Everything You Need To Know About Travelling To Australia - GoBear's Ultimate Guide

Introduction

Australia is the world’s smallest continent, yet Australia is the sixth largest country next to China, United States of America, Canada, Brazil and Russia. Australia’s marine environment is home to 500 coral species, 4000 fish species, and 50 kinds of seaboards and marine mammal which makes it the world's third largest coral home. Moreover, the continent is a hub for biodiversity housing no more than one million species of animal and plants, most of which could not be found in other parts of the world.

 

Map of Australia
Travel to Australia. Image credit: Pexels.com

 

Australia’s water resource, natural biodiversity and flora and fauna are just a few of the many reasons why you should book your next trip to the land down under. Literally “below” many other countries, Australia is a top choice when it comes to experiencing epic beaches, tropical forests, tasty wines and verdant vineyards, and bright, blue waters.

Things you should know about Australia

Before booking that next flight to Australia and Oceania, here are a few things you should know: 

  • Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world. Two-thirds of its land area is desert. 
  • It is the home to The Daintree, a 130-year-old rainforest, probably the oldest in the world. 
  • Australia has the most number of marsupials in the world 
  • Australian way of life is defined by the sight and smell of gum trees which is the country’s lifeblood. 
  • The best is found in the countryside and small towns. Although Sydney and Melbourne are major destinations, the best views are found in the suburbs. Jaw dropping beaches and spectacular sunsets are in the west while gorges are a house in north-west parts of
  • Pack your best sunscreen. The sun rays in the country are fierce and may cause intense damage to your skin.

Best destinations in Australia

Australia is surrounded by the Pacific, Indian and Southern Oceans. There are 12 dependent overseas territory and 14 independent countries of which Australia is acclaimed as the largest sovereign state occupying 86% of the continent’s total area. Nauru is the smallest independent country so little that you don’t spend an hour exploring it. 
 

Australia

Australia is a beautiful place endowed with unique natural resources and wildlife. Its sophisticated cities of Melbourne and Sydney are frames by multi-coloured reefs and sands. Aside from its magnificent coastline, Australia welcomes tourists with a deep rich history, starlit deserts, extraordinary beauty and excellent dining experience. 

Credit card use: International credit card networks that are present in Australia include Visa, MasterCard, and American Express (to a smaller degree). UnionPay is also widely available, especially throughout Australia Post outlets, most major Aussie bank ATMs and POS terminals, and when paying for taxi rides via CabCharge. Credit cards are accepted almost universally by most shops, however, do bring along Australian Dollar (AUD) just in case.

Medical services: Prescribed medication for personal use needs to be declared upon arrival when travelling to Australia. It is also recommended for Singaporeans to bring along prescriptions or letters from the doctor to certify the use of the drug.

Australia has high-quality medical services provided by both private clinics and public hospitals. For medical emergencies, call “000”. Singaporeans travelling to rural areas need not worry as the Royal Flying Doctor Service provides 24-hour assistance across the country.

Please make sure you have health insurance in case of emergency, to help cover the cost of medical expenses.

Telecommunications: The telecommunications network in Australia covers most of the urban and suburban areas, with strong mobile network coverage throughout those areas as well as the significant inter-state roads. The two significant telcos here are Telstra and Optus, with many other players using their infrastructure or rolling out their own. Wi-Fi is widely available everywhere you go in the cities, as is 4G LTE. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased at the airport.

The emergency number is 000 for fixed lines and mobile phones alike, and you can also try 112 from mobile phones.

Passport and Visa: Make sure your passport has at least six months from the expected date of return. Singaporeans need to apply for a visa when travelling to Australia. As the Electronic Travel Authority is issued based on passport number, do ask for a permit after passport renewal.

Recently, Singaporeans are permitted to get a new visa that will allow them to enter Australia for six years. The Visitor Visa (subclass 600) will save Singaporeans from applying for a new permit every time they needed to travel since it will be valid for up to six years. Moreover, the Visitor Visa can be used for multiple entries to the country, with each entry lasting up to three months. Singapore passport holders can visit the Australian Visa Application Centre (AVAC) in Singapore for more details. 

Singaporeans who are below 30 years old can also apply for the Work and Holiday Visa which permits young people to work and to spend a holiday in Australia for a maximum of one year. The Work and Holiday Visa will allow you to stay in the country for a year, work for six months or study up to four months, leave and enter Australia as desired and apply for the second visa if you have worked in the fields of tourism, forestry, agriculture, fishing and hospitality.
 
Things to do: Home to many exotic animals and blessed with some of the world’s most scenic natural landscapes, there is so much to see and do when in Australia! For those into nature, visit Kangaroo Island and view wildlife from koala to sea lions up-close!

 

The corals in Great Barrier Reef
Dive into the colourful corals of the Great Barrier Reef. Image credit: Flickr

 

If you are more into sport and adventures, try scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the World Heritage sites, or abseil at the beautiful Blue Mountains. But be sure to check that the travel insurance for Australia you have covers all the activities you are embarking on!

Australia also has a vibrant art scene, so wind down with a musical at the Sydney Opera House or walk along the Streets of Melbourne to admire its unique street art culture.

