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How to avoid expensive roaming charges while traveling abroad

by Captain G on Nov.09, 2012, under Business Tools, Business Travel, Vacation

Are you are a global traveler from the US who wants to be reached via your US mobile number while you are in a foreign country and do not want to pay roaming charges of US$2.50 per minute? Here are three simple steps to avoid paying excessive roaming fees to the likes of AT&T, Verizon and Sprint:

1. Sign up to a call forwarding service provider like: One Suite for a monthly fee ($2.95). The call forwarding service provider (One Suite) will assign you a US number that can be routed to any number in the world for a very low fee (i.e., no more than US$0.05 per minute).

2. Forward your US mobile number to the routing service provider.

There are two types of call forwarding services in the US:  unconditional (*72) and conditional (*68 or *28). Unconditional call forwarding means all calls will go to the forwarded number and may carry extra charges by your mobile carrier (I know Sprint charges $0.20 per minute). I recommend conditioning call forwarding (when there’s no answer or a busy signal) which is free and works just as well to avoid extra charges.

To forward your call using conditional forwarding, enter *68[415-867-5309] where 415-867-5309 is the number you received from your call forwarding service provider. This will tell your current mobile carrier to forward all your calls to 415-867-5309 when there’s a busy signal or no answer. Your phone will be considered “off” by your mobile carrier which means all your calls will be forwarded to the call forwarding number. If you are on the Sprint or Nextel network, you will need to use:  *28 instead of 68. If you’re on Verizon, you may have to use *71.

Click on this link for more information on call forwarding codes.

NOTE:   Execute this step before you leave the US so you are not incurring voice roaming charges while abroad.

3. When you’re abroad, purchase a pre-paid SIM card from a local carrier. Login to your call forwarding service provider’s website and forward the assigned number [415-867-5309] to the pre-paid SIM card [+52-55-9876-5432] you have just purchased.

Below is a diagram to illustrate the three simple steps.

This process may seem a bit complicated compared to a service like Skype. However it is reliable and you don’t need to give out another US number to your current contacts. The rates are also very affordable and it’s the easiest way to keep your US number while you’re traveling abroad.

When you’ve returned from your trip, simply go on your phone and hit *81 or *38 (for Sprint) to deactivate unconditional forwarding mode.

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Americans can get Vietnam Tourist Visa in Hong Kong on the same day

by Captain G on Jun.22, 2012, under Vacation

As a citizen of the United States and most western nations, you are required a visa to enter Vietnam (more info from US’s Department of State Website). You can get the Vietnam visa from the US or abroad. Getting the Vietnam visa in the US can take up to 10 business days if you don’t choose an expedited service. The cost is USD 50 for regular service and up to USD 200 for expedited service (more information from the Vietnam Embassy).

I recommend getting the Vietnam visa from Hong Kong where it is processed faster than the US. To get the Vietnam visa while you’re in Hong Kong, just go into the Vietnamese consulate located in Wan Chai. You do not need an appointment and the form is very simple. You will need one passport size picture which you can take at any nearby photo shop in Hong Kong.

The fee to process an expedited / same day Vietnam tourist visa from the Vietnamese consulate in Hong Kong is HKD500 (around USD 65). Since the tourist visa is a single entry, one month visa, be sure you tell the Vietnamese consulate your exact date of entry as they will use that date on the tourist visa. The Vietnamese consulate in Hong Kong processes visa from 10am to 1pm local time. In my case, I went to the office at 11:15am and received my Vietnam Tourist visa at 11:45am.

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How to get into exclusive restaurants?

by spaceghost on Apr.06, 2012, under Business Meals, Business Travel, Vacation

Having lived in most of the major cities in the US, and even some major ones in Europe, I have always enjoyed dining at the top restaurants those cities had to offer. It struck me that, while I have never had a problem getting into restaurants I love, my friends have not been as lucky. Sometimes it was through my connections that I was able to get a table, but most times it was just through smart planning. Here are five tips on how to get that table at the current “it” spot:1.  Sometimes, smaller is better — This should be obvious, but trying to secure a table for a large party at Per Se in New York City isn’t going to work.

2. Reservations open 30 days in advance for most US restaurants — Pre-planning has never been so important. Some exclusive restaurants open reservations 2 weeks in advance, others are 60 days, and some go up to 1 year; but a majority are 30 days. Make sure you call the restaurant on that exact day when the reservation opens or you may not get your spot!

3.  Avoid rush hour and prime days — Most people tend to want to eat at restaurants between 7:00 to 9:00PM, and the prime dining evenings are usually Wednesday through Saturday. If you are flexible, dining during the off hours is a great way to get into that hot restaurant. This is a good strategy for those on vacations, who usually have more flexibility on their eating times.

4.  Walk-in accepted — Don’t be afraid to walk into a hot/hip restaurant if you are a couple or by yourself. You’d be surprised at the number of times I was able to get seated using this strategy, without suffering through a long wait. Most exclusive restaurants would accept walk-in patrons.

5.  Take advantage of the concierge — If you are staying at a top quality hotel, this is by far the best strategy. If you are trying to get into a tough restaurant, and you are flexible with day and time, you would be surprised at the amount of “pull” that the concierge service has. Some restaurants reserve tables specifically for those favorite concierges who consistently make reservations with them. Note though, that while they can pull off reservation miracles at times, you shouldn’t expect to show up on Friday morning and get a reservation at Nobu New York that very same evening at 8:00PM!

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