departure Checklist

While you get ready to leave for your trip, check the expiry date of your credit card, especially when travelling long term. Having a card shipped across the world can be quite the hassle. For all your important documents, including your credit card, keep a paper copy and an electronic copy on your computer or cloud. Leave a copy of all these important documents with a trusted person back home. If possible, increase your credit card limit before leaving in case of emergency. Remember that just because you have more money available, it doesn’t mean that you should use it all. Having that extra protection will give you peace of mind if ever you need to purchase a last minute flight ticket for instance.

5- Safety

As with any other valuable, keep your credit card safe while traveling by always having it on your person, either in a money belt or in your daypack. You should also consider getting a RFID blocking wallet to protect your personal data. Leave your card in the safe of your hotel when you know you won’t be needing it during the day. If possible, do not bring it with you on a night out where it can be easily lost or forgotten. One last piece of advice, before leaving an ATM machine or a shop, make sure you take your card back.
Using a credit card while traveling is probably considered the most convenient method to pay for stuff and make reservations online. Keep these tips in mind the next time you go on a trip for safe travels, but don’t forget to have fun while discovering a new destination.

Is Travel Insurance Mandatory?

9 April 2018

Going on a trip is not as easy as just packing a swimsuit and sunglasses and call it a day! There is a lot of planning involved, including making a travel budget, creating an itinerary, checking visa requirements and getting the proper immunizations at a travel clinic. All of this can be quite overwhelming.

On top of all this preparation, one has to consider these mandatory travel requirements:

– Having a valid passport

It’s important to check the expiry date as well as the number of pages left since each country has different requirements.

– Applying for a tourist visa depending on the countries visited

Canadians can visit 101 countries without a visa so make sure to verify if your next destination falls in that list.

– Getting the proper vaccination

For instance, a Yellow Fever vaccine certificate might be required to visit certain countries.

– Having a return ticket

Even though it’s not always enforced, it can be necessary to show proof of onward travel or a return ticket to gain entry to some countries.

But What About Travel Insurance? Is That Compulsory?

The answer for the majority of the cases is: no! While having proper travel insurance is not mandatory, it is highly recommended. Although rarely enforced by custom officials, you could be asked to present a health insurance certificate showing that you can provide for yourself in case of a medical emergency.

That being said, there are still countries where Canadians will need to provide proof of a valid travel insurance in order to get a tourist visa. All the information concerning entry requirements can be found on the Foreign Affairs’ section of your government’s website. It is also advisable to confirm this information with your travel insurance agent.

According to the travel entry/exit requirements listed by the Government of Canada, here are the countries for which Canadians may be asked to show proof of travel insurance either upon arrival or to obtain a tourist visa:
Aruba : “proof of health insurance (or travel insurance that includes health coverage) are required to enter Aruba.”
Belarus : “you must present proof of valid medical insurance to enter Belarus. In addition, you will be required to purchase a mandatory state insurance at the port of entry.”
Bulgaria : “you must present proof of medical insurance (minimum €30,000 coverage) that is valid in the European Union (EU) and covers the costs of emergency medical care and repatriation.”
Cuba : “you must present proof of health insurance that is valid for the period of [the] stay in Cuba. Although proof of Canadian provincial health insurance is sufficient for visitors to enter Cuba, your provincial plan may cover only part of any medical costs incurred in Cuba and it will not pay the bill upfront, which is required at most hospitals.”
Falkan Islands : “you should show proof of insurance that covers air evacuation of up to US$200,000.”
Latvia : “you must be able to show sufficient proof of medical insurance to customs officials. The insurance must cover the entire length of your stay. If you do not have proof of insurance coverage, you may be required to obtain health insurance from a Latvian insurance company when you arrive.”
Lithuania : “You must be able to show sufficient proof of medical insurance to customs officials or purchase short-term insurance upon arrival.”
Slovakia : “Customs officials may ask you to show proof of health insurance.”

In many countries, for any visa other than a tourist visa (which most likely means an extended stay in the country) you may be requested to show proof of travel insurance.

Beyond country-specific demands, there are certain types of travel that will also require you to purchase travel insurance. Tours operators, tourism companies, safaris and cruises sometimes have very strict restrictions concerning travel insurance. To be compliant with the booking, it is often mandatory to obtain a travel insurance plan that fits their requirements.

Ultimately, it is your decision to get or not a travel insurance. No matter how many precautions you might take, an accident or a natural catastrophe cannot be predicted. The choice of not having a travel insurance will have an impact on you and your relatives that will have to cover outstanding medical bills if anything was to happen.

Without thinking of all the risks associated with travelling, buying travel insurance is the smartest decision one can make regarding travel plans. After all, travelling should be a source of joy and excitement so make sure to get travel insurance for your next trip now. If you can afford to travel than you can afford travel insurance. In this case, you can see it as the one thing that you will pack and be happy if you never have to use it.

Article by Nomad Junkies team

Planning a Round-the-World Trip: 7 Questions to Ask

2 April 2018

You want to travel the world but you have no idea where to start? If you presume that a round-the-world trip is an unattainable dream that can only be considered if you’re very wealthy, think again! Contrary to popular belief, going around the world is actually very simple and accessible. Here are seven questions to ask yourself to help you organize your trip.

1) How much time do you have?

