March 10th, 2014 by Victoria Troupe
When you’re traveling outside of your home country, you may be concerned about health insurance. If you get sick or injured you want to make sure you are protected in a foreign place. But what type of insurance do you need? Is regular health insurance enough? What most people don’t know is that traveling internationally comes with increased insurance benefit needs that you probably would not be compelled to have in your home country. These special international benefits are Emergency Medical Evacuation and Repatriation.
Emergency Medical Evacuation – When you’re far from home, it’s hard to know where the nearest medical facility is and/or if that facility can provide the kind of care you need in an emergency situation. Evacuation coverage typically covers expenses associated with a medical emergency that requires you to travel to find the nearest qualified medical facility. It also includes the cost of returning to your home country (in some cases) or back to the country where evacuation occurred.
This is not something most people consider when they aren’t traveling internationally. However, the expenses associated with an emergency medical evacuation can be quite expensive. The Sky Rescue Evacuation plan is an excellent option both as a basic travel insurance plan or as an add-on to a health insurance plan that covers you internationally. The plan also includes Emergency Reunion coverage, which pays for reasonable travel for a relative or friend to join you for support in case you are evacuated.
Repatriation- Also known as the Return of Mortal Remains, Repatriation is another important benefit that people often do not think about (or want to think about). Repatriation coverage will pay for the expenses associated with returning your body or ashes back to your home country in case you accidentally die during your travel. The Sky Rescue Evacuation plan also includes a Repatriation benefit in case the worst were to happen.
A lot of visas around the world require both Emergency Medical Evacuation and Repatriation coverage before you can enter the country. This applies to the J-1 visa in the US and the Schengen visa in European countries. If you already have a plan that offers medical coverage internationally, the Sky Rescue will supplement your existing coverage to meet your requirements in most cases. You should also consider purchasing this coverage if it is not required, for your safety and for your family while you are traveling.
March 7th, 2014 by Bryanna Davis
Spring break is a time to sit back, relax and leave the stress of school behind for a few days. Many international students choose to take advantage of this break by taking a vacation to either another state (perhaps through a road trip) or to a new, neighboring country. While spring break is a time to “let your hair down” and enjoy not having tests, essays or 8am classes- it’s still important to keep your fun safe. Here are the top 5 tips for a safe spring break:
- Plan Ahead: Nothing spells trouble more than not having an agenda. If you are spending your spring break in a breakers “hot-spot” like Panama City, Cancun, South Padre Island or Cabo- make sure you book your hotel well in advance. Hotels typically run out of vacancy fairly quick during spring break season which means you could be stuck sleeping in your car or on the beach- both of which won’t leave you with a great spring break experience.
- Use Your Head: And we mean for more than showing off your head-stand skills on the beach. If a situation seems too good to be true, it more than likely is. Relax and have fun, but don’t get carried away. To ensure you can always use your best judgment, avoid heavy drinking.
- Watch Your Drink: If you will be heading to a party or a club, it’s important to watch your drink whether you are drinking soda or beer. It only takes a couple of seconds for someone to slip something in your drink that you didn’t ask the bartender for. If you must set down your drink and walk away, ask a friend to watch it for you, or simply buy a new one
- Friends Forever: Friends are great, aren’t they? Not only do they provide you with a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with and a swimsuit on spring break when you’ve forgotten yours, but they also help you stay safe! Use the buddy system and never venture off alone, especially at night.
- Swim Safe: Make sure to use general swimming safety while on spring break. Don’t dive into shallow pools, never swim at night, after you’ve been drinking or alone and if you’re swimming in the ocean be aware of how tall the waves actually are. While they may seem small and gentle from shore, they are typically taller and much more powerful once in the water.
Using these top 5 tips for a safe spring break will help ensure you have safe, yet fun time on your break!
March 6th, 2014 by Ross Mason
March 2014 Travel Warnings
The March 2014 travel warnings are a listing of any warnings that have been posted by the US Department of State in the month of February, warning travelers who plan to visit those countries.
Countries listed through the month of February 2014 include:
Ukraine – February 28th 2014
The Department of State warns travelers to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine, and particularly the Crimean Peninsula, due to the potential for instability following the departure of former President Yanukovych and the establishment of a new government. Groups have staged protests, set up roadblocks, and occupied government buildings in several cities throughout Ukraine since November 2013.
