Travel

Got your Passport, but Confused about Brexit?

If you’ve never heard the word “Brexit”—be grateful. But if you are a traveller with a Canadian or US passport, and you’re heading to the UK or anywhere in Europe, you may want to review a few ground rules. Regardless what happens in the cage-fight between Britain and the EU, in the short run it will have no effect on you as a traveller. What happens in the long run is anybody’s guess, but for the next few months at least you need make no alterations to your plans. As the holder of a valid passport (preferably with at least six months left before it expires) you will still be able to travel freely to any part of Britain (or Ireland) and most countries of Europe. If you go to Britain and continue on to Europe, you will need your passport for each entry. What is Schengen? Even the…

無論您是在國外工作還是留學,都要在春節期間保持傳統過新年!- Whether You Are Working Or Studying Abroad, Keep The Tradition Alive During Chinese New Year!

新年快樂 – Happy Chinese New Year! Or in Hong Kong and other Cantonese regions, 恭喜發財 – it means congratulations on the fortune. A Little History Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, has taken prominence and is celebrated all over the world. This New Year celebration is actually the longest Chinese holiday of the year (lasting 15-16 days) and is celebrated on a different day every year. Why? Because it follows the lunar calendar – the movement of the moon. This tradition has been around for almost 4000 years since the Han Dynasty in 202 BC-220 AD.  The Emperor commanded the use of the lunar calendar and it has been put into practice ever since. 2019, Year of the Pig Every year is represented by a different Chinese zodiac sign. 2019 is the year of the pig – a year of fortune and luck! A pig represents wealth, honesty,…

Navigating Expat Insurance? Know the Rules, Know the Territory

Whether some form of Brexit occurs or not, Canadian business travellers and expatriates heading abroad will need to monitor changes to visa rules and health insurance requirements when planning trips to the UK or the remaining countries of the European Union. Unlike Canada’s single-payer healthcare system, by which provincial governments mandate the services to be provided, set the fees for those services, pay the providers, and forbid private entities from competing, most European systems allow—even encourage—a variable blending of public and privately funded health insurance. The UK, for example, offers access to its highly respected National Health Service to expatriates who meet certain residency requirements, but many prefer to “upgrade” to private plans that fill in coverage gaps, shorten wait times for referrals and certain services, and allow access to private hospitals and specialist networks. (As members of the EU, UK residents have access to the European Health Insurance Card…

Canadian Snowbirds in Texas: Persistent, But Still at Risk

Canadians make more than two million leisure trips to Mexico annually, more than to any other country after the United States, even though the governments of Canada, the US, Britain, and other nations continue to issue travel warnings regarding certain sectors of the country. For Canada’s travel industry, especially insurers, this presents something of a quandary because travellers who encounter unexpected health problems or other disruptions to their travel plans while in certain areas of Mexico under travel warnings may find severe limitations on their coverage benefits. And sometimes it doesn’t take much to wander into such areas—as happens often to Canadians who winter in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and walk over a footbridge into the state of Tamaulipas—an “Avoid Non-essential Travel” zone. Fortunately, the small, circumscribed tourist zone that Canada’s “Winter Texans” frequent daily is well fortified, and relatively free of crime or other disturbances. But wander beyond, and…

Relocation Series – Moving to Shanghai, China

Welcome to our Relocation Series! Looking for better opportunities? Want to make a big life change? Finally found the dream destination you want to move to? Our Relocation Series consists of the most popular destination choices for expatriates to relocate to. We will include all the details you need to know on each country and factors to determine if it would be the perfect fit for you! Let us make your life easier for this next big step you are taking. A comprehensive guide for moving to and living in Shanghai Languages The language most widely spoken in China is Mandarin. In Shanghai, residents also have their own dialect called Wu Chinese. English is not widely spoken or understood in this area. Money The Chinese Yuan Renminbi (CNY) is used here. There are ATMs in big cities and towns but China is still largely a cash culture so do…

