Friday, March 10, 2017

UK Visa Application in the Philippines

The United Kingdom (UK) may be in Europe but it is not included in the Schengen zone. You need to apply for a separate visa in the UK. I’ve always wanted to see London (because of Mary Poppins) but I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of applying and paying for another visa aside from Schengen. Since this was a family trip, I finally had the opportunity of visiting London.

We had to apply for a UK visa first before applying for a Schengen visa in the French Embassy. The process is a bit similar to the US Visa application wherein you fill-out a long form, pay the visa fee, then schedule your application to submit your documents.

Here’s the basic process:

1.    Create an account and fill-out application forms  here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-visas-and- immigration
2.    Pay for the visa fee - via credit card – USD 110
3.    Schedule the visa appointment in VFS Global UK
4.    Print and gather documents in the checklist
5.    Go to VFS Global UK to submit documents
6.    Wait wait wait for your passport to arrive

The embassy grants a 6-month visit visa for tourists. For other visa types, sorry I can’t help you. We had 4 nights planned in the UK. That’s $110 for 4 nights. Very pricey.

VFS Global handles the UK visa applications in the Philippines.
I suggest you spend time (lots of it) reading the info in their website: https://www.vfsglobal.co.uk/philippines/applicationcentre.html

Filling out the application forms, payment, & scheduling your appointment
This had been a tedious process. Prepare to answer these questions:

  • How much do you earn a month?
  • How much do you spend a month?
  • Do you have any dependents?
  • How much are you spending for the trip?
  • How much is your “total assets”? I can’t recall the exact term used but I recall I had to compute for my net worth to answer this questions
  • And prepare to input some of the answers in GBP

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Schengen Visa Application via French Embassy in the Philippines



I am not a Schengen visa expert. I cannot assess your chance of getting a visa. I am only sharing what happened in my experience.

Less than a year after my Europe III trip (which I haven’t blogged about), I found myself applying for my 4th Schengen visa. This was for our two-week family vacation in Europe in Italy, France and UK. Since we were staying at France the longest, we lodged our Schengen visa application with the French embassy.

This time, we applied via the French Embassy. VFS Global handles the visa applications for the French embassy. I hope that before you found this blog, you already read the very informative website of VFS France in the Philippines. Now if you haven’t, I suggest stop reading this blog entry for a while and go and click that link and spend some time reading the information there.

Then go click on these to read about my past Schengen visa applications:
1.    Italy, 2011 (denied-reapplied-approved)
2.    Spain, 2013 (approved)
3.    Germany, 2016 (approved)

The website of VFS Global France is pretty detailed, except that it does not mention this rule: If you are applying for a Schengen visa in the French Embassy and your itinerary starts or ends in the UK, you’ll have to obtain a UK visa first. Since our itinerary ends in UK, we should apply for a UK visa first.

VFS France informed us that should we insist on submitting our application without the UK visa, we risk a denial. We didn’t want that. We somewhat attempted trying our luck to get an appointment for a UK visa that same morning (the VFS UK was just in the same building, in the same floor) but nope, not possible. Ugh. What a wasted morning. We were able to book an appointment for the UK visa application after two weeks. I was thinking we would’ve gotten the Schengen visa by the time we applied for a UK visa but it turned out to be the other way around. Fine, that's the rule. But they should've put that in their website or checklist.

Here’s the updated checklist as of September 23, 2016. Please check if they have an updated version of this (check the website of VFS). I deleted the items which were not applicable in our case.

1.    Signed Schengen visa application form with photo (35mm x 45mm, white background). There’s a digital version where you can type out the answers. Alternatively, if you are applying for a UK visa, you can download a filled-out application form of the Schengen visa at the end – they use your applicable details reflected in your UK visa application (name, passport number, address etc). Cost: photo – Php 75 at Kodak Express in Trinoma.

2.    Valid passport (3 months' validity from the end of intended stay), photocopy of valid and former visas, pages of the passport with Immigration stamps and previous refusal stamps, if any.

I submitted three passports (2 expired, 1 brand new) and photocopies of the pages with stamps.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Taiwan Itinerary & Budget


August was ending. It was almost two months after my trip to Central Europe and I was feeling restless. I had no planned trip for the rest of the year. Well I had plans of exploring Turkey with a friend but with the airport incident that happened in June, we got scared.

So no plans. But I wanted an adventure.