Australia has originated many iconic brands, including Billabong, Arnotts, Boost Juice Bars and Harvey Norman. International retail outlets and brands are also found everywhere throughout the major cities and suburban shopping malls. For the best shopping deals, head to the outlet malls located in most states.  

Have you ever thought about what will happen if your new purchase is stolen in Australia? Make sure you have travel insurance for Australia and stop worrying.

Food: Cuisine in Australia is multicultural, featuring mostly Western (and especially English-influenced) food. Fish and chips, roasted chicken and steaks are found in almost all casual and elegant dining restaurants.

There is also a strong Italian, as well as Greek influence, so you will also find pizzas and pasta, as well as Mediterranean cuisines available throughout Australia. Chinese – notably Hong Kong - and other Asian food is widely available in the capital cities and surrounding suburbs.

While the food in Australia is made with quality ingredients, the high prices may not be for everyone’s budget. One tip for travellers on a budget is to visit ethnic restaurants like Vietnamese pho chains for affordable meals. Alternatively, visit the local markets to get fresh ingredients for your meals.

As convicts and other colonists from the United Kingdom primarily settled here in the past, English is the official and primary language. Thus, Singaporeans will be able to communicate comfortably with the locals.

Languages: In the Chinatowns of each state, Cantonese is widely spoken, as most of the Chinese migrants came from Canton (and more recently, Hong Kong), although Mandarin is also understood.

Time Zones: Australia is both the largest island and the smallest continent in the world. Because of its size, Australia is split up between several time zones; be aware of the potential difference in time zones if you intend to travel between several states.

Being in the Southern Hemisphere, the states with temperate climates experience summer towards the end of the year and winter towards the middle.

Climate:  Australia’s climate highly depends on its size and is hugely affected by the air within the subtropical high-pressure belt. The northern region experiences hot and humid summer, and dry and warm winter. The southern parts are blessed with mild summers and cold rainy winters. 

Travel insurance: The high safety standards in Australia make it an ideal travel destination for couples, families and solo adventurers. Singaporean travellers can also look forward to more comfortable travel experience to Australia soon, as agreements for multi-year visa arrangements are on the way! Don’t forget to take travel insurance to Australia even when the country is safe.

Travelling in Australia can be dangerous- whether you are skydiving from 10,000 feet above land or driving along the Great Ocean Road, you want to make sure you’re having travel insurance for Australia. For example, AIG’s Travel Guard encompasses delayed flights, lost luggage, and emergency medical care, all under the same travel insurance coverage.

So, packing up for an adventure and getting off the beaten road is easier than ever with this Australia travel insurance that provides 24-hour assistance.
 

Fiji

Also, known as the Fiji Islands, Fiji is a Melanesian country consisted of 332 islands, 110 of which are inhabited. Fiji is celebrated for its outdoor adventures, private resorts, and unique culture all enveloped in its crystal-clear waters.

Credit card use: Credit cards are accepted everywhere in Fiji especially resorts and big retail shops. However, you might want to consider that these merchants add 2-3% on top of your bill as a transaction fee. Some Singaporeans prefer to carry Fijian dollar which is equal to .65 SGD on average. You also have the option to carry USD as this currency is widely accepted as credit and debit cards. 

Medical services: Healthcare in Fiji is within the standards of a developing country; thus, expats and tourists are advised to take their comprehensive health insurance plans with them during their visit. Adequate medical services and facilities are offered in urban areas. Public clinics in rural regions are sometimes inefficient, and worse, non-existent. 

Singaporeans travelling to Fiji should ensure that their travel insurance cover medical evacuation and hospitalisation as health hazards in Fiji include stomach bugs, food poisoning, and diseases caused by consumption of tap water. 

Telecommunications: The internet connection in Fiji is good in most urban locations, yet unstable un remote islands. Wi-Fi hotspots are available, and the use of Skype and other apps highly depend on the connection provided by hotels and resorts where you currently stay. You can also buy prepaid sim cards from Vodafone or Digicel but make sure that your gadget is customised to allow international networks to function. 

Passport and visa: Singaporeans can freely enter Fiji without any permission for a maximum of 120 days. If you wish to stay longer, you can secure a visitor permit as a tourist or for purposes of sports, recreation, business, or training and seminars. 

The Fiji government requires you to present a return ticket to your home country, a passport valid for six months and sufficient funds to sustain your stay. 

 

Accommodation at Coral Coast Fiji
Photo by Bondi Joe from Pexels

 

Things to do: The welcoming 333 islands all sun-drenched would probably entice any Singaporean to pack his bag and board that next plane to Fiji. Indeed, Fiji is a much-coveted getaway in paradise islands all capped with cascading waterfalls, azure seas and pristine beaches. Visit the Coral Coast along the Queen’s Road. 

The dramatic scenery houses resorts for visitors to rest in after exploring the Sand Dunes, getting on a river cruise or visiting the Tavuni Hill Fort. You might also want to take a glimpse of the Kadavu Island – a paradise surrounded by the Great Astrolabe Reef. The Reef is one of the largest in the world and is known for unparalleled snorkelling and diving experiences. 

Things to do in Fiji also includes walking and hiking along the Lavena Coastal Walk. While treading the trail, get fascinated by a stunning long stretch of tropical rainforest. At the end of the walk, get rewarded by a gorgeous waterfall base that only those who persevered to walk can get hold of. 

