Quick Tip: Don’t bother with a Kenya e-Visa

We knew that we needed a visa to enter Kenya, so I figured that I would make it easy and use the e-Visa website. That assumption was so wrong. First of all, the form asks a lot of very personal questions; questions that could be used to steal your identity if it fell into the wrong hands. After all, Kenya isn’t too far from Nigeria, where all those phishing emails originate. Next, the application process is extremely convoluted. To apply for both Sheri and me, required creating separate accounts on their website. Payments weren’t straightforward, requiring several acknowledgment steps along with a third-party payment step. Finally, after all that work, it doesn’t seem to actually work. My username/password didn’t work, requiring me to reset the password a couple of times. After payment, their system just shows the application as pending and never acknowledges that a payment was made. Checking with the credit card company confirms that a payment was made, but still no visa.

On the other hand getting a visa on arrival is a much more straightforward process and, depending on the number of people on the flight, doesn’t take nearly as long as the online process. There are fewer questions on the form, and the cost is the same. I would suggest skipping the e-Visa and just applying for one on arrival. Be aware that visa on arrival is only available at major airports and not for overland border crossings.

Halong Bay Cruise

DSC_4971Halong Bay, on the Vietnam coast, is a popular tourist destination. Perhaps a bit too popular. The distinctive limestone island formations have made it a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the Natural World. All this attention has made it more popular than ever. The bay has nearly 2,000 small islands, or more correctly, islets. Some are large enough to have inhabitants, but most are too small, too steep, and too overgrown to easily live on them. There are many islets with small beaches on them. Some have caverns formed over 20 million years of geological evolution, hot wet climate, and slow erosion and tectonic processes.  Continue reading

Our Preparation Timeline

Getting ready for a long-term trip, whether it be around the world or just a month abroad, requires quite a lot of advanced planning. Most people don’t realize how much advance planning is required to bring everything together at the right time. Heck, I didn’t know until I started.

As I look back on the last month before our departure, I realize that things didn’t go exactly as planned. Some things took much longer than anticipated and other things just didn’t get done and will have to be dealt with on the road. I think it would have been wonderful to have had some sort of timeline to help with my time management, but until I actually started working on the tasks, I didn’t know how long things would take. And I couldn’t find that sort of information on the Internet since everyone’s situation is different.

Here’s the timeline based on our hindsight that I wish I would have had, outlining what we needed to do and when. It might be helpful in planning your own journey. Continue reading

Destinations chosen – Updated


After a lot of research, I have come up with the countries we intend to visit during our around-the-world trip. After looking at the list, you may notice some obvious omissions to our list. Some places we have previously visited, such as China and Egypt, aren’t included in this trip, some are war zones or politically unstable, such as Pakistan and Mali, and a few, such as Japan and Antarctica, are just too expensive for us to include this time.

5 Continents, 61 Countries, 15 Months

We have included 62 countries we plan to visit. This list may change and will most likely get smaller as we whittle down the number due to lengthy travel times. I figure that, in the end, we’ll actually end up truly visiting about 4o countries and passing through about a dozen others. They will be visited somewhat in this order, but that too may change. The countries include: New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, China, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, UAE, Madagascar, Seychelles, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. Continue reading

Travel Planning Challenges: Madagascar

Remote, out-of-way, and hard to reach, Madagascar is quite a challenge for travel planning.

It’s Sheri’s desire to visit this unique home to lemurs and other exotic creatures, so I did a lot of research to find a way to make it happen. In the process, I came upon some interesting hurdles while trying to make flight arrangements for our trip to this large island in the Indian Ocean. Just like the characters in the animated film with the same name found out, it may be harder to get off the island than it is to get there.

Antananarivo (TNR) is the destination airport for international flights to Madagascar. Most flights connect through Paris (CDG), Nairobi (NBO), Johannesburg (JNB), or Seychelles (SEZ). Surprisingly, it’s easier to get a flight to one of the small islands surrounding Madagascar, such as Seychelles, Comoros, Mauritius, and Réunion. And sometimes, it’s even cheaper.

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Top dozen RTW travel planning resources

We have been planning our trip since 2003, and actively saving for it since 2006. Travel planning is equal parts fun and frustration. It’s exciting to make plans and to see a trip coming together, but it’s also a lot of work researching your destination, arranging transportation and lodging, and determining how long you’ll need in order to do everything you planned. You become a project manager, event coordinator, location scout, travel agent, and financial planner all at once. The last time I went on an extended trip overseas, I didn’t have a lot of the tools and web sites available today. Travel planning is a bit easier these days now that the Internet can provide so much information. Here are the 12 tools that I use extensively for our RTW trip planning.

Google Sheets

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.30.03 PMSpreadsheets may be a bit antiquated, but there’s no quicker way for me to determine travel dates and keep all those destinations straight. If you have a lot of destinations, it can become tedious to keep track of where and when you’ll be somewhere. I originally set up an Excel spreadsheet with destinations, dates, approximate costs, and visa requirements back in 2003 and have updated it frequently. It became the basis of our savings goal. I recently transferred the spreadsheet to Google Docs and keep it updated online now. The format hasn’t changed much since I first created it. The dates are automatically calculated from the initial starting date. I enter the number of nights we plan to stay at a destination and the spreadsheet calculates the arrival dates for all the following destinations. It becomes a dynamic, ever-changing master document that is invaluable for advanced planning. Unlike other online tools, you can add or remove columns for whatever you want to track. Continue reading

Tibet: Closed!

closedImagine my surprise when the tour company sent me an email where the first sentence began with, “Tibet is closed…” My first thought was scam, but I decided to do a little research and to my relief and disbelief, Tibet is indeed closed to foreign travelers EVERY year for the months of February and March. Really. This closure isn’t advertised, nor can you find it on any official websites. In fact, if you call and talk with someone at the Tibet Tourism Bureau, they’ll tell you that Tibet has never been closed to visitors.

A little background: The closure is a result of civil unrest that occurred in March 2008 when certain sensitive anniversaries are recognized. Specifically, Tibet Uprising Day occurs on March 10th to commemorate the armed uprising that occurred in March 1959. The uprising resulted in a violent crackdown in Lhasa and the Dalai Lama fleeing to India on March 30, 1959, where he has been in exile ever since. Because of these anniversaries, the Chinese government closes Tibet and I’m sure the official reason is for public safety. However, I suspect the government is also trying to give Tibetans less of an audience by keeping out anyone with a camera. Continue reading

The Art of Packing for the Long Journey

It has taken me a month and a half to write this post. That’s because packing is one of the most difficult aspects of traveling around the world. It’s takes a lot of research, a lot of trial and error, and a bit of luck to determine what goes with us on our journey and what stays at home. We have both traveled extensively and we have, early on, overpacked many times thinking we would need some item.  The last time I went to Asia, you’d have thought that I was going to climb the Himalayas with all the gear I had…oh, wait, I was.

Nowadays, we try to keep our luggage to just carry-on. A smaller bag is easier to carry and more maneuverable on crowded buses and trains. Besides, the less you have, the less you have to worry about. While this limitation makes it easier for us to move about quickly and saves on checked bag fees for some of our air travel, it’s nearly impossible to do without making some compromises. Continue reading