Help! – Obtaining Visas and the Importance of Travel Insurance

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Six weeks out and these are two of the most important things left to finalize on our SEA 2015 trip To Do list. So I thought I would turn to the blogosphere. I have stalled a bit in the Travel Visa department (briefly) and it’s time to get moving!

The embassy websites can be confusing – at times the same website seems to contradict itself. However, E. finally saved us all and decided to call the embassy, learning that we have two options for entering Vietnam through a major airport.

  1. Visa On Arrival – available to citizens of certain specified nationalities. Requires you to get a letter of approval through a third party agency for ~$15 US. At the gate, you present the letter of approval, passport, proof of onward or return flight, evidence of hotel accommodations and $45 US.
  1. Pre-Approved Visa – Send your passport, passport photos, Visa application and $90 by priority post mail to the Vietnamese embassy in Ottawa. In return, you get one, pre-approved visa.

It seems like the option to choose is the VOA, because it costs a heck of a lot less and I don’t have to send my passport away. But I’m wondering if anyone with experience traveling in Vietnam or South East Asia in general can offer advice on the best way to proceed?

The same applies for Indonesia, although the requirements for obtaining a VOA on arrival for Canadian and Chinese citizens seems less strict. You do still need proof of onward flight. Can anyone clarify that you can obtain a 30-day VOA, and then extend it to a 60-day Visa?

Conveniently, Malaysia does not require Canadians to have a visa to enter the country for up to three months, with option for a two month extension. Hopefully, we are able to see a slice of Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia before heading onward to Indonesia.

Travel Insurance

Besides obtaining the necessary travel Visas, I am also on the hunt for proper travel insurance. Who do you all use? I need someone that also covers in case of diving accidents. I have been looking at the insurance provided as part of PADI (DAN?) While the credit card I use for travel does have some travel coverage, it only covers for the first 26 days, which is less than half of our anticipated travel time in SEA. I also anticipate doing most of the scuba diving that we do in Indonesia, the second leg of our trip. Good coverage for the entire travel period is important. Accidents happen.

If anyone doubts the need for travel insurance, this story about Dave of The Planet D (a travel blog) breaking his back while on a simple errand is telling enough. Imagine being in that situation and not having insurance. Luckily, it looks as though he is going to pull through. For many of us, travel is about pushing ourselves, exploring and taking risks. Not the frame of mind to be in without insurance!

The countdown to departure is fast approaching – January 18th! With Christmas in the middle I know it is going to come VERY quickly. Getting Visas and travel insurance taken care of means only a few things are left – mainly picking up a few essential items, finalizing our itinerary and packing up! After months of saving, talk, research and planning things are really coming together. Can’t wait!

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Before the dive

I adore this photograph. I annoyed my dive instructor and dive mates to get it so I’m glad it was worth it. Running late one Sunday morning, I snapped this picture looking across Lake Ramsey towards Laurentian University (Sudbury, Ontario). The lighting, color and peacefulness of the shot is everything I could have hoped for.

Worth getting up early for.

Worth getting up early for.

What’s so great about scuba diving?

Early, wet, and sometimes cold mornings. Long drives and overly enthusiastic morning people. A crushing need to look under the dock now, beyond just lying on top of it. These are some of the harder parts to take about scuba diving (Scuba Diver Life dispels more myths about diving here). But I got back in tanks after 10 years as a regular swimmer – so what’s the draw?

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This may sound silly but one thing only got me off of the couch and on my way to the Scuba Shop on Notre Dame one afternoon in July. It is one of the most beautiful sights to turn over on your back while under the water, and see the sunlight filtering down on a clear day. I was watching a television show about scuba diving (ever watched Descending?) and the camera person flipped over on their back to give the viewers a glimpse. I picked up the phone and called Mike in that instant, before I could hesitate, because I knew I had to see that again for myself. Soon.

There is so much beauty to be observed under the water! Saltwater, freshwater, warm water, cold water – it makes no difference to me. I first learned to dive as a teenager in 2005, surrounded by three of my cousins. The Open Water certification for recreational divers by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) consists of an in-class portion, pool classes, and open-water dives. It was a hell of a way to spend March break, but by the end of it we were all ready to jump in the pool – tank, fins and all.

While many memories fade, or are just forgotten about, my time spent in the Dominican Republic with them is crystal. It was the first time I was ever able to swim in the ocean, and the place where I learned to dive! I recall being nervous at first, but once you’re in that blue, blue water with visibility for days that all melts away. We were tested on our basic skills – things like regulator recovery and clearing, clearing a flooded mask, and the tired diver tow. My diving buddy quickly earned a nickname – Glowstick Panter – for the way his legs glowed white under the water, and how quickly he went through his air supply. Hope you’re reading this!! Scuba diving has always been something I have done with my family.

Some mornings, getting up early is worth it.

A father helps his son gear-up on Open Water testing day.

Our trip to the Dominican Republic sparked something in me – the travel bug. Since then I have completed a lot of school, scoured the internet planning my own trips and appreciatively/enviously looked at their travel photos. It was time to get traveling and back in the water myself!

Planning the trip to Vietnam and Indonesia, and advancing my diving education has moved in lock-step. The idea of traveling to Indonesia and not scuba diving there is inconceivable! And something I learned this summer? Scuba diving is similar to riding a bicycle – you never forget, and it comes back to you after a few kicks. So everything I learn now will continue to be useful, as long as I travel and dive. Costa Rica 2015… Yes please. More on that later!!

The point here? Diving and travel go hand in hand. When I first started considering the idea of scuba diving again, my travel companions and I were asking ourselves the question, “What jobs can we do that allow us to make a living, and travel at the same time?” One of the jobs on my list was Scuba Instructor, and so I started looking into that. Then we committed to going to Asia. I figured there was no better time to start the PADI Advanced Open Water certification. I found the blog of Astrid Fischer to be particularly inspiring – she just completed her instructor levels on Tioman Island and blogged about it here.

One more great thing? Besides being fun and awe inspiring, scuba diving is a hobby that is good for your health. Leg and core muscles are working, you are getting active (usually early in the morning), and there are benefits associated with swimming and being in water. This is true, no matter where you go.

So give diving a shot! Your certification never expires. It’s good for your health, your sense of beauty, your travel addiction, and your family life. Plus, being up early in the morning means some amazing pictures you wouldn’t have been able to take otherwise, and maybe some new friends that you wouldn’t have made otherwise.

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A sunrise I caught walking to the dive shop one morning.

Monday is for photos

After a very busy two weeks, I am more than ready to get back into the regular habit of posting!

So Monday’s are for photos, because no one is ready for heavy reading this early in the work week. But keep your eyes peeled this week people! I am working with a company called RelayRides, and planning a dream vacation to Hawaii. New place to go diving? Hello!

This is what "picking apples" looks like when you go with your Dad, and bring your camera.

This is what “picking apples” looks like when you go with your Dad, and bring your camera.

My photogenic hound dog.

My photogenic hound dog.

Some mornings, getting up early is worth it.

Some mornings, getting up early is worth it.