COPING UP WITH THE PANDEMIC THROUGH CYCLING

I woke up early this morning only to realize that it has only been four months since the lockdown happened. To me, it seems like it has been several years. Ever since it happened, I just wake up each day with uncertainty, with anxiousness and lots of what-ifs. As a person who loves to travel, this pandemic has basically impacted me mentally. And also the fact that we never know when we will be able to travel again just basically adds up to the worries that we already have. 

Before the pandemic, I have actually tried to save some amount for my future travels. Sadly, I needed to cancel some trips because of the restrictions. But as a person who always tries to look on the bright side of things, I decided to spare some of the amounts I saved to get a bicycle. ‘Well, if I can’t fly, might as-well ride a bike instead!’ , I told myself. Also, the fact that I am based in Vancouver and Vancouver is a great city for biking is just one of the major reasons to own a bike.

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It has been two months since I got my ‘First-Ever Bicycle!’. Growing up, I never had my own. I remember when I was a kid,  I always go to my friend’s house to borrow his bike. So imagine the excitement I had when the Bicycle Store contacted me that my bike was ready for pick-up! 

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After getting my bike, I decided to break it in and cycled around Stanley Park. It was my first bike ride in almost 2 years, the last one I had was when I was in Berlin in Germany last 2018, so I had a bit of a challenge, especially when the track goes uphill. Though challenging, the view at the top made it worth it and eventually I just forgot all  the struggle and basically felt proud of myself which is basically a fulfilling feeling. 

Each day after getting my bike, It has started to become like an inspiration to me to wake up and go to work each day as I just look forward to riding it every after work, which I never felt ever since the pandemic happened. And each time after every cycling session, I just feel better physically and emotionally that  it makes me look forward to the next session.

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Sometimes, I get invited by other cyclists to bike with them, allowing me to discover places in Vancouver that I haven’t been yet, and most of these places have a view to die for. My favorite so far is the beach near the University of British Columbia’s Mall street, it’s just the perfect place to watch the sunset while you get warm in a bonfire while having a platter of cheese, meat, and fruits. 

Being able to go to these places, especially through cycling, and during this pandemic has definitely fed my wanderlust spirit a hundred times more than before it all happened. And for the first time, I started to have the same feeling of appreciation towards local travels to that of international travels. 

Riding my bike not only keeps me mentally and physically fit, which is basically the state we need to be in during this whole pandemic but it has also allowed me to connect with new people who share the same interests as me. Though this whole pandemic has affected the world badly, biking or cycling has helped me cope up with the whole thing, it has allowed me to experience the feeling of being extremely free, particularly when the wind hits you as you go against it. It’s just one of the silver- linings that I cannot overlook. 

Riding my bike not only keeps me mentally and physically fit but it also gives me the feeling of being extremely free, especially when the wind hits you as you go against it. 

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Barcelona: A Vibrant and Gigantic Amusement Park

Barcelona is like a gigantic amusement park, a city where every locality has something different to offer. Barcelona has many different features which are facing the Mediterranean Sea.  It is filled with great and unique architectural buildings that are undeniably a work of art.  A mouth-watering dish like Paella is worth a try. 

I would say that this was our best trip so far because it didn’t only offer the preserved history of vibrant España but also their citizens, who are very accommodating and truly talented. We have visited Barcelona’s top attractions; however, our top 5 would be the Park Guell, Sagrada Familia, La Ramblas, Arc De Triomphe, and Mount Tibidabo. 

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Park Guell is one of the main tourist fascinations of Barcelona. It is very interesting for people like me who wants to know more about the unusual world of the works of Antoni Gaudi. However, you’ll have to pay an extra amount in order to enter the monumental zone to see the famous view of the park. I would describe Park Guell as an original masterpiece and an exotic architecture. 

The Sagrada Familia is still under construction up to this date, the construction has began in 1882 with Gaudi being the one behind the design of this religious architecture. The design is out of the ordinary and every details are well-thought of. Moreover, I was enormously impressed by the grandeur of its interior as well as the beauty of the church itself. 

La Ramblas of Barcelona is the pedestrian-like promenade that is lively with various stalls and vendors along it. Within the promenade, we passed by their ‘wet market’ or popularly known as La Boqueria that is definitely clean and well-maintained.

The Arc de Triomphe, similar to the Arc located in Paris, France is worth a visit as well. This arc served as gateway to the Word Fair in 1888.                   

Lastly, the Mount Tibidabo, which has many attractions and is best known for its funicular which was once considered an attraction. But what really amazed us was the oldest amusement park in Barcelona that is situated on top of the mountain and retains some of its oldest rides that are completely functional even up to this date. On top of the Ferris wheel ride, you can see the panoramic view of the whole city of Barcelona that is truly breathtaking. 

Barcelona is a city where you have to see and experience it yourself. You might have a different perspective about it but all in all it truly amuses everyone by its wonder. 

