Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thailand: how to stay connected back home

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Traveling outside the country could be challenging sometimes, especially whenever you want to stay connected with family and friends that are not traveling with you. International call is one of many ways to be able to communicate with them. All you need to do is dial 001 followed by the relevant country code then the number you wish to call.

Here’s how it works: 001 - Country codes - area code – phone number.
To call the US phone number (612) 882 5439
US Country codes: 1; Area code: 612; Phone number: 882 5493
To make a call, dial: 001 1 612 882 5493

If calling from a cell phone/ mobile phone, you may need to arrange a roaming agreement with your service provider before you go. Check the rates you will be charged for outgoing and incoming calls as these can be very high compared to your home country. A cheaper alternative is often to buy a Thai SIM card to make calls during your stay in Thailand. These are cheap and easy to get at any shopping mall in Thailand which will have an assortment of telephone shops.

Being connected using an internet service is also another possible way while you are in Thailand, since Internet shops and cafes are plentiful in all cities and tourist areas. Rates vary and can range from 20 Baht – 60 Baht per hour (US$0.70 – US$2). Wi-Fi is available in many hotels, guest houses and bars.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thailand: Extending your stay

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Normally, if you want to continue touring the country, an extension may be granted for not more than 30 days unless there are explanatory circumstances that would entitle you to a one year extension. There will be fee of 1,900 baht (approx. US$58) to extend your stay in Thailand.

The Immigration can extend your Tourist visa once again if you still need another extension. It will be extended for 7 days following the initial 30 days with another fee 1,900 baht.

If you are planning to stay longer in Thailand for study abroad or exchange student program, the country will require you to be enrolled as a full time student in one of Thailand's schools. The visa you are going to use to enter the country will not be a tourist visa. Once you are accepted by the school, it will arrange your visa with Thailand immigration office and issue a student visa for you.

Here is a bit more info for you.


Do you think this guy made it across? Or did he take a swim? Personally I think he "missed the boat."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thailand: What to Pack

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For international travel, most bags should be durable, lockable and in many cases have wheels. Light travel is really recommended as if you forget something; you can probably buy it in Bangkok. Take enough padlocks for every double zipper to stop wandering hands and lock up your sacred belongings, even in your hotel room. For your super valuable belongings, keep them locked in the hotel safe, or better yet, LEAVE THEM HOME!

Essentials are a bathing suit, a day pack, a raincoat/umbrella in rainy season and some warm clothes if traveling in October to December, as some areas get cool. You will only need a couple of changes of clothes as you can get washing done anywhere cheaply. Sandals for when your hiking shoes are too hot can be bought cheaply in Thailand as well.

Take snorkeling gear or buy/rent it on arrival if you plan to spend a lot of your time in the water. A good map of Thailand is also handy. Take a mirror for shaving, as often budget places won’t have any. String is very handy for hanging up washing. Climbing shoes for rock climbing are useful as Thailand has some of the best cliffs in Southeast Asia.

A spare pair of prescription glasses or contact lenses plus a copy of your prescription is a good idea. A personal music player is great as a huge range of cheap music is available everywhere.

Into the toiletries bag throw sun screen and insect repellent. Mosquito nets are also a good idea. If you plan to travel long distances by motorbike, purchase a good quality helmet, which you can do in Thailand. Last but not least, pack your stuff in plastic bags to stop them from getting wet, especially when traveling in the rainy season or on boats.

Aside from the above, the following are essential:
• Passport with minimum 6 month validity left
• Travel insurance
• Blood donor/type card
• Details of your next of kin, and emergency contact
• Prescriptions for any medication you require.
• A second photo ID other than your passport


Have a great time in Thailand!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Thailand: Top Adventures to Enjoy

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As Thailand provides many exciting and unique activities, make sure you try these adventurous experiences while you are in the country.

From snorkeling among the bright coral of Thailand beaches to canoeing your way through secluded caves and archipelagos, and to boat riding on the country’s expanses waterways that locales use as a primary means of Thailand transportation. Many vacation packages can include river adventures as part of your plans. The region’s scenic mountain ranges are another exciting adventure for biking enthusiast.

All of these excitements couldn’t be complete without a trip deep into the heart of the jungle. Sitting high atop an elephant or walking through the verdant foliage are experiences that will stay with you long after you've returned home.

Don’t forget to prepare yourself with travel vaccines to have a perfectly memorable experience in Thailand.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thailand: Stay healthy on your trip

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Getting ready for any trip takes months and weeks of research, planning and packing. While preparing all the activities, transportation, documentation and securing loose ends while you are away, don’t forget to prepare your health for the visit too! It is important to make the most of your trip by participating in all pre-planned activities rather than experiencing Thailand from the hotel bathroom or a local medical center; so be safe, vaccinate!

Planning to stay healthy while you travel is the MOST important part of planning for your trip.

The best ways to ensure a safe and healthy trip are to be educated about the health risks in Thailand and get vaccinated.

For travel to Thailand, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends the following vaccinations:

Hepatitis A and B
Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis
Rabies
Influenza
Measles/Mumps/Rubella
Varicella (Chicken Pox)
Typhoid
Polio
Pneumococcal
Japanese Encephalitis
• PPD (Tuberculosis) Test

Please make sure you get properly vaccinated as there are many diseases throughout Thailand that can seriously affect your health.

Also, take precautions against drinking the water and make sure your food is thoroughly cooked. Being properly vaccinated before you go can only protect you to an extent, knowing the diseases and how to prevent them when you are there is another way to stay safe.

Most of these vaccinations are routine for citizens of the USA and you have more than likely been adequately vaccinated for some, but it is important to see a travel medicine specialist to be sure you are prepared with the proper vaccinations and information to stay healthy in Thailand.

Now that you know about all the diseases and viruses that have preventive vaccines, you are free to take other preventive measures for the rest of the "icky" things that can affect your trip.
  • Travelers' Diarrhea: use antibiotics and re hydration powders (diarrhea kit available at Passport Health)
  • Intestinal Infections: Swim only in properly chlorinated or salt water, wear shoes at all times (even on the beach), follow food and water precautions given by an expert.
  • Jet-Lag, Motion sickness, Altitude sickness: several different medications available
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis: Remain properly hydrated during flight, get up frequently to stretch your legs to maintain circulation, consider wearing pressure gradient Travel Socks
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation: Obtain appropriate Travel and Evacuation Insurance

Don't let the possibility of getting sick in Thailand deter you from going. The best way to ensure safety and good health is to know the risks and take the right precautions against them.

Thank you to the CDC and our Travel Medicine Specialists for their contribution to this post.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thailand: Language Barriers

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So you want to visit Thailand but don’t know one thing about the language!? First, understand that a huge language barrier with Thai is the tones and the cultural nuances. Thais are uncomfortable when using English and will usually avoid talking to a foreigner in case they make a mistake.

If you are visiting Bangkok or Chiang Mai you can certainly get by just fine. It isn’t a serious problem to ask basic tourist questions. But if you can learn some basic Thai, it's best to get on and do just that. Remember; don't try learning Thai from someone who isn't capable of teaching it to you!

