Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, London | The Ultimate Europe Itinerary

Ever since I started my international travels, Europe was one of the continents which I always wanted to visit. But as a third-world country passport holder, I needed to have a visa before I can enter Europe. The visa we need to be able to enter Europe is called the ‘Schengen Visa’- which is basically one of the hardest visas to obtain, especially if your country has a really bad reputation of overstaying in another territory. Fortunately, when I applied for a Schengen Visa, I was granted one. Hence, the moment I received my passport back with a Schengen-Visa stamped on it, I instantly planned my itinerary and came up with this. 

Applying For A Schengen Visa- A Complete Guide

It was around February when I flew from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam. I always travel solo, but since It’s my first time to travel to Europe, this was one of the most nerve-racking trip I took. The flight took roughly seven hours. After landing and going through passport-control I went straight to the bus station to catch my bus to the city center. 

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. Two of the major languages of the Netherlands are Dutch and English. I stayed for a total of four days in this beautiful city. As a budget traveler, I always try to stay in cheap accommodations so basically I stayed in a youth hostel, located in Amsterdam’s Ledseplein District. 

Amsterdam is famous for tulips, picturesque canals and being the home of some of the greatest artists ever lived. Marijuana and prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, but despite this, this Dutch country ranks as one of the happiest and safest countries to live in. I guess, it makes a huge difference when people have discipline. 

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There are tons of things to do in Amsterdam. For me, I just wandered around, and there, I was able to discover some hidden gems in the city. 

When you visit Amsterdam, just keep in mind that coffee shops there are unlike any other coffee shops in the world. So if you are craving for a coffee, just go to Starbucks haha. 

Brussels

Brussels is the capital of Belgium as well as being the capital of the European Union. French is one of the official languages of Belgium, hence most people speak French here. But the same with in the Netherlands, people here are so fluent in English. So you don’t have to worry about any language barriers when you intend to visit Belgium. 

I arrived in Brussels from Amsterdam through train. The train ride took around two and a half hours which is not bad. I booked my train ride through OMIO.COM (Formerly GoEuro). Top Tip: Book your train in advance to avail further discount!

The Belgian Capital of Brussels is famous for its gothic structures. My favorite place is the Grand Palace, it is the central square of Brussels. It is surrounded by opulent guildhalls and two larger edifices, the city’s Town Hall, and the King’s House or Breadhouse. Definitely one of the best places to visit and photograph in this city. 

Brussels or Belgium in general is also famous for its beers, waffles and chocolates. So whenever you are in Belgium, don’t ever forget to try all of it.- trust me, I tasted the best waffle and chocolates here! 

Read also: Exploring Brussels, Top Things to see in this Belgian City

Paris

Paris is the capital of France, it is also dubbed as the City of Love, Light and Fashion. Well, obviously, the official language is French. Unlike Amsterdam and Brussels, people here doesn’t like to speak english that much, not because they don’t know how to speak the language but they just don’t want to for some reason, and I don’t know why. 

I arrived in Paris from Brussels through Flixbus. The bus ride took around four-hours, which is endurable. The bus has several stops, so you don’t have to worry about sitting for four hours straight. Most couch also has bathrooms inside so you don’t have to worry when you feel like you need to use the bathroom along the way. 

Paris is home to some of the biggest brands in Fashion. Louis Vuitton and Chanel are just some of the few. But overall, Paris is famous for its historic landmarks; the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, The louvre, Versailles palace and many more. 

Paris is one of the easiest city to explore- thanks to its very organized train lines. When in Paris, don’t forget to try their local food, their cuisines are to die for! 

You can also check my article about Paris:

Visit Paris, Experience The City Of Love

London

London is basically one of my favorite stops in this itinerary. This city is huge! But thank goodness, you can pretty much go everywhere using their subways. 

I arrived in London from Paris through FlixBus. The trip took almost 8-hours! Quite long but I was able to befriend my seat mate on the bus, so we killed time together talking about life. 

Arthur, my seat mate on the bus.

Please note that some Passports need a separate visa for the United Kingdom. So basically, I was holding two visas, one for Schengen and one for the UK. Make sure to see if you need one or not, just to avoid some conflict when going through passport control at the border. 

