Exploring Madrid and Oliva in Spain

I traveled to Madrid from Lisbon by bus. It was an overnight one leaving Lisbon around 7pm and it took almost 11 hours before it was able to reach Madrid South Station. Well, there are also some flight options from Lisbon to Madrid but it’s five times more expensive than the cost of the bus fare. As a budget-traveler, I always opt for the more practical option. 

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It was a weekend when I arrived in Madrid, so basically everything was closed. And I realized that the data sim I bought in Portugal doesn’t seem to work in Spain. Fortunately, there was this one cafe in the station which was open, and thank goodness they have wifi, so I just booked an Uber instantly to my accommodation which in this case was the house of one of my good friends. 

On my way to my friend’s house, I got a really good glimpse as to how beautiful this city is from the Uber car. The streets were just bustling with lovely people walking their dogs and people sitting on outdoor cafes enjoying their cup of coffee. And upon arriving at my friend’s house, I left my luggages and we went out to do a little bit of exploring.

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In the afternoon, we decided to go swimming to one of the public pools in Madrid. To my surprise, I didn’t expect the queue to the pool to be a mile long! Well, basically it was summer during that time, and since Madrid is from from the beach, people often flock into pools to cool-down. 

After queuing for almost two hours, we were finally able to get in. But again, to my surprise, the pool is so crowded, like literally, there is no more space to get into. I’ve never been to any pool this crowded, but it was quite an experience. 

On my second day, I went to explore Madrid’s old town, and damn, it’s very gorgeous! Madrid is one of the most beautiful capitals I’ve ever been to. It’s very clean and almost all streets are covered with trees. In the main part of the old town, gorgeous pedestrian streets, stunning monumental buildings and squares filled with monuments are just some of the things that you’ll see. Madrid is indeed a city of great monuments.

Gran Via is Madrid’s most famous street and also one of my favorite streets in Madrid. It is also described as a hustling and bustling part of Madrid’s city center with no shortage of interesting and exciting things to do and see. Here you can find lots of buildings with stunning architectures, luxury shops and department stores. Definitely the best place to go shopping in Madrid. 

The Plaza Mayor, which literally means ‘Main Square’ in english is my favorite place in Madrid. It is a major public space in the heart of Madrid where you can find countless shops and cafes offering authentic Spanish Cuisines. 

On the next day, we went to Oliva, a small coastal town in the Valencian community. A three-hour drive from Madrid, this gem is one of the most beautiful town in Spain but also one of the most underrated as people tend to go to its more famous neighbor, Valencia City. We stayed for a total of three days in Oliva, often times busking under the sun by the beach. It’s also here where I got sunburnt so bad, but I have no regrets as I had so much fun. 

Back in Madrid, I spent my remaining days in the city, exploring and experiencing it like a local. Often times, I have no concrete itinerary and just wander around till I find a nice local pub. For me, wandering is often the best way for you to actually discover the best things any city has to offer. 

While writing this article, I actually cannot wait to visit Madrid again, or Spain in general. Also, would love to be able to visit other Spanish Cities like Barcelona next time. 

Have you been to Spain? How was your experience? Share it with us through the comment section below. 

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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!