If at all possible, avoid sending any luggage or cargo to the Lahore Airport in Pakistan. The hassle you’ll go through, the fees you’ll pay, and the time you’ll waste are only worth it for a large amount of cargo. While shopping in Thailand, I ended up with 10 kg of luggage over my weight limit for Thai Airways. I decided to use Thai Airways ThaiPac service for tourists to send my extra 10 kg bag to Lahore. This was a bad idea for many reasons, especially once I found out about the process I needed to go through to actually pick up my bag in Lahore.

Arrival



When your bag arrives, you’ll get a call from someone working with Shaheen Airport Services (SAPS). Don’t talk too long to this person, as he may actually be an agent and not an employee of SAPS. I had two men calling me, from different numbers, telling me to meet them in various places that were not near the Cargo Terminal. At first they were giving helpful information, such as when the SAPS office would close, but they were also lying and telling me that they could get my bag for me without me going through customs clearance. They wanted to make themselves my ‘agent’ and do the process for me for a high fee. I’d suggest that when you get your items shipped to Lahore, you take note of when the cargo is supposed to arrive. Don’t give your mobile phone number if you don’t want to be harassed. Then show up one day after your baggage was expected.

The Cargo Terminal



The Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore actually has great signs directing you to the Cargo Terminal. Follow the blue signs marked “Cargo” until you see SAPS office on your left. Enter the gate and pay 15 rupees for a ‘token’ (paper ticket). Don’t lose the paper as you’ll need it to leave the Cargo Complex. Park on the left across from the SAPS complex.

Timings



SAPS and customs are technically open from 9 to 5, with a tea break from 1-2. The customs clearance process, even for personal effects, takes at least two hours. I actually had to go on two different days, and on the second day it took fours to get my bag cleared. You basically have two windows to work with, 10-1 and 2-5. The morning is more pleasant as all the agents who prowl around looking for customers aren’t awake until about noon. I wouldn’t suggest going before 10, because it’s unlikely anyone will be there yet to process your papers. The day I went, the customs officers arrived at 10:40am. I’d already been there for an hour just waiting.

Delivery Order



The first thing you need to do is get a delivery order (DO) from the SAPS office. When you enter the cargo complex, you’ll see office areas on your left. The place where you get the DO is towards the center on the left. Signs in this area are lacking, so you might have to ask around. Asking for help is likely to send a swarm of agents after you who want to help you with the whole process. You can talk to men in brown uniforms if you need help. I found them to be very helpful and genuine.

The DO costs 400 rupees ($5). Why do you need to pay just to pick up your bag when you’ve already paid to have it shipped? I have no idea. I was quite confused, but the delivery order only means that you can pick up the bag. It will not be delivered to you by truck or anything like that, although for 400 rupees it should be!

After you get the DO, you need to go to customs. Exit the SAPS complex and turn left. Enter the PIA complex and go left. Enter the last bay and go all the way in and turn left. The office in the right corner is the customs office. There are four desks inside and a bunch of worn green chairs. If you’re lucky, there will also be some customs officers!

Customs Clearance



Now this is the tricky part. Many people told me that it was impossible to clear customs without an agent. I didn’t believe them on my first attempt. On my second attempt, I realized that it was next to impossible unless you’re a man and you speak Urdu and Punjabi. Out of about 20 people who were getting customs clearance, only one man was doing self-clearance. The rest were agents. The customs officers were actually shocked that this one man was doing it himself, as it was totally not the norm. I gave up and the brown uniformed men asked one nice man to help me out. He would charge less than an agent, and he seemed to have the respect of the officers since he regularly worked with them. The airlines officials suggested I give the man 500 rupees for helping me out ($6.13) with the two hours customs clearance process, but they didn’t want to pressure me and kept saying that I could give as I pleased.

My customs clearance took from 10:00am to 1:00pm. The computer system that you need to use to fill in the customs forms was down most of the time. I basically did nothing during this time, but the man who was helping me, Zaheer, had to go out and type my information into a computer somewhere and make multiple photocopies of my passport. Then he had some other guy running around getting all sorts of signatures from different places, that I probably never could have found. During this time I had to pay a 200 rupee ($2.50) fee for the weight of my baggage. I got an official receipt for it. Save this receipt as you need it to leave the airport.

When all the signatures were done, we headed back to SAPS to where the baggage was being held. It was already 1:00pm and the officers were leaving for tea and prayer time. Zaheer called the office and asked them to wait for me, because otherwise I’d need to come back again after an hour.

