• Expat Life
  • The Ultimate Moving Abroad Checklist

    So, you finally made what possibly is one of your biggest and most crucial decisions in life – to move not just to a new place but one that is a thousand miles away from home sweet home – a totally different country where a multitude of experiences await. How exciting the thought must be! But on top of all the delight and anticipation come anxiety and nervousness because you feel that everything is still in limbo. To help you ease the nerves and to help you see to it that plans run smoothly, here’s a list of things to be done and points to be considered several bloggers think would be of valuable use to you – The Ultimate Moving Abroad Checklist.

    Tip #1: Bring with you all the necessary paperwork

    You need to make sure that you have all of the paperwork you need to enter the country that you are moving to. These documents include your birth certificate, a copy of your diploma, certificate of employment, professional license, driver’s license, other certificates from training you attended, etc. Create and store both virtual and paper copies of important documents. Make sure to write down essential usernames, passwords and pin for important accounts – just be cautious when you make a copy as these should be maintained top secret. Put these files aside when packing and keep them with you when you travel.

    Tip #2: Amass supplies of prescribed medicines before moving

    If you are taking prescribed medications, dietary supplements or used to taking over-the-counter medications, make sure that you are going to have access to your medication when you arrive in your country of destination. It may be difficult to find a doctor or the medicine you are taking when you move to the new place. It may also be more expensive as compared to the ones you usually buy from your home country. Since you will be in an adjustment period, make sure to stock up medications for emergency reasons. These include Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Band-Aids, Loperamide (anti-Diarrheal), Laxatives and or a first aid kit.

    Tip #3: Research thoroughly

    The importance of researching your new country down to the last detail cannot be underestimated. Read up on cultural differences, the weather, economy, employment options, cost of living, local customs, food, appropriate manners, religion, etc. Getting a preview of the actual experience by means of studying and researching will also help you better transition into an international culture.

    Tip #4: Organize your belongings

    Determine the things that you need in your country of destination and stuff that you may want to get rid of. You may want to leave behind items that are bulky such as large items of furniture. When packing clothes, take into consideration the seasons so if a piece of clothing may not be as useful, just leave it. Keep in mind that not everything you own will be suitable for the new country. Remember, the more baggage you take with you, the more expensive your shipping costs will be if you decide to ship your items through international movers.

    Tip #5: Sell or give away items that you don’t need

    In relation to No. 3, you may want to consider finding new owners who will love your old items that you won’t be able to use when you move. By taking out online advertisements or having a garage sale, not only are you able to declutter, thus allowing more space for more important items, you also get to collect cash to help you set up at your new home. Donating things to charity is an option, too.

    Tip #6: Obtain contact information

    Family, friends, colleagues and other people belonging to your network will need to touch base with you before and after the move. If possible, get a cell phone that works both at home and in the new country. Alternatively, you can have an email account that you can access wherever you are in the globe. Social media sites such as Facebook help you stay in touch with your loved ones, too!

    Tip #7: Start moving your finances

    Close or transfer home bank accounts. If you intend to maintain a savings account, notify your bank of your new address and ask them how to manage your savings account while you’re abroad so you won’t have to pay tax.

    Do a research on banks available in your new country. Set up relevant accounts that help you move your money easily between your home account and your account overseas. Make sure that you have an emergency fund to accommodate fees to cover when first arriving in your new country.

    Tip #8: Bring along memorabilia of home

    While limiting yourself to only a couple of personal possessions is a must, it doesn’t hurt to bring along a piece of home such as a collection of photographs which are sure to save you from possible homesickness. After all, living abroad, especially if you’re all by yourself, can get lonely.

     

    Photo by: Outreachmama

    Wendy, Outreachmama.com

    If you’re planning to move abroad in the near future, you’ll have many things to do and lots of responsibilities that you’ll need to straighten out before you can go. Most people fail to realize the extent of the things they’ll have to handle just to get their life in order with a move like this. For people with a family, it’s going to be even more complicated as you’ll find out soon enough.

    We obviously don’t want to leave you high and dry and wondering what you need to do before moving abroad. That’s why we’ve decided to share some of our favorite tips with you today. To make your move go off without a hitch, please use the following tips we’ve shared below and try not to overlook anything because they could make your life unnecessarily more difficult and you’d obviously rather avoid that, right?