Technically, you could go around the world in less than 48 hours if you were to take consecutive flights. But, where would be the fun in that? The beauty of a round-the-world trip is to discover faraway destinations, soak up local culture and try new experiences. In order to plan this big journey, you will need to answer an essential question: Do you have to be back in your home country at a specific point in time? Do you have obligations? Having the liberty to travel without a return date rather than having a time-limit will affect your decision-making process.

2) Do you plan on working abroad?

You want to live out like you’re retired, but can you actually afford it? You should consider working in one of the countries you will visit to replenish your bank account and gain work experience abroad. Australia and New Zealand are the most popular destinations to earn money while travelling.

Websites like WorkAway, WWOOF, HelpX and Helpstay can help you stretch your dollars by promoting work exchanges (a few hours of work in exchange for food and lodging).

3) How much money do you have saved up?

Did you put aside money? Calculate the amount of money you saved thus far for your travels and add any future income you will receive while you’re away (e.g. a tax return). For a round-the-world trip, you should budget between $30 to $100 per day according to your chosen destinations. Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to travel on a small budget with low-cost airlines and the sharing economy (by using Couchsurfing, Airbnb or ride sharing for instance).

4) Which countries are on your wish list?

Planning a round-the-world trip requires a bit of an introspection. It’s an opportunity to delve deep into your soul to reveal what really thrills you. What do you aspire for? Follow your heart’s desires! Perhaps all you want to do is sit back and relax on a paradise island doing absolutely nothing. On the opposite, do you wish to take on a physical and mental challenge by going on a trek in the Himalayas? You could be dreaming of visiting World Wonders from Machu Picchu to the Great Pyramids. Maybe you hope to develop new skills such as learning a foreign language. You could also fantasize about participating in various extreme sports like bungee jumping, skydiving, paragliding and rock climbing. Do you visualize yourself exploring the marine life while scuba diving? May it be landmarks or activities, continue to feed your wandering mind. There’s nothing more exhilarating than making dreams a reality.

5) Which direction are you going and in which order?

By evaluating your budget, the amount of time you have available and your level of comfort towards the unknown, you can roughly sketch the outline of your round-the-world trip. If you purchased a one-way ticket, you can easily change your itinerary to suit your desires (or your encounters). There’s nothing wrong with travelling in the opposite direction to what was originally planned.
While you are travelling long-term, you will find some comfort by going back to a destination that you are already familiar with. Bangkok, for instance, might not be love at first sight, but once you get your bearings, it will actually grow on you. It can also be a base camp to recharge your batteries before continuing your journey through Asia. It’s important to find places where you can allow yourself some time to rest. After all, you’re not doing a race around the world.

6) Do you need visas or shots?

Even though Canadians can visit 101 countries without a visa, check beforehand the immigration laws of your next destination. Certains pays nécessitent que tu te déplaces en personne à l’ambassade avec des papiers précis et des photos pour te procurer un visa. Il faut donc prévoir le temps et le montant nécessaires.

In terms of mandatory or recommended vaccinations, it’s advisable to have it done prior to your departure at a travel clinic. Even if you’re still undecided about where you are going, it’s better to share your estimated itinerary with your doctor to see which one is relevant to get. Some countries might require a proof of yellow fever immunization, so keep an up-to-date version of your vaccination record.

7) How to pick a good travel insurance for a round-the-world trip?

Make sure you can extend your travel insurance while you are abroad. If the length of your trip is not fixed or if your plans change, call your insurance company before your coverage comes to term. In certain cases, if your travel insurance is already expired, it might not be possible to renew it without having to go back to your home country (which can put a damper on a round-the-world trip).

Decide whether or not your round-the-world trip will include stops in Canada and the United States. Most travel insurance coverages increase in price when your journey takes you to Canada or the United States. You can select between a “Worldwide EXCLUDING Canada/United States” or a “World INCLUDING Canada/United States” coverage.

Be aware that certain countries are excluded from your coverage. Some insurance policies don’t cover trip destinations with a Travel Warning issue by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, such as war zone countries. Check out the Government of Canada website (travel.gc.ca) to find out the risk level of your next destination under the “Travel Advice and Advisories” tab. When in doubt, call your travel insurance company to confirm that the countries you will visit are included in your policy.

Choose more than just a medical coverage. When you travel long-term you can select an “All Inclusive Package” which provides coverage for additional components such as travel baggage and personal effects in case of loss or theft. This guarantees to give you peace of mind during your round-the-world trip.

What’s stopping you from travelling around the world? Go ahead, do it!

Article by Nomad Junkies team

Snowbird insurance is never frozen in time

26 December 2017

Whether or not to take out medical insurance when you are a retired traveler is a question that is becoming less of an issue in 2018. Travel insurance is perceived as must-have protection for any Snowbird traveler, whether they are traveling for a short or a long time. Irrespective of the destination, be it Florida, Arizona, or Mexico, the reality of health costs abroad is a serious consideration. Bad experiences shared between Snowbirds or dramatic situations that have made the headlines, they are recurrent problems. Canadian retirees now better understand the financial risks of hospitalization in the United States or elsewhere.

Every year, many Snowbirds think about their next trip, either in the initial phase of budget planning or as a last-minute decision. The choice of travel insurance invariably arises.

Fewer retired travelers now perceive travel insurance as a useless expense. The most refractory still argue the following reasons for not taking out travel insurance:
– They only predict a short stay;
– They are in good health;
– They do not think they will have new complications to a pre-existing state of health;
– They will not participate in risky activities;
– The insurance premium is too high, and they prefer to take the risk.

