Tag Archives: European Trip

Euro Vacay Day 1-4: Berlin, Berlin…

I was very excited to finally set foot in Europe and with Berlin being one of my must-visit cities before I die. Haha! I’m really beyond thrilled! The immigration officials weren’t as stern as I expected them to be, due to the horror stories I’ve read and heard from some people. They just asked the purpose of my trip, the countries I’ll be visiting and it took less than a minute I think and I finally got my entry in Germany!

After planning this trip for almost a year, you would think that I was able to cover all of the bases already but no – my Qatar Airways flight landed in Berlin Tegel Airport around 10 – or past 10 in the evening. Lo and behold, most if not all of the stores are already closed! And stupid me was expecting there will be stores open 24 hours where I could buy a SIM card! I even bought a new phone for this trip! LOL. So my only option was to asked the airport staff on how to go about getting to my hostel for my four days in the city! There were buses that will take you anywhere in the cities, and tram too. I mean, this is Germany after all, but I was still totally clueless since I’ve not internet to Google where I am – so I just checked my accommodations booking and prayed to the gods that I got off the right station. Apparently I did not. Haha. I was literally lost and walking aimlessly. And there are only a few people out and about. Remember, this was winter time and I think it’s already past eleven in the evening. 

Thank goodness though, because I bumped into Norah – a local from Berlin who helped me find my hostel. She’s truly a godsend because I was just getting really cold by the time I bumped into her.  I told her the whole thing of me not able to get a new SIM card at the airport and I just showed her my booking and she took me to my hostel right then and there. 

I had my Berlin accommodation at the St. Christopher Inn Berlin-Mitte. They were very gracious and the hostel was actually kind of nice for a solo traveler like myself. One of the guy manning the reception asked me where I was from and I told her that I’m from the Philippines and he smiled and said that his mom is Filipina! Instant connection! LOL.  I absolutely loved the location of the hostel! It’s perfect because it ‘s all walking distance to all the tourist traps!!! I swear, I never had to use any transportation system within my 4 days in Berlin.  

The following day was not as eventful as I’d like it to be because I was still getting used to the cold! I just went our first to familiarize myself – saw the Berlin Cathedral where I went in for a mass on Day 3,  Altes Museum, Humboldt University, Alexanderplatz etc… It was just me being very fascinated and I still cannot believe that I made it here! For some people, this may just be nothing but from someone like me who grew up in the country – this is definitely a whole new world! A feat by itself!

Here are some of the pictures I took on my first foray in Berlin.

 

This was December 25th of last year! It was my first time spending Christmas outside of the country and alone for that matter. It’s kind of sad if you think about it because I’m usually with my family during this season but I was having the time of my life all’s good!

I joined a free tour of the Reichstag glass dome on top of the rebuilt Reichstag building! It was exhilarating!

Memorial of the Murdered Jews of Europe. It feels so heavy visiting this memorial. I will be writing more about this in conjunction to my visit at Auschwitz-Birkenau the following days.

The Reichstag Building

The Berlin Cathedral

I actually got inside the night before but was not able to take pictures inside because one – it was disrespectful and second – it was not allowed I think but I still see some folks trying to sneak a picture or two…

The Urania World Clock is a large turret-style world clock located in the public square of Alexanderplatz in Mitte, Berlin.

Yep, it really isn’t Christmas without this big ‘old Christmas tree!

Of course, I ordered Currywurst!

8 euro ain’t so bad.

The beautiful Postdamer Platz

Humboldt University

The Lustgarten

The view on my way back to my hostel

At the Westkreuz Station early in the morning on my way to Prague!

A Quick Day Trip in Doha via Discover Qatar!

Before heading to my first stop in Europe which is Berlin, I decided to check out the city of Doha which is where I had a 12-hour layover. I decided to avail the service of Discover Qatar in partnership with the Qatar Airways. Since I had to leave the airport, I do need to apply for a transit visa but Qatar Airways took care of it for me. I just had to pay a minimal QAR 75 which is more or less P1,000.00 only.

I’ve to admit, I was actually a bit tired when I landed in Doha in the wee hours of the morning – I loved the airport by the way. There’s not a lot of people then and it’s humongous. I had to wait for 4 more hours, though, before I was contacted by the staff of Discover Qatar. The whole tour was about 2.45 hours and it was just very quick if I’m being honest. I remembered seeing the famous “Pigeon Towers” in front of “Katara Mosque” or the blue Mosque. It’s very fascinating!

The Pigeon Towers

We also went to The Pearl-Qatar which is a man-made island that houses luxury residential estates and commercial attractions. It got its name from being one of Qatar’s previous major pearl diving sites. The tour guides allowed us an hour to stroll along Souq Waqif  and Souq Al Wakrah. It was very interesting but unfortunately for me, I was just so tired and sleepy but I don’t want to stay in the busy so I just checked out some of the stores but I felt like I’m just about to crash then. My favorite would have to be the Dhow Harbour where you can actually see the skyscrapers from afar.

Part of The Pearl

The face of the current Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Qatar National Bank.

Dhow Harbour

It was nevertheless a very fascinating quick tour. I wished I had more time to actually see more of Doha because I was really impressed with its infrastructures left and right. It’s so modern but you can see how they’re able to preserved their culture and their history. I’d really love to take a longer trip here, or perhaps a vacation someday.

P.S.

