TIP: Cables

Cabling Mess

Get rid of this!

Here’s one I just discovered. Everything comes with leads and cables these days. PSPs, cameras, laptops and so on. I’ve got a little section of my daybag that I use to store all these and one thing that’s infuriating is when you’re trying to pull one cable out, only to have the whole lot tangled together.

So – hint one is to reduce the number of cables. If you can get a set which has one cable and a collection of adapters to plug in the end, then that reduced the spaghetti somewhat.

In addition, find some small plastic bags. Ziplok or normal, it makes no odds. Just the ones that cables are often slipped inside when you buy the kit are good.

Fold each cable and keep them in one of these. That way when you pull the cable out, the headphone buds or USB plug on the end won’t catch on anything else. You only pull out the one you need.

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One more from Chamonix

OK, I lied in the last one.

Two things I have to mention. The first is a huge “THANK YOU” to the staff at Bar’Dup – the finest bar in Chamonix – for spiking my tab until I get back in January. The phone line for their credit card machine has died and won’t be fixed until late tomorrow or maybe even Monday so I couldn’t pay it off.

Guys and calls – again, thank you. It’ll be paid in full as soon as I walk in next year.

Second thing is a little tip for you. Don’t shave your head when the temperature outside is floating between 10 and -13 Centigrade. And you have a cold.

Brr.

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TIP: backup bank cards

ATM at the secretary of state in Portage, MI

I’ve mentioned this one before, about having a secondary back account so if your main ATM card goes walkies, you have another you can access. I have a couple of points to add to that.

1) Be aware that a lot of banks are now issuing annoying little card readers (Nationwide amongst them). This means to move money out of your account online, you have to insert your ATM card into the thing and get a number to pass to your internet banking. This obviously makes it impossible to shift cash if your ATM card has been stolen… which is the point when you need to move the money to your backup account.

So, make sure you have another way of getting cash to your backup account. Someone nice back home who can lend you the cash or something.

2) Check on your backup ATM card from time to time. Even if you don’t use it, make sure it’s not been pinched. I mention this as my dad just emailed me to let me know my Lloyds account was £350+ overdrawn. News to me as I’ve not used the account for a year. On checking my internet banking it became clear the card was stolen while I was in Kuala Lumpur at the start of the month.

Thankfully, every transaction bar one was after I’d left for Indonesia – a fact I can prove with my passport. The bank are refunding all the cash, writing off the overdraft fees and blocking my card and PIN. Had they not have gone over a limit, or had access to an account with cash in I’d not have noticed. Possibly ever.

So learn from me – check the card’s there from time to time, and also check your statements even on accounts you’re not actively using.

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TIP – Indonesian visas

Some of this will be repetition from the post where I arrived at Jakarta airport, but there’s some more to add hence the extra article.

The basics, as of the date above:

There are a handful of visa types, the most common being the 7-day transit and the 30-day tourist visas. The latter is US$25 and they’re strict about the limit. Overstay and it’s US$20 per day and a risk of jail if you go over even by a moderate amount.

I got the 30-day tourist visa at Jakarta airport and paid in Malaysian Ringgit. The cost was a standard MR100, and I assume they also take Indonesian Rupiah if you already have some, though I don’t know the exact amount. I also can’t promise that other airports accept Ringgit.

One major point of note is that at Jakarta and Denpasar (Bali) airports, there are no ATMs within the arrivals area. In both cases you have to pass security and immigration to get to a cashpoint. However, if you need to get cash to pay for the visa then they will let you just walk out to get it. It’s up to you whether you decide to go back in and collect the visa, I suppose, but I’d recommend you do!

Your entry stamp and the big sticker both state that the visa is non-extendable. If you want to add to the thirty days, you have to leave the country and re-enter. From Sumatra, Borneo, and to some extent Java this isn’t too difficult or expensive as various parts of Malaysia are nearby. In Timor you can enter East Timor (more about this later) and in Papua you can get to Papua New Guinea.

However, from the likes of Bali, Lombok, Flores and the popular holiday destinations it is a long and expensive trip to any border. I have seen one sign up advertising visa extensions and the staff at my hotel have told me they can organise it with three days’ notice. However, it’s not cheap at IDR1.5million – around £90, nine times the cost of the original visa. If you want to stay on you’ll just have to balance the cost against how much it’ll save you in transportation.