It came down to Taiwan. I flushed round-trip tickets that I got for Php 3K back in 2014 because I wasn't up for temples and siomai after my two-week trip in China. So bye bye Taiwan and tickets.

But this was two years after China, so I think I get have another dose of China, or its territory (Ooops not! *prickly point of contention*). Moving on.

I booked tickets with EVA air. Airfare costs $102 which includes meals and 20kg baggage allowance. That is a deal! That rate is not even a promo rate.

I decided to be a "kinda-maintenance" passenger and ordered vegetarian meals for my flights. The flight attendants take note of your seat number. You get served first before they roll out the food card for everyone else. Really good if you are someone like me who gets on a kinda-beast-mode when hungry. 
 
Pretty tasty

EVA Air flies out of Terminal 1. I Uber-ed (yeah that's a verb now, just like Googled) going to Terminal and it was a pretty quick ride with the now-open airport Skyway. I was very pleasantly surprised that I saw the facelift they've given Terminal 1.


The last time I was here was 2013 and this waiting area was poorly lit. I am extremely happy they fixed that. *applause*

There's the iconic Jollibee with a waiting area.

I didn't get any sleep in the flight. I was pretty "jet-lagged" when I landed in Taiwan Taoyuan Internation Airport. I presented the Travel Certificate I secured online using my multiple-entry Japan visa.



Wednesday, October 26, 2016

ALL MINE

In history and Game of Thrones, the armies conquer the lands by invading and raiding. The conquered village bow down to their new lord.

I have no army. I have no desire to conquer land. 
Nowadays, the game is in the domain name. 
That is easier to conquer.

After 6 years of travel blogging, I finally bought www.adventureaccounting.com.

I availed of the promo rate of GoDaddy for the first year (Php 53) and got some discounted offer for the next two years. Overall, I paid Php 970 for three years (note that the first year is a discounted rate). 

The link redirects you to my blogspot page. As of now, I have no plans of putting the effort in getting my own hosting. It took me 6 years to decide to buy my own domain, so it will probably take a while before I get my own host.

I started blogging in 2005. That was the "dear diary" era of blogging back then. I sometimes cringe when I read my writing back in those days. There were not a lot of specialized blogs or "branded" blogs. 

Then I started travelling in 2007 . I noticed a lot of specialty blogs sprouted: fashion, beauty, travel, finance, etc. It took me a long time to decide whether I should create a new blog that features my adventures. After much thought and consultation with friends, I decided to create an new one. I seriously thought about the name and motto of this blog

"Dot-comming" (that is a verb now, right?) my blog feels so grown-up. Parang bumili ako ng condo. :P

Cheers to more travel adventures...and blogging! :D



Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How To Fully Enjoy Art In Island (Rediscovering Cubao)

Cubao memories...
When I was a kid, my mom took me to Fiesta Carnival frequently. I don't remember every ride we took but I remember we were there frequently. (RIP Fiesta Carnival).
When I was a teenager, my highschool classmates and I used to hang-out in the new Gateway when we were all sick and tired of SM North Edsa (Trinoma wasn't around back then).
Over the years, Cubao just became a crowded MRT spot and a hotbed for pickpockets. An adventure in Cubao is not enticing. I did not want to explore. I did go to Cubao Expo once to check on the boots on sale in Janilyn but that's it.
In my adult life, I just go to Cubao whenever there's an event or concert in Araneta Coliseum - oooh, it is now Smart-Araneta. :P  


This time, a new attraction put Cubao back in the map.

Art in Island is an Interactive Art Museum located right beside the Cubao Expo complex (or is it really part of it?). The museum allows visitors to interact with the art pieces. I've had my fair share of museums and I can say that they can be somewhat tiring. 


Well not this one.

I explored the museum together with my Amiga Sarah (we call our group Amigas, you probably have your own squad names) during my birthday. The museum has a birthday promo: the celebrant has a waived entrance fee during, one day before, and one day after the celebrant's birthday. 

I showed my driver's license as proof of my birthday, and the ticket lady greeted me "Happy birthday" and told me to just show my license as my "ticket". The other staff greeted me "Happy birthday!" as well when they saw my ID. Nice staff, nice start. Entrance fee costs Php 500/pax. Staff advised us to turn off the flash when taking photos.

According to their FAQs, bring the following
1. Camera
2. Socks/bedroom slippers. You need to leave your shoes before entering the museum.
3. Jacket because it can get cold inside 

After leaving our shoes, we proceeded entering the museum. The entryway contains artwork of familiar optical illusions. I did not bother to take photos of those because they were so cliche.