The reality of travel can quickly catch up with such travelers. A traffic accident, a fall, food poisoning, or the unforeseen occurrence of a health problem, are all events that are covered by travel insurance.

Conversely, a traveler with insurance will be ensured of having medical coverage in good standing for the duration of their stay abroad. However, meeting the eligibility criteria and accurately completing the medical questionnaire and without omission, is not a guarantee of absolute protection.

Snowbird travel insurance should reflect the state of health at all times

When establishing the travel insurance policy, it does not constitute a fixed protection in time. A travel insurance policy must reflect the pre-existing medical conditions as well as any medical conditions known on the effective date. The date upon which the policy is taken out could be several weeks or even several months before the travel insurance cover starts.

The answers to the medical questionnaire formulated on the subscription date will not always remain the same if the medical questionnaire was requested again on the effective date of the insurance. Indeed, any change in the state of health between these two dates potentially modifies the answers to the health questionnaire.

It is the insured traveler’s responsibility to contact their broker or insurance representative to inform them of any change in their state of health between the date of subscription and that of their departure on vacation. Whether it’s a medication discontinuation, a change in dosage, an emergency room consultation, or new symptoms diagnosed, it is imperative to make sure that the traveler remains eligible for the insurance cover. Some changes will have no impact. Others may cause an increased insurance premium due to the change in the period of stability for a particular medical condition. Failure to comply with this requirement could result anything directly or indirectly related to this medical condition being excluded from the insurance cover.

If a claim is made on the policy during the stay abroad, the insurer will consult the Canadian medical record of the insured. It will have consequences even if the nature of the health costs incurred is unrelated to the undeclared change in health status that occurred prior to departure. The consequences could be that the insurer will not non-reimburse the cost medical treatment incurred.

Incidence during a trip covered by two separate insurance companies

When a Snowbird opts for coverage consisting of an annual insurance and a single-trip insurance policy, each underwritten by a different insurer, a point of vigilance requires attention.

When the second insurance policy becomes effective, all medical events or changes in the state of health occurring during the period of cover provided by the first insurer is counted for the second insurer. It is, therefore, imperative to contact your broker or insurance representative during your trip. The second insurer must be told what happened during the first insurance period. Otherwise, the risk of exclusion from insurance benefits is possible.

Travel insurance never covers all situations

After making all the arrangements so that the travel insurance accurately reflects their medical history, the Snowbird traveler must keep in mind certain clauses of their insurance policy. Most travel insurance for Snowbirds establishes a list of exclusions. Some situations ensure that a claim will not be honored such as:
– Failure to submit a police report, or proof of purchase in case of theft or loss of material property;
– Any accident caused by intoxication;
– The visit to a country that is deemed to be a high-risk destination;
– Participating in some extreme sports;
– Etc.

Each traveler must take the time to read all exclusions from its contract. They can discuss these provisions with their insurance broker to understand the scope and implications depending on their destination, or the activities planned during their trip.

The retired Snowbird is invited to carefully read their certificate of insurance and the insurance policy. Understanding all the terms and conditions protects them from misunderstanding their medical protection. They must be proactive at the slightest change concerning their medical file. Their insurance broker is there to adjust the travel insurance to maintain eligibility and the highest level of medical coverage.

Tropical Diseases: What You Need to Know About Dengue

4 December 2017

What’s worse: a mosquito or a Great White shark? For starters, the chances of getting bit by a mosquito are much higher than being bit by a shark. Furthermore, in the last few decades, mosquitoes have been recognized as one of the deadliest animals on the planet. In non-tropical environment, they might seem quite harmless (albeit very annoying), but in the majority of the world, they are known for spreading deadly diseases.

This doesn’t mean that one should stay at home with their windows tightly shut to avoid any contact with mosquitoes. Rather, it’s best to be well informed and use caution, especially when visiting an at-risk country.

What Is Dengue?

Dengue is a tropical disease transmitted by a mosquito carrying one of four dengue viruses, which can cause flu-like symptoms. It can take three to fourteen days, after the initial bite, to develop symptoms of the virus. In its worst case, dengue can occasionally evolve into severe hemorrhagic dengue.

Where is Dengue Endemic?

According to the Travel health and safety guidelines issued by the Government of Canada, dengue “is widespread in regions of Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean, the Eastern Mediterranean, South and Southeast Asia, and Oceania.”

Mosquitoes transmitting the virus can usually be found in urban and suburban areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that “40% of the world’s population lives in areas where there is a risk of dengue transmission.” A visit to a travel clinic prior to departure will provide you with the details of at-risk zones and advisories based on your health condition.

How to Prevent Dengue?

Unlike Malaria, there are no known immunizations (vaccines or medication) against dengue. Without resorting to paranoia every time one gets a mosquito bite, there are ways to reduce the risk of getting bit in the first place.