Food: Fiji is delightfully wrapped in many different flavours. Kokoda is made with fresh Mahi Mahi fish marinated in lemon to cook for a few hours. It is then drenched in coconut cream and spiced with spring onions, chillies, tomatoes, pepper and salt. Another Fijian signature dish is the Lovo – served in festivities and special occasions like weddings. Lovo is prepared with pork, lamb, vegetables, fish and other local ingredients which are cooked underground. 

Nama is a seaweed sold in Fiji markets and served to garnish other dishes. Nama is a delight when served with grated coconut, lemon juice, chilli and salt. 

And ever wonder what the most popular drink is in Fiji? Well, quench your thirst with the Kava, a daily beverage that is more ceremonial than tasty. It is drunk from powdered root of the pepper plant blended with water.

Languages: Under its 1997 Constitution, Fiji has three official languages – Hindi, Fijian and English. Indigenous Fijians who make up 54% of the country’s population consider Fijian as their first or second language. Fijians of Indian descent compose 375 of the community and are more inclined to use Hindi. Finally, English was a remnant of British rule and is now widely used in business, education and government. 

Time zone: The current time zone is observed in Fiji is UTC 12. By November 2018, Fiji will be using its Daylight-Saving Time set at UTC+13.

Climate: Fiji’s climate is tropical and is excellent for beach holidays. The dry weather comes from March to November while the rainy season is observed from December to April. The best time to visit Fiji is when the weather is sunny and dry which happens from July to September. 

Travel insurance: Fiji is a safe destination for tourists, but it is not spared from petty crimes. It is best to exercise some precautions like refraining from walking around at night especially in Suva and Nadi. You might also want to distance yourself from people who approach you for women or marijuana. Botha re illegal and buying either is criminalised. Burglaries can also happen so better make sure that your travel insurance plan covers loss of personal belongings like laptops, cellular phones and other gadgets. 

GoBear’s comparison tool will show around ten options for travel insurance to Fiji starting from $27 which entitles you to receive repayments on personal accidents, medical expenses and trip cancellation among others. 

Kiribati

Kiribati is another paradise hidden in the continent of Australia and Oceania. Kiribati is composed of 33 beautiful islands and is inhabited by an average of 100,000 people. Go fishing, surfing, diving, bird-watching or even trekking and discover how the land, sea and sky all blend wonderfully in a bliss called Kiribati. 

Credit card use: Master Cards and VISA are the only major credit card brands accepted in Kiribati. However, you should know that not all areas in the island offer credit card facilities. You may need to consider carrying cash to buy food and pay for other items. Payment should not exceed $5,000, and major currencies should be exchanged at ANZ branches. 

Medical services: All travellers to Kiribati are advised to undergo routine vaccines for measles, mumps, chickenpox, polio and flu. The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) provides three services which are Public Health Services, Hospital Services and Nursing Services. These services are readily accessible to residents and tourists may be given provisions given that specific requirements are fulfilled. 

Telecommunications: Having unexplored beaches, diving sites and surfing activities doesn’t mean Kiribati is deprived of connectivity privileges. Technology has sneaked its way through the island’s untapped natural resource. Yes, tourists can get a prepaid sim card from ATH Kiribati with 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE services. Buy the sim card and choose from a wide range of data and roaming packages offered by the network. 

Passport and visa: In Kiribati, Singaporeans are not required to apply for a permit and can stay for a maximum of 30days. 

Things to do: First and foremost, Kiribati has its underwater treasures to take pride of. The country is also known to have the world’s largest coral atoll making it the dream destination for surfers and divers. Your most treasured photos will have crystal clear lagoons surrounded by white sandy beaches and colourful coral gardens. 

Another underwater treasure is the excellent bonefish that lure many to join Kiribati’s world-class fishing game in Christmas Island. Aside from bonefish, you can also get a good catch of the Giant Trevally, Marlin and Sail Fish. 

Beyond its pristine waters are community centres or maneaba embedded in every village in Kiribati. These centres are made with pandanus leaves and coconut wood built to give visitors a place to rest and enjoy singing, storytelling and dancing. 

Food: Kiribati’s island lack fertile soil where plants can grow. Since coconut can thrive in this condition, it has become a staple food. Coconut flesh and milk have gone a long way in Kiribati’s dining tables considering that fruits, vegetables and rice supplies are limited. You can try out the palu sami which is cooked in coconut cream and curry powder usually served with roast chicken or pork.  

But this should not disappoint you if you are not fond of coconuts. Plenty of small restaurants are scattered all over Kiribati. The island’s precious water resource lets you feast on fresh seafood like shrimps, crabs and shellfish. Most seafood delights are uncooked but marinated in vinaigrette, stuffed with onions and wrapped in banana leaves. 

Desserts in Kiribati are made mainly with coconuts like macapuno and pudding made from coconut milk, rice, eggs and sugar. 

Language: almost 90% of the population speaks Kiribati or Gilbertese, but the official language in the country is English – a remnant of British colonisation that ended in 1979. English is mostly used in Tarawa, Kiribati’s capital city. 

Time Zone: Three time zones are being used in Kiribati which is UTC +12 or Gilbert Island Time, UTC+13 or Phoenix Island Time and UTC+14 or Line Islands Time. 

