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Category: Money

The Trick To Getting A Bhutan Visa (500 Error Solved)

Bhutan requires a visa from tourists of most countries and on the surface it looks straightforward. However, like most things about visiting Bhutan things aren’t quite a simple as they might seem. Some of the steps to getting the visa can be cumbersome but there is a trick to speeding up the process.

500 Error Fix

Many users who visit the Bhutan visa website and upload their passport information and photo have encountered this dreaded 500 error. Your first instinct is to refresh a million times and eventually try to start the process over again only to get another 500.

bhutan 500 error

Instead, you should email the site’s official IT department to let them know about the 500 error. Once you do, they will manually add your account in the system and you’ll be able to login without issues. These are the email addresses (found in the conformation email you get when you created a site account): [email protected] or [email protected]

Response times are about one to two business days. You’re almost to the finish line but there is another thing to be aware of so you don’t slow your application down.

Bank Troubles

There is a cost to obtain a Bhutan tourist visa as well as a sustainable development fee you must pay. Another problem you might run into is the payment gets stuck at “pending” and never changes status. In these cases, email the accounts personnel ([email protected] or [email protected]) to make them aware. They’re likely going to tell you to simple re-try the payment (with the original still stuck on pending).

paro festival bhutan

Of course, double check with your credit card to make sure you haven’t been double-charged but once you have completed a successful payment, you should be ready to submit your online visa application. After 3-5 business days you will get a response but keep in mind they won’t email you like the system says it will. Because, of course.

Despite the mild hassles though, traveling to Bhutan and seeing sites like the iconic Tiger’s Nest makes it all worthwhile.

How Trove Slim Wallets Are Made

Most slim wallets manufacturers are large scale operations pumping out metal backed wallets for a premium price. On the other hand, Trove is an outlier, making fabric based slim wallets by hand and at competitive prices. I recently had the opportunity to visit the Trove factory in Leistershire, England and watch their wallet making process. Each wallet can be custom-designed before ordering and takes around 15 minutes to make before it is shipped out worldwide.

You can watch the entire process in the video tour here.

Why You Should Never Convert Currencies At Foreign ATMs

When you insert your card into a foreign ATM and enter your PIN you’re presented with two choices: withdraw cash in the local currency or have the ATM do a conversion for you. It’s confusing wording but there is a choice that’s always right.

Here’s why you should always choose to withdraw your money in the local currency.

Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC)

DCC is a process where the ATM machine provider comes up with a conversion rate between your home currency and the local currency. ATM providers do this to profit by giving you a bad exchange rate. By doing so ATM providers can charge you 2% or more than they would be able to otherwise. It’s a completely unnecessary charge they trick you into paying with confusing wording.

atm currency conversion

For them it’s 2% or more on the transaction and those small charges can really add up – unfortunately for you and profit for them.

The Choice To Make

When you are using a foreign ATM always choose the option to be charged in the local currency. Do not accept the ATM’s conversion or rate and if you see those words go with the other choice. Whether you choose to accept the conversion rate or be charged in the local currency – you will get the local currency as cash in both cases.

The machine isn’t asking what currency you want – there are ATMs that may do that – but when it comes to the just taking money out of a foreign ATM, it’s asking if you want the transaction to be charged in the local currency.

To better explain this, let’s say you want to take out 20 Euro, which is about 22 US dollars. If you choose to have the ATM do the conversion for you they might charge your bank $25 dollars to get that 20 Euro. So you’ll have 20 Euro in your hands at the end – this is what the machine will spit out – but when you check your bank statement you’ll notice the money withdrawn will be 24, 25 or more dollars. The ATM provider made a currency conversion it didn’t need to and overcharged you for it.

When you use the alternative option to be charged in the local currency then your bank does the conversion which is going to be the best rate possible – without any additional charge or mark up.

Quick Tip

You always want to be charged in the local currency. In Germany that’s Euros and in America it’s dollars and in Bulgaria that’s leva, you get the idea – whatever it happens to be, choose to be charged in the local currency. You don’t want the ATM to do any currency conversion for you. Words like rate and conversion or percentage signs on the screen should be your red flags so be charged in the local currency and save on fees.

How To Avoid Airbnb’s Latest Fee

A few days ago Airbnb changed their Terms of Service to introduce a new fee that will come into effect on April 1st 2024. That fee will add 2% to you next booking but there’s an easy way to avoid it and actually save even more money.

Conversion Fee

The new guest service fee of 2%, before taxes, will be added on the total rate if a booking is made where the local currency differs from the currency set in your Airbnb account. That means if your Airbnb account has a currency set in US dollars but the villa in Spain you’re booking is listed in Euros, there will be an additional 2% fee added at check out.

airbnb settings

Airbnb hasn’t made it clear if this fee will be shown separately or just added under the generic “fees” you see at checkout, but know that it will be in there where there’s a currency conversion.

Avoiding The Fee

To get around the new 2% fee, all you have to do is change the default currency your Airbnb account is set to so that it matches the local currency of your next destination. Log into Airbnb, click the globe icon, then currency, and then change the currency. For example, if you’re looking for an Airbnb in Bulgaria you would change the currency into Bulgarian lev and if the place is in Spain, that would be Euros. Airbnb doesn’t make it clear what currency the host listing is in so you just have to look up the local currency in a given country if you’re not familiar and adjust it accordingly.

airbnb currency setting

Why This Saves More Than 2%

After April 1, 2024 this trick will save you 2% in fees but changing the currency to match the local money will save you double or more because of another clause in the Airbnb terms – one that’s been there for a long time. When you book an Airbnb in a currency that differs from the currency a host as set, Airbnb converts the listing price from local to your currency, using rates they determine. In many cases this rate is not in your favor and hardly the best conversion and can add 3% or more to a booking where the currencies differ.

