Category Archives for "Travel Advice"

The Risks of Renting & Riding Scooters in Thailand – Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

The Risks of Renting & Riding Scooters in Thailand – Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Wherever you are in Thailand, whether it’s Phuket, Koh Samui, Bangkok or Chiang Mai, you will find scooters everywhere. It is the mode of transport most commonly used by locals, and most tourists and expats will agree that there is no reason not to make use of this affordable and convenient method of transport.

freemadic_chiang_mai_scooter_culture_gate

During our stays in Koh Samui and Chiang Mai, we too made use of this mode of transport and had a permanent scooter rental. We made a video of a scooter trip we did on Koh Samui.

When hiring a scooter, many tourists are not aware of what they are getting themselves into. In this post I’d like to help you understand the risks you take by riding a scooter in Thailand, and why sometimes it is better using a tuk tuk, a songthaew, a taxi or an Uber (in Bangkok only).

freemadic_chiang_mai_samoeng_loop_sean_lara_selfie

Over the past two years we’ve heard horror stories where tourists were riding scooters during their stay and got involved in serious accidents. These accidents have not only ended vacations abruptly, but left certain tourists bankrupt and lucky to be alive.

These three simple questions will help you decide whether or not to hire a scooter:

1. Do you have a motorbike license?

If you don’t have a motorbike license that let’s you ride legally at home, then you will be riding illegally in Thailand. For most visitors not having a motorbike license won’t cause any problems because scooter rental shops and the police generally don’t check or care. However – this is an important one – if you don’t have a license and get involved in an accident, then your medical travel insurance will most likely not cover you or the person on the back of your scooter.

2. Does your insurance cover motorbike accidents?

Most medical travel insurance will cover common accidents including scooter accidents, however as mentioned above, your insurance will not cover you if you are operating a motorcycle without a motorbike license. It’s always recommended to check the fine print to make sure you’re covered.

3. Are you an experienced motorcyclist?

Have you driven a scooter before? Do you have experience with lane splitting or lane sharing – this is when you drive in between and overtake slower cars? Have you driven a scooter with someone on the back before? Do you know how fast you can take a corner and how to conduct an emergency stop?

Many tourists have never driven a scooter, yet they take the risk of figuring it all out on their travels – sometime with a partner or family member on the back, which I’d strongly discourage.

Many tourists take the risks and get away with it, but some end up being the unlucky ones. I recently heard of a couple that got into a serious accident on their scooter and their medical insurance did not cover them. They ended up paying almost US$ 35 000 to cover their expenses of their medical bills and to replace the scooter that had to be written off.

If you can’t confidently answer yes to ALL of the above three questions, then I strongly suggest that you rather avoid renting and riding a scooter in Thailand. If you’re willing to throw caution to the wind and take the risks, then good luck and be safe, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Are you looking for medical travel insurance? We trust and recommend World Nomads.

8 Lessons I Learnt After Being Robbed While Travelling

8 Lessons I Learnt After Being Robbed While Travelling

On a recent trip to Istanbul the unthinkable happened – I got robbed. After an amazing first night out dining and laughing in this incredible city, I awoke early the next morning – around 5:30am – and noticed that there was a stranger in my rental apartment.

In my sleepy state I sat up in bed and watched as the stranger walked out the front door, not realising what was going on. I reached for my iPhone to activate the torch, but my iPhone was nowhere to be found. At this stage it hit me like a ton of bricks – I had been robbed!

A cat thief had climbed into my second floor apartment through a window that was left open, and while I was asleep he stole of my valuables including my iPhone, wallet with bank cards and drivers license, digital camera, cash and even my favourite travel pants which had my international drivers license in it.

Even though I was extremely upset and traumatised, it could have been so much worse, and I was grateful that I did not get hurt and that the thief did not take my laptop. Thinking back to that day, there is so much I would have done differently, but you live and learn.

To help you not make the same mistakes I did, here are the eight lessons that I learnt from being robbed:

1. Always Lock All Windows & Doors

Rather be safe than sorry, and no matter what floor of a building you are on, rather lock your windows (especially if there are no burglar bars). It’s easy to say “it’s highly unlikely that it will happen”, but rather make sure to prevent criminal activity from happening.