Relocation Series—Moving to Paris, France

Welcome to our Relocation Series! Looking for better opportunities? Want to make a big life change? Finally found the dream destination you want to move to? Our Relocation Series consists of the most popular destination choices for expatriates to relocate to. We will include all the details on what you need to know on each country and factors to determine if it would be the perfect fit for you! Let us make your life easier for this next big step you are taking. A comprehensive guide for moving to and living in Paris Languages The official language is French. English and Spanish are the next most common languages spoken in Paris. Money The Euro (EUR) is used and credit cards are accepted in a large number of shops, hotels, and restaurants. Safety Paris has an overall medium risk to safety: while generally not dangerous, it is…

Travelling Abroad? You Can’t Take Canada’s Cannabis with You

Canada’s marijuana legalization has attracted international media headlines the way few other Canadian actions have in recent memory—much more newsworthy than its freeing up of marijuana for medical purposes several years ago. And, as might be expected, the October 17 enactment of the new pot laws has spawned hugely speculative and grossly sensational alarms about what Canadians (including snowbirds) might expect when crossing over into the US this coming winter season. Let’s first establish one point above all: Canada’s legalization of cannabis is a domestic issue. It is applicable in Canada only. It has no impact on any other country’s laws or rules. In time it may certainly influence what other countries do—but not yet. The Canadian government is quite clear when it warns that “carrying any cannabis or cannabis product (legal or illegal) across Canada’s border will remain a serious criminal offence, with individuals convicted of engaging in such…

Visiting the US This Winter? Let’s Review the Rules—Part 1

It’s that time of year again: time to review the rules that govern how long you can stay out of the country without risking loss of your provincial health insurance benefits, how long you may stay in the US as a visitor, and if there are any changes in the rules you need to pay particular attention to. And this year, we’re going to do our review in two parts—the second dealing with new and vital information you need to know about Canada’s cannabis laws (for recreational or prescribed medical use) before leaving the country or approaching any other international border. You don’t need to be a marijuana user to be affected by these laws—so stay tuned. But first: the rules for visiting the US—Canada’s favourite vacation location There are no major changes in the B2 (non-immigrant tourist) visa rules for Canadian citizens wishing to visit the United States.…

Relocation Series—Moving to Mexico City, Mexico

Welcome to our Relocation Series! Looking for better opportunities? Want to make a big life change? Finally found the dream destination you want to move to? Our Relocation Series consists of the most popular destination choices for expatriates to relocate to. We will include all the details on what you need to know on each country and factors to determine if it would be the perfect fit for you! Let us make your life easier for this next big step you are taking. A comprehensive guide for moving to and living in Mexico City Languages The common languages are Spanish, Nahuatl, Maya, and Mixtec. English is also becoming more widely spoken. Money The Mexican Peso (MXN) is used. Credit cards are widely accepted and the country has an extensive network of ATMs. Safety Mexico has an overall medium risk regarding safety. Stay in the tourist zones to…

Warnings on Virtual Kidnapping Targeting Chinese Students

A warning to international students, brought to you by StudyInsured. A new (but old) scam is underway, specifically targeting Chinese international students: virtual kidnapping. It sounds bizarre when you first hear the words—how do you kidnap someone virtually? Doesn’t kidnapping require a person to be… physically there? Apparently not. Scam artists have had to up their game and get more creative with their schemes over the years as security measures have been tightening up and the general population has become more aware of when someone is trying to defraud them. In comes virtual kidnapping. While Canada is overall a safe destination for international students, travelling such a long distance away can naturally cause anxiety for students’ parents and loved ones left back home. This scam seeks to play on those fears by inventing a danger to the student that isn’t actually there. The history It started as a…

