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Pre-Departure Information

General info - Laos+

Airlines
International: The national carrier Lao Airlines, as well as Thai Airways, Siem Reap Airways, Bangkok Airways and Vietnam Airlines serves the international airports at Vientiane, Pakse, Savannakhet, and Luang Prabang. Low-cost carrier Air Asia has begun routes from Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane and China Southern flies to the capital from Kunming. Domestic: Lao Airlines serves the domestic routes and connects the capital city Vientiane to major destinations in the country.
 
Airport Tax
All international and domestic airport taxes are included in the price of the tickets (subject to change without prior notice from airlines and authorities).
 
Arrival into Laos
By Air
There are no direct flights from Europe or the USA or very few from other countries to Laos. The most frequent connections are from Bangkok (Thailand), Hanoi (Vietnam) and Siem Reap (Cambodia). Asia Odyssey will generally be able to offer you attractive
intercontinental fares from the UK, for other countries please consult your local travel agent or search the internet. We can also offer attractive regional flight arrangements once you are already in Asia. The two main international airports are Wattay International Airport in Vientiane and Luang Prabang International Airport. The smaller Pakse Airport serves the international flight to/from Siem Reap and Savannakhet Airport offers flight to/from Bangkok.
By Land
Laos shares borders with Myanmar and China to the north, Thailand to the west, Cambodia to the south and Vietnam to the east.
 
From China to Laos Visa available upon arrival
Mohan, Yunnan Boten, Luang Nam Tha - Yes
Kunming or Xishuangbanna Xiengkok riverport, Luang Nam Tha - No
 
From Burma to Laos Visa available upon arrival
Vangpung, Thachilek Ban Mom, Bokeo - No
 
From Thailand to Laos Visa available upon arrival
Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai Houay Xay, Bokeo - Yes
Nakaxeng, Loei Kaenthao, Sayabuli - No
Loei Botene, Sayabuli - No
Houaykhone, Nan Nam Ngeun, Sayabuli - Yes
Nongkhai, Nongkhai Friendship Bridge, Vientiane - Yes
Bungkham, Nongkhai Paksan, Bolikhamsay  - No
Nakorn Phanom, Nakorn Phanom Thakhek, Khammouane  - Yes
Mukdahan, Mukdahan Savannakhet, Savannakhet  - Yes
Chongmek, Ubon Ratchathani Vangtao, Champassak - Yes
 
From Cambodia to Laos Visa available upon arrival
Trapaeng Kriel Nong Khiang  - Yes
 
From Vietnam to Laos Visa available upon arrival
Tai Trang, Dien Bien (Lai Chau) Taichang, Phongsaly (Sobhoun)  - Yes
Namxoi, Thanh Hoa Nameo, Huaphanh - Yes
Namkan, Nghe An Namkan, Xiengkhouang - Yes
Cau Treo, Ha Tinh Nampao (Laksao), Bolikhamxay - Yes
Chalo, Quang Binh Naphao, Khammouane - Yes
Lao Bao, Quang Tri Densavanh, Savannakhet - Yes
Bo Y, Kontum Phoukua, Attapeu - Yes
 
Business Hours
Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 08:00 until 11:30 and 13:00 – 17:00.
Shops open from Monday to Saturday between 09:00 and 17:00 and some also open on Sunday. In Luang Prabang shops often open later until 19:00 or 20:00 (During Public Holidays as well as celebrations such as Chinese New Year, most businesses are closed. Public holiday information can be found below)
 
Clothing
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for travelling in Laos. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat is a good idea in the rainy season. Warm clothing is needed for visiting northern Laos during the winter months from November to February. Visitors to Laos should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious buildings and shoes should be removed before entering a private home.
 
Credit Cards
The use of credit cards is still not widespread in Laos. Most upscale hotels and many shops and restaurants in Luang Prabang and Vientiane accept Visa and Master Card but in other parts of the country often only cash is accepted and the US Dollar is king.
 
Electricity
Lao uses 220V. Power outlets usually feature two-prong round or flat sockets however, there is no set standard. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor.
 
Entertainment
There is not much in the way of western style entertainment in Laos but Vientiane and Luang Prabang have good restaurants and quite a few bars and nightclubs. In the rest of the country, entertainment is mainly confined to the hotels and mainly tourist-orientated restaurants.
 
Food
Lao cuisine has many similarities to Thai with lots of aromatic herbs and spices such as lemon grass, chillies, ginger and tamarind used to flavour dishes. Sticky rice, or kao niao, is the main ingredient in Lao cuisine, usually served with fermented fish and a fish sauce similar to that used in Vietnamese cuisine called nam pa. Chicken and pork dishes are also popular but beef is expensive in comparison. Soups served with noodles, bamboo shoots and fresh vegetables can be found everywhere and are delicious.

Health
No vaccinations are required except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in parts of Southeast Asia and it is advisable to take precautions especially if travelling off the beaten track. Medical facilities are rather limited in Laos but you can easily find good medical facilities in the main Thai towns and along the Thai-Lao borders. It is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before travelling in case evacuation is needed (usually to Bangkok or Singapore). If you are on any medications, please bring an adequate supply of pills with you as it can be difficult to find within the country.
 
Insurance
We highly recommend that all travellers to Southeast Asia purchase Travel Insurance which covers medical evacuation by air. In case of an emergency, be sure to collect all receipts and invoices, as well as a copy of the medical report, for your insurance company.
 
Internet
Major hotels throughout Laos have Business Centres with PCs connected to the Internet and most now some wireless broadband access. Check with reception for fees (often free of charge) and facilities. Cyber cafes are easily found in major towns and cities and prices are reasonable around 1US$ per hour. In many Internet cafes, you can buy pre-paid  international phone cards to dial from a computer to landlines or mobile phones worldwide. Most Internet cafes are equipped with webcams, headsets and microphones.
 
Language
The national language of Laos is Lao, which is closely related to Thai and is spoken in many different dialects. Lao, like Thai, is a tonal language. In Luang Prabang and Vientiane, English is widely spoken and French is still spoken by many government officials and educated members of the older generations.

Money and ATMs
The kip is the currency unit of Laos and are presently in distributions of 1000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 kip. US dollars, Euros and Thai baht are also accepted in many places and can be more convenient to carry than great wads of the local currency. Banks, hotels and jewellery shops all offer currency exchange. Banks are typically open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 12:00 and 14:00 to 15:00. In Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse, and other major towns you can find ATMs to withdraw money (ATMs distribute only Lao kips with a maximum of 1,000,000 – 2,000,000 per transaction). Visa and MasterCard are accepted at larger hotels and restaurants throughout the country.
 
NOTE:Should you wish to pay a bill expressed in Lao Kip with US$, ask for the exchange rate or ask your guide for assistance. For everyday expenses, we recommend carrying a mix of US dollars and kip. For larger items or when the exchange rate works in your favour, use US dollars. For tuk tuks, local food stalls and small purchases, it’s best to use kip. Make sure you always have a stock of small notes so that you don’t have to worry about change especially in the countryside. The BCEL Bank can change American Express Travellers’ Cheques for Lao kip or US dollars in cash. Note that a 3 % or 5% commission is charged. Very few shops, hotels or restaurants accept Travellers’ Cheques and they can be difficult to exchange outside of the main cities.
 
Postal Mail
Postcards are sold at all main tourist sites and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel reception desks. A postcard to North America costs about 9,500 kip and takes 10 days to two weeks to reach its destination.
 
Religion
As in the neighbouring countries of Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion and saffron-robed monks are a common sight in Laos. There are also a small number of Catholics and Protestants.
 
Safety
Laos is generally a safe country. Nevertheless and as a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. In some tourist sites you may encounter some insistent souvenir sellers. A polite but firm 'No, thank you' usually will suffice.
 
Shopping
The best buys in Laos are ethnic minority handicrafts and textiles. The Lao sarong or pha sin made from silk or cotton is popular souvenir. Other souvenirs to look out for include silverware, in particular from Luang Prabang, and wood carvings.
 
Telephone
Most hotels have IDD phones and fax machines, however these services are expensive in Laos. Internet cafes offer cheaper dialling rates although the quality is not always great and away from the major cities it may not always be possible to make international calls. If you have worldwide coverage, you can bring your mobile phone and use it to make domestic or
international calls which again can be expensive. The Lao mobile network is cheap and affordable. Local SIM cards can easily be purchased in the main cities and international rates are around 2000 kip per minute.
 
Time
Laos is GMT+7 and does not operate on a daylight-savings system (therefore GMT+6 in summer time).
 
Tipping
Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in Laos. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped a small amount for their troubles.
 
Transportation
Lao laws do allow foreigners to rent and drive a car themselves. It is highly recommended to arrange a self-drive package in advance to get road maps, suggested stops and advice on driving in Laos as traffic conditions may vary dramatically from what you are used to. If you wish to hire a driver, please remember that in Laos drivers are only drivers. Tour guides must
be licensed by the National Tourism Authority. Asia Odyssey use arguably the best tour guides in Laos and we specialise in arranging tours with private driver and tour guide. For in-town transportation, 3-4 seater tuk tuks (motorcycle-pulled carts) are the most popular options with larger sangthaews (also called jumbos) available to carry up to 12 people. Laos towns are small enough to be toured by bicycle and most hotels and guesthouses have them for rent at reasonable rates.
 
Visas
Approval is no longer required for visas to Laos. Foreign tourists are generally admitted into Laos for 30 days with a visa on arrival (obtained at most border check points) without prior authorization or for 30 days with a visa issued at a Laotian embassy. This costs from US$35 (depending on nationality) and requires the filling in of an application form and two passport photos. An additional 1 US$ per person can be charged if you arrive on a weekend or public holiday. Two passport-size photos are required and your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your expected departure date. When you enter Laos, make sure you get an entry stamp in your passport. Not having a legitimate entry stamp could lead to arrest or a large fine. Please contact your local Lao embassy for the most accurate information.
 