If you head into East Timor, there is no visa on arrival for your return if you go back by land. You’ll have to send your passport to the Indonesian embassy in Dili, or visit personally, to get a new visa at a cost of US$35. Note that flights from East Timor are quite infrequent and expensive.

Papua New Guinea I hear isn’t too easy to get into either, and I’m not sure of the procedures exiting it by land – you may be in the same situation as in East Timor.

Personally, I think Indonesia needs to get it’s backside in gear and offer either a longer tourist visa or make renewals cheaper and more “above board”. It’s a huge country and anyone really wanting to explore it will need far longer than a month. Given the reaction Maria and I got in Java, not many tourists go there so perhaps the visas were geared toward the holidaying brigade who regularly invade the beaches for a couple of weeks. With backpacking and more adventurous travel becoming more common, it would benefit Indonesia itself to allow longer stays.

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TIP – the Thai / Cambodia border

Information published elsewhere, but I thought it worthwhile to give this a space of its own as the other stuff’s spread across a couple of posts.

Crossing is easy – that’s the first thing. Don’t sweat it. We went from Bangkok to Siem Reap with an overnight stop, but if you can be bothered with an early start it’s easily achievable in a single day.

Stage one is to get to the border. A train is the cheapest and easiest way – you want the service from Bangkok’s Hualamphong station to Aranyaprathet which at the time of writing was 48 Baht. A superb resource for train journeys all over the place is The Man In Seat 61.

There are two services a day – 5.55am and 13:05pm. Taking the first, you can get to Siem Reap no problem. With the second I’d recommend an overnight in Aranyaprathet rather than over the border in Poipet, though the latter would be cheaper from what I hear. Maybe. I gather it’s not so safe, though.

Either way, you’ll have a 4 1/2 hour train ride with some great scenery (and no air conditioning). On arrival at Aranyaprathet you will of course be greeted by tuk-tuks prepared to take you to the border or to a (“cheap”) hotel.

Also either way you will end up at the border at some point. If you already have a visa then head straight for the crossing. Otherwise you’ll have to go to a separate office elsewhere (tuk-tuks know where) at which point you will be fleeced for the visa fee.

Right now, a Cambodian visa is $20. You will pay this in Hanoi, Bangkok, Saigon, Auckland, London… $20. Yup, it might take 2-3 days, but that is the visa fee. You’ll also pay $20 if you land at either airport in Cambodia and pay the fee on entry. $20 and they put the big paper stamp in your passport.

However, get it at a land border… at Aranyaprathet they ask for 1000 Thai Baht. At the current rate of exchange, this is $33. You can “save” $3 by saying you don’t have any Baht, and they’ll let you pay in US currency at a fee of $30. The “excuse” is that the $10 is an express fee, though they don’t offer a means of paying $20 and waiting 2 days. It also doesn’t explain the immediate visa at the airports without such a fee. The presence of overseeing government officials at the airport, however, does.

Short version – $30 at land borders so the staff can line their pockets.

A short tuk-tuk ride away is the border crossing itself. You disembark and a Thai will likely assist you through. There’s no real need for this, but they’re not pushy and slightly helpful. Of course, they expect a tip afterwards for this non-requested and non-essential service. Stamp out of Thailand and into Cambodia (after filling in one of those annoying immigration slips), then walk out into Cambodia proper.

There you will be herded onto a tourist bus which will drive you over the incredibly potholed road to an office where you will be sold a taxi or bus. Taxi is $60 to Siem Reap (around 2 1/2 hours with the new roads), bus is $10 and around 4 hours. The roads are much better than you’ll have heard about historically and work is still being done on them. The little bit up to the tourist office is by far the worst you’ll experience.

Now you can get a cheaper taxi, but it’s difficult. You’ll be actively discouraged (harassed) if you try to barter outside the monopoly system. The driver gets $25, the monopoly some money and the government (apparently) some more of the $60 fee. So theoretically, you should be able to find a private driver for $25. Good luck. I did meet some guys in Siem Reap who’d got one for $45 by refusing to board the tourist bus – just say you’re going to check the casinos or something.

Good luck, however you do it. It’s not a difficult crossing, and the experience isn’t bad. Quite an adventure, really!

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