Tag Archives: switzerland

Switzerland: build up resistance to Bali belly

If you don’t know what Bali belly is, check: Bali Belly – What it is and How to Avoid it and see also TripAdvisor: Bali Belly, what is it?

The first time we visited Bali in 2014, we didn’t even know about Bali belly and we didn’t have any problem. We were in Malaysia first, though, and in Malaysia a vomited my soul (and emptied my guts in liquid format) after getting a dodgy drink in the street (I will never buy a drink from the street again).

Anyway, long story short, many forum posts suggest to drink Yakult in Bali and already 1 month before your trip to Bali.

In Switzerland you can buy Yakult at Coop, check Probiotic drinks (including Yakult) at Coop.

You can find also Probiotic at Migros.

How to get a visa for Vietnam?

TL;DR: scroll down and check how to obtain an e-visa.

Get the Visa the old school (and expensive) way

Some years ago I wanted to go to Vietnam, but I gave up because of the bureaucratic way to obtain a visa. I mean, look on the Vietnam Embassy’s in Switzerland how to apply for a Visa.

They tell you to go in person to Bern or to send the passport with a pre-stamped envelope to send it back per post, as long as a receipt that you paid the fee in advance. The fee was listed nowhere in the website, so I had to ask it at their bluewin email address.

The answer I received on 2019-08-20 was:

Dear Sir/Madam,

1. The visa application fees vary according to the duration of your stay and number of entries. The current visa fees are as follows:
- One month visa, single entry: CHF 70 per person.
- One month visa, multiple entries: 85 CHF per person.
- Three month visa, single entry: CHF 85 per person.
- Three month visa, multiple entries: 120 CHF per person.

* Remark: For children up to 12 years old, the fees are 10 CHF less than those applied to adults, namely 60 CHF, 75 CHF and 110 CHF respectively.

The above fees are calculated for normal processing procedures (five to ten business days). If you wish to obtain a ONE-MONTH express visa (one-two days by mailing, or directly if you come to the Embassy), you must add 20 CHF more for each visa.
The fees must be paid in advance by bank transfer (preferably) or in cash. In case of transfer, please enclose a copy of payment.

2. When you enter and exit Vietnam with your child, birth certificate and/or Authorization to travel for minors is not required.

Best regards,
Consular Section
Embassy of Vietnam in Bern

70 CHF per person, and 10 CHF discount for a child, that makes for me, my wife and our baby: 70 + 70 + 60 = 200 CHF + postage fees to send the passport and a pre-stamped letter to send it back. It’s a ridiculous amount of money compared to the next option.

 

Visa on Arrival (letter fee + queue and 25 USD stamp fee on arrival)

Check this thread on TripAdvisor about the Visa on Arrival.

I read you can get a visa on arrival (VoA) in a form of invitation letter (or similar) sent by an agent online for a price varying from 10 to 25 USD + a stamping fee of 25 USD per person on arrival.

If you google for “visa to vietnam”, you find several agents offering the same service. I did my research to be sure that they were not scams. In the tripadvisor thread I’ve read that they are legit. The only annoying thing is that when you arrive you still need to fill a form, queue somewhere and pay 25 USD.

Examples of services offering the approval letter for the visa on arrival:

Conclusion: e-visa

The funny thing is that the e-visa is listed as option in the Vietnam embassy in Bern (visa on arrival not mentioned at all) but described as not yet applicable. “Vietnam E-visa pilot project is not applicable yet in Switzerland” (Switzerland’s “Ordinary” passport is not checked in the list they linked, updated in 2018).

I even e-mailed them to clarify. As read in the forums I didn’t expect much advertising of the e-visa, as the e-visa “product” is basically a competitor. If all tourists do the e-visa, the embassy will lose a lot of money. Why should they advise their competitor? It seems crazy, but every office ultimately wants to survive and make income… the answer I received on 2019-08-26 was:

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your email.

