Fah Thai March 2014 - page 94

“It required a lot of planning. Even simple tasks
like buying lunch and getting around town proved
to be big challenges,” Austin says. “The night we
landed in Singapore, we realised that several small
things we’d been relying on – an international
data plan, hotel breakfast, free hotel WiFi –
weren’t going to work there. It was tough.”
But not impossible. Part of the appeal of
bitcoin travel is a helpful, ready-made community.
Singapore’s Bitcoin MeetUp group draws up
to 100 members, and local enthusiasts ready to
exchange tips and help out proved invaluable to
the couple when options were limited.
“One of the great things about bitcoin,” Austin
says, “is that you don’t need a trusted third party,
and we didn’t want to use one unnecessarily. But
sometimes there simply weren’t any merchants
that would accept the currency. In those instances,
we would seek out a member of the local bitcoin
community to act as a third party.”
Of course, the other approach is the gentle
art of persuasion. Like many bitcoin enthusiasts
there is a touch of the digital evangelist about
Austin as he narrates their progress. “One of
our favourite experiences was when we went to
Singapore’s Little India,” he recalls. “Beccy talked
to a woman selling henna tattoos who had never
heard of bitcoin before, but after a five-minute
explanation she agreed to an exchange and it
worked perfectly.”
Needless to say, bitcoin-only travel isn’t for
amateurs. In the virtual world, the absence of
transaction fees can make buying tickets and
rooms cheaper, but in reality, a dearth of options
and the occasional need to pay a little extra to
convince doubters has helped make bitcoins the
province of the true believer.
If the Craigs’ trip achieved anything, it offered
a glimpse into what could happen in Singapore
and elsewhere. “For now and for the foreseeable
future, bitcoin travellers will remain a niche
community,” Forgac says. “But if it were to go
mainstream, why would any traveller bother with
cash or cards when he or she can seamlessly spend
their bitcoins in the same way that they do in their
corner café back home?” Why indeed?
First, create a digital “wallet”; this is the website/
program that allows you to store bitcoins and
make transactions. There are three types: web
(run by a third party online), software (downloaded
and run from your computer) and mobile (widely
available on Android, but often in a limited format
on iPhone). For beginners, web wallets are
recommended, with Blockchain
and Coinbase
among the securest
available, plus both have the advantage of mobile
apps. For those with security worries, UK bitcoin
“cold-storage” company Elliptical Vault
recently became the first holding facility to
become insured.
Unless you happen to live near a bitcoin ATM (such as
in Hong Kong or Vancouver), you can purchase bitcoins
direct via exchanges. In Singapore, local exchanges
FYB-SG and Coin Republic allow you tomake purchases
via bank transfer; the city-state is supposed to get its first
bitcoin ATM inMarch. Note: bitcoins can be bought in
fractions of up to eight decimal places.
You can pay at brick-and-mortar
stores by scanning a QR code on
your smartphone or even, with
some programs, just by touching
two phones together. Transactions
can often take upwards of 10
minutes to confirm. Note: bitcoin
transactions, although anonymous,
are stored publicly to prevent fraud
and double spending.
Austin Craig has this advice for
dealing with businesses not yet
set up for bitcoin payments:
“We explain that we can ‘email’
the money using a feature of
Coinbase, whereby the recipient
doesn’t have to have an account.
You simply input their email and
they’ll receive a notification that
they’ve been sent payment.” Easy.
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