Weather
Laos has a monsoon climate featuring a dry and a wet season. The dry season lasts from November to May with the cooler period in December and January. At its coldest temperatures fall to as low as 15ºC. It is coldest at night, in the early mornings and at higher altitudes. During the hot period of the dry season, between March and May, temperatures can reach the high 30’s ºC. Rainfall in the wet season varies according to altitude. Generally speaking, the monsoon season produces severe rain that lasts for short periods of time. The wet months vary according to location. In Vientiane, they are from May to September; in
Luang Prabang, August is far wetter than any other month. Laos is sunny year-round and we highly recommend bringing sun protection from your home country. Wearing sun screen and a hat are the best ways to avoid heatstroke and sunburn.
 
Water
Keep in mind to always clean your fruits and vegetable with purified water or to peel them. Bottled water is safe for tourists to drink and easy to find in most places.

General info - Burma+

   MyanmarUseful Information
 
AIRLINES
AIRLINES (DOMESTIC)
We use the following 5 domestic airlines: Air Bagan, Air Mandalay, Air KBZ, Asian Wings and Yangon Airways. All four airlines fly French-Italian ATR turboprop planes (Avions de Transports Région aux), a type of plane well suited for the local conditions, airports and distances. The configuration is either 40 seats (ATR-42) or 70-seats (ATR 72) in rows of 4 seats with a middle aisle. Entry-exit is at the back of the plane. Standard One-class configuration.
Air Bagan operates 1 Fokker-100 Dutch-made jet aircraft with 95 seats, 12 of which are business class seats (Lotus Class - 3 rows of 4 with middle aisle). Economy class configuration is: 2 seats -aisle- 3 seats. Entry/exit is at the front of the plane.
Exotissimo Travel does not use Myanmar Airways (domestic) flights (not to be confused with Myanmar Airways International). If passengers insist on flying Myanmar Airways (if for example no other airline is flying to that destination), passengers will be asked to sign a Liability waiver. 
 
AIRLINES (INTERNATIONAL)
The following airlines currently fly into Myanmar: Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia, Myanmar Airways International, Malaysia Airlines, Silk Air, Air China, China Eastern, Mandarin Airlines, Indian Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Air Bagan and Vietnam Airlines.
 
AIRPORT TAX 
An international airport tax of 10 USD per person is payable cash in USD or FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificates) when departing Myanmar on an international flight. Departure tax for domestic flights is 1000 kyat and is included in ticket cost for flights booked on or after 1 July 2011.
 
ARRIVAL FORMALITIES
Queue up at the immigration counters with a filled out arrival card and your passport with your visa stamped inside. After passing immigration, collect your luggage from the luggage belt and proceed to the customs counter. Hand over your filled-out customs form. Note that items of value and currency in excess of 2000 USD are supposed to be declared and taken again on departure, but in practice things are made quite easy for tourists. Also note that mobile phones and laptops are no longer kept in storage on arrival as is still claimed in some guidebooks.
 
CLOTHING
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for travelling in Myanmar. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat and umbrella are a good idea in the rainy season and the umbrella can also offer useful shade from the sun.
 
Evenings in the hill stations and on Inle Lake can be quite chilly so bring a sweater or other warm clothing if visiting these areas. This applies especially for the winter months November-February for treks and the Inle lake area where early morning boat rides can be quite cold. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting pagodas and monasteries.
Shoes (and socks!) must be removed before entering any religious building or private home. It is therefore useful to wear shoes without too many laces and which can easily be taken off. We provide small towels to clean your feet before putting back on your shoes.
  
ELDERLY PEOPLE
Some roads in Myanmar are not in the best shape and most of the vehicles are also a bit older. For elderly people or those with health and back problems especially, we recommend avoiding longer road trips like Bagan to Kalaw or Inle Lake to Mandalay. In some places like Monywa-Po Win Taung, some jeep rides are planned. Please let us know in advance of people with back problems or who need special attention are travelling in order for us to make necessary arrangements.
 
ELECTRICITY
Myanmar uses 220V, and a mixture of flat 2-pin, round 2-pin or 3 pin plugs. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor. Power outages are quite common but most hotels have their own generator.
 
ENTERTAINMENT
There is not much in the way of western style entertainment in Myanmar but Yangon has a few bars and nightclubs. In the rest of the country, entertainment is mostly confined to the hotels and tourist-orientated restaurants. For those seeking a taste of the local culture in the evenings, head to tea shop, beer hall or night market where the locals gather to relax and socialize.
 
ENTRY/EXIT POINTS
Myanmar is bordered by 5 countries: Thailand and Laos to the east, India and Bangladesh to the west and China to the north east. There are three international land borders open for travellers: Tachilek (located near the Thai border town of Mae Sai), Kawthaung (located in the south near the Thai town of Ranong, 5 hours from Phuket) and Muse (connecting to China's Yunnan province).
 
At the present time, overland travel is not permitted however the situation changes frequently. Exotissimo can advise and arrange travel permits when the ban is lifted yet we cannot guarantee the stability of the overland regulations. Thus we recommend having flexible travel dates and will provide an alternative back up plan in case permission is revoked at the last minute.
 
During periods when overland travel IS permitted, if a traveller uses different arrival and exit points (ie- arrives in Yangon by plane and departs overland via Kengtung) special permission must be requested in advance.  
 
FOOD
The staples of Burmese cuisine are rice, rice noodles, and curries. The main ingredient of the meal is usually rice and the curries tend to be not as spicy as those from India or Thailand. A clear soup called hingyo accompanies most meals and a fermented fish sauce or paste called ngapiye is usually served to add to the flavour. Chinese, Indian and European food is served in restaurants at most tourist places.
 
GEMS / PRECIOUS STONES
Myanmar is well known for its riches in precious stones, especially rubies (pigeon-blood) and jade (imperial-jade). Should visitors chose to purchase gems, they do so at their own risk and rely solely on their own judgment and knowledge. Exotissimo Travel Myanmar does not assume any responsibility for gem and antique purchases through "recommendations" made by our guides. Our guides are instructed not to recommendany specific shop. Even if pressed to do so by visitors, the sole responsibility for their purchase lies with the buyer.
 
A relative guarantee for the quality of purchases is given by an official receipt and certificate issued by government-licensed dealers. Prices in such shops are higher but are more credible and would theoretically allow you to return the purchase in case you are unhappy or if it is of lesser value. The issued paper can also be shown when exiting the country as export of gems and stones, and without such a government-issued paper are illegal.
 
HEALTH
No vaccinations are required except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in Myanmar and it is advisable to take precautions especially if travelling off the beaten track. Please consult with your usual doctor or a doctor specialized in tropical countries before travelling.
Medical facilities are rather limited in Myanmar (Yangon has the best facilities) and it is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before travelling. Such an insurance should cover the cost of an evacuation flight out of Myanmar (most of the time to Bangkok) which are sometimes necessary.
 
HOURS OF BUSINESS
Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 09:30 until 16:00. Most shops are open every day. An exception is Bogyoke Market (Scott Market), which is closed on Monday and public holidays. The museums in Myanmar are open Wednesday - Sunday only and are also closed on public holidays.
 
INSURANCE
Medical facilities are rather limited in Myanmar (Yangon has the best facilities) and it is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before travelling. Such an insurance should absolutely cover the cost of an evacuation flight out of Myanmar (most of the time to Bangkok or Singapore) which is sometimes necessary either on a regular flight or on a special flight. For adventure tours, such as cycling, proof of purchase of a travel insurance policy will be required.
 
INTERNET
Internet access is still in its development stages and not reliable- the connections can be extremely slow at times so patience is required! Internet is also regulated in Myanmar and the access to some websites is filtered or impossible. Many internet cafes, however, can offer a different URL that will allow access to email providers such as Gmail and yahoo. It is best to have your mail forwarded to Exotissimo (we will provide you with the right contact person) or the hotel e-mail address.
Most of the hotels have now some internet terminals and in cities like Yangon, Mandalay and Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake), you will also find some small internet cafés. 
 
LANGUAGE
The national language of Myanmar is Burmese, of which there are over 80 different dialects spoken. The written language uses an amazing looking script based on ancient Indian characters. In the cities many of the older generation still speak very good English and it is also becoming popular again with the younger generation.
 
MOBILE PHONES
Your mobile phone will NOT work in Myanmar as Myanmar currently has no roaming agreement with any country. Prepaid cards in value of USD/FEC 50 (CDMA-450 MHZ) are available for purchase within the country.
The USD/FEC 50 card is maximum 90 days validity after activated. These prepaid mobile phone cards are aimed at tourists visiting Myanmar who wish to keep in touch with friends and family.
 
A phone rental system is available from the Yangon International Airport. A despot of 200 USD (cash) is required and the daily fee is 2 USD for regular phone or 4 USD for Smartphone. Phone credit is an additional cost with cards available for 10,000 - 30,000 kyat (must be paid in cash). These top up cards are available for purchase throughout the country. 
 
MONEY (EXCHANGE, ATMS, TRAVELERS CHEQUES)
Myanmar is a cash-based society- There are NO ATMs in Myanmar and Credit Cards/Travellers checks are mostly not accepted. Please make sure to bring enough cash (USD or Euros) for your purchases and payments.
 
Currency:The currency in Myanmar is the kyat (pronounced 'chat') and comes in notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000 and 5000 kyat. As in many countries of the area, the US Dollar is the most useful currency to carry but we recommend for travellers to exchange some money into kyat. In many local restaurants and shops, kyat is the only method of payment allowed.
 
There is a parallel official currency the FEC (Foreign Exchange certificate), which can be used (as you use cash US Dollars) to pay hotels, flight- train tickets, souvenirs, meals etc. It is at par (1:1) with the US Dollar but make sure to spend it before leaving Myanmar as it is valid only in Myanmar.
 
