10 Tips For Taking Amazing iPhone Photos In The Sun
photography

10 Tips For Taking Amazing iPhone Photos In The Sun

Taking photos in sunny conditions can often be challenging due to the negative effects of the strong light. But with a few simple tips you can learn to work with the sun and use it to your advantage. In this tutorial you’ll discover 10 essential techniques to help you take better iPhone photos in the sun.

1. Shoot With The Sun Behind You

One of the first lessons you learn in photography is to shoot with the sun behind you. If the sun is behind you, the subject in your photo will be illuminated from the front, ensuring that your subject is evenly and well lit.

Shooting with the sun behind you is great for landscape photography as it allows your camera to capture a well lit scene with blue sky, clouds and plenty of detail. At sunset, shooting with the sun behind you creates a lovely warm light in your scene.

If you’re taking portrait photos in very bright sun, shooting with the sun behind you may not be a good idea as your subject will be looking into the sun and may end up squinting. In these cases, you may want to find a bit of shade to move into.

If your subject is close to you, make sure you don’t create a shadow of yourself on the subject. Unless of course you’re trying to block the light from the sun so that your subject doesn’t appear in direct sunlight.

2. Adjust Image Exposure

When shooting in bright sun you may need to adjust the exposure of your image. Exposure refers to how bright or dark the image is.

Once you’ve tapped on the screen to set focus on your subject, check the viewfinder to see if the image is exposed correctly.

You can then easily adjust exposure using the exposure control in the native camera app (only available in iOS 8). Simply swipe down on the screen and the exposure slider with a sun icon will appear.

Move the exposure slider up or down to adjust the brightness of the image. Once, you’re happy with the exposure, tap the shutter button to take the photo.

3. Shoot With The Sun To One Side

As you have already seen, if you shoot with the sun behind you, the subject in your photo will be evenly lit from the front. This is desirable in many situations, but it often doesn’t make for a very interesting photo.

By changing the position of your subject relative to the sun, you can make the lighting in your photo much more interesting and dramatic.

If you shoot with the sun to one side of you, part of your subject will be well lit and part of it will be in shadow. You can see this in the photo above where the sun is shining into the photo from the left hand side.

The left side of the subjects are illuminated and the right side is in dark shadow. This makes the photo more interesting to look at as your eye will move from light to shade and back again.

Side-lighting can work well for any subject, but it can be especially effective with portrait photos. As well as creating a much more interesting photo, it has the added benefit of your subject not having to look directly into the sun which can make them squint.

4.  Shoot Into The Sun To Create Silhouettes

When you first start learning about photography you’re often told not to shoot into the sun as it will ruin your photograph. However, photography isn’t fun unless you break the rules! 

If you master a few simple techniques, shooting into the sun can actually result in incredibly stunning photographs. When the sun is in front of you, your subject will be lit from the back rather than from the front, which is why we call this technique “backlighting.”

Shooting into the sun can create a variety of interesting effects, and one of the most powerful of these effects is silhouettes. A silhouette is where your subject appears as a dark shape against a bright background.

To create a silhouette photo, start by positioning the sun or bright sky behind your subject. Now set the exposure for the bright sky. This ensures that the sky is captured with good color and detail, and as a result your subject will appear dark.

If you don’t do this, your camera might expose correctly for your subject, in which case the subject will appear too bright for a silhouette photo.

To expose for the sky, simply tap on the sky in the viewfinder. You can then tweak the exposure if necessary by swiping up or down on the screen to adjust the image brightness.

It’s usually best to shoot silhouette photos from a low angle. If you shoot from standing height you can end up with a lot of dark background behind the bottom half of the subject, and this won’t make your silhouetted subject stand out well.

Silhouette photos will have much more impact if the subject has only a bright sky behind them. Shooting from a low angle will help you get more sky behind the subject.

5. Backlight Your Subject To Reveal Color And Detail

You’ve just seen that backlighting can result in your subject appearing as a dark silhouette. However, if you use the sun to backlight a semi-transparent subject, the result can be completely different.

With semi-transparent objects such as leaves and flowers, positioning them so that the sun is shining through them can reveal color, texture and detail that you wouldn’t normally see.

This example of flowers shot with the sun behind them is a great example of this. The light shining through the semi-transparent petals has revealed their intricate detail and produced a vivid pink color.

With this type of shot you need to set the exposure for the subject rather than for the sky, otherwise the subject may appear as a silhouette.

To expose for the subject, simply tap on that area of the screen. You can then tweak the brightness using the exposure slider in the camera app if necessary.

6. Capture A Glow Around Your Subject

Another effect of positioning the sun behind your subject is something we call rim lighting. This is where you see a lovely warm glow or outline of light around the edge of your subject.

Rim lighting has the effect of separating your subject from the background, which is great in photos like this one. The thin outline of light around the horse makes it stand out much better against the dark background.

Rim lighting is especially noticeable around hair, so it works particularly well in portrait photos. Next time you’re shooting in the sun, look for rim lighting especially around people’s heads.

To achieve rim lighting around your subject, you may need to move around and experiment with your shooting angle until the sun is in the right position to create this effect.

Be careful not to let the sun dominate and ruin the picture. Try positioning the subject’s head or body directly in front of the sun to block out most of the bright light, or have the sun shining in from the edge of the frame.

7. Take Control Of Lens Flare

One of the major problems with taking photos in bright sun is that they can often be ruined by lens flare. Lens flare is caused by strong light hitting the camera’s lens and scattering through the optical elements.