Cargo Pickup



We left the PIA complex and went back to the SAPS complex. First I had to pay a handling and storage fee. If your cargo is only there for 2 days, there is no storage fee. There is a flat 50 rupee (60 cents) for handling and a 20 rupee (25 cents) fee for ‘documentation.’ I think that means you’re paying to get the receipt printed.
After getting your receipt, go all the way to the end of the SAPS complex, towards the side where you parked your car. Enter an off white gate and walk down an outer corridor to the baggage hold. There are no signs. Turn right into the first room. Here you’ll meet Mr. Mohammad Saddiq from the PIA Baggage Section. This man was very helpful to me, as well as the other man working in his office. Here they just need to enter some numbers into a big register and you’ll need to sign a few things. Then you’ll get your bag! As you get your bag, one man will need to sign it as you left the baggage hold. Make sure you get this signature or you won’t be able to leave the airport.

If someone helped you with the process, don’t pay him inside the office. He’ll walk you to your car so you can pay him without all the other workers seeing. This saves you having to tip everyone who you talked to that day. The man who helped me do the customs clearance was Zaheer Ahmed, and he was very polite and professional. Many of the men hanging out at the Cargo Complex were downright scary. **Update: Unfortunately Zaheer no longer has the same mobile number, so I don’t have a contact.

Leaving the Airport



You can’t go out the way you came in. Drive past the PIA complex and turn right at the first intersection. You’ll come to a gate. Give your token and show the signature on your cargo and your blue receipt from customs. As the gate opens, you and your cargo are finally free!

Bangkok can be a great place for business travelers, both men and women, to buy ready-made suits or get them made to order. You’ll pay a fraction of the price you’d pay in Europe or North America, and Bangkok tailors are known to be some of the best in the world. That said, Bangkok is a huge city with seemingly unending options for shopping. How and where can you buy a suit?

Uniform Shops



For women, one of the cheapest and easiest ways to get a great suit is to visit a Thai uniform shop. If you’re in Bangkok for more than fifteen minutes, you’ll notice that Thai women are quite stylish, and many professionals wear pantsuits or skirt suits to work. Thai school girls also wear uniforms, which usually consist of a white button down blouse and a dark colored skirt. Sometimes a suit jacket is also worn. At a uniform shop, you’ll see every variety of skirt in every size a Thai girl might be (so if you’re a US size 8 or up you might have trouble). You can get pencil skirts, A-line skirts, mini-skirts, pleated skirts, tea-length skirts, etc. all in the standard black or navy blue. Some shops also have dark brown, dark gray or pinstripe patterns for sale.

At the uniform shop in MBK (third floor, back of market area), you can get a skirt, jacket and blouse for just 2000 baht ($57). They have four colors: black, navy, dark gray and dark brown. All blouses at these shops are white, but you can easily buy more stylish blouses at different shops.

Mall Tailors



Many of Bangkok’s malls have tailors. A made to order suit will be ready within a week, but it may cost you more than a ready-made suit. At Iberis tailors on the ground floor of MBK, a made to order suit, shirt not included, goes for 4000 baht ($114). Look for sales of items from the last season to save money, as I was able to get a black suit for 2700 baht ($77) and a navy pinstripe suit for 3250 baht ($92). The navy suit was more expensive because the jacket was ready-made and the trousers needed to be stitched. Sizes available are generally small to medium. If you need larger sizes you’ll have to get them made to order.

Business and Tourist Districts



Wherever business travelers frequent Bangkok, tailors seem to have sprung up. Quality of tailoring is generally high as there is stiff competition. On Charoen Krung Road, between Soi 42 and 30, there are dozens of tailors. This area is very close to piers #1 through #3 on the Chao Phraya River Express Boat. It’s conveniently located near many of Bangkok’s luxurious riverfront hotels and conference centers.

Most stores have signs outside boasting deals like 2 suits, 2 shirts, and 2 ties for $179! These signs are designed to get you inside. Once you’re in, make sure you ask about what types of material are covered under the deal. Many times, in order to get good quality, you’ll end up paying more than the advertised price. Nevertheless, these shops can still be a really good deal and you’ll get suits cheaper than you can elsewhere.

Tailors have lots of fabrics you can choose from, and sometimes the turn around for a made to order suit is only 24 hours. Some shops boast getting it done in 6 hours, although I’d be wary of having tailoring done so quickly.

Siam Square



Siam Square, located right off the Siam BTS Station, has hundreds of hip and trendy stores. If you’re looking for less traditional suits in different colors and styles, this is a great place to check out. You can get funky women’s suits made of Thai silk in all colors of the rainbow, and there are many different designer shops you can go in. This area is better for women’s suits, as you’re not likely to find traditional dark colored suits here.