The pilot E-visa scheme has been recently implemented for Swiss citizens on an experimental basis until 01 February 2021, applied for TOURIST visa. This visa scheme is managed exclusively by the Vietnam Immigration Department and absolutely independent from the Embassy.
The official website for E-visa is: https://evisa.xuatnhapcanh.gov.vn/vi_VN/trang-chu-ttdt
However, as far as we know from some Swiss customers, the E-visa is not working properly at the moment.
In the meantime, we recommend you to follow traditional procedures in order to get a Vietnam visa, especially when your trip is scheduled for few upcoming weeks.
If you have any difficulties while applying an E-visa, please contact directly the Vietnam Immigration Department.

For other information please feel free to contact us.

Best regards,
Consular section

The link in their reply matched the proper entity in Vietnam issuing e-visas: Vietnam National Web Portal on Immigration E-visa page. Check in the List of Countries that allowed E-visa issuing if your country is listed. Surprise: Switzerland is listed!

If you click on the form to apply for e-visa (a bit slow to load), Switzerland is in the dropdown list of nationalities.

The fee is 25 USD. When you arrive in Vietnam you go ahead to the passport control with the printed e-visa and they put a stamp on your passport. No queues, no additional stamping fees. So, despite the risk that for some customers “it is not working properly” I think that the e-visa is the way to go.

Enjoy your trip to Vietnam.

Withdraw money abroad without any fees

If you are familiar with credit cards, you know that typically (I would say in the majority of cases) banks will get a commission if you withdraw money abroad (in many cases, even in the same country).

Situation in Switzerland

In Switzerland, even the big banks (UBS for example) doesn’t let you withdraw money for free (see  UBS Maestro Card prices: they charge 1% commission for withdrawal, see also UBS Credit Card prices: they charge 3.5% commission for withdrawal, 4% if you go over-the-counter).

Same for the popular free credit cards Visa or Mastercard SupercardPlus (from COOP, issued by Credit Suisse) and Visa or Mastercard Cumulus (from Migros – previously GE Money Bank, now issued by Cembra bank). For every withdrawal the user will have to pay 3.75% commission (minimum 10 CHF) + 1.5% surcharge for foreign currency use.

For example, if you withdraw 1’000 CHF abroad (I used CHF for my convenience, for easier calculations. Say you need the equivalent in Thai Baht), the commission would be 37.5 CHF + 15 CHF because of the transaction in foreign currency. In total you would lose 52.5 CHF in commissions. Of course you don’t withdraw so much money, but just divide per 2 (500 CHF: 27 CHF commission) or do the math yourself, for smaller amounts. This is quite ridiculous.

Best way to withdraw money without any commission

Luckily, I found a good and FREE alternative to solve the money problem when traveling: the DKB credit card (issued by Deutsche Kreditbank, Berlin, Germany – but you can open an account per post, even in Switzerland and other countries) is the only one I’ve found so far that lets you withdraw money without any commission. I was a bit skeptical, how can this be possible? Well, I don’t know the reasons (I speculated below, see my note about futurism) but it works!

DKB credit card

Just follow this rule: use the credit card to withdraw money from an ATM. For all  other uses check their prices and conditions. E.g. I’ve read that if you go inside a bank and interact with a person, then you have to pay a commission. So don’t do that, just use an ATM.

When I order something online, if I pay in Euro, there is no commission. I’ve tested this already when I booked my flight (via airline direct) and when I booked my hotel (via HRS).

UPDATE 2019: I have this card since July 2013 and used it abroad many many times. If you have the Aktivkunde status, you can withdraw money and use the credit card in foreign currencies than euro without fees.

Aktivkunde?