Read: How to Apply for a UK Visa

I stayed for a total of four days in this English City. But for me, I think it is ideal to spend more than four days if we intend to see all sites this city has to offer. So far, I was able to visit most of it during my stay. 

Make sure to try an authentic English breakfast- I tasted a lot of English Breakfast elsewhere, but tasting it in its origin is totally different! You can pretty much taste authenticity!

When we think about London, we think of the Tower Bridge, the Big Ben and of course The Royal Family! But there is so much more that this city can offer aside from the ones mentioned above. For that I can’t wait to visit London again and explore more of the city! 

Thanks for reading!

New to the blog? Click here to get to know me more. 😀

What’s Inside My Camera Bag | My Ultimate Travel-Photography Equipments

For the past days, ever since I posted my first post on this blog, I’ve been thinking of writing about the essentials I bring whenever I travel since a lot of people has been asking what camera body and lens I use- I’m not an influencer! There really are several people who have asked me this, lol. So here is what I came up with. But first, let me start with what camera bag I use.

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National Geographic Rucksack

I instantly fell in love with the design of this bag. It has a lot of compartments including a laptop compartment and several pockets which is ideal for photographers who has a lot of accessories. It’s comfortable and fashionable to carry around and It can accommodate one big DSLR Body with up to three standard-size lenses plus a 13-inch MacBook computer as well as one speed light together with other accessories. I have this bag for a year now, so far it’s still in-tack despite being used all the time and carrying almost 12 kilograms of weight each time. I can say that it will still last for the coming years. 

Click here for the latest price of the National Geographic Racksack

Camera Body Nikon D850

This is my main workhorse as of the moment and basically the best camera body I’ve ever used. Prior to this, I have been using a Nikon D610. The Nikon D610 is a great machine, its just that I needed to let it go since it’s so difficult to be bringing two full-frame camera bodies when traveling(just imagine the weight of the Nikon D850 and the Nikon D610 combined) and I don’t think I would ever need to use two camera bodies in my travels, only maybe when I have some gigs like an event or a wedding to avoid changing lenses all the time.

Click here for the latest price of the NIKON D850

Going back to the Nikon D850, I had this camera for almost a year now. So far I never had any complaints with it, basically living up to its name as the best DSLR camera in the market. If ever I would reach its shutter expectancy, I think I would still opt for the same model. 

Camera Lenses | Sigma 35 and 85 Art | Tamron 24-70 G2

Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art

Sharp, fast and just the perfect focal coverage. The Sigma 35mm 1.4 DG HSM is a state of the art lens designed for full frame cameras but can also be used with APS-C sensors as well. It is also my very first ever full-frame lens. It accounts to most of the photos of my travels. Definitely one of my favorite lenses for Travel, portraiture, etc. 

Click here to check the current price of this lens.

Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art

As a portrait  and travel photographer, this lens is definitely one hell of a beast! Ultra-sharp, fast and beautifully designed. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art is an ideal lens for a variety of photographic subjects, particularly portrait photography, both in-studio and on-location. For me, I use it mostly outdoors and I’m always impress by the way it performs. The only issue I have is the weight of the lens, plus most of the time, it’s mounted on my Nikon D850 which is already a very heavy camera body.- So imagine my neck and my shoulders at the end of the day. Those are only minor issues, as long as I’m happy with the images I take with it, then I can endure the pain. haha

Click here for the latest price of the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art Lens

Tamron 24-70 f2.8 G2

 I bought this lens to solve my problems of changing lenses all the time when I’m covering events. It looks amazing when it’s mounted on the Nikon D850. Performance wise, it doesn’t disappoint. It’s widest angle coverage is great for landscapes and interior photography. The highest zoom coverage can deliver sharply focused subjects with amazingly blurred background. Definitely a must-have lens for Travel and event Photographers.

Click here for the current price of the Tamron 24-70 f2.8 G2 Lens

See full technical specs here. 

Gopro Hero 5

I have this action camera for like almost three years now. I needed to have it since I have been traveling solo most of the time before, and you can conveniently take wide angle selfies with the Gopro attached to a GoPro stick. 

So far I’m not planning to upgrade it anytime soon, I’m still happy with the quality of the images it provides- not much of a difference from the latest model. 