Exchange:
US Dollars are the best currency for exchanging and the Euro is becoming more popular, especially in Yangon. The exchange rate in Yangon is generally better than upcountry and the larger the bill, the better the rate (ie- 100 USD notes receive 10% more kyat compared to 50 USD notes).  Bring new series US Dollar bills ("big heads" instead of "small heads") and with series numbers not starting with CB- these are not accepted in Myanmar due to rumours of these series being counterfeit. Notes should be in very good condition and not torn, dirty or washed as these will not be accepted in Myanmar, even in many hotels!
 
There are currently three 'official' exchange counters offering a better rate than the black market. We recommend changing your currency here as you are issued a receipt, the service is monitored and there is no chance of being ripped off. Your guide can assist to direct you to any of these places and it is expected more will open in the near future. Two of these counters are open at the Yangon International Airport in the arrival lounge. Here clients have the ability to return any leftover Myanmar currency at the end of the trip. Note that the airport counters frequently run out of money by 15.00 so this service currently is best for morning arrivals only. There is also one centre downtown on Thein Byu Road which is open seven days a week until 16.00.  All three locations accept US Dollars, Euros and Singapore Dollars. 
 
NOTE:It is no longer a requirement to exchange money into FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificates) at the airport.
 
Credit cards:Only some upscale restaurants and some hotels do accept credit cards (surcharge of 3-8%) but it is not recommended to rely on this service as the Internet often shuts down during the day making payment by card impossible.
 
Travellers Checks:Travellers Checks currently CANNOT BE USED or exchanged in Myanmar. 
 
PHOTOGRAPHY
Normal print films are available in Myanmar but professional quality films (like slide films) are very difficult to find and it is better to bring your own. In towns like Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Nyaung Shwe, digital photos can easily be downloaded and loaded onto a CD-ROM in case you run out of memory. It is not allowed to photograph facilities with strategic military interest (bridges, army compounds, police stations, army personnel, etc.).
 
PROHIBITED ITEMS
Mobile telephones and laptop computers with modems are officially not allowed into the country but the rule is not enforced and they can be brought in. However mobile phones will not work in Myanmar, as the country does not have any roaming agreements. Items of jewellery, cameras and foreign currency (above USD 2000) are supposed to be declared at customs upon entry.
Export of Buddha images and antiques or articles of archaeological importance is prohibited. Gemstones can be safely bought only from government-controlled outlets and the buyer should ask for a certificate (please read more details under Gems/Precious Stones above).
 
RELIGION
Buddhism is the dominant religion in Myanmar and over 85% of the population practice it. The monastery is the traditional focal point of village life in Myanmar and monks rely on villagers for donations of both money and food. Every boy in Myanmar is expected to spend sometime as a monk. The remainder of the population are Christians, Muslims and animists. 
 
ROAD TRAVEL
Road travel allows visitors to see more of the country and is a great way to get closer to the land and its people. However some distances are quite long in Myanmar, and they are even longer because road conditions make (relatively) fast travelling difficult. Roads are in poor conditions although efforts are being made to upgrade most roads especially after the yearly rainy season which ends in October.  The relatively old vehicles used in Myanmar also make long distance travel less comfortable than in neighbouring countries.
 
SHOPPING
There are many fantastic local products in Myanmar that make excellent souvenirs and memories from your trip. Traditional crafts include lacquer ware, especially in Bagan, woodcarvings, stone carvings, bronze work, rattan, silver jewellery, silk longyisand hand-woven textiles.
 
TIME DIFFERENCE
Myanmar is 6h 30 min ahead of GMT in winter and 5h 30min in summer: 1500H GMT = 2130H in Myanmar (winter). Myanmar is 30 minutes behind Bangkok (Thailand) time: 1500H in Bangkok = 1430H in Myanmar.
 
TIPPING
Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in a country where the average annual income is only around 250 USD. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters can also be tipped.
 
VEHICLES 
Vehicles used in Myanmar (from 4-seater saloon cars to 45-seater buses) are generally of an older manufacturing date (which can be 10-15 years back) as the import of new vehicles is currently not possible or prohibitively expensive, given the current economic situation in Myanmar.  While every effort is made to provide the best possible and available options, visitors have to be prepared to travel in less comfortable vehicles than in neighbouring countries like in Thailand, Laos or Cambodia. We appreciate your understanding.
 All vehicles do have air-conditioning and we provide all our clients with complimentary water and towels in ice-boxes in each vehicle. 
 
VISAS
A visa is COMPULSORY to enter Myanmar.  A 28-day tourist visa is usually sufficient for most visitors. The current  regulations for entering Myanmar are as following:
 
1. Individual visa
This visa is issued by a Myanmar Embassy or Consulate. An invitation letter is not mandatory, and it usually takes 3-5 working days to issue this visa.
 
2. Package Tour visa
This visa is issued by a Myanmar Embassy or Consulate.  It usually takes 3-5 days to issue the visa. With the confirmation of your booking, Exotissimo will send the letter to the Embassy. Exotissimo will need the full names, passport numbers, nationality and name of Myanmar Embassy we have to send the letter. A copy of the letter will be send to you by fax or e-mail.
 
3. Visa on arrival
Pre-arranged Visa on Arrival is available for all nationalities (starting 2 August 2011). This service is only available for clients travelling with Exotissimo for the duration of their stay in Myanmar- due to regulations we are not able to assist with non-Exotissimo clients. Please provide us passenger's full name, father's name, date of birth and place, Passport No, Issuance/Expiry date of passport, Nationality, Sex, Race, Religion, Occupation, Home address, Flights in/out and a scanned passport photo. The application process for visa on arrival will take at least 12 working days.
 After getting the approval letter, we will send you a copy of this authorization by fax or scanned e-mail attachment. The letter should be presented at the airline check-in counter. Upon arrival in Myanmar you will get your visa stamped in your passport and pay 30USD/passport in cash at the airport (this fee can be included in your package price and we will then settle the visa fee for you). Exotissimo's service fee for these arrangements is 15USD/passport and it will be included in your package rate. The service fee will be charged whether the visa application is accepted or not.
 
Please bring a supply of passport size pictures for any eventuality when travelling in the region (6photos).
 
Note: we still recommend applying for a visa in your home country as approval is generally granted further in advance than with the VOA process.
 
WEATHER
Myanmar has three seasons similar to many other parts of Southeast Asia. The Southwest monsoon starts at the end of May or beginning of June and lasts until the end of September. This season brings frequent and heavy downpours of rain, mainly in the afternoon and evening especially in Yangon, the rest of the country is dryer. In the rainy season the weather is more humid what can make travelling less comfortable. The rains give way to dry weather in October and the temperatures are generally lower and more pleasant at this time. In March the temperatures start to climb again leading up to the next rainy season at the end of May. Temperatures between March and May can be very hot reaching over 35oC in some places. 
 
NOTE:Myanmar is in the northern hemisphere so it is also winter from November to February. You need to bring some warm clothing for early mornings everywhere, and especially for higher areas like Shan State (Kalaw, Inle Lake, Pindaya, Kengtung, Putao). The hotels in those areas are NOT equipped with heating or fireplaces so be prepared for some colder nights!
 
WATER
It is not advisable to drink tap water but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. All hotels provide a complimentary bottle of local mineral water per person in the room.  Ice cubes in drinks is generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas.  Some minor stomach problems are always possible when travelling in exotic countries. Bring a supply of your usual anti-diarrhoea medicine.      

General info - Cambodia+

      Airlines (Domestic)
Cambodia Angkor Air is currently the only airline operating domestic flights in Cambodia with three airports in active use (Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville).
Cambodia Angkor Air (code K6) uses French-Italian ATR turboprop planes, a type of plane well suited for the local conditions, airports and distances. The configuration is 70-seats (ATR 72) in rows of 4 seats with a middle aisle. Entry-exit is at the back of the plane.
 
Airlines (International)
The following airlines currently fly into Cambodia: Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia,
Air France, Asiana Airlines, Cambodia Angkor Air, Cebu Airways, China Airlines, China Eastern
Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Dragon Air, EVA Air, Jetstar Asia, Korean Air, Lao Airlines,
Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Shanghai Airlines, Silk Air, Tiger Airways and Vietnam
Airlines. Cambodia Angkor Air operates international routes to Saigon, Hanoi, Bangkok and Guangzhou with further plans for expansion within the region.
 
Airport Tax
Departure tax is now included in the ticket price for both domestic and international flights.
 
Clothing
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for
travelling in Cambodia. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is
advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat
and umbrella are a good idea in the rainy season and the umbrella can also offer useful shade from the sun. Shoes (and socks) must be removed before entering any religious building or private home.
 
Electricity
Cambodia uses 220V, and a mixture of flat 2-pin, round 2-pin or 3 pin plugs. It is  recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor. Power outages happen occasionally but most hotels have their own generator.
 
Entertainment and Dining
Western style entertainment is easy to find in Cambodia. Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have a
wealth of good restaurants and a large number of bars and some nightclubs. In the rest of the country, entertainment is still emerging, but some tourist-oriented restaurants and bars can be found in most tourist destinations in Cambodia.
 
 

 
Etiquette
 
Dos in Cambodia:
 
• Ask for permission before taking photographs of any Cambodian people or monks. Most
times you will be welcomed to take photos but on occasion some people might request
some payment – therefore best to ask first!
 
• It is customary to remove your shoes and socks when entering a place of worship such
as a pagoda or temple. Additionally, visitors should dress appropriately when inside a
religious site (upper arms and legs should be covered, hats removed). If temples are
part of the days sightseeing flip flop/thong shoes can be practical.
 
• It is respectful to remove your shoes when entering someone’s home.
 
• If invited to dine in a Cambodian family’s home, it is polite to bring a small gift for
the host such as fruit, dessert, or flowers.
 