This results in streaks or blobs of light across the photo, as you can see in the image below. Lens flare often degrades image quality by causing areas of overexposure or an overall lack of contrast.

Lens flare can be prevented by making sure there’s no direct light hitting the lens. You can do this by shading the lens from the sun with your hand – just make sure your hand doesn’t appear in the photo.

Alternatively, stand in the shade when you take the picture. Or avoid shooting into the sun in the first place.

You may however want to take a completely different approach and actually embrace lens flare in your photos. If you know how to control lens flare effectively, including it in your photo can actually enhance a photo taken in bright sun.

Once you know how to harness it, lens flare can be a great creative tool, adding drama or a romantic mood to your image.

To achieve lens flare without ruining your photo, you need to get just the right amount of light to hit the lens without over-exposing too much of the image. Positioning tree branches in front of the sun can help prevent large over-exposed areas.

For a more subtle lens flare effect, try changing your shooting angle so the sun is shining into the photo from one side, rather than shooting directly into the sun.

The key to achieving lens flare that looks good is to experiment with your shooting angle, and to get the subject in the right position relative to the sun.

8. Capture Shadows

Shadows are a great way of adding interest to a photo. Shadows are created when an object blocks the light from the sun and prevents that light from hitting the surface behind the subject.

As well as adding visual interest to an image, shadows can create mystery and intrigue, making the viewer wonder what’s hiding in the darker areas of the image.

In bright midday sun, shadows can appear very harsh. This often isn’t good for portraits as you can end up with dark shadows around the eyes, nose and under the chin. But captured correctly and in the right situation, harsh shadows can create a very dramatic image.

The best time of day for capturing shadows is usually when the sun is low in the sky. At this time of day shadows appear very long and can be used to fill an otherwise empty space in your photos.

Shadows even make great subjects in themselves, becoming the main focus of the photo. When shooting scenes with long shadows, try shooting from a low angle so that the shadows become more prominent in the foreground of the image.

9. Position An Object In Front Of The Sun

If the sun is ruining your photo, try eliminating the harsh light by positioning the sun behind an object in the scene. This could be a person, a tree, a building or any other object that is big enough to cover the sun.

In the photo above I made sure I shot from an angle where the sun would be positioned behind the tree on the left. This prevented unwanted lens flare or a large over-exposed area in the sky.

Alternatively, if there are clouds in the sky, wait for a cloud to move across and partially obscure the sun before taking your photo. You can get some great effects when the sun is shining our from the edge of a cloud, such as lens flare and glowing edges around the clouds.

10. Don’t Forget Composition In Sunset Photos

Sunset is the most beautiful type of light to shoot in. The rich, warm colors of the sky and interesting cloud formations make for stunning photos that often require little or no editing.

However, a lot of sunset photography often looks quite boring and doesn’t hold the viewer’s attention for long. This is because many people don’t think about how to compose their photos of sunsets – probably because they’re concentrating too much on the pretty sky.

While the beautiful colors of the sky are one of the main points of interest in the photo, you should also try to include a focal point or other points of interest for the view to rest their eye on.

A focal point could be a tree, a person, a building, etc. This focal point often ends up as a dark silhouette, but this is fine – the shape of the object against the sky creates something for the viewer to focus on once they’ve looked around the photo.

The sunset photo above wouldn’t really be that interesting if it didn’t include the person and the dog. And you would have nowhere to rest your eye in the image.

Also, think about where to position the horizon, the sun and the main subject in the frame. These things often look better placed off-centre rather than in the middle of the photo. You can use the rule of thirds to help you position the elements in the image.

Leading lines can also help draw your eye into the image. The converging lines of the track in the photo above do a great job of leading your eye towards the setting sun.

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10 Creepiest Places to Go Alone
travel

10 Creepiest Places to Go Alone

When does it start—this freaky desire to want to get creeped out from time to time. Does it start in high school? Middle school, or are we born hardwired to crave it?

Most everyone has heard the story of the teenage couple parked on a secluded lane when suddenly an arm with a hook for a hand appears at the car window. The girl screams like a banshee. Next thing you know, other couples are deliberately parking in that same lane, waiting to see if the man with the hooked hand appears.

Creepy movies are being pumped out by the dozens every year, and movie lovers can’t get enough of them. Some are based on true-to-life locations. So for anyone up for the thrill, here are ten of the creepiest places to go to alone. That is if you’re brave enough to take the dare.

1. Shawshank Redemption Revisited

Mansfield Reformatory is located in Mansfield, Ohio, set halfway between Columbus and Cleveland along Interstate 71. If you ever set eyes on it, most likely, it’ll feel familiar. That’s because Mansfield Reformatory is where the movie Shawshank Redemption was filmed.

There’s a lot of creepiness to go around here, thanks to the architecture alone.

The reformatory opened in 1896 and closed in 1990 thanks to a federal court ruling. Inmates housed here were kept in inhumane conditions. Cells were overcrowded and cramped. Medial care was abysmal.

Here’s the really creepy thing: Doctors were allowed to use experimental techniques on inmates in the name of discovering how to get them to be compliant within the walls of the prison. Some wardens were sadistic enough to allow torture.

While it was a working prison, over 200 people died within its walls. You can take a ghost tour of the facility but be careful not to be separated from your tour guide. Many believe the building is haunted by the souls of those who suffered cruel injustices and died here.

