Sunday, June 26, 2016

When you fall ill during travel

I never had experience of visiting doctor during my travel. There were minor health issues but were resolved by self medications. But during by recent travel to US, I had to visit the doctor. This post talks about my experience in general and briefly touches about travel insurance.

As I boarded my flight from Bengaluru, I felt some uneasiness in my eyes. I could not do anything about it at that time. When I got down at San Francisco, I noticed that one of my eye had turned red. I hoped that my condition would improve but I got up next day with a swollen eye. That is when I got worried and since it was related to one of the vital system I decided to visit doctor. I had no prior experience about doctor visit in US. I did google search and found few eye clinics. I do not trust big hospitals and ignored them. Unfortunately it was Sunday and most of the clinics were closed. But I managed to find one that opened at 12 noon.

Visiting a doctor in US is not very simple. A prior appointment is mostly needed and I had come unannounced. I told that I was a visitor and all this happened suddenly. Luckily, there was an appointment that was cancelled and the receptionist was kind enough to accommodate me. I was asked to fill a form with lot of details and sign at many places. It was a bit of surprise that such an elaborate process was followed even for a simple doctor visit. Well, that is US.

She asked me how was I going to pay. I showed my travel insurance but it was not accepted for cashless transaction. I had to pay out of my pocket and claim later. The price would depend on the complexity of the issue!! 

The consultation was very elaborate and the doctor took a lot of time examining my eyes. She then told that it was an allergy and was not serious and prescribed an eye drop which I had to buy from pharmacy. The consultation charge was $120. It looked a lot to me but later I learnt that it was very cheap compared to other specialists!!

Sincerely hoping that my claim will be refunded, I went to the pharmacy and gave my prescription. When asked for the mode of payment, I told that I will pay from my pocket. I almost collapsed when I heard the price of the eye drop. It was $220. Oh my god…. that was around fifteen thousand rupees!! So shocked was I that it took some time for me to respond. Finally I paid the money and came back to hotel.

I knew that healthcare in US was expensive but never thought that it is so bad. Everything related to healthcare in US is centered around making money by big companies. The same eye drop is sold at fraction of that price in neighbouring Canada. I also heard that the pharma companies charge much less to the insurance companies.

Nevertheless, this post is not to lament about the healthcare situation is US but to let know the readers about healthcare costs outside India. Imagine the cost if there an emergency!! One of my friend had to undergo surgery for appendicitis (condition that needs to be addressed immediately) during his short stay in US. The cost was 14 lakhs!! 

Travel insurance
That brings me to the topic of travel insurance. It is extremely important to have a travel insurance. I see blogs canvassing for certain insurance companies but what is important is to check their claim process. Look at the fine prints. In my case, it mentioned that I need to contact insurance company for approval before visiting doctor. I was not aware of this but luckily this did not block my claim as the insurance was issued through corporate. There may not be such luck for personal insurance. Also, check for all documents that is required for claim. So it matters a lot on how easy is it to contact them and get approval. Also, check whether insurance helps in cashless transaction. You may not be having money to pay upfront always. There is no point if the insurance becomes just a piece of paper. 

There are also certain conditions where insurance companies do not reimburse. If you are going on a skiing and if insurance does not cover for accidents from adventure, there is no point in having such an insurance. I did not take any insurance when I trekked to Everest Base Camp. It made complete sense to take insurance as Nepal provides helicopter evacuation during emergencies (Ex: High altitude sickness, HAPE, HACE) in remote mountains. But the Insurance companies I knew did not cover the helicopter evacuation. I do not need an insurance just to visit a doctor in Kathmandu!!

Also take a note of deductibles. Many insurance companies take a minimum of $100 as deductible for any health claims. It is a significant amount of money.

While I recommend to have travel insurance, do your homework. Do not go by the flashy ads. Check the experience of people who underwent the claim process. Travel insurance is a must if you are travelling to western countries where healthcare costs are high.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A short hike in Turahalli forest

It is very hard to believe that there are some good forests in Bengaluru. One such place is Turahalli forest that has managed to survive the development (destruction) activities by developers (destroyers) around it. The place was very near to my place and it was a shame that I did not visit it for so long.

So one evening, we headed to Turahalli forest. Having parked the car on the main road, we started climbing the hill which was a short and easy. As we climb up the concrete jungle showed up revealing the size of the city. Very soon we were at Shani temple. It might be crowded on Saturday but being Sunday it was locked and the place looked empty. Good for us. 

The place provided peaceful retreat unmindful of the hustle and bustle just few hundred meters down!! What a contrast!!!! As we roamed around, we realised that there was good amount of place in the forest to explore. Unfortunately jeep tracks also criss cross the area polluting the place. Nevertheless a beautiful place to spend some time.


Turahalli is a nice place. It might be good place in the morning but later in the day and evening it can become home to drunkards. Better to be safe especially when you are with family.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

A day in Pelling

Pelling is a small town in West Sikkim renowned for the views of Kanchenjunga mountain. The area attracts lot less visitors than Gangtok and other places in Sikkim. Due to the views of Kanchenjunga, most hotels in the town are built with rooms facing the gargantuan mountain. Also, this area attracts more foreign visitors than other places of Sikkim!!

Pelling in the evening
During our recent visit to Sikkim, we had a day at Pelling. We could not visit all the “touristy” spots but managed to cover the ones we felt were interesting.

Permayangtse monastery
Built in 17th century, this is about 3 km from Pelling town. It is one of the old monastery in Sikkim and it has seen many renovations. The large prayer hall is at the ground floor. The second floor consists of sculptures, idols and paintings. The most enchanting feature of the monastery is the seven tiered painted wooden throne known an “Guru Rimpoche’s heavenly palace”. 

Rabdentse ruins
Near to Permayangtse monastery is the ruins of Rabdentse, the second capital of former Sikkim kingdom. 

Kanchenjunga waterfalls
The falls is next to the main road on the way to Yuksom. You will be disappointed with the falls next to the road. But climb up for couple of minutes after which the actual waterfalls makes a beautiful appearance. Another attraction is the zip line for a nominal cost of hundred rupees. 

Khecheopalri lake
A slight detour from Pelling - Yuksom road will take you to Khecheopalri lake. A very sacred lake in Sikkim. 

It is also an entry point for Goechala trek and a laid back hill station. It is so peaceful that I regretted for not staying there for a day or two. A great place for birding.

Yuksom was also the first capital of Sikkim. The photo below shows the coronation throne. 

Kathok lake is very small but beautiful and peaceful.


Pelling is about 120 km from Gangtok and takes about 4-5 hours through curvy roads.