Basic phrases you will NEED to know:

1. Sa-wat dee (hello)
Used for both hello and goodbye.

2. Khop koon (thank you)
How to show your appreciation once you’ve been handed your Singha beer and pad Thai.

3. Gee baht? (how much)
Essential for all the shopping you’ll be doing, or when haggling with tuk-tuk drivers.

4. Yoo tee nai...? (where is...)
Priceless when lost! Just point at a place on your map or in your guidebook and say ‘yoo tee nai’
Helpful Hint: Phrase books are a good place to start, but you should start checking your pronunciation with English speaking Thais or foreigners. (Get a book that has Thai script beside each translation so you can at least point to the phrase in your book if all else fails.)

So, whether you just want to pick up a few phrases for your upcoming vacation or you're planning in-depth study, here is a great site that will help you to discover the joy of learning Thai!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thailand: History

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Thailand (previously known as Siam) means "land of the free", and throughout its 800-year history, Thailand boasts the distinction of being the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized!

Throughout the long history, Thailand has gently absorbed immigrants. Many were skilled as writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians and architects, and helped enrich the native culture. People inhabiting Thailand today share ethnic diversity - mainly Thai, Mon, Khmer, Laotian, Chinese, Malay, Persian and Indian stock.

Thailand has risen above the economic collapse of 1997, SARS and avian influenza as well as the devastating tsunami in December 2004, to become a hugely popular destination on the long-haul tourist trail.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thailand: Etiquette

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Thailand is a country with various customs and traditions. Many are related to religion, which is why it is so important to be respectful and learn about their etiquette. Below are some etiquette tips to take with you on your trip to Thailand:

• Not an expert with chopsticks? No worries, if you are traveling to Thailand! Although the Chinese brought chopsticks to Thailand a long time ago, chopsticks are no longer widely used there. Instead, use a fork and spoon and you will fit right in.

• Thais consider the head and the feet the most sacred parts of the body, so never touch another person's head, display the soles of your feet, or use your foot to point at something.

• Shoes are often removed when entering a private home or even a few stores. Finding shoes outside doors is a great cue to begin un-tying!

• Although traveling in Thailand is very cheap, taxis at bus stations, airports etc. can charge tourists a lot more. Call and have a coffee at a local café- ask how much for taxi to where you want to go and they will give you the Thai rate.

• On many Thai beaches, you will come across solicitors selling everything from sunglasses to cheap jewelry. Refuse politely, but firmly. If you do buy anything, don't expect it to be of high quality. In any case you should ALWAYS keep an eye on your valuables.

• Last but certainly not least- Be Observant! There are so many new sites, sounds and smells in Thailand. When arriving, you will probably be on sensory overload. Observe what people are doing and how they are acting. Observe your body language, your voice volume levels, your group size, your presence. Don’t think of it as constricting – think of it as a gentle learning with Thailand as your teacher!

It is easy, when entering a foreign country, to use mistaken etiquette. Just remember Thais are friendly and hospitable people, so an apology plus a smile will grant you forgiveness!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thailand: MORE Food!

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As promised- ANOTHER post about food!

Part of the charm of a visit to Thailand is trying the local food. A survey back in 2000 revealed the following dishes to be the most popular with foreign visitors to Thailand: Tom Yam Kung (spicy shrimp soup), Kaeng Khiao Wan Gai (green curry with chicken), Phat Thai (Thai style fried noodles), Phat Kaphrao (meat fried with sweet basils), Kaeng Phet Pet Yang (roast duck curry), Tom Kha Gai (chicken in coconut soup), Yam Nua (spicy beef salad), Mu/Gai Sa-Te (pork/chicken covered with tumeric), Gai Phat Met Mamuang Himmaphan (chicken fried with cashew nuts)

Toom Yam Kung (spicy shrimp soup)


Kaeng Khiao Wan Gai (green curry with chicken)

It’s difficult to put across on a web page how to pronounce each dish and you may see a whole host of different spellings on a menu, but at least the above list gives you some reference point
As most of Thai food is spicy, it doesn’t mean you have to go hungry if you can’t cope with spicy foods. Don’t’ be ashamed to ask for your food to be prepared less spicy than normal. Thai people are well aware that not all tourists like their food as spicy as the locals do.

Most Thai food is eaten with a spoon and a fork (spoon in the right hand if you are right-handed). Some Chinese dishes and noodles may be eaten with chopsticks.

Why types of dishes are you looking forward to the most? Do you have a favorite Thai dish? How spicy do you like it?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thailand: Documents needed for entry

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Like all the other countries, Thailand also has a specific set of requirements when it comes to Visa and Travel Documents that you should take care of before traveling to Thailand. However, the requirements can confuse many travelers as the visa and documents needed depends on what passport you are using to enter Thailand.

If you are an American traveler who meets all of the following criteria, then you do not need to apply in advance for a visa.

  • The purpose of your visit is strictly tourism.


  • You are in possession of a confirmed flight ticket (an e-ticket is acceptable) to show that you will be exiting Thailand within 30 days of entry.

    Please note- Open tickets do not qualify. - Traveling over land out of Thailand to check-in for a flight from a neighboring country (Malaysia, Singapore etc.) does not qualify.(In these instances you will need to apply for a visa from a Thai Embassy/Consulate in your home country prior to departure.)
  • You should have access to living expenses of 20,000 Baht (approx US$600) per person or 40,000 Baht (US$1200) per family. It may be necessary to prove this on entry to Thailand.


If you meet all the criteria above, you will be granted a visa exemption (sometimes known as permission to stay). This is very often (wrongly) referred to by travelers as a visa on arrival.

There is no charge for this and on arrival in Thailand you will be granted a 30-day stamp. You want to make sure that your Passport is valid for at least six months past the day you enter Thailand. If you don’t meet all of the criteria above, you are advised to contact your nearest Thai embassy or consulate and apply for the appropriate visa before you travel.

Please note that this information applies only to those entering Thailand by air. For questions about entering Thailand by land or sea, contact your nearest Thai Embassy.

Passport Health has a continued partnership with Travisa and they can help expedite the process of receiving your passport and/or visa.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thailand: How to get around within Country

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There are several different types of transportation in Thailand that you might want to know to make your visit hassle free in the country.

Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand has been choked with traffic congestion for years. However, the addition of the futuristic Sky Train in the city made tourists and locals alike get to where they need in a fraction of time as to what was previously possible. With train depots near the most popular Thailand hotels in Bangkok, the Sky Train is definitely a transportation choice worth making.

Limousines are available in Thailand to get you where you want to go in style. Some Limo services offer bonus cards, where once you collect enough stamps, you can get a free one-way trip to your next destination.

One of the most easily accessible forms of transportation in Thailand, taxi, is popular among tourists and is usually one of the more cost efficient means of travel. It's important to beware of people who come up to you asking if you want a taxi or taxis sitting idle. These people should be avoided as they are usually scam artists. Simply hail a taxi driving down the road; it won't be hard to find one.

Motorcycle/motorbike taxi- These can be a fun, inexpensive alternative to hailing a taxi. They can efficiently get you through traffic and to your destination in no time, just watch your knees and be sure to wear a helmet!

