Backpacker Tax – What You Need to Know

A fairly easy “gap year” option for university students is to get a Holiday Work Visa, fly down to Australia and do temp work. Common work is the restaurant/bar scene, farm work or other short-term work. If you’re extremely lucky, work might pop up somewhat related to your degree. The best part of working down in Australia is you earn your wages tax-free. Well, for now…

AUS money

Continue reading Backpacker Tax – What You Need to Know

Volunteering Opportunities in South Africa

Many of us have moments in our lives where we seek a real change. For some of us this can be a change in location. For others it can mean switching careers. And then for the select few it can be a bit of both!

The hardest obstacle to making such as a dramatic change in your life can be knowing where to begin. But by volunteering, you can receive assistance and advice in settling in a new location. And the skills that you’ll learn will also set you in good stead for future employment opportunities in the given locale.

If you’re looking to leave behind the grey skies of the UK and head somewhere a little more exotic, then South Africa could be a great option.

Not only is the country rich in a beautiful and varied landscape, but it’s enjoying a real boom in its economy and could herald some fantastic new opportunities for you.

GVI in South Africa

Image Source: Wikipedia
Image Source: Wikipedia

The GVI operates a range of excellent conservation and community development programmes in South Africa. They have a dedicated team of staff who will find a project best suited to your capabilities and needs. And through their alignment with reputed charities such as WWF, Save The Children and the Red Cross, you’ll know that your work is creating a real change for good.

Such programmes can take place in a variety of areas. From specializing in a Wildlife Conservation Internship out in the dramatic bushveld, to helping run a healthcare workshop programme in Cape Town, you’ll quickly be immersed in this fascinating country and will learn the attributes of the distinctive culture in no time.

Despite years of suffering under Apartheid, South Africa is now really opening up. It boasts a highly thriving mobile industry that is keen to adapt to the brave new technological future. And entertainment options in South Africa are rapidly expanding too. Whereas gambling used to be limited to horse racing, there is now a wealth of casino resorts and online slot machines that offer a range of highly entertaining games that can offer some welcome distraction while you’re on downtime from work.


Image Source: Wikipedia
Image Source: Wikipedia

The Voluntary Service Overseas is another highly regarded institution that offers a trustworthy and reliable voluntary service in South Africa.

One of the main focuses of this group is the devastating impact that HIV and AIDS have had on many South African communities.

The volunteering efforts help to see action being taken in the caring of South Africa’s 2.1 million children who have been orphaned by AIDS, as well as helping with activities that promote safe sex and enable people to receive specialised treatment.

Where Can Americans Visit With No Visa?

What’s a Visa?

I’m not talking about the plastic card in your wallet, used for faking like you’ve got money. Americans are GREAT with those! No, I’m talking about the little slip of paper or stamp that comes after a little paperwork, a fee and a follow-up visit to your local embassy or airport. And that’s just tourist visas, not a business one. In short, a hassle.

Why Getting a Visa Sucks

If you think getting a tourist visa is a hassle, you’re not alone. It takes paperwork, spending money ($30-$300) and maybe even a visit to a nearby embassy or consulate. In other words, it’s easier to book a flight around the world, than to arrange permission to walk off the plane. But if you’re American, well, lucky for you! Americans, with their US passports, can visit pretty much every country on the planet, visa-free. Out of nearly 200 countries, Americans can visit 172 of them without a visa. Yes, you can stay up to 90 days in almost every country, without any hassle. Just book your flight and Go.

Do I Need a Visa to Visit that Country?

Continue reading Where Can Americans Visit With No Visa?

Canada’s a Magnet for People Unlocking Cell Phones

Did you catch the news that since last Saturday, it’s now illegal to unlock your phone? You probably did.

But did you hear how big the penalties are? For first-time offenders, we’re talking half a million dollars and up to 5 years of jail time! Yeah, that’s a serious f***-ing penalty for a new law.

