Category: Travel

Medical insurance for Spain non-lucrative visa

If you are thinking of applying for Spain’s non-lucrative visa, a medical/health insurance from an insurance company accredited in Spain is one of the requirements. When searching for medical insurance, the following requirements should be met:

  • Minimum medical coverage of €30,000
  • No deductibles, co-pays, coverage limits or grace periods for certain benefits
  • Include repatriation benefits

Apart from that, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Travel insurance is different, what you need is an actual medical insurance, similar to the health insurance that you have in your own country
  • Medical insurance coverage in Spain normally starts January of the current year until 31st of December
  • If your insurance coverage will start in July, for instance, you only have to pay 6 months worth of insurance premium and renew before the year ends (i.e. if your monthly premium is €75 then you will only have to pay €450 + transaction fees if applicable)
  • Don’t listen to insurance companies when they say that you have to get insured for one year immediately (unless your coverage will start in January)
  • Unless you have a Spanish bank account, monthly payments are not possible so you will have to pay in full either with a credit card or bank transfer
  • Contact several insurance companies and compare premiums. Don’t settle immediately on the first company that will reply to you. And if you must, also read customer reviews. Given that insurance companies rarely get positive reviews, go with the one that has lesser bad reviews.

When I was doing my research, I compared 3 insurance companies and, in the end, I went with ASISA. There are more insurance companies but not all have English speaking sales rep, some would even require a Spanish mobile number and bank account, and a few didn’t respond at all. 

These 3 insurance companies are able to complete the transaction online from enquiry to payment, meet all the requirements, and have a sales rep that speaks English.

1) Sanitas Expat

This is probably the most popular for Spain’s non-lucrative visa applicants because every article I read online is recommending this company. Given all the recommendations, this was the first I sent an enquiry to. They are very responsive and persistent, they always answer questions that I have, and they already have experience processing insurance policies for those applying for Spain resident visas.

2 things I didn’t like about this company: 1) expensive (my premium is €77/month and I will have to pay more if I choose to live in Madrid, Barcelona, or Valencia); 2) they told me that I need to pay for one full year even if I was already applying in July, which means I will have to pay €924+.

The 2nd point, I wasn’t aware until another insurance company informed me. And it was because of the first point that I started looking for alternatives.

2) SegurCaixa Adeslas

Similar to Sanitas Expat, the sales rep from this company was responsive and answered any questions that I had. This was also the cheapest among the 3 insurance companies. They quoted me €604/year which was €300 cheaper than Sanitas Expat. I would have gone with this company for sure but it seemed too good to be true so I started searching for customer reviews about this company. And I’m glad I did because there were too many bad reviews that changed my decision.

3) ASISA

With this company, a sales rep named Jane Priestly was the one who replied to my inquiry and she was also the one who informed me that I don’t need to pay for a full year because, again, all insurance policies in Spain end in December so it didn’t make sense that the first 2 companies were quoting me for a full year.

For the same coverage that the first 2 companies provided, I only need to pay €306.80 + transaction fees (if applicable) for my insurance policy with coverage starting August 1 until December 31, 2021 (€61.36/month)

When you look at it on a monthly premium comparison, SegurCaixa Adeslas is the cheapest but given that they have heaps of bad reviews, I would gladly pay more and go with ASISA.

At the end of the year, you can choose to renew with the same company or choose a different one, perhaps one with a cheaper premium, considering you will already have a Spanish bank account and mobile number when that time comes.

Vigan Ilocos Sur Travel Requirements as of July 2021

As we drove up north to go to Pagudpud, we decided to pass through Vigan on our way back to Manila and stay there for a night. Since the travel requirements for Pagudpud were easy to prepare, we thought the same for Vigan but we were dead wrong.

Ilocos Norte and Sur are neighboring provinces so it doesn’t make sense why these 2 have different travel requirements. Nevertheless, we have no choice but to comply or ditch our plans to go to Vigan altogether.

Anyway, the drive from Pagudpud to Vigan took approximately 4 hours. And here are the requirements:

  • RT PCR test result taken in no more than 72 hours from time of entry in Ilocos Sur (saliva RT PCR is acceptable as long as it’s administered by Red Cross) or an Antigen test taken within 24 hours
  • Booking confirmation from one of the accredited travel agencies (this is mandatory even if you are just passing through and not going on tours)
  • Travel pass registration at https://ilocossur.tarana.ph/ 

Since we spent 2 nights in Pagudpud, our RT PCR test results have already elapsed which mean we need to get an antigen test, otherwise, we won’t be allowed to enter Ilocos Sur. Fortunately, there’s a testing facility just 5 minutes away from the Sinait border. An antigen test costs 800php and the results will be released within an hour. Once we got the results, we had to log back in to our Tara Na account, click ‘Apply for a Travel Pass’ and upload the antigen test result together with the booking confirmation and a valid ID. Once we’ve uploaded all the requirements, we have to wait 5-10 mins to see an “APPROVED” tag in our travel pass application. This can all be done through the Tara Na website.