– Cover yourself:
Wear pale, loose-fitting clothing that cover the entire body during peak mosquito periods. Wear closed shoes and a scarf if necessary.
– Avoid certain times of the day:
With mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus, this means the time around sunrise and sunset. During those times, stay indoors or wear appropriate clothing.
– Stay in places with air conditioning:
If available, pick a room with A/C, which is normally more sealed. Otherwise, make sure that windows have screens and sleep under a bed net for added protection (check ahead of time if your accommodation can provide you with one).
– Wear DEET insect repellent:
Although many prefer more natural repellents, DEET is known to be the most effective and powerful against mosquito bites. It should only be applied on exposed skin. Alternatively, you can try picaridin which is safer to use on children.
– Stay away from areas where there is standing water:
Mosquitoes lay eggs and spread in areas with standing water such as ponds, kids pool, buckets, flower vases or containers filled with rain water. What can be emptied should always be taken care of to avoid infestation.
– Keep a good air circulation:
Because mosquitoes are not very strong, any breeze or wind is likely to keep them away. It’s advisable to have a fan in the bedroom or other communal rooms.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Dengue?

In mild cases of dengue, symptoms can last from two to seven days. Anyone who has ever contracted the virus will agree that dengue feels like being hit by a train. The symptoms to look out for, especially after having been bit by a mosquito in an at-risk area, are:
– High fever (anything over 38.5 °C should be considered serious)
– Intense headache
– Pain behind the eyes
– Joint, muscle or bone pain
– Fatigue (which can in time lead to lethargy)
– Nausea (also causing vomiting)
– Skin rash (usually on the abdomen)
– Mild bleeding in some more severe cases

If those symptoms persist for more than three days, it is advisable to seek medical help immediately.

How to Treat Dengue?

Unfortunately, there are no treatments available for a dengue infection. A doctor’s visit with appropriate testing will confirm if the disease has been contracted or not. As a side note, make sure to have adequate travel insurance before consulting a doctor abroad. Even getting a simple IV to treat dehydration caused by the virus could lead up to substantial fees. Get travel insurance for your upcoming trip now.

Dengue symptoms can be alleviated by taking pain killers, keeping hydrated and resting. Stay clear of tablets such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or Naproxen Sodium (Aleve) which can have adverse effects with symptoms of dengue. Instead, to relieve the fever and the pain, use Acetaminophen (Tylenol). Consult a pharmacist or doctor if in doubt.

Given the widespread of dengue, it would be unfortunate to avoid travelling altogether. By following these precautions, knowing how to identify the symptoms and taking the necessary measures if the virus is contracted, it is not only possible but still safe to explore the world around us. Put your trousers and long sleeve, spray some mosquito repellent and go enjoy that beautiful sunset!

“Dengue Fever.” Government of Canada, May 3, 2016, travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/diseases/dengue. Accessed June 23, 2017.

“Dengue – Epidemiology.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 9, 2014, www.cdc.gov/dengue/epidemiology/index.html. Accessed June 23, 2017.

Article by Nomad Junkies team

5 Things to Consider Before Moving Abroad

28 November 2017

Travelling to a destination and making the commitment to move your entire life there are two completely different things! When visiting a new country as a tourist, you only get to scratch the surface of what the place has to offer. You might spend your time exploring landmarks, doing some sightseeing of popular tourist attractions and eating at top-rated restaurants.

Alternatively, moving abroad, whether for work, for school, for fun or even for love, gives you the opportunity to truly absorb the essence of a destination and fully integrate as a local citizen. It’s a chance to reinvent yourself with all the challenges and rewards that come with it.

Perhaps you might have this romanticized fantasy of living in a foreign country, perpetuated by countless movies and books, where you’re sipping a coffee in Paris, joining an Ashram in India or surfing barrels in Australia. However, the reality is that moving abroad requires a large amount of planning, preparation and organization.

Here are five things you need to consider prior to making your big move:

1. VISA

First, you will need to research the visa requirements. Establish how you will spend your time in your new host country to evaluate the type of visa necessary. For instance, Canadians between the ages of 18 and 35 have the possibility to legally work abroad with a Working Holiday visa thanks to Canada’s reciprocity agreements with many countries. Check International Experience Canada for more details on how to apply.

However, if volunteering is what you have in mind, you could be subjected to the same immigration laws than someone working for an actual wage. In that respect, allow sufficient time before your departure to research those specific visa conditions.

Since not all countries operate with an equal level of efficiency; plan this step ahead of time. Applying for a visa can quickly become an administrative nightmare especially when having to deal with foreign bureaucracy. Remember to use patience and understanding during that process. This essential step should go hand-in-hand with subscribing to a travel insurance plan. Call your travel insurance agent to find the best solution for your upcoming expatriation.

2. HOUSING

Begin your search for housing solutions before you arrive to help reduce the stress associated with this step. Allow yourself to get your bearings by staying at a hotel/guesthouse for the first few days while you explore the different neighborhoods.

If your belongings are not following you on this journey, look into serviced apartments or shared accommodation which are already furnished. This minimizes the commitment while enjoying all the amenities of a full home setting. Search for local Facebook groups to help you in this process using keywords such as “Take Over my Lease”, “short-term rentals” or “roommates wanted”. Forums for expats and classified ads in the local newspaper are also a great starting point for finding your new home away from home.

It is likely that you will have to provide one or two months worth of rent as a security deposit, so keep this in mind when budget planning. You should also put aside a small “setting up” fund to cover expenses such as bedding, bathroom supplies and kitchen utensils. Regarding utilities, you should inquire beforehand if electricity, water and Internet are included or if you need to set it up on your own.