2. Bethnal Green, East London

During World War 2, many tube stations were used as bunkers during German air raids. On one particular 1943 day in March, the air raid sirens blew, and 1500 people rushed out of their homes and headed for the Bethnal Green tube station.

It was raining. Once inside the passageway, one woman clutching her baby slipped and lost her footing. As she began to fall, she grabbed hold of the gentleman in front of her. This set off a domino effect, with one person knocking down the person in front of them. The passageway was poorly lit, and people began panicking. All told, 173 people died in the crush of bodies. The government attempted to cover it up—to protect the public’s morale, they said.

It’s been reported by people who find themselves alone in the Bethnal Green station that they can hear the cries and screams of those people who died. One worker reported that, while staying late one night to finish some paperwork, he heard the cries and screams of the dead for fifteen minutes.

3. Hotel del Salto

It was once one of Columbia’s most exclusive hotels. Built in 1923 and converted into a guest house in 1928, it overlooked stunning waterfalls. Plans were made to convert it into an eighteen-floor hotel. This never happened due to contamination of the Bogota River.

The building was abandoned in the 1990s and became a hub for people intent on committing suicide. Today locals claim Hotel del Salto is haunted by the spirits of the people who’ve taken their own lives there. An eerie pall shrouds the hotel and grounds.

4. The Bird Suicide Grounds

In Jatinga, a small village in northern India, a strange phenomenon takes place every year. Most often, it happens on dark foggy nights between 8 and 9:30 pm in September and October across a mile-long strip of land. This is when hundreds of birds start diving to their deaths. For years, locals waited with poles to kill the birds.

Until a scientific explanation was given for this phenomenon, local tribes believed the birds were spirits flying down from the sky to purposefully terrorize the villagers.

Scientists studying this annual event have concluded that the birds are mostly juveniles. While migrating, they become disturbed by high winds as they roost at night. The birds take flight, see the lights of the village of Jatinga below and fly toward the light for refuge. Instead, historically, they were clubbed to death.

Steer clear of Jatinga in the autumn months if you don’t want to find yourself a real-life actor in a Hitchcockian movie.

5. A Town Deeply Rooted in Darkness

Is Point Pleasant, West Virginia, suffering from a 200-year curse called down upon it by a Shawnee chieftain? If you believe in such things, then steer clear of this town.

Ever since the curse, the town has experienced two devastating floods, followed by a massive fire. Nearby, Marshall University sent its football team and their coach on a flight for an away game. The plane crashed after takeoff, and everyone aboard was killed.

In 1967, the Silver Bridge connecting Point Pleasant to Ohio collapsed, killing 46 people. In 1978 a freight train derailed, spilling toxic chemicals into the town’s water supply.

Then there’s the reported UFO activity in the area and encounters with the Men in Black.

And finally, there’s the legend of a creepy humanoid creature known as the Mothman that has haunted Point Pleasant since the 1960s, with sightings of this creature flying over the town and terrorizing some people. People have reported it lurking outside of their homes. Others report being chased by it while driving down the highway. It’s even been claimed that pet dogs have been stolen by Mothman.

If you’re brave enough to walk the streets of Point Pleasant at night knowing its creepy history, and you’re not afraid to come face to face with a red-eyed, seven-foot monster, then more power to you.

6. The Hanging Coffins of Sagada

Don’t go walking alone below the cliffs of Sagada, Philippines, because there’s always a chance a coffin might fall on you,

Most cultures that bury their dead in coffins bury those coffins in the ground or put them in above-ground crypts. Not so with the people of Sagada. They hang the coffins containing the remains of their loved ones from cliff tops using ropes.

It can be an unnerving experience to be walking, expecting to see clouds and sky, but you see coffins suspended in mid-air instead.

In the local culture, when an elderly person senses their end is near, they will carve their own coffin from a log with the help of their relatives.

Once the person dies, their bodies are placed inside the hollowed-out log. Next, the coffin is taken to a holy cave, where a ritualistic service is performed. Then the coffin is hoisted up alongside the deceased person’s ancestors. It’s believed that the higher the coffin is hoisted, the easier it is for the deceased to cross over to the afterlife.

This traditional form of burial has been going on for over 2,000 years. Many tourists from around the world come to gaze upon this shocking spectacle.

If you’re one of them, remember that what goes up must come down. The ropes have been known to deteriorate to the point of snapping. When this happens, the coffin plunges to the ground. Make sure you keep yourself out of harm’s way.

7. The Romanian Bermuda Triangle

The Hoia Baciu Forest, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, covers 730 acres (about 3 square kilometers) in northwest Romania in the County of Transylvania. This eerie forest has a history of paranormal activity. Fog and strange aromas in the air go far in setting the stage for creepiness.

This area is haunted by a dark history with the souls of those who’ve been wronged still searching for peace. At one time, thousands of peasants were slaughtered here to reduce the number of people needing to be fed due to dwindling food supplies. Believers think this is what started the haunting of the forest.

Rumor has it that a local girl walked into the forest, disappearing for five years. When she reappeared, she hadn’t aged one bit. She also had no recall of what she was doing during those five years.

There is a mysterious, nearly perfect oval-shaped clearing in the forest where nothing has grown for centuries. Believers come to the oval with the intent of opening portals to other dimensions. This oval is also known for UFO sightings.

Visitors not steeped in local lore, having walked through the forest, later report strange feelings and sensations that visit them long after leaving the area. If you’re intent on a firsthand experience with creepiness, this might be the perfect destination for you.