2. Don’t Get Distracted 

Arriving at a new destination is both exciting and distracting. My senses got overwhelmed with new sights, sounds and experiences. On my first day and night in Istanbul, I was enthralled by this new destination, and I got distracted and unfortunately I let my guard down, making me an easy target.

3. Crime Happens Everywhere

Coming from South Africa I’m well aware of crime and am usually very cautious, but no place is as safe or as dangerous as you think it is. Unless you are a local, or are travelling with a local that knows the area, you are always a target to criminals. Remember that crime can happen anywhere especially in tourist areas. Always stay alert!

4. Always Lock Away Your Valuables

Whenever possible take preventative action. While travelling in Southeast Asia, Lara and I were extremely cautious with our belongings and always locked away all valuables. Fortunately we did not fall victim to any theft during our six month stay. In Istanbul I got caught up in the moment, forgot about the basics, and paid the price.

5. Spread Your Cash & Bank Cards

Never keep all your cash and bank cards in one place like your wallet or purse. Get multiple ATM bank or cash cards in the event that one gets stolen or gets lost. Make sure to have an emergency fund in cash and always spread your cash. Not having cash or access to cash can cause huge problems and even ruin any trip. Unfortunately I had all three of my bank cards in my wallet which was stolen during the robbery, but I did have backup cash to use until I could get my bank card replaced. Having new cards couriered internationally was quite a challenge too.

6. Create Regular Backups

We often forget how valuable the contents of our digital devices are. Make sure to make regular backups of all your personal data from all your devices including mobile phones, laptops and tablets. Keep your backups on a separate external hard drive (that you can lock away) or even better, keep your backup in the cloud using one of many cloud based backup services.

7. Consider Using Cloud Based Services

As mentioned above, make sure that your data is safe and consider using one of many cloud based backup solutions. Doing backups to the cloud does involve transferring your files over the Internet, so if you won’t have reliable Internet access, then this may not be the best option. However you might decide to create a backup before leaving your last reliable Internet connection.

8. Have A Plan For Worst Case Scenarios

Being caught off guard and loosing my iPhone, drivers licenses, wallet and camera left me a bit empty handed. Make sure to plan ahead for these unlikely events, because they can and do occur. Have adequate travel insurance or funds to replace any important personal possessions, and most importantly make use of an app like 1Password to save all your sensitive personal data (passwords, pin codes, credit card numbers and emergency contact details) in a safe place that is accessible from the cloud.

Learn From My Mistakes & Don’t Be Discouraged

I often joke about this incident and choose to see the positive outcome. After having my iPhone stolen I spent a lot less time on my phone – checking emails and social media. I spent more time interacting with other travellers, locals and taking in all the amazing experiences.

Don’t let my experience and the risks of travelling put you off. Learn from my mistakes, plan your next adventure and make sure to visit Istanbul. Like any big city it can be dangerous, but there are too many unique and wonderful experiences that you will miss out on by not going.

Have you ever been a victim of crime or scams while travelling? Please share your experience with us on Twitter or on our Facebook.

How We Finance Our Lifestyle of Travel

How We Finance Our Lifestyle of Travel

We recently received a great question from Johann via Twitter. Johann (owner of Chalet Robyn’s Nest) asked us how we make money to upkeep our travel lifestyle. This is one of the most common questions we get as long-term travellers, and in this post I will explain five points that have helped us successfully finance our digital nomad lifestyle.


1. Long Term Travel Is More Affordable Than You Think

A typical two week overseas vacation that includes a few nights in a hotel, all inclusive meals, and a selection of tourist attractions can get rather expensive. By spending a longer period of time in each destination we visit – usually a month or longer – we reduce the cost of travel dramatically. For example, renting an apartment for a month can cost the same as spending a few nights in a four or five star hotel, or renting a scooter for month in Southeast Asia can cost the same as having your car serviced back home. By spreading our travel costs (including the cost for our visas and long haul flights) over a longer period of time, the average cost decreases substantially making it more affordable.

