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.


Top Reasons to Visit Canyon Matka in Skopje, North Macedonia

Ever been to a place where upon seeing the sight of it, it just suddenly took your breath away? Well, recently, I have visited Canyon Matka in Skopje, North Macedonia and it pretty much did that to me when I saw it. It’s just freaking gorgeous! One word to describe it would be  ‘indescribable!’.

In my opinion, I think it is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen in my entire travel life. So in this article, I will be discussing some of the top reason as to why you should consider visiting Canyon Matka!

Read also: Top Things to do in Skopje North Macedonia

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1.IT’S CLOSE TO THE CITY CENTER

 This beauty can easily be reached from Skopje’s city center in less than 20 minutes, but sometimes it can take up to 30 minutes during rush hours which is around four to seven in the afternoon. The taxi ride from Skopje’s city center to Canyon Matka will only cost you less than 10 Euros, in my case it costed me 450 Macedonian Denars which is equivalent to 7 Euros that time. 

2. THERE ARE TONS OF ACTIVITIES TO DO HERE

Kayaking, hiking and swimming are just some of the best things to do in Canyon Matka. So if you’re up for some adventure then you can choose to do one, two or all of those when you visit Canyon Matka. The best time to visit and do all of these activities are during the summer months. So make sure to include Canyon Matka in your next summer travel plans! 

3. ITS A VERY ROMANTIC PLACE

If you’re thinking of a special and beautiful place to pop the question, consider Canyon Matka. This place is just perfect for wedding proposals! Or if you are worried as to where is the perfect place to shoot your prenup or wedding photos in North Macedonia, then worry no more, Canyon Matka is definitely one of the best backdrops out there. 

4. BREATHTAKING VIEWS

As I mentioned earlier, when I saw Canyon Matka for the first time, it literally took my breath away. Its beauty is just, is just,, ahh I can’t describe it! So I suggest that you go there yourself to see what I mean. 😀

5. IT’S A PLAYGROUND FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS

Not only it offers relaxing views but it also offers picture perfect views. So as a photographer myself, I literally didn’t stop giggling all throughout the duration of my visit, every angle of Matka is just picture perfect! 

Have you been to Canyon Matka? How was your experience? Why don’t you share it with us through the comment section below. 

New to the Blog, get to know me more here

Top Things to do in Skopje North Macedonia

Recently, I visited Skopje (pronounced as ‘skawp-ye’) in North Macedonia.  Skopje is part of my Balkan Road-trip Itinerary and basically it was my first stop. I flew directly to Skopje from Dubai with Flydubai. Flydubai flies to Skopje every three days, the flight took approximately around five hours. So if you’re based in the United Arab Emirates, try to consider Skopje as your next destination! 

Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia is located in the Balkan Peninsular. Some of the highlights of this capital are their countless giant statues, magnificent canyons, breathtaking mountains, deep caves and ancient towns with Ottoman and European architecture.

Filipino citizens and some other nationalities can visit North Macedonia without having to apply for a North Macedonian Tourist Visa if they are holding a valid unexpired multiple entry Schengen Visa, UK Visa, USA Visa, or Canadian Visa. 

Going back, so I arrived in Skopje Alexander the Great Airport, Skopje’s main International Airport. It’s a pretty compact airport, so I managed to get to the passport-control desk immediately after disembarking. For some reasons, the immigration officers are ‘very very very’ strict with visitors who are possessing a third-world passport-unfortunately, that’s including me, so they held me on the side together with some other people while they let other people(obviously people with strong passports) pass with ease. How humiliating ey’?

So after they’ve finished letting everyone through, some officer went back to interrogate us furthermore individually. They just asked the basic questions like what is the purpose of visit, the next destination after, etc. Thank goodness I was traveling with my very good friend, Tom, who is a Scottish Expat based in Dubai. The officer might have noticed that we were traveling together so he just asked to confirm if we we’re traveling together, and we said ‘yes’ and there goes the funny part- the officer faced Tom and started asking questions about me, right in front of me as if I wasn’t there. And when I tried to interrupt to answer some of the questions, the officer just ‘sssshhh!’ me with a hand gesture to literally tell me to shut the F*** up haha. After Tom answered some of his questions, then the officer was convinced that our sole-purpose was just for tourism, so the officer gave my passport back to me with an entry stamp. 