Tuk Tuks - Also known as motorized rickshaws or cabin cycles, Tuk Tuks can be a fun way to get around the city on your Thailand vacation. During rush hour, they should be avoided because of their open door cabins that allow exhaust fumes from other cars into the passenger area.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thailand: Two Guys Around the World share their experiences

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A big thanks to Sam and William of twoguysaroundtheworld.com for their awesome and very informative videos.

William learns how to make REAL Pad Thai and we learn how to NOT get "taken for a ride" in a taxi. Good to know!



*Also note that eating food from the street (and even some restaurants) can sometimes be a gamble that your tummy may pay for! The health and sanitation requirements are not the same in Thailand as they are in the US and UK so be sure to get your Hepatitis A and Typhoid shots and talk to a Travel Medicine Specialist about the best ways to treat travelers' diarrhea.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thailand: FOOD!

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One of the most exciting things about visiting Thailand is the food. Rest assured that there will be more posts about food, but I couldn't resist including a few videos about the food in Thailand. Is it time for lunch yet?








A few of the dishes represented here are Thai chicken and rice soup, dim sum, which has a Chinese influence and in Cantonese, dim sum means "swallowing clouds," and glass noodles most likely Yum Wun Sen (glass noodle salad).

Who else is really hungry now?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thailand: Know when to go!

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So you have decided WHERE to go now you must decide WHEN! Wherever you travel in the world, it is important to get the timing right. Not knowing about a country’s seasons and possible weather conditions can turn your holiday into a nightmare.

As far as Thailand goes the rainy season is from July to October. It only rains in short bursts each day and the rain always cools it down, so dont let the rainy season deter you from visiting Thailand during that time. It gets pretty hot during the summer in Thailand and November through February are the coolest times of year.

If you make it to the North and Northeast part of Thailand in April you can catch the
Songkran Festival. Be sure to bring a bathing suit, but a towel will be pointless until this festival of water has ended!

AND don't forget about National Influenza Week!! Take a minute to tell your loved ones how important it is to protect yourself from the Flu. One of the easiest ways to help prevent the flu is by washing your hands properly.

Friday, December 4, 2009

National Influenza Week!

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Next week is National Influenza week!

With Thanksgiving over, the holiday shopping season is in full swing and stress levels become higher as the hectic schedules of the holiday season become more and more challenging. During these times it is of the utmost importance to be vigilant about your health and the health of your family.

Who wants to be sick over the holidays anyway?

The best way to ensure protection from the flu is for you and your family to be vaccinated and whats a better way to kick off National Influenza Week than your whole family taking part in fighting the flu?

The flu can (and probably is) lurking around every corner...on the overbooked flight your college student is taking home, the crowded and pushy lines at the big sales your brother or sister are waiting in to get the perfect gift and especially at the many holiday parties of your friends and colleagues.

Don't take the chance. Get your flu shot!

And stay tuned for our new featured country of the month as well!! Thailand!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dubai: Insiders' looks

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Check out what others have to say about Dubai.

Meeka says the booming city of dubai can seem like a land of opposites. Thanks Meeka for sharing your opinion on Dubai. Be sure to check out her blog, but beware, it will make you hungry!

Seabee gives a shout out to old dubai for its charm. Thanks Seabee. It gives us a better understanding of where Dubai started.

AND Sophie rounds us out with some fantastic pictures of dubai. I took the opportunity to pet a camel once. I do think they are adorable!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dubai: More great opportunities!

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According to travelandleisure.com, since 1988, the Finest Surprise raffle (tickets $139) has offered up an ever-changing selection of cars and motorbikes as prizes. Odds are one in 1,000 for the car series and one in 2,000 for the “special” car series. Recent cars include an Aston Martin DB9, Mercedes-Benz S500, and Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe, all shipped to the winner free of charge. If you’re willing to part with $274 for a ticket, you can win $1 million in the newest raffle, Millennium Millionaire; odds are one in 5,000. These fancy raffles are located nowhere other than the International Airport in Dubai!

Or how about taking a slide down the immense Ziggurat and through a shark-infested lagoon, take a river ride of over two kilometres, ride the water rapids and white water chargers? For a gentler experience, younger visitors can plunge into Splashers, a water playground for kids. It all adds up to a unique water adventure, with something new discovered at every turn. Enjoy this and more at the Atlantis Aquaventure in Dubai!

What will they think of next?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dubai: the Burj Dubai, Tallest Building in the WORLD!

8 comments
The new World's tallest building, The Burj Dubai, is in Dubai. Check out this video. It's pretty impressive!



What do you think? Is it necessary to have a building that high? Given the chance would YOU climb to the top?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dubai: Don't miss this!

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1. Desert Safari- Also known as “Dune Bashing”, this is one activity raved about by many travelers. Take a 4X4 around the sandy dunes of Dubai’s deserts. “Camping” packages are offered after the activity which can include food, drinks, belly dancing lessens, dress up in traditional garb, shisha smoking and camel rides.

2. Shisha smoking- Shisha is essentially a water pipe used for smoking purposes, originating about 500 years ago. The tobacco is heated by coals and the flavored smoke is purified and cooled through the water after which it emerges through the suction tube, from where it is smoked.

3. The Gold Souk- Dubai isn’t known as the land of gold for nothing. Visit some of the old Souk Markets and bargain a price for some gold jewelry. It can be a great souvenir or present.

4. Mall of the Emirates- This mall is a must see, even for just a few hours. Spend time shopping, watch a movie in its luxury movie theater, eat in some of its magnificent cafes and restaurants, enjoy Magic Planet- the largest indoor amusement park in the region or ski!

5. Indoor Skiing- An incredible indoor skiing mountain inside the Mall of the Emirates. The Ski Dubai mountain has fresh snow with 5 different runs of all difficulties and a freestyle zone to practice tricks.

6. Burj-al-Arab- Get out your best dress and head over to the Burj-Al-Arab. This hotel is the only 7 star hotel in the world! Even if you can’t afford to stay here or even eat at one of its restaurants, it is worth walking around and saying you’ve been in a 7 star hotel!

7. Wild Wadi- This is a famous water park in Dubai. It has the tallest and fastest free fall outside of North America. It can get you up to speeds of 80kph!

Whatever you are planning on doing in Dubai, these are some great activities that will surely impress and can easily fit in your travel plans!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dubai: Top 10 Reasons to Visit

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  1. Dubai is Upbeat and Exciting

  2. Superb Shopping

  3. Spectacular Modern Architecture

  4. It has Sun Galore

  5. Great Beaches

  6. Dubai is Friendly

  7. The Premier Sports Capital of the Middle East

  8. Luxurious Hotels and Resorts

  9. Dubai is Safe for Travelers

  10. Multi-cultural

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dubai: Etiquette

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Dubai- Unwritten rules/guidelines to etiquette

• Unless you are sure that they drink alcohol, do not offer alcoholic drinks to an Arab.

• Keep your feet firmly placed on the ground and do not cross your legs.

• Always use your right hand for eating and drinking. In this part of the world, the left hand is considered to be unclean.

• Do not show the soles of your feet or shoes. People here consider this gesture as implying that you take the other person as equivalent to ‘dirt’.

• Do not walk in front of a person at prayer.

• Do not step on a prayer mat.