• If invited to attend a Cambodian wedding, it is customary to bring money as a
wedding gift ($20 per couple would suffice)
 
• When using a toothpick at the table, use one hand to cover your mouth.
 
• Though not necessarily expected, a respectful way of greeting another individual is to
bow the head slightly with hands pressed together at the chest (known as “Sampeah”).
 
Don’ts in Cambodia
 
• Don't use your feet to point at someone. In Buddhism feet are considered the lowest
part of the body and it is rude to point with them!
 
• Don't touch a Cambodian person on the head. Being the highest part of the body it
would be condescending to pat someone on the head.
 
• Don't start eating before the host if you are a guest at a dinner.
 
• Women should never touch male monks or hand something directly to them.
 
• Keep public displays of affection to a respectful minimum. Whilst some tourists cycle
in skimpy shorts and with tank top shirts it is not well appreciated by Cambodians. We
recommend normal knee length shorts and T-Shirts with short sleeves as being
appropriate.
 
• Be responsible and do not enter schools, orphanages or hospitals – this is not
acceptable in most peoples home countries and should not be done in Cambodia
despite often being offered to tourists.
 
 
 
 
 
Food
As in many Asian countries, the staple food of the Cambodian diet is rice. This is usually
served with dried, salted fish, chicken, beef or pork. Fish is often fresh from Tonle Sap Lake
and is eaten with a spicy peanut sauce called tuk trey. Popular dishes include sam chruk, a
roll of sticky rice stuffed with soya bean and chopped pork and amok, a soup of boneless fish
with coconut and spices. In Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Western food is widely available and increasingly so in the provinces.
 
Health
No vaccinations are required except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where
the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera,
hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Malaria and Dengue Fever are present in Cambodia and it
is advisable to take precautions especially if travelling off the beaten track. Please consult
with your usual doctor or a doctor specialized in tropical countries before travelling.
 
Business Hours
Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 07:30 or 08:00 until 17:00 and often
close for lunch between 12:00 and 14:00. Shops open early and close any time between 18:00 and 22:00. Most shops are open 7 days a week.
 
Insurance
Medical facilities are rather limited in Cambodia and it is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before travelling. Such an insurance should cover the cost of an evacuation flight out of Cambodia (most of the time to Bangkok or Singapore) which is sometimes necessary either on a regular flight or on a special flight. For adventure tours such as cycling, proof of purchase of a travel insurance policy will be required. In Siem Reap, the Royal Angkor International Hospital (affiliated with the Bangkok Hospital Medical Center) is the best choice, as is the International SOS Clinic in Phnom Penh.  
 
Internet
Internet access is widely available in every major city in Cambodia. In Phnom Penh and Siem
Reap there are many Internet cafes from which to stay in contact with your home though
most hotels offer Wi-Fi on a complimentary basis. Even in outlying regions, many hotels
provide Internet access.
 
Language
Cambodia's national language is called Khmer and unlike the other languages of the region is
not a tonal language. The written script originated in southern India. As in other former
French colonies the educated older generation often speaks very good French while the
younger generation prefers English. Outside the major centres of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Battambang and the South Coast, most people speak only Khmer but it is usually no problem to find somebody who can speak some English.
 

 
Money
The currency of Cambodia is called ‘riel’. There is however no needs to change your currency
into riel as US dollars are the preferred currency and accepted everywhere. Please note that
ripped, torn, or old bills will not be accepted. ATM machines, which distribute US dollars, are
nowadays found in the main cities across the country and, of course, in abundance in Siem
Reap and Phnom Penh. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 15:00 and Saturday
morning until 12:00. In the major cities there are exchange bureaus and most hotels will
change US dollars although for other currencies it is usually necessary to visit a bank.
Traveller's checks can be exchanged at banks and some hotels but can be difficult to change
outside of the major cities. Visa Card and MasterCard are now accepted in many hotels,
restaurants and shops in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. However, US dollars are king and are still the most reliable form of money to carry. If you are travelling in a local tuk tuk, make sure to have the right amount of cash and change with you as the drivers are unlikely to carry lots of cash with them.
 
Photography
Normal print films are still available in Cambodia but professional quality films (like slide films) are very difficult to find and it is better to bring your own. In cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, digital photos can easily be downloaded and loaded onto a DVD in case you run out of memory. Extra memory cards are readily available in the large cities but are not necessarily original versions.
 
Religion
Buddhism is the dominant religion in Cambodia with 90-95% of the population being Buddhist. Islam is practiced by a small percentage of the population, mainly the Cham people residing near the Vietnam border, and Christianity and Hinduism are the religions of less than 1% of the Cambodian people.
 
Safety
Despite its turbulent history, Cambodia is a safe country to visit. All tourist areas have been
cleared of landmines with a comparatively small portion remaining in the more remote areas. As a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact and a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags.
 
Shopping
Cambodian handicrafts include silks, woodcarvings, rattan weavings, handmade papers and
the krama, the traditional Cambodian scarf. Phnom Penh and Siem Reap’s local markets are
the best places for shopping and there are also dozens of charity-run shops throughout the
country where you can shop for a cause. Ask your guide for more information.
 
Telephone
If you have worldwide coverage, you can bring your own mobile phone and use it to make
domestic or international calls. Check with your mobile phone provider for the costs before
using it abroad - it may be expensive. It is quite easy to get a SIM/Micro SIM on arrival and use within Cambodia if required and cards cost only a few dollars. Internet cafes offer the best deals with programs such as Skype providing cheap, decent quality overseas calls.
 
Time
Cambodia is GMT + 7 and does not operate a daylight-saving system.
 
 
Tipping
Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in a country where the
average annual income is incredibly low compared to Western standards. It is customary to
tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel porters should also be tipped. Do not
let a guide talk you into tipping more than you plan to. It is totally up to you who you tip,
when and how much and should be based on service received.
 
Travellers Cheques
Banks such as ANZ Bank and ACLEDA will change your Travellers Cheques for US Dollars but a commission applies (2% to 5%). Very few shops, hotels or restaurants accept Travellers Cheques.
NOTE: Travellers Cheques can be difficult to change outside of major cities.
 
Visas
Most visitors to Cambodia require a visa to enter the country and all travellers must have a
passport valid for 6 months after their planned exit from Cambodia. Most nationalities can get a visa on arrival at the international airports (Siem Reap and Phnom Penh) without prior registration. The Visa on Arrival is valid for 30 days, single entry and cost USD20 and requires two passport sized photos. The immigration at Siem Reap and Phnom Penh airports can arrange photos on arrival for $2 per person though we suggest to bring them with you to ensure quicker passage into the country. Electronic Visas are now available through the Ministry’s website with a processing time of 3 days. A scanned copy of the passport and USD25 paid by credit card will issue an emailed visa which the traveller must print and bring with them. Most border crossings accept e-visas, however it is recommended to double check with the government. Visas are available at the Thailand/Cambodian/Vietnam/Laos checkpoints however scams are common due to the low income of border staff and it is recommended to arrange visas in advance in your home country or through the e-visa program.
 
Weather
Cambodia has two distinctive seasons: Rainy from June to October and dry from November to May. Travelling during the rainy season has its benefits as the temple moats in Siem Reap are full, making for great photos. The rains are usually in the afternoon and last 2-3 hours. The dry season can be very dusty, but easier for walking through the jungle terrain around the temples. The temperature is fairly steady 30-35 Celsius during the day time, although
November to January often has cooler temperatures.
 
Water
It is not advisable to drink tap water but bottled mineral water is safe and available
everywhere. All hotels provide a complimentary bottle of local mineral water per person in
the room. Ice cubes in drinks is generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants but it is
best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas. Some minor stomach problems are always possible when travelling in exotic countries. Bring a supply of your usual anti-diarrhoea medicine.

General info - Malaysia and Borneo+

  

Country
The Federation of Malaysia comprises of Peninsular Malaysia, and the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

                                     

Currency

The local currency is the Ringgit. There are approximately 4.75 Malaysian Ringgits to the Sterling pound and 3.0 to the US dollar. Most ports of entry in the country have a 24 hour bank exchange counter immediately after customs and immigration. Access to ATMs may not be possible in some of the jungle areas and it is advisable to carry enough cash for these places. 

 

Healthcare

There is no mandatory vaccination for Malaysia unless visiting from a Yellow Fever infected country (i.e., an African country). Vaccinations or medication is, however, advised for tetanus, hepatitis A and malaria. It is advisable to consult your doctor for these about 6 weeks prior to departure.

We recommend you carry with you a small supply of basic health care medication such as travel sickness tablets, anti-diarrhoea tablets, antacids for indigestion, insect repellent, sun creams and selected antibiotics after discussion with your doctor. Although most of these items are available in Malaysia, the security provided by brands one is used to, is reassuring.

We strongly recommend that all travellers be properly insured for the holiday. While taking insurance, please check that it includes repatriation costs. 

 

Clothing

Malaysia has a warm, tropical climate all year round with temperatures around 30ºC. During the day it is best to wear light, comfortable cottons with a pair of good ventilated walking shoes. 

The monsoon season lasts from November to February with heavy but brief downpours. It is advised to carry rainwear/waterproofs. Rains also tend to bring out leeches in the tropical jungles, even during other months. It is advisable to carry leech socks. 

Early morning and evening temperatures at higher altitudes like Mt Kinabalu can be quite chilly, adequate warm clothing is required. 

For the sightseeing sessions and jungle walks you may find a good pair of sunglasses, binoculars and a sun-hat handy. For cave explorations and dense jungle walks it is advisable to wear full sleeves tops and long trousers to avoid insect bites and scratches from bushes.

Most hotels, including the more exclusive ones, do not insist on formal wear in restaurants and smart casuals are acceptable.

