When people are forced to flee their native countries, they become refugees. This concept seems simple, but it’s not one with which most citizens of the U.S. are familiar. This video on Bhutanese refugees originally ran on The Seattle Channel’s program, City Stream. The video follows in the footsteps of one Bhutanese family that was forced out of Bhutan at gunpoint 18 years ago. The family lived in Nepal in a refugee camp before being welcomed into Seattle. As the number of Bhutanese immigrants is rising in the U.S., this video offers important insight.
It’s not every day that I find myself liking promotional videos, but this video seems to be an exception. Sponsored by Bhutan‘s board of tourism, this video pairs dramatic music and beautiful Bhutan footage. The end result is a gorgeous video featuring hiking, rafting and wildlife that makes me want to look into flights to Bhutan immediately. If you’ve been to Bhutan, tell us about your experience in the comments. Be sure to point us in the direction of any fantastic photos or videos while you’re at it.
1. Trek to the Everest base camp in Nepal. Takes eight days of hiking to reach the pinnacle viewpoint of the peak from an 18,200-foot, non-climbing vantage point.
2. Drive to the north slope of Everest in Tibet. Drive from Lhasa to Kathmandu in five days.
3. Trek to the Arun Valley of East Nepal. 12 days takes travelers to a high ridge between Everest and Kangchenjunga where they will have breathtaking views of four of the five highest mountains in the world.
4. Fly the Everest Flightseeing trip from Kathmandu. A comfortable pressurized aircraft virtually guarantees a peak-level view of Everest.
5. Fly on commercial, scheduled jet aircraft service between Kathmandu and Paro, Bhutan; Lhasa, Tibet; or Bangkok, Thailand. Odds are the plane will fly right over Everest but “bring a peak profile image to identify the mountain for yourself and your seatmates,” says Weber. “Views are brief and usually only available on one side of the plane.”
6. Hire a helicopter from Kathmandu. Fly to the Khumbu area of Nepal, have tea on the veranda of the Everest View Hotel, which offers a superb view of Everest, and fly back an hour later. “By several measures the experience will be astounding, but it is one of the more costly options.”
See more on these six strategies at the JOURNEYS International blog.
Flickr photo by Se7en Summits
Expatify.com asked the question, “Where would you be the safest if World War III broke out tomorrow?” The answers arrived in a post titled “10 Best Places to Live for Avoiding World Conflict.” Irrelevant as it may seem to you, the claws of conflict affect a revolving roster of nations. The knowledge of where not to go because of conflict, or better yet, where to go to avoid it, can be useful if you’re planning to live, or even just spend some time, abroad. According to this article, countries that make the safety cut are: Switzerland, Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, Canada, Seychelles, Finland, Tuvalu, Iceland, Bhutan, and New Zealand. Most of these choices make sense to me, based on what I know, but the undeniably gorgeous Seychelles seems like a somewhat uncertain choice. News stories covering the Somali pirates swarming the Seychelles area are prevalent. To be fair, I’m not convinced Somali pirates are a current threat for World War III. What are your thoughts? Where would you move in order to be as far removed from world conflict as possible?
We live in an increasingly borderless world and we have access to many countries that were closed (or non-existent) 20 years ago. As reported earlier this week, Americans are especially lucky with access to 169 countries visa free. Still, there are still many countries that Americans need advance visas to visit. Visa applications and processing services can cost several hundreds of dollars and take a lot of time and energy to obtain, so figure in that into your travel planning but don’t let it discourage you from visiting.
Nearly all countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, Western Europe, and the Middle East will give you a visa free or for a fee on arrival. See below for our guide to countries you will need to apply for advance visas, along with fees, useful information and links to consular websites.
- China: US citizens pay $130 for tourist visas, single- or multiple-entry up to 24 months from date of application. Keep in mind a trip to Hong Kong or Macau counts as an exit from China, so plan on a multiple-entry visa if you’ll be in and out. You’ll need to send your actual passport in for processing and ideally plan 1-2 months in advance of travel.
- India: Fees from visa contractor Travisa start at $50 and visas can be valid for up to 10 years, but note that you must have a gap of at least 2 months between entries.
- Vietnam: Single-entry visas start at $70 and multiple-entry visas are valid for up to one year. Another option for Americans is a single-entry visa on arrival, apply online and pay another stamping fee at the airport.
- North Korea: Not an easy one for Americans as there are no consular relations between the two countries, but it is possible if you go through a specialist travel agency such as New Korea Tours and realize you’ll be visiting only on a highly-restricted and guided group tour. Note that you’ll have to go through China, requiring another visa of course!
- See also: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan
- Russia: Russian visa rules are quite strict and complicated, so you’ll need to have a solid itinerary set up before you apply as visas are valid for specific dates and not extendable. You’ll need a sponsorship for your visa, typically provided by your hotel or tour operator for a small fee, and you’ll register your visas once in the country. Fees start at $140 and applications should now be filled out online. Tourist visas are generally only valid for two weeks and even if you are just traveling through Russia, you’ll need a transit visa.
- Belarus: Similar to Russian rules, a letter of invitation must be provided from an official travel agency in order to get a visa. You also have to show proof of medical insurance and financial means (about $15 USD/day, can be demonstrated with credit cards or paid travel arrangements). Tourist visas start at $140 and $100 for transit visas. Gadling writer Alex Robertson Textor is currently planning a trip, stay tuned for his report next month.
- Azerbaijan: The country changed its visa policy last year, and now Americans must obtain an advance visa. You’ll need an invitation from an Azerbaijan travel agency, then a tourist visa costs $20 and takes 10 business days to process. Transit visas don’t require an invitation letter but should still be obtained in advance of travel.
- See also: Turkmenistan
- Australia: Getting a tourist visa is simple and cheap ($20). Apply online at any point in advance and you’ll be verified at the airport. Valid for as many entries as needed for 12 months from date of application.
- Brazil: Tourist visas are $140 plus $20 if you apply by mail or through an agency. If you are self-employed or jobless, you’ll need to provide a bank account balance, and all applications should include a copy of your round trip tickets or other travel itinerary.
- Iran: There’s a current travel warning from the US state department, but Rick Steves is a fan of the country and several reputable travel agencies provide tours for Americans. The US consulate notes that some Americans with visas have been turned away, so your best bet is to visit with a group.
- See also: Nigeria, Paraguay, Saudi Arabia, Suriname
The good news for expats, students studying abroad, and other foreigners with residency is that many countries will allow you to apply in a country other than your home country for a visa. For example, I traveled to Russia from Turkey, getting my visa from a travel agency in Istanbul without sending my passport back to the US. Always check the US state department website for the latest visa information and entry requirements.
Photo courtesy Flickr user Thomas Claveirole.