All posts by maytermthailand

What Not To Wear…..

IMG_1485_DxO

Thailand is hot and humid, especially in May and June.  The monsoon season is just beginning, and the air feels saturated with moisture.  It may not be quite as hot as August in Salt Lake City, but the humidity leaves you soaking after just walking a city block.  It’s tempting to wear a t-shirt and shorts all the time. And if we were in the US, we would. But we’re not in the US.

In most of Asia, academics are considered at the highest level of achievement.  Becoming a professor is highly respected, and there is a lot of status in being a university student.  Undergraduate students are expected to wear uniforms. Luckily, we will be doing service work, so we won’t need to dress up as much. But be aware that appearances are important in Asia, and as Americans we really do dress casually (dare I say slovenly) compared to the rest of the world. Continue reading What Not To Wear…..

Personal Safety While Traveling

A fear many have about traveling outside of the United States is personal safety. Much of this is ingrained in the fear of the unknown, and not on any firm data. While there are dangerous regions in the world today (Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Nicaragua, Yemen, Pakistan), there are many parts of the world that are considerably safer than regions of the US. Thailand in particular is a very safe destination for travel. By many measures of crime and safety rates, Thailand is safer than Canada, New Zealand, Australia, China, Belgium, and far safer than France, Italy, Ireland, and even the United States. And within the United States, places like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit are far more dangerous than many developing countries.

Continue reading Personal Safety While Traveling

Squat Toilets and Bucket Showers – Essential Information

Traveling to remote parts of the world, especially in Asia, may require Americans to rethink some fundamental aspects of their daily activities. We have found over the years that the squat toilet and the bucket shower can be problematic for some students. To help everyone prepare, we want to provide some information to consider.

Here is a link to a good site that explains the essentials of the squat toilet.

http://migrationology.com/2011/08/how-to-use-a-squat-toilet-like-a-pro/

Here is a link to using a bucket shower

http://matadornetwork.com/life/how-to-bucket-shower-like-a-pro/

Might be a good idea to have a look at these before we go. When we stay in peoples homes, understanding these makes for better relations with the family and the village as a whole.

For Those Staying – Travel Insurance

Travel insurance comes in two parts: travel health insurance and trip cancellation insurance. Travel health insurance assures that any medical expenses if you become sick or injured abroad will be covered. This covers minor illnesses to serious injuries or illnesses that require potential evacuation. It will also, if necessary, cover expatriation of remains in case of a death. It is highly recommended that everyone obtains travel insurance while they are abroad. Some domestic insurance coverages will cover international travel, but it is not nearly as convenient.

Trip cancellation insurance is insurance that will pay you a percentage of the trip costs if, for some reason, you have to cancel the trip. This can be due to illness, a crisis in the country you are visiting, or other event that may cause cancellation of the entire trip.

Continue reading For Those Staying – Travel Insurance

How to Start a WordPress.com Account

For your pre-trip research blog post and your trip report blog post, you will need a WordPress.com account to post on this blog. Here is a quick video on how to do that. I will send you email invitations. If you don’t get one, please let me know and I will send it to you again.

Remember, you don’t need to create a blog (WordPress.com will ask), you only need an account.

What to Bring – A Personal First Aid Kit for International Travel

Stuff happens, and at inopportune times. So it’s best that you’re prepared. We will have a group first aid kit, but it is prudent to have a personal one as well. Not a huge one that will take care of any possible accident or disease that could happen. You’d need an entire hospital and a staff for that. What you want is something that will take care of minor problems that occur so that it doesn’t get worse, and for those with existing medical conditions, something that can make sure those conditions are taken care of. Plus, we’re not going to have enough NSAIDs, bandages, or Immodium for everyone; you are responsible for bringing your own.

Now, the easiest way to do this is purchase a premade first aid kit, and add on to it. The best ones for international travel are ones that are specific for that, such as the one above (which you can purchase at REI). But any first aid kit is better than none.

Continue reading What to Bring – A Personal First Aid Kit for International Travel

What to Bring – Personal Items

Of course you’re going to need personal stuff…toothbrush, deodorant, medication, sunscreen, etc.  Luckily, most items are readily available in Thailand, as long as you’re not too picky about brands.  So don’t worry about bringing a month’s supply of shampoo or soap, unless you HAVE to have a particular brand.  Just bring a few days worth, and buy what you need when you get there.

