Arabian Adventures Video

Here is a video of some of my travels this summer in the Gulf States United Arab Emirates, Qatar and a little bit from Bahrain. Mystically enough all of my videos from Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and nearly all of my videos from Bahrain has disappeared from my computer, so this was pretty much all that was left and I hope it will give you a little taste of my Arabian Adventures.

10 things every traveller should know about the car rental industry

Renting a car can get you to a lot of places that buses and trains do not go, this time to a faraway road in Western Cape, South Africa

 
During my time as a travel agent I have gotten a much bigger understanding of how the car rental industry works, and I have decided to share some of the things that I would consider “must knows” for people planning to rent a car:
  • It is a known fact that most car rental companies make most of their money not from renting out the cars, but from buying discounted cars from suppliers, and selling them used just after a few months. Rental agencies will also ALWAYS try to upsell insurance, fuel and upgrades which can be expensive to buy at the car rental agency.
  • People working at the car rental agency might not remember all SIPP codes or terms for the contracts of the agency/broker you bought it from, and might therefore offer you a product you have already paid for (e.g insurance of extra drivers). It is advised to bring your voucher so that they can see exactly what you have paid for and whatnot. 
  • Using a car broker (e.g Auto Europe) can be good as some offer refundable access which means that if you get charged by the rental agency, you can just collect receipts and supporting documentation (police report for not DUI-ing) and send this in to the broker and have them refund the excess you paid to the rental company
  • Using an agent to book can also be a good idea. They usually have negotiated contracts with the car rental companies, which might including one way fees, additional drivers, fuel and insurances which will make it cheaper than booking the car online. 
  • When picking up a car you should make sure you have a credit card with a high enough limit to keep as a deposit for the rental. Sometimes these amounts can be up to 5000 dollars and this money will be blocked and can not be used before you hand in the car
  • You should not overestimate the size of a rental car. Search for images online and make sure that the car you book will be big enough for your use. It is much more expensive to upgrade to a bigger car at the pickup location thank booking a bigger car in the first place.
  • For smaller rental companies it is advised to do a quick check online to find more information about the rental company or office before booking your car. Doing a quick search online will reveal if there are any reoccurring problems with the office or company where you will rent your car. 
  • The most important thing to look for in a contract should be the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) to check what the deductible access is for your rental. 
  • When picking up and returning a car you can never check too carefully for scratches and damages. I was recenty a victim of a Hertz case myself where I was charged around a thousand euros for a small scratch I did not do.
These are just general things to know about the car rental industry, and are not related to any countries as this would make the post way too long. So instead of making this list ten times as long I will try to write more destination specific post later as I travel and discover more about car rental in different countries. 

Health, Vaccination and Insurance

Sick with e-coli in Costa RicaTravel vaccination, medication and insurance are probably the things that are more important than anything else when preparing for a journey. It can be frustrating to spend so much of your travel budget on things that don´t even get you started on your journey but in reality these provide securities that cannot really be put a price on.

Travel vaccination can be a tricky thing to figure out which ones to take, and it is actually by Norwegian law only allowed for health professionals to advise about. Thats is why I will only mention that I usually use a vaccination map (link) and the recommendations listed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health which you can find on this link (fhi.no) to find out which vaccinations to take.

Photo: Sick with e-coli in Costa Rica and the medicinal cure that followed

Malaria is one of the most dangerous tropical diseases and cannot be vaccinated against. It is therefore important to check if it exists in the area you are traveling to. A malaria world map like this one can help you get an overview of which countries you should be aware of, and then you can look up the individual countries on this link to find out the areas where malaria is most common. If you find out that you are going to a malaria zone, you should consider using one of the following anti malaria medications:


Lariam and Malarone are recccomended, as long as you can afford them.

Lariam/Mefloquine:
– Is the easiest to use with only one tablet a week (the hard part is just remembering which day of the week you take them)
– Sold in 8 packs where one should be taken a week before entering and four should be taken after exiting the malaria area
– The pills are strong and expensive and might make you feel quite dizzy once a week (I did not


Doxycline:
– Is the cheapest option, and probably the best one for long term if you don’t get side effects when trying using them short term
– Can be bought in 50 packs where you can start one day before and finish one week after leaving the malaria area
– Made me wake up sweaty at night where I felt like the ground was moving. After a couple of weeks of use I still felt dizzy in the mornings and generally unwell so I decided to quit, even though I had several weeks more of travel in malaria area. It also makes you catch a sunburn more easily.


Malarone:

– It is the most expensive option, but has only mild and rare side effects. I only got dizzy when taking it on an empty stomach
– You can start just two to four days before you get to- and finish around one week after leaving the malaria area.
– The one I would recommend using if you can afford it
Since both malaria and dengue fever are transferred from mosquitos it is smart to avoid it in the first place. This can be done by covering your skin in the evenings and putting on plenty of mosquito repellent. Since the repellents sold in Norway are weaker (less % deet) I would recommend buying it while traveling.