Afghanistan – February 20th 2014
The Department of State warns travelers against travel to Afghanistan. No province in Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence and banditry, and the strong possibility exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against U.S. and other foreign nationals at any time. Remnants of the former Taliban regime and members of other terrorist organizations hostile to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and foreign nationals remain active in every province of the country.
Saudi Arabia – February 11th 2014
The Department of State urges travelers to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia. The security climate in Saudi Arabia continues to improve, despite an attack of unknown motivation on two German Embassy officials in Awamiyah in the Eastern Province in January 2014. The last major terrorist attack against foreign nationals occurred in 2007, but security threats are ongoing and terrorist groups, some affiliated with al-Qaida, may target both Saudi and Western interests.
Somalia – February 7th 2014
The U.S. Department of State continues to warn travelers to avoid all travel to Somalia. There is at this time no U.S. Embassy or other formal U.S. diplomatic presence in Somalia. The security situation inside Somalia remains unstable and dangerous. Terrorist operatives and armed groups in Somalia have demonstrated their intent to attack Somali authorities, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and other non-military targets. Kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, and other violent incidents and threats to foreign nationals can occur in any region of Somalia.
Algeria – February 6th 2014
The Department of State continues to warn travelers of the risks of travel to Algeria. There is a high threat of terrorism and kidnappings in Algeria. This kidnapping threat was noted in the Department of State’s latest Worldwide Caution. Although the major cities are heavily policed, attacks could still potentially take place. The majority of terrorist attacks, including bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, and ambushes occur in areas of the country east and south of Algiers.
Pakistan – February 5th 2014
The Department of State warns travelers to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan. The presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups poses a potential danger to those throughout Pakistan. Across the country, terrorist attacks frequently occur against civilian, government, and foreign targets. Attacks have included armed assaults on heavily guarded sites, including Pakistani military installations.
Israel, The West Bank and Gaza – February 3rd, 2014
The security environment remains complex in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, and travelers need to be aware of the continuing risks of travel to these areas, particularly to areas described in this Travel Warning where there are heightened tensions and security risks.
While traveling, please keep these travel warnings in mind and remember to exercise extra care if you are visiting these countries, and check with your travel insurance provider to make sure you still have coverage in place – sometimes some benefits can be excluded for countries under a travel warning. Travelers are also advised to enroll through the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to stay up to date on travel security information.
February 28th, 2014 by Victoria Troupe
Many students want to study in the United States, but most don’t know where to truly begin. To be legally admitted into the US to attend a university or other academic institution you will need to apply for a F-1 student visa.
The process to obtain your F-1 visa involves 5 specific steps that must be completed thoroughly and with great care. Here is the F1 Visa Application Cycle explained:
1. Be Accepted at an SEVP Approved School
Start by sending out those applications! InternationalStudent.com is a great place to start your school search. You can find schools that fit your criteria and request more information and application details from the schools directly.
2. Pay your SEVIS Fee and Receive your I-20
After you are accepted to the US school of your dreams, you’ll pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee and your school will provide you with an I-20 Form. The I-20 is your preliminary ticket into the US and should be presented during your F-1 Visa interview, described below.
3. Complete the Visa Application
Then, you must complete the F-1 Visa application. This can usually be completed online but it can vary depending on your US embassy.
4. Schedule and Prepare for your Interview
You’ll schedule your visa interview with your US embassy or consulate. It should be scheduled no more than 120 days of your first day of class or study. If issued, you will be able to enter the US up to 30 days before your studies begin.
5. Attend your F-1 Visa Interview
Finally, attend your F-1 visa interview well prepared. Be sure to bring all the appropriate documents, and be prepared to answer these F1 Visa Interview Questions.
Following your interview, all eligible students will be approved at the discretion of the consular office. Enjoy your time in the US!
February 26th, 2014 by Jennifer Frankel
If you will be study abroad in Italy, it’s important to get your health care in check so that you meet your visa requirements and have protection in case you need medical care. There are two aspects that will affect your health insurance coverage mandated by the Italian government:
- Your country of origin
- Length of stay in Italy
Country of Origin
Your country of origin will determine if you need to purchase a private health insurance or if you are covered by your home country. Select countries – particularly those part of the European Union (EU) – have bilateral agreements to help cover medical expenses. Other countries leave you on your own to cover your own medical bills.
If you are a EU resident, you are allowed to study abroad in Italy without a visa for an unspecified amount of time. Students with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) are entitled to the same medical coverage they would get back in their home country while studying in Italy. The EHIC card only covers state provided services and not private facilities, so if students want to seek this level of care they will need to purchase a private health insurance plan for Italy.