Climate: Kiribati’s climate is generally affected by the ocean surrounding it making the island hot all year round. And since the country is scattered at the centre of the Pacific Ocean, a strange phenomenon of different climates is experienced in Kiribati’s regions. The islands located at the equator experience cool current sea originating from the east making the environment arider. 

The best time to visit the Gilbert Island and other areas in western Kiribati is from September to November and May to November. 

Travel insurance: Tourists bound to Kiribati should have a travel insurance plan that covers loss, theft and medical problems. You may also want to pay a little more for coverage on extreme activities like skiing, motorcycling, scuba diving and trekking. With GoBear’s comparison tool, you can see that for as low as $27 per trip; you can get covered for as much as $500,000 worth of medical evacuation and $35,000 repayment on personal accident.

Marshall Islands

The Republic of Marshall Islands used to be a part of Micronesia. It has a population of a little over 50,000 and is spread out to more than 29 coral atolls made with 1,156 islands. The Marshall Islands is a natural habitat for 250 species of corals and 1,000 species of fish. 

Credit card use: the Marshall Islands doesn’t have a central bank, but major credit cards like MasterCard, Visa and American Express are widely accepted. The official currency is the US dollar which makes it easier for any tourist to pay in cash for small purchases. 

Medical services: There are 61 small health facilities and two major hospitals in the Marshall Islands. Tourists may find it hard to access quality healthcare so you might want to make sure you are in good health condition and you have medicines for emergencies before travelling. Communicable diseases are prevalent in I the country including tuberculosis, diarrheal infection, respiratory problems, dengue and chlamydia. Necessary precautions are advised before heading to this paradise. 

Telecommunications: The World Bank has awarded the Marshall Islands with funding to get more improved mobile services and internet connection. At present, the mobile penetration in the region is at 30%, and internet users rose to 19% of the population. Should you want to keep getting connected, you can inquire from your local network provider about roaming packages and charges. 

The dialling code for the Marshall Islands is +692 with Ebeye, Kwajalein and Majuro being the only islands with regular phone services. 

Passport and visa: the Marshall Islands allows citizens of 55 countries including Singapore to get a visa upon arrival which is valid for a maximum of 90 days. Other states include New Zealand, Turkey, United Kingdom, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia. 

Things to do: The Marshall Islands is an unpolished diamond seated in the middle of breathtaking beaches, scenic boat rides and other natural attractions. Local tour operators arrange fishing charters, excursions and other water sports you can try.  You can have a view of the impressive shipwrecks from World War II which lie beneath the waters. The USS Saratoga remains underneath and is considered the most significant diveable shipwreck and the only diveable aircraft carrier in the world. You can also check out the HIJMS Nagato – a Japanese battleship that led the Pearl Harbour attack in 1941. 

Food: the Marshall Islands is home to many agricultural products like fish, chicken, breadfruit, taro, coconut and banana. You can always start your day with fruit, fish or bread along with a cup of coffee or tea. Fish, pork and chicken meat are parts of the diet, especially during their kemem or feasts. Some of the local dishes include taituuj or fried banana pancakes, jaajmi or raw fish and kwanjin or breadfruit cooked in coals. 

For the people of Marshall Islands, Kan dikdik kan iokwe – Little food with lots of love tastes best when shared. As tourists, show how you appreciate the warmth and hospitality of the locals by eating small amounts of what was served, at least. 

Languages: English is an official language, but 43,900 people on the island widely speak Marshallese. 

Time Zone: Marshall Islands observes the UTC +12 time zone also mainly used in Majuro. 

Climate: The entire Marshall region experiences tropical showers and mild winds. Majuro, Marshall’s capital city, experiences stable temperature throughout the year. The Marshall Islands are divided into two areas which are the Ralik and Ratak. Both are stretched from north to south and only differ depending on their latitude. Southern and central islands rain all year round while northern regions have a dry season between December and April. 

Travel insurance: In general, The Marshall Islands has low crime rates except for a few violent assaults and cases of sexual harassment for children and women. Travellers to the island are advised to be vigilant at bars and nightclubs where fights are prevalent. In the case of travel insurance plans, make sure it covers extreme water sports like diving and snorkelling. 
 

New Zealand

New Zealand’s stunning beauty is made by its rolling pasture land, raging rivers, jagged mountains, and active volcanic zones. Known as the Paradise of Pacific, New Zealand welcomes tourists with picturesque peak of the Aoraki, fascinating grandeur of the Larnach Castle, and majestic view of the Firodland National Park. 

Credit card use: Most credit card networks like Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and more are accepted in New Zealand and can be used in most shops. However, do note that conversion rates may apply.

ATMs can be easily found in larger towns and cities. Do check if your ATM card can be used overseas before travelling. Alternatively, do carry sufficient New Zealand Dollars (NZD), for smaller purchases.

Can’t decide which plan to take? Let GoBear help you compare across all providers to pick the perfect travel insurance for New Zealand.

Medical services: For emergencies, call 111 to get medical assistance. New Zealand has quality healthcare facilities. However, this can be limited in places such as Cook Island, Niue Island and Tokelau Island. Hence be sure to check if your medical insurance covers medical evacuation to mainland New Zealand.