A good travel insurance can make the difference between having your trip ruined by theft, delayed luggage and accidents and continuing your trip as planned, getting you home or rerouting your trip to carry on when you get better.

In Norway I would say there are two travel insurances worth considering for longer backpacking trips up to 365 days (Europeiske and Gouda). Even though it is a close call I would say that Gouda Travel Insurance is the best (and cheapest) one out there, but my reasoning for this I will save for a future post..

The Fall is Golden in Reykjavik, Iceland

silfra

This weekend I got to go on a job sponsored trip to Iceland. I had first been disapointed with the time picked for the trip as we were too late to catch the Icelandic summer, and too early to see the country covered in snow. The reality however was that it was the perfect time to go as there were few other tourist(compared to the rest of the year) and we also caught four days straight of sunny weather in the beautiful fall.

We had picked Loft Hostel as our base for the trip. Situated right on the main street it had the perfect location for our many trips to the nearby restaurants and bars. Even though the nightlife was very vibrant and the seafood excellent it was the activities that made our weekend.

Silfra is a place unique for its diving conditions. It is situated in Thingvellir National Park, in between the continental plates separating Europe and America. The debth of the cracks range from two to fifteen meters and the water running in between has been filtered for 20-30 years through sulfuric ground before it reaches Silfra. This gives an extremely good visibility (100 meters easy), some pretty colorful algae and a feeling if floating in mid air when you dive. I became quite dizzy after two 45 minute dives, but it was an experience worth all the money and the freezing in the cold water.

Horseback riding is another activity that comes highly recommended and is almost a “must do” when in Iceland. This is both because of the beautiful mountains surrounding Reykjavik and also because of the Icelandic horses being quite easy to manage for someone who has not ridden before.

The Golden Circle Tour is a tourist track that pretty much every visitor ends up on. It is not without reason as Thingvellir, Gullfoss(“The Golden Waterfall”) and the Geysers are quite impressive for the non-locals.

All in all Iceland was quite an adventure and I could easily recommend it for anyone looking for a weekend trip different from Paris or Barcelona, or anyone considering a stopover on the way to or from the States.

 

Getting the visas you need

It is important tocheck the visa rules and regulations in good time before leaving your home country. Some countries will not let you in unless you possess a valid visa and others do not require one at all. Everywhere on the web you will find pages listing visa rules and requirements, but be careful: not all of these pages have the most updated or accurate info.
Visa regulations for Norwegian Citizens
For Norwegians I would advise following the steps listed underneath to make sure to get the visas that you need:

 
1. Check Wikipedia for a list of visa free countries for Norwegians (link)

 

Wikipedia is known for being a page that can not be trusted to be hundred percent accurate, but their list of countries can be visited without obtaining a visa on beforehand will be able to give you an impression of which countries probably will be the hardest to deal with. It is important to check the visa rules of every single country you are visiting, so once you have checked your countries on this list it will be time to move to the next step in the process of mapping out the visas that you need.
 
2. Check the Norwegian Foreign Affairs to find the most accurate and updated rules and regulations (www.landsider.no/land)

This is a page I use almost daily, and it is the first page that will be updated if there are any changes to visa rules for Norwegians. By clicking on each country and choosing “innreise og helse” you will have the most updated information about the visa requirements for Norwegian passport holders. The page is also useful for obtaining information regarding safety and the current political situations of the countries. 
 
 
 
saudi
On a visit to the Norwegian Embassy in Saudi Arabia

3. Contact the embassies we have in Norway to get the visas or to get your visa related questions answered (Contact details for all embassies in Oslo or Wiki)

Embassies can often be slow to respond to emails, so I will recommend calling if you have questions you need answered. The consular sections of these embassies can also help you with obtaining a visa to the countries they are representing. For the countries not listed in the above link you should consider moving on to the next step.
4. Use a visa service agency (Visumservice.no)


Some countries can be quite bureaucratic and hard to deal with, and by sending you passport to the embassies they often end up in un-prioritized pile on their desks. Are you short on time or need someone to help you deal with all applications and documentation necessary to get a visa then it is better to be on the safe side and contact a visa service agency. Visumservice.no is my preferred visa agency in Norway and with a Kilroy Studentcard (ISIC card) you will also get 10 percent on their administration fees!

5. Ask your travel agent to check TIMATIC  (timaticweb.com) 

User/Subuser: 4023761
Password: visainfo

 
Travel Agents have access to the TIMATIC database which is the system being used by the airlines to determine if you will be eligible for a visa on arrival or not. This can be time consuming work and all relevant information like passport type, date of entry, previous visited countries etc needs to be in place to get an answer. I would advise using the above links first to get an answer, and keep this as the last option.
 
Should you have other useful pages for visa related information, feel free to share on the comment field below. 

vietnamVietnam requires visa for most nationals, but Norwegians are entitled to 15 day visa free travel for letting in so many refugees in the 70’s. But make sure to have your return/onward ticket booked upon entry, as this is one of the requirements for visa free entry.