If you are a non-EU resident, then the visa and your health care may depend on your length of stay in Italy.
If you will be traveling to Italy for 90 days or less… you may be traveling under the Schengen Visa. This visa does require that you have a minimum of 37,500 euros in order to be permitted entry to the country. You will need to show proof of coverage with a letter from the insurance company showing that you have coverage for medical expenses, medical evacuation and repatriation of remains.
If you will be traveling to Italy for more than 90 days… you will need to apply for a Student Visa which entitles you to medical care in the country. When applying for your Student Visa, you will need to show that you can cover your medical expenses. You have three options to do so:
- Get a consular statement showing that you are entitled to medical coverage in Italy through a bilateral agreement with your home country.
- Enroll in a private health insurance that will cover you in Italy throughout the full duration of your studies. You will need a visa letter that details the type and length of coverage.
- Obtain health insurance through Italy – such as the Istituto Nazionale delle Assicurazioni (INA) – either through an Italian company or organization.
If you are in need of a health insurance for Italy, we offer the Student Secure, Atlas Travel and Europe Travel plan that is specifically designed to meet the needs of study abroad students in Italy. These three plans will meet the minimum requirements and provide you with the proper documentation you need to present to the consulate.
February 21st, 2014 by Ross Mason
Solo Backpacking Around the World
Some of us may love the idea, others loathe it – but whichever side of the fence you are on, there can be some fantastic benefits to be traveling alone. You get to be selfish for once, and do exactly what you want to do without thinking about anyone else. You can also meet some great people, whom you may have never had the chance to meet before.
The list goes on for all the benefits and enjoyment you can get from traveling abroad “on your tod”. But there are also some very important safety aspects that you should take into consideration when traveling alone – and our top 5 safety tips when traveling alone will set you off in the right direction:
1. Stay Connected/ Update People
The number one tip that any solo traveler should follow is to make sure they update friends and family on their whereabouts. With social media these days, checking in regularly on Facebook or platforms like Foursquare will just indicate to your loved ones of where you are and what you are doing. It is even a good idea to email or Skype them once in a while to let them know what your plans are – that way they have an idea of what you are planning to do. If you want to really embrace technology, iPhones have an application called “Find My Friends” which uses the GPS device in your phone to pinpoint your location. You can set this up with your family so that they are the only ones who will see your location, and it will automatically share your location as you move around. If you are traveling alone, it could be a lifesaver in case something does happen.
2. Do Your Research
No matter where you are going in the world, you should always make sure you do your research in advance to find out all you can about a place. Lonely planet guide books are an excellent option, but you can also get most things now online for free through sites like TripAdvisor or simply using the power of Google. You can find out what places to head to, what places you should avoid and any other things you should know before you arrive. This will help you be more prepared and arrive with some knowledge of your surroundings and what you want to do.
3. Plan Your Accommodation in Advance
While it can be fun to sometimes just move from place to place as you feel like it, when you are traveling alone this can lead to problems if you end up in a location that is not the most ideal. By planning in advance, you can do all your research about a location and what area/type of accommodation you will want to stay in. Nothing is worse than arriving somewhere and having to just take the nearest place as you have no idea what else is available – this could get you in trouble.
4. Avoid Heavy Drinking
OK, this could kill your fun a little – but you should avoid very heavy drinking or even mixing of drinks. Getting drunk, or even light-headed in a foreign country can be disorienting enough, but it also makes you very easy prey to be attacked. If possible also try to stick to wine and beer if you are going to drink, as often mixer drinks can have very different alcohol quantities in many developing countries, whereas most beer and wine is the same as back home.
5. Keep Important Documents in a Safe Place
When you are traveling alone, you cannot rely on anyone else to do things for you. So always make sure you keep all your important documents safe and with you at all times. The most important documents are your ID (typically this will be your passport), a credit card to get money if you need to urgently, health insurance ID card and important contact numbers. We also highly recommend that before you travel you make copies of all these documents and add them to a service like Dropbox. They will be available to you anywhere in the world if you need a copy by logging into the website so it can be a great backup!
By keeping your wits about you, traveling alone can be an excellent experience but you just need to be prepared and take some extra precautions that you might not have to if you would be traveling in a group. If you have any other tips, please add them in the comments!
February 17th, 2014 by Bryanna Davis
Traveling can expose you to new cultures and ways of life around the world, but it can also expose you to bad eating habits. While traveling, students are often on a budget and schedule- this means that grabbing something quick is a common way of life. This habit is fine, as long as what you are grabbing provides you with the nutrients you need. Here are a few of the best healthy snacks when traveling that you are also very portable when on the go.