Foreign College Studies for Canadians—Right Next Door

Given that their parents are such zealous travellers, the reticence of Canadian post-secondary school students to study abroad even for short periods or exchanges is somewhat mystifying. As we see in the story linked above, concerns about transferability of credits and the prospect of “a lot of hard work” tend to keep most Canadian students homebound—unexposed to foreign cultures, mores, climates, and temptations. And then there are the costs. But one of the lesser-known channels to foreign studies—perhaps even for short-term trial periods—may lie in the discounted tuition programs offered by US colleges and universities (some established by state legislation) specifically for Canadian students. How about the Sunshine State? For example, in 1987, the Florida legislature set up a Florida-Canada linkage program offering Canadian students admissions to some 40 state-funded colleges and universities at the same subsidized tuition levels offered to state residents—all in the interests of developing stronger…

New Canadian Biometric Requirements in Place for International Students and Other Visa Holders

As of July 31, 2018, international students applying for Canadian student visas from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa are required to provide biometric facial photos and fingerprint data to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officers when entering the country. The requirements will also apply to applicants for visitor, work, permanent residency, or refugee asylum visas. Applicants already in Canada are temporarily exempt from the requirements pending the establishment of biometric application processing centres in Canada starting in 2019. Canada’s Biometric Initiative program, which is designed to ease legitimate travel to Canada while protecting national security and preventing identify fraud, will be extended to applicants from Asia, Asia- Pacific, and the Americas starting December 31, 2018. Canada already collects biometric data from refugee applicants from 30 countries. Tourists from visa-exempt countries with valid Electronic Travel Authorizations (eTA) are exempt from the requirement, as are: Canadian citizens US nationals Citizenship…

Relocation Series—Moving to Toronto, Canada

Welcome to our Relocation Series Launch! Looking for better opportunities? Want to make a big life change? Finally found the dream destination you want to move to? Our Relocation Series consists of the most popular destination choices for expatriates to relocate to. We will include all the details you need to know on each country and factors to determine if it would be the perfect fit for you! Let us make your life easier for this next big step you are taking.   A comprehensive guide for moving to and living in Toronto Languages The official languages spoken are English and French. Chinese and Punjabi are the next most commonly spoken languages. Money The Canadian dollar (CAD) is used and credit and debit cards are accepted countrywide. It is recommended to use one of the most prominent banks that have ATMS scattered across the city. Safety Toronto…

Canadian Universities Get High Marks for Education, But a Bum Rap for the Weather

No generation is more susceptible to being influenced by the blogosphere and social media rants than applicants to colleges and universities—especially those anticipating studies in distant foreign countries. It’s challenging enough sorting through the academic choices, admission standards, visa requirements, and financial commitments that are critical to making choices about where to apply without also factoring in language barriers, social customs, and basic living issues like weather. Weather? To judge by the narratives floated in various forms of media directed at aspiring international students, discussions about weather appear to be a priority. Universities in Florida, Arizona, and Southern California use weather as a big recruiting plus—for obvious reasons. It seems to work. Bundle up? But when describing college choices in Canada, once the narrators get past the great cost advantages and international esteem given Canadian universities—the second or third paragraph of the blog or article tends to focus on…

Join Our World Wanderer Club! Experience the World in a Whole New Way.

World Wanderer Club We are excited to introduce the new and exclusive “World Wanderer Club” to you travel lovers! If you’re looking for new places to go, travel secrets and tips, the right products to assist your trips, helpful travel blog posts on current events, and special travel perks, discounts, and contests – this is a travellers’ wonderland for you! We hope to inspire you to travel and see the world just like we do and to discover places you never knew about. You can gain a new perspective and educate yourself by travelling abroad as well as learning how to protect yourself when you’re away from home. You can always have fun, but you’ll have the most fun when you’re prepared! Our World Wanderer Club is your resource for: International travellers Canadian travellers and Visitors to Canada Special risks and adventure travellers Group travellers International student travellers Snowbirds Expatriates…