    Tip #9: Find the Best Shipper to Meet Your Needs

    Since you’ve finally decided to move abroad, you’ll have to get your possessions to your new country in one way or another. The best and easiest way to make it happen is to find an international shipper that will handle all of the pertinent details and moving for you.

    While you’re traveling, don’t overload with baggage on the plane because you’ll have to worry about your luggage getting there, you’ll have to take responsibility for all your items, and you unnecessarily feel stressed out. Instead, let the shipper move the majority of your possessions and have them deliver them to your new home. By going this route, you’ll only take the bare minimum items with you, and if something gets lost or stolen, it’ll be a lot easier to replace than if you had excess baggage with you at the time.

    Tip #10: Get All Your Paperwork in Order before Moving Abroad

    Photo by: OutreachMama

    You may not realize it, but you’re about to embark on an epic journey, and unfortunately, there’s lots of paperwork involved. It’s really hard to just get up and go even though you may want to, so let’s take a moment to think about the various paperwork you’ll need for your trip.

    For starters, you absolutely must have a valid passport on hand if you’re going to enter into your new country. Without it, you may end up getting turned away at the gate, and that would obviously be a major tragedy.

    Next, you better make sure you have your airline tickets when you get to the airport. Without them, you’ll find it difficult if not impossible to board the plane. While you’re at it, make arrangements now with a car service or family member or friend to make sure you have a ride to the airport on moving day.

    Do you have a work visa? If so, make sure your work visa is valid and completely up-to-date. It will be tough to get a job in your new country if your visa isn’t in order. Finally, get all your vaccinations before you go and make sure you have copies of your medical records, dental records and other important documents for you and your family.

    Tip #11 Resolve Personal Issues before Moving Abroad

    If you have any outstanding personal issues that need your attention, now’s the time to take care them. Once you move abroad, it will be very difficult to resolve these situations long-distance.

    Your personal issues do not necessarily have to be negative though. You may want to take time to say goodbye to your family members, friends, and former coworkers, so make sure you leave yourself enough time to say your goodbyes. Get everyone’s contact details so you can call, email, or Skype once you’re abroad and then you’ll be ready to go on your merry way.

     

    We hope that our checklist will help you if you’re in the process of moving abroad.  Any more suggestions? Share in the comments below. 

  • Expat Life
  • A Bite of Oman Culture

    I’d been eyeing for a restaurant that serves an authentic Omani dishes for a while.Muscat being the center of Oman is the best place to try the local dishes. Many restaurants have emerged that serves and portrays the taste of Oman. Omani food is directly influenced by the trade and fusion of  Indian, Persian, African and other Arab countries which make it exquisite in taste. 

    I tried Al Angham located at Opera Galleria in Muscat.It is a fine dining Omani restaurant. Everything was impressive by first look. The details of the design of the restaurant will blow you away. From the ceilings, woodwork, crystal chandeliers to the traditional Omani décor around the area, the restaurant was spectacular. The place is elegant. I felt like a princess when I entered the restaurant.

    img_6401
    Such an elegant atmosphere!

     

    img_6453
    Ohh, I feel like I belong to the royal family with this dining set up!

     

    Look at the chandeliers!

     

    A separate room if you want privacy.

    The local servers looked great wearing their traditional dress. When my friend and I were asked about the menu to take, everything was explained so well. There are 2 set menus on the list. There is also a la carte on their options, but we tried the set menus. While waiting for the food to be served, a fresh pomegranate was given first then bread. All kinds of local bread were placed on our table. Omani bread is sweet and heavy, so I opted to eat it all though I wanted to try everything.

    img_6379
    Fresh pomegranate!

    Next came the harees soup. I personally like harees, it is porridge made from wheat mixed with some type of meat but most often chicken.I have tried few harees, but their version was the best I have tried so far. The consistency was dense. The waiter said it was intentionally made light compared to the harees served as the main course.

    img_6378
    Look at the silverware!

    The selection of Omani salads was quite impressive as well. Watercress salad, chicken masanef, and baby shark samosa looked so pleasant and tasted delicious. I never thought a mango pickle would be a perfect combination to the samosa. It was something interesting to know.  

    img_6397
    The appetizer

    Then came the dish I was waiting to try, the Omani shuwa. It is a slow cooked lamb over basmati rice. I love the biryani samak too! It is a fish cooked in a tamarind sauce. The fish was so fresh with some spiciness on it. A mashed rice with chicken with cardamom and rose water was served next on my plate. It wasn’t my favorite but something appealing to my palate.

    img_6426
    Omani shuwa

    The luscious desserts look so hard to resist as well! There were four different kinds of sweet served. I like the frankincense ice cream. The server said it is the most liked by the guests. It was mouth watering and yummy.

    img_6437
    Omani desserts to try.

