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Beijing to allow Visa-Free Travel

by Aleia 10. December 2012

Starting January 1st, 2013 Beijing will alow most foreign visitors to stay for 3 days without a visa.  Stipulations include that travelers must hold a ticket to another country leaving within the 3 day limit, travelers may not leave Beijing, and they must register with police within 24 hours of arrival in country.  This change in policy will greatly benefit Medical Travel allowing more transports to take place in China and allowing for more diverse routing when traveling through China to other countries.  At CME we are very excited about the opportunities this presents as we will not only be able to send more escorts to China but they will hopefully have more time during transports to experience the amazing and varied culture of the city. 

Adventures in Kuwait

by Aleia 6. December 2012

When you first heard that you were being offered a trip to Kuwait, what was your first thought?  Were you anxious?

I received the text from Blake and first thought it was a joke. There was brewing unrest in Bahrain and I figured travel was going to shut down soon. Once I figured out he was serious I became very excited. I mean, who'd have thought I'd ever step foot into the Persian Gulf. I was anxious initially, but that went away soon. I know the CME team would never knowingly send someone into danger.

Had you ever traveled in the Middle East prior to that trip? 

It was my first time traveling further East than Frankfurt. 

Did you have any expectations before you went?  If so, was Kuwait as you expected?  How so?  If not, in which ways?

My biggest concern was communicating with the hospital and the locals. The language is nothing like the English alphabet, so I couldn't ever begin to try translating.  The amount of "Americanization" was astounding. There was a fast food restaurant, Starbucks, or Chili's on almost every block. I was dealing with a patient who had lived in Kuwait off and on since 2003 and knew the area well. Being that the US military has a strong presence in Kuwait, I didn't fear too much. That being said, I didn't venture down any alleyways or off the beaten path. 

What was your favorite part? 

My favorite part was experiencing the culture in a country where it's the norm. The food was good, when they say “spicy”  they mean it.  And when it rained (for 5 minutes) it rained mud. The silt in the air is so fine that the moisture coming down pulls it from the sky. 

Any tips for people traveling to Kuwait?

Do a little research (if you can) about the part of town you will be in.  Be sure to plan more time than usual for check-in. The doors are almost 3/4 mile from the check in counters. When traveling with a patient it will be necessary to get on one of the golf carts. 

The currency exchange rate is crazy. It was 4 dollars to 1 Kuwait dinar. Be prepared and make your money exchange in the US whenever possible. 

Also, plan extra time for any car rides. The traffic engineering has some opportunities for improvement and the locals don't pay much attention to signage. 

How did you feel security was there?  Was it tighter than in the US or Europe, or did you feel that it was less intensive?

Security going into the country was more stringent than leaving. As I departed through Kuwait, security was nothing more than sending everything through a couple of x-ray machines. Shoes, laptops, medications, etc. all stay in their cases. It was explained to me that the guards are only looking for large amounts of liquids.  It's definitely the least stringent process I've been through yet. 

On a side note - the locals are obsessed with body building. If you travel near a gym be on the lookout for used needles on the ground. Steroids are used openly and freely. In fact, many parking lots around the gyms have signs asking to pick up used syringes and medical paraphernalia. 


 

 

Traveling in Kuwait

by Aleia 5. December 2012

Recently RN Charles Dugan transported a patient from Kuwait to Florida.  Later this week we will be posting an interview with Charles about his experience on this trip.  Today we are going to share some general travel tips for anyone planning on visiting Kuwait in the near future. 

Entry into Kuwait

  •  Nationals of 35 countries (including the U.S. and U.K.) are eligible for Kuwaiti visas upon arrival to their port of entry.  An on-arrival visa is valid for a single-entry lasting up to 3 months and the cost is minimal.  Please keep in mind that only Kuwaiti Dinar (K.D.) is accepted for payment.
  •  Israel nationals are banned from Kuwait and you may be refused entry into the country if you have an Israeli entry stamp in your passport. 
  •  Kuwait International Airport (KWI) is the only airport.
  •  Upon arrival in Kuwait please bear in mind that it is illegal for regular cab drivers to pick up arriving passengers, only Airport taxis are allowed to do so.

Transportation by Ground

  •  Public transportation is adequate throughout the country.  The three major bus systems are KPTC, CityBus, and KGL and they run many routes in major cities.  All buses are air conditioned by law and are mostly reliable.
  •  Taxis are recognizable by their orange license plates.  Negotiate fares beforehand because like most countries some taxi drivers will take advantage of tourists.  Tipping is not expected.
  •  The road system is well maintained and all signs are in Arabic and English.  If you have an International Driving Permit you may rent a car and insurance will be drawn up on your visa.  Keep in mind that if you are involved a vehicular accident you should not move your car for any reason until police have shown up as this is illegal and you can be arrested.
  •  Gasoline prices are among the lowest in the world and are often cheaper than water! 

Health and Safety

  • Before traveling to Kuwait the CDC recommends the following vaccines:  Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid, all routine vaccinations are up to date,
  •  Emergency line is 112
  •  At least one pharmacy stays open all night by rotation; a particular pharmacy's opening night and telephone numbers are shown daily in the newspapers and also on KTV 2 after the 8 o'clock evening news.
  • Always check with your insurance company before you travel to make sure any charges incurred will be covered.  We urge you to look into travel insurance while planning a trip to cover incidentals from healthcare to sudden cancellations.  
  •  Hospitals and major clinics are open 24 hours a day.  Arabic and English are widely spoken but private hospital are more likely to have English speaking staff. 
  •  Public hospitals include the Al-Adan Hospital (Tel. 965-394 0600), Amiri Hospital (Tel. 965-245 0005), Farwaniya Hospital (Tel. 965-488 8000),Mubarak Al-Kabir Hospital (Tel. 965-531 1437) and the Sabah Hospital(Tel. 965-481 200).
  • ·Private hospitals include the Al-Salem Hospital (Tel. 965-253 3177), Hadi Private Clinic (Tel. 965-531 2555), International Clinic (Tel. 965-574 5111),Kuwait Clinic (Tel. 965-573 5111) and the Mowasat Private Clinic (Tel. 965-571 1533).

Important Information

  • Arabic is the official language but the Kuwaiti dialect is used in everyday conversation.  English is very commonly spoken.
  • The national currency is the Kuwaiti Dinar (K.D.).  Exchanging money is difficult and handling traveler’s cheques even more so.  ATM’s tend to be your best bet. 
  • Plan on using roughly $80 USD daily. 
  • Everything is tax-free and tipping is not expected. 
  • Country code is 965 and local numbers are 8 digits long.
  • The work week is Sunday-Thursday so keep that in mind when planning your trip. 
  • Always eat or drink with your right hand.
  • When possible keep your feet flat on the ground and do not cross your legs as this is seen as offensive in most Arabic countries. 
  • When travelling in predominantly Muslim countries you will be awakened by a muezzin (or recorded tape) calling devout Muslims to prayer.  This will happen 5 times throughout the day (dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and nightfall).  All newspapers publish prayer times.  If you are a non-Muslim you are not expected to participate but it is suggested that you should not stare or walk close to anybody’s prayer mat.
  • During the holy month of Ramadan (usually October) do not eat, drink, or smoke in public. 

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