25 December 2015

Route, practicalities, budget and other "serious" stuff

When you plan to travel in the tropics for 6 months, you can't just book a flight and go. Or well, technically, yes you can. If you're made of money and trust. But if you're neither, then some planning is in order. Here's a little summary of the things that make up the practical side of the trip.

Route

I decided to start the easy way and go to Koh Phangan, my soul island, for the first two weeks, 3.1 - 16.1.2016. On the schedule: probably some acclimatizing and pinching myself several times a day to make sure I'm not dreaming all of the palm trees, fresh coconuts and general amazingness. Being reunited and sharing a house with my Portuguese friend from Be-In festival last summer also fills me up with joy <3

After that I'll head on to Mother India and start my trip there by doing a yoga retreat for 2 weeks in Santosh Puri ashram near Haridwar in the north east part of India with my wonderful Macedonian-born yoga teacher from Berlin, Marijana. Then I'll make my way down to Goa to meet an Israeli friend and more warmer climate. Despite earlier (somewhat naive) enthusiasm about only using trains and buses while in India, I think I'll fly, since spending 60 € on a plane trip that lasts for about 3 hours seems to make a lot more sense than spending about 45 € on a train ride that'd taker around 32 hours... I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to explore the wonders of Indian train travel when I've made my way south. Maybe I'll take trains on my way back up north again?

Goa is where the planned part of the trip ends. After that there's, well, room for adventure and spontaneity, or which were the wise words I used in the previous post? From mid-April till mid-May I would like to be back on Koh Phangan, since there are some workshops I'd love to go to (tantra and rebirthing). But nothing is booked. You'll know when I'll know, that's the only thing I can tell you right now.

The arrangement with my subtenant is that there's no fixed end date to the rental contract. The first fixed point when I seriously aim to be back in Europe is Boom festival in the middle of August in Portugal. But of course those tickets can be sold as well... The tiny pre-plan that's been stewing in my head (since my mind just cannot stop trying to pull some kinds of plans out of this soup of uncertainty) is to return in July, spend some time in Finland and then be back in Berlin in the end of July. And maybe travel Portugal in August. But this is all still very much a tentative thing. Which is the way I aim to keep it.

So, there you have it. Now you know as much as I do. Next up: the practicalities.



Budget

I've budgeted 1500 € per month for the trip. This will include transportation within the country I'm in (not international flights), accommodation, food and activities. The yoga retreat and workshops on Koh Phangan will be extra.

 I'll monitor my budget with TrabeePocket, since the Trail Wallet app that my travel idols of Never ending voyage is sadly only available for the Devil's own devices (Apple. *shudder*).

If I won't spend the entire 1500 in a certain month, the rest will be transferred to the next month. Or count up for workshops or other unexpected splurges.



Visa

I won't be needing a visa for the first Thailand stint, since Finnish citizens (and many others...) have a visa exemption that lets us eat ourselves silly on Thai food for 30 days without a visa. Depending on how long I'll plan to stay in April/May, I will need to apply for a visa then, though.

For India I needed a visa. I applied for a 6 month tourist visa with multiple entries. Which wasn't as straight forward as I had thought, naturally. First, if you apply in Berlin, you're not supposed to do it in the Indian embassy, but at International Visa Service Germany, a fact that isn't of course mentioned anywhere on the embassy website, which is the logical place one would go for visa related information. Oh well. And then, they need your Meldeschein to prove that you've lived in Germany for more than a year. (Needless to say, the embassy site is very silent about this fact as well.) But of course when you change apartments, you get a new Meldeschein, and mine wasn't a year old (and a rental contract for the previous apartment naturally wasn't enough proof for me living in Berlin for the past 6 years). And since I ceremoniously ripped up the previous Meldeschein to mark the End of an Era when I got the new one, I needed to apply as someone who had a permanent address in Finland. Sigh. But all is well when the end is well: I did get the visa (with some time to spare, hah!) and wasn't scarred for life by the extra trip to the IVS I had to take.