You should easily be able to get a suit at any of these locations, aside from the designers at Siam Square, for less than $100. Think about what you want before stepping into a shop, otherwise you might be convinced to order the most expensive thing they have. Know what kind of weather you want the suit for, and what colors you want. For women, you’ll have to decide whether you want suits with skirts or with pants, and what cut of skirt you want. Usually there are samples at the tailors, but changing rooms can be small so it’s best to have an idea before you go. Most tailors have staff that speak English well, so next time you’re in Bangkok nothing should stop you from getting that new suit!

If you’re a high school student deciding what to major in, a college student looking for a career to jump into, or a teacher looking to move abroad, follow these steps to start an international teaching career.

Get Qualified and Certified



Most international schools require at least two out of three of the following: a Bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution, a valid teaching certification in the subject area you’d like to teach, and a minimum of two years full-time K-12 experience. Although you may find a job without a teaching certification, more doors will be open to you and salaries higher if you get certified. In the United States, teacher certification procedures vary from state to state. They usually require post-graduate level training and observation. In some states, like Massachusetts, you can get a 5-year preliminary teaching license after completing a series of examinations in English proficiency and your subject area.

Get Experience



Some international schools will hire fresh graduates, but many prefer 2 or more years of experience. International experience and travel is a plus. Think about what type of curriculum you’d like to teach. International schools generally offer either American, British (GCSE) or International Baccalaureate (IB) programs.

Join a Placement Company



Many schools prefer to hire through placement companies such as International Schools Services (ISS) or Search Associates. These companies provide a database of both schools and potential candidate, and they also arrange hiring fairs around the world. You will need to pay a fee when you apply, and be sure to apply only if you meet the company’s requirements. Once accepted, you will have access to information about international schools, the salary packages they offer, and current vacancies.

Set up Interviews



You can contact international schools via email in the hopes of setting up interviews. Many administrators prefer to interview candidates face to face, but some will do interviews over phone or internet based called. The best way to get interviews is to attend a recruitment fair sponsored by your placement company. Your application fee generally covers the cost of admission to one fair, but you must secure an invitation well in advance for the fair you’d like to attend. For example, in January 2009 in Bangkok there will be a Search Associates fair at the Royal Orchid Sheraton. 90 schools and 400 candidates will meet for the purpose of schools filling vacancies.

Do Your Research



As a candidate, you need to do your research. Know about the different curriculum options as well as information about the countries and schools you’d like to work in. Read about culture, cost of living and travel information. Join an online expat forum to read about other expatriates’ experiences in different cities around the world. Pay for a $29 yearly subscription to International Schools Review to see what other teachers are saying about the schools you’re thinking of applying to. Recruiters want to hire candidates who are conscientious and well informed about the curriculum, the school, and the host country and culture.

All the best to you as you consider a career in international teaching!

There are no less than seven classes available in the passenger cars of Indian Railways, and it can be a bit confusing to know which class is the one you want. Read on to find out more about each class and compare the prices between them. We’ll start from the most expensive and move to the least expensive.

First Class AC (1A)



First Class AC (pictured in image above) is the cream of the crop. It offers the most space and the most privacy, but can cost double the amount of AC-2-Tier. There are two-bed and four-bed lockable compartments, but when you reserve seats you can not specify which type of car you’d like to be in. If you are traveling as a couple, there’s a good chance you’ll get a two-bed compartment, but you shouldn’t count on it.

This class is offered only on the nicest trains. A ticket from New Delhi (NDLS) to Mumbai (BCT) on the superfast Punjab Mail train has a base fare of 2605 rupees. Add 35 rupees for the reservation fee and 50 rupees for the ‘superfast’ fee, and you come up with a grand total of 2690 rupees ($55).

First Class (FC)



First Class non-AC used to be what First Class AC is today. They are being slowly but surely phased out, and if you buy a ticket for FC you will be disappointed. The setup is the same as First Class AC, with two-bed and four-bed lockable compartments, but the compartments are dirty and many times abandoned. You may even show up to the train station and find that the First Class car you booked isn’t even attached to the train.

It’s tough to find fares and tickets for first class anymore, so in the words of an Indian Railways Conductor, “First Class, forget about it!” The fares, if they exist, are slightly less expensive than First Class AC and more expensive than AC 2-Tier.

AC 2-Tier Sleeper (2A)



Being an AC car, these cars are nicer than the regular First Class non-AC cars. They are made up of 2-tier bunks and all passengers are provided with linens. There are no lockable compartments, but you will usually be sitting with a group of four people sharing two benches. The two benches then convert into four bunks for sleeping.
A 2A ticket on the superfast Punjab Mail train from New Delhi (NDLS) to Mumbai Central (BCT) has a base fare of 1538 rupees, plus 25 rupees for reservation and charges and 30 rupees for the superfast charge. That makes a grand total of 1593 rupees ($32.57).

