|Micronesia Travel Tips (No particular order)|
Micronesia is NOT in the South Pacific. Just thought I'd let you in on this secret. We are north of the equator and our toilets flush exactly the same as yours does unless you live south of the equator!
PLANNING YOUR TRIP, GOING THERE:Guam is a United airlines hub so that means that no matter what destination you go to there will be a return flight coming back to Guam. They fly to the Micronesian islands every day. However, depending upon your destination, you might not be able to get there every day from Guam. Let me explain.
If you're going to Chuuk, Pohnpei or the Marshall Islands your flight leaves Guam every other day “island hopping” all the way to Honolulu and returns the next day. If you're going to Kosrae or Yap your flight leaves twice a week and returns the next day.
If you're going to or coming from Palau you can do this every day. Confused yet?
PLANNING YOUR TRIP, COMING BACK: Every return flight from the island you're coming from all connect to daily flights leaving Guam. These flights go to Asia or the U.S. If you're coming from Yap or Palau you'll be leaving there very early in the morning. If your coming from the other islands you’ll probably arrive in the late afternoon.
CHECKING IN AT GUAM TIPS: Make sure your luggage is tagged through to where you are going. Mark you luggage so that you can easily see it when it's on the luggage conveyor.
ARRIVING: Each island has a small airport with their own immigration and customs. Local citizens go through their own entry areas and we line up at a "visitors" booth.
When you arrive you'll first go through the Federated States of Micronesia or Palau immigration and then go and pick up your baggage. Then you'll clear the island customs. There may or may not be luggage carts available depending upon if you clear immigration first.
Go directly outside the terminal and look for a sign with your name on it or the name of the group you're with. Then it's just getting in the van and enjoying the van ride which will take less than 30 min.
MONEY EXCHANGE: None available in any airport in Micronesia except Guam. The currency is the U.S. dollar everywhere.
PORTER FEES: There are no porters there to assist you. If the hotel pickup service assists you it's custom to give them a $1 tip per bag.
DEPARTING THE ISLANDS: Check in at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours before your flight leaves. You'll first check in at the counter, pay a departure tax, get your boarding pass, and then find somewhere to sit. all of th airports have a final security check station and waiting / transit room. The only airport in Micronesia that uses a jet walkway is Palau. The others require you walk to the plane and up a ramp.
TERMINAL FEES: Just about every airport in Micronesia has a departure tax. This usually varies between $20-30. The exception is Palau and you can expect to pay a total of $50 in "eco" green fees and a departure tax.
Don't be a "that's not the way WE do it where I come from" traveler! In other words, keep a low and smiling profile and don't draw attention to yourself. You are traveling to experience other islands, countries, culture and traditions. Coping an attitude is the fastest way to make your life miserable and very possibly all the others that are traveling with you.
PICKUP PHONE NUMBER: Make sure and get the phone number of the resort that you are visiting. It will be on their website. SIM cards in the PI are cheap but make sure you get one that covers the area you are going.
Q: What to bring? Remember that you're going to a warm climate.
-A light weight jacket that you can use as a raincoat also. If you get sun burned you'll appreciate this on the boat or at night. When it rains and you're on an open boat you'll get cold.
-If you're a coffee, tea, or soup drinker, bring along a heater coil (you can get em on Ebay) or a small coffee pot/water heater along with a packet or two of your favorite thing to heat up. Make sure it can handle the the voltage 220-240V 50hz.)
-If you have a tender stomach bring something to keep it calm and peaceful. Nuff said
-Lots of T-shirts and shorts. A hat. Sun glasses.
-mask defogger and sudafed.
-A blow up travel pillow. Dirt cheap on Ebay.
-Baby or some type of powder to keep the sensitive areas dry.
-A few large and small trash bags. Very useful for packing clothes in dive bags and storing smelly things when returning. These also make emergency rain jackets (island style rain coats) by making holes for your head and arms.
-A bag of individually wrapped chocolates to give some to the room and service staff. Does wonders.
Q: Do you have to have a passport? Absolutely. There are NO other options and they must be valid for 180 days after your trip return. Make sure, REPEAT, make sure that the name on your travel tickets exactly matches your passport and you're picture looks like you now. Some have been sent back because their names didn't match.
Q: Can you use Frequent Flier Miles? You may be able to use your frequent flyer miles IF you book far in advance. This is something you have to do personally. Check with the airline.
Q: What about weight restrictions? This totally depends upon what airline you are using, what class your flying in and what their luggage policies are.
NOTE: Make sure your bags are clearly marked with your name and address with something else beside the luggage tag. A lot of bags look alike so make your's distinctive.
Q: Should you take your gear or rent it at the destination? If you have your own gear I'd take it cause you're comfortable with it and know that it works. A dive vacation is not the place to be familiarizing yourself with rental gear. However, most of the rental gear I've seen has been pretty good.
Don't take your weights unless you have some weird sized ones that fit your super customized private weight belt. Or if you just love them.
Q: Are there any extra costs that you should expect? Yes, but these will vary between destinations. Some charge dive permit fees, a specific activity fee and some airport fees. Palau has ridiculous fees.. And shopping. Almost everyone shops.
Q: What's the water temperature? Each island has its own special features that make it unique. Diving in the west pacific region is known for its abundance of marine life and the diversity of species, cultural appeal and usually have warm tropical temperatures ranging from 79 to 85 degrees.
A skin (.5mm wet suit) or rash guard will usually do the trick for water temps above 80 degrees. For any temps between 76-80 a 2-3mm suit will keep you warm, but I'd also bring alone a slip over rash guard or something similar. Below that think 5mm. You DON'T want to get cold diving. Consider that you'll be making multiple dives in a very short time frame so KEEP WARM! Most dive operators also rent wet suits.
Q: What are "no seeums"? Diving in plankton rich waters has it's side effects. "No seeums" are very tiny, almost invisible, stinging organisms that you'll occasionally run into. If you are diving with only a swim suit your exposed skin areas are very susceptible. I highly recommend at least a skin suit or rash guard even if you don't get cold.
Q. What is the policy for "tipping" the guides and hotel staff? Tipping is up to each person and your personal experience at the location. No destinations in the Philippines require that you tip anyone. Some hotels or dive operators already have a built in gratuity in their price, particularly food, so it's best to ask the hotel manager or their rep what the policies are.
I recommend $7-10 per day for your boat crew and this includes the dive guide. The main reason I say this is that you'll see the boat staff work their butts off before, during and after the dives while the divemasters or guides only work during the dives and conducting the briefings. It's customary to put your tip into an envelope and give to their supervisor prior to leaving the resort. You can get envelopes at the front desk.
At most places hotel staff tips are divided equally. Feel free to ask the front desk if you have any questions.
Q. What about bringing prescription medicines or alcohol into a country or island? For medicines there is usually no problems. A good tip is to label everything you have and what it's for on a separate piece of paper to show customs if they have any questions. Some areas ban bringing in alcohol or cigarettes, however dive bags are rarely checked if you are going to a primary dive destination.
Q. What about bringing camera gear into a country or island? Again, there is usually no problem with this if you are not a professional photographer or videographer. If you are a professional at some areas you can expect to pay a "duty" or "photographers permit fee". It will be high.
Make a list of all cameras and lenses that you have along with their serial numbers. Put rechargeable batteries in your checked luggage, not in your hand carried bags. Wrap them in a zip lock bag.
Bring back up batteries as most smaller islands do not have everything you may need. Come prepared.
Q. What about the voltage and chargers? Exactly the same as Guam and the U.S.
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