mercredi, septembre 23, 2009

Claiming 'GST' or 'VAT' from shopping in EU

A friend asked if it was possible to claim tax rebates in London on purchases done in Paris. I remembered Ian telling me that it was possible but troublesome. So I dropped him a message via Facebook and he sent me this long email. Very kind of him.

I thought this info might be useful for other travellers. So here's the copy and paste email with authorisation to publish from the owner. Thanks Ian!

Ok... There are 2 ways for declaring the goods that you want to claiming the 'GST' (VAT), and then after declaring them, there are 2 ways of claiming back the money. (This is based on what I saw and gone through at LV in France, and leaving Europe (EU) via London Heaththrow) as the last port. It must only be claimed from the last port, and yes UK is part of EU especially for this reason.

After buying the goods, you will need to get the vendor to provide the tax invoice, plus fill out all the details to the vendor(retail shop).The vendor should also provide a self addressed envelope (reputableones).

At this point, I suggest you first write down on a piece of paper, some details of what you are claiming, from where, the currency (Euro orPounds), the invoice numbers, and the values and what you believe are the claim back amounts. You may have more than 1 item to claim, and writing these and totalling them up before going to the airport, will save you a lot of hassle. Plus, when you go home and check credit card/bank statements.

At London Heaththrow, you can:
Method 1 for declaring goods) "If the item is too big, and need to check in to plane's cargo" Method.You need to arrive really early and queue in a damn long queue to declare the goods with Tax Refund Counter, with the invoice, which is located before check-in counters (i.e. located before going through customs). After Tax Refund Counter Officer checks goods and rubber stamps the invoice (you must make sure they do this!), you can then either mail the invoice back to the vendor, or go to "Travelex (orsimilar)".

Method 2 for declaring goods) "If the item is hand-carry-able, and no need to check in to plane's cargo" Method.You can checkin and clear customs first. There is ANOTHER Tax Refund Counter after checkin, which is normally shorter, because a lot of people either don't know about this counter, or their items are too large or dangerous to hand-carry, and had to checkin to the plane's cargo. BUT, to do this method, you MUST hand carry the item, and show the Tax Refund Officer your goods. Obviously, this is the same as method1 above as well, so as to prove to the officers what you are claiming.Again, please make sure they rubber stamp the invoice. Again, same as above, after Tax Refund Counter Officer checks goods and rubber stamps the invoice, you can then either mail the invoice back to the vendor, or go to "Travelex (or similar)".

Ok, you have declared the goods, now the money....

Alternative 1 for claiming back the money) If doing the mailing method,remember to buy a UK stamp with enough value to send it back to the country of the vendor. (For me that was sending it back to LV, so I had to buy a stamp with suitable value at a post office.) You should buy a stamp before going to the airport if you decide to do this, because you don't want to go to another queue to post office .. Etc.. Whilst rushing to checkin in one of the busiest airport in the world (Heathrow)! Then just drop it into the mailbox!

Alternative 2 for claiming back the money) If you want the cash back immediately, then you can take the rubber stamped invoice and the credit card (the same one you used to buy the product), to Travelex or one of these finance companies. I didn't go through this method, but I think they take a fee from your claim. You get the money back on your card,but the queue to this is quite long. You can do this alternative both before customs checkin, or after customs checkin. But both queues are very very long. Maybe they did not remember to buy the UK stamp?? But especially if your VAT claim back value is small, and you don't have to depend on the money to live for the next few days... I don't see the point of giving these finance companies the business.

My Thoughts....Heathrow is really really busy and packed full of people. Although they are trying to make things as quick as possible, it's the volume of travellers, communication barriers, and the lack of space that is making it so congested. It give opportunities for pickpockets, and other hassles like long queues. Hence, I personally prefer the least hassle method, because I don't want to risk running late for the plane.So, I pre-bought a stamp, did the hand-carry method of declaring tax,and put my claim in the mail. Even this quick method, took me half hour minimum. Clearly, depending on time of day of departure flights, these queues may get shorter, or longer!