UPDATE: This post was originally written in 2013. As of early 2015, the act of unlocking a phone in the US is now legal again, with one condition. If the phone company agrees your contract term (typically 2 years) is satisfied, then they must agree to unlock your phone if you request it. (Thanks Joel!)

If you’re a techno-phobe, left wondering what “unlocking” even means, here’s the skinny: A “locked” phone can only be used with one service provider, like AT&T. When unlocked, you can use the same expensive phone with Sprint, Verizon, etc. The common argument is “But I paid big money for that phone…why couldn’t I use it with any provider I want?” The industry answer is typically “You only thought it was your phone…ours and (you) will always be ours.

What does this mean for Expats like yourself?

When I travel, I take my phone with me. In fact, I’ll be taking my new iPhone 5 with me to Prague when I go in 2 weeks. I did some serious research before buying my iPhone 5. Even got Expat Yourself community members in on the discussion.

When I travel, I take my phone’s SIM card out and replace it with a local SIM. That gives me a local phone number and data plan for temporary use. But when a phone is “locked” – that’s not an option.

Luckily for most of the world’s travellers, this “locked” business really only happens with American cellular phone providers. (Yes, for example in Britain, everyone’s phone can freely be switched over from provider to provider.)

So, before an American travels abroad, he must first pay a small fee ($20-$50) to unlock the phone.

Oh, but not anymore. Now, that fee is gone, and replaced with jail-time.

Isn’t There a Hero In The House (or continent)?

But Wait! — There’s Canada to the rescue! In Canada, there’s much public discussion around a draft bill. The draft was initiated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. They made the draft public (imagine that!) and invited any and all feedback (and imagine that!!). Crazily enough, the public like it. Why? Because some of it is exactly opposite of what the US recently passed. Whether causal or coincidence, it looks like Canadian smartphone owners may soon be all the envy of American smartphone users.

Now, am I saying you should move to Canada to enjoy more features on your newest iPhone, Android, or smartphone? Of course not. That’s like suggesting you move from Provo, Utah to Las Vegas, Nevada to access electric fuelling station for your electric car. There are far better reasons to move to Las Vegas…and there are far better reasons to move to Canada.

Canadian Freedom

The Visa Book- a Review

Christine Gilbert of published a guide book and I got the privilege to review it. Consider yourself lucky, too, since by getting to hear about it from me, you can make a more informed decision to buy it.

Too little time to read all below?  Read my 20 word review:

“The Visa Book” is a great reference for the traveler on the go.  Simple, single-purpose structure.  Comprehensive coverage.  Worth the $10.


A Full Review of “The Visa Book”

Here is Christine’s skinny on her newest book:

  • 253 pages
  • pdf instant download
  • covers over 200 countries and territories
  • Only for US citizens (although there may be Australian and European versions in the future)
  • New editions will be produced every year
  • Does not cover long term residency visas, work visas or education visas (in other words, this is for tourist visas only)
  • Cost is $10


And My Feedback:

  • pages are well laid out; 1 page = 1 country/territory
  • a single-purpose, no frills structure
  • little of Christine’s fun personality – the “Visa Book” is all business
  • can’t imagine a place in the world that’s not covered here
  • greatest value: for tourists en-route wanting to quickly compare, offline


Who the Visa Book is Not For

I believe the newbie American tourist traveling to their first country in their life would simply google for needed information on the US State Department.

That said, most anyone would at least verify what “The Visa Book” says, but Christine makes that ultra easy with direct links to do so.

Also, the book isn’t for people looking to answer “How do I work in XYZ country?”  This is for tourist visas, not work permits or residency visas.


Where the Visa Book Shines

Where this book really shines is as a quick, comparative reference that’s already handily on the traveler’s laptop, smartphone or any e-reader for PDFs.

For travellers already on the go, perhaps in between destinations, this book provides fast “how about XYZ country?” answers.  It’s a sweet no-frills reference book that way.

I randomly picked a few countries for the tourist visa information.  I picked Canada, Chile and Croatia.  Sure enough, Christine lays out the essential information, then provides easy links to verify it.

Not only could I read up on these 3 countries on their respective, dedicated full info page, but in an earlier section “The Quick Country-by-Country Guide”, I see and compare my trifecta and all other countries together.  It’s beautiful.

All told, this guide is handy.  At $10, it’s also cheaply priced.  Granted, there’s not a lot of information per country, but that’s not its purpose. This guide answers only a few questions (for every country in the world):

  1. Do I need a visa?
  2. How many days am I allowed to stay?
  3. Any cost to visiting?

Yeah, the guide is well, well worth it.  Even if you don’t travel, if you want a fast PDF-portal to every country’s visa information, pick this guide up at Christine’s site. (book will be released April 5th 2011, but sign up for an alert)


Note: Christine offers other bloggers an “affiliate” commission for reviewing and linking to this book.  However, I turned it down, since she so clearly deserves the entire but meagre $10 sale.



Vote Where We Go For Vacation

Here’s my situation…
Me and the family will take a long vacation before moving.
We rented a motorhome for the month of June.
We pick up our motorhome in Frankfurt, Germany.

Ah, but where do we go?
That’s the snag. Frankly, we can’t decide. West? South? North?? East???
So, since I so love this blog, I decided to let you pick.

My plan is simple: I make a poll. You vote. We travel.
I set up my very first poll below. It was actually fun to make. 🙂
I also offer a map, sort of, showing our choices. Of course, I’m no artist, so each route is hardly exact, but you get the idea.

Check them out. You vote. That’s it.
The result? Whatever “wins” – we spend the month driving that way for our June vacation.
Really, we will go wherever the winning votes tell us to go. Don’t get too excited, though. It’s not like you’re coming with us or anything, unless you can get here by 1 June.

Oh, one last word. If you’ve got an idea I didn’t mention, or you have an itinerary that you really think we should do, then leave a comment below. Be compelling; I’ll reply to all.

Thanks for your vote. I can’t wait to see where we’re going!


Update: We took the “green” route. 

Red, Green, Orange or Yellow?
Red, Green, Orange or Yellow?

Visa Process – Timelines

In a prior post, I mentioned how most countries do not require a visa just to visit. But some do. Some examples include Bolivia, India, Russia (& most of the former Soviet Republics), Cambodia, Vietnam. This post will set your expectations about getting a tourist visa for those countries.
Filling out Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork
Needing a visa doesn’t mean someone does it for you. You’ll need to fill out a visa application.

Yes, every country has its own visa application form. The form could be available online or you must visit the nearest embassy. Nothing is standard across all forms. And you’d better fill it out as it’s expected.

What Does The Visa Application Ask?
Just “name, rank & serial number” would be nice, but don’t count on it.

Generalizing here, but as a minimum, you will provide:
Name, nationality, birthday, passport number, address (both yours and where you’ll stay) and contact information like phone number/fax/e-mail (both yours and where you’ll stay), why and for how long you expect to stay

You may also be asked your marital status, your occupation and employment history. Some countries even ask you to write a short, personal essay explaining why you want to see their country!

After finishing the form, it is also common to provide:
Bank statement or proof of financial support, a copy of HIV vaccinations, confirmation or invitation from a local hotel or friend (both cases sometimes called your “sponsor” and copies of your hotel confirmation & return flight.
Tack on 1 or 2 passport photos and you’re all set!

Continue reading Visa Process – Timelines

Hey- An ExpatYourself Forum!!

I’m not just adventurous in real life (yeah, right), I’m adventurous in website administration.

My dream of helping people live overseas suddenly found a glass ceiling – enough time to answer e-mails.
So, one idea I came up with is to create a forum where people could ask questions (and I still answer them), but future people could see the same questions (& answers!).

A central place for questions. Easy access to (everyone’s) answers. It’s a win-win idea.

I present the world’s newest Expat’s Questions and Answers forum:


You may think it’s light on the questions so far…you’re right. You need to ask them first.

Please post your questions there and I will be very diligent about answering them.