2. Valuing Experiences Over Possessions

We all have limited time, and most of us have limited disposable income, so deciding how we spend these two valuable resources is a huge decision. Over the past few years I have gone through a transition where I have downscaled my personal possessions, and made a conscious decision to only buy what I really need moving forward. By valuing experiences over possessions I’ve made a commitment to having less and doing more. While travelling I take photos, create videos and collect experiences. Living out of a suitcase has helped me prioritise what I really need. The truth is, I don’t need much at all to be comfortable and content.

See our Ultimate Packing List and Mobile Office Setup to see what’s inside our suitcase and what gear we use to work remotely.

3. Convert Unused Assets Into Income

From selling off possessions to renting out a house or apartment, selling or renting unused assets could help finance your next trip. While travelling long-term it would be a waste to leave a house or apartment standing empty when it could be rented out and generating an income. Similarly physical possessions that are not being used now or while travelling will just get old and worthless. I chose to sell whatever I could to generate some additional income, which we used to pay for part of our month long stay on Koh Samui.

4. Minimise Long-Term Contracts & Monthly Payments

There are many companies out there that will offer you great products and services for a monthly payment and/or a multi year contract. Mortgage payments, car payments, health insurance, gym membership, mobile contracts, clothing store accounts, and the list goes on and on. I made sure to cancel as many of these contracts as possible, which brought down my monthly expenses substantially. For example, there is no use being locked into a two year mobile contract in your home country if you won’t be there to make use of it. It’s better then to purchase a more affordable phone and use the additional cash to purchase a pay-as-you-go card at your next destination.

5. Find & Secure A Location Independent Income

In order to pay for travel and living expenses it’s important to have a reliable source of income. This could be anything from a trust fund, investment dividends or a donation from a family member. For me it is earning a location independent income by providing online marketing, web development and video services to my clients. For more info visit Posmay Media

To my own surprise and delight, travelling is not as expensive as I believe would be. It’s as easy as saving money, living within my means and earning additional income.

If you have any further questions, please submit them to us on Twitter (@FreemadicLife) or on Facebook.

How To Get Your Vietnam Visa On Arrival

How To Get Your Vietnam Visa On Arrival

Vietnam allows nationals of 17 countries to enter Vietnam without a visa for varying time periods, however if you are not from one of those countries or if you are planing to visit for up to 1 – 3 months, then you will most likely need to get an approval letter issued and stamped by the Vietnamese Immigration Department to obtain your visa on arrival.

We recently visited Vietnam and had a pleasant experience getting our visa on arrival. In this post I give you a run down of the steps to follow to make your visa acquisition process as quick and painless as possible.

Getting Your Visa Approval Letter

Many hotels and travel agents offer the service of arranging a visa approval letter. We chose to use a great online service called www.evisa.com.vn

Use our special promo code FREEMADIC (all caps) to get a 26% discount.

Using their online service you can submit your application online, pay the application fee and get your approval letter emailed to you within a few days. Your visa options are as follows:

  • 1 Month Single Entry
  • 1 Month Multiple Entry
  • 3 Month Single Entry
  • 3 Month Multiple Entry

Required Documents

In order to get your visa on arrival you need to present the following at the “Landing Visa” desk at one of the airports in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or Da Nang.

  1. Your Stamped Approval Letter
  2. Filled Out Entry and Exit Form (M3)  –  fill this out before you land
  3. Your Passport
  4. 1x Passport Photo – Size: 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm (1.4″ x 1.8″)
  5. Visa Fee of US$ 45 – this needs to be paid in US$, you will receive change in Vietnamese Dong

The Process

  1. Make sure to fill in your Entry And Exit Form (M3) before landing – this will save you a lot of time.
  2. On arrival, make sure to get to the “Landing Visa” window as soon as possible to get your application in. There will be a queue and waiting times can be long.
  3. Hand in all your required documents, except the visa fee.
  4. You will be asked to sit down and wait.
  5. Your name will be called up – head back to the counter to pay your fee and collect your passport, which should now contain your requested visa.
  6. Head through immigrations and enjoy your stay in Vietnam.