Hope that helps.... I know its wordy.. But seriously its not that difficult.

lundi, septembre 21, 2009

Safe at home

We reached France on Friday morning. I extended a week of our stay in Singapore upon my doctor's recommendation. The travel insurance took care of our needs and booked us new tickets with Air France. I would love to travel with Singapore Airlines but all seats were taken up.

Baby A and I travelled on business class. Though the seats were smaller than the ones I saw in SQ's A380, I was grateful for the extra leg room and the reclinable seat. Baby A did not want to stay in his cot and would only sleep on me throughout the 12.5 hours journey.

As I had medical assistance, an airport staff with a wheelchair was waiting for me at the airport. However, I was not allowed to carry my boy while in the wheelchair. So we put my hand luggages on the wheelchair and I walked with my boy in the baby carrier. CDG's terminal 2E is huge and we had to walk really far to catch a skytrain to the baggage area and arrival hall. There was no trolley in sight. So if your hand carry bags did not come with wheels, you had to lug your bags for a long distance. At the immigration counter, the queue was super long. I was glad that we could cut all the queue as I was given priority. Looking at the queue, it could take me at least an hour to reach the counter.

I would not advise anyone to arrive in Paris at terminal 2E. Even the airport staff wondered how anyone could design such a messy terminal. I would be lost if not for the airport staff. Who would have thought of walking a distance to take a skytrain to reach the luggage bags and exit!

Further more, in CDG, strollers were not brought up to the door of the plane upon arrival. Parents would have to collect them at a different baggage belt. Unlike in Changi Airport, baby A's stroller was waiting for him once we got out of the plane. It was a breeze touching down in Singapore.

Baby A cried a lot on friday but he has returned to his cheerful self the next day. This week, we are starting his adaptation at the infant care center. We will start a new routine of normal working life with baby. For the moment, good bye vacation.

mercredi, septembre 09, 2009

I'm surrounded by kind people

My first 2 weeks in Singapore saw me being confined to my mom's place but had opened my eyes to the many kindness surrounding me.

I thank God for my friends. Almost everyday, I had friends coming to visit me. The fridge was soon full of fruits and cakes that I had to tell my visitors not to bring anything. I am so touched by everyone's concern.

Rachel was my chauffeur on two occasions when we were invited to Diana's gathering and a brunch at PS Cafe. Due to my wounds, I was not able to fit into any shoes except my TEVA sandals. Knowing that, Elena went out of the way to look for suitable shoes for me and finally found a pair. It was not an easy task looking for a size 3 and with a specific design to avoid any contact with the wound. And the best thing was, she brought the shoes to me at 10.30pm yesterday. Hey, God must have told her I need presentable shoes to go with the black dress that I intended to wear for Diana's ROM ceremony today. The shoes given by Elena were perfect! What a sweet, unexpected surprise. The size fits; they were black and very comfortable.

During meet-ups with friends, all of them watched out for me and made sure I won't accidentally knock my foot on random things by clearing the path. I am so touched. Being away for so many years, we are never not out of touch. This is real friendship. Thank you my friends.

Toy rental

Before coming to Singapore, I checked out the toy rental services available. I am surprised with the number of websites offering toys at affordable rent. Here is the list:

I got a bumbo baby sitter and a bouncer from one of the above sites. Delivery
was free for an order of $35 and above. It definitely beats having to lug items from France to keep baby A entertained for a month.

mercredi, septembre 02, 2009

My boy can turn

One thing good about staying at home all the time is being able to observe my boy's development. He is able to turn himself over today. Finally! He has been trying this since he arrives in Singapore. I guess my mom's bed is big enough for him to rotate and turn.
Baby A's grandma teached him how to hold the milk bottle and blow his nose. Of course, he can only hold on to his milk bottle when he is about to finish it as it is lighter.
Baby A also starts to babble some new sounds. They are slightly higher in pitch.

I managed to do short video clips on the above actions. Seb was able to see on direct his son turning via Skype. Technology is amazing. We are so far, yet so near. Speaking of which, I am so near, yet so far. I am in Singapore but has not visit anywhere in Singapore yet. I'm thinking about extending my stay here.....