5 Laws In Singapore Decent Travelers Should Know Prior To Arrival

September 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Advice, Culture, Food, Green, Money, Security

Singapore recycle bins

Singapore is a city-state that’s known for its low crime rates as well as strong penalties for what are usually considered minor offenses in other developed nations. Sure, vandalism carries the possibility of caning as a punishment but if you have any sense, you won’t be spray painting cars in foreign countries anyway.

Putting aside things you know not to do no matter the penalties, the following offenses in Singapore have punishments you might not be expecting. It’s best to brush up first, as fines are hefty at best and jail is, well, jail.

1. Don’t Bring More Than Two Packets Of Gum

Until 2004, gum was completely outlawed in Singapore – a law that came into effect after an incident where some was stuck on a door sensor, disrupting commuter train service. After some intense lobbying by Wrigley, the ban was eased allowing the sale of gum for ‘medical purposes'; essentially whitening or nicotine-gums. To save yourself the hassle of getting a prescription to buy a packet, simply bring two with you. Two packets of gum is the legal limit, although it’s up to customs officials if they want to confiscate any amount.

katy perry chewing gum

And please, don’t chew where you’re not supposed to. On public transportation fines begin at $500 USD.

2. Use The Waste Bin

The only place you should spit out your gum is directly into the garbage. (Speaking of spitting, don’t do that either unless your saliva is worth $200.) Littering of any kind (smokers: cigarette butts are trash) carries a $1,000 USD fine, in additional to potential community service. So, if you don’t want to be picking up trash publicly during your visit, discard your junk properly.

arab street singapore

3. Get Low After You Get High

Having any amount of a controlled substance (pretty much any recreational drug not alcohol) on you is serious business in Singapore. At the lowest amounts, you can be caned plus fined for drug possession while being in the presence of larger amounts has mandatory death sentences. Not traveling with drugs is pretty generic common sense, even if you have dreads, but be aware that showing up high at the airport is considered possession in Singapore. Yo, like dude, how would they find out you’re wondering? Random drug screenings at Changi Airport. Like, for real man.

4. Flush Your Crap

Literally. Although it’s probably one of Singapore’s least enforceable laws, public toilets must be flushed. The $500 fine might also help relieve you of your bathroom OCD, or you can simply learn to kick flush.

toilet flushing

5. Cross Where You’re Supposed To

Jaywalking laws are however well enforced in Singapore. Police often (covertly) monitor random crossings and hand out $15 fines for first time offenders. Once you see a ‘no jaywalking sign’ and repeat penalties listed in the thousands staring back at you from across the street, you’ll be convinced to walk a few extra steps to cross in designated places.

singapore haji lane

There are a number of other laws (or to be fair, their punishments) many tourists have found unusual or absurd in Singapore. Remember, you’re subject to a country’s laws when you’re there, whether or not you know or agree with them. Besides, you shouldn’t be littering anyway, most of us have little sympathy for people who can’t clean up their own mess.

How To Properly Calculate The Number Of Days Left On A Schengen Visa

September 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Advice, Travel Unravel

estonia tallinn square

Those of you who travel frequently in and out of Europe have likely had the same confounded expression many European immigration officials do when trying to figure out how many days you legally have left in the Schengen Area. It would seem Europeans also realized the confusion caused by vague wording of the previous rules because the European Commission (EC) decided in October 2013 to simplify the calculation.

This change might give you more (or less) days in Europe than you initially thought but in any case makes it much easier to ensure you don’t overstay.

schengen areaKnow The Schengen Before You Travel To Europe

Simply put, if you’re going anywhere in Europe for more than a few weeks during a given calendar year, familiarize yourself with the Schengen Area.

One of the great things for most European Union (EU) citizens – plus a few others like Norway and Switzerland who aren’t EU but are Schengen – is the agreement eliminates borders between the 26 member countries. For incoming tourists from 41 other countries who can enter visa free however, it means you have 90 days within 180 days in the entire Schengen.

Counting Using The Simplified Rules

So, you enter France for 45 days, that means you’ve got 45 total days left to travel around Spain, Finland, Denmark, [whatever random Schengen country]. Seems easy enough until you realize the 180 window could slide depending on how you counted it. (Here was one way I wrote about in 2012 to give an example.)

To clarify, the 180 days begins on the date (stamped in your passport) you first entered a Schengen country. That is day 1 (not day 0). From there, count out 180 days (a free online tool like dateandtime makes it quick) – now you know the window in which you have 90 days in the Schengen Area.

Remember, it’s not 3 months in every 6, although approximately accurate, you need to count the days. For example, if you entered the Schengen Area on February 15th, 2014 your 180 days would end on August 14th, 2014; regardless of how many days less than 90 you were actually there.

schengen calculatorEC Calculate Your Hectic Travel Schedule

Although it looks like it was designed in a 1998 high school web design class, the EC’s official Schengen Calculator is actually useful, especially if you have a number of entries and exits in a short span.

  • Use The Right Format – Inputting dates properly can be quite maddening because this tool is about as flexible as concrete. For clarity September 05, 2014 should be entered 050914. If you attempt to use a forward slash, full year, or logic, you’ll get cryptic popups shaking your laptop screen won’t resolve.

It’s worth noting that the 90 out of every 180 day Schengen rule also applies to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania independently. Since they aren’t Schengen members, any time you spend in those countries doesn’t add up against days in any other country.

Have The Embassy Check Your Math

Remember that the EC Schengen Calculator is only a tool to give you an idea on the number of days you’ve spent in the Schengen Area, it’s not legally worth squat. Use Embassy World to find contact information for the relevant office to confirm how many days are allotted for your nationality. You don’t want to overstay a tourist visa as doing so can result in fines or bans and if you’re a dual citizen be sure not to mix up your passports. Finally, all of the above pertains to only those of you who have visa-free or 90 days out of 180 travel rights – everyone else, the details are in your visa lines.