8. Chillingham Castle

Located in Northumberland, England, this castle is haunted. This medieval castle dates back to the 12th century. It was initially built as a monastery and is considered to be the most haunted castle in England.

The most famous ghost is that of the “Blue Boy,” who was ordered to be buried alive. People who’ve stayed at the castle have reported a blue halo floating above their beds.

With the discovery of bones sealed inside a wall during renovations, the “Blue Boy” may or may not finally be at peace. It is a fact that many other ghosts remain.

You can book a stay at the castle from Easter to October. If you have the nerve, ask to stay in the Pink Room. That’s where the Blue Boy likes to make his spooky visitations.

9. La Recoleta Cemetery

This Buenos Aries cemetery is curious because it looks like a miniature city. La Recoleta is filled with row after row of mausoleums, over 4500. It covers fourteen acres (0.5 square kilometers). The designs of the mausoleums are extravagant because they house the remains of the wealthy and famous citizens of the city.

There are a few horrors to behold, which only adds to the creepiness of this city of the dead. One particular mausoleum set among those of various poets, politicians, and elites is the final resting place of David Alleno, who worked in the cemetery for thirty years.

Wanting to eventually be laid to rest among the well-heeled of the city, Alleno saved his entire working life to pay for a carved statue of himself that would one day watch over his own crypt.

Not long after the statue was finished, depicting him with a watering can, broom, and his ring of keys dangling from one hand, Alleno committed suicide. Visitors report seeing David Alleno walking along the cemetery paths with his keys still dangling from one hand.

10. The Kabayan

The Kabayan is in the province of Benguet in the northern part of the Philippines. It is a collection of man-made caves going back as far as 2000 BC. These caves are overflowing with well-preserved mummies.

The Ibaloi culture had a unique process of mummification. Shortly before a person died, he was given a salty drink to digest. Right after death, the corpse was washed and then placed in a seated position and set over a fire. This dried out the fluids. Tobacco smoke was blown into the mouth of the corpse, which dried the inside of the body, including the internal organs. Finally, the mummy was rubbed with herbs, put into a pine coffin, and placed in a man-made burial niche inside a cave.

There are so many caves that it’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth. If you visit the caves, make sure you bring along bread crumbs to drop along the way to mark your path so you can find your way back out.

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The train Bernina Express in winter
travel

10 of the best train journeys in Europe

A new book on rail travel across the continent showcases gorgeous scenery, historic routes and adventures at a slower pace.

Railways in Europe are many things. With their grand stations, history and evocative destinations, they evoke a timelessness that is absent from the uniform experience of flying. In recent decades, high-speed services have complemented classic routes, while the demand for more climate-friendly travel has grown and new options have sprung up, including a recent wave of night trains.

Lonely Planet, which for nearly 50 years has championed a down-to-earth, connected style of travel, has produced a new Guide to Train Travel in Europe aimed at unlocking adventures by rail from any starting point on the continent. Here the authors pick fantastic journeys from the book.

Paris to Berlin – fast or slow

A well-established network of high-speed trains and a huge choice of slower options connects two of Europe’s great cities. A glorious three-country tour would allow you to head from Paris to Brussels, travelling on to Cologne via the space-age architecture of Liège-Guillemins station. Cologne’s cathedral is so close to the station you can hardly miss popping in before boarding an onward ICE German fast service to the capital, which takes less than five hours. To see more than the immediate surroundings of the station buildings in each city, book separate tickets for each leg at trainline.com, or add in a stop of a few hours or an overnight booking via Deutsche Bahn (bahn.de). A high-speed connection from Paris via Frankfurt is also possible.

Amsterdam to Vienna on the Nightjet

One of several recent additions to Europe’s sleeper train scene, the Nightjet service operated by Austrian Railways (oebb.at) departs every evening at 7pm or 7.30pm from Amsterdam. As you doze off, the train will trundle alongside the Rhine, passing Cologne and Koblenz, then continuing south-east through Germany and entering Austria at Passau. A 9.19am arrival in Vienna ensures time for a lie-in and breakfast. This train can easily be combined with the Eurostar service from London or a ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam, or from Harwich to Hoek van Holland.

Loop the loop in North Wales

Some of the world’s most beautiful narrow-gauge railways can be found in Wales and two of the best can be combined in a loop that takes in the mountains and coastal scenery of Snowdonia. Catch a service from Llandudno Junction – which has main line connections – down the Conwy valley to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Change for the celebrated Ffestiniog Railway, a distinctive steam-hauled service that winds 13 miles down to the coast at Porthmadog. Return via the sublime steam service of the Welsh Highland Railway under the summit of Snowdon to Caernarfon, where you can catch a bus to Bangor and main line services.

From Bastia to Ajaccio through the Corsican interior

The Chemins de Fer de la Corse (Corsican Railways) is a narrow-gauge railway centred on Ponte Leccia – from where three main lines head to Ajaccio, Bastia and Calvi, all providing incredible views of beautiful and rugged terrain. The route linking Ajaccio and Bastia is the longest and most celebrated, taking three and a half hours, so is best done with an overnight stop, rather than attempted as a day trip. Corsica is well served by ferries from mainland France such as Toulon, Marseille and Nice, opening up a tempting train-and-ferry route from the UK.