The next hurdle is entering Vigan. You won’t be able to enter Vigan without a DOT accredited tour guide which the travel agency will provide. The tour guide met us at the entrance of Vigan and accompanied us to the City Health Office to log in. You won’t be able to do all this by yourself, you also can’t enter establishments or just walk in Calle Crisologo without a tour guide. Booking a travel agency is a MUST to assist you before, during and after your trip in Vigan. It sounds complicated, which it is, but if you are able to complete the requirements prior to crossing the border from Ilocos Norte to Ilocos Sur or Manila to Ilocos Sur, then it should be less of a hassle.

For our hotel accommodation, we booked directly in Hotel Luna instead of booking through the travel agency because we initially thought that we could bypass the travel agency requirement but we were wrong, obviously. 

As for the cost of the travel agency, we paid 500php for the travel agency’s service fee and 1500php (plus tip) for the tour guide for 2 days. The tour guide was with us 4 hours each day. If you want to hire him for an entire day, the cost will be higher.

When leaving Vigan, we had to pass by the City Health Office again to log out. This process is mandatory and the tour guide will still have to accompany you.

We spent less than 24 hours in Vigan but the travel requirements preparation took more time than in Pagudpud. Unbelievable but that’s the reality of traveling during COVID times.

Pagudpud Ilocos Norte Travel Requirements as of July 2021

If you are itching to travel locally and thinking where to go, driving up north might be something you can consider. Requirements are not that complicated anymore plus there are less tourists now compared to pre-covid times so you’d be able to enjoy your trip more.

Here are the requirements:

  • RT PCR test result taken in no more than 72 hours from time of entry in Ilocos Norte (saliva RT PCR is acceptable as long as it’s administered by Red Cross)
  • Confirmed booking accommodation from one of the accredited hotel or resorts
  • Booking confirmation from one of the accredited travel agencies in Ilocos Norte (only applicable if you are going on tours)
  • QR code generated from SafePass (location ID will come from your hotel or resort)
  • Travel pass registration at https://ilocosnorte.ph

Where to stay:

Our family stayed at Casa Consuelo, a beachfront resort located near the Blue Lagoon. Saud Beach Resort, known as the Boracay of the North, is also a good option especially if you want easy access to a white sand beach.

What to do or where to go? Here’s a sample itinerary.

On our way up north, we passed through more than 3 checkpoints so always keep your valid IDs, hotel booking confirmation, and RT PCR test results handy. As long as you have complete requirements, you will be able to pass through without a hitch.

Safe travels!

How to Rebook your Red Cross Swab Test

Last May, my trip to El Nido was cancelled due to COVID travel restrictions. As much as I hate travel plans getting cancelled, travel restrictions are way out of my control. Good thing, though, everything was refundable. My flight, accommodation, and even my Red Cross swab test.

However, the refund process for my swab test would take months (up to a year) and my other options: 1) rebook it at a later date or 2) transfer my booking to someone else. Since I don’t know anyone who needs a swab test and I don’t want to wait for a year to get my money back, I opted to have my swab test rescheduled. 

I sent an email to the Red Cross support team asking for a rebooking request. The thing is, they would allow rebooking but for 1 time only. Which means, if something gets cancelled again, I won’t be able to rebook my swab test schedule for the 2nd time. Fortunately, there’s no deadline when it comes to rebooking, especially if you don’t have a definite date yet for the new schedule.

To request for a refund, simply send an email to this address – prcrefunds@redcross.org.ph. They promptly reply, within a day, almost always. Once you receive a reply, you will be asked to fill out a refund request form.

To request for rebooking, send an email to this address – 1158-appointments@redcross.org.ph –  with the following details:

  • Patient Name 
  • Retrieval Code:
  • Order Number:
  • Appointment Number:
  • Date of Original Schedule:
  • New  date and time:
  • Reason:

You can also use this for the subject line – Rebooking request for Booking #______. And if you have a screenshot of your booking confirmation, you may attach that to the email as well.

Where to Get a Medical Certificate with DOH Authentication

Since I’m applying for a resident visa, a medical certificate with DOH and DFA authentication is required. Not a lot of clinics or hospitals do this. Not even the big, commercial hospitals. What you should look for are those that offer OFW packages, however, clinics like these sometimes go through an agency.

