How I Travelled Across North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bulgaria and Serbia using My Philippine Passport

Few weeks back, I traveled across several countries in the Balkan Region in Europe. I was able to cover four Balkan Countries in eight days. Well it took a few days of planning like booking all accommodations and transportations in advance to get the cheapest deal available. 

As a Philippines Passport holder, I needed to have a valid visa to be able to visit these countries. But fortunately, all of these countries allow passport holders from several countries to enter without having the need to obtain a visa for each, as long as they are holding a valid multiple-entry Schengen Visa. And obviously in my case, I used my valid Schengen Visa to travel across these countries. 

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Traveling to several countries in a single trip doesn’t need to be tough, especially when you are traveling across Europe. Whenever I go on a trip, I try to cross-out at least two countries in each trip to save on flight costs. And countries in Europe are pretty much situated near each other and can easily be accessed through land transportations such as buses, trains, etc. which makes it more easier. I travelled pretty much through buses across these countries with seven hours being the longest time.

Crossing the border to some of these countries can be quite tough though, especially to people who are holding passports from third-world nations. So I highly suggest that you should always have all the useful documents like onward tickets, accommodations etc.  ready with you whenever you cross a border to prove that your main purpose of visit is merely for tourism. 

Skopje, North Macedonia

My first stop was in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia. Skopje is a pretty compact capital surrounded by beautiful mountains. I spent a total of two days exploring this city. It is also quite affordable to travel in this city, like a pint of beer ordered from a pub or restaurant would only cost you less than a Euro. 

So far, the best places that I recommend in Skopje are Canyon Matka and Skopje’s Old Town. Canyon Matka is one of the main highlight of North Macedonia, it is also one of the most beautiful canyon I’ve ever seen. It can easily be reached through a 20-minute taxi ride from Skopje’s Town Center. The old town is just located in the city-center itself. Here you can see countless different giant statues and stunning cobbled streets.

READ ALSO:

Top Things To Do in Skopje North Macedonia

Top Reasons To Visit Canyon Matka

Pristina, Kosovo

My second stop was in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. I arrived in Pristina through a two-hour bus ride from Skopje and spent a day exploring everything that this city has to offer. Crossing the border from North Macedonia to Kosovo is one of the quickest and easiest border crossings I’ve ever done in my whole life of traveling. 

Pristina is a beautiful city, you can pretty much explore everything in this city within a day. Mother Theresa Boulevard is a must-visit when in Pristina. Here you can find countless hip cafes and authentic local restaurants where you can have a taste of amazing Kosovo cuisines. The same as Skopje, this city is also quite affordable to travel to.

Sofia, Bulgaria

My third stop, Sofia! Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria and one of the most  beautiful European cities. I spent a total of three days exploring everything that this city has to offer. Sofia can easily be reached through a four-hour bus ride from Skopje in North Macedonia or Pristina in Kosovo.

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Sofia has so much history, and you can see it from the ruins which still remain intact until today. Some of the few things I recommend worth visiting in this city is the Vitosha Boulevard, their main street and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the whole of Europe. 

READ ALSO: Top Things To See and Do in Sofia 

Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade or Beograd, the capital of Serbia is my final stop on this trip. I arrived in Belgrade’s main bus station after a seven-hour bus ride from Sofia, Bulgaria. From the bus station, the city center can easily be reached in less than ten-minutes by foot. I stayed for a total of four days exploring and discovering everything this city has to offer. 

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Belgrade is a big and beautiful city, I know it’ll be beautiful prior to visiting it but I wasn’t expecting it to be very vast. It has also been dubbed as ‘the city that never sleeps’. The capital has two main areas worth exploring, New Belgrade and Old Belgrade. New Belgrade is on the left side of the Sava river while Old Belgrade is on the opposite. 

Although the whole city itself is worth exploring, there are few things in Belgrade that I highly recommend worth visiting. The Knez Mihailova Street and the Belgrade Fortress shouldn’t be missed when you are visiting Belgrade. The Knez Mihailova Street is one of the oldest and most valuable landmarks of the city and there you can find countless shops, restaurants, cafes, pub, etc. While the Belgrade Fortress is one of the most beautiful spots in Belgrade for sunset viewing and it can easily be reached from the other end of the Knez Mihailova Street. 