In my case, I used my valid Schengen Visa to gain entry, although I could’ve used my Canadian Visa, but still, despite having different visas from highly-industrialized countries, the decision will still be upon the immigration officer. Sometimes, I really cannot blame them for being so strict, especially with people who are holding a passport from countries with a very bad reputation of overstaying in another territory. 

The key is to keep your cool whenever you are going through passport-control and facing immigration officials. As long as you are brutally honest with your intention of visiting a place, then I think there is nothing to worry about. They might held you for some reason, but that is just for their own security.

Well, That wasn’t a warm welcome, but that definitely didn’t stop me from discovering some of the great things that this City has to offer. 

Well, in this article, I will be discussing some of the main highlights of Skopje. Places I’ve seen and activities which I have done in this beautiful city that I highly recommend.

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Top Things to See and Do in Skopje

Canyon Matka

Canyon Matka is basically one of the main highlights of Skopje. It is one of those places which you shouldn’t miss when you are visiting Skopje and it’s pretty much easy to get there from town. From the city center, you can take a taxi directly to Canyon Matka for less than 10 euros, the same is with going back from the canyon to the city center. I highly suggest people who intend to visit Canyon Matka to spend at least three hours exploring this gem to actually admire its beauty from every angle. 

When in Canyon Matka, consider taking a boat tour to Vrelo Cave. Vrelo Cave offers different rock structures like stalagmites and stalactites and is believed to be the the deepest underwater cave in the whole world. Definitely a must visit place when in Canyon Matka. Other option to get to this cave is through kayaking, so if you are feeling adventurous, rent a kayak and paddle your way to Vrelo Cave. The boat ride only costs around 400 Macedonian Denar (around 5 Euros) per person while the kayak rent is around 200 Denar, so quite affordable. 


Macedonia Square 

Macedonia Square is North Macedonia’s main square. It is one of the famous spots in Skopje. A giant statue of Alexander the Great on a horse can be seen here. The square also has fountains which is usually filled with joyful children playing with the water. The music played that is heard from this monument complements the whole atmosphere of beauty in Macedonia. 

Stone Bridge

Located near Macedonia Square, this bridge can easily be reached by foot. This bridge connects the old and new part of the town. The bridge is also less frequently known as the Dušan Bridge after Stephen Dušan, Emperor of Serbia. Come and see it during dusk to admire its beauty with the colorful Macedonian sunset in the background. 

Museum of Macedonia

Stunning piece of architecture! That’s how I describe the Museum of Macedonia. It is situated on the other side of the Vardar River and it can easily be reached from the main square. Definitely a place to go if you wanna see some artifacts and different historical collections being exhibited or simply if you wanna know the in-depth history of North Macedonia. 

Vardar River

Vardar River is what separates the old and new part of Skopje. Along the banks are countless cafes and pubs that offers both local and international cuisines. Take a stroll at the Vardar River during sunset to admire its lively vibe and to appreciate its real beauty with the colorful sunset reflecting on its waters. 

Explore Skopje’s Old Town

One of my favorite things to do when visiting a city is to explore its old town.  Skopje’s old town didn’t disappoint, I pretty much just wandered around and admired its beauty. Here you can find countless souvenir shops, so a must-go place when you intend to take some souvenirs home. If you’re feeling hungry, the old town is home to several local restaurants where you can taste local cuisines. 

Go on a day-trip to Pristina in Kosovo from Skopje

I will be discussing my experience in Kosovo in a different blogpost though I just wanna highlight it here that you can pretty much go on a day-trip to Kosovo’s capital Pristina from Skopje as they are pretty much located quite near each other. The travel time from Skopje to Pristina takes around 2 hours, including the time it takes to get through passport control at the border. Buses from each city departs every hour, and one way ticket costs around 6 Euros.

The currency they use in Kosovo is Euro. So if you are not going for a day-trip and you’re leaving North Macedonia to Kosovo and not coming back, then I highly suggest that you change your remaining Macedonian Denar to Euros as most exchange centers in Kosovo doesn’t accept Macedonian Denar for some reasons. 

Have you been to Skopje? 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. 

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!