Under New Zealand’s accident compensation scheme, the Accident Compensation Corporation, visitors can get help paying for treatment and rehabilitation in New Zealand when in accidents. However, the ACC does not cover any illnesses. Travellers are still advised to purchase their travel insurance for New Zealand to cover their medical expenses if needed.

Singaporeans may also prefer to get international health insurance to claim overseas medical expenses. Tourist can also call 0800 611 116 for free medical advice from trained medical staffs.

Telecommunications: To stay connected, tourist can purchase SIM cards from leading telecom providers like Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees Mobile at the airport. Mobile networks provide coverage across New Zealand. However, service can be limited in rural areas. While free Wi-Fi is less frequent in New Zealand, it can still be found at some spots like hotels, libraries or global franchises like Starbucks.

Passport and Visa: No Visa is required for Singapore passport holders planning to travel to New Zealand for up to 90 days. However, do ensure that your passport has a minimum of 6 months’ validity from the expected date of return. Passport renewals can be done online at the ICA website.

The first thing to do before your trip is to get travel insurance for New Zealand. Other than that, here is some information you’ll need before travelling.

Things to do: Seeking some adrenaline? Leap of faith and try out the Shotover Canyon Swing in Queenstown. If heights are not for you, go black water rafting through the Kiwi Cave. Waitomo Caves are also a must-see, as Glowworms native only to New Zealand illuminate and turn the caves into a magical scene.

Winter covers the slopes of Ruapehu with layers of snow, giving tourists the opportunity to ski on a volcano. However, do check that your New Zealand travel insurance covers the high-risk activities you intend to try.

If you want an experience exclusive to New Zealand, visit a Maori Village and immerse yourself in the traditions of the indigenous population, from their food to their art forms. For a more relaxed trip, head to the Marlborough region and tour their wineries to taste some of the world’s best wines.

There is so much to do in New Zealand; you’ll be heading back for more.

As agriculture is one of its main economic activities, New Zealand local produces are not to be missed. Known for its medicinal properties, Manuka Honey with UMF makes a great gift. New Zealand also has world-renowned wines, which are not to be missed.

New Zealand is one of Singaporeans’ top travel destinations outside Asia. Known for its magical natural landscapes, New Zealand is divided into two main islands - the North Island and South Island. About one-third of the country is national parks, reserves and heritage sites meant to protect its ecology.

Other than its geological treasures, New Zealand has a unique mix of cultures. 15% of the population consists of indigenous Māori people whose ancient culture is still significant in New Zealand today. For instance, the famous Haka performed by the All Blacks before every match originated from the Māoris.

Food: New Zealand’s cuisine has a mix of both British and traditional Maori influence. With globalisation, tourist can also easily find kitchens from all over the world. New Zealand produces some of the finest and freshest ingredients. Meals in New Zealand cost an average of $30 per person for dinners at restaurants.

One thing not to be missed would be traditional Maori cuisines that can only be found in New Zealand. It is signified by its conventional cooking methods such as boiling using thermal hot springs.

Languages: While Maori is one of the official languages in New Zealand, English is predominantly used throughout the country. Hence, Singaporeans will have little trouble communicating when in New Zealand.

Time Zone: New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of the Greenwich Mean Time, which means New Zealanders are the first people to see each new coming day. In Summer, New Zealand observes the Daylight-Saving Time GMT+13. GMT+12 is the official time zone during the rest of the year. 

Climate: New Zealand’s climate ranges from subtropical in the north to temperate in the south.  Summer falls between December and February, while winter is between June and August. Each season brings about a different experience, depending on what you are into.

Travel insurance:  While the Telegraph crowned New Zealand as 2016’s “Best Country”, travelling to New Zealand is not without risks, especially if you are planning to experience its world-class extreme sports. Choose the best travel insurance for New Zealand that will provide coverage for all the activities you will engage into.

Choosing the right travel insurance package for New Zealand means considering the cost of your trip, the activities you will do and the medical coverage you have. A little help from GoBear’s comparison tool will show you that starting from $27, and you can buy travel insurance plan that covers cancelled trip for a maximum of $7,500, personal accident worth $200,000 and medical expenses worth $200,000. 
 

Palau

The Republic of Palau is a tiny island packed with magical sceneries that overwhelm visitors with extraordinary natural charm. Palau’s volcanic isles are highlighted by 200 natural limestones all embraced by turquoise lagoons. Palau’s underwater assets are made with a sheer abundance of reef configuration and marine life. A visit to the country means an acquaintance with an incredible variety of fish from jacks to barracudas and grey reef sharks. 

 

Rock Islands Palau
Rock Islands in Palau. Image credit: Flickr

 

Credit card use: Almost all credit cards are accepted in Palau except for Diners and AMEX. Most transactions are done with ease except that it goes with 3-5% transaction charges. Should you want international withdrawals, you can use your ATMs with Bank of Guam, Bank of Hawaii and Bank Pacific in Koror. Since Palau’s national currency is US dollar, it will be easier for you to have sufficient cash before your travel. Bank of Hawaii accepts money changing in Palau at US$10 fee per transaction. 