An e-visa that you can get online without the hassle of a paper visa or would have been handy if I was only there for the yoga retreat, but since my trip will take more than a month, it wasn't an option for me.

Money spent pre-trip: 58 € (Indian visa)


Flights

I'll be flying from Berlin (TXL) to Bangkok (BKK) via Cologne with the new long haul subsidiary (Eurowings) of the budget airline German wings. The bare-bones flight without anything inclusive (no food, no baggage, no nothing. A seat, maybe, if you were lucky) would have been really cheap, and even with baggage and a meal didn't cost a fortune. I'm still harboring a plan of travelling only with carry-on luggage like my travel idols at Neverending voyage have proven to be possible, but still bought the allowance for one check-in bag for this flight.

The next flight (Air Asia) will take me from Bangkok's Don Mueang (DMK) airport to Surat Thani (URT). Here I didn't purchase the check-in baggage allowance, but if I don't succeed in cramming all my stuff into my lovely new Osprey Fairpoint 40 (that's designed to fit all cabin bag allowance limits, yay!), I can modify my booking and get the check-in bag for 300 baht (7 €).

After Koh Phangan, I'll fly from Surat Thani to Don Mueang again (Lion Air this time), change to Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and hop on a Jet Airways plane to Delhi (DEL).

Money spent pre-trip: 417 € (TXL - BKK), 37 € (DMK - URT), 19 € (URT - DMK), 215 € (BKK - DEL). 




Vaccinations and medication

Luckily I already had hepatitis A/B vaccinations (Twinrix) done for my first Thailand trip back in the day (2008?), so I didn't have to take them. I also already had the jabs for japanese encephalitis and tetanus. So this time I only took the vaccinations for typhus and rabies (Rabipur). And opted for getting a small emergency ration of Malarone for malaria. Never gonna take malaria meds as prevention again after trying that in Indonesia on our scuba trip to Bunaken. Wasn't fun, let me tell you, let alone hellishly expensive. And yeah yeah, I know I would have gotten malaria meds from India (or wherever I happened to think I had malaria and needed to take them) much cheaper, but I still feel safer if I have them with me.

I'll also take 6 months worth of my thyroid meds with me plus a little travel pharmacy of painkillers, vitamins, diarrhea meds, probiotics and such. I won't take the "emergency antibiotics" which people seem to recommend, since most of my health problems have to do with taking too many antibiotics in the first place, so I aim to go as far and wide without taking antibiotics as it is possible.

Money spent pre-trip: 231 € (typhus and rabies), 56 € (Malarone)


Insurance

After the wonderful dengue fever experience getting a good travel medical insurance was a real priority. That lovely little holiday in the Samui hospital would have ended up costing me about 5000 euros (if my memory serves me) if it wasn't for my insurance. This time I went with Travel Secure, and combined the medical insurance with a liability insurance. The coverage seems as good as HanseMerkur that I had last time, but it was way cheaper. If I ever need to file for compensation, I'll let you know if the budget option was a good idea or not.

I'm still thinking of getting a baggage insurance, which would cover "normal theft" (if someone steals something on a street). My home insurance covers burglary from hotel rooms and robberies, so I'm still on the fence about whether or not to get this, as it would set be back about 100 euros at least...

Money spent pre-trip: 300 € (medical + liability insurance)


Other purchases

When thinking about new things to buy for the trip, I tried to stick to the bare essentials. I needed comfy walking shoes/sandals. I needed a laptop that was small and light but that could take the climate and run Lightroom since I aim to take a lot of photos. I needed organic sunscreen. So I ended up getting Keen sandals, a used Thinkpad X220 Notebook from greenpanda.deCoola organic sunscreen plus as a luxury item, a sleeping bag liner (practical for the iffier hostel/train beds). Oh, and some vacuum bags that will hopefully get all my stuff to fit in the carry-on bag. One can always hope, right?

Edit: I also ordered a wire lock and a clothes line.

Money spent pre-trip: 17 € (vacuum bags), 30 € (sleeping bag liner), 89 € (sandals), 318 € (Notebook), 30 € (sunscreen), 10 € (lock), 6 € (clothes line).






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