Medical Elective: Flying to Canada

Toronto, or some other medical school in Canada has accepted you as an elective student for 4-8weeks. Yay! Go you!

Singaporean citizens have it easy, it is not required to obtain a visa. However, a medical examination inclusive of chest X-ray is still required, For those that are of other nationalities but staying in Singapore, please visit this website: Application for a Temporary Resident Visa and read through carefully before visiting the Canadian High Commision Immigration Section at 1 George Street. A student visa is only required for students studying more than 6 months.

Now let’s say that having settled most of the examination, you’ve obtained the form, undergone the medical examinationa, re-submitted everything and been turned loose to buy plane tickets. One popular flight website is ZUJI: Your Online Travel Guru. Alternatively, one airline that tends to have cheap rates and flies to Canada is Northwest Airlines (NWA).

One such route is by Singapore to Tokyo, Tokyo to Detroit and Detroit to London (Ontario, Canada).

Before leaving, and preferably a while before packing, it’s best to check the weather. Despite a temperature range in the past week of 2 (at night) to 12 (in the day) degrees Celsius in London, Ontario, a sudden cold snap can push the temperature down to -5 to -7 degrees Celsius… in the daytime. How J. usually approaches such temperatures is layering. In Singapore, a tropical country, short-sleeved T-shirt. On the plane, add one long-sleeved T-shirt. Arriving at Tokyo airport, a sweater was added. When approaching Detroit, a thick hoodie was put on. In Ontario, to brave the chilly winds, a jacket. The sudden presence of snow can be a pleasant surprise or an uncomfortable shock, depending on how wrapped one is.

To J., the Singapore Changi airport is one of the best in the world because they have free Internet connection, both wireless (near the free internet booths) and wired (the free internet booths, duh). Makes it very easy to while the time away. In recent times, Singapore has adopted new security measures for all flights, not just the ones flying to the United States. While the old security advisory does not reflect the new ruling, it was publicised in the Singaporean local newspapers roughly about 3 April 2007.

The flight from Changi Airport, Singapore to Narita International Airport, Tokyo takes roughly 7 hours, most of which can be spent watching movies like Curse of the Golden Flower or catching up after a night of sleep-deprivation. One meal and one snack might be provided. Tokyo (GMT +9) is one hour ahead of Singapore (GMT +8) and failure to take note result in missed or delayed flights. At the Tokyo airport, checked luggage does not have to be collected (in contrast to Detroit). After moving through customs a fairly long walk ensues. In J.’s estimation, a transit time of 1hr 30min is more than sufficient.

View at Narita International
Narita International, Tokyo

To pass the time, either on the plane or the airport, J. recommends bringing along one or two good reads. Two books he has used previously are: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood. There will be a lot of time to pass, the duty-free shops aren’t that interesting and you won’t always like the in-flight movie.

The flight from Narita International Airport, Tokyo to Detroit Metro is about 11hrs 40min. This is where seat and time/date selection is important. If both go well, it is possible to end up in a seat with 2 empty seats alongside, allowing one to lie down and even stretch out (if you’re 1.2m tall, that is) for a nap. Two meals and a snack should be provided for the long trans-Pacific flight. This long period of time really tests one’s ability to sleep, read and watch exceedingly intellectually stimulating movies like Charlotte’s Web.

Looking at Clouds Doesn’t Really Kill Boredom
Plane Window View

It would be good to have a certain length of time between the arrival times of the Tokyo-Detroit flight and the Detroit-Ontario flight, preferably at least 2 hours apart. 4hrs 30min is overkill and really tests one’s patient, particular if the above advice on bringing reading material is not heeded. This is important because any discrepancies in one’s story, such as forgetting about a USA visa applied for years ago, can cause one to be led to the secondary customs office and detained temporarily while the story and/or documents are checked. Worst case scenario: refused entry into the United States.

Let’s say all goes well. Next up is the collection of one’s checked luggage, and a re-checking of one’s luggage before heading to the Concourse. Depending on where one’s gate is (e.g. C27), a pair of comfortable shoes will help in the long, long, long walk ahead. The Concourse has many shops and restaurants, including National Coney Island, where one Coney Dog goes for US$2.99 and is fairly tasty. There’re also a number of shops selling coffee, including Starbucks and Coffee Beanery.

Funky Colour-changing, Music-playing Tunnel Linking Concourse A to B/C
Detroit Airport Tunnel

Internet connection in Detroit Metro and Narita International, Tokyo does not come free. To see the provision of wireless connections in International and US airports, try this website: Airport Wireless Access Guide.

Detroit and London, Ontario are in the same time zone (GMT -3), 11-12 hours difference from Singapore depending on Daylight Savings Time. The plane to fly there is very small. At London, Ontario, checking out and collecting luggage is a fairly quick affair as the airport is very compact, as compared to the large international airports previously mentioned.

And all that’s left to do is take transportation to accommodation.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by cheekysalsera on April 7, 2007 at 1:51 am

    A very detailed post indeed. I personally can sleep through nice long flights, to the point I can forget to wake up when they serve the meals. Quite the opposite from you, I believe, going by the myriad of activities you’ve undertaken during the flight(s).

    Hope you’re surviving the cold well. Take a photo with the yellow muffler we got you! Hehe. (You didn’t leave it behind, did you? =X)


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