AC 3-Tier Sleeper (3A)



AC 3-Tier cars are similar to AC 2-Tier cars. The only difference is that there are three bunks instead of two in each section. This means that you have less space to move around while sleeping and that there are three people sharing one bench while seated. Linens are provided and AC 3-Tier cars are still nicer and cleaner than the old First Class non-AC cars.

On the same train, the Punjab Mail from New Delhi to Mumbai Central, a ticket on 3A will cost you 1109 base fare plus 55 rupees in charges. The total will be 1164 rupees ($23.84).

AC Chair Car (CC)



AC Chair Cars are the nicer non-sleeper cars. Some trains are superior to others. The lower the number, the nicer the train usually is. AC Chair Cars are made up of rows of chairs and are found on shorter routes. As there is no option for the AC Chair Car from New Delhi to Mumbai Central, let’s look at the fare for the shorter route from New Delhi to Amritsar. On the NDLSASR (New Delhi to Amritsar) Express, the total ticket cost is 438 rupees ($8.90).

Sleeper Car (SL)



A regular non-air conditioned Sleeper Car is the cheapest way to travel with a bed. These are not as clean as AC cars, and solo women may want to consider sleeping in an all women’s car in order to avoid unwanted bedfellows during the journey. A ticket on the superfast Punjab Mail train from New Delhi to Mumbai Central goes for 434 rupees ($8.87). Compare that to the cost of First Class AC! You will get to your destination in the same amount of time but certainly not the same amount of comfort.

Second Sitting (2S)



Second sitting is basically the unreserved non-sleeper class. You are not guaranteed a seat on the stiff wooden benches, and you may have to jostle for one. It is by far the cheapest way to travel, but you may feel claustrophobic if you’re not used to traveling in the fashion of India’s masses. There were no 2S tickets available from New Delhi to Mumbai, so we’ll compare this option with the AC Chair Car. Both of these options do not offer a bed, but only a seat. Well, a seat if you can get one in 2S! A ticket on the NDLSASR Express costs only 123 rupees total from New Delhi to Amritsar ($2.52).

With the increase of terrorist attacks worldwide and the threat of natural and economic disasters, it’s important to travel with basic safety items. Be smart and safe while traveling by always carrying a travel emergency kit on your person.

Finances



Always carry some cash on you, preferably enough to buy an alternate plane ticket in case of an emergency. Not all transportation companies accept credit cards, and plastic won’t be very useful in the wake of a global financial meltdown. It’s good to carry cash in two different internationally accepted denominations and to have small bills that you can use if you need to ‘tip’ someone along the way. Carrying a small supply of gold coins is another wise move. Make photocopies of all of your credit cards. Keep one copy with you and leave one copy at home.

Hygiene



Getting stranded in an airport, bus station or random town 100 miles from anywhere is never any fun. It’s worth getting travel size hygiene items such as toothpaste, soap, and shampoo. Carry a toothbrush, at least one washcloth, and a roll of toilet paper if desired. Women should always travel with sanitary supplies or have a reusable sanitary device, such as the Moon Cup or Keeper, on hand.

First Aid Kit



Keep a basic first aid kit in your carry-on or purse. Include latex gloves, Band-aids, gauze, safety scissors, prescription medicine, antibiotics, laxatives, painkillers, and anti-diarrheal medication. It’s also good to have chapstick, sunscreen (bring the stick kind if you are going by plane) and a small bottle of Aloe Vera gel in case of sun exposure.

Emergency Items



Take some matchbooks and put them in a plastic box or bag. Note that you generally cannot travel with strike-anywhere matches on airplanes. A few long-lasting candles and a small flashlight with extra batteries can help provide light during a blackout. If you are going to an area where there is a high-risk of kidnapping, crime or natural disaster, wear a whistle around your neck. It is best to conceal the whistle under your shirt so as not to draw attention to it. A hand crank radio cum light and two-way radios are also essential items to have in your travel emergency kit. Bring at least two bottles of water and water purification tablets.

Clothing



Always keep a change of clothes in your carry-on bag. To increase the amount of clothes you have with you while traveling, wear layers on the day of your trip. This saves space in your bag but still ensures that you have adequate clothing in case of a delay or emergency. Roll up an extra shirt, pair of underwear and socks in your bag if you don’t have space for anything else. Wear shoes that are comfortable and easy to walk or run in.

Paperwork



Always keep copies of your passport, travel documents and identification documents with you. Do not keep them in the same place as the originals. If you have a concealed money belt that you wear on your person, keep a copy of your passport in there so that it is always on you in case of an emergency. Have a sheet of paper with important phone numbers listed on it placed inside your wallet or money belt.

Although the risk of encountering an emergency during travel differs form place to place, it is always best to be prepared by carrying a basic travel emergency kit.