• Do not stare at a praying person.

• Do not enter a mosque without prior permission.

• Do not summon people with a finger. This is considered impolite.

• Do not eat, drink or smoke in public during Ramadan (especially important for holiday makers).

• Do not engage in public displays of affection.

• Avoid aggressive behavior at all times.

• Avoid any recourse to blasphemy, especially in the presence of Muslims.

For more etiquette suggestions for Dubai, check this out. It is also important to remember that even though Dubai is located in the Middle East, and it is, of course, important not to offend anyone of that culture, it's population is also made up of a variety of different people from a variety of different cultures. Some view Dubai as a strictly Muslim state while others view it as one of the most liberal states in the world with a mixing bowl of other nations.


A special thanks to the Dubai travelogue.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dubai: Stay healthy on your trip

14 comments
Getting ready for any trip takes months and weeks of research, planning and packing. While preparing all the activities, transportation, documentation and securing loose ends while you’re are away, don’t forget to prepare your health for the visit too! It is important to make the most of your trip by participating in all pre-planned activities rather than experiencing Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates from the hotel bathroom or a local medical center; so be safe, vaccinate!

Planning to stay healthy while you travel is the MOST important part of planning for your trip.

The best ways to ensure a safe and healthy trip are to be educated about the health risks in Dubai and get vaccinated.

For travel to Dubai, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends the following vaccinations:
Hepatitis A and B
Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis
Rabies
Influenza
Measles/Mumps/Rubella
Varicella (Chicken Pox)
Typhoid
Polio
Pneumococcal
• PPD (Tuberculosis) Test

Please make sure you get properly vaccinated as there are many diseases throughout Dubai that can seriously affect your health.

Also, take precautions against drinking the water and make sure your food is thoroughly cooked. Being properly vaccinated before you go can only protect you to an extent, knowing the diseases and how to prevent them when you are there is another way to stay safe.

Most of these vaccinations are routine for citizens of the USA and you have more than likely been adequately vaccinated for some, but it is important to see a travel medicine specialist to be sure you are prepared with the proper vaccinations and information to stay healthy in Dubai.

Now that you know about all the diseases and viruses that have preventive vaccines, you are free to take other preventive measures for the rest of the "icky" things that can affect your trip.
  • Travelers' Diarrhea: use antibiotics and re hydration powders (diarrhea kit available at Passport Health)
  • Intestinal Infections: Swim only in properly chlorinated or salt water, wear shoes at all times (even on the beach), follow food and water precautions given by an expert.
  • Jet-Lag, Motion sickness, Altitude sickness: several different medications available
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis: Remain properly hydrated during flight, get up frequently to stretch your legs to maintain circulation, consider wearing pressure gradient Travel Socks
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation: Obtain appropriate Travel and Evacuation Insurance

Don't let the possibility of getting sick in Dubai deter you from going. The best way to ensure safety and good health is to know the risks and take the right precautions against them.

Thank you to the CDC and our Travel Medicine Specialists for their contribution to this post.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dubai: When to go and what to do

6 comments
Dubai is in line with any travel destination in the fact that more people travel there when the weather is more favorable. Lets not forget that Dubai is in the Middle East so in the summer it gets HOT! That being said, every building in Dubai is air conditioned, so a successful vacation can be planned around staying indoors.

And there are plenty of indoor activities to keep you busy! How about hitting the slopes at the largest indoor ski resort in the Middle East? Ski Dubai offers an amazing snow setting to enjoy skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing, or just playing in the snow. Young or old, there is something for everyone, from the beginner to the snow sport enthusiast. Ski Dubai is a unique mountain-themed attraction that offers you the opportunity to enjoy real snow in Dubai all year round. The video below is a little lengthy but I think it gives you a good idea of what Ski Dubai is all about.


If swooshing down the slopes is not your idea of a good indoor activity, there is always shopping!! Check out the Mall of the Emirates (known as "Moe's" to UAE residents). The mall covers 223,000 square meters & is home to over 400 retailers, a 14-screen movie theater and 65 restaurants and coffee shops with everything from fast food to themed restaurants & exclusive dining alternatives. Be sure to wear your comfortable walking shoes, but even if you forget I'm sure you can buy a pair there!

You can also spend an air conditioned day at the Dubai Museum learning about the t
raditional way of life in the Emirate of Dubai.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dubai: Architecture

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So, Dubai is a pretty up-and-coming state. Their architecture is some of the most innovative and amazing that I have ever seen.

Examine, for instance, The Burj al-Arab hotel in Dubai. It is said to be the world's ONLY 7 star hotel in existence. The unique and luxurious Burj Al Arab offers the finest in facilities, location, services, and design. It dominates the Dubai coastline with its recognizable shape of a billowing sail.


The Palm Islands in Dubai, pictured right. New Dutch dredging technology was used to create these massive man made islands. They are the largest artificial islands in the world and can be seen from space. Three of these Palms will be made with the last one being the largest of them all. Wow!

And last, but certainly NOT least is this amazing piece of architecture that is due to be completed by 2011.


What are your thoughts on a "moving skyscraper?"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Country of the Month: Dubai

1 comments
Dubai is one of the fastest growing states in the Middle East. This video below was taken in 2006, but it gives a good commentary of how cities are forming and how this state is striving to change by shaking hands and building relationships without the mention of guns and war.



What an amazing way to start November and I hope you are as excited as I am to take a forward-thinking journey through this remarkable state!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Today is World Pneumonia Day!

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Today, November 2, 2009 marks the FIRST WORLD PNEUMONIA DAY!!

Passport Health wants to do their part in spreading the word about Pneumonia. All Passport Health locations carry the Pneumonia vaccine on a regular basis.

Every 15 seconds, somewhere in the world, a child dies from pneumonia. That’s 5,500 child deaths every day, and a staggering 2 million child deaths every year from a preventable, treatable disease. Many of these deaths are preventable through vaccination and appropriate treatment. Now is the time to put knowledge into action to deliver these solutions to all children around the world.






Pneumococcal disease (Pneumonia) is generally caused by the Bacterium Streptococcus Pneumoniae and it is the most common complication of the flu. Infection is acquired by direct person-to-person contact via respiratory droplets. Those at risk to contract Pneumonia include children under 5; adults older than 55; those with sickle cell disease and other blood diseases, diabetes, HIV, chronic renal (kidney) failure, cerebrospinal leaks and people with compromised immune systems.

Vaccines are a safe and effective tool for preventing pneumonia before it occurs. Vaccines against two of the main causes of life-threatening pneumonia– pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniae) and Hib (Haemophilus influenzae b) – are used throughout the developed world. However, millions of children in developing countries still lack access to them. Measles and Pertussis (ie. whooping cough) vaccines can prevent infections that can lead to pneumonia as a complication.

Thanks to worldpneumoniaday.org and cdc.gov for the info for this post.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Costa Rica: Trivia Answers...Finally!!

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And now, the Long awaited answers that have been eating away at you for...nearly 48 hours!

1. As in the Galapagos, several species are endemic to Cocos Island (found nowhere else in the world); one of them is the Cocos Cukoo.