This was supposed to be posted right about a week after my last day in Europe to share my trip but when I got home in the Philippines, there was the Taal Volcano eruption and the Covid19 was already starting to spread all around. If only I could turn back time.

My Schengen Visa Experience at the VSF Netherlands (Philippines)

After reading several blogs and forums to get tips on having a successful Schengen visa application, I thought I should also give back by posting my very own Schengen visa application experience. For us in the Philippines, getting a travel visa is always a tedious process since we need to spend time and money on collating several documents, paying fees and the actual submission of application and /or attending the actual interview. (Most of the embassy does not require interviews anymore though.)

At the beginning of 2019, I’ve decided to spend my Christmas break overseas. I thought, a South American trip will be easier because I won’t have to get any visas to enter a few countries but upon realizing that the flights are way more expensive there and with last year’s tragic Amazon fire and the economic turmoil in the region, I opted to just push through with a European getaway.

I will also be sharing some stories on my month-long mini-Euro vacation but before that, para sa mga pinoy who are also looking for some tips, I am going to list down what I’ve submitted for my Schengen visa application. 

First off, What is a Schengen visa?

A Schengen visa is a short-stay visa that allows a person to travel to any members of the Schengen Area. It is valid for 26 Schengen member states and is for short stay for a maximum period of ninety days within a six months period. A Schengen visa allows the holder to travel freely across the Schengen member states.

The following 26 countries have implemented the Schengen Agreement: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Schengen visa application goes through VFS Global –

VFS Global, also known as “Visa Facilitation Services Global,” is an outsourcing and technology services company that serves governments and diplomatic missions worldwide. The company manages visa and passport issuance-related administrative and non-discretionary tasks for its client governments.

I applied for a short-term Schengen visa mainly for tourism so this post is only applicable for those who will be traveling for leisure in and around the Schengen states.

The general requirements I’ve submitted are the following:

1. Valid Passport

2. Round-trip flight reservation.

(Remember, you just need a reservation. Please don’t buy your tickets without an approved visa yet.)

3. Travel insurance policy with a with a minimum coverage of 30,000 euros (I got mine from Malayan)

4. Proof of Accommodation (I booked all of my accommodations via booking.com which are all cancellable – again, do not pay in advance if you’re not sure that you’d actually be getting a visa.)

5. Proof of Financial Means

I’ve submitted a bank certificate indicating my account number, its daily balance and account balance.

I’ve also submitted the following:

Employment contract.

Current bank statement from the latest 6 months upon submission.

Leave permission from the employer. (The one that my employer provided includes the start date of my leave and the date I was expected to return.)

My latest income Tax Return (ITR) form or the 2316 form.

6. My Trip Itinerary (I included the places that are on my bucket list of course, but I also did a lot of research on what I should be see in each respective places – I think it helps that you personalized your itinerary as much as possible.)

7. A cover letter which really helped, I think.

The submission of application is by schedule through the VFS Global website, just register, log in and select a date and time of your submission. The Netherlands Embassy does not require any interview, at least as far as I know. You will be evaluated by its consul based on all the documents you’ve submitted.

I’ve had my schedule on November 15, 2019 – about a month before my intended trip and I chose the earliest time available – that’s around 07:00 AM. It was actually very straight to the point. You will be instructed on where to line up and just follow the procedure and give out the documents and pay. No interview needed, although the lady who collected my documents asked the purpose of my application (tourism was my answer) and the date of my intended departure from the country as well as the date of my planned return and that’s it!

I’ve paid around P4,876.00 which includes

Logistic – 901

Courier – 400 because I cannot afford to pick it up myself due to work but you can choose to personally claim your passport or have a representative pick it up for you.

SMS – 150, I thought this was a good idea at first but it turns out it’s just a waste of money. I’ve only received one message saying: Visa Application MAKA/********01 has been forwarded to the Netherlands Regional Support Office in Asia on 11/15/2019 and never got an update. I even had to call the office because I cannot seem to track my visa status online regularly because it’s not working all the time.

So the whole two weeks, I was being so paranoid because I am second-guessing my chance of getting approved since I’ve read horror stories of some pinoys who are well-traveled and well-funded still getting rejected for some reason. I’ve only been to eight countries prior to this application with 2 visa-requiring territories so I’m kind of hoping that would give me a bit of an advantage but yeah – it was a nerve-wracking two weeks for me.

But the odds are definitely in my favor as I’ve received my passport with an approved visa! It took 14 freaking calendar days! I was very happy because I was given a multiple entry visa, with 45 days validity and 30 days duration of stay!!!

Looking back, I thought it’d be very difficult but it’s really just straight forward. You just have to make sure that you have the resources, the right intention and the correct documents.

Hit me up privately or through the comments if you have any concerns or questions that I may help you with!!!

When this pandemic dies down, I would definitely apply again because I really had a blast visiting parts of Europe for the first time and I wanted to see more!!!

P.S.

Because we have this on-going pandemic and we’re now living the new normal, I am not sure about the changes when it comes to the visa application but I reckon it will still be the same, but with more precautionary measures to prevent the spread of Covid19.

I wrote this article a few months after the Pandemic hit the Philippines and I didn’t think that it would be so catastrophic that even now that the year’s about to end, the cases are still getting worse particularly in Europe. I hope the vaccines that were approved recently will give us hope to move forward from this darkest year of our generation.