This Travel Story is written by Rommel ‘Roms’ Ramirez. You can follow more of his adventure on his instagram @romsramirez or facebook Rommel Zubieta Ramirez
ALL PHOTOS IN THIS ARTICLE ARE FROM ROMMEL ‘ROMS’ RAMIREZ PERSONAL ARCHIVE.

A nurse by profession, but a traveler by heart. I love traveling to places that is rich in history and diversity. I am a professional dancer, that being said, I prefer being in places that is full of creativity, culture, and positive vibes. 

Traveling means a lot to me. It is a humbling experience of being able to see places for yourself and reminisce the journey and people that I’ve met. Having conversations with locals in any specific city adds up some learning about that specific place I’ve visited. Exploring the world is something that no one can take away from us. That makes us human, the eagerness to learn, to experience, and explore the world. 

ROMMEL’S TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

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CAMERA LENS: NIKON NIKKOR 50MM F1.8 CHECK THE LATEST PRICE ON AMAZON.COM HERE

MOBILE PHOTOGRAPHY KIT: IPHONE X CHECK THE LATEST PRICE ON AMAZON.COM HERE

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Memories in Bali

My most amazing travel experience is probably the short trip that I had in Bali on March this year, right after my birthday. It was amazing because Bali gave me peace, just what I needed during that time. I was so stressed out at work and I needed to escape from the concrete jungle, from the busy and sunny Singapore. 

I’ve chosen Bali because it’s one of the nearest countries to Singapore, where I am currently based. I thought that there’s nothing special about Bali since it has very similar resources to where I came from, the Philippines. I thought that the people who have been there were just sensationalizing their experience but I was wrong.

It is more peaceful and more safe in Bali. It is more liveable and more welcoming to tourists because tourism is the country’s number one source of income. I have stayed in Canggu where I met a solo traveller from Germany. We have agreed to take gojek and went to Ubud, where I had the best time ever. 

Ubud is so peaceful. We went to a place called Jungle Fish. It is Ubud’s famous open-air restaurant with a pool bar.  Ubud, Bali is where the yogies would stay for months to a year. Yes months, because immigration is not so strict there. You can get a 30-day tourist visa, go out and go in again. 

One thing that I love about Bali is that healthier food options are so easy to find. If you want to experience being one with nature, I recommend that you go to Ubud, Bali. And oh, please bring along a mosquito repellent, it is a necessity. 

This Travel Story is written by Gladys Dimagiba. You can follow more of her adventure on her instagram @gladysdima

ALL PHOTOS IN THIS ARTICLE ARE FROM gladys dimagiba’s PERSONAL ARCHIVE.

Gladys is a thriving Filipina banker in Singapore who loves to wander around the world. Some of her unforgettable travel moments include her visits in Indonesia and Australia.

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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. 

Top Things To Do in Venice

Ever went to a place where it left you instantly breathless? -Well, recently, I visited Venice in Italy, and upon arriving there and seeing the place, it just took my breath away in the spur of a moment. A lot of people who has been to this place will always tell you that there is no place on earth like Venice, it is true, and I’m one witness to it. 

Venice is founded by mainland populations escaping from the barbarian invasions of the Huns led by Attila during circa 450AD- but I will not dwell into that. Going back, Venice is unique from most cities as it is built on waters, waters of the Adriatic Sea to be specific and since it is built on waters, this city has spectacular networks of picturesque canals, and basically, as a photographer and traveler, this is my main fascination with the city. 

In this article, I will be sharing the top things to do do in this spectacular city as well as my own share of photographs which I took from my last visit, just to give you a better idea as to how beautiful Venice is. 

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Explore Grand Canal

The Grand Canal is a channel in Venice, Italy. It forms one of the major water-traffic corridors in the city, that is according to wikipedia. But there is so much more about grand canal more than just being a channel, it is also a very picturesque place and a great place to see the sunset. So if you want a romantic place to take your other half, or if you simply just want to witness Venice’s signature sunset, then head over to the opening end of the grand canal, located just a few minutes walk from Piazza San Marco. 

Head to Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge is one of most picturesque bridges in Europe, it has became like a signature for Venice. I’m pretty sure everyone who has watched the movie: ’Spider-man Far From Home’ will recognize it as the setting of the scene where Spider-man and Mysterio first encountered each other while fighting the water element.

Rialto Bridge

Head to Accademia Bridge

This is my favorite bridge in the whole of Venice, it is one of the major bridges on the Grand Canal. Here you can witness magnificent sunsets. It is also a famous sites for photographers, so if you plan to do some long-exposure photography here, be sure to arrive a little early, as it easily gets filled with tripods from other photographers wanting to do the same. 