Dublin to Madrid by train and ferry

It is possible to head from Dublin direct to mainland Europe. A largely single-track line skirts the Irish Sea heading south as far as Wicklow before veering inland and stopping in the appealing county town of Wexford, set on the estuary of the River Slaney. It’s a short hop along the tracks from there to the port of Rosslare for the twice-weekly ferries to Bilbao, which take about 30 hours. Then it’s a five-hour rail journey on to Madrid. Recommended stops take in Burgos’s treasured cathedral, the former Spanish capital of Valladolid and Segovia’s Roman aqueduct and Alcázar fortress.

Venice to Palermo – across the water in Italy

Heading from top to toe in Italy, this dramatic journey’s potential stopping points need no introduction. Fast Frecciarossa trains connect Venice to the gastronomic centre of Bologna in 90 minutes, with Florence 40 minutes down the line. An hour and a half further on you’re in Rome. From here the south of Italy opens up. For one of Europe’s most unusual rail experiences take a train service all the way to Sicily. At Villa San Giovanni in Calabria, you and your carriage board a dedicated ferry to Messina, in Sicily, from where the hectic fun of Palermo is a slow-rolling four and a half hours’ ride away along the coast. There are several daily intercity and night services that run from the mainland, via the ferry, through to the Sicilian capital including sleepers direct from Milan, Genoa and Pisa.

From coast to coast, via a mountain high – Oslo to Bergen

A contender for Europe’s best train trip, the Bergen Line (Bergensbanen) thunders past southern Norway’s mountains and lakes between Oslo and Bergen, reaching 1,222m at Finse station, where a snowball fight is generally on offer. The trip takes nearly seven hours, which passes quickly in a blur of incredible scenery on a comfortable intercity service. There’s scope to do a longer version of this route taking the Norway in a Nutshell tour, which includes the Flåm Railway – possibly the world’s most scenic branch line – and a boat journey through Nærøyfjord and Aurlandsfjord.

Paris to Barcelona on the slow train

These cities are linked by a fast train, but there’s a leisurely route south through France to the Pyrenees via Limoges, Toulouse and through magnificent rural and mountain scenery to Latour-de-Carol. While it’s possible to reach Latour-de-Carol by direct night train from Paris, you would miss the slowly unfolding views you can enjoy when doing this journey in daylight. From Latour-de-Carol a commuter line runs all the way to Barcelona and takes just over three hours. Possible stops along the way include fortified Ribes de Freser and Ripoll, home to an ancient monastery and a good starting point for hiking trails.

Budapest to Split on a sleeper

During the summer there’s a tempting night service between Hungary’s capital and the Adriatic. In recent years the train has left Budapest at midnight, getting into Split after lunch. En route it passes the Hungarian holiday playground of Lake Balaton and Zagreb, Croatia’s capital. Once on the Adriatic coast, buses head south to Dubrovnik, while ferries and catamarans radiate out to nearby islands.

Locarno to Domodossola through the Swiss Alps

Pretty much any journey in Switzerland promises jaw-dropping scenery, and on several routes trains run slowly specifically to show off the mountains, rivers and lakes that can be seen from the window. Travelling between Locarno in Switzerland to Domodossola in the Piedmont region of Italy, the Centovalli (Hundred Valleys) Railway is a short but scenic service past 52km of waterfalls, chestnut groves, church-topped villages, deep ravines and vineyards. Highlights include the Isorno Bridge near the village of Intragna and Intragna’s gorge.

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13 Common Travel Insurance Questions and Misconceptions Answered
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13 Common Travel Insurance Questions and Misconceptions Answered

Travel insurance is one of the most important things you’ll buy for your trip — no matter how long you are going away for. It is a must-have and I never leave home without it.

Buying travel insurance is a must. But since it is a confusing topic (try reading New York insurance law for fun. I did. It’s not fun), today I want to answer the common questions about travel insurance. These questions pop up in my inbox all the time and are the greatest points of confusion on the subject.

1. What is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance provides support, compensation, and medical care when things go wrong on the road. Depending on your policy, it could provide support and compensation if your luggage is lost, if you slip and break a bone hiking, or if you need to return home early due to a death in the family.

It’s a financial safety net for emergencies while you’re abroad

Contrary to popular belief, travel insurance is not a substitute for health insurance in your home country — nor is it a license to be foolish! It’s your emergency parachute should something terrible happen while you’re traveling.

2. Is Travel Insurance Just Health Insurance?

No, it’s so much more than that. While there is a medical component for sudden illnesses and accidental injuries, it can also cover all sorts of additional incidents, such as:

  • Trip cancelation
  • Lost/Damaged/Stolen possessions
  • Emergency evacuation
  • Expatriation should there be a natural disaster
  • Trip interruption

Travel insurance is for all-around emergencies, not just medical ones.

3. Is Travel Insurance Similar to Health Insurance? I Can Go See a Doctor When I Want?

Travel insurance is not a replacement for health insurance. It’s there for unexpected emergencies only, not regular checkups. And should you need to be sent home due to a health emergency, it will be your regular health coverage that kicks in once you’re back in your home country.

For that reason, you’ll need to make sure you have both travel insurance (for when you’re abroad) and regular health coverage (in case you get sent home with an injury)

Break a leg? Pop an eardrum? Get food poisoning or dengue? Travel insurance has you covered.

Want to go see a doctor for a physical or get a cavity filled? You’re on your own.

4. Can I Get Treated for an Illness I Already Have?

As a general rule, most travel insurance plans don’t cover pre-existing conditions. If you get sick on the road, travel insurance is there for you. But if you need medication for an ongoing chronic disease or a medical condition you knew of before you bought the policy, you could be out of luck.