Relocation Series—Moving to New York City, USA

Welcome to our Relocation Series Launch! Looking for better opportunities? Want to make a big life change? Finally found the dream destination you want to move to? Our Relocation Series consists of the most popular destination choices for expatriates to relocate to. We will include all the details on what you need to know on each country and factors to determine if it would be the perfect fit for you! Let us make your life easier for this next big step you are taking. A comprehensive guide for moving to and living in New York City  Languages The main languages spoken are English and Spanish. There are as many as 800 languages spoken in NYC, and nowhere in the world has more languages than Queens, New York—so there should be little to no language barrier problems! Money The American Dollar (USD) is used and credit and…

International Students Love Montreal

Once again, Montreal has been ranked as the top North American city for international students in the highly prestigious QS University Rankings for 2018, the only Canadian city to make it to the top 10 most favoured slots. Noted by QS as Canada’s “cultural capital,” Montreal is applauded for its “multicultural makeup and inclusive ethos” as well as its laidback yet lively lifestyle, attractive boulevards, thriving creative industries, café culture, eclectic range of arts venues and nightlife—not to forget its internationally ranked universities. (McGill is currently ranked as 32nd in the world, and both the University of Montreal and Concordia University have also achieved respectable rankings.) To put matters in a tighter perspective, Montreal has slipped out of last year’s first-place ranking to be replaced in the #1 spot by London, then Tokyo, then Melbourne, in that order—but it remains ahead of all other Canadian cities and any or all…

The Eight-Month US Visa for Canadian Retirees: A Myth That Keeps on Coming

It happens every couple of years: broadcast and print media announce in bold headlines that Canadian retirees 55 years or older who can afford a second home in the US (owned or leased) will soon be allowed to live there for up to eight full months per year instead of the 182 days they are currently allowed under the B2 visitor visa. Sounds like great news for snowbirds who prefer slathering on sunscreen to shovelling snow. Just this month, an opinion piece in Canada’s Financial Post warned that tax increases on Canada’s middle classes were fuelling a brain drain of doctors, nurses, tech workers, and entrepreneurs to the US and elsewhere, adding, “Just watch the enormous economic damage done when Congress extends its permission for snowbirds by two months—to eight months a year—to stay in the U.S. without becoming taxable.” Well, let’s just hang on here As I said,…

Why Are Canadians Hesitant About Studying Abroad?

Canadians are among the most inveterate travellers in the world: over 23 million leisure trips abroad every year—not bad for a total population of 36 million. That covers all age groups—including the very old and the very young. And the world is reciprocating, with international tourist numbers hitting new peaks year after year and with foreign students flocking to Canadian colleges and universities to take advantage of world-class educational opportunities at tuition rates far below those in the United States. At top colleges across the nation, foreign students comprise 20 to 30 per cent of undergraduate enrollees—ditto for graduate programs. But there is one area of internationalization that is clearly lagging, to the concern of Canadian educators and business leaders: that is the reluctance of well-qualified Canadian students taking up the challenge (and denying themselves the rewards) of studying abroad—full-term or short-term. According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education…

Canadian Travellers to Cancun: Be Vigilant

With more than two million Canadians visiting Mexico annually, travel insurers and other travel professionals need to warn their clients of increasing violence (due mostly to drug cartel activity) in the highly popular tourist area in and surrounding Cancun. More than half of all Canadian visits to Mexico are made to Cancun, and Mexico is Canadians’ second-most-visited country, next to the US. So far this year, 113 people have been killed in the Cancun area. The most recent spate of violence occurred in early April, when 14 murders (all considered drug-trade-related) occurred within 36 hours—generating headlines in newspapers around the world. Though Mexican authorities have explained that most of these deaths were confined to individuals involved in the growing drug cartel wars, there have been some innocent bystanders killed or wounded; and armed military guards have since been stationed at key points throughout the area to safeguard tourist resorts and…