3. SAFETY

You can only call a place home once you feel safe and sound there. There are many factors to evaluate the safety of a destination. Check the political climate as an indicator of potential political unrest in the country. You can easily find this information on your government’s foreign affairs website.

Other aspects to consider are the weather and the likeliness of natural disasters. Some regions of the world are more at risk for monsoons, floods, hurricanes, volcano eruptions, earthquakes, etc. These events being so unpredictable, you must ensure that you have a valid travel insurance which will cover you in the case of such a catastrophe.

Finally, familiarize yourself with basic local safety precautions. Inquire about less safe neighborhoods and practise the same level of safety as you do at home. Avoid walking alone at night, don’t expose your valuables in public and use your common sense for any other situation. Pick a destination where you know you will feel comfortable and at ease as moving abroad would be quite unfulfilling if you had to spend all your time locked inside your house.

4. COSTS

It can be challenging to establish the perfect budget for living abroad. As a rule of thumb, you want to have, based on your destination, at least $6000 saved up as an emergency fund. This will help cover your needs until you are settled in and money starts coming in again.

Depending on your chosen accommodation option, relocating to a new country involves moving costs. Since airlines will charge substantial fees for any overweight luggage, consider having non-urgent items shipped to you by freight or boat.

Websites like Numbeo can help you evaluate the cost of living by comparing the prices of different destinations. It also provides indicators such as housing, health care, traffic, crime and pollution.

5. SETTLING IN

Moving to a foreign country requires flexibility to adapt to this new life you are creating for yourself. Things will be different and it might be challenging at times, especially if you are faced with a language barrier. You might feel lonely, isolated and find it harder to make friends. Those are all normal feelings experienced by the majority of new immigrants and expats. There are ways to make the transition of moving abroad smoother and minimize the culture shock.

A few months before your departure, you could attend a language school. Just by acquiring a basic proficiency, you will be able to navigate your way around more easily. Once there, you could also register for language classes offered to new immigrants. Not only will you connect with people dealing with the same struggles as you, it will give you the confidence to interact with locals in their mother tongue.

Another way to meet people and make new friends is to volunteer for an organization which mission you endorse. More options include inviting colleagues for drinks or coffee outside of work, signing up for a workout class at your local gym, attending meetups or couchsurfing gatherings or joining an Expat support group on Facebook. The possibilities are endless as long as you keep an open mind. On top of raising your general happiness level, creating a strong social network will help to settle down in a new country.

If living abroad is something you wish to experience at least once in your life, gather your strength and courage and make the move: book that flight, apply for that visa and find the perfect travel insurance plan for your needs. Don’t let small roadblocks intimidate you, instead imagine this exciting new life spent discovering and embracing a new foreign culture. Remember that if all else fails, home is not as far as you think it is.

Article by Nomad Junkies team

Top 12 International Destinations for Canadians Snowbirds (beside Florida)

19 October 2017

One perk of retirement is having the luxury of deciding where to spend those cold winter months. Picking an affordable tropical destination where you can enjoy a pleasing weather and a bustling community can be quite the task.

For thousands of Canadian snowbirds, the choice is simple: the sunshine state of Florida! With big communities of active retirees, Florida is the most visited state by Canadians for extended stays. Trends show that people from Quebec have a preference for the Atlantic Coast of the Sunshine state while Ontarians tend to favour the West Coast. Popular spots include St. Petersburg, Hollywood Beach, Fort Myers, West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach.

While Florida receives the largest number of snowbirds every winter, there are many more places where you can soak in some vitamin D while also engaging in multiple outdoor activities, meeting other active members of the community and making the most out of retirement.

Here is a list of 12 destinations to discover in the United States, Latin America and Europe for Canadian snowbirds.

UNITED STATES

As the Canadian dollar is slowly rebounding, the United States remains a favourite among Canadian snowbirds. The proximity, the language and the culture are all factors why, year after year, flocks of retirees find their home across the border during those harsh winter months. Here are five states which are worth considering:

– California
The West Coast attracts a lot of visitors with its abundance of national parks offering great hiking trails and a multitude of canyons to discover. California also caters to beach lovers and wine lovers wanting to explore its lush wine country. Canadian snowbirds will appreciate these all-time favourites: Palm Springs, San Diego, La Quinta, Napa and Palm Desert.

– Arizona
The Valley of the Sun offers unlimited golfing options with over 300 golf courses in the State. It is undoubtedly a golfer’s paradise! Settled in a more desert landscape, Arizona has drier temperatures which allow for cooler nights (around 20 degrees), perfect to engage in outdoors and wildlife activities. Five popular spots for snowbirds in Arizona are Scottsdale, Phoenix, Tucson, Sedona and Mesa.

– Texas
Positioning itself as a good market for shorter term leasing options, Texas has something for everyone. From outdoor activities, beaches and a vibrant art scene, this southern state is still an affordable alternative for those wanting to enjoy a more subtropical climate. Dallas, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Plano and Galveston are the most sought-after destinations for seasonal travellers.

– Hawaii
The dream of paradise awaits! With imposing volcanoes, green jungles and stunning beaches, Hawaii is the ultimate destination to escape winter. Although being a little more expensive, Hawaii offers unparalleled scenery while avoiding the cultural shock of other tropical countries. More affordable cities which are very popular with snowbirds include Maui, Hilo, Pahoa, Princeville and Waikiki.