Click here for the latest price of the Gopro Hero 5 Black

Tripod

Vanguard VEO 235AB Aluminum Travel Tripod 

Light, compact and heavy duty, basically one of the best tripods I ever owned. I always bring it when I travel as it is so portable and doesn’t add much weight on my luggage. It also comes with a very nice bag. A must for every travel photographer. 

Click here for the latest price of the Vanguard VEO 235 AB Aluminum Travel Tripod

Computer

Macbook Pro 13 2017 without touch-bar. 

I opt in with the 13-inch version since it’s more portable when traveling. I process pretty much all my images here through Lightroom and photoshop. I have this for almost two years now and I haven’t had any issues of it lagging, just overheating a bit- but that’s only when I run several application at once or deal with really high data media files, just like a normal computer which overheats when running multiple applications. I highly suggest that if you plan to buy an apple computer, better buy this than the latest Macbook Air. Though it has been released few years back, it still performs better than the new MacBook Air. 

Click here for the latest price of the MacBook Pro 2017 without touchbar

Accessories

128 GB SanDisk Extreme Memory Cards

I have three of these ultra-fast memory cards. It’s a necessity to have ultra-fast memory cards to keep up with  huge file sizes of DSLR images nowadays. As a photographer, we cannot let any delays to happen, especially when we are photographing crucial moments. 

4TB WD Passport Hardrives

I have two of these external hard-drives. I have been using them for almost a year now, and believe it or not, I think I will be needing another one soon. I love the portability 

Camera Flash V860II

An external flash like no other. Easy to carry along my travels. I use it most of the time when I’m covering events when the ambient light is not sufficient. I love its performance, I have been using it for a year now and no complaints so far. 

X1T TTL Wireless Flash Trigger

One of the most used accessories I have- I use this to trigger my flashgun wirelessly when I’m trying to be creative with the lighting. The same as my comment on the Godox Flashgun, It’s easy to bring when I’m traveling and I have been using it for like a year now and I have no complaints so far. 

So what are your travel essentials? Share it with us through the comment section below. 

New to this blog? Click here to get to know me. 

How To Apply For A Schengen Visa for Philippine-passport holders.

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How to apply for a Schengen Visa (Step by Step Procedure, Documents required and Tips on how to successfully obtain a Schengen Visa)

Applying for a visa can be one of the most-tedious task to do, especially with visas for highly-industrialized countries. Aside from the inch-thick documents we need to collect & submit and the time it takes for it to be processed, there is also a certain amount we need to pay. And above all these, there is still no guarantee that our application will be approved.

Anyway, in this article, I’ll be discussing mainly about the different procedures and documents required  in obtaining a Schengen Visa.

First, what is a  Schengen Visa? Well basically, a Schengen visa is a short stay visa allowing its holder to circulate in the Schengen area. The Schengen area covers 26 countries (“Schengen States”) without border controls between them.

Below are the Schengen States:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia,Finland,France,Germany,Greece,Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

Aside from the Schengen States, you can also use your Schengen visa to visit other countries like:

Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia,Cyprus, Georgia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Turkey

Documents Required:

Fully Completed and Signed Visa Application Form

Cover Letter Stating the purpose of the visit.

Original Passport and passport Info Page Copy

Residence Visa Copy (if you are based abroad)

ID Photos (Bring at least 2 copies)

Roundtrip Flight Ticket Reservation

Travel Insurance

Proof of Accommodation(hotel bookings, etc.)

Proof of Financial Means (latest 6-months bank statement)

Employment Certificate if Employed

Day to day Itinerary

Invitation Letter if you’re invited by Someone from the EU

Affidavit of Support if someone else is paying for your expenses

Enrollment Certificate if you’re a student.

Step by step guide in getting a Schengen Visa

Basically, the first step in getting a Schengen Visa is to choose your main country of travel or the country of which you’ll be spending the most time (if you’re planning to travel to several Schengen States) as this will determine which Visa Application Center you will need to go.

For Schengen Visa Applications, it is mostly handled by VFS GLobal, although there are some countries where the Visa application is handled by the country’s embassy itself, there are also those which are handled by a different agency. So it is important to make sure to decide which country is your main country so you can go to that specific Visa Application Center.