I'll be sharing selected pics here. I don't want to spoil the surprise of seeing all the paintings. Still, I ended up with quite a number of pics for this blog post. [I have no idea how to call the art in this museum. I'll be using, art, wallart, pics, mural, and painting interchangeably]. 

So here's the "introductory wall art". 
My game-on-energy vibes haven't kicked in yet.

Warm up pose. No strategy. 


Other tips to fully enjoy Art in Island:

4. Wear something you can easily move around in. I wore a dress + leggings + socks... because it was my birthday and I wanted to look fab. It was quite limiting to move around but it was still manageable.

It would also help if you are physically fit to squat, sit down, stand up, balance on one leg, and do all of these repeatedly. 

I am surfing. I am surfing in a dress. Believe me!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Europe Part III: Itinerary and Budget Breakdown

I should probably start blogging about this now. Grad school starts in two weeks. My blogging mojo has an erratic life. I have backlogs from my China 2014 trip. It is difficult to blog about the past and plan for the next trip at the same time. It is difficult to keep up with myself (Char!). So here we go.

Europe again. Can you blame me?

Crafting this itinerary took considerably less time that the previous two EU trips I did.
I didn’t feel that I “have to” hit a specific place just because I am in Europe. This time, I focused on Central Europe and did not travel via plane intra-Europe. I stuck with trains.

This is also the first time that I am travelling Europe during summer.

The table below is the itinerary I presented in my visa application. I just added additional columns for the contact details of the hostels. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Applying for a Schengen Visa in German Embassy Philippines

I am not a visa officer nor a visa agent. This post comes from my own personal experience.

I have been granted two tourist Schengen Visas in the past 5 years. The difference this time is that I am a consultant (contract-based) instead of an employee. I have been a consultant for the past 2 years and 4 months. 

Applying for a Schengen Visa (a.k.a. Europe Visa)
Applying for a Schengen Visa in Spain Embassy Philippines 

For this trip, I have a 23-day itinerary spanning Central Europe. I'll post my itinerary and budget in another post. I am staying in Germany the longest so I lodged my application there. 

General steps:
1. Browse and read the website of the German Embassy here in the Philippines. This contains all the information and forms that you need when applying for a Schengen visa. 

2. Schedule your appointment online. You can apply for a Schengen visa at most 3 months before your departure date. You can start booking your appointment a month before your visa application date (not sure if you can book earlier than that). I had to cancel my first appointment because I wasn't sure if my passport will be returned in time for my Sri Lanka trip. I cancelled my appointment online and rebooked my appointment at a date after my Sri Lanka trip.

3. Gather your documents. You should do this piecemeal, in my opinion. After I finished gathering everything, I had documents as thick as half a ream of bond paper. Oh my trees.



4. Appear at the embassy on time. You will be asked to leave your huge bags in the lobby which electronic gadgets will be left at the lockers in the lobby of the embassy.

5. Wait for your passport to be delivered. Should you be out, leave an authorization letter with your valid ID to someone you trust to receive your passport. 


Here's copy of the cover letter that I submitted. This is not required in the checklist of documents but I submitted one anyway. I edited some parts. None of the documents I submitted were returned to me. 

========================
German Embassy Manila
25/F Tower 2, RCBC Plaza
6819 Ayala Ave (cor Sen. Gil Puyat Ave)
Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines


LIST OF SUBMITTED DOCUMENTS


Re       :           Tourist Schengen Visa Application
                        Applicant: XXX
                        Passport Number: XXX


Gentlemen:

With reference to the Schengen tourist visa application of the undersigned, attached are the following requirements for your consideration:

Identity as traveller and Visa application form
Duly filled-up application form with 2 photos
Signed copy of Information provided to applicants pursuant to Section 54 (2) No.  8 in conjunction with Section 53 of the Residence Act
Original passport with photocopy of first and last page

Purpose of travel
Itinerary for the duration of the trip
Confirmed booking of accommodations
Flight Itinerary via Emirates Airlines: Manila to Budapest (Hungary), Frankfurt (Germany) to Manila

Financial coverage of the cost of travel and stay
Bank certificate - original and photocopy
Statements of accounts for personal savings account and payroll account for the last 6 months
Certificate of Time Deposit with Bank of the Philippine Islands

Travel Health Insurance
Travel Insurance: Travel Master Global Policy obtained from Malayan Insurance