 

Shopping

Malaysia is a premier shopping destination in South East Asia. From the antique and the exotic to modern electronic and audio-visual equipment, the constantly changing product range includes an extensive collection of designer labels from the fashion capitals of the world. The Malaysia Mega Sales Carnival, held thrice a year in the months of March, August and December is a mammoth nation-wide sale that offers everything from A to Z in shopping complexes, departmental stores, individual retailers and street shops. 

When purchasing an expensive item, always check the level of duty payable in the UK on your import.  Please remember Customs Duty and VAT is payable on all goods above the value of £340 per person, even if an item is exempt from other import duties.   

 

Voltage

The electric voltage in Malaysia is 220 volt AC. Most English electric appliances work well in Malaysia with similar English plug pin systems in use (universal adapter is not needed). 


Geographic Location
Situated between 2º and 7º to the North of the Equator line, Peninsular Malaysia is separated from Sabah and Sarawak by the South China Sea.

In the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia lies Thailand, and in the south, neighbouring Singapore. Sabah and Sarawak are bounded by Indonesia while Sarawak also shares borders with Brunei.

People
Malays comprise 57% of the population, while the Chinese, Indian and Bumiputeras and other races make up the rest of the country's population.

Language
(Bahasa Melayu)Malay is the national language in use, but English is widely spoken. The ethnic groups also converse in the various languages and dialects.

Religion
Islam is the official religion of the country, but other religions are widely practiced.

Government
Malaysia follows the bicameral legislative system, adopting a democratic parliamentary. The head of the country is the King or the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, a position which is changed every five years among the Malay Sultanates. The head of government is the Prime Minister.

Weather
The country experiences tropical weather year-round. Temperatures are from 21ºC (70ºF) to 32ºC (90ºF). Higher elevations are much colder with temperatures between 15°C (59° F) to 25°C (77°F). Annual rainfall varies from 2,000mm to 2,500mm.

Getting there
The main gateway to Malaysia is through the new KL International Airport at Sepang located approximately 50 km south of Kuala Lumpur. The Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah in Subang serves a few domestic and regional airlines. Other major international airports which serve as entry points are Penang, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Langkawi The main entry point by sea to KL is at Port Klang about 50 km away from KL. Malaysia is also accessible by rail and road from Singapore and Thailand

Getting Around

Malaysia has excellent domestic airlinks and a well developed and effective public transportation system served by buses, taxis and trains Accommodation Malaysia has a wide range of accommodation at competitive rates. International standard hotels, medium and budget hotels, youth hostels and timeshare apartments are just some of the types of accommodation available. Privately operated motor-homes are also available for rental.

Customs
When visiting Malaysia, the visitor should observe local customs and practices. Some common courtesies and customs are as follows.

Although handshakes generally suffice for both men and women, some Muslim ladies may acknowledge an introduction with a gentleman with a nod and a smile. A handshake is only to be reciprocated if the lady offers. The traditional greeting or 'salam' resembles a handshake with both hands but without the grasp. The man offers both hands, lightly touches his friend's outstretched hands, then brings his hands to his chest to mean "I greet you from my heart". The visitor should reciprocate the 'salam'.

  • Shoes must always be removed when entering a Malaysian home
  • Tea/Coffee is generally offered to guests. It would be polite to accept.
  • The right hand is always used when eating with one's fingers or when giving and receiving objects.
  • The right forefinger is not used to point at places, objects or persons. Pointing with the thumb of the right hand with the four fingers, folded under is the preferred usage
  • Shoes must be removed when entering places of worship such as mosques and temples.

Some mosques provide robes and scarves for female visitors. Taking photographs at places of worship is usually permitted but always ask for permission first.

 

Passport or Travel Document
Every person entering Malaysia must possess a valid national Passport or internationally recognized Travel Document valid for travelling to Malaysia.

Any person not in possession of a Passport or Travel Document which is recognized by the Malaysian Government must obtain a Document in lieu of Passport.

The documents shall be valid, for more than six (6) months from the date of entry.

Visa requirement
A visa is an endorsement in a passport or other recognized travel document of foreigner indicating that the holder has applied for permission to enter Malaysia and that permission has been granted.

Foreign nationals who require a Visa to enter Malaysia must apply and obtain a Visa in advance at any Malaysian Representative Office abroad before entering the country.

Visa which has been granted is not absolute guarantee that the holder will be allowed to enter Malaysia. The final decision lies with the Immigration Officer at the entry point.

A visitor must present his/her passport together with the duly completed arrival / departure card to the Immigration officer on duty and he/she must ensure that the passport or travel document is endorsed with the appropriate pass before leaving the immigration counter.

Above all, retain your sense of humour.    
 

General info - Thailand+

   Airlines
International: Major airlines flying to Thailand include Thai Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and many more.
Domestic: Five domestic airlines are currently operating in Thailand: Thai Airways, Thai Air Asia, Bangkok Airways, Nok Air and Orient Thai
 
Airport Tax
Airport taxes are included in all international and domestic flight tickets. Any additional airport fees are also included so there is no additional payment needed at the airport.
 
Arrival in Thailand
By Air
Bangkok is one of Asia’s largest air hubs, so it is very well-connected to the rest of the world. Besides Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, the airports in Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Koh Samui, Phuket, Krabi and Pattaya are served by international flights directly. Consult your local travel agent for routings, fares and availability on flights to Thailand.
 
By Land
Thailand shares borders with Myanmar to the north-west, Laos in the north-east, Cambodia to the east and Malaysia to the south.
From Laos: The Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River between Vientiane and Nong Khai is the busiest crossing.
The Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge now links Savannakhet with Mukdahan.
It is also possible to cross the borders at Houey Xai/ Chiang Khong, Nakaxeng / Kaenthao, Pakxan / Bungkan, Thakhaek / Nakorn Phanom.
 
From Myanmar: Visitors can cross into Thailand from Tachileik to Mae Sai (Chiang Rai) and from Kawthoung into Ranong.
For the border checkpoints at Mae Sot/ Myawaddy and Three Pagoda Pass at Sangkhlaburi/ Payathonzu, foreigners can only access them from the Thai side, so it will be impossible to cross into Thailand from Myanmar at these points.
Note:Border crossing at Three Pagodas Pass is closed from time to time due to the political situation
 
From Cambodia: There are six border crossings linking Thailand and Cambodia. The high way linking Siem Reap and the Angkor temples leads to Aranyaprathet via Poipet is a very popular crossing.
 
From Malaysia: There are four crossings linking Thailand with Malaysia, namely Padang Besar and Sadao in Songkhla Province, Betong in Yala Province and Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat Province.
Note:These border crossings are closed from time to time due to the political situation

 
Arrival formalities
Upon arrival in Thailand, all visitors must complete an entry/exit form including a customs declaration. It is important that your copy of this form is kept safe with your passport while in Thailand and is presented to the customs and immigration officials on departure. In case you are obtaining your pre-arranged visa on arrival please proceed to the Visa counter and read the visa section below.
Note:overland entry procedures change from time to time according to the immigration office) If you have booked a transfer we will provide you with information on where to meet your guide/driver as well as a 24-hour phone number to be used in case of difficulties.
 
ATM's
ATM's for withdrawing Thai Baht are widely available in major airports, shopping malls, hotels and almost all provincial banks in Thailand. For most banks there is a maximum withdrawal of 20,000 THB per transaction; however several withdrawals may be made in a single day. Ask your tour guide for help when you need to locate an ATM.
 
Business Hours
Most businesses are open from Monday to Friday. Government offices are open from 08:30 to 16:30 with some closing for lunch from noon to 13:00. Many retailers and travel agencies are also open on Saturday and most shops are open on Sundays.
 
Clothing
Comfortable light weight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for travelling in Thailand. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A light weight raincoat is a good idea in the rainy season. During the winter months from November to February, warm clothing is needed for visiting northern Thailand. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious buildings and shoes should be removed before entering a private home.
 
Credit Cards
VISA and MASTERCARD are the most widely accepted, but most other major credit cards are also accepted in Thailand. Not all shops and restaurants will accept credit cards, so do check with the cashier before making any purchases. Bear in mind that some places may pass onto you the fee imposed on them by the credit card company (approximately 2.25% to 3.5%, depending on card type), so you may w ant to pay by cash instead of credit card in some instances.
 
Customs Regulations
Free import by each passenger holding a passport of his own, irrespective of age:
1. 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco or equal weight of cigars;
2. 1 litre of alcoholic liquor;
3. A camera with 5 rolls of film or one movie camera with 3 rolls of 8 or 16 mm. film.
 
Electricity
Thailand uses 220V (50 cycles per second) but the plugs are not standardized. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor.

 
Entertainment
There are plenty of entertainment options in Thailand and restaurants/bars and nightclubs open until late at night/early in the morning. A wide variety of restaurants are on offer with everything from Thai, Chinese, Italian, French cuisine, etc. to fast food.
 
Food
The basis of a Thai meal is rice, usually steamed although it can be made into noodles, while glutinous or sticky rice is preferred with some specialties. Accompanying the rice are main dishes featuring vegetables, meat, seafood, egg, fish and soup. Although Thai's generally prefer hot, spicy food, not all dishes are so intense and there are grades of hotness as Thai food can be modulated to suit most tastes. Thailand is also the perfect place for a large choice of tropical fruits such as mangoes, pineapple, bananas, longan, mangosteen, jackfruit, as well as the famous durian, dubbed ‘the fruit of the gods’ fruits very special smell and taste. We are putting together a ‘Restaurant & Shopping Guide’ which show cases our preferred restaurants and bars in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket.
Please check to see if it is finished yet and we'll email you a copy!!!!
 
Health
No vaccinations are required except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in most of the region and it is advisable to take precautions especially if travelling off the beaten track. The standard of medical facilities is generally good and Thailand has a growing medical tourism industry. It is advisable to take out a good medical insurance policy before travelling in case evacuation is needed.
 