Moreover, if you get sick under one policy and then you extend it or start a new policy, most insurers will consider your illness a pre-existing condition and won’t cover it under your new policy.

In short, pre-existing conditions are generally not covered unless you find a specific plan that provides coverage for them.

5. My Credit Card Offers Some Protection. Isn’t That Good Enough?

Travel credit cards, even the very best ones, offer only limited protection. Some cards offer coverage for lost or stolen items, medical expenses, and trip cancellation — but only if you booked your trip with that specific card.

In my experience (and I’ve had dozens of travel credit cards over the years) even if your card covers some things, that coverage limit is often very low. That means you’ll have to pay the difference out of pocket (and you’ll be surprised at just how expensive that can be!).

Bottom line: don’t rely on credit card coverage. While it’s nice to have its protection as a backup, I wouldn’t (and don’t) rely on credit cards for my primary coverage when abroad. It’s not a smart choice.

6. How Does Insurance Actually Work? Do They Mail Me a Card I Can Show the Doctor?

If you experience a major medical emergency that requires surgery, overnight hospitalization, or emergency repatriation, then you (or someone else) would contact your travel insurance company’s emergency assistance team. They can then help make arrangements and approve costs. Every insurance company has a 24-hour contact number you can call for emergencies. I always suggest travelers save this number in their phone before departure just to be safe.

For all other situations, you need to pay for the costs upfront, collect receipts, and then make a claim for reimbursement from your insurer. You’ll pay out of pocket and then submit documentation to the insurance company after the fact (so there’s no need to show a card to the doctor).

Be sure to keep all documentation, file any necessary police reports, and save all receipts. Companies don’t reimburse you based on your word. Keep documentation!

7. What About Obamacare? How Does That Affect Everything?

For Americans, the ACA, or “Obamacare,” covers you only in the United States, and since travel insurance is not a replacement for health insurance, it doesn’t get you out of its requirements.

But if you are away from the United States for 330 days or more, you don’t need to get US-based health insurance. You also get a three-month grace period each year before you get charged a penalty. Be sure to contact a tax accountant or the ACA hotline number for more information.

Just keep in mind that, if you need to be sent home due to an injury, travel insurance will not cover your bills upon arrival back to your country of residency.

8. I Read Reviews Online. All These Companies Suck. What’s Up With That?

I’ve talked with hundreds of travelers over the years about insurance and received thousands of emails from people who have had insurance issues. While there are some legitimate concerns, the overwhelming majority of people I interact with haven’t read the fine print of their policy.

People buy a plan, don’t read the exact wording, and then make (incorrect) assumptions about their coverage.

Naturally, they scream bloody murder when their assumptions don’t match up with reality and go on a digital tirade, leaving bad review after bad review.

And, to be honest, most people don’t write good reviews when they are helped. On the Internet, we love to scream our displeasure but rarely do we go out of our way to leave a positive review of something.

So take online reviews of insurance companies with a grain of salt. I’ve read them and most of the time, I think, “You didn’t read your policy!”

I’m by no means an insurance company defender, but if you’re going in with no documentation, no proof you owned what you lost, or you want to make a claim for something that is specifically excluded on the policy, you should expect to get denied.

Is the reimbursement process fun? No. It’s a lot of paperwork and back and forth emails with the insurer. But when you have all your ducks in a row, you get reimbursed.

9. I Got Drunk and Hurt Myself. Will I Be Covered?

Probably not! If you are doing something foolish (whether you’re drinking or not), insurance companies will want to know if putting yourself at unnecessary risk led to the injury. If, after investigating, they find you did, they can deny your claim. That’s not to say that they expect you to be sober your entire trip, but let’s just say you’re unlikely to get reimbursed if you’re drunk and decide that it would be a good idea to stand in the middle of the road and play chicken.

So, don’t be foolish!

10. Does Travel Insurance Cover Me in My Home Country?

Some travel insurance can cover you at home. For example, World Nomads travel insurance covers you either 100 miles from your permanent address (for U.S. residents), outside your home province (if you’re Canadian), or outside your home country (for everyone else).

It depends on your policy, and there are always conditions on when the coverage starts and ends and where you can travel to, so check this carefully first. Some companies let you be in your home country for a short period, others won’t cover you at all. So read the fine print!

11. I’m a Senior. What Should I Do?

Insurance companies don’t like covering seniors as they view them as high risk. Therefore, it’s a lot harder for older travelers to find comprehensive coverage. For seniors, try Insure My Trip. They usually have options for travelers in the 60s and 70s. Start your search there.

12. Will Travel Insurance Send Me Home If I Get Injured or Sick?

Under most circumstances, travel insurance will not repatriate you to your home country. In a nutshell, travel insurance is there to make sure you get the medical assistance you need should an emergency arise. Usually, that means sending you to the nearest acceptable facility — they don’t have to send you home.

So, if you break your leg hiking you’ll be taken to the nearest suitable facility and patched up. After that, the onus is on you to get home. Your policy will likely reimburse you for any part of your trip that you cancel due to your injury but it won’t pay for you to go home early (unless you have a life-threatening injury that requires advanced medical care).

If you feel this isn’t enough coverage and want additional medical transport and repatriation coverage, use a service like Medjet. They’re a membership program with affordable annual (and short-term) policies that include medical transport coverage that’s more comprehensive than what you’d find in your average travel insurance policy.

