Due to popular demand, I have added this page to the web site in order to provide a "Check List" for you to follow when you prepare for an excursion with us. Although the following info mostly pertains to Canadian citizens, I have tried to make it reasonably universal. However, use this as a reference only and please check with your local government and travel services for their most up to date info on any area of interest.
Passports & Visas
Japan: No entry or exit fees
Germany, Austria, Italy, France & Switzerland: No entry or exit fees.
New Zealand: no charges and no longer requires a Visa from many Countries
Argentina: charges a Reciprocity Fee of approximately $92 USD
Chile: No longer charges a Reciprocity Fee upon entry
You should make sure you have your prescriptions updated and then store them in your personal carry on luggage
There is no inoculations required to enter Japan, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, Argentina or Chile. However, it is a good idea to have the Hepatitis A shot and it is probably a good idea to have the Flu Shot as well. Discuss these options with your personal Physician.
Extended Medical Insurance is a must when travelling abroad and there are many options for Canadians when it comes to choosing carriers. The insurance packages are mostly the same; you want them to pay for emergency medical treatment and transport back home in the event of an emergency abroad. They will also offer you the option to buy Trip Cancellation, Lost Baggage and All Inclusive so you need to determine the one that is right for you. Because the premium depends on your age and the length of your trip, you need to shop around to find the best offer at any given time.
When you book your flight, the travel agent generally offers insurance right on the spot and it is usually underwritten through RBC Travel Insurance.
Check the following insurers as well: BCAA, Blue Cross, Travel Insurance Quotes and many more can be found by doing a Google Search for Travel Insurance for Canadians. Finally, you may be adequately insured if you have purchased an extended travel insurance package associated and offered exclusively through your credit card. You need to make sure that you have booked your flights with that card to obtain their coverage.
Money & Currency Exchange
In Japan, expect a cash economy where ATM access and credit cards are not as widely used as many other ski destinations in Europe or North America. For that reason, it is recommended to do a bit of research on the internet to familiarize yourself with the local customs and choose a strategy for currency exchange that is comfortable for you. Japan is a very safe society, possibly the safest country in the world to travel in, with little fear of mugging or the like and therefore it's safe to carry cash.
In Europe, New Zealand, Argentina and Chile, ATM's are common and accessible pretty much everywhere and that is the preferred way to purchase cash in the local currency at the best exchange rates. Manon and I have used this method to access our accounts on past trips; and, it works well. Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Bank Debit Cards are universally accepted however you may need a chipped Debit Card to access your account.
Note: If you are going to use this method to access cash, it is a good idea to check with your credit card issuer to understand how they will charge you for cash advances. We have a card that allows us to pre-load cash on to it and therefore do not incur extra fees for the cash advance[s].
In South America, you should carry a nominal amount of US$, perhaps between $300 and $400 for a meal in transit, a taxi or for tipping. Some people convert the cash to Traveller's Cheques but we have never done that ourselves. We do carry a money belt and fanny pack though for convenience and security.
Tipping & Gratuities
In Japan, tipping is not customary or expected. On the SST Ski Tours to both Nagano and Sapporo, tipping is not required for any of the incountry services.
In Europe tipping is customary similar to here in Canada or in the US. In Europe, SST Ski Tours takes care of the gratuities related to the transfers and for the hotels where meals are included. Guide Services, airport transfers, restaurant & bar other than described above are not covered and gratuities commensurate with the level of service you feel has been provided are suggested.
In New Zealand, tipping is not customary or expected and they roll the taxes into everything you purchase or acquire so, in the case when you receive exceptional service, you need to take this into account. 10% is a good rule of thumb because of the taxes being included; when you feel so inclined to tip a server. On the Yes Ski Improvement Program, you will ski with a Certified or Senior Ski Instructor for the week and it is customary to leave him/her a gratuity of $25 - $30 NZD.
In Chile, tipping is standard as it is in North America for food service, taxis and so on. However, Snofari Expeditions takes care of the gratuities for the meals that are provided and for the transfers as well. Will Wasson, our guide should be compensated with a gratuity commensurate with the level of service you feel he has provided.
In Argentina, the protocol for tipping is the same as Chile.
Skis, Boots & Other Equipment
Should you bring skis or rent is a question that is often asked.
When travelling to Japan, we plan to bring one pair of powder skis each and then, if there is a requirement for another ski, we will hire skis as required.
When we have travelled to Europe in the past, we have always brought our equipment with us but there are plenty of options to hire skis if you are so inclined.
When travelling to New Zealand, it is a personal choice for skis and poles because you can "hire" the latest 2014 models for less than $100 NZD per week and then you don't have the hassles of transport with the airlines. However, skis are more expensive to rent in Chile/Argentina and not as good a selection either so it is recommended that you bring your own on the South American trips for sure.
When travelling to South America, we have always brought our own skis. you can hire skis here as well if you find it more convenient.
Wherever we travel, we consider it good practice to pack our boots into our carry-on luggage so that if the airlines manages to lose our bags, we still have our boots.
Some people pack their own computers or iPads along and there is reasonable access to high speed connection in Europe, New Zealand and in South America but if you don't bring your own, the Internet Cafe's are a good alternative.
Cell phones, unless they are world phones will be expensive to operate. All Countries have a good inexpensive phone network of "phone stores" that you can call home from if you need to. For the past couple of years as a Roger's Mobility customer, I have subscribed to the "Roam Like Home" option which allows you to make and receive calls just as if you're at home as well as local calls as needed. You may want to check out this option for yourselves if you need to stay connected.
In Japan, wifi and internet access is not as extensive and as accessible as one might expect. For the 2016 SST Ski Tours, there will be free wifi access at the hotels but it may not be in all the rooms and only in the lobby for example. If you need good access on a regular basis, it might be worth your while to explore the option of purchasing a prepaid data SIM Card or Router as it is much cheaper than extending most roaming options currently out there for your cell phone/tablets.