Gondola as seen from Accademia Bridge

Day-trip to Murano and Burano

Murano and Burano are two separate towns slash islands, but to get to Burano, you will have the option to pass through Murano. Murano is beautiful small town, a bit modern than Venice though, but its one beautiful town famous for its glass-blowing arts. Murano also has lots of Glass factory where you can watch different glass artists make their art. On the other hand, Burano is another town, you can reach it through riding a 45 minutes ferry-ride from Murano. Burano is a small island town famous for its brightly colored- fishermen’s houses. A must visit town when in Venice. 

Take a Gondola-ride

This is a little bit cliche’ but if you are traveling with family or your other half, then I suggest that you take  a gondola-ride. I haven’t taken the Gondola ride myself, but people who has experienced it are saying that it gives you a completely different perspective of the city. Well for sure, I bet the view from the Gondola will let you take amazing images as well. 

Visit Basilica San Marco

Venetian architecture at its finest. The basilica San Marco is a famous sight situated on one side of the Piazza San Marco. It is the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture, which boasts an amazing exterior as well having a jaw-dropping interior. 

Basilica San Marco

Explore Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco  or commonly known as St. Marks Square is Venice’s main square. The Piazza San Marco is the most important and most famous square of the city of Venice. A great place to explore and take photographs. From here, you can pretty much access different attractions easily. 


Discover Venice’s Picturesque Canals

The most thing I get fascinated about Venice are its amazing picturesque canals. There is just no bad angle whichever angle you take your photos from. Venice is almost defined by its canals, with more than one hundred-fifty waterways veining through the city and traversed by over four-hundred bridges. Definitely a great place to get lost for travelers and a great playground for photographers. 

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

Buscalan, Then and Now

Buscalan is a small village situated on the mountains of Tinglayan in the province of Kalinga in Northern-Philippines. It is home to the famous traditional tattooist Whang-od Oggay. Buscalan Village is also considered as the last traditional-tattoo haven in the Northern Philippines. Despite the distance and difficulty to reach the place, it doesn’t stop visitors (both local and foreigners) from visiting this village. That’s why sometimes, people’s journey to the village is considered a pilgrimage. 

Whang-od Oggay. Circa 2014

Recently, I went to Buscalan for a visit after three long years. I first visited Buscalan back in 2012, then been going back and forth between 2015 and 2016. Most houses back then were completely made from traditional materials, its foundation and walls are made-up of woods and the roofs are completely made-up of cogon grasses. But now, almost all houses are made from modern materials, like concrete and metals. Most of the houses were also converted to transient homes to accommodate all the people who visit the village. 

Typical Scene in Buscalan, Circa 2012

I also noticed a huge boom in tourism, there were like around thirty people waiting in line to get a tattoo. It’s nice that the village is receiving lots of visitors, however, this gives rise to some problems like problems with waste disposal, etc. I’ve observed that most visitors bring tons of plastic stuff with them and most of the time they just leave most of it in the village and this often leads to all of these plastics being scattered around.

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So basically now, you cannot go to the village without a local-guide which I think is nice since it gives livelihood to some people. You also need to pay a visitor fee of php75 like around 1.5USD when you enter the village, which I think is ok as long as the money collected are being used properly for the development of the village. I still remember before, when villagers invite you over for a coffee whenever you pass by their homes but now you need to pay around 20php for a cup. Well, I think everyone needs to put a price in everything nowadays.

Visitors from other countries smile as they mingle with the locals over some bread and coffee. Buscalan, Circa 2014

One major noticeable change I noticed when I visited Buscalan is the construction of a concrete road towards the village. It’s sti ll on-going, but from the most vehicle-accessible point of the road to the village, it can now be only journeyed for 30 minutes. Many people (mostly people who are not from the village) were against it before, but now I think they’ve realized the importance of it to the villagers, especially to those young students who needed to walk several kilometers on rocky, muddy and narrow paths just to get to school back then. 

Side of the mountain is carved to give way to the construction of the concrete road to the village. Circa 2019

Change is inevitable, especially in this modern world we are in. I don’t know when I will be able to visit Buscalan again, but I’m excited to see what changes will happen till my next visit. 

Have you been to Buscalan? If so, then what are your thoughts and insights on the current situation of the village? Feel free to share them on the comment section below. 

Exploring Canada, The Best Country

Growing up, I have always been surrounded by people from different parts of the world, predominantly Canadians. Often times, they show me photos of their home country, and basically those photos has sparked the desire in me to travel there someday, so ever-since then I always wanted to visit the country.

So fast-forward, earlier this year, I was able to secure a Canadian Visa. Thanks to all the people who has helped me in this process. In my opinion, getting a Canadian Visa is one of the easiest process which I went through, everything was done online and I just went to the Visa Application Center to submit my Biometrics and Passport. Great Job Canada! I will not be discussing the whole process of getting a Canadian Visa in this post but I will definitely discuss and share that in a different blog post. 

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Downtown Vancouver

So I traveled to Canada earlier this year. I flew from Paris to Montