Working On a Cruise Ship: The Facts

Applying for and working on a cruise ship isn’t as pie-in-the-sky as you might expect, and with hundreds of people working above and below deck to ensure passengers have a fantastic experience, there might be a role that can put your talents, skills and experience to good use. So if you like the idea of waking up one morning in one port or harbour and the next in another, then read on…

Why work on a cruise ship?

Working on a a cruise ship gives you the opportunity to work with and for people of every age and nationality. The combination of socialising, working – heck, just living on the open seas attracts people from many nations and cultures wanting to give and experience more. Old sea dogs, university graduates, career changers, those supporting a family back home, the sheer number of people working on a cruise ship means that the environment on the high seas is a glorious combination of language, culture and experience.

Continue reading Working On a Cruise Ship: The Facts

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.



On Vacation Now – Miss You Guys (Too)

hey all,

Above all, I’m sorry to be away for a couple weeks. I and the family are on our RV vacation since June 1st. Another week or so to go before we return the motorhome and we fly to Halifax, Canada.

I’m in a hotel in Zermatt, Switzerland, borrowing some wireless. The barmaid knows I’m not a guest, but she’s cool with it so long as I keep ordering beers. My wife is putting the kids to bed in our nearby campground.

How’s vacation treating us? In a word: (f’ing) fantastic.

Checking the list of e-mails (all too quickly), I’m smiling at a couple nice notes. Thanks Jen, Joanna, Darrin – I miss you guys, too.

Over a couple beers, I made a video with our vacation pictures so far. I’m a huge movie fan, so I stuck in a couple choice snippets, too, that sort of match the scene. Hope you enjoy it as much as I liked making it.

Hope you all are doing well. Do let me know where you are with your ideas and planning. Above all – the most important thing to do is ACT. Dream all you want, but when it comes time for the rubber to hit the road- ACT.

Take care – CIAO, -jeff

By the way, to SoulTravelers3, I thank you for the advice to visit Cinque Terre. We left that gorgeous area this morning. Stunning!!


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

Moscow Missed You, Bill

Quick story for you.

Over the summer, I went to Moscow for 3 days. (Yes, a short vacation even just flying from Prague.)

I went to Moscow alone, but I wasn’t supposed to be alone.
An old friend, we’ll call him Bill M., was flying from the US to visit me here in Prague, then we planned to hop over to Moscow for a couple days’ adventure. We bought our flights, booked our Moscow hotel rooms – everything was set. Except Bill’s passport, which was held captive by the Russian embassy in New York city in some bureaucratic visa foul-up. For Bill, no visa meant no trip to Moscow. And also, no passport meant no trip at all. Poor Bill ended up watching time pass as no delivery man came, eventually missing his flight to Prague.

I went to Moscow alone. And I spent an afternoon making this video in Bill’s honor. Enjoy:

Happy Holidays from …me

happy_holidayWe (I) here at ExpatYourself Headquarters (my desk at work) wish you a very happy holiday (a very, very happy holiday).

Just some insight into the expat lifestyle:
Tomorrow morning, my family and I leave for Rome, Italy. (In case I hadn’t said, we live in Prague, Czech Republic.)

We’ll spend a week in Rome, returning home on the 26th, Boxing day. For my 4 year daughter, Italy will be the fourth country where she’s woken up Christmas morning to see what Santa left her.

Only an expat kid would consider it perfectly fine to vacation in US, Czech Republic, Egypt and now Italy for Christmas.
Ever thought of doing the same?

Have a great one & see you next year!!!!

Tipping in Different Countries

Tipping - extra or mandatory?
Tipping - extra or mandatory?
If you’re from the US, you likely tip. Not just any loose change, but a healthy 15%. You may even believe that 15% is mandatory and extra good service warrants a bit more.

Fact #1: Only in the US do we tip 15-20%.

Fact #2: Tipping is not expected in all countries. In fact, not in most countries.

Fact #3: In many Asian countries, tipping can be insulting.

Continue reading Tipping in Different Countries

Why Be An Expat?

runlogoNeed a reason to become an expat? Here are the most popular:
• “I have no job. Now what?” – There are countries begging for English speaking workers.
• “I want to retire cheaply.” – Go retire for cheap in a country with a low cost of living.
• “Looking for adventure and whatever comes my way!” – Plenty of adventure abroad.
• “Wanted by the Man.” – “I understand extradition from Rio is very complicated.” (Fletch, 1984)

Other popular reasons for US citizens:
• Broadening children with new cultures, new languages, new sights.
• Making your first $92,000 tax-free from the US government (for 2009 tax year)
• Speaking of taxes, you get an extra 2 months to file. April 15th – No. June 15th – Yes!
• Finding that special someone.

Hey, if these reasons aren’t quite enough, how about 100 reasons more? Enjoy!