– New Mexico
Surrounded by mountains, gorges and canyons, the outstanding landscapes of New Mexico attract more adventurous travellers. The rich native culture, the variety of outdoor activities and a blooming foodies’ scene are all reasons to head to this state before it becomes too popular. For extended stays, these are the five cities not-to-miss in New Mexico: Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Alamogordo and Caballo.

LATIN AMERICA

With the weakness of the Canadian dollar, it might be tempting to consider more exotic and international destinations. Of course, there might be a bit of a language barrier, but many of those places have growing expat communities making the integration a lot smoother. Here are five Latin countries to discover:

– Mexico
As a classic destination for Canadian snowbirds, Mexico is blessed with beaches that extend as far as the eye can see on both coasts. While still offering a lot of western amenities, it is possible to explore historic towns, Mayan temples and ruins. The most popular spots for Canadian retirees to settle down during the winter months are Lake Chapala, Oaxaca, Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen and San Miguel de Allende. Travellers are highly encouraged to exercise caution due to the increased crime rate in certain Mexican states.

– Belize
This Latin country, still a hidden gem, is home to the second largest reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The white sand beaches with turquoise water are not the only ways Belize is attracting more and more snowbirds: the Qualified Retired Person Incentive Program makes it even simpler to retire to this idyllic country. Growing expat communities can be found in Ambergris Caye, Corozal, Punta Gorda and Stann Creek.

– Dominican Republic
Not just a holiday destination, the Dominican Republic is becoming a popular low-cost Caribbean alternative for Canadian snowbirds. Many will fall in love with its tropical weather, crystal clear beaches and its selection of outstanding golf courses. Aside from widely known Punta Cana, it is possible to enjoy the Caribbean Sea in towns like Sosua, Las Terrenas, La Romana and Santiago.

– Panama
This Central America country not only has great infrastructures, a good health care system and widely spoken English, they also have the Visa Pensionado program to attract retirees. Through this initiative, they provide an easy visa allowing for long-term stays and various senior discounts on recreation and entertainment facilities, public transport, accommodation, restaurants, medical services and many more amenities. Popular destinations to relocate for the winter include Panama City, Coronado, Santa Fe and Boquete.

– Nicaragua
The historic cities of Granada and Leon not only boast a colourful colonial style, but have been seeing an increasing number of expats and retirees. Nicaragua offers one of the most affordable costs of living in Central America along with welcoming people, beautiful beaches and lush jungles. Granada, Leon, Matagalpa and the area around San Juan del Sur are the most common destinations for long-term travellers.

EUROPE

The increase of low-cost carriers offering extremely low airfares for transatlantic flights has created a revival of popularity for The Old continent. As many European countries are slowly recovering from the recent economic downturn, one can expect cheaper prices, especially for long-term travellers. Here are two attractive destinations, where the weather is still enjoyable during the winter months:

– Portugal:
Known for its wine and rich cultural history, Portugal has much more to offer such as world-class golf courses, amazing beaches, fishing and hiking. With a cost of living lower than most other European destinations, it’s no surprise that Portugal attracts more and more retirees each year. Popular spots among those wishing to spend their winter months in Portugal include the coastal region of Algarve, the Silver Coast, Alentejo, Lisbon and Cascais.

– Spain:
With year-long great weather, impressive infrastructure, easily accessible amenities and all-around vibrant culture, Spain remains a favourite among retirees. Many Canadian snowbirds are charmed by the eclectic art scene, the rich history and the world-famous gastronomy of Spain. Spanish destinations receiving a growing number of seasonal travellers are Bilbao, Nerja, Granada, Málaga and Madrid.

Before heading out to any of those exotic destinations, make sure to have a valid travel insurance suited to your needs and health conditions. Contact your travel insurance agent now to find the best plan for you. A good coverage will give you the necessary peace of mind for your next extended stay in the sun!

Most Frequently Asked Questions About Travel Insurance

12 September 2017

To get or not to get travel insurance, that is the question. As many people start planning their trip, whether during the budgeting phase or as a last-minute decision, the consideration of subscribing to a travel insurance will inevitably pop up.

Some might view it as an unnecessary cost because they are only taking a short trip, they are in good health, they won’t engage in “at-risk activities” or any other excuse they might come up with. Not only is this foolish, but the sole reason for having an insurance is to cover you in case of an unpredictable event. Now that it’s established that one should not travel without a proper travel insurance, how does one make an informed decision with all the questions that it raises?

Here are the Most Common Questions Regarding Travel Insurance:

Is Travel Insurance Mandatory?

Normally, travel insurance is not necessary to enter a country on a tourist visa. The best is to research the entry requirements ahead of time to confirm this information. However, in order to apply for certain types of visas, like a Working Holiday Visa for instance, you might have to show proof of travel insurance to be granted the visa.

In any case, having travel insurance might not be mandatory, but it is highly recommended. It’s the kind of purchase you won’t think is necessary until you actually need it. Make sure to get your travel insurance now for your next trip.

Travellers needing a visa to enter European countries in the Schengen area are required to purchase travel insurance with a minimum coverage of 30,000 Euros. This requirement does not apply to Canadian travellers.

What Types of Travel Insurance Are There?

There are many types of insurance available to fit different situations and travel styles. A call with your travel insurance agent will be the best option to assess your needs. Basically, there are four major pillars to travel insurance: Travel Health Insurance, Medical Evacuation Insurance, Trip Cancellation Insurance and Baggage/Property Insurance. Some packages will also offer additional coverage for flight delay, accident or personal civil liability.