Medical services: The United States grants 30% of Palau’s total health expenditure, and the national health insurance scheme funds the rest. The Belau National Hospital is the sole medical facility in Palau and is intended to cater to emergency and outpatient cases. The Hyperbaric Chamber located at the BNH operates to address diving emergencies. There are also dispensaries in Kayangel, Peleliu Angaur and Babeldaob for first aid interventions. Palau has private clinics; one is open during evenings. 

Telecommunications: Palau Telecom and Palau National Communications Corporation provide prepaid Wi-Fi access cards. Once registered through mobile, tourists can access hotspots installed around Palau. Internet usage is priced from US$1.50 to YUS$2.50 per hour. 

Passport and visa: Citizens of Singapore need to apply for a visa upon arrival which will be valid for 30 days. Tourists are required to present return tickets and proof of funds equivalent to US$200 per week of planned stay. Anyone who wishes to extend would pay US$50 per extension. Singaporeans can stay in Palau for a maximum of 90 days. 

Things to do: Palau’s 500 islands embody an unpolished paradise for snorkelers and divers. Beyond the scars, it obtained from battles in the past, Palau is home to UNESCO-listed reefs and iridescent marine population. 

While Palau nurtures its untamed natural resource, it has managed to offer modern shopping facilities so tourist can shop authentic handmade crafts and traditional souvenirs. Should you want to buy international brands, proceed to the WCTC Shopping Centre and the Suangeur Shopping Centre. 

Palau’s art form is the storyboard in the form of wood carvings shaped and painted like animals. Storyboards showcase stories of 30 legends, canoes, and carved figurines. 

If you don’t want diving, Palau is also best for sea kayaking. The calm seas and white sandy beaches are prime kayaking natural features you don’t want to miss. Palau underground wonders are graced with natural pools on the surface where you can take a dip and enjoy the Ngardmau Waterfall. 

Food: Eating Palauan food is having a taste of the many beautiful dishes that come from the United States, the Philippines, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia. Restaurants offer Chinese, Italian, Korean, Japanese and Indian cuisines crafted with Palauan twist. Some of the specialties you should try are ulkoy, pichi-pichi, halo-halo, tinola, broiled fish, fruit bat soup and taro. 

Language: Palauan and English are the two official languages in Palau. Palauan language is Austronesian in nature and is spoken by 80% of the country’s population from five years old and above. Around 9.4% of the Palauan population are native English speakers, who are mostly migrant workers and expatriates. 

Time zone: Palau’s standard time is 9 hours earlier than the Greenwich Mean Time or GMT +9. The country does not observe Daylight Saving Time. 

Climate: Palau’s climate is tropical, and its average annual temperature is at 28 degrees Celsius. The amount of sunshine is moderate from February until May, yet rain showers happen almost every day. The best time to visit is from February to April. The sun shines its brightest during this period but expects little thunderstorms and showers. 

Travel insurance: Every tourist needs a travel insurance plan when travelling. In Palau, your travel insurance should cover medical interventions, theft and loss of personal belongings. Some tourists who engage in dangerous activities include coverage for motorcycling, skiing, scuba diving and trekking. Through GoBear’s comparison tool, you can grab comprehensive travel insurance for a slow as $17 to $60 depending on your desired coverage. 
 

Papua New Guinea

Some 8,000 years ago, an island country was separated physically by shallow flooding at Torres Strait. This island country has since been called Papua New Guinea. With naturally magnificent scenery, tourists can enjoy trekking, diving, surfing, fishing, cruising, kayaking and bird watching. More than anything else, PNG takes pride in its endless greenery that has inked a remarkable memory to those who have chosen to explore its gifts. 

Credit card use: Most significant hotels accept international credit cards like American Express, Visa and MasterCard. Some of these establishments take 5% administration fee for every booking or purchasing transactions. 

The unit of currency in Papua New Guinea is Kina which can be acquired at exchange shops in international ports. When buying kina, opt for smaller currencies which are highly appreciated when buying from small stores in villages. 

Banks in Papua New Guinea do not accept most foreign currencies and traveller’s cheques. You can never go wrong with Australian and American dollars, but remember that villagers who sell arts and crafts and even local souvenirs prefer kina as payment. 

Medical services: Most travellers to the country get vaccines for typhoid and Hepatitis – a shield against contaminated food and water. Some travellers prepare for Hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, and rabies. At present, Zika is a risk especially for pregnant women to avoid its impacts to the pregnant woman and her baby. 

Medical services and facilities in Papua New Guinea are limited, and Singaporeans who plan to go there should have medical assistance covered in their travel insurance. 

Telecommunications: Although only 18% of PNG’s 7 million population live in urban sites, you still have the chance to get connected. You can buy a local prepaid sim card that offers 1.2GB of data for seven days at US15 on average. 

Buying a prepaid sim card in PNG requires you to register your address, name, occupation and other personal information. You will have to attach your photo, or your sim card will be disconnected. You can choose from Digicel PNG, bmobile-Vodafone, and Telikom Mobile as network providers. 

Passport and visa: Singaporeans who wish to travel to Papua New Guinea should apply for a tourist visa and provide the following: 
•    Visa application form
•    Singaporean passport valid for six months
•    Passport style photo which was taken within the last six months in white background
•    Copy of round-trip tickets and travel itinerary
•    Copy of Vaccination for Yellow fever
•    Health or travel insurance

Singaporeans can apply for a visa upon arrival for a maximum stay of 60days. You should also present proof of sufficient funds and prepare an application fee of PGK100.00 or approximately 41 Singaporean dollars. 

