Ask Phil

Ask Phil

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  • +2 rating

    Need health insurance por my trip to Ecuador

    Medical treatment in Ecuador is significantly less expensive than USA, and therefore so is health insurance. However if your son intends to travel around REcuador he ought to be aware that medical facilities outside the major cities are poor or non-existent. There is no hospital on the Galapagos islands, and alarmingly for a popular scuba diving spot, no decompression chamber. Medical emergencies on the islands require evacuation - which can be very expensive. Also, Quito which is situated at 2800 metres above sea level causes many visitors 'altitude sickness', and unfortunately decompression chamber facilities are limited, an again medical evacuation would be needed. Malaria and Dengue Fever is widespread in Ecuador. These diseases often don't show up until after the traveller returns home. For all these reasons I strongly recommend your son have adequate TRAVEL INSURANCE in addition to any health insurance he takes out in Ecuador. Phil over 7 years ago

  • +1 rating

    Is it safe to travel to Colombia?

    other South American countries haven't been as successful as Colombia at reducing kidnap.... in fact it's getting worse in some place - like Ecuador, where Express Kidnap (Sucuestro express) is rife. You get kidnapped for an hour or so... as long as it takes for them to drive you around town visiting ATMs to empty your bank account and max-out your credit card. It usually begins when the victim gets into a taxi. It drives around the corner and the bandits jump in. They 'persuade' you to cooperate with knives, guns, a punch or two and unfortunately for women, sexual assault. In June 2010, depending on whose figures you believe, there were between 194 and 363 express kidnaps... that's in one month. Middle class locals are the main target, but wealthy ex-pats who aren't vigilant are also common victims. If this happens to you, your travel insurance will cover medical expenses for injuries they give you, and you'll have access to an emergency assistance helpline which will put you in touch with consular officials and other agencies. You'll have to argue with your bank about the credit card bill. Perhaps you should take a second credit card with a low limit for Ecuador, and leave the main card at home, or locked in the hotel safe (not the room safe, they might take you back there and force you to open it). Try to keep a low profile in Ecuador, don't flash your money or valuables. Don't use illegal taxis. Buses are also a problem, as are rural roads where a single car with 4 occupants is an easy target. Don't drive on rural roads at night at all. Lock the doors of the car, and keep at least a half a tank of fuel. Don't travel alone. Watch out for drink spiking at bars and clubs. And finally if you are kidnapped - hand over what they want, fighting back will only make them more demanding and violent. One other warning; don't go to the top of the volcano west of Quito. Several tourists have been robbed and raped at gunpoint. Some countries have added the spot to their Do Not Travel alert lists. Follow those safety tips and you should be able to enjoy what I'm told is a beautiful and fascinating country. almost 8 years ago

  • 0 rating

    I want to go to South America for 6 months but which language should I focus on - Portuguese or Spanish?

    Roughly half of the population speak Portuguese, the other half speak Spanish. But ALL of the Portuguese speakers are in one country, Brazil. here's a map to show you what's spoken where: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map-Romance_Latin_America.svg Spanish is spoken in the MOST South American countries (it's also a second language in Brazil) . Just remember this Portuguese phrase: VocĂȘ fala espanhol? almost 8 years ago

  • +4 rating

    Is it safe to travel to Colombia?

    Colombia is not as bad as it once was, but you need to use common sense and caution to stay safe. The bad news first: 3 foreign tourists were among the 146 people kidnapped (for ransom) so far this year, they've since been released. The number of kidnappings is down hugely from a few years ago, but there's been a surge in 2010... 25% more than the same time last year. The south of the country is especially dangerous and many foreign governments recommend against any travel to that region because of the risk of kidnap or being caught in the crossfire of a gun battle. The US State department reissued its warning that it considers Colombia "dangerous" in March 2010 and said: "...violence by narco-terrorist groups continues to affect some rural areas as well as large cities." http://bit.ly/akTzev The Australian government (mine) says Do Not Travel to the south - at all. it recommends you Reconsider Your Need To Travel to: provinces of Cesar, La Guajira and Antioquia (excluding Medellin), the cities of Cali and Popayan, and most rural areas. Of Colombia as a whole it says Exercise A High Degree of Caution. (It says the same thing about Brazil.) http://bit.ly/9iF5uV The good news now: In February 2010 the French government declared parts of Colombia to be "safe": adding Santa Marta, Barranquilla, Bogota, Tunja, Bucaramanga, as well as the Zona Cafetero departments of Quindio, Risaralda and Caldas to Cartagena and San Andres as destinations approved for travel. http://bit.ly/9J74G0 Traveller forums (people who've actually been there - this year) overwhelmingly rave about the place; they say it's beautiful and it's safer than other Sth Am countries.... as long as you stick to the popular tourist destinations. Which seems to be the key: Going off the beaten path might not be the best idea, and when you're in the cities ask locals or other travellers which are the areas to avoid. The city of Cali continues to be troublesome and best avoided, as are most rural areas, and the whole of the south. And as always use care on your travels. Phil almost 8 years ago