2. Who was the first westerner in Costa Rica and is commonly credited (probably incorrectly) with dubbing the land “The Rich Coast”? Christopher Columbus

3. You can see the Costa Rican glass frog’s heart beating through its abdomen.

4. Several thousand tough stabilizing roots up to 20 meters (66 feet) long wind through the loose sand from the base of coconut (Coco, Cocotero, Cocos nucifera) trees which are rarely toppled even by the strongest hurricanes.

5. Las Hornillas in Northern Costa Rica has boiling mudpots, steam vents, and small geysers.

6. Costa Rica imports about half-a-million dollars worth of beer every year. Seventy-five percent from Mexico and the remainder from the U.S. and Europe.

7. Green Sea Turtles are named after the color of the layer of fat on their meat, not the color of their shell.

8. Costa Rica has the cheapest, most convenient and reliable phone system in Latin America

9. Several species of bees search miles from home to find the Bejuco de Pan (Dalechampia scandens) vines that produce a waterproof, moldable resin they use in nest construction.

10. Tarantulas (Matacaballos) can grow to over 10” (25 cm) and some can make a snakelike hiss by rubbing the hairs of their legs together.

11. Each female leatherback will nest as many as 12 times a season, every 10 days or so (usually at night to avoid dehydration).”

12. Consistent winds across Lake Arenal make it one of the premier windsurfing sites in the world.

13. Cebia or Kapok (Cebia petandra) trees are best known for producing fibers used in life preservers and furniture cushions, but their name comes from the Caribbean word for the canoes (cebia) that were carved from its long, straight, soft trunks.

14. The official term for a citizen of Costa Rica is Costariquense, but you will probably never hear it. Costa Ricans refer to themselves as Ticos and Ticas.

15. Chirripo peak in Costa Rica is home to the northernmost occurrence of the high altitude Paramo ecosystem

Special thanks to Costa-Rica-Guide.com for all of its amazing trivia questions and answers!!!

How did you do??

This is the last post for Costa Rica. We hope you learned a lot and enjoyed it as much as we did! Stay tuned for a new country of the month, Dubai!!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Costa Rica : Comida tipica

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Costa Rican cuisine is simple but heavy on oil and some spices. Comida tipica or native dishes, rely heavily on rice and beans, the basis of many Costa Rican meals. Home-style cooking predominates. But meals are generally wholesome and reasonably priced. Gallo Pinto, the national dish of fried rice and black beans is particularly served as a breakfast. Food staples include beef, chicken, fish and despite of the 1.000+ kilometers of coastline, seafood like shrimp or lobster, is expensive because Costa Rica exports most of its seafood.

Eating in Costa Rica doesn't present the health problems that plague the unwary traveler elsewhere in Central America, but you need to be aware that some of the pesticides used in Costa Rica are forbidden elsewhere. Something I should say is that you may eat where the locals eat, usually that means tasty and trustworthy food. Beware of black beans and chicharrones, which might prove to be too much for some foreign stomachs.

Costa Rica has no national drink, but very popular in the cultural tradition of drinks are Horchata (pictured right), a cinnamon flavored cornmeal drink, Chan, a slimy drink made of seeds, Linaza, which is popularly used to cure indigestion, and Fresco de Frutas, which is basically a fruit salad floating on a base of kola and water, delicious!! And, of course, guaro, the campesino’s nearly-tasteless yet potent alcoholic drink of choice. And coffee of course, Costa Rica’s grain of gold. Most of the best coffee is exported, so don't expect the best coffee everywhere you go. Coffee is traditionally served very strong and mixed with hot milk.

What are you most looking forward to eating and drinking when you go to Costa Rica?

Thanks to infocostarica.com for their contribution to this post.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

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Let’s see how good your knowledge is of all things Costa Rica…


1. As in the Galapagos, several species are endemic to Cocos Island (found nowhere else in the world); one of them is the ________________.

2. Who was the first westerner in Costa Rica and is commonly credited (probably incorrectly) with dubbing the land “The Rich Coast”?

3. You can see the Costa Rican glass frog’s _________ beating through its abdomen.

4. Several thousand tough stabilizing roots up to 20 meters (66 feet) long wind through the loose sand from the base of coconut (Coco, Cocotero, Cocos nucifera) trees which are rarely toppled even by the strongest ________________.

5. ____________ in Northern Costa Rica has boiling mudpots, steam vents, and small geysers.

6. Costa Rica imports about half-a-million dollars worth of ___________ every year. Seventy-five percent from Mexico and the remainder from the U.S. and Europe.

7. ____________ are named after the color of the layer of fat on their meat, not the color of their shell.

8. Costa Rica has the cheapest, most convenient and reliable ______________ in Latin America

9. Several species of ___________ search miles from home to find the Bejuco de Pan (Dalechampia scandens) vines that produce a waterproof, moldable resin they use in nest construction.

10. Tarantulas (Matacaballos) can grow to over 10” (25 cm) and some can make a snakelike hiss by rubbing the hairs of their _________ together.

11. Each female leatherback will nest as many as 12 times a season, every ________ days or so (usually at night to avoid dehydration).”

12. Consistent winds across Lake ________ make it one of the premier windsurfing sites in the world.

13. Cebia or Kapok (Cebia petandra) trees are best known for producing __________ used in life preservers and furniture cushions, but their name comes from the Caribbean word for the canoes (cebia) that were carved from its long, straight, soft trunks.

14. The official term for a citizen of Costa Rica is ____________, but you will probably never hear it. Costa Ricans refer to themselves as Ticos and Ticas.

15. __________ peak in Costa Rica is home to the northernmost occurrence of the high altitude Paramo ecosystem


Expect the answers in a later post this week… is the suspense killing you??

We will thank our source in the next post… we don’t want to encourage cheating ☺

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Costa Rica: Know Before You Go!

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Q- What is the difference between the rain forest and the cloud forest?
A- Mainly the altitude and the temperature. The rain forests are very hot and humid while the cloud forest are humid and moist. The species of flora and fauna are significantly different.


Q- Do I need an electric adapter for a hair drier?
A- That depends on the voltage in your home country. Outlets here are 110 V, with standard US two prong plugs (or three prong if grounded). Your hair blower, curling iron and all other appliances will work fine. Those of you from Europe will need the adapters, impossible to find easily in Costa Rica. Bring yours!


Q- If I decide to stay longer, can I get a visa while I am there?
A-When you enter Costa Rica, your passport will be stamped and that is your visa to be here. The length of time depends on your country of origin. Your visa CAN be renewed if you leave the country for 72 hours. This cannot be done forever, but 2-3 times is probably not a problem. Short trips to Panama, Nicaragua, or San Andres are cheap and available. When you return, your visa will be renewed automatically for 90 more days if you are from the USA. If you are not from the USA or Canada, check here as the rules are different for other countries.


Q-Is there and exit or departure tax in Costa Rica? If so, how much is it?
A- Departure tax is $26, can be paid in US Dollars, colones or with a Visa card. This must be paid at the point of exit. See Entry to Costa Rica.


Q- Are credit cards accepted in Costa Rica?
A-
In the major tourist areas, yes. However, many locations do not accept credit cards, especially those great places where you actually see the artist creating something. Also, if ANYTHING is priced in dollars, you are VERY likely over paying! Carry some colones and use any you have left over to pay your Departure Tax.