Book an Appointment Online. Well after choosing the country, you should set an appointment where you will submit all your documents for your application. As mentioned on the first step, you should book an appointment based on your main country. In my case, I applied for a Schengen Visa for the Netherlands, and VFS Global handles visa application for the Netherlands, therefore, I booked an appointment on the VFS Global Website.

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I highly suggest that applicants should apply for at least 60-90 days before their intended travel dates to have ample time to fix any problems if there will be any.

On your appointment day at the Visa Application Center, representatives will collect and scan your documents, they will also assess what else may be lacking from all the documents you have submitted. After this, once everything is ok, you will then be called for biometrics collection (fingerprints and photo). Once everything is finished, you will then be given a receipt for you to claim your passport once the result of your application is ready. A tracking number is also written in the receipt for you to be able to track the progress of your application online. You can also opt for an SMS message update with an additional fee.

Processing time takes up to 21 days, so I advice that you only contact the Visa Application Center if you haven’t received any result yet after this timeframe. In my case, I received my passport with a Shengen Visa after 8 days.

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Shengen Visa Fees varies from each country of Application, Since I applied for The Netherlands through VFS GLOBAL in the UAE, then here is the breakdown of all the fees that I paid in the local currency:

99 AED around 26 USD – Appointment fee paid at the VFS Global site

260 AED around 70 USD – Shengen Visa Fee to be paid during the day of application

30 AED around 8 USD – Courier Service (Optional) – the passport will be delivered to your desired address.

I hope you find this article helpful. For questions, feel-free to ask it on the comments below and I will try to answer as soon as I’ll be able to read them.

Thank you for reading!

Exploring Brussels, one of my favorite European Cities

Brussels, Belgium was the second European Country which I visited during my first travel across Northern Europe. I arrived from Amsterdam. The train ride took approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. One of the most comfortable train journey I had from all my travels.

Top travel tip: When you book your train tickets across Europe, try to book it in advance to get cheaper rates.  Unfortunately, I needed to book my ticket on the same day, as I had missed my confirmed train during that day due to oversleeping. Well, my excuse is that I partied too hard the night prior to my departure, and therefore the ticket cost me an instant hundred Euros! Three times more expensive, compared to the price of my original booking (completed 2 weeks prior), which was just 30 Euros. Lesson learnt! Don’t party too hard, especially if you have an early trip the next day. As unfortunate as it was, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the rest of my adventure.

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The moment I arrived in Brussels, I took a stroll and instantly felt a strong connection with the place. The photographer in me just couldn’t stop giggling! Ever had that feeling, when visiting somewhere for the first time, that you’ve been there before? That every street and old building in the city looked familiar? Not because you had seen it in photos and videos, but because you had been there or possibly even lived there? That’s how I felt! Weird, but of all the places and cities I’ve visited in my life, I felt this familiarity the strongest in Brussels. Well, maybe I was Belgian in my past life, who knows.   

My favorite place in Brussels is the La Grand Place, Brussel’s main square. It’s one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. It is surrounded by opulent guildhalls and two larger edifices: the city’s Town Hall, and the King’s House or Breadhouse. I spent each morning having coffee and breakfast at one of the coffee shops in the square and just watched pedestrians pass by. The best way to start your day in Brussels!

Grand Palace, Brussels

Five minutes walk from the Grand Place, at the junction of the Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat and the pedestrian Rue de l’Étuve/Stoofstraat, you will find the ‘Mannekin Pis’. A statue of a small boy peeing, which is considered to be one of the most symbolic in Brussels. A must-see when you visit the first time.

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Mannekin Piss

Within the city center, the discovery of unique Belgium culture and traditions never ends. But one thing that really captivated me was the statue of Everard t’Serclaes. Legend has it that rubbing her arm will ensure one’s return to Brussels. So without hesitation, I rubbed the statue’s arm vigorously. Let’s hope this ensures my return.

Everard t’Serclaes

I spent most of my days in Brussels exploring the city, getting to know new friends and taking photos of anything that caught my attention. Funny thing is, everything in Brussels caught my attention! From It’s edifices of stunning architecture, to it’s different cobbled streets! I felt like an animal which had lived in captivity and was finally released into it’s natural habitat. I had never felt such joy! When time comes for me to relocate and settle, without hesitation… it has to be Brussels.