    I am impressed with the Omani food served with a royal standard.All food was prepared delightfully into perfection. Al Angham is a place to experience an authentic taste of Omani culture and cuisine with a sophisticated touch. 

     

    img_6478
    An Omani wearing the traditional dress (disdasha).

     

    img_6396

     

    Have you tried local Omani cuisine? What is your favorite dish? Share in the comments below.  

  • Expat Life
  • Wadi Shab: A Desert Adventure Paradise

    The Arabian Peninsula is predominantly desert. However, Oman is more varied. Oman is exquisite in natural beauty. Mountains, beaches, and wadis (valleys) surround the country despite being dry.It is a great place for exploration, especially in winter temperature. The winter weather is mild which is the best time to enjoy outdoor activities.

    No visit to Oman is complete without seeing Wadi Shab. Wadi Shab is one of the most famous tourist spots in the Sultanate of Oman.  If you’re a nature lover and outdoorsy traveler, this place should be on your list. 

    The beautiful coastline on the way to Wadi Shab!

     

    The road going to Wadi Shab.

    Getting to Wadi Shab

    If you are coming from Muscat, it is 1.5hrs away from the city. It is in Sharqiyah Region, before the town of Tiwi. You can’t get lost; there is a signage going to Wadi Shab. It is advisable to bring a vehicle going to the place, but you can hire a private car for a day trip. There is a massive bridge under the entrance of the wadi (valley), a landmark you are at the right place.There is a public toilet in the parking area if you want to change comfortable clothes before the hike. There is a small store where you can buy food and drinks. Before the start of the walk, you only pay 1 OMR/ 130 PHP/ 2.5 USD for the boat ride to cross the small lake.The ride is short, and it is good for the two way ride. Make sure to know what time is the last boat ride if wish to go late afternoon. The rest of the experience is free of charge. 

     

    The boat ride is about 2 minutes.

    Outdoor Adventures in Wadi Shab: 

    There are different activities to do for every traveler visiting the Wadi Shab. Here is the list:

    Hiking 

    The hike is less than an hour to reach the swimming area. It is an easy to moderate walk, and I recommend wearing hiking shoes. It is painful on the sole if you are not wearing appropriate footwear. The first part of the trail is flat, and it gets rocky in the middle area. There are marks on the path, so I don’t think you will get lost. You can hike alone if you wish but I suggest you go in pair. Before reaching the wadi, you will pass by to the rugged mountains, plantations, cliffs, oasis and big rocks.

     

    View from the start of the trail.

     

    Rocky mountains at the onset of the hike.

     

    The challenging part, conquering the big rocks on the way to Wadi Shab.

     

    Huge rocks!

     

    Some parts are slippery.Be careful with your steps.

     

    The rocky mountains

     

    You can rest in between the hike.

    Swimming

    The fun doesn’t end once you reach the Wadi. You can swim and start to walk into the small canyon. You can either spend time on the water pools with different depth or swim and walk all the way inside a cave.Reminder, going inside the cave is not for everyone. Never attempt if you don’t know how to swim. To get inside the cave, you have to walk and swim quite long. You should know how to swim at least 50-100meters. The entrance is small that you have to swim through a tiny hole. The water gets deep as you go on, and it ‘s hard to hold anywhere inside.  Yes, it is amazing, but pls don’t dare to swim if you can’t. Inside the cave, there is a rope where you can climb to the waterfall which is said to be the hidden gem of the place.

     

    The shallow part of the water pool where kids can swim.

    And it gets deeper as you go further.

    Cliff Diving

    If you seek more thrill and excitement, another activity to try is jumping off the cliff. The cliffs are tall, perfect for cliff diving. In fact, Wadi Shab was one of the event places of the  Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in 2012. 

    If you choose not to do it, you can still have fun on the Wadi by relaxing and having a picnic. Pack in and pack out all your gear and trash as you leave the area.

    Conquer your fear! Jump off the cliff.

     

    Or relax by the water pools.