What Is Not Covered by Travel Insurance?

No one wants to read through an insurance policy! However, there are things that will definitely not be covered by your travel insurance if you make a claim such as: failure to declare pre-existing medical conditions (ex. Chronic ailments, pregnancy or any disease which was not contracted while travelling), failure to involve the police or show proof of ownership in the event of theft or loss, any accident that occurred while intoxicated, travelling through a high-risk zone, engaging in certain extreme sports, etc. Make sure to contact your travel insurance agent to validate the exclusions, conditions and limitations of your policy.

Am I Already Covered by My Credit Card Company?

Travel insurance issued by credit card companies should be regarded with caution. It is really important to understand the contract and its limitation. Some cards will cover trips up to a certain number of days while others will only cover purchases (ex. Flights, hotel reservations, etc.) made with the credit card. By having a good comprehension of your policy, you might find that it requires an additional complementary coverage from an external travel insurance company.

Nowadays it is less common to get coverage for flight accident through credit cards. Only all-inclusive packages provided through your travel insurance broker or through an insurance company directly will guarantee this additional coverage.

When Should I Subscribe to a Travel Insurance?

No matter what the type of insurance you wish to obtain, it should be purchased when the travel plans are official or money towards the trip has been spent on transportation or accommodation. Perhaps getting a travel insurance quote should be on the same level of priority as checking for flights or booking a hotel.

How Much Does It Cost?

This varies greatly based on the age of each traveller, the length of the trip, the type of travel/traveller (e.g. expatriate, snowbird, exchange student, etc.), the destinations (including or excluding Canada/USA) and the health condition of the person insured.

When planning your travel budget, you should not neglect the importance of getting a travel insurance. If you think you don’t have enough money for it then maybe you should not travel in the first place. Having to pay for emergency medical services without having a proper insurance can potentially mortgage your future. For a few dollars a day, it’s very little paid to have peace of mind.

Travelling, as much as it is a wonderful experience, should not be a source of stress. Getting a travel insurance before your trip will help lift the pressure off your shoulder and allow you to relax during your holiday.

Avoid getting sick while traveling

27 August 2017

There is nothing more annoying than getting sick while traveling. Nobody wants to stay in their room or in the waiting room of a clinic instead of lounging on the beach or visiting tourist attractions!

In the case of accidents or serious illness, the best thing will always be to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses and provides assistance to find the best care. But for everything else?

Here are five things to consider to avoid getting sick while traveling or at least prevent minor ailments.

1- FOOD

– Begin to take probiotics a few weeks before your departure to strengthen your intestinal flora;
– Try to find fresh ginger when you arrive. In cases of discomfort due to indigestion or even to appease a small cough, it is the best medicine! Ginger can easily be consumed in a tea (some pieces infused in boiling water);
– Give a chance for your body to adjust, especially after the shock of jet lag! Gradually adopt the a new diet. In other words, eat vegetarian and not too spicy for the first few days. Once you have accustomed to the local flavors, you can start experimenting with more food;
– Eat fruits and vegetables that can be peeled, so are less at risk of contamination. Do not forget that even if they were rinsed, it does not mean that the water is drinkable;
– When it comes time to choose a restaurant, opt for a place with lots of traffic and frequented by locals. A high volume of clients means there is more turnover in food, so less chance of spoiled food.

2. WATER

– Stay hydrated at all times! It may also be useful to provide magnesium tablets or rehydration sachets containing electrolytes. Sometimes, some countries sell bottles of water devoid of minerals. This ensures that the water will quench thirst, but the body does not replenish minerals, which puts you at greater risk of suffering the effects of dehydration;
– Keep a small bottle of water in your room to brush your teeth, if the water is not usable;
– Pay attention to the ice! If you’re not sure, avoid taking it. Moreover, in many countries, the cans are kept in ice-filled coolers. As the level of safety is not the same everywhere and there are risks that the water used for ice is not safe, it is best to wipe the neck of the can before putting it to your lips.

3. BASIC FIRST AID

– Prepare a small first aid kit before you leave. Here is what we recommend having:
o Activated charcoal pills: against indigestion and diarrhea;
o Ibuprofen and acetaminophen: against pain and headaches;
o Antihistamine: against minor allergic reactions;
o Dressings: to cover injuries and reduce the risk of infection;
o Iodine: to disinfect wounds;
o Anti nausea: to reduce motion sickness;
o Aloe vera: apply aloe to soothe sunburn;
o Disinfectant for hands.
– Wash your hands with soap at every opportunity. This will greatly reduce the risk of transmission of bacteria and viruses.
– Ask the reception of your hotel to translate your symptoms before obtaining medication at the pharmacy. Before taking the medication, make sure you have the right dosage and that it is the right product to treat your problem.

4- MOSQUITOS

– In areas where the risk of contracting diseases such as malaria, dengue or Zika is higher, make sure you cover well at sunrise and sunset to protect you from mosquitoes. Also avoid places with standing water;
– Check with a travel clinic doctor whether malaria drugs are recommended for the regions visited.

5. TEMPERATURE

– Bring a scarf to cover your neck and your head. This will be especially convenient for all train journeys or bus where the air conditioning is at the maximum, as in many places in Southeast Asia;
– Protect your skin from the sun, either with a regular application of sunscreen or light clothing that covers the body. What’s worse than losing a day and avoiding the sun for the rest of your vacation because of a sunburn!