Have any Schengen calculation questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments below.

How To Enable And Use Two Factor Authentication Without A Phone Number

September 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Security, Tech

tallinn estonia airport

Hopping on to open airport wireless networks or checking your email from hotel computers are great conveniences but can expose your online accounts to password theft. One way to reduce the risk is to manage your passwords digitally but passwords can be stolen in a number of ways and places, such as Internet cafes.

You can significantly improve the security for most things your log in to daily – even from password breaches the like 5 million Gmail accounts exposed recently – by using two factor authentication. Most tutorials however emphasize working with an active phone number, which you might not always have if you’re traveling frequently. In a process that should take you about 2-4 minutes per account, here’s how to set up and use two factor authentication even when you’re dialing long distance.

hulk smash atmHey, Quickly, What’s Two Factor?

When you log in to, say, Facebook with a password, that’s one factor: something you know. So all someone needs to do to access your account is know the same thing – in this example, your password. The more complicated a password, the more difficult it is to guess, but passwords can simply be lifted from keyboards or swiped from databases you have no control over.

Two factor is adding something you have along with something you know. Like when you withdraw money from an ATM, the card is something you have and PIN something you know; both are needed to get cash. Imagine if someone could take money from your account just by guessing your PIN (from anywhere in the world); that’s what solely relying on a password is similar to.

Most two factor authentication setups online use a mobile phone (something you have) to text you a code that’s needed to log in to Gmail, for example, along with your password. You can see where this might cause some apprehension on a frequent traveler’s part – what if you’re traveling and can’t receive that text?

First Step: One-Time Phone Number For Non-Android Users

Android users can set up 2-step verification using the free Google Authenticator app for Android without needing an active phone number. (Any wireless Internet connection will do.) On iPhone and other devices, initial set up does require you to have a phone number. (Sorry a SkypeIn or Google Voice number won’t cut it.) Your best bet is to unlock your phone, grab a local SIM card [call mom] then get started by downloading Google Authenticator for iOS.

Next, you’re going to want to enable two factor authentication on all of the sites that Google Authenticator works with. I’ve listed how-to links to some popular sites below but basically the process is enable, wait for message with code, input code into site, done.

Additionally, there are a few other sites compatible with the Authenticator app Google’s Matt Cutts lists here. Not to mention this very long list of sites (like Amazon) that don’t work with Authenticator per say but have two factor as an option. Authy, a very inexpensive but not free, service extends two factor authentication to a number of those sites, whether you’ve got a phone or not.

dropbox google authenticatorSecond Step: Link With Authenticator (Where Needed)

Some of the sites above let you set up with Google Authenticator right from the beginning so if you followed the steps above for Dropbox or Google on an Android device you don’t need to read further. Everyone else, you won’t need a phone number at this point, only to follow a few more steps linked below.

For convenience (and in case you forget your phone) it’s also a good idea to configure the Google Authenticator on other devices if you travel with a tablet instead of laptop, for example.

Digital Security Isn’t Jenga

Remember that no security is absolute so although you’ve got the major benefits of two factor authentication, still don’t use the same password for all of your accounts and just as you would to sext securely when traveling, be ready to remote wipe your phone in case it’s stolen or lost. Speaking of, you should probably enable two factor for iCloud, but beware it won’t protect any photos you upload to the service.

How To Sext Securely When Traveling

September 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Security, Tech

lock bridge vilnius

I’m not going to judge how you like to keep in digital touch with your partner(s? oh, heey playa!) but whether or not you’re sending private parts electronically, you might want to keep some bits private. Not turning your phone into a peepshow is the most secure solution but since half of you are already sexting, here’s what you can do to prevent unintended leakage.

ios passcode screenBasic Phone Security

First of all enable a lock screen passcode for your phone (here’s how on Android and iOS). Because lock screen passcodes are a dubious protection measure at best and given that most countries can legally require you to give up passwords at customs, you’ll need to go deeper. Both free apps Private Photo Vault (iOS) and Gallery Lock (Android) have stealth modes that can hide evidence of secure picture folders when you enter in a decoy password. (Laptop users can enable the same protection using Truecrypt hidden folders.)

Don’t Get Sunk By Syncing

There are a lot of famous boobs online because of iCloud, Apple’s service which syncs photos taken on an iPhone to its servers. Android devices have a similar feature, which in theory is supposed to be hassle-free way to backup pictures you take. The Internet is not a good place to store anything you hope to keep remotely private so with a few clicks disable photo syncing.

area 51 groom lake back gate

Digital clouds aren’t inherently risky, in fact there’s a good way cloud services can be used to protect your privacy, particularly if you lose physical contact with your hardware.

  • Remote Wipe Your Phone – Setting up the iOS built-in feature Find My Phone lets you wipe your Apple devices if they’re lost or stolen (here’s how) using iCloud and Google has a similar capability for Android.

Also, keep in mind although we’re talking phones here, almost all of the advice in this post applies to tablets as well.

wickr appThe Internet Is Big, Here’s How To Use It

Don’t get kinky with social media. Seriously, don’t. Not with Facebook’s new Messenger app you might be freaking out about, Twitter, Instagram… you get it.

Still, any service you use to send digital content requires a degree of trust with the provider. (Not to mention the person who’s on the receiving end of your sexiness.) In any case travelers especially should take some basic precautions to protect communications from the NSA and lock down your laptop as all of your digital property is vulnerable when crossing international borders – cloud or no cloud.

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