     

    Helpful Reminders and Tips:

    1. Have a proper meal before the hike.
    2. Wear comfortable clothes where you can move quickly. Wear appropriate shoes for the walk.
    3. Protect yourself from the sun. Wear a cap, sunblock, and glasses.
    4. Bring bottled water and food.
    5. Don’t bring a lot of things on your way to the Wadi Shab. Leave it in your car. Unless you want to go picnic at the Wadi.
    6. Bring a waterproof bag if you wish to swim and keep your belongings with you.
    7. Avoid going on weekends. It is crowded with the locals, expats, and tourists.
    8. Wear waterproof shoes if you wish to swim. It is bit slippery.
    9. For non-swimmers who wants to get inside the cave, wear a life vest. The water is deep inside. Never force yourself to get inside the cave.
    10. Bring extra clothes to change after the swim.

    Location:


    What outdoor adventure do you want to do? Share in the comments below. 

  • Expat Life
  • How to Stay in Shape while Working in the Middle East

    Staying fit and healthy while living in the Middle East is a challenge especially if you are new, unfamiliar with the food available, culture and environment. It can be overwhelming. In Oman, locals love to eat shawarma, yogurt, flavored rice like Biryani or Mandi and a lot of sweets! I love the flavors of the food. I also noticed how abundant the dairy products at a lower price like cream cheese, milk, and chocolates. Okay, I became addicted to those. And honestly before I didn’t care about what I was eating as long as I feed myself and I don’t exercise. I loathed the idea of doing exercise. I was lazy and was contented laying on my bed after work. I felt like I am always tired from work and sleeping was the best thing to do. My life was sedentary.

    Things hit me off when I struggled with bad skin, and my weight went up to 7- 10kg. People would quip me “Do you have chickenpox?” “You are gaining weight big time!” Well, it hurts, and for some reason, you will think what went wrong? I was always slim, but when I hit before the age of 30s, I noticed my metabolism gets slow. It was a wake-up call for me to make a change and start living a better and healthy lifestyle. I just realized I need to take care of myself especially I am living alone in a foreign country away from my family.

    For some people, the decision to be healthy and fit can be intimidating. Some might think it is equal to eating only vegetables and being expensive. Geared up with all the information I got online, and from friends, I started eating better food and veered away from my old habits. It was hard at first. It was a real struggle until I made the commitment to myself to start eating better.

    What are the advantages of being healthy and fit? Being physically active helps relieve the stress of being in a new environment. It will improve your mood, help you sleep better and have more energy to do your routine. You look better from the outside and become happier, healthier and stronger on the inside.

     

    So here is the list of what I’ve learned on how to stay fit and healthy while living or working outside of the country:

    1. Find a fitness buddy

    One of the things I’ve learned to stay on track is to find a partner no matter what is your choice of exercise. It can be your colleague or new found friend; these people will push you to stay on the top of your fitness goal.

    2.Walk or Run

    Every country has a different culture. Orient yourself with the new place. Be familiar with the country you are living. In a country like Oman, people are conservative, and adjustment is a must. If you wish to run, it is advisable to wear something loose. Dress in modest. Find a safe area to run. Do it with friends and colleagues. The best season in Gulf countries like Oman is from November until April so take the chance to be out and enjoy the good weather. Adjust your running time according to your work schedule. Run 2-3 times in a week. Or have a chance to walk at least 30 minutes every day.

    3. Join a race

    Grab an opportunity to participate in a marathon or any activities if there is to your place. Explore the regular activities to your new country that the locals or expats do and participate.  By doing this, you get the flavor of the country and also gain new friends.

    Diverse community of expats in Oman

     

    Marathon held in Muscat, Oman joined by Filipinos and other expats last January 2017.

    4. Find fitness places like gyms or sports complex in your place

    Explore your area for possible fitness place you can go on a regular basis. Gyms are everywhere in the Middle East.There are gyms/ sports centers in a co-ed atmosphere and fitness centers exclusive for the ladies. It isn’t surprising to have separate fitness centers for the males and females as it is a usual scenario in countries with a conservative culture. 

     5.Do home workout as much as you can

    If gyms are hard to find or expensive, why not try the home exercise. Try exercise to be part of your daily routine. Give at least 15-30 minutes of your time. Schedule your workout and do it 2-3 times a week. There are thousands of videos you can find online, which is the easiest and most accessible thing to do. Find a way to be active every day.

    6.Do outdoor activities

    Go hiking, biking or swimming. Find an activity that is readily available to the place you are living. Oman is rich in raw natural beauty. It is a fantastic place to explore the mountains, oasis (wadis) and the beaches. Grab the chance to check the nature while keeping yourself fit and healthy. 

