Hi. This is just a quick note on what we done to prepare for going travelling. I seemed to get a lot more stressed this time round regarding the visas and stuff, although in general we were both very relaxed about the whole thing, taking it in our stride and not going crazy on the planning. I've included websites as I found it rather difficult when I was researching it all, and when I looked on other blogs for inspiration and tips I kept coming up against a brick wall. So I hope that our blog this time round will be educational for people that have stumbled across our page and are wanting to go travelling, and maybe it will make your life easier.
The very very first thing we had to do when we decided we wanted to go to New Zealand on a working holiday visa was to obtain the visa. We went online at http://www.immigration.govt.nz and filled out an assessment form and applied for our visas. It took us a good hour to fill out all our details and then we sent it off. We heard it could take up to 3 weeks to hear back, however we applied on the 16th May, and heard back by the 20th May! The visas cost us £160 each.
We got our travel insurance through moneysupermarket.com and our policy covers us from the day we leave Scotland (as UK isn't covered) until mid way through November. We will already be in NZ by then, but might not have settled into jobs then so just keeping us covered until we covered by work tax etc. So the travel insurance cost us £76.48 for both of us.
The process for the Chinese visa was rather stressful. Shannon downloaded our application forms and we filled them out, we got our passport photos taken (and extras because we can keep the spares with us, as when you cross borders they sometimes need you to have a photo taken and can charge you quite a bit). We also needed proof of our arrival and departure for China and accommodation receipts. We then posted all the paperwork plus our passports to the Chinese embassy in Edinburgh. I had read somewhere that you should send the paperwork 4 weeks before departure, so we waited and ended sending it about 3 1/2 weeks before departure, but then I read it can be done around 6 weeks before, and I went into a panic thinking it might not come back in time but we got them back within 10 days, and that was even after getting a phone call saying we had downloaded an out of date application form. They said we could scan to email the new copies which was very helpful. It cost us £31 to post the applications off and then we paid £168 for the visa, and then we also believe we will pay more when we arrive at passport control in Beijing.
We also had to organise our Vietnam visas before we arrived, so we went online at http://www.vietnamvisacenter.org and it was thankfully a very easy process, we gave our passport details and card details, they then emailed us e-confirmation the very next day. It was rather odd though, it was on official looking paper but also included 8 other people who must've applied on the same day. All our names, citizenship, passport numbers all on this piece of paper, not very secure looking! So then, when we arrive in Vietnam we will had over the e-confirmation and a passport photo and also another $45 and that should be it (fingers crossed). We have already paid US$20 each for visa (around £12).
When entering Indonesia you get your visa on arrival, so we have not had to sort that out now.
A sting in our tail or should I say in our arms though, was the amount of money it cost us to get our travel injections and malaria tablets. In Guernsey you have to pay to see the doctor/nurse and then pay for treatment, so in all it cost us about £300 to get vaccinated! Shannon's cost £110, mine £166, and £23 for the Doxycline malaria tablets. (I guessed £300 and Shan told me to count it out and I was £1 out from my guess!) We managed to con the system though, because my nurse could prescribe my malaria tablets at same time as getting injections, but Shan had to make a separate appointment with a doctor to get his malaria tablets. So after seeing my nurse and ordering 51 tablets, I realised I could've got Shans too, so I phoned up and said I had miscounted and ordered double, no one questioned it and we saved on a doctors fee! Of course it will be worth it not to catch any diseases but it's a lot of money! I was already covered by some injections from last time and so was Shan for different ones, but between us we got Hep A, Hep B x3 shots, Typhoid, Polio/Diphtheria and our malaria tablets. I went to work at my part time job at the Beach House after I had my Typhoid jab, and I was no use to anyone, my arm hardened like concrete and I couldn't lift it or move it. I ended up taking some paracetamol but putting a wine cooler (ice pack) on it helped massively. For the rest of my injections I was fine as I had just had an operation on my nose a few days before and was taking a lot of medication so didn't have any pain in arms, thankfully. And of course Shannon was fine and thought I was just being a sissy.
So far we have only booked our hotel in Beijing for the first 3 nights. We haven't booked any other hotels yet as we like to go with the flow, and we done this last time and it worked out well, we just booked for the next nights stay the day before. It also helps as we can can change our plans on a day to day basis- if we like somewhere we could stay longer, if we don't like it we leave and then get an extra night somewhere else.
We have already changed our plans slightly as we had planned to go to Chengdu in the Shezuan Provence but it would either have taken 26 hours on a train to get there and back or flights were quite expensive. We were only going there for a few days so in the end it didn't seen worth travelling all across the country. Also I had wanted to go to the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. But we later decided that it was going to be a long haul from Ho Chi Minh City across the border, only to spend two nights there and then fly out. It would be different if we wanted to see more of Cambodia but we went to Siem Reap on our last travels, so we admitted it was a long way just to see one thing in one city. But I am very intrigued by the Khmer Rouge so one day I promise myself I will go and visit the Killing Fields.
We have booked some flights already but haven't booked them all, including our flight to NZ. (?!) We fly from Guernsey to Southampton with the company I work for Blue Islands a flybe Franchise, we will stay with Shan's cousin Sean and his boyfriend Dan for one night before travelling up to Gatwick and flying easyjet to Glasgow. We have four nights at home with my family before flying to Beijing via Dubai with Emirates. Our only other flight we have booked is from Hong Kong to Hanoi with Vietnam Airlines. I have looked up flight prices for around Indonesia and for NZ and they don't change much in price, so we are happy to wait, and then we can shuffle our plans around as we wish and don't have to worry about keeping to a schedule, we would rather do it that way even if we do have to pay a little bit more on flights.
For saving to go travelling, Shannon had been working super hard for ages, he always loved getting overtime anyway so just pushed harder- doing up to 70 hours every week. And I had my part time job for years anyway so instead of spending that money on clothes I saved it. (**Instead of spending ALL the money on clothes). I also sold a load of things on a Facebook page like eBay. And then towards the end I done a few car boot sales. And cashing in on our co-op stamps was fun making some money back. And selling my car and Shan's motorbike was our big ones. Between us we have saved approximately £10,000, not including the money we have already spent on visas, vaccinations and flights.
Flights: GCI-SOU Blue Islands £78 LGW- GLA easyjet £140 inc bags GLA- BEI via DBX Emirates £1175.76 HKG- HAN Vietnam Airlines £127.55 (Prices for both of us together)
Useful Websites: The man in seat 61 www.seat61.com for train travel Chinahighlights.com for train travel Google.com for everything and anything http://www.vietnamvisacenter.org for visa http://www.visaforchina.org for visa http://www.xe.com for money exchange rates www.flybe.com for flights local flights UK www.emirates.com for flights www.easyjet.com for flights www.jetstar.com for flights www.travelrepublic.com for hotels
www.expedia.com for hotels
Useful Books- Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a shoestring China New Zealand
So that's it, only 7 more sleeps and we leave!
Speak soon, love Shannon and Pam xx