Internet
Internet cafes are widely available everywhere and are easily found in major towns and cities. Prices are reasonable but may vary from 10 – 60 baht an hour. In many Internet cafés, you can buy pre-paid international phone cards to dial from a computer to a landline or mobile phone worldwide. Most Internet cafés are equipped with webcams, headsets and microphones. Wi-Fi hotspots are becoming increasingly available in hotels and public spaces in Bangkok. Many hotels also have Business Centres with PCs connected to the Internet or in-room broadband access, please note that this service is not always free and the rates are usually cheaper at internet cafes.
 
Language
The most widely spoken language in Thailand is Thai, a complicated language with a unique alphabet. Beside the numerous hill tribe dialects, other languages spoken include Lao, Khmer and Chinese. Most Thai people, especially in the major cities, speak English and tourists should have no troubles with communication in these areas.

 
Money
The currency in Thailand is the Baht. Banks, which are open Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 15:30, give the best exchange rates. (Some banks in the central business areas or in department store extend business hours until 18:00) You will receive a better exchange rate in country than overseas so it is advisable to wait until reaching Thailand to exchange your money. At the Bangkok airport arrival area there are banks offering the same rate as you will find in the city centre.
In tourist areas, there are also currency exchange outlets that stay open later, usually until around 20:00. ATM machines are found throughout the country and most will accept foreign ATM cards. Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
 
Photography
Photo developing labs are common in Bangkok and the rest of Thailand, providing normal print films as well as professional quality films (like slide films). Digital photos can easily be downloaded and loaded onto a CD-Rom in case you run out of memory.
 
Postal Mail
Postcards are sold at all main tourist sites and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel reception desks. A postcard to Europe costs 15 baht to send and can take up to two weeks to reach the country of destination.
 
Religion
Theravada Buddhism is practiced by about 95% of Thais. Every Thai male is expected to become a monk for a short period in his life. There is also a large Muslim minority in Thailand’s four southern most provinces of Yala, Narathiwat, Pattaniand Satun.
 
Safety
Thailand is a safe country to visit. As a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. Do beware of scams and touts that remain fairly common in popular tourist destinations. As in any country, demonstrations do occasionally take place however they are usually in isolated areas away from the major tourist sites and has little, if any, affect on travellers.
 
Shopping
Textiles are possibly the best buy in Thailand and Thai silk, considered the best in the world, is very inexpensive. The Thai shoulder bags known as yâam are generally well made and come in many varieties, some woven by hill tribes. Other items to look out for include gems and jewellery, silverware, bronze w are, woodcarvings, lacquer ware, celadon pottery, leather goods and tailoring.
 
Telephone
Most hotels have offer international dialling and fax facilities although be warned that these services are expensive in Thailand. The best way to stay in touch is to buy a local SIM Card for your mobile phone at a convenience store. They cost approximately 150 THB and offer international dialling rates as low as 5 THB per minute and free incoming international calls. Internet cafes usually offer cheap web-phone call systems as well, however the quality is often poor.
 
Time
Thailand is GMT + 7 and does not operate on a daylight-savings system.
 
Tipping
Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in Thailand. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped a small amount for their troubles.
 
Transportation
Those possessing a valid International Driving License will be able to rent and drive a car. Road signs and maps are commonly displayed in the English language and international car hire companies such as Avis and Hertz also operate in major tourist destinations such as Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket and Samui Island. It is also easy to rent a car with a driver. Getting around town there are several options. The ubiquitous three-wheeled Tuk Tuks are fun for short transfers while metered taxis offer a nice (and cheap) air-conditioned ride. In Bangkok, the public transportation includes River Boat, a Skytrain and Underground Metro which are easy to use, reasonably priced and link most major tourist areas! A great way to avoid the city’s infamous traffic jams.
 
Visas
British passport holders arriving by air or land can enter Thailand for 30 days without a visa - this is known as a visa exemption. It’s not possible to extend your stay beyond the 30 days granted by the visa exemption.
If you plan to stay in Thailand for longer than 30 days, or you intend to work, you must get a visa before you travel. If you have entered Thailand on a visa, it’s possible to apply for an extension of stay but you must do this before your permission to stay expires.
If you overstay, you’ll be fined 500 baht per day up to a maximum of 20,000 baht. You also risk being held in detention, fined, deported at your own expense and black-listed from re-entering Thailand. The Thai authorities have stated that they will always enforce detention for overstays of more than 42 days.
The only legal way of getting a new visa, entry permit or extension of stay is from a Thai Embassy or Consulate, an Immigration Officer at a point of entry into Thailand or one of the Immigration Offices around the country. Visas issued by visa shops, travel agents or by any other means are likely to be illegal and lead to criminal proceedings.
 
Weather
The best time to visit Thailand is from November to February when the weather is dry and the temperatures are not too hot. During these winter months, the temperatures in the far north can drop down to freezing during the evenings, so trekking and camping trips in these areas are not recommended. From March to June, the heat returns with temperatures soaring to over 40 degrees Celsius during the day time. However there is rarely any rain during this time and the humidity is low. Thailand’s rainy season begins toward the end of June and continues until October. During this time the humidity can be stifling as it rains on a daily basis, usually in the afternoon, but it is also the quietest time for travellers meaning hotel prices drop and popular tourist spots are blissfully uncrowded.
The Southern Thai beaches are faced with two weather systems which bring the tropical rains at different times of the year, so it's possible to enjoy Thailand's beaches year-round. From January to September you can choose a beach on the east coast such as Koh Samui or Koh Phangan where you will have the best chance on sunny and dry weather while from October to April the west coast, including Phuket, Krabi, Khao Lak, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta offers the best chance of getting an all over tan. Some beaches can be visited all year round such as Hua Hin, Koh Samed, and Koh Chang
 
Water
It is not advisable to drink tap water in Thailand but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. Ice in drinks is generally OK in good standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid it on street stalls or in country areas   
    

General info - Vietnam+

          Airlines
International: See below under Arrival in Vietnam.
Domestic: 3 domestic airlines are currently operating in Vietnam: Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar-Pacific Airlines and Viet Jet Air. The last 2 are low-cost carriers (LCC).
All airlines are using a mixture of Boeing and Airbus planes and Vietnamese as well as foreign pilots. Asia Odyssey uses Vietnam Airlines as first choice.
 
Airport Tax
There is a departure tax on all international flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City but this tax is already included in the price of your airline tickets.
 
Arrival in Vietnam
By Air
Consult your local travel agent for routings, fares and availability on flights to Vietnam. Discount websites and flight search engines may offer some good deals.
Major airlines flying to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi include: Vietnam Airlines, Air France, United Airlines, Lufthansa, Thai Airways, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, China Air, Hong Kong Air, Cebu Pacific, Emirates, Etihad and many more.
Major airlines flying to Danang International Airport include Silk Air, Air Asia and Dragon Air.
Nha Trang’s Cam Ranh Airport and Phu Quoc are now International airports used for some
long-haul charter flights.
 
By Land
Vietnam shares a border with China in the north (three border crossings), Laos in the west (five border crossings) and Cambodia in the south-west (three border crossings).
 
From China:
Trains from Beijing to Hanoi pass by Nanning and Pinxiang in China and enter Vietnam at Dong Dang (north of Lang Son). There is also a road crossing known as Huu Nghi in Lang Son province. Transport coming from Kunming cross the border at Lao Cai, in northern Vietnam.
From Guangzhou, you will cross the border at Mong Cai, a few hours drive from Halong and its spectacular Bay.
 
From Laos:
South: Via Savannakhet and Sepon (Laos) to Lao Bao (Vietnam) and central provinces
Central: Vientiane to Lak Sao (Laos) to Cau Treo (Vietnam) and the Ha Tinh Province
Central: Xieng Khuang or Phonsavan to Nam Can (Vietnam) and the Nghe An Province
North: Xam Neua Province (Laos) to Na Meo (Vietnam) and the Thanh Hoa Province
North: Muang Khua Province (Laos) to Tay Trang border (Vietnam) and Dien Bien Phu

 
From Cambodia:
If you travel from Phnom Penh by speedboat, you will enter Vietnam at Chau Doc, in the Mekong Delta area. If you arrive by road into Ho Chi Minh City, you will enter Vietnam at Moc Bai, which connects Vietnam’s Tay Ninh Province with Cambodia’s Svay Rieng Province.
Border crossings at Prek Chak/Xaxia (close to Kep in Cambodia and Ha Tien in Vietnam) are now possible.
NOTE:You cannot obtain a visa on arrival at land border-crossing points. If you enter Vietnam by land, you must obtain the visa before arrival. Refer to our Visa section below for more information.
 
Arrival and Visas
You will need a visa to enter Vietnam. Make sure you get the correct visa for the purpose and destination of your trip.
The safest option is to get a visa from the Vietnamese Embassy before you travel. Vietnamese visas are usually valid for single entry, so if you plan to leave Vietnam and re-enter from another country make sure you get a multiple visit visa.
There are legitimate companies that can arrange visas on arrival, but you must organisethis before you arrive in Vietnam. We have been told that the personal information of multiple applicants can be included in letters confirming visa approval, which is normal procedure for the Vietnamese Immigration Department and any alteration to the letter would invalidate visa approval. If you are concerned about this you should apply for a visa through the nearest Vietnamese Embassy. There are also a number of bogus companies claiming to offer this service. The Embassy and Consulate General cannot confirm whether a company has a legitimate arrangement in place.
Overstaying your Vietnamese visa without authority is a serious matter and you may be delayed from travel until a fine is paid. Check the visa validity and conditions carefully.
 
ATMs:For withdrawing Vietnamese Dong are available in major airports, hotels, towns and capitals of provinces throughout Vietnam. Most ATMs have an English language version. Ask your tour guide for help when you need to locate an ATM.
 