Have you been to and of these countries? How was your experience? Share it with us through the comment section below. 

New to the Blog? Click here to get to know me more.


Exploring Sofia Bulgaria, Top Things to See and Do in This Beautiful Capital

Recently, I’ve traveled across North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bulgaria and Serbia in Southeastern Europe. One of the cities I’ve visited was Sofia, Sofia is the capital as well as being the largest city of the Balkan nation of Bulgaria. 

I travelled to Sofia from Skopje in North Macedonia by bus. The bus ride took around four and a half hours, that’s already including the time it takes to get through security at the border. Getting from Skopje to Sofia and vice versa is pretty easy and the bus ticket only costs $19 for one way. The bus station in Sofia is located in the city center itself, just a walking distance to the major accommodation areas and attractions in Sofia so it’s pretty much convenient when you have booked your accommodation in the city center of Sofia itself.

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You can book your bus tickets in advance online through omio.com. You can then just show your booking confirmation to one of the staff at the ticketing booth of the bus company mentioned in the booking confirmation in Skopje for them to give you a printed pass for you to show to the bus driver.

In this article, I will be discussing some of the best attractions to see and things to do in this beautiful capital. 

So here are the Top Things to See and Do in Sofia which I highly recommend! 

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Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

In my opinion, I think this is one of the most beautiful churches I have seen in Europe, I mean the whole world rather. It boasts a Neo-Byzantine style architecture, hence the stunning details. Visit this church during sunrise or sunset for you to be able to take the best photos of it with a dramatic sky in the background. 

Vitosha Boulevard

My favorite place in Sofia, the Vitosha Boulevard or sometimes referred to as Vitosha Street is the main commercial street of Sofia. Here you can find countless bars, pubs, cafes, restaurants and posh shops. During late afternoons, you can witness several street performers here as well, so definitely it’s the best place to unwind for both locals and foreigners in Sofia.

Church of Saint George

The Church of Saint George is considered the oldest structure in Sofia. It one of the most unique churches I have ever seen because of its style and location. Go and see it for yourself to see what I mean. You can find it behind the Sheraton Hotel in the museum quarter in the center of Sofia.

National Palace of Culture

The National Palace of Culture is a large multifunctional conference and exhibition centre. If it is your first time in Sofia, then I highly suggest that you go and visit it. It’s situated just at the other end of Vitosha Boulevard. It’s a great place to do some physical activities and the view there doesn’t suck so it’s also a great place for some photos. 

Ivan Vazov National Theater

A great place where you can spend your free time. There are tons of buskers here so even if you don`t have anyone to go out with then you can still go and chill there without feeling alone. 

St Nedelya Church

St. Nedelya Church is an Eastern Orthodox church in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, a cathedral of the Sofia bishopric of the Bulgarian Patriarchate. Sveta Nedelya is a medieval church that has suffered destruction through the ages and has been reconstructed many times.

Reference- Wikipedia

Saint Sofia Church

Saint Sofia Church is a Byzantine style church which is located on the same compound as Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This church has an underground museum where you can explore and witness ancient tombs on display for a small entrance fee.

Tsar Liberator Monument

An equestrian monument in the centre of Sofia, just a few meters away from Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The monument was a tribute to Alexander II, a Russian Emperor who liberated Bulgaria from Ottoman rule during the Russo-Turkish War in the year 1877-1878. 

Lions’ Bridge

Coming from Sofia’s Central Bus Station, this bridge is what welcomed us on our way to our airbnb accommodation. It’s a pretty nice bridge, so I had to stop for several minutes to take some photos of it. Definitely a must-see when in Sofia.

Statue of Sveta Sofia

The Statue of Sveta Sofia is a monumental sculpture in Sofia, Bulgaria.Sophia was considered too erotic and pagan to be referred to as a saint. 24 feet in height, the copper and bronze statue by the sculptor Georgi Chapkanov, stands on a 48 feet high pedestal. Adorned with the symbols of power (crown), fame (wreath) and wisdom (owl), the crown is also a reference to the Goddess of Fate, Tyche, inspired by the old emblem of Sofia dating back to 1900. 

reference: Wikipedia

Thanks for reading! Have you been to Sofia? How was your experience? Share it with us through the comment section below!

New to the Blog, get to know me more here. 

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!