Things to do: Papua New Guinea still seems to be a dangerous place to visit for many, but the courage to explore it will let you experience adventure at its most beautiful – kayaking, scuba diving, nature hikes and fishing. 

Aside from the usual water experience, you can always go to the Port Moresby National Park which is home to over one hundred animals like reptiles and zoos. It has the only rainforest track in the country where you can walk through 11,000 orchids and some other native plants. 

The brave and strong-willed can start treading the 96-kilometre KoKoda trail which you can complete in 10 days at its peak rising to 7,000 feet. Kokoda trail used to be the site where more than 600 Australians were killed, and 1,000 Japanese were wounded. 

Beyond the natural and historical beauty that PNG has, there are a lot more things you can do to make the trip worth remembering. 

Food: Modern hotels in Papua New Guinea will offer Asian, Western and European cuisines. Going further towards the rural locations will let you have a taste of traditional PNG meals. Staple foods are mainly composed of vegetables like sweet potatoes and taro while fruits include coconuts, guavas, watermelons, papayas, mangoes and bananas. 

Living with the locals will let you indulge in these traditional feasts: 

•    Kokoda fish – Fish cooked with coconut and lime
•    Chicken pot – Chicken meat simmered in coconut cream and vegetables
•    Dia – bananas and sago cooked with coconut cream
•    Mumu – Pork roasted in an old-fashioned earth oven and served with rice, sweet potatoes and vegetables

Languages: Papua New Guinea has 7 million inhabitants and 850 languages spoken every day. It linguistic diversity reflects the country’s colonial history. English is used in trades and the government. The daily spoken language is called Tok Pisin – a language combining grammatical elements of German, English and indigenous languages. 

Time zone: Papua New Guinea observes GMT+10 and is 2 hours ahead of Singapore. 

Climate: Tropical climate dominates in Papua New Guinea. The average temperature in the mountain areas is at 26 degrees Celsius, in higher mountain regions at 23 degrees Celsius and the coastal plains at 28 degrees Celsius. The coldest months run from June to September, and this is also the period when you can enjoy PNG and its dry season.

Travel insurance: Help is at a distance quite far from PNG, so a travel insurance policy is appropriate to cover for loss, medical evacuation and theft. Travel insurance plans to PNG is from $15 per trip with a lot of benefits including personal accident repayment of up to $200,000 and unlimited emergency medical evacuation. 
 

Samoa

Samoa breathes well-manicured natural beauty from its blue seas to crystal waterfalls – it has become a fertile hearth of flashy attractions. What awaits you in Samoa is lush forested landscape embedded with rich Polynesian history and culture.

Credit card use: Before travelling, it is wise to exchange your Singaporean dollars to Samoa Tala. One Samoa Tala (WST) equals to .52 Singaporean Dollar (SGD). Like any other islands in the Pacific, Samoa accepts credit and debit cards under American Express, Mastercard, Visa, Cirrus, JCB and Access International Debit. Hotels, restaurants and other huge establishments allow cashless transactions. You may check with your bank for charges when buying or withdrawing. 

Medical service: The primary health services provider in Samoa is the National Health Service. The Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital is Samoa’s a national hospital and is located at Motootua, Apia. Tertiary care in the country is limited and is mainly supported by the New Zealand health care system. All foreign visitors are required to pay for any services acquired from health care facilities and services from health centres and hospitals. Make sure your trip to Samoa is covered by your international medical insurance or by the travel insurance purchased with your journey. 

Telecommunications: Among the islands in the Pacific Region, Samoa has the highest level of mobile coverage. Digicel Samoa services almost 95% of the Samoan population. In 2016, 4G LTE network was launched, and LTE-A was opened the following year. Pacific Broadband Satellite, a Singapore start-up, was developing a broadband offer which received around US$22 million from investors in 2016. 

Tourists can access Wi-Fi connection through hotspots provided by Lava and Bluezone. Connectivity is paid per minute, and you can buy from their respective websites.

Passport and visa: Tourists from other parts of the world are not required to apply for a visa upon entry to Samoa. Singaporeans need to present a return ticket and passport which is valid for at least six months should you wish to stay in the country for less than 60 days. 

 

Sliding Rocks in Samoa
Sliding Rocks in Samoa. Image credit: Wikipedia

 

Things to do: Being in Samoa is living a few moments in your life near every gift endowed to nature. Dive from spectacular waterfalls that create sparkling pools below them. The most popular of all is the Togitogiga which served as a swimming hole for warriors. The fall’s running water awaits you at the bottom to give a relaxing shoulder massage. The Papase’ea Sliding Rocks have formed natural slides attach to the rocks along with other spectacular waterfalls like Mu Pagoa, Sua Ocean Trench and Piula Cave Pool. 

From the falls, you can choose to swim with colourful fish or get closer to local turtles that can grow up to 180 kilograms. Go further and explore a diving spot known as the Rock. The Rock is home to clownfish, giant clams, and schools of barracuda. 