You should always change your Airbnb account currency to the local one when booking internationally to save at the 2% conversion fee and then another 2-4% in conversion rates. While you’re at it, make sure you keep an eye on Airbnb cleaning fees as well.

The Problem With Boeing Planes

You’ve probably seen the images from Alaska Airlines flight 1282 where a section of the plane was blown out in mid-flight. Fortunately, the plane was able to make an emergency landing and aside from 3 minor injuries nobody else was hurt or killed. Still, this was a brand new Boeing 737 Max 9 – only in service for 3 months before this incident – but since the Max line of planes was introduced, there have been two fatal crashes.

What is going on with Boeing and should you be worried about flying in their planes?

Safe But Less Safe

Previous generations of Boeing 737s have a fatal accident rate of .2 per million flights while the 737 MAX have a 4 in million fatal accident rate, still safe, but twenty times more accident prone. The Boeing 737 line is the most popular passenger plane ever – beginning production in 1968 through the latest generation called MAX which began in 2017. Throughout much of that history Boeing was the dominant jetliner manufacturer. Boeing’s main rival Airbus wasn’t a serious rival to Boeing until the 1990s.

alaska airlines

In the 2000s Airbus overtook Boeing in the narrow body aircraft market and today Airbus has 62% of the share of airliner backlog. Their main advantage: fuel economy.

Savings In The Sky

In the 2010s Airbus starting using a new engine design using with what’s known as high-bypass. Technical details aside, these are engines that are bigger than what was previously being used but 25% more fuel efficient. (And 35% quieter, a nice bonus.) Before this jetliner engines were made to be narrower thinking it would reduce wind resistance.

Over time airlines began gravitating toward these narrower, smaller capacity planes because they saved money on fuel. Those cost savings meant that airlines could run more flights versus the larger Boeing planes which burn more fuel. It’s easier to fill up smaller planes resulting in fewer empty seats. Again, economic benefits.

Boeing Plays Catch Up

Boeing isn’t able to put those newer more fuel efficient engines on their existing larger planes because the wings are too low for them to fit. This leads to the decision to make the Boeing MAX, their version of a narrow body jetliner to compete with Airbus. Building planes takes experience and Boeing didn’t redesign the 737 Max from scratch. The larger more powerful engines being placed on modified existing designs have lead to issues. Boeing had to put the new engines further forward on the wings of the MAX but combined with more thrust they have a tendency to pull the plane up more – in other words give it more lift.

jetliner engine

To compensate, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was implemented. That’s basically a computer than detects when the nose of the plane might be going up too high and then forces the plane to pitch downward. Boeing engineers allowed the MCAS to be fed information from a single sensor with no redundancy because “they calculated the probability of a “hazardous” MCAS malfunction to be virtually inconceivable.”

The Federal Aviation Administration also agreed and did not adequately inform pilots about the MCAS in their manuals. Unfortunately in the case of Lion Air Flight 620 in 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines 302 in 2019 that lead to two fatal crashes, killing 346 people. Boeing was later charged with fraud and ordered to pay compensation of 2.5 billion dollars for concealing information from the FAA.

Failures For Dollars

There were failures on the part of Boeing and the FAA, who overruled their own engineers in the regarding the 737 MAX 8 and there have been well documented quality control issues with the MAX 9 (the plane involved in the Alaska Airlines incident). A U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure report also pointed to the FAA’s practice of delegating some of its inspection functions to Boeing’s own engineers, noting that this structure “creates inherent conflicts of interest that have jeopardized the safety of the flying public.”

The grounding of the MAX 8 cost Boeing 21 billion dollars. Still, the 737 MAX 8 and 9 still have 4500 orders combined so far but it seems like Boeing’s push to make a profit – which that haven’t done since 2019 – has lead to cutting corners in their race to compete with Airbus. Travelers can only hope there are no more accidents before oversight of Boeing, investigations, and changes both to personnel and production are implemented.

Best Travel Tech Gifts Under $30

organic beanie

Shopping for people who travel frequently can be difficult as they tend to be minimalist, picky, and seem to have everything they already need. As someone who fits into that category, these are some things that have changed how I travel and become useful gear that doesn’t take up a lot of space across various price points.

For The Carry-On Only Warrior: $12

Going through security at airports means having to take out your sprays, gels, and other containers, even if they’re under the weight limits. The Ogato 3 pack of clear, easy-close pouches is perfect for small toiletries.

Tropical Traveler: $14

Small and powerful, Sun Bum makes a vegan, roll-on SPF 50 sunscreen which happens to be under the limit for most carry-on gels.

Romantic Road Writer: $21

A good notebook is the best tool for writing ideas, sketching, and connecting with your thoughts when traveling. Aside from the creative benefits of writing on paper versus digital jotting, the rugged Moleskin notebooks are perfect places to drop in receipts, postcards, and other small physical media.

Fingerprint Fighter: $25

This is the stuff they use in Apple stores to clean products and an iKlear kit will keep your screens and keyboards looking like showroom new too.

Digital Detection: $29

Airtags are incredibly useful for tracking the location of your things. Don’t believe it? You will after experiencing the power of knowing your luggage was actually packed on your plane before every single flight. Thanks Airtag.

Useful and durable don’t have to mean expensive, like the foXnoMad organic beanie, on sale now. For travelers, small gifts are a compliment and hopefully some of the 5 items above will make you their favorite gift giver this year.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More

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