13. What About COVID-19 and Other Pandemics?

As many found out the hard way, travel insurance does not cover pandemics. While some companies have been making changes to their pandemic coverage (such as World Nomads, SafetyWing, and Medjet), many companies still don’t cover COVID/pandemics.

Be sure you understand exactly what COVID/pandemic coverage is offered before you book. Specifically, you’ll want to know whether you’re covered only for medical issues or if you have cancellation/trip interruption coverage as well.

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Travel Tips Monsoon Travel
travel

Travel Tips: Monsoon Travel

While you may have been planning your dream trip and already decided what to wear on your first day of arriving at your destination, you probably won’t be giving much thought to the material of the clothes you would wear, right? This is where many travelers make a mistake. Most of the monsoon tips from travel experts suggest that you carry clothing that is light and easily manageable. We would recommend you to carry simple synthetic clothing items because they dry up quickly. Avoid wearing jeans as much as possible because we all know how long that takes to dry!

Keeping aside the appreciation for monsoon, this is a time when insects are also on the rise because of the puddles of water everywhere. You wouldn’t want to fall sick on your vacation, would you? So adhering to error-free monsoon traveling tips, it is best to carry repellents and medicines to make sure that these insects don’t get to disturb you.

Biden marks World AIDS Day with plan to eradicate disease
Health

Biden marks World AIDS Day with plan to eradicate disease

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden will mark World AIDS Day on Wednesday with a speech laying out his vision for ending the epidemic in the United States by 2030.

The White House said Biden will deliver a speech outlining the plan for “redoubling efforts to confront the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

The target is for a 75 percent reduction in new infections by 2025 and 90 percent by 2030.

In the 40 years since US researchers encountered the first cases of what later became known as AIDS, there have been 700,000 US dead and more than 36 million fatalities worldwide.

Today, there are 1.2 million people in the US living with the disease, but “we celebrate the remarkable gains we have made,” the White House said in a briefing paper on the 2030 plan.

Between 2015 and 2019, new HIV infections fell eight percent, “a hopeful sign,” the White House said.

The shift Biden is ordering will aim to “aggressively reduce new HIV cases, while increasing access to treatment.”

According to a senior Biden administration official, one of the innovations will be to accelerate participation of the private sector in a “national effort.”

Focus will also be put on “addressing social determinants of health that influence an individual’s HIV risk or outcomes.”

According to the official, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic could ultimately strengthen the healthcare system in the even lengthier struggle against AIDS.

The response to the coronavirus has spurred advances in self-testing at home and telehealth, as well as boosting the role for pharmacies all ways to engage the public in a complex healthcare endeavor.

Top US infectious diseases specialists, including Biden’s lead medical advisor Anthony Fauci, brought years of experience from fighting AIDS to the Covid-19 crisis. Now, new lessons gained during the pandemic may be applied to AIDS.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what additional insights and knowledge and expertise researchers have gained through fighting this virus that can now be applied to our search for a vaccine and a cure for HIV,” the senior official said.

The United Nations said Monday that HIV infection rates are not slowing fast enough around the world to reach the goal of eradicating AIDS everywhere by 2030.

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6 Tips For First-Time Travelers Abroad
travel

6 Tips For First-Time Travelers Abroad

These tips for traveling abroad for the first time will put you on the right path! Have you ever dreamed of going to a country outside of your home? Desired exploring Africa or Asia or anywhere where you may find yourself immersed within a new culture? If you haven’t gone outside of your country, this may be your chance to take that leap! From the looks of it, traveling is always a good idea and an exciting way to explore elements outside of your usual comfort zone. However, it can be a very daunting experience too, especially for first-timers.

If you already understand what it’s like to travel around your home country, you know how thrilling it is to embrace new sights and try new things. But, when it comes to your first time traveling abroad, it’s terrifying to think about misunderstandings when there’s a language barrier, cultural norms that are the opposite of back home, and feeling unusually lost in a place that you’ve never experienced throughout your other travels. Going abroad is a whole different ball game from traveling at home.

Don’t sweat it. After your first time traveling overseas, you will get used to, and learn how to cope with, that feeling of culture shock every time you explore a new place. Being prepared ahead of time will be one of the best things you can do for yourself along with your first time flying internationally alone. With these simple tips for traveling abroad for the first time, you will be more at ease when you’re leaving for your very first time traveling overseas:

Tips for first time travelers abroad to follow

1. Make sure you have your passport ready and see if a visa is required.

Your program provider probably already told you this, but you need to have your visa and passport sorted in advance of your departure. The process to apply for a passport can take a lot of time and several weeks to be delivered, so don’t try to apply for one last minute before your departure time. Before you start booking flights and places to stay, make sure your passport has been handled well in advance. When booking international flights and hotels, a passport number is usually required.

Once your passport is delivered, scan the identification page and keep copies of it. Allow a family member or a trusted friend to keep one page and then keep another copy with you in your wallet as you travel. The reason that you would have to keep one for yourself is because sometimes when you check into a hotel, the hotel may hold onto your passport during your stay to make sure you have paid for your stay, and to also help prevent it from getting stolen. (Although, there are sometimes safes in hotel rooms that you can use to lock your passport in.)

Check which places in your itinerary will require a passport check, as some places do require you to bring your passport to visit an attraction. Also, depending how long you’re staying and what country you’re staying in, a visa may be required. A visa is a document issued by a country that gives you permission to travel there. Your provider will have information on the procedures for applying, but there are great resources online too.