Food: The flavours and tastes that makeup Samoa are brought by the bountiful wonders of nature the country is blessed with. Seafood dishes are crafted with snapper, crayfish, masimasi, octopus, and tuna. The fertile soil around the freshwater produce, tropical fruits, bananas, taro and vegetables. Samoan dishes are not heavily spiced but are mainly flavoured with coconut cream and milk. 

Languages: Samoan is the official language in Samoa, and English is a secondary language incorporated in the higher education curriculum. The local Samoan language is not only spoken in the country but is also used by 370,000 people worldwide due to the reputation of Samoans as seafarers and navigators. 

Time zone: The official Samoan time zone is UTC +14. With Daylight Saving Time, the Samoan time zone is at UTC +13.

Climate: Samoa experiences two distinct seasons – wet season from November to April and the dry season from May to October. The best time to visit Samoa is during the dry season when you can explore its wonders with lightweight summer clothing.

Travel insurance: Travel insurance for Samoa is essential for those who want to have assistance in case of stolen personal belongings or delayed flights. Samoa is somehow an isolated part of the world that missed flight connections or delays are inevitable. Extreme sports lovers and those fond of diving should get the activity covered by travel insurance plans. If you compare plans with GoBear now, you’ll find out that the cheapest travel insurance plan is at $17 which already covers cancelled trip for $10,000, emergency medical evacuation for $500,000 and medical expenses overseas for a maximum of $400,000. 

Solomon Islands

In between Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea is a natural gem that offers unscathed wonders amidst is unpaved roads, sticky climate and lack of infrastructure. The Solomon Islands is made up of 992 islands of which 47 are inhabited. Housing war histories for years, Solomon Islands is the keeper of Japanese bomber planes, submerged vessels, and other relics that remind us of the conflict between the US and Japanese military forces. Nevertheless, the Solomon Islands is still a paradise for every wanderer from different parts of the world. 

Credit card use: The Solomon Islands Dollar or SBD is the official currency of the country. The rate is at 5.95 SBD for every Singaporean dollar. Three significant banks operate in Solomon, and these are ANZ, Westpac and BSP or Bank of the South Pacific. These banks offer ATMs for withdrawals and other cashless transactions. 

Credit card use in the Solomon Islands is permitted in which MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted. Cashless deals are done in restaurants and other tourism facilities like hotels and resorts. 

Medical services: Tourists coming to the Solomon Islands are advised to complete their vaccines and bring their medicines. Most travellers should get protection against malaria, hepatitis A and typhoid. Others opt for vaccinations for yellow fever and hepatitis B. 

Amidst its 900 islands, Solomon lacks an adequate supply of medical workers including nurses and doctors. There are only 340 healthcare facilities including 12 hospitals to service the rural population. In effect, foreign visitors are advised to have their travel insurance plans include medical coverage to prepare them for any mishaps during their stay in the country. 

Telecommunications: Connectivity in the Solomon Islands is secure in hotels and cafes around Auki, Honiara, Gizo and Munda although most remote islands may not have internet at all. But this should not let you lose all hopes as Our Telekom provides email facilities. 

Passport and visa: Singaporeans don’t need to apply for a visa when entering the Solomon Islands and staying there for a maximum of 30 days. Should you need to keep up a few days or months more, apply for a visitor’s permit which requires a valid passport, onward or return ticket, and sufficient funds to support your stay. 

Things to do: The Solomon Islands gives you a chance to explore untouched natural resources as a diver, hiker, kayaker or a surfer. Under the blue green water, you can uncover the relics of World War II enveloped in the islands’ cultural heritage and remarkable ceremonial sites. 

 

Lake Tegano
Lake Tegano. Image credit: Wikimedia

 

You can also experience the magical beauty of the Tenaru Falls and the beautiful charm of the Honiara Botanical Gardens. If you want to check out the world’s largest coral reef, then head on to Rennel Island and find Lake Tegano – a UNESCO World Heritage site that is home to sea snakes and other endemic species. 

Food: Coffee and bread compose a typical breakfast in the Solomon Islands. Sometimes, this meal also includes fruit, fish and rice. Lunch is the most substantial meal, and families spent a couple of hours to enjoy it together. The staple food in meals also includes taro and yams which usually become a replacement for bread and rice. 

Cassava pudding is a favourite treat of the islands. It is made with grated sweet potato and cassava wrapped in banana leaves. Sometimes the dessert is mixed with corned beef turning it into a snack known as kara. 

Languages: There are around76 individual languages listed for the Solomon Islands. The diversity led to the creation of creole languages which are Bislama, Tok Pisin and Solomon Islands Pijin. These three languages are based on English blended with features from indigenous languages. About 85% of the population speak Melanesian.

Time Zone: SBT or Solomon Islands Time is at UTC/GMT +11. The country does not observe daylight saving time. 

Climate: The country has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons – dry from May to October and wet from November to April. Tourists crowd the islands in July and refrain from battling the storms that hit the islands in February, April, March, October and September. 

Travel insurance: Travel insurance to the Solomon Islands starts from $27 covering cancelled trip, personal accident payment, medical expenses overseas and emergency medical evacuation. Majority of insurers provide unlimited coverage for emergency medical evacuation. 

Check with your provider for other special provisions such as covers for extreme and water sports to make sure you are shielded against mishaps when engaging in adventures packed in the natural beauty of Solomon Islands. 
 

Last update on Jul 19, 2019