Clothing
Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for travelling in Vietnam. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat and umbrella are a good idea in the rainy season and an umbrella can also offer useful shade from the sun.
Evenings in the north and the centre can be quite chilly so bring a sweater and a good jacket especially from November to February. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other revealing clothing when visiting pagodas and monasteries. Shoes must be removed before entering some religious building or a private home. It is therefore useful to wear shoes without too many laces and which can easily be taken off.
 
 
 
Credit Cards
Most credit cards are accepted in Vietnam. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted. JCB and American Express are also accepted in some outlets. Not all hotels, commercial centres, shops and restaurants accept credit cards. Check with the cashier before making any purchases.
Bear in mind that in some places a surcharge usually applies for credit card purchases: VISA and MasterCard approx 2.2%, JCB: 2.75% surcharge, American Express: 4% surcharge.
NOTE:Surcharges can change without prior notice. Check the percentage charged before you pay.
 
Electricity
Vietnam mainly uses 220V but in some areas, 110V is also used. A mixture of flat and round 2-pin outlets are used throughout the country. It is recommended to bring a universal plug adaptor.
 
Entertainment
There are plenty of entertainment options in Vietnam and restaurants/bars and nightclubs open until late at night/early in the morning. A wide variety of restaurants are on offer with everything from Vietnamese, Asian, Italian, French cuisine, etc. to fast food.
 
Food
The cuisine of Vietnam comes as a pleasant surprise to many visitors and is definitely a part of the Vietnam experience not to be missed. One of the characteristics of Vietnamese food is that it is always fresh being bought the same morning straight from the market. Food is usually prepared with a minimum of oil and served with the ubiquitous fish sauce called nuoc mam. Typical Vietnamese dishes you can expect to try include pho, a type of rice noodle soup eaten for breakfast, cha gio (nem in northern dialect), deep-fried spring rolls and goi ngo sen, a delicious salad made with lotus stems, shrimps and peanuts. Due to the strong Buddhist influence in Vietnam, vegetarian food is widely available however more so in Southern Vietnam.
 
Health
No vaccinations are mandatory except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A & B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in most of the region and it is advisable to take precautions, especially if travelling off the beaten track. Medical facilities are limited and it is essential to take out a good medical insurance policy before travelling in case evacuation is needed.
Consult your doctor for up-to-date information and prescriptions for vaccinations, anti-malarial tablets and any reasonably foreseeable illnesses whilst travelling in Vietnam. Some vaccination courses may need time to be completed. If you plan to take anti-malarial tablets, you usually need to start one week before arrival. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses).
 
Hours of Business
Offices are usually open from Monday to Friday from 07:30 or 08:00 until 17:00 or 18:00 and often close for lunch between 11:30 and 13:30. Some offices also open Saturday morning. Shops open early and close any time between 18:00 and 22:00. Most shops are open 7 days a week.
 
 
Internet
Major hotels have Business Centres with PCs connected to the Internet. Some of them have wireless broadband access in rooms or public areas. Cybercafés are available everywhere and are easily found in major towns and cities. Prices are reasonable, usually below US$1 per hour. Most Internet cafés are equipped with webcams, headsets and microphones. Vietnam has an exceptional amount of cafés and restaurants offering free WIFI connections, if having a meal or a drink internet fees are waived.
 
Language
The national language of Vietnam is Vietnamese. In big cities and in places with many tourists, people will speak basic English. The younger generation will be more adept at speaking English, while the older generation still speaks some French. Because Vietnamese has six different tones, it is a difficult language for most foreigners to speak despite the fact that the Roman alphabet is used in modern Vietnamese. The same word can have six different meanings depending on the tone used to pronounce it. Russian and Chinese are also spoken by some people.
 
Money
The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND). US Dollars and Euros are accepted in some hotels, restaurants and shops. Please note that they are not normally allowed to collect foreign currency since 2012. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 05:00 and some on Saturday morning. In the major cities there are some exchange offices open long hours near places frequented by tourists and most hotels will change US Dollars and Euros at very reasonable rates.
 
Current exchange rate (May 2013)1 USD = 21,030 VND. 1 Euro = 27,100 VND
You receive a slightly better exchange rate for $100 and $50 notes than for smaller denominations.
Vietnamese Dongs come in the following forms: Bank notes: 200; 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20.000; 50,000; 100,000; 200,000;500,000. Coins: 200; 500 (silver) and 1,000; 2,000; 5,000 (gold)
 
Photography
Normal print films are available in Vietnam as well as professional quality films (like slide films). Digital photos can easily be downloaded and loaded onto a CD-Rom in case you run out of memory.
 
Postal Mail
Postcards are sold at all main tourist sites and stamps are available from post offices and some hotel reception desks. A postcard to Europe costs VND 9,000 to send and can take up to two weeks to reach the country of destination. If at all.

General info - Singapore+

   Some refer to her as the “little red dot”, but Singapore’s presence in the world today is larger than that moniker. In fact, Singapore is a bustling cosmopolitan city that offers a world-class living environment, with her landscape populated by high-rise buildings and gardens. One interesting facet you’ll discover about Singapore is a ubiquitous collage of cultures, where people of different ethnicities and beliefs coexist. Besides a vibrant multicultural experience, there’s more you can discover about Singapore.
 
Many people marvel at the beauty of Singapore and her progressiveness. Way before becoming the cosmopolitan city of today, Singapore was just a humble fishing village, inhabited by an indigenous settlement.
Today. Singapore is a bustling cosmopolitan city of high-rise buildings, landscaped gardens and heritage-rich precincts. Home to a harmonious blend of culture, cuisine, arts and architecture, Singapore is rich in contrast and colour. In fact, you would find that Singapore embodies aspects of both East and West in many interesting ways.
 
Located in Southeast Asia, Singapore has a land area of about 710 square kilometres, making her one of the smallest countries in the world and the smallest in the region. Although small in size, Singapore commands an enormous presence in the world today with its free trade economy and highly efficient workforce. Also, her strategic location in the region has enabled her to become a central sea port along major shipping routes.
 
Other than having a sound business infrastructure and favourable economic climate, another factor for Singapore’s rapid growth is due to a stable and competent ruling government. Singapore is a parliamentary republic with a political system that’s centred on democracy. The current ruling party in government is The People’s Action Party (PAP), which has dominated the political process since self-government in 1959.
 
At present, Singapore’s population stands at slightly over five million people, with English as the main language of instruction, and a mother tongue for each major ethnicity. One of the distinctly Singaporean things you’ll notice on our island is a collage of cultures. Coming together as a society and living in harmony, there are four major races – namely the Chinese (majority), Malay, Indian and Eurasian. Each community offers a different perspective of life in Singapore in terms of culture, religion, food and language.
 
Being a multi-racial society, Singapore is as diverse as it is harmonious. With so much to see and do, this is perhaps best experienced through your encounters with the locals. And if you’re feeling nostalgic and looking to discover old world charm, you can explore and experience the island’s key historical landmarks or memorials. You can also embark on a heritage trail and enjoy the sights and sounds at various cultural precincts, notably Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam.
 
If you prefer the bright city lights and being amidst the hustle and bustle, there are numerous shopping malls, museums, dining and entertainment hotspots to choose from. Get into the thick of the shopping action at the iconic Orchard Road stretch, or party the night away at the Clarke Quay or Boat Quay areas, both of which offer a myriad selection of nightlife activities.
 
The other thing that will strike you most about Singapore is its multifarious offering of food – day or night, there will always be something to whet your appetite. With a range of dining options from Peranakan to Chinese, Indian to Malay, fusion and more, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
 
 
SingaporeVisa, Customs and Legal Regulations
 
Important Things to Note
 
Most visitors coming into Singapore do not require a visa for entry and may be given social visit passes. The period of stay granted will be shown on the visit pass endorsement given on your passport.  However, it is best to consult your local consular office for the latest information with regard to coming into Singapore. If you would like to stay in Singapore for a longer period, you may apply to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) upon your arrival.
 
Tax Refund
 
Eligibility for the Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme
 
As a tourist in Singapore, you may claim a refund on the 7% Goods and Services Tax (GST) paid on your purchases made at participating retail shops before you leave Singapore. GST refund is applicable for purchases above SGD 100. A handling fee for the refund service will be deducted from the GST amount. 

Tourists may apply for their GST refund at the departure hall of Changi International Airport and Seletar Airport within two months from the date of purchase, subject to satisfying the eligibility criteria and conditions of the scheme. Tourists who are departing from Singapore on an international cruise (excluding cruise-to-nowhere, round-trip cruise and regional ferry) via Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore and the International Passenger Terminal at HarbourFront Centre may also qualify for tax refund. The final destination of the ship’s voyage must not be Singapore and where the voyage involves the ship returning to Singapore on one or more occasions, the tourists may only claim GST refund on the ship’s last departure from Singapore in that voyage.

To be eligible for a GST refund under this scheme, you must satisfy all the following criteria:
• You are not a Singapore citizen or permanent resident of Singapore;
• You have not spent more than 365 days in Singapore in the last 24 months before the date of your purchase;
• You have not been, at any time, employed in Singapore in the past 6 months before the date of purchase;
• You are 16 years old or above at the time of purchase;
• You are not a member of the crew, of the aircraft or ship on which you are departing Singapore.

You may claim a refund of the GST charged on the goods purchased except for:
• Goods wholly or partly consumed in Singapore
• Goods exported for business or commercial purposes
• Goods that will be exported by freight
• Services such as accommodation in a hotel, hostel, boarding house, or similar establishments, car rental, tour charges.

For information on the tourist’s eligibility criteria and conditions of the scheme, please visit www.iras.gov.sg.
 