Rootedness in the Philippines
Certificate of consultancy -original and photocopy
Photocopy of contract with foundation
Approved leave of absence form – original and photocopy
Copy of Income Tax Returns from 2014 to 2015 with bank payment slip
Payslips for the last 6 months 
Photocopy of credit cards
Credit card statements for the past 6 months (October to March 2016)
Statement of Account with mutual fund – Philequity Fund Inc.
Supporting documents as student of Master in International Studies Program in University of the Philippines, Diliman (Student Profile, Acceptance letter from college, tuition fee payment form)
      Ledger of stocks

Travel History
2    Photocopy of Schengen visa issued in September 2011 and March 2013
      Photocopy of previously issued and used visas: 
d.    South Korean – 2012 (single entry) and 2013 (multiple-entry)
e.    Japan Visa - 2012 (single entry) and 2013 (multiple-entry)
f.     China – 2014 (single entry)
g.    United States of America (2014, multiple entry for 10 years)
h.    United Arab Emirates (2015)


Sincerely,

__________________________
Name
Contact Number
Email

=======================================================================

Duly filled-up application form with 2 photos. The application form can be accomplished online hereFor the section on "reference", I just typed down the name of the first hostel I was staying in then attached a sheet containing the details of all my accommodations for the trip. 

Itinerary for the duration of the trip. Day to day overview of activities. 

Confirmed booking of accommodations. I've been consistently using Booking.com for booking the accommodation in my trips. I just chose the no prepayment and cancellable (is this really a word?) options. I summarized everything in an excel sheet. 




Flight Itinerary via Emirates Airlines. I paid before I applied for the visa. This is not required. Wag tularan! You can just secure a flight reservation from the airlines or travel agencies. I have no tips nor experience in securing flight reservations. 

Bank certificate. Secured mine from BPI for Php 100 and took my 30 mintues. They changed the format.They included the Average Daily Balance of the account and the date it opened. 

I wish they'll have an online feature of requesting a bank certificate then you'll just pick it up from the branch. Senorita lang no? XD I submited the  - original and photocopy.

Statements of accounts for personal savings account and payroll account for the last 6 months. Downloaded from BPIExpressonline. Very convenient.

Travel Insurance. I switched to Malayan Insurance for convenience. You can via credit card when you purchase your travel insurance and you can immediately download the insurance policy right after paying. You can download it again in case you lose it. Previously, I used Blue Cross because I can also pay online via BPI payments.  

Income Tax Returns. I am a consultant this time so I have to file and pay my own tax returns. I submitted my tax returns in the past two year (BIR Form 1701) and the corresponding receipt issued by the bank when I paid. 


Day of the visa application:
I selected a 9:00AM appointment. I was so scared of the MRT crowds that I really exerted effort to be at MRT North Avenue station the earliest I can: I was there by 5:55AM and I got off Buendia station by 6:20AM. I was in RCBC by 6:40. I spent time reading in Starbucks then headed to the German Embassy by 8:20 AM.

I lodged my name, then they asked me to leave my bag with laptop. In the embassy's floor, they asked for my passport then they gave me a number. I was asked to leave all gadgets. I waited for 5 minutes to be called, the interview lasted for another 5 minutes or so. The lady in my window (#3 I think) was very professional and asked direct questions. Over the course of the interview, she asked me 3x if I am married, was ever married, and if I had a child. I repeated 3x that I was not married, have never been married nor do I have children. She stamped a phrase in my application which is somewhat like "I have never been married or had a child" (the phrase is something like this) - then I was asked to sign. 

She asked how long I've had my current job(2 years and 4 months) and the nature of the company (I work for a non-profit project). She asked if I've been in Germany (yes, Cologne in 2011) and if I will be travelling alone (I am). I paid the Php 3,090/ 60 euros visa fee, then fingerprint scanning, then wrote my office address on the courier slip. She said 3-5 days processing. By 8:50, I was able to recover the bag I left. This was on a Thursday.

I was informed that the courier was looking for me at Tuesday, 5:10 PM  - I was already out by that time and I didn't leave any authorization letter. Wow, it took the embassy three working days only!

The courier came back the next day to deliver my passport. He came in around 4:30PM so I was able to receive the passport myself. I braced myself and opened the package. No white paper this time (a sign of denial when I applied in the Italian Embassy). I got a 30-day multiple entry. 

Hoorah!



Europe, here I come again! 

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