For the first year from the moment they open a relationship with you, you will have the Aktivkunde status for free. After that, you need to make sure to deposit at least 700 euro each month. You can deposit them and withdraw them one day later. If you lost the Aktivkunde status, the only way to get it back is to do such deposits for at least 3 months. I lost the Aktivkunde status and tried to ask if it would be possible to get it back faster, they answered me that it’s not possible, I can back it back only after 3 months of moving 700 € back and forth from one account to DKB and back, how stupid is that if you ask me…

Without Aktivkunde status, if you withdraw money from ATMs you will be charged 1.75% fees. If you use the credit card outside the Euro zone, the transaction will be also be subject to 1.75% fees.

So, if you lost your Aktivkunde status and realized it just before your next trip abroad, in a few words, you are screwed.

If that happens I suggest you to order a Revolut credit card, at least with Revolut you won’t be charged a cent for using it in a “different currency”, the card is made for making it easier to use it with any currency in the world. The only downside is that you can withdraw only 200 € / month, after that every withdrawal will be subject to 2% fees. You can upgrade the card, but then you will pay a monthly fee. Get Revolut via my referral link.

Since I like free credit cards that allow you to withdraw also a bit of money for free, I can recommend you a to get TransferWise via my referral link.

How to get this card?

Simple, go to the DKB website website and fill the forms. It will take 5 – 10 minutes of your time. You will receive a confirmation email and to verify your identity online you can just follow the link from a tablet, phone or computer equipped with webcam. Then DKB will proceed and open a relationship with you, or reject it.

After a week and a few days, you will receive in 3 separate letters containing 1) the credit card, 2) the credit card pin code and 3) the e-banking password.

DKB e-banking security

You can login to the DKB e-banking with your username (Anmeldename) and a password (PIN). What I don’t like, is that the PIN code can be only 5 characters long and contain a few special characters. On the other hand, the username can be between 7 and 15 characters long and it can contain more special characters. Both username and PIN can be changed under Service > iTAN-Verwaltung und weitere Funktionen, this is quite handy.

Anyway, on my opinion, the username should be short and easy, the password long and complex. I wonder why they decided the opposite way.

For extra security, like any decent bank, there is 2FA (2 factor authentication) required each time you want to create a transaction.

The e-banking will automatically log you out after 2 minutes of inactivity.

DKB e-banking reports

With reports I mean seeing your transactions. It’s quite important to check regularly your transactions. This way you can report eventual abuses.

I withrdrawed some money on Wednesday at 09:00. I could see the transaction only 2 days later (Friday at 09:00). This is a bit slow, but probably this is how credit cards work. Just keep it in mind.

What do other people think about DKB and this card

Have a look at these reviews (only in German, but I guess you know google translate, don’t you?):

Puketastic.com: Im Ausland (kostenlos) Geld abheben – meine Erfahrung mit dem DKB Konto

Kritische-anleger.de: DKB Erfahrungen - seems that almost 50% are not happy with DKB, ready why.

DKB-Kreditkarte: Ein kritischer Blick - this traveling blogger was totally happy with the DKB credit card (for the reasons I mentioned above: you can withdraw money for free), till the card was “stolen” -after a successful withdrawal of money if was not given back- by an ATM in Cuba, it was illegally used for a couple of thousands USD and the girl didn’t get her money back, when normally a serious credit card institute has a sort of insurance for this kind of cases (for example, with UBS, in my past, I reported a card misuse and they refunded me when I reported the case). Cuba, anyway, is a particular case. Many tourist guides warn to be careful with ATMs in Cuba and suggest even not to use those ATMs. The blogger was unlucky and DKB was not really helpful with her case. In general -I think- when your card is stolen or misused you can be lucky or unlucky.

What are your experiences with the DKB credit card? You are welcome to comment about it.

Disclaimer

I am not affiliated with DKB, nor I got a commission for this article. I just believe that money, in general, should not be subject to any commissions. Banks earn already a lot of money: it’s ridiculous that the consumers must pay extra commissions just for getting cash from an ATM or using a credit card in a shop. Thus I’m happy to share with you this discovery. Enjoy.