Items that can be easily purchased in Thailand include:

  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Hair products such as gel, mouse, etc.
  • Toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • Floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Moisturizing lotions (although when the humidity is 90%…)
  • Shavers
  • Shaving cream
  • Over the counter medications (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.)
  • Laundry detergent

Continue reading What to Bring – Personal Items

Money, Money, Money

You’ll need money in Thailand. In Thailand, the currency is the baht, and 30 baht is roughly equivalent to US $1. If you want to check the current exchange rates, a good site is xe.com. Dollars are not very widely accepted here in Thailand, so you will have to get some baht when you’re here.

So what’s the best way to get it? Forget traveller’s checks; they are a total waste of time and money. You actually get WORSE exchange rates for traveller’s checks, and they aren’t honored everywhere. And don’t bring a lot of US dollars to Thailand, either. The best way to access your money is through the thousands of ATMs all over Thailand. This gives you several advantages:

  1. The best exchange rates – since the banks are negotiating the rates, you get much better exchange rates than if you go to a bank with US dollars and definitely better rates than the tourist exchange booths.
  2. Convenience – ATMs are literally everywhere in Thailand. Just make sure you know your pin number!
  3. Reasonable fees – the transaction fees are reasonable. It’s about $1.00 for the Thai bank and $1.50 by your US bank. To minimize fees, you’ll want to minimize the number of withdrawals. I usually withdrew about $150 at a time, and I never had to go to the ATM more than once a week.
  4. Security – Now you can withdrawl funds as you need them, and not have to carry large amounts of currency or traveller’s checks.

Continue reading Money, Money, Money

Communicating while in Thailand

We take global communications for granted. We can call, email, text, message, and video chat. We can do it the old-fashioned way, on landlines, or on cell phones, satellite phones, smart phones, tablets, or computers. We can use Facebook, Twitter, Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, iMessage, and many more applications to communicate. While it may be a bit more challenging to communicate when traveling abroad, especially outside of North America, East Asia, and Western Europe, it has become much easier to take advantage of this brave new world of global communications, even in the most remote locations in the world.

So, how will be be communicating while in Thailand? How will you be able to call home to friends and family? Will there be Wi-fi access? Are there data plans available? I hope this post will answer some of these questions.

nokia_6100Calls to and from the US: We will be providing each of you with a cell phone and a local Thai phone number. If you have an unlocked phone, you can use your own phone and we will provide you a SIM card with a local Thai phone number. You can then choose to have a data plan that will give your phone internet access.

Our experience is that this is still far less expensive than international plans through your cell service in the US. The phone is an older Nokia “dumb” phone that will make cellular calls, texts, and play a few old games like “Snake”. It doesn’t have a full keyboard, so you’ll have to use the old number-pad method of entering text. However, this is extremely inexpensive for calls within Thailand as well as to the US. Calls from Thailand to the US is as low as 3 baht/minute (about $0.10/minute), and calls to a Thai cell phone is even cheaper. Plus, incoming calls are free. Continue reading Communicating while in Thailand

What to Bring – Paperwork

There are some critical pieces of paperwork that you need to bring to Thailand:

  • Passport
  • Extra passport photos
  • Driver’s license or other official ID
  • Westminster College Student/Employee ID
  • Health insurance card (we provide this)
  • Credit card (preferably not American Express)
  • Bank/ATM card
  • Travel itinerary/airline ticket
  • Written prescriptions for ALL prescriptions you are on
  • Eye prescription if you wear corrective lenses
  • Next-of-kin information

Keep these with you in transit, so make sure they are in your carry-on luggage. Also, please make a copy of all of these, and have them in another part of your luggage. Westminster College will also have a copy of the paperwork that you submitted, and I will have .pdf copies of your paperwork that I will place on a secure server, so that we can have access to it. However, it is a good idea to have a copy of this paperwork with someone at home, just in case.

By the way, you don’t have to bring every piece of ID or card from your wallet/purse. Your Smith’s Fresh Values Card and Salt Lake City Public Library Cards are not going to be used in Thailand. Leave those at home.