    Swim in Qantab Beach, Muscat, Oman.

     

    Go hike and swim in Wadi Shab, Oman.

     

    6. Prepare and cook your food

    If you are new to the country, you want to try everything and resisting the temptations are the hardest thing to do. But be reminded you have all the time to try and explore the different food of the country you are staying. Explore the market or the nearest grocery shop and look for healthier options. Cook your food as much as possible.  Immerse yourself in the culture by incorporating a healthy version of the food. Sometimes fruits and vegetables are cheaper than the pizza or ice cream. In Oman, vegetables like cucumber, carrots, and olives are cheap. Take advantage and eat real food.

     

    Why not bake the chicken instead of frying it?

     

    Arabic salad with hummus (chickpeas), a healthier option if you want to eat out.

    7. Find a balance to what you eat

    Eat in moderation. If you are going to eat big unhealthy lunch, you might as well consider eating a small healthy breakfast and dinner. Learn about portion control.

     

    A healthier version of home cooked pasta. Pasta loaded with tomatoes and olives.

     

    Although living outside the country denotes lifestyle change, never compromise your health and body. Make time to develop healthy habits no matter where you are. Establishing a routine is an important key if you want to stay fit and healthy.

    Any additional tips on how to stay in shape while out of the country? Share in the comments below.

  • Expat Life
  • Al Hoota Cave: A hidden treasure in Arabia

    When I  heard the newly renovateAl Hoota Cave which has a train going inside the cave is finally open to the public, I didn’t miss the chance checking it out. Al Hoota Cave, located in Al Hamra, Oman is said to be the first and only show cave in the Arabian Peninsula with a total length of around 4.5km with 500m publicly accessible. Something interesting to be up on the mountain.

     

    img_6169
    My obligatory photo at Al Hoota Cave

     

    img_6176
    Electric train to the cave

     

    img_6215

     

    First, my friend and I have booked online tickets to Al Hoota Cave. They accept walk- in but to avoid long queue in buying tickets, I suggest doing it online and choose the time you want to go. Just make sure to arrive 15 minutes before the allotted schedule. By the time we went there, it was Eid Holidays. The line was long at the Visitor Center, and lots of people were visiting the place, locals, tourists, and expats. Since we bought our tickets online, we waited for our turn only for a while. There is a waiting area before you will hop in into the electric train that will bring you into the cave. 

    The train going inside the cave can carry 48 passengers from the Visitor Center into the entrance of the cave. The train ride was about 10 minutes going inside the cave. I enjoyed the rocky mountain view as we approached the cave. Kids and kids at heart enjoyed the electric train to the cave. 

     

    img_6202
    Inside the train where visitors were enjoying the rocky mountainous view.

    Before getting into the cave, there are some reminders to the visitors that must be noted:

    1.Inside the cave is around 45 minutes of a walk, so it is advisable to wear comfortable clothing and shoes. 

    2. If you have a condition such as claustrophobia or illnesses such as asthma, I do not recommend the tour because of limited air circulation inside the cave. 

    3.Humidity inside the cave might reach 85% in some areas. Bring some tissue or handkerchief with you.

    4.It is also not allowed to drink or eat inside the cave, but there is a restaurant at the Al Hoota Visitor Center where you can take some food or hydrate yourself before or after the visit.

    5.Once inside the cave, a local guide will assist the tour which is knowledgeable in speaking English and Arabic languages.

    6.Taking photos inside the cave is not allowed. If you plan to bring your camera, you have to surrender it to the personnel at the entrance of the cave.  

    In addition to the cave tour, there is also a geological museum and gift shop at the Visitor Center to complete your Al Hoota Cave experience. You can explore the ancient geology of Oman from the various display. As for last stop, you can visit the gift shop to buy local Omani handicrafts and cave souvenirs. As a foreign national, I paid 6.5 Omr for the ticket. For more information, you can check  Al Hoota Cave website for schedule and ticket prices.

    The natural beauty of the cave preserved million years ago is indeed one of the hidden treasures of the country. There is so much to see and discover other than the desert in the Gulf region. Adding a train to the exploration of the cave makes the whole experience unique in the Arabian Peninsula! 

     

    img_6217

     

    img_6220
    Sweaty after the cave tour!

     

    img_6192
    Part of the Geological Exhibition

     

    img_6182
    Souvenirs sold at the Gift Shop

     Tell me about your own cave experience on the comments below.