My visa processing is not handled by an agency, I do everything myself so I have to search for a clinic that can provide me with the above-mentioned medical certificate. Fortunately, after an endless search in Google, I was able to find one. 

The clinic is named Angelus Medical Clinic, Inc. (ACMI), located in Makati City. You can search for it on Google Maps, it’s very easy to locate.

They currently don’t accept walk-ins and you can only book an appointment via email a week before your planned visit. If you plan to have a medical appointment on July 15th, for instance, then you should send an email to schedule an appointment on July 8th. You can’t email more than a week in advance because they won’t entertain you. They are also slow in responding so keep sending an email day after day until you receive a reply, and if that doesn’t work, call them.

In your email, don’t forget to include the following details:

  • Full name (including middle name):
  • Birth date:
  • Mobile #:
  • Email subject line: Medical appointment for [state the country and the type of visa you’re applying for]

Once you are scheduled for an appointment, you will receive a separate email with the subject line: AMCI Pre-registration with attached PDF file of your appointment/referral form, plus an applicant guide for your reference.

Important things to remember:

  • Make sure to print your application/referral form (NO PRINTOUT, NO ENTRY)
  • Also print the email containing your appointment form for reference
  • A photocopy of your valid passport is required
  • It is also a MUST that you bring your own pen
  • Wear a white or light gray plain shirt (NO PRINT) for X-RAY. If you’re not wearing one, you won’t be able to get an X-RAY
  • Don’t forget to fast 10 hours before your appointment time. You can only eat or drink once they’ve taken a blood sample
  • Bring water and food because it was hard to take the psychology exam when you’re hungry and thirsty
  • Make sure that you read, understand and follow the APPLICANT GUIDE before your appointment date. No need to print the applicant guide.

On the day, you are advised to arrive an hour before your appointment time. I was scheduled for 8am and I arrived at 6:45am. I thought the clinic opens at 7am but when I arrived, they were already accepting medical examiners.

The entire process took 6 hours. I was advised to wait for my X-RAY result just to be sure that the results were good so I won’t have to come back and repeat the X-RAY. I waited for 2 hours, no complaints though because I was able to have lunch whilst waiting. There was also a psychology test that took an hour to finish. It was mostly personality and logic tests.

For the cost, I paid 4,000php total. It should only be 3,550php but I requested an extra copy of my medical certificate with DOH authentication (again, for backup) which cost 450php.

Results would take 1-2 days plus an additional 3-5 days for DOH authentication, so we’re looking at 7 working days maximum. And since I didn’t go through an agency, I have to follow up myself if my medical certificate with DOH authentication is ready for pickup. I am hoping to get it on or before June 30th because my DFA Authentication is scheduled on July 1st. Cutting it close, I know.

I called the following day to ask if my medical results are already available. They said yes, the results indicate that I’m fit to work, and that my papers are already in transit to DOH. So far, so good.

Since I have a tight schedule, I really have to be persistent with my follow-ups.

I called again 2 days after just to check and they advised me that my papers are still in DOH. Makes sense because DOH processing takes 3-5 working days and it has only been 2 days. Exactly a week after my medical exam, I called again. And this time they said my papers are ready for pick-up.

For reference, here are ACMI’s contact details:

  • Contact #: 0917-5753210 | (632) 8288 7927
  • Email: crd.mle@angelusmed.com | angelusclientcare@gmail.com
  • Address: 1730 Dian St., Brgy. Palanan, Makati City

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

simon sinek

COVID Vaccine Passport and The Future of Travel

As we fight to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, immunization passports may soon become the future of travel. Nowadays, anyone who plans to leave the country will need to look at all the factors, such as available flights and pre-travel requirements. You may need to look at post-travel requirements as well. With the vaccine easing the burden on airlines, many experts believe that a new concept known as the vaccine passport will show the immunization records of travelers.

What is the COVID-19 passport and will you need one to travel?

The immunization passport proves that you received the immunization against contagious viruses, and they will likely require it for travel. They may put this record on paper, but they may also decide to make it digital. We can’t tell yet because vaccination hasn’t reached widespread levels. Every day, another 2.8 million people receive the vaccine in the United States. Some vaccines may also prove less effective than others. For example, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine only has a 66.3 percent effectiveness overall. Compared to Pfizer, they have a 95 percent effectiveness rate.

This concept of an immunization passport isn’t anything new, and they have, in fact, existed since the 1800s. When the Yellow Fever Outbreak happened in Africa in 2016, they began requiring such passports in certain countries.

Can COVID vaccine passports save the tourism industry?