Thank you to therealcostarica.com for their contribution to this post. What other questions do you have about Costa Rica? Did you find the above questions and answers useful?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Search for Montezuma!

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In early 2009, Passport Health's good friend, Chas, took a fabulous trip to Costa Rica to escape the winter months in the northeast U.S. and explore the incredible adventures the world has to offer. He so KINDLY agreed to share the story of his adventure to Montezuma...

Costa Rica has become one of the top tourist destinations for the western world for good reason. Few countries boast as excellent a combination of pleasant weather, friendly indigenous (“Ticos”), and tourist attractions. I recently escaped the winter months in the northeast United States to explore Costa Rica. I wholeheartedly recommend viewing the active Arenal Volcano, hiking the rainforests of Corcovado National Park, and white-water rafting down the Pacuare River; however, some of the most fulfilling experiences in C.R. will be found in lesser known areas, such as Montezuma.

Montezuma is a tiny town sitting on the Pacific Ocean on the Nicoya Peninsula. It typically is overlooked as a must-see due to its remote nature. In fact, I actually had to motorboat over to Montezuma from Jaco, C.R. Montezuma is and will remain an intriguing stopover for the more adventurous traveler for the same reasons why it is not for everyone- there are no banks, post-offices, major hotels, and chain-restaurants (or chains of any kind). If you are traveling to embrace hostels (or tents, which line the forests adjacent to the pristine Montezuma beaches), hippies, and happy residents, Montezuma offers more than any other place in Central America.

After boating or bussing into Montezuma, the first thing to do is grab a room. Accommodations range from single rooms complete with an overhead fan for about $20 per night to renting out an abandoned school bus whose seats have been removed in favor of mattresses. Seriously. You can grab a mattress for about $5 a night and try and figure out how the owner of this “hostel” managed to convert the driver’s seat into a toilet. The bus had no vacancy during my visit, so I opted for Hostel Lucy, known for opening its doors to younger travelers for $10-12 a night.

Throw your backpack down in your room, bus, or tent and head down the only street in town to find the only information kiosk in town. Ask how to hike to Montezuma Falls and head out. A half-hour hike through the forest (watch out for monkeys!) will lead you to a series of three waterfalls. You might see some tourists jumping off the top two falls. My buddy, Django, and I braved the shorter of the two, which was about 25 feet high. Recommendation: hold onto your eye glasses- Django’s are currently residing at the bottom of the basin of the Montezuma Falls.

After your leap of faith, go relax. There is a string of beaches right past “downtown” Montezuma which host the bright blue Nicoya Golf. A steady rip-tide will prevent all but the most determined surfers from hitting the blue, so swimming is ideal. Want some privacy? The beaches stretch miles and miles down the coast. About an hour of sandy hiking will put you on your very own, personal beach.


Although this is far from a traditional party town, it’s definitely worth going out at night. This little town is one of the top places in the world to learn and exhibit your mastery of “poi.” Fire poi is basically dancing and doing tricks with elongated nunchucks lit on fire on both ends. It’s beautiful, exciting, and dangerous if you have no idea what you are doing (trust me)! Experienced performers will be having a fire-show every night in the town square. It’s easy to watch the show and make friends with your hostel-mates- I guarantee you they are hanging out and having an Imperial beer at the one bar in town.

Thanks for your awesome post on Costa Rica, Chas!

Costa Rica: Holiday Feature- El Tope Nacionalis

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The Tope Nacionalis a Costa Rican tradition, and San Jose's parade of horses is the country's largest and most popular. With both horses and riders elaborately decorated, the parade moves along the Paseo Colon to Avenida.

An important event that inaugurates the Festejos Populares is the “Tope Nacional”. A Tope is a horse parade, which is a typical tradition in all local fiestas. The San Jose Tope is the most famous and largest in Costa Rica. Thousands of riders come from all over the country to show off their beautiful horses, riding skills, fancy steps, and specially designed cowboy outfits. It is widely known as the biggest people-watching event of the year.

The tradition began in colonial times as a horse race to commence the Fiestas de San Juan, a horse-racing and bullfighting event. It was customary for everyone to come out to see who the best jockeys and the fastest horses were.

The Tope is the National Day of the Horseman and, on December 26th, the Festejos Populares is inaugurated with this traditional event. Horse owners, farm workers, and farm owners come to the capital from all over the country to bring their best animals to the best horseman show of them all. Instead of racing, the horses are trained to take special steps, almost dancing for the spectators that line the streets. You will also see many of the typical “carretas”, hand-painted ox carts created by famous local craftsmen. The Tico riders dress to impress. The girls are all made up, wearing their flashy cowgirl outfits, and the men are right behind. The event is all about how good you look while riding your horse and how many fancy steps your horse can maneuver to impress the crowd.

Check out the dancing horses below

Monday, October 19, 2009

Costa Rica- Hotels and Hostels

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Costa Rica attracts many travelers due to all that its vast climate and geography have to offer. Below are some great hotels and hostels in popular cities which are home to white sandy beaches, volcanoes and the rainforest. Let’s go!

Puntarenas:
Barcelo Tambor Beach Resort: This is an all-inclusive resort which includes a casino, fitness room, spa, tennis court and outdoor pool with swim-up bar. The resort can accommodate mini golfers, volleyball, basketball, surfing and horse riding on-site. Many other activities including golf can be accommodated by nearby facilities. The resort hosts 3 restaurants and received rave reviews by travelers for its location and excellent views.

Punta Leona: This is also an all-inclusive resort. It hosts private, white sand beaches, a tropical/rainforest environment, restaurants on-site and a luxury pool. Travelers appreciated the excellent staff service and cleanliness of the resort.

Adventure Park Hostel: This hostel goes beyond the norm offering horse riding, hiking trails/tours, ATV tours, a high ropes courses and 25 cables running through 11 waterfalls. It also includes pay per view TV, breakfast and a pool. There are restaurants on-site and a laundry facility. Prices range from $20/night to $50/night depending on the season. Traveling on a budget never looked so good!

La Fortuna/Arenal:
Tree House Hotel: A unique idea for a hotel in Costa Rica which incorporates fun and nature. This hotel is comprised of little houses/cabanas set in actual trees! The true meaning of a tree house, these bungalows are the perfect way to experience the rainforest and lush vegetation as it is located in the trees. Monkeys and the resident sloth have been known to pass by! Although there is no internet or kitchen, (what did you expect in a tree?) breakfast is included and is raved about by all reviewers as hummingbirds surround the breakfast area at arms length. Mark and Lucy are the owners and received many compliments by their guests. At an average of $95/night, why not live your childhood fantasies?

El Silencio del Campo: Located across from the Arenal Volcano, this reasonably priced hotel boasts excellent reviews. The rooms are detached cabanas which make it feel like a resort without all the touristy frills of being a resort. Bike rentals are offered as well as horse riding and hot springs on location. The friendly staff can also book tours for you!

Arenal Backpackers Resort: At $14/night, you can afford to travel on a budget! Travelers who stayed here gave it great reviews and especially appreciated the location, clean rooms and friendly/accommodating staff. There is a barbeque area if you want to cook for yourself or you can enjoy a meal at the on-site restaurant. Internet access and linens are included. This hostel also has a pool.

