Q&A – Cell Phones and ESL

February 25, 2010 11 Comments »

I get many emails from travelers all over the world asking me questions about my travels.  Here are some of the recent ones that are great to share with everyone!  If you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask!

Q:  from Dave – Brooklyn

I came across your blog and was very impressed by your decision to leave your corporate life and travel. My wife and I are planning a similar trip next year and would like to spend some time in SE Asia. I have a question regarding how you managed your cash while in Vietnam.  Did you use ATMs primarily or is there some other method. I bank with HSBC which is pretty global but I would like to avoid ATM fees. Also, did you use a special kind of mobile phone. I’m wondering if I should get an AT&T travel plan and then use my phone abroad.


You ask a great question – and I have some good news – there are HSBC ATMS’s all over Saigon (and Hanoi).  I ALWAYS manage my cash via ATM when traveling – it really is the easiest way and you get the best conversion rate – plus you don’t have to carry so much cash with you at once.  Nearly everywhere I’ve went in the world I’ve been able to find ATMS that work (Peru and parts of S. America and Africa were a bit difficult to find an ATM that took Mastercard backed debit cards).  ATMS’s in other countries rarely charge transaction fees – or you can talk to your bank and see if they can waive it somehow while you are international.  Don’t use Travelers checks – they are certainly a thing of the past.  I normally simply travel with ATM card and carry a bit of emergency US dollars (in new bills as some countries won’t accept old bills) just in case I can’t find another alternative.

Regarding your question about cell phone – my best advice is to use your existing phone – but unlock it from your US carrier so that you can add other SIM cards.  When I arrive in a country – I just buy a SIM card from that country (if I plan to be there for a while) and use that – it’s so much cheaper.  The US carriers will still charge you way too much; even on their ‘international plans’.  I can’t stress enought the benefit of an unlocked phone.  The US is the only place in the world that locks their phone to specific carriers and it’s really frustrating.  If you need to unlock your phone – just do some searches on craigs list and you’ll find people that will do it.  I went to China Town in NYC and had mine unlocked – there’s a hacker somewhere who will do it!  Or just buy a cheap simple phone in a different country and use that as your ‘travel phone’.  If it’s cheap enough…no one will want to steal it!

Q:  from Susan – Ireland

Wondered if you can recommend specific TEFL programmes? I have a ton of work experience, including teaching and training, as well as a good educational background, but I assume for most positions now days, you must be TEFL certified? and i hear that CELTA is the best?


I can’t say that I’m any expert on ESL certification.  I can only tell you that I did some research and decided to get my CELTA certification as I had also heard it was the best.  Yet in retrospect – I don’t think it CELTA vs. TEFL matters at all – especially with your other credentials.  I took my certification while in NYC – but it’s much more expensive to do in the US.  The school where I taught in Vietnam actually offered CELTA certification there for half the price and then you could apply for jobs with them.  So – it’s good to potentially research potential certification options (TEFL or CELTA) in the city where you want to travel to.  Also with credentials like yours – you may not need any further certification  – you may be able to apply for university ESL jobs in various cities…which would pay better!  CELTA certification doesn’t teach you anything about grammar…it teaches you how to teach and manage a classroom – these are skill you likely already have!  A good place to look for what jobs are out there and what the requirements are is TEFL.com – I get their daily newsletter about openings around the world.

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