USA & L.A. – Difficult Arrival

Arrived this morning after some very long flights (2 segments from Singapore with a total of 17 hours without the layover in Narita).

Border control was tricky! Even before boarding, the crewmembers of the airline are very strict, I assume as a precaution:

  • You  need to prove you have a return ticket, or buy one directly before checkin to the USA
  • You are screened about your plans
  • You need to provide an address for you stay (at least the first day). I did not have any concrete plans, but quickly did a lookup of a hostel address.

I was lucky that my ESTA application from last year was still valid, so if you don’t change passports you can use up the remaining days (I believe you have till the end of the year after your application to use up 90 days).

It was however not a good idea to make jokes about my shoes… I was just checking on what they were screening them and the officer-lady was making jokes about the potential smell they were giving off (not the case 😉 ), on which I somehow managed to use the word ‘shoebomb’. She was shocked and sushed me pretty hard. (with a wink). Indeed, not my best move 🙂

Delta airlines have a very funny way to brief you about safety rules. In their movie they will add a lot of humor. To give some examples, look at the pictures to have an impression.


The stopover in Japan (Narita, Tokio) brought back some memories: the special toilets! They have many special features: a warm seating, a place to sit your baby, sprinklers with different modes, etc… use your imagination 🙂



Interesting to notice about the USA:

  • Even in the case your end destination is not within the USA but you have a landing and stay in transit, you’ll need to have an ESTA. I don’t think the USA has something such as a ‘transit zone’.
  • Make sure that you activate your creditcards for the USA specifically & to withdraw money as soon as you can. The USA is very known for creditcard fraud, since you don’t need to use your pin or provide your autograph.
  • You do have a policy on the amount of alcohol / beer you bring into the USA. My officer took me out of the queue and found I had more as the allowed amount on me, but as I explained to him they would serve as a gift for locals, he let me pass exceptionally. So both in Singapore & USA I seem to have unwillingly been smuggling alcohol, I hope it will serve me well 🙂

Getting to L.A. city is easy. For about 8 USD you can get a shuttle bus named FlyAway shuttle where you pay upon arrival. From there, it’s easy to take the subway. For 1 USD, you’ll get a plastic card to topup. One ride is abour 1.75 USD.

The subway trains don’t have any markings to see your current location on the track, but they do announce everything clearly and the most interesting landmarks of that stop.

I tried to avoid the website booking fees, it however did not make much difference. Furthermore, they also charge 14% city tax (not included in online booking fee), by which the total price for bed in a 8-bed dorm was around 45 USD / night (region Hollywood). Not so cheap…


My 11 basic travel tips

To kick-off this blog, I would like to share several basic travel tips based on my personal experience from the past. I’ve wrote these down as they came to my mind, another list might follow in the future. I hope it can inspire you!

  1. Make a checklist and pack at least 1 day before. That way you can sleep over it 🙂 It will make you feel comfortable that you have everything you need, and if not you can still buy it. Buying stuff for most things can also be done at the country of destination. You can also make a template out of your checklist, so it can be re-used for other travels.
  2. Make copies of all your documents, and keep those copies separated. Same goes for your cash & plastic money, spread & hide it. Money for example you can put under your shoe soles. About making copies, it’s not a bad thing to give all your accounts & passwords to someone you trust… just in case. Personally I’ve distributed everything in my family, and they need to contact each-other to match all the information.
  3. Get guidebooks, apps, etc… when still at home, download some specific apps for the cities / countries you’re going to visit. It can help you plan during your transportations and dead moments. Also, it can be wise to ‘cache’ for example google maps of that region, it helped me a lot in the past to find addresses. Keep in mind: some (physical) guidebooks you cannot get where you are travelling, and they can become bulky. When using apps, your battery drains. So think about getting a battery pack (compensates for the bulky weight of a book). I personally love Lonely Planet & TripAdvisor.
  4. Earn miles! Keep your (physical) boarding passes to be sure, or make a picture of them as soon as you receive them. Earning miles can help you to get free flight segments (at a fixed number of miles) and for example free extra luggage, and if you fly frequently enough, upgrades :). There are multiple alliances, and you should choose a specific mileage program for multiple airlines. Personally I have Miles & More (Lufthansa, Star Alliance), Flying Blue (Air France, Skyteam), Executive Club (British Airways, OneWorld) and Etihad Guest.
  5. Do couchsurfing (! One of my highest recommendations. Don’t be mistaken, it’s not about accommodation, it’s a full experience. It will enrich your travels & mindset. Be kind to your hosts, bring them for example a gift from your country. For this reason, there is no age limit on surfing. This also benefits a lot if you’re travelling alone. You can also find couchsurfing events in the big cities, where you’ll find a mix of locals and travelers.
  6. Find out if you have (old) friends abroad. Maybe a bit strange since travelling is mostly about new experiences, but if a friend now lives abroad (short or long while) it’s good to stay connected and there is no better way to just pay them a visit! They might understand the best the cultural differences if you’re from the same country and offer specific help if highly needed.
  7. Just as with your own country, you can find many discounts on sites as groupon. This is particularly interesting now as a traveler since it offers serious discount accommodations, events and amusement tickets.
  8. Getting advice from locals. Just be careful who you ask: know that for some information providers, when asking for information, some people will only refer to those places they have partnership with. This way they can get commission or referral fees (or something else in return). It doesn’t hurt to double check things before booking. When getting advice before your travel, an obvious idea is to get to know whom from your friends did part of your itinerary (just don’t forget to do so in time).
  9. Almost every big city has ‘free tours’. These tours operate on voluntary basis and on tips. It’s often not just any classic tour, depending on the city you’ll hear not so common anecdotes, things that came in the local newspaper, etc… Be kind to your guide 🙂
  10. Before flying, think about the airport screening. It can be more comfortable to avoid wearing lots of things such a watch, belt and shoes with metal. I put these things in my backpack before arriving at the screening.
  11. Enjoy and be open minded! Don’t plan everything as it will only limit you. Be kind to people and the world will be beautiful!
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