The list could be even longer if we added all the “grandmother tricks” we know. The golden rule is COMMON SENSE. We cannot repeat it often enough; prevention is better than cure!

Article by Nomad Junkies team

5 Tips to Plan Your Winter Escape to the USA

22 August 2017

With the days shortening and the shadow of below zero temperatures looming ahead, now is a good time to start planning your winter escape. Many snowbirds flock to our neighbours to the South for the best alternatives in terms of warmer weather and sunny destinations.

Sadly, gone are the days when the loonie was on par with the US dollar. This means that travelling for a longer period of time to the USA now requires a bit of planning in order to get more value for your holiday.

Here are five ways to help you save money during your next winter escape down South:

1. Bank and Credit Cards

When it comes down to currency exchange, there are three convenient options: converting a large sum of money before leaving, withdrawing local currency from an ATM or using a credit card when possible.

Using a credit card abroad will generally incur fewer fees, even considering the 2-3% foreign transaction fee imposed by credit card companies. Fortunately, according to the website Money We Have, there are a few credit cards available to Canadians with no foreign transaction fees, such as:
Marriott Rewards Premier Visa
Rogers Platinum MasterCard
– Fido MasterCard
Home Trust preferred Visa
Amazon.ca Rewards Visa Card

Another option is to get a US dollar credit card issued from a Canadian Bank. Alternatively, as some banks have branches in the States, you can also open a US bank account with them to avoid the ATM withdrawal and foreign transaction fees. With certain institutions, it is even possible to get the transfer fees from the Canadian account to the US account removed.

2. Transportation

Snowbirds who wish to migrate down south for the winter can choose to do so by land or by air. Driving your own car has been known to be the most cost-efficient method of transport. Not only are gas prices in the States much cheaper than in Canada, having your personal car will give you a lot more autonomy and freedom once you reach your destination. Here are a few things to consider before undertaking such a journey such as:
– Getting a full checkup of the vehicle;
– Verifying the validity of your driver’s licence, car registration, insurance and roadside assistance (contact your car insurance provider to make sure you are covered outside of the country);
– Anticipating additional costs such as toll, rest stops, parking fees/permits (in certain apartment complexes) or getting an international driver’s licence.
With the increase in low-cost carriers and incredible flight deals offered online, flying can also be an affordable way to reach your winter destination. Consider expanding your search to airports just south of the borders for even better deals. Flights to Florida leaving from Burlington tend to be much cheaper than from Montreal or Ottawa for instance. Keep in mind that once you’ve arrived at your destination, you might have to add the costs of renting a car or using public transport to get around.

3. Accommodation

From renting/leasing a condo to buying a holiday home to driving a RV, accommodation options will most likely take up a big chunk of your budget.

Owning a RV will allow for a more location-independent lifestyle. It can be very convenient and comforting to have your home on wheels without worrying about paying rent or the stress of owning a property abroad. However, this type of travelling might not be suitable for everyone.

For first-timers or those new to the snowbird way of life, renting a condo or a vacation home can be an interesting option. This will allow you to test out destinations before the long-term commitment of purchasing a secondary residence. Factors such as the location, the size and the services offered will obviously influence the costs.

Compared to buying, renting comes with many advantages such as not being tied down, avoiding insurance, property taxes and fees and having fewer responsibilities during the off months. However, to ensure that feeling of “home away from home” year after year, it might be necessary to book rentals well ahead of time. Here are some websites specialized in the vacation rental market:
VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner)
Homeaway.com
Vacationrentals.com
TripAdvisor (Vacation Rentals)
Airbnb

4. Destinations

Finding the ideal destination where to spend your winter months can be brain-racking. Before committing to one specific area, it is recommended to visit a few places for a shorter period to evaluate the living costs. Take the time to research where the closest amenities are, activities that are available and, of course, the kind of weather expected. Popular US States for Canadian snowbirds include Florida, Arizona, Texas and California.

Some destinations such as Virginia Beach, Scottsdale (Arizona) and Kissimmee (Florida) have been offering deals targeting snowbirds by matching the value of the Canadian dollar. This is to encourage tourism to destinations affected by the drop in the Canadian dollar. Also, don’t underestimate the appeal of less touristy spots within popular sunshine states.

Although the States are a very attractive destination for snowbirds, it could be worth looking into destinations further south in order to reduce costs. Countries like Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica have lower costs of living while not neglecting the sunshine factor.

5. Travel Insurance

Regardless of age or even health condition, travelling to the United States without proper travel insurance carries a lot of risks. Compared to Canada, receiving emergency health care in the US can result in huge financial ramifications. Snowbirds heading down south for the winter should be particularly aware of this, especially when leaving for an extended period of time.

Make sure to contact your travel insurance broker now to determine which plan is best suited for your needs regarding pre-existing health condition and the length of your trip. Having a private travel insurance will allow you to have peace of mind to enjoy those winter months under the sun. For more information about Snowbirds Travel Insurance, visit the FAQ section provided by Escapade Travel Insurance.

As more and more retirees wish to escape the grueling winter months, embracing a snowbird lifestyle can be an interesting alternative. Planning ahead with plenty of research and careful preparation will allow you get your dose of sunshine without breaking your budget.