Refunds via the Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS)
 
Claiming your GST refund is easy and hassle-free—thanks to the eTRS. Simply choose one credit/debit card as a Token for tagging your purchases entitled for refund. This Token will allow you to easily retrieve all of your purchases’ details, at one go when you apply for GST refunds using the eTRS self-help kiosks at the airport and cruise terminal. Alternatively, you can use the eTRS Tickets issued at the point of purchase to apply for your tax refunds at the airport and cruise terminal. Payment for your purchases can be made with any credit/debit card or cash.
 
Simple Steps to Claim Your Tax Refund:
 

  1. At the Shops
 
When shopping at participating retail shops, use one credit/debit card as your Token to link up all your purchases. Ask for your eTRS Ticket and original invoice/receipt before leaving the shop. Some retailers may request to see your passport for verification purposes.
 
  1. Before Departure
 
If you plan to check-in your purchases, first apply for your GST refund at the eTRS self-help kiosk located at the Departure Check-in Hall (before departure immigration) of airport or Level 1 of cruise terminal using your Token or eTRS Tickets. You will not be entitled to a refund if you have checked-in your purchases prior to the application.
 
If you plan to hand-carry your purchases, proceed to the Departure Transit Lounge (after departure immigration) of airport or Level 2 of cruise terminal with your purchases and apply for GST refunds at the eTRS self-help kiosk.
 
  1. At the eTRS Self-Help Kiosk
 
Use the credit/debit card that you have assigned as a Token to retrieve all your purchase details. Otherwise, scan your eTRS Tickets individually to retrieve your purchase details. Follow the instructions on the eTRS self-help kiosk to apply for your GST refund claims. Please collect the notification slip issued by the kiosk to check if you are required to proceed to the Customs Inspection Counter for further verification. You may be required to show your purchases, original invoice/receipt and boarding pass/confirmed air ticket/confirmation slip showing the cruise itinerary at the Customs Inspection Counter.
 
4.       Collect Your Refund
 
For departure via Changi International Airport, the refund will be made to you either by credit card or cash. For departure via Seletar Airport, Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore or International Passenger Terminal at HarbourFront Centre, the refund will be made to you either by credit card or bank cheque.
 
If you have chosen to have the refund credited directly into your credit card, you may proceed to boarding after completing your claims. The approved refund amount will be credited to your specified credit card within 10 days.
 
If you have chosen cash refunds, proceed to the Central Refund Counter in the Departure Transit Lounge (after departure immigration) with the approved Notification Slip to collect your cash.
 
If you have chosen bank cheque refund, you have to complete your particulars such as payee name and mailing address on the approved Notification slip and drop the slip into the designated cheque refund box provided. The bank cheque will be mailed to you 14 days from the date of deposit of the approved notification slip into the designated box.
 
For more information, please refer to the Tourist Tax Refund Guide.
 
*eTRS Kiosk Locations and Operational Hours
 
  • Changi International Airport Departure Check-in Hall (before departure immigration) and Departure Transit Lounge (after departure immigration) of Terminals 1, 2 and 3;
  • SeletarAirport, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) Duty Office;
  • MarinaBay Cruise Centre Singapore, Level 1, Level 2 and Level 2M Mezzanine
  • International Passenger Terminal at HarbourFront Centre, Level 1 and Level 2
 
SingaporeTravel Information
 
Money Matters
 
The currency used in Singapore is the Singapore dollar (S$). Money changing services can be found not only at the Airport but also at most shopping centres and hotels around the island. You can also access the automated teller machines (ATMs) located everywhere (even in the most obscure bits) in Singapore, that accept most of the main credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express.
 
Timezone

The local time in Singapore is GMT+8.
 
SingaporeWeather
 
Singaporeis known for its hot and humid weather, with little variation throughout the year. The average daytime temperature is 31ºC (88ºF), dropping to around 24ºC (75ºF) in the evenings. The monsoon season can bear down pretty heavily on our tropical weather from November onwards, so be prepared for rain on a daily basis during this period. 
 
Cell Phone Usage
 
Singapore’s international dialing code is +(65). While in Singapore and if you have international roaming service on your cell phone, you don’t have to press +(65) as it will automatically connect you to the local numbers here. 
 
(No) Smoking
 
Besides air-conditioned areas such as shopping centres, restaurants, entertainment outlets and cinemas, smoking is also an offence on public transportation, lifts and certain public areas. 
 
Electricity

Electric appliances need to be 230V/50Hz (although appliances set for 220 to 240 volts will operate). Singapore uses a Type-G plug and for wall sockets. This is a flat three-pin plug (as used in the UK).
 
Dress

Lightweight summer clothing is sufficient. A suit is suitable for business. Restaurants that are more formal may also require a jacket.
 
Tipping

Usually, there is a 10% service charge added to the bill. If not, tipping is not usual nor encouraged in Singapore.
 
Shopping

In general, the opening hour of most stores is 10:30 am to 9 pm from Sunday to Thursday, and 10:30 am to 9:30 pm on Friday and Saturday. Some malls have extended shopping hours on Saturdays till 11pm. Most shops welcome all major credit cards.
Shopping districts include the Colonial Singapore Area, Chinatown, Little India and Arab Street. However, the main shopping district is Orchard Road situated at the heart of the city, with major department stores and malls stretching up to 1.2 miles (2 kilometers).
 
Consumer Advisory
 
Most Singapore retailers have fair business practices, but there are a small number of shops and restaurants that might make your shopping experience less than ideal. Here are some smart shopping tips to ensure that your retail experience is a pleasant one.
 
1.       Price Research and Comparison

Prices may vary widely between shops because distributors are not obliged to abide by each product’s Recommended Retail Price (RRP). Nonetheless, almost all local major departmental stores will display prices of goods clearly.
 
Look out for the price tag on the item.  If you have agreed on a price with the retailer, request to have it written on the invoice before making payment.
 
Research on information such as product model and features, accessories as well as product warranty (including the extent of geographical coverage) beforehand.  Try to compare prices of the product or service between shops before purchasing.
 
2.       Note that purchases made are usually final

In Singapore, retailers may enforce strict policies of return, exchange and/or refund the moment payment is made. Always ask your retailer about their store’s policies before making payment for your purchase.
 
You can also request that the retailer indicate their return, exchange and/or refund policy on their invoice.
 
3.    Check receipts or invoices for accuracy

It is always handy to obtain and keep your purchase receipt in the event you require an exchange or refund on your items.  Check that prices and item descriptions on the receipt or invoice are correct to ensure that you do not pay more than what is required.
 
Make sure that you test the item you wish to purchase to ensure that they operate as they should. Check that the promised accessories, peripherals and free gifts, if any, are included in the package.  It is good practice to pay only when the price is finalised and your purchase is ready to be handed to you.
 
In circumstances where price of goods are quoted by weight, such as seafood and fruits, request for the final price and weight to be confirmed in writing before finalising an order or purchase. This greatly reduces the chances of miscommunication that may result in a bill that is larger than expected.
 
4.       Verify what your ‘international warranty’ covers

International warranties are not standardised, and you should always ask and verify that your warranty is valid in your home country. Ensure that both your invoice and warranty card bear your retailer’s stamp and signature. In the case of electronic goods, note down the product’s serial number as well.
-    Also note that there are no international warranties on the purchase of mobile phones.
-    A “worldwide local warranty” means that the warranty is available only in the country of purchase–“worldwide” here refers to the        availability of the product, not the warranty. 
-    Parallel imported items have no warranty, and retailers usually do not entertain returns, exchanges and/or refunds.
 
AIRPORT
 
ChangiInternational Airport(SIN)
 
Singaporeis one of the major aviation hubs in Asia and Changi International Airport is the main airport in Singapore. Changi International Airport is truly one of the world's busiest airports. It serves over 96 airlines that fly to 200 cities around the world. The airport is located 13 miles or 20 kilometers from Singapore city center. From the airport, you can reach the Singapore city center by car, bus, trains, shuttles, and taxis.
 
At the City: Like most cities taxis in Singapore are available when the sign on top of the cab is illuminated and can be hailed on the street or in advance. Below are some major taxi companies in Singapore:
·         Comfort or Citycab | Tel: + (65) 6552 1111
·         Premier Taxis | Tel: + (65) 6363 6888
·         SMRT | Tel: + (65) 6555 8888
·         SMART | Tel: + (65) 6485 7777
·         Transcab | Tel: + (65) 6555 3333
               
                                                                                                                                                                                                               
 
 
 
 
SHOPPING IN SINGAPORE
               
For the latest fashion trends, check out Orchard Road – Singapore’s famous shopping street – or take your pick from the diverse international brands that can be found in the Marina Bay Area. If you’re looking for more cultural finds, dive into the districts of Kampong Glam, Little India and Chinatown to discover a treasure trove of ethnic products, jewellery, textiles, antiques and more. 
 
If you’re looking for unique buys, shopping enclaves are also sprouting in some of the city’s less touristy areas, such as Haji Lane, Ann Siang Hill and Tiong Bahru, where you will find independent boutiques selling an assortment of interesting products. For street wear and edgier brands, head to the shops in Bugis, where local youths tend to seek out trendy bargains.
 
EATING & DRINKING
 
Singaporeoffers the world's buffet at its table of eclectic selection of foods; from Chinese, Malay, Indian, Japananse to Thai, Singapore has a taste for every pallete. Hawker centers are a staple in Singapore and are the best place to find the most cheapest and popular places to eat.
 
ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO
 
The minimum drinking age in Singapore is 18 years old for all alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can be purchased from supermarkets, convenience stores, and etc.
 
Cigarettes can be purchased at supermarkets and convenience stores by individuals aged 18 or over. Beware that smoking is not allowed on public transportation and certain public places.
 
SAFETY & SECURITY
 
Singaporeis one of the safest major cities in the world. Violent crimes against tourists are rare.  However, petty crime such as pick-pocketing and street theft occurs at the airport, tourist destinations, hotels and on public transport. Remember that as in any other big city, it is important to take responsibility for your personal safety, be familiar with local laws and customs and exercise good judgment.      

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