Unfortunately, these passports may not make things any easier for tourism. For example, mandatory quarantine at state facilities in some countries will still exist even with the passport.

Some agreements between countries have made travel slightly easier, but it hasn’t made it without hassles. The new restrictions will continue to prove a problem for the foreseeable future. The COVID vaccinations will likely turn into the standard for most international flights. The COVID vaccine travel passport will pervade the travel scene for a while.

What do vaccine passports mean for you?

The COVID-19 passport exists to show others that you don’t pose a threat to their health. It does become somewhat of an inconvenience, but it will help us in the fight against a harmful disease that has killed 2.84 million people worldwide with many deaths that went unrecorded in some countries.

Many proposals have been made on what will make up the COVID-19 passports and the structure behind them. Some also worry that this will endanger privacy while making societal inequities more obvious than before. It could create a two-tiered world where those who received vaccinations in the richer countries will receive more benefits than those in the more poverty-stricken countries.

What it ultimately means, however, is to protect public health and restart the world economy while removing barriers to travel over the long term. Don’t think of the COVID vaccine passport as something that will exist forever.

Can you travel once vaccinated?

Along with being able to travel, the vaccine certificate could allow you to go to a stadium game or the local bar. Before they have decided on this scheme, however, most officials agree that they will first have to offer the vaccine to all individuals so that it doesn’t create inequities.

The COVID-19 passport should be seen as helping us to return to our normal lives. The more people who take the vaccination, the better for us in fighting this disease. One of the goals with this is that someone who may have caught COVID doesn’t carry the disease over to a country that previously didn’t have COVID. In this way, we can continue to stamp down on the numbers. None of the vaccines work 100 percent of the time, but they reduce hospitalizations and lower the risk that someone would catch it.

Why Does Each LGU Have Their Own Vaccination Cards?

I just got vaccinated in QC and received my vaccination card. I’m impressed at how fast and organized the vaccine roll-out here in the Philippines has been. Because compared to other countries, like New Zealand or Australia, the Philippines has vaccinated more people.

Anyway, that’s not really the point of this post. My point is, why do each LGU/city have their own vaccination cards? Why didn’t the government come up with a universal vaccination card that will easily reflect the country of origin of the person vaccinated? 

Isn’t that common sense? Or is it true when they say that common sense is not common after all?

I mean, with my vaccination card, do I need to explain to immigration officers that Quezon City is one of the cities in the Philippines, blah, blah, blah. Will they question the validity of my vaccination card? I’m scared to find out.

Vaccine passports are what everyone’s talking about these days. Can’t our government be forward-thinkers and start planning for that as well? Sadly, no. And I don’t think Philippines will be able to catch up.

Then again, given how the government is handling the pandemic, this should not come as a surprise. Instead of being proactive, the government has been consistently reactive and with no proper planning. Just look back at the #lugawisessential incident that went viral or the different names for quarantine status of NCR. Those were clear proof of how disorganized the government has been when it comes to dealing with the pandemic.

How to get a bank certificate for FREE

Bank statements and bank certificates are common requirements when applying for any type of visa.

Requesting for these documents is easy, what’s annoying is that you have to pay for these. And they don’t come cheap!

A bank certificate costs 200php for one copy and a bank statement costs 50php per page.

Now, if you need a bank certificate but don’t want to pay for it (like me), what you can do is go to the branch where you opened your account and politely ask for fees to be waived. The business manager of the branch will be the one to decide on this. I was told that if you are a preferred client, fees are automatically waived and to be a preferred client, you need to have a minimum 750,000php in your account.

If you don’t have that much money in your account yet, you can still ask if the fees can be waived. There’s really no harm in asking.

How to save money on document translation costs

Here’s another post related to my upcoming visa appointment.

Another requirement for the visa that I’m applying for is to have all English documents (i.e. medical certificate, bank certificate, COE) translated to the local language of the country. And you can only have the documents translated by official sworn translators authorized by the consulate, hence, your options are limited.

I was already in touch with one of the translators and the cost per page (maximum 320 words) is 3000php. If you exceed the 320-word limit, the cost is 9php per word.

Read More

For my visa application, I needed 3 documents translated so that’s automatically 9000php. It’s a lot, I know. However, I only paid 6000php and still got my 3 documents translated. 

Here’s how I did it. Are you ready?

I combined the 2 documents into one page and the combination of the 2 documents is still below the 320-word limit. 

I forwarded the documents to the translator and she confirmed that my documents are good for translation. After 14 days, I received my translated docs via email. If I want a printed copy, I will have to pay an additional 70php per page + delivery fee.

That is it. And yes, it was that simple.