2. Research the country, program options, its norms and traditions, and the language.

When you create your plans for your first time overseas, you should do plenty of research aside from the introductions and resources presented by your program. You should find out what that country is like by accessing message boards or Facebook groups for your program, and talking to others who have already traveled there.

You should always check first with your program to see if they have accommodations such as housing and meals to provide you. Find out if you should exchange any currencies ahead of traveling, what are considered the local norms and traditions to get a feel for the culture, and maybe learn some basics of the language(s) spoken there. It always helps to know how to say “hello”, “bye”, “thank you”, and “where’s the bathroom?” Luckily, there are now apps that can help you simply translate languages, such as the Google Translate App. Always try to be as accepting of others’ cultures as much as you can.

You should also check with your bank to see if you need to set up travel alerts as you use your bank cards. That way your bank will be notified that you have left your country, and they won’t shut off your access due to what they think are strange charges. Ask your bank about international fees and if there are any partner banks in your next destination. Using your card can create fees that add up fast!

Pro tip: Check with your program to see if there are available resources that they recommend to you to get you acquainted with your host culture. These resources can vary from articles, suggested book lists, and maybe even popular music groups from your destination. You can also do a lot of research online on sites like TripAdvisor, Travel Channel, and Matador Network.

3. Understand the procedures to stay safe and to avoid disappointment.

One purpose of doing research before going abroad is to be prepared ahead of time and to open up your mind to avoid disappointment. See where your comfort levels lie. Can you handle bad traffic, pollution, trash, a different scenery, poverty, or language barriers? Do you like experiencing mountains, cities, or beaches? If you research all the possibilities and types of places you’ll come across as you travel abroad, your expectations will stay realistic.

It’s important you always stay aware of your safety when traveling to a new country. Your program will probably go over safety protocols with you for disasters and other emergencies, but having street-smart knowledge is key too. You should always keep your senses heightened to thwart pick-pockets. Keep your bags and wallets secure as you’re walking around. Avoid wearing anything too over-the-top or lavish, and keep your money away when walking. If possible, try to leave your credit cards behind in a safe along with other valuables.

Wandering around a place you aren’t too familiar with, along with the language barrier, can make things feel more uncomfortable and place you at risk for “wrong place, wrong time” situations. Make sure you also have your itineraries handy for your flights, information for the hotels you’re staying in, and tour guides booked ahead of time to avoid scams. Share this information with a reliable family member or friend so that someone knows where you’re supposed to be, just in case.

4. Try to avoid overpacking and bring some useful technology with you.

It’s a common mistake to overpack. However, packing light abroad will help you travel much more easily. You can take your luggage up a flight of stairs more easily, and the process of getting on and off public transport will be WAY less cumbersome. As you’re packing, determine the amount of days you’ll be staying, and adjust accordingly.

Obviously pack enough clothes for the whole time you’ll be there (and remember that doing laundry abroad is an option), and make sure to check out the weather forecast of the country you’re heading to. It would suck to show up to Bali with a parka. You should avoid overpacking, because it will help leave some space for important items too, such as your medicines, technology, and some space to bring home some souvenirs.

For technology, bringing a portable battery—it will be a life saver in your travels. Don’t count on WiFi to be available everywhere, since it’s hard to access in many countries, especially in the developing world. But hey, it’s always nice to unplug once in a while! There are options to get WiFi from portable WiFi routers too, in case you really need it for communication.

You should also check with your phone company about using your data abroad, and how much it will cost. You might even want to consider buying a SIM card when you arrive in your new country, if your phone allows one. They are usually about $20 on a prepaid card; notify your phone company to let them know they should forward your current phone number to a new one.

Power adapters are essential to buy before traveling abroad as well. They aren’t always easy to find unless you’re in a major tourist place, so bringing one with you will save you the hassle of finding one abroad. You may find one in your country or online for a lot cheaper than other countries will sell it for.

5. Get travel insurance!

A common fear that comes across most first-time travelers abroad is, “What if I get hurt or sick?”. Anything can happen as you travel so it’s essential to know how you’ll cover medical expenses. It can be expensive to receive medical help overseas, and some healthcare providers overseas may ask you to pay up front for the treatment. However, travel insurance that has emergency medical benefits can cover those expenses, and even emergency medical transportation costs. If your injury or illness is beyond help in your destination, your travel insurance can cover the costs of getting you home.

There are so many other things to consider as you travel abroad that may go wrong besides feeling hurt or sick. Travel insurance can reimburse you for any additional accommodations that are required during your trip if you run into a long delay. A lot of Americans call the US Embassy for help when emergencies come up, but there is only so much that they can do.

When you have travel insurance, it can cover financial losses, medical care, emergency transportation, lost baggage, and canceled or delayed flights. Compass Student Insurance and CareMed affordably cover a wide range of issues and are perfect for students, interns, and workers who travel through program providers.

6. Learn how to deal with jet lag.

After a fulfilling trip abroad, along with the stress of culture shock and preparation of traveling abroad, jet lag can be a handful to deal with too (luckily, we have 12 ideas for how to beat jet lag to the punch!). Try not to take a nap on your first day abroad, even though it may seem tempting.

Fight against jet lag by getting rest before your trip. Drinking a lot of water during your flights helps combat the effects of jet lag as well. You should also try to take it easy the day you arrive in your new destination; scheduling too many tours or activities is a surefire way to cause burnout or crashes in energy. It’s always easier in the long run to give yourself some time to take it slow until you can overcome jet lag completely.

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