  • +1 rating

    Am I allowed to carry a knapsack in American airports and public buildings?

    Subject to the usual security screening processes, you should be fine. Some buildings, from time-to-time prohibit knapsacks, but usually provide a bag check service. (Note anyone travelling to Commonwealth Games in Delhi this 2010 summer: NO BAGS at all in venues.) Just don't EVER leave a bag unattended, that will cause security to come down on you very heavily, it could cause evacuation of the airport/building and it will be very embarrassing. Plus, your insurance doesn't cover anything you lose if the bag was unattended. almost 8 years ago

  • +1 rating

    What is the address of the best international hospital in Bali Please?

    Suzie, here's the advice from the Australian consulate in Bali. http://www.bali.indonesia.embassy.gov.au/blli/medical.html It lists all the hospitals, but doesn't pass judgement - well, not directly. There are two points made by the consulate which you should consider: They say public hospital doctors also have private practices or lecture at university and can be difficult to contact. Later the consulate says that in the event of an emergency "it is essential that your insurance company doctor can contact the treating doctor". Given that they've already warned that public hospital doctors are difficult to contact, it might be best to go to the private hospital. The best of the private hospitals appears to be BIMC - Bali International Medical Centre BIMC Hospital Bali Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai No. 100X Kuta 80361, Bali, Indonesia Tel: 62-361-761263 Fax: 62-361-764345 Email: info@bimcbali.com Web: www.bimcbali.com Open 24 Hours almost 8 years ago

  • +2 rating

    How serious is the dengue fever outbreak in Bali?

    The Bali Times newspaper reported on June 23rd, local health authorities are calling this the worst dengue season in years. 3 Indonesian children died in Denpasar in June. The Western Australian health department has issued a warning because of the high number of Australians returning home with Dengue fever, 151 so far this year compared to just 16 for all of 2006! (Perth Now report; http://bit.ly/a2sR7J). Dengue peaks in the rainy season (lots of water on the ground), but we're into the dry season now which means fewer mosquitoes... but they'll still be around. Dengue seems to be bad everywhere this year. Authorities in Phuket, Thailand, report 400 cases so far this year compared to 160 for the whole of 2009. On a regional basis, Indonesia has more cases of Dengue fever than any other SE Asian country. World health specialists say Dengue Fever is an "emerging disease". From being virtually unknown in the 1950's it is now widespread and infects more people than Malaria. There's no cure (although most people make a full recovery) and no vaccine BUT you can take precautions to minimise your risk. World Nomads (I work there) has a great piece on Dengue and how to avoid it here; http://journals.worldnomads.com/safetyhub/post/52684.aspx The quick tips; wear long sleeves and trousers, preferably white and loose fitting. Cover exposed skin with repellent, and use mosquito coils in rooms. The mosquito responsible for spreading dengue is active during the day (unlike the Malaria mosquito which is a dawn and dusk creature)and lurks in shaded, indoor areas. Dengue fever isn't spread from human to human. it's infected human-to mosquito- to human, so stay away from places where an outbreak is known. How bad is Dengue fever in Bali? It's worse than it's been in years, but if you're careful you can reduce your risk of getting it. No authority, Indonesian or Australian, is advising people to put off travel to Bali. Just use common sense and take precautions. Don't forget to get travel insurance to cover medical expenses. This traveller is certainly glad they did http://journals.worldnomads.com/true-claims-stories/post/18705.aspx almost 8 years ago

  • 0 rating

    What should we do in Cape Town

    I agree with MJW, a stack of great things to do in Cape Town. I wrote about my day trip to The Cape (where Atlantic and Indian oceans meet) and posted it on my World Nomads blog, have a look here if you like. http://journals.worldnomads.com/philsylvester/story/58688/South-Africa/Cape-Town-to-The-Cape I talks about some of the great locations to visit on the way down to the cape. almost 8 years ago