31 January 2008

Closing the Canada-USA land border

Today is the first day of the new U.S. border restrictions, so driving to the USA or taking a cruise into the USA just became harder to do. As of 31 January 2008, citizens of Canada and the USA over the age of 18 years, in order to cross from Canada into the United States by land or sea, will need one of the following pieces of identification:
* Canadian or US Passport
* Trusted Traveler Cards (such as NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
* Enhanced Driver’s License (showing citizenship)
* Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Card
* US Military Identification with Military Travel Orders
* US Merchant Mariner Document
* Native American Tribal Photo Identification Card
* Form I-872 American Indian Card.
Failure to provide one of these items will result in either outright denial of entry, or a long wait to establish identity. The item used must show both identity and citizenship.
However, the rules still allow for both Canadian and US citisens to use a combination of ID cards when they cannot produce one of the above items. To prove identity a common driving license or military ID card will be accepted. To prove citizenship, US border guards will accept birth certificates and citizenship cards.
People flying across the border already need a passport.

29 January 2008

Dangers of not having a visa

Nearly every country on earth issues visas for entry, but Canadians generally do not notice this as the requirements are often waived for people from rich western countries. But the visa requirements are still there, and violating them can result in paying a heavy price.
In May 2007 Canadian businessman Saul Itzhayek was arrested and charged with "violating India's sovereignty" when he entered from Nepal at the request of the local police to clear up a matter on behalf of his driver. He remains in prison, serving a three year sentence. Mr. Itzhayek claims the police offered him safe passage as he did not have a visa, but then arrested him and demanded a bribe of half a million rupees ($12 000).
The lesson here is to always, and I say again, ALWAYS have your visa in hand when you travel. For many countries the visa must be acquired before travel, and for some you can buy the visa at the international airport. Even if you can buy the visa at the airport, I recommend you secure a visa in Canada before travel. Why stand in line to buy a visa when you could just go straight through border control with a visa already in your passport?
My advice here is to avoid Saul's problem. Never try to enter a visa country without the proper document, even if it seems okay, or someone assures you it will be fine. Can you come up with the necessary bribe out of your pocket? Is it worth spending years in a foreign prison? Get the visa, and travel safely.

24 January 2008

Hotel room security tips

I love hotels. Well, specifically, I love good hotels, but I worry about my safety. Once in a bad hotel I became truly glad I had used the security chain on the door, because some other people turned out to have a key which opened my door, so they tried to come in. People tend to think a good hotel is a guarantee of their safety, but this is not the case. Bad things can happen anywhere, so it is good to be well-armed with a few hotel security precautions and tips.
When you check in at the front desk, never allow your name to be spoken. Hand over a credit card and a business card instead. And when the clerk gives you the key, never allow the room number to be said. If the clerk says the room number instead of writing it down, insist on a different room.
Upon entering the room check to make sure the door has a deadbolt lock and a security chain. Some people even take rubber door stoppers in their baggage. Next check the windows: do they lock? Can they be opened in an emergency?
Never leave your hotel room door open; not even to go down the hall to get ice. This just allows people to slip in unnoticed. Several assaults have happened this way, even in four star properties.
When you leave the roon, place the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door. This makes it look like the room is occupied. Leaving the radio or telly turned on gives the same impression.
If you are concerned about staff at the door, call the front desk to confirm their identity before opening your door. Also, you can get room service to call before delivering food.
And when you leave the room, ensure the windows and balconey doors are locked, and that the main door closes and locks behind you. Security starts with you!

17 January 2008

Visas for the 2008 Olympic summer games in Beijing, China

The Oympics are coming! The Olympics are coming! Coming to Beijing, that is. This August China hosts the summer games of the XXIX Olympiad. Everyone needs a visa to travel to China, but this is easier than ever. However, with the Beijing Olympic Games coming quickly, there will soon be a rush for visas.
Visas for the Olympics will go on sale next month. People buying a double entry visa will be able to apply as early as mid-February 2008. Fans wanting a cheaper single entry visa will have to wait until mid-May 2008 to apply. VSC can get you that precious Olympic visa without any hassle or fuss. Just click on the link below for full details and forms.
Remember, a single entry visa is good for only three months, so you must depart China prior to the expiry date. The same is true for six month visas. So do not apply earlier than three or six months prior to your final departure from China!
Prices for the visas remain the same as for standard tourist visas. Our service charge remains at its usual low and competitive level.
China Olympics visa details:
China Olympics visa forms:

11 January 2008

Fillable visa forms now on-line

We are pleased to introduce fillable visa forms on our website. The first forms we converted were for the most in-demand countries of Brazil, China, India, Russia and Viet Nam. Not only is our cover page fillable, but so too are the actual country visa applciations. So now you can fill out the forms on screen, then simply print out the clean and clear final version. This saves time and effort, and ensures the embassy can read your writing! Over the next few months we will be adding more fillable visa applications as demand warrants. We thought this advance would help both our customers, the embassies, and ourselves. Everyone benefits from being able to read the forms. And remember, even though you filled it out on-line, you still have to print it and sign the bottom in ink.

07 January 2008

Tropical island paradise for you

Have you ever imagined staying on a tropical island? Well, it is cheaper than you may think. In the tiny south Pacific island nation of Tonga lies a small island called Pangaimotu (pronounced: pong-eye-mow-to). The island has no residents other than the owners and their family/staff. There are five thatched beach houses (fales) for rent. Four are doubles, and the fifth a dorm. Prices for an entire fale are only T$85 per night (C$43), and dinners from local ingredients and fresh seafood cost about T$24 each. The island is less than 2km from Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa, and a ferry runs for your convenience throughout the day. But with your own island to explore and reefs to swim and snorkel, why leave? The real beauty of Tonga is the lack of tourists. Tonga remains relatively untouched by tourists, and there are no western chain restaurants or hotels. The kingdom is directly north of Auckland, NZ, and easily accessible by air. I am still seriously considering buying an island in Tonga!

03 January 2008

Libyan visas and passport translation

Travel to Libya has never been easier. Sanctions have been ended, and Libya is starting to welcome visitors to the giant history- and oil-rich desert nation. Tourists are now arriving by both air and cruise ship. Visas are necessary and fairly easy to acquire, but there is one small catch: translation. Your passport must be translated into Arabic before applying for a visa. Since November 2007 the Canadian passport office will add a rubber-stamped template to a blank page of your passport and write your data on the left side. The cost for this service is $12. You then take the passport to a certified translator to have the proper Arabic translation written on the right side of the stamp. Only then can you apply for the visa and visit this amazing new destination.