- Apples- Staying hydrated while traveling is important, and sometimes hard to do if you’re on your feet all day for days at a time. Apples help keep you hydrated and are a great source of fiber.
- Beef Jerky- Packed full of protein and low in fat this is a great snack if you have a long day of walking or hiking ahead of you.
- Peanut Butter- Also packed full of protein, but vegetarian friendly. Peanut butter can be used for sandwiches, with your fruit or eaten alone. Peanut butter is not only one of the best healthy snacks when traveling, it has multiple uses.
- Trail Mix- Find a trail mix that includes nuts like almonds, cashews or peanuts and this snack is another great source of protein. A mix that includes dehydrated fruit will also give you necessary vitamins while traveling.
- Bananas- If you’re traveling to a country that doesn’t have tap water you can drink, a banana is a great travel snack option. Thanks to the potassium in bananas ache muscles will be kept to a minimum if frequently chosen as your snack.
- Raisins- They are not only portable but full of antioxidants and the mineral boron, which helps promote bone health.
- Oranges- Like bananas, the peel eliminates the need to rinse this fruit. If you’re limited on space then an orange is a great option that won’t mush under pressure in your bag. Oranges are a good source of Vitamin C- the vitamin that can keep you from catching a virus. Since traveling presents a combination of lack of sleep and exposure to multiple germs it’s especially important to get as much as vitamin C as possible.
Choosing the best healthy snacks when traveling is essential to good health, but so is exercise. You can also find more on how to stay fit and healthy while abroad here.
February 10th, 2014 by Victoria Troupe
Studying abroad can be the most exciting, fulfilling time of your life. However, a lot of planning and foresight is required to prepare yourself for your adventure. Many students forget an important aspect of traveling abroad – health insurance! Many study visas in different countries require you to be covered, and Spain is no exception.
If you’re planning to study abroad in Spain, don’t forget to apply for health insurance before your visa interview, so that you can show proof that you will be covered during your trip. Spanish visa requirements differ depending on where you are coming from – an EU country or a non-EU country.
EU Citizens – If you are a citizen of the European Union, the European Economic Area, or Switzerland where you are covered under your home country’s social security system, you can get proof of health insurance coverage by requesting a European Health Insurance Card from your public health authorities. Be sure to request your card before leaving your home country, as you may need to show it when arriving in Spain.
Non-EU Citizens – If you are from the US or any other country outside the of the European Union, you are required to purchase individual health insurance with a maximum coverage amount of at least €30,000 or $50,000. The Atlas Travel plan and Europe Travel plan are good, affordable options that are easy to purchase online. After you purchase, you receive an email immediately with all of your documents to show proof of coverage to obtain your Spanish visa.
For more information, be sure to check out our resource section about studying abroad and finding international insurance in Spain.
February 7th, 2014 by Ross Mason
Yoga to keep fit in 2014
If you are looking for ways to keep your New Year Resolution, or just looking for new ways to keep fit then our list of cheap ways to keep fit in 2014 should be right up your alley. We all know that gym memberships and other fitness tools can add up in cost, but there are some excellent ways to stay fit on the cheap – and it will not need to break the bank!
Sometimes people do not realize that a brisk walk each day can have some incredible health benefits, and in some cases walking is just as good as running in terms of fitness and exercise. If you can walk to classes or work, instead of taking public transport or your car, you will notice very quickly the benefits to your health.
If you live in an apartment building, this is a great little change that can reap huge benefits for you (especially if you live in a tall building). Taking the stairs everyday, instead of an elevator is a great way to burn off some calories, but also condition your body. You could even find that taking the stairs is quicker for you, and could save you some time – so give it a go and you will be surprised at how much it can actually help you!
We all hate cleaning and tidying our room or apartment, but it has to be done at some point. So why not make it fun and enjoyable – put on some music and get the cleaning done while dancing. As long as your roommate is not around, enjoy it and do something a little different and the calories you will burn up will be surprising!
You will often find that in your local park there will be teams that practice, in the USA there are soccer leagues, softball leagues and all kinds of sports. Check out the notice board at your local field and you should find information on these clubs and sports. They often cost very little, are a great way to meet new people and stay fit!
Hopefully these simple ideas will help you stay fit in 2014, and feel free to post any comments with other ideas and suggestions for cheap ways to keep fit in 2014.