Mexico Travel Warning for Parents of Student Spring Breakers

Recent Canadian and US government warnings cautioning travellers about potential terrorist activity in Mexico’s Western Caribbean resort area of Quintana Roo state (including Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa Carmen) have once again emphasized the need for travel insurance for all ages, especially teenage students who are “breaking loose” for spring and Easter vacations. The warnings, issued by both governments on March 7 and 8, came in the wake of an explosion on one tourist ferry travelling from Playa Carmen to Cozumel, and the discovery of an unexploded bomb on another. These events have firmed up evidence of new drug cartel activity reaching into these areas, which thus far had been relatively free of the violence wracking much of the northern and western (Pacific) states in recent years. The government warnings, based on unidentified “ongoing security threats,” have subsequently been narrowed down, but the US State Department continues to restrict its own…

Canadian Students Shouldn’t Be Wary of Studying Abroad

Canadians make almost 30 million overnight trips to foreign countries in a year—not bad for a nation with only 36 million people. But when it comes to Canada’s students travelling abroad for post-secondary education, the numbers are not nearly so impressive. After all, the value of exposure to foreign cultures, different ways of doing business, multi-language literacy, and knowledge of foreign history and customs are increasingly valuable components in dealing with globalization. Yet according to Academica Group, a Canadian think tank devoted to fostering “meaningful, generative dialogue about the future of education in Canada,” only 3.1 per cent of full-time university students and 1.1 per cent of full-time college students have studied abroad as part of their postsecondary education. According to surveys done by Academica, though 58 per cent of respondents said they planned on travelling abroad after graduating, 57 per cent of those cited a “desire to see the…

Buying a Cruise? Choose Carefully—It’s Not Always Paradise

Over the next 12 months, Canadians will take more than 750,000 ocean cruises, most of them heading out of ports in the Southern US, mostly from Florida, Texas, or California. Cruising is the fastest-growing vacation activity for Canadians of almost all age groups, and that’s not likely to change given the number of new vessels. There is no shortage of choice, either in itinerary or price point. But that does not mean you should make your cruise choice casually, without doing some homework. Along with the romantic appeal and imagery that cruise lines use in selling their products, there are some darker stories about ships being stranded due to mechanical problems, intrusions of Norovirus, the occasional “man or woman overboard” horror story, and every once in a while a story like one published recently in the Miami Herald concerning ships failing to meet government-established sanitary standards, with spot inspectors finding…

Chinese New Year 2018: Why is it year of the dog and what does it mean?

Happy Chinese New Year 2018! The annual event marks one of the most colourful and lively celebrations, with festivals held in most major cities across the world. Chinese New Year brings with it vibrant parades and colourful celebrations, but what is Chinese New Year? When is it celebrated and what does it mean? Chinese New Year has become a global celebration. Not only is it celebrated by the country of China and those with Chinese ancestry, it’s celebrated by people from across the world, of all different cultures and religions. Some 3 billion trips are expected to be taken during the Chinese New Year, so travellers should be prepared for delays and security risks no matter where they’re heading. Here is everything you need to know about the Chinese holiday known as Spring Festival. How is Chinese New Year celebrated?  Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is…

The International Students’ Guide to Surviving a Canadian Winter

What you have heard about the Canadian winter is true: it’s cold. Whether you are an international student set to study on the Pacific shores of British Columbia, in the metropolitan hub of Toronto, or in the easterly province of Newfoundland, there’s no escaping the weather. As someone who moved to Toronto from the (albeit only slightly) warmer climate of the UK, I can certainly attest to the plummeting temperatures and heavy snowfalls. What my time in Canada has also taught me, however, is that as long as you take note of a few simple tips to stay safe and keep warm, the cold weather won’t just be bearable—it will be fun. Preparing for the worst will protect you from injuries and hopefully allow you to avoid using that all-important insurance policy you took out before moving. Bundle up Across the country’s 10 provinces and three territories, the Canadian…