Montezuma (revenge on the side):
Ylang Ylang Beach Resort: Located on 20 acres of white sandy beaches surrounded by lush, tropical gardens, this resort is a mini oasis. Private baths and mini fridges are located in every room. There is a pool, restaurant and game room on-site. Zip lining is also offered by the hotel.

Nature Lodge Finca Los Caballos: The hotel restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine while a private pool on-site is offered as a way to relax. There is a spa on-site as well as horse riding. Each room has a private bath and a mini fridge. The island of Tortuga is just off the coast, easy to get to, and snorkeling and hiking trips can be planned by the staff. One site described the resort’s location as: “…the hotel is located perched on a hill, somewhere between heaven and the sea…”

Las Palmeras Delicias: Owned by an English/Irish family, this hostel is comprised of little cabins among lush/tropical gardens with a private pool. Each room is equipped with hot water and private bathrooms. A kitchen facility is available to guests. At only $8/night you can enjoy a tropical, relaxing environment with just the necessities.

San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, might be another interesting city to visit as it is loaded with cultural activities. Costa Rica has almost anything you could hope for in a vacation: romance, adventure, volcanoes, rainforests, waterfalls, tree houses, beaches, islands and more. This might be one trip you won’t want to pass up. Bring a camera…

Did you have a tree house growing up? Was it in an actual tree? What are your thoughts regarding the Tree House hotel?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Costa Rica vs US soccer ends in tie

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Nearly eighteen months of qualifying games for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa came to an end Wednesday night at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC for the United States and Costa Rica. After nearly scoring a goal on the stroke of 9 minutes in what would have been argued as divine intervention, the Americans went down 2-0 in the first half before staging a dramatic late comeback to draw the match 2-2.

"The freezing cold temperatures and rain didn't dampen the spirits of international soccer fans, " comments Passport Health's own National Sales Director, Guillermo Giraldo who was in attendance at that game. "The stadium was filled with cheer and excitement. It was a devastating blow to the Costa Ricans when the US scored in the final minutes of injury time diminishing their hopes of a world cup birth."

The tie that felt like a win simultaneously threatened, if not crushed, the dreams of one nation and answered the prayers of another. It forced Costa Rica to a 2-game playoff against Uruguay for a seat at the World Cup table and clinched the first appearance in 28 years for the same Honduran team they defeated on foreign soil just four days prior.

Going into the match, the circumstances for the two teams could hardly have been different. The US team, having already qualified for their sixth straight World Cup, would have had every excuse in the world to take their foot off the gas, and rest their regulars. The Costa Rican ‘Ticos’ on the other hand, just one point ahead of Honduras in the six-team standings in third place, knew that the Honduran opponent on the same night would not be as tough and that a win against the US would likely be required.

The 'Ticos' have a tough fight ahead of them. Do you think they can pull through or will Uruguay beat them out for the chance at World Cup glory in South Africa next year?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Costa Rica: What to Pack!

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If you are planning to travel to Costa Rica, expect your luggage to be light! Costa Rica has a tropical climate which means it is warm and wet. The best time to travel there, as stated in previous postings, is during the high season which is between the months of December through April. Who wouldn’t want to get away when the weather in North America and the northern parts of Europe are freezing!

Grab your swim suit, hiking boots and jacket… and let’s go!

Costa Rica is a very interesting country is terms of climate and geography. While it has a tropical climate, rainforests and beaches, it has a high elevation causing it to get cold at night and sometimes during the day. It is recommended to bring a jacket for the colder weather at night and some long sleeves to protect against the bush and sunburn as this country is much closer to the equator than you might be used to!

Whether you decide to hang out on the beaches or explore the rainforest, be prepared for both. It is suggested to bring the following:

* Hiking shoes for exploring the rainforest and to protect your feet from the terrain/bush
* Flip flops for the beach
* Dressy shoes for night life and nice dinners
* Short sleeve tee-shirts, for when the weather is hot
* Shorts
* A long-sleeved shirt to protect against sunburn and bushwhacking
* A swimsuit for the beach
* Some long pants for exploration purposes
* Jacket; higher elevation makes night time cooler
* Backpack… good for storing essentials and extra clothes when exploring

Additional items to be packed include:

* Plenty of sunscreen (although rainy, it is still hot and sunny in the summer!)
* Hat (for protection from the sun)
* Sunglasses
* Comfortable hiking/walking shoes
* A water bottle with filter (staying hydrated is important on your trip)
* Universal plug (make sure your electronics are compatible)
* Insect repellents
* Hand sanitizer
* Traveler guides/ maps
* A camera

More importantly, packing summer-type clothing leaves extra room for souvenirs!!

Any little tips you can give our readers on what to pack that you found useful when you traveled to Costa Rica? Anything we missed? Help a traveler out!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Costa Rica: Wildlife

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Costa Rica is one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world. The list of Costa Rica wildlife species found in this small country is extensive, thanks to its rich rainforest ecosystem and miles of beaches. Visitors wanting to see animals that they have never seen before will almost definitely accomplish that feat multiple times daily in this lush country.

Costa Rica is a dream location for people who love nature. Bird watchers have the chance to see over 800 species of birds including two species of macaws, over fifty species of hummingbirds, and a number of species of toucans. Those who like to keep their eyes out of the sky have plenty to see closer to the ground. Costa Rica animals include four species of monkeys, two types of sloth, and even jaguars and tapirs. For those who enjoy creepy-crawly bugs, amphibians, and reptiles, there are plenty of these too. Costa Rica is home to a large number of tree frogs, butterflies, lizards, sea turtles, and over 35,000 species of insects.

Due to the warm climate of Costa Rica, animals are mostly seen at dawn and dusk when the daytime temperature is at its coolest. Also, if staying outside of a large city, seeing exotic birds and animals becomes a natural occurrence, and sometimes an intimate up-close-and-personal one. For the most part, in areas where people are frequently present, animals in Costa Rica become accustomed to humans and are less skittish. This is most evident among the monkey population, particularly the Capuchin monkeys, who have made a habit out of stealing unattended food.

Sadly, there are several species of Costa Rica animals that are on the endangered species list. This include the leatherback sea turtles, the squirrel monkey, the jaguar, and both the great green and the scarlet macaw. The Costa Rican people and government are striving to save their wildlife.

What animal would you most like to see in Costa Rica?


Thanks to destination360.com for the info for this post.

Costa Rica: Etiquette

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The etiquette in Costa Rica is fairly easy to remember as the country is very laid back, warm and welcoming. In fact, it is said to be the most punctual of all Central American countries as well as the least physical country in terms of greeting one another compared to other Latin countries.

Embrace is not typically done in Costa Rica. Men shake hands with other men as a greeting and women pat each other on the arm or lightly kiss on the cheek as a greeting. The country is extremely warm and welcoming. Expect many people to wave hello and smile, but don’t expect a big hug.

The Costa Ricans are flexible with time; however, they tend to actually be the most punctual of all the Central American countries. It is acceptable to be late for social gatherings or a doctor appointment, however, it is considered rude to be a late for a business meeting. Due to the short midday break hours, everyone must be on time for business meetings and lunches.

