Saturday, 17 October 2015

ESTA applications for those nationalities under the USA Visa Waiver Program

So I was applying for my ESTA again since I was making an impromptu trip after Japan to the States. As what most people do I a just typed in ESTA USA in Google search, took a cursory look at the search feed and saw that first links are actually not to the actual US Government Customs and Border Protection (CBP) site. It should be . The current fee charged is 17USD for Singaporeans if you apply directly on the CBP website and is a very straightforward process. Applying through an agency which appears on the top of the feed however can end up costing an additional 50-80USD in addition to the 17USD.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Iran December 2014

So this is the follow up to the sneak preview post of my trip to Iran in December 2014. This was a country which i had been planning to visit if my company sent me to Dubai again which never occured so after a year of waiting, I decided to just clear my leave and take a trip myself. It helped that my Sister was staying in Dubai as well so I had a (sort of) base of operations to operate out of.

One of the things you would notice is the number of negative news reports you see about Iran. This also translates to a lot of naysayers when they heard about my plans to travel there. All I will say on this matter is that anyone who has travelled there will tell you to go and almost all the people who will tell you not to go will have never been there before. Visa wise, it was very easy for me, with a visa on arrival for 15 days available at 75USD. I had a copy of the lonely planet on my tablet, so while waiting for the visa to be arranged at the airport, I searched for my first accomodation which was Firouzi Hotel. This would turn out to be an excellent choice as the hotel manager, Mr Mousavi, was a wealth of information and a great help during my stay. I called him a number of times during my travel as well when I needed some help even after leaving Tehran but he was always willing to help me. (Hopefully i was not too annoying).

Over this 15 days, I managed to squeeze in quite a number of cities and my journey was like this: Tehran, Tabriz, Ardabil, Rasht, Kashan, Yazd, Shiraz and finally Esfahan. I have to admit that in terms of the sights, there are many other countries with more majestic or better conserved buildings. But the real beauty of Iran is the people. I have never felt safer walking on a dark street at night or been helped as much by strangers on the street. They really made my short jaunt one of the most amazing trips of my life and made memories which I will always hold dear.

Just to give 2 examples, Firstly, this gentleman I struck up a conversation with at the bus terminal in Tehran offered to show me around Shiraz. When i was approaching the town, he picked me up from the terminal despite the early hour and showed me around town including taking me to the nearby Persepolis. He also brought me around to different accommodations until I found one that was within my budget. When I was in Ardabil which was an unplanned stop, two young lads accompanied me the whole day despite me not speaking farsi and they not speaking english. They were also unwilling to leave me alone until they were sure that I was able to link up with my host. This despite me wanting to walk an hour instead of taking a shared taxi.

If you are unsure on whether or not to go, all I can say is go now!!