For Canadian Travellers: US Travel Future is Upbeat, But Do Your Homework

With the US economy booming, thanks to a surging stock market, record low unemployment, rising wages, and sharply lowered personal and corporate taxes, consumers are showing a growing confidence about spending more of their family budgets on travel. According to the most recent report by international business consulting firm Deloitte: of the six major segments that comprise the US travel industry (airlines, lodging, car rentals, cruises, rail, and travel packaging), a strong five per cent growth is forecast for 2018, setting the USA travel industry on course to hit a record-breaking $370 billion by year’s end. For Canadian travellers, who make about 25 million overnight trips to the US annually (that doesn’t count day trippers crossing over for a few hours), that means an expanding choice of locations and activity interests at all price levels; competitive (cheaper) airline fares; more hospitality and dining options—in short, more bang for your buck.…

Travel Insurance and Drinking: Read Your Policy

Last fall, the CBC brought widespread public attention to the case of a Canadian who, while visiting relatives in the US, fell down a flight of stairs after drinking alcohol, required treatment in hospital for a brain injury, and ultimately had his travel insurance claim denied, purportedly, because he had too much to drink. The response from some in the media was mainly critical of the insurer for not having “warned” the traveller ahead of time that an accident caused by alcohol impairment could invalidate his coverage That should not have come as a surprise to anyone as every travel insurance policy issued in Canada excludes coverage for medical emergencies caused or contributed to by alcohol—or other intoxicants—just as it excludes coverage for known unstable pre-existing conditions, terminal diagnoses, and failure by those insured to disclose their true medical conditions when applying for products. Travel insurance was never designed to…

Rules for Canadian Leisure Travel to the US in 2018

If you’re planning some travel to the US in 2018 (an estimated 24 million did so in 2016), you might want to review the rules of entry, how long you can stay, what documents you need to carry, and what changes have been made to those rules since your last trip. Fortunately, there were no major changes for casual visitors, leisure travellers or snowbirds last year, but you still need to be vigilant about your crossings as the cooperation between US and Canadian border agencies continues to be more refined and precise. Don’t assume you may have slipped through once or twice without notice. For short-term visitors or snowbirds who are Canadian citizens, the key rule remains—you are allowed to be in the US for up to six months (usually interpreted by border agents as between 180 and 182 days) over any rolling 12-month period. The best way to determine…

Planning to Study Abroad in Canada? Here’s What You Need to Know about Health Coverage

Because I have a 15-year-old grandson who is intent on studying medicine, I have been paying very close attention to the growing tidal wave of international students applying to Canada’s universities. I should explain that although Zachary lives in the United States, he is a dual Canadian/US citizen, and would therefore have a clearer road to enrollment at, say, the University of Toronto or McMaster than would a student with no Canadian connection who would have to navigate the various visa requirements.  I am also very aware that Canadian medical schools are a lot cheaper than comparable-quality US schools. What my research has also turned up is that as of the last census taken by the Canadian Bureau for International Education, in 2015 there were more than 350,000 international full-time students enrolled in Canadian colleges—that is almost 100,000 more than five years earlier—and is getting very close to the 450,000…

Canadian Outbound Travel Forecasts and Safety Advice for 2018

With consumer confidence the highest it’s been in four years, and with overall travel numbers for the first eight months of 2017 up 5.3 percent over the same period in 2016 (23.1 million trips—not counting single-day, cross-border travel), it appears that Canadians will be taking to the roads, skies, and seas in near-record numbers in 2018.1 That’s a good thing. But with increasing options to visit farther-flung locations coming available, you will also have to become astute navigators and travel planners. What may be a prime vacation or tour destination one day can generate warning signals overnight that need to be spotted, heeded, and avoided. Fortunately, with phone and online access to government travel advisories instantly available, there is no reason for you to be short of current information when either planning or embarking on any trip to any location—and you should take no location’s safety for granted. For example,…

Canada’s Dual Citizens: Many “Pros,” But a Few Cautions

As Canada becomes more culturally diversified (almost one million Canadian citizens are also citizens of other countries), international travel requires increasing care and attention to detail. For example, in 2016, the Canadian government imposed a rule requiring all Canadian citizens who were also citizens of other countries to have Canadian passports when entering by air. (Canadian/US “duals” were exempted). The rule ruffled a few feathers, particularly among Canadians who had been living abroad for many years and had to scurry about trying to get passports just so they could visit family and friends “back home.” In addition, Canada is one of the most welcoming nations for citizens of other countries who wish to be permanent residents—which means, if they are successful in obtaining PR status, they have virtually all of the rights and responsibilities of citizens, except the right to vote, or run for elected office. But they are also…