Titles are important in this country and should be used if you know a person’s title. Titles are usually based on profession and degree, for example, Doctor or Professor for a teacher. If you do not know someone’s title or they do not have one, it is acceptable to use Mr., Mrs. and Miss.

Topics of conversation can actually range from good topics to bad topics. Topics of conversation that are usually bad topics involved religion and anything related to personal criticism. Good topics of conversation involve questions about children and family, history, art and politics.

Other things to keep in mind when traveling to Costa Rica:

  • Women drinking liquor is considered impolite.
  • Calla Lilies are associated with funerals.
  • Making a fist with the thumb sticking out in the middle is considered offensive.
  • The fashion is typical of fashion seen in the U.S. and Europe. Costa Ricans have a good, clean sense of fashion.

Overall, travelers have not generally experienced issues fitting in and following the Costa Rica etiquette.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Costa Rica: 10 best places

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First of all I want to give a HUGE shout out to Costa Rica Guide.com for their awesome information! Thanks guys!

The ten best places to go in Costa Rica in no particular order

Corcovado National Park—One of the best places in the world to trek in the tropical rainforest, Corcovado has everything visitors to Costa Rica are looking for. The rise of small lodges means access is becoming easier for those who don't want to slog through the sucking mud with a pack on their back, but the interior will always pay dividends to those who travel under their own power.

Palo Verde National Park—is a relatively undiscovered jewel in the Costa Rican park system. The bird population, both native and migratory is spectacular. The trail system leaves something to be desired, but this certainly means fewer crowds, and there are a number of areas that can be explored by boat.

La Fortuna de Bagaces— Unlike its famous cousin to the east that it replaces on our list, there is essentially no tourist infrastructure in this sleepy hamlet between volcáns Miravalles and Rincón de la Vieja. There is easy access to beautiful swimming holes at the base of spectacular waterfalls, and incredible forests, the geysers and mud pots of Las Hornillas reminiscent of Yellowstone, abundant natural hotsprings, and a bull ring that still sees sabaneros meet their match in the corridas de toros.

Barra Honda Caverns—Not everyone is interested in spelunking, but those who are will appreciate the pristine condition of these caves. The small vertical entrances have protected these limestone caverns for millennia, first from discovery, then from entry by all but the most intrepid explorers.

Santa Rosa National Park—Daniel Janzen and his wife Winnie Hallwachs initiated a crusade over two decades ago that resulted in an incredible gift to the world. Santa Rosa National Park protects and provides a mechanism for restoration of perhaps the only significant tropical dry forest in the world that will survive our generation. The main campsites at the headquarters and on playa naranjo serve as jumping off points for extended explorations, La Casona is an important historical landmark, and witches rock marks the location of a surfer's paradise.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca—Reggae provides the backbeat along the beaches and main street of this Caribbean village. Peppery fresh fish dishes, coconut curries, and fragrant spiced breads fill your plate. Sloths, monkeys, and birds abound in Cahuita National Park and Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge up and down the coast respectively.

Wilson Botanical Gardens—The gardens at Las Cruces Biological station are only one of the rewards awaiting travelers who make the effort to visit the southern most reaches of Costa Rica.

Caño Negro wildlife refuge—Nature cruises through these wetlands are quite popular now, but don't worry there are thousands of acres to explore. A boat trip here or in Tortuguero, or Damas estuary is certainly the easiest and maybe the best way to see a lot of wildlife on your visit to Costa Rica.

Cerro Chirripó—Quite possibly our favorite place. The strenuous climb through seven distinct ecosystems allows you to experience most of Costa Rica's inland natural history in a single day. There are a growing number of visitors, but nearly all of them stick to the main route to the refugio under the peak. If you want a true Costa Rican wilderness experience there's still thousands of virgin acres here.

Manuel Antonio National Park—We hear complaints nearly every day that Manuel Antonio has been ruined by development and overcrowding. While it has changed significantly in the three decades since it was established, it's still one of the best places to visit in Costa Rica. Crowded is a relative term, Manuel Antonio is twice the size of New York City's central park, but visitors are limited to 600 at a time. The development allows for easy access for those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore one of the last patches of tropical wet forest.

Monteverde—This private reserve provides the easiest access to the cloud forests, and an infrastructure of guides and resources to help you make the most of your visit. Like Manuel Antonio, it has gained tremendously in popularity, but has much less chance of being loved to death. Monteverde is much larger, the cool, wet, windy weather means shorter visits, and as a private reserve it has better funding than most of the National Parks. Despite the growth in tourism in the surrounding community, a few hundred yards off the main loop (el triangulo) you're unlikely to see anyone else on the trail.

What do you think? Is Costa Rica's beautiful landscape drawing you in yet?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Costa Rica: Stay Healthy on your trip!

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Getting ready for any trip takes months and weeks of research, planning and packing. While preparing all the activities, transportation, documentation and securing loose ends while you’re are away, don’t forget to prepare your health for the visit too! It is important to make the most of your trip by participating in all pre-planned activities rather than experiencing Costa Rica from the hotel bathroom or a local medical center; so be safe, vaccinate!

Planning to stay healthy while you travel is the MOST important part of planning for your trip.

The best ways to ensure a safe and healthy trip are to be educated about the health risks in India and get vaccinated.

For travel to Costa Rica, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends the following vaccinations:
Hepatitis A and B
Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis
Rabies
Influenza
Measles/Mumps/Rubella
Varicella (Chicken Pox)
Typhoid
Polio
Pneumococcal
• PPD (Tuberculosis) Test

Please make sure you get properly vaccinated as there are many diseases throughout Costa Rica that can seriously affect your health.

Also, take precautions against drinking the water and make sure your food is thoroughly cooked. Being properly vaccinated before you go can only protect you to an extent, knowing the diseases and how to prevent them when you are there is another way to stay safe.

Most of these vaccinations are routine for citizens of the USA and you have more than likely been adequately vaccinated for some, but it is important to see a travel medicine specialist to be sure you are prepared with the proper vaccinations and information to stay healthy in Costa Rica.

Now that you know about all the diseases and viruses that have preventive vaccines, you are free to take other preventive measures for the rest of the "icky" things that can affect your trip.
  • Insect-Borne Diseases(Dengue Fever, Malaria): use appropriate repellents containing DEET, and prescribed Malaria medication.
  • Travelers' Diarrhea: use antibiotics and re hydration powders (diarrhea kit available at Passport Health)
  • Intestinal Infections: Swim only in properly chlorinated or salt water, wear shoes at all times (even on the beach), follow food and water precautions given by an expert.
  • Jet-Lag, Motion sickness, Altitude sickness: several different medications available
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis: Remain properly hydrated during flight, get up frequently to stretch your legs to maintain circulation, consider wearing pressure gradient Travel Socks
  • Emergency Medical Evacuation: Obtain appropriate Travel and Evacuation Insurance

Don't let the possibility of getting sick in Costa Rica deter you from going. The best way to ensure safety and good health is to know the risks and take the right precautions against them.

Thank you to the CDC and our Travel Medicine Specialists for their contribution to this post.