We are officially one week away from our departure, and I’m very excited! In the past few days of packing and preparing, Zac and I have learned A LOT! You can find his updates on his surf blog also. Based on our research, here’s what we’ve learned about preparing for this trip! Hopefully it is helpful for those of you embarking on a similar adventure.
Not all countries require Visas for entry, and most of them allow single entry for either 15-30 days or less. We fall into that category for most, but still need Visas for Vietnam and China, and one on arrival for Indonesia. (FYI – Hong Kong is not always considered part of China, and you don’t need a Visa to go there.) Project Visa was a great resource for us when figuring out which countries require Visas. We also found some good information at Travel.state.gov.
Vietnam (Total for 2 = $86) – We opted for the Visa on Arrival. This allows you to pay a visa agency online to contact the Vietnam consulate and complete your Visa application. We picked My Vietnam Visa, and filled out one application for us both, for multiple entries and it was only about $46. We were emailed a Visa Acceptance letter for Vietnam, which we printed out and will bring with us to the Airport. The Visa on Arrival option is only available if you’re flying into the country because you must get it at the airport. If you’re traveling through Cambodia, Laos, etc. beforehand, you must have a Visa with you when you arrive. We have to pay another $20-$30 each for the stamping fee when we land, and supply paperwork and pictures at customs, but that’s about it.
China (Total for 2 = $340) – What an experience, and not in the good way! If you are going to China, you need a completed application, cash, a list of exactly where you’re going, addresses of where you’ll be staying, and at least a full day to spend wandering around Koreatown in LA. The LA consulate is open Mon-Fri from 9am to 2pm, and they’re closed for all U.S. and Chinese holidays. We arrived at the consulate in LA 2 hours before they open to avoid traffic and get in line early. At 7am we ate breakfast, at 8am we got in line behind 4 other people, and by 8:3o, there were at least 50 people waiting in line. They opened at 9:00am and had 4 service windows. You have the option to pick up your Visa the same day (add $30), in 2-3 days (add $20) or whenever it’s ready (included in price.) We had no choice but the first one, and they said come back between 1:45-2:00 to pick it up. We had a lot of hassle at first because we didn’t have the right addresses on our forms, etc., but in the end we figured it out. We came back at 1pm and they gave it to us early. :)
Indonesia (Total for 2 = $50) – Haven’t gotten it yet, but research tells us we can just get it when we get there for about 25 USD. Hopefully it’s as easy as it sounds!
Deciding What to Bring
Would you prefer to carry everything you could possibly need, and throw it away if it gets too bulky? Or pack light and purchase on the way? I’d go for the latter. If you’re a traveler, you know that less is more, and every guidebook will tell you the same. Zac unpacked and repacked his backpack at least 5 times as he got rid of things. I’m a little more neurotic than he is though, and scared to be on an 8-hour bus ride in Cambodia without bandages and Neosporin. We’re packing pretty minimally, with each of us carrying 1 backpack and 1 laptop case.
Shots, Drugs, & First Aid
We weren’t technically “required” to get any shots, but we both opted to get our Tetanus (TDAP – tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) and typhoid vaccinations.
Tetanus & Typhoid – Zac got the shot and I took the pills. You will feel a little weird afterward though. Zac’s shots were both on the same day and he was tired, nauseous, and loopy. The Tetanus shot didn’t affect me at all. For the Typhoid pills, you have 4 live bacteria pills, and you take one every other day with a full glass of cold water, an hour before you eat, and at least a week before you leave. It was cheaper with my insurance, and only made me feel a little loopy and tired. It also made me feel like I had arthritis in my hands…not sure what that side effect is called.
Malaria Pills – Many people recommend malaria pills, but we decided against them. They are often given to soldiers in Iraq, and anyone who will be in remote towns. We shouldn’t be in any areas with high risks of Malaria, so we’re crossing our fingers and leaving it to chance.
Vitamins – We’re going with the Nature Made Multi Vitamin with Iron. The bottle may only last us a month, but it’s a start.
EmergenC – Planning to take this before and after every plane ride to boost our immune systems when we’re exposed to high concentrations of germs!
Immodium – Anti-dizza rizzle pills.
Tums – Antacid, and also Calcium.
Ibuprofen – ’nuff said
Excedrin – Basically pain reliever with caffeine.
Sleep Aids – We bought a generic sleep aid from CVS to help us sleep on buses, trains, and planes.
First Aid Kit – Just band aids and Neosporin!
Toiletries & Liquids
This gave me some grief. How am I supposed to get all my baby bottles of hand sanitizer and bug spray into the country if I can only bring 1 quart-size bag? Neurosis aside, we managed to squeeze in everything we really needed. I want them to make some ForceFlex travel bags so we can trick TSA. Muah-ha-ha. I checked with the Singapore airport, and their rules on liquids are about the same as ours here in the states. You can have individual containers of 3 oz. liquids, but all of them must fit in a single 1-quart bag.
Earplugs, adapters, converters, chargers, iPod, vitamins, band aids, tampons. (Seriously, I learned in Portugal and India that not everyone uses them. That was my culture shock.)
Pack light! You’ve heard it a million times, but light means light! We each have a 75% full backpack and a laptop case. In addition to the 25%, there are expansion options on the backpack if we have to carry more stuff. They’re heavy enough as they are!