Partner with Your Doctor when Applying for Travel Insurance

Among the most frequent stories I hear from Canadians who have had their travel insurance claim denied are: “My doctor never told me I had a heart murmur” or “he didn’t say that heart pill was for atrial fibrillation” or “my CT scan didn’t show anything abnormal”—so why would they have reported any of this on their application? Why? Because it’s up to you to know what’s in your medical record when filling out an insurance application—and if your claim is denied for non-disclosure or because you had a pre-existing condition that wasn’t “stable,” you are the one who will have to pay the bill. And no matter how strongly your family doctor protests your denial in a letter after the fact, you are still responsible for providing accurate and up-to-date information to the insurer. The decision to pay your claim or deny it will be made on the basis…

Visitors to Canada Travel Protection: Know Your Options (Part 2)

In the Part 1 of this series, I discussed the importance of Visitors to Canada plans. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the details your visitors will need to consider when purchasing their insurance. Visitors to Canada travel protection plans come in various shapes and sizes. These are not “one size fits all” products. The first rule is to buy travel insurance before your visitors leave home—to become effective when they first set foot in Canada. If you or your visitors buy insurance after they arrive, they will be subject to a waiting period—two, three, or even five days—before coverage for any sickness becomes effective. (Coverage for accidents is effective immediately.) In most cases, if you’re buying or ordering a plan for a parent or relative who will be staying with you for a short time, a single-trip policy is best. But be careful if…

Expecting Visitors to Canada? Protect Them and Yourselves with Health Insurance (Part 1)

One of the most baffling myths passed on about Canadian health care is that it’s free. Far from it: you pay for it very handsomely in your taxes every time you buy gas, a pair of shoes, or a case of beer. In fact, you pay some of the highest costs for health care in the industrialized world, even though you pay nothing when you visit your doctor or a hospital for routine or emergency care. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that same “generosity” will be extended to a friend or relative from another country visiting you over the coming holidays. Let’s face it: hospitals are not the charitable institutions they once were. They may be funded by their provincial governments, but only for care of their residents.  All others pay cash—or, if they’re from another province, by funds transferred out of their own provincial treasuries. A…

Is Virtual Reality the Future of Cruising?

It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of taking a cruise was linked in one’s mind with leisure: “getting away from it all,” sipping cool drinks in deck chairs, and watching tropical sunsets. No longer. As cruise vessels get bigger and bigger (5,000 passengers is now routine) and the focus of activities turn ever inward—to what the ship has to offer rather than what the itinerary and ports of call provide—you’re going to need a lot of experience with technology to get the most out of your cruise. I’m talking about smartphones, apps, virtual reality headsets, and so on. Better bring your grandkids along. Recently, Royal Caribbean Cruises previewed some of the super-high-tech plans it has for “enhancing” the cruise experience of the future, and it’s about as far away as you can get from the “romance” of the old tramp steamer sailing on the high tide for Trinidad…

More on the Wretched 30-Day US Cross-Border Rule

Of all questions that come across my desk from confused readers, the one most difficult to explain, or justify, concerns the US immigration rule that requires vacationing Canadians to count side trips of 30 days or less, be they back home or to Mexico, as part of their allotted 180-day stay in the US. If those trips are over 30 days, they are not added to the 180-day tally, and the return to the US is counted as a separate trip. This becomes more confusing if our Canadian visitors  become entangled in the seemingly contradictory rules governing the B2 visa (which allows most Canadians to stay in the US for up to 180 days per 12 months), and their obligation to file IRS forms (8840) if they spend large chunks of time in the US each year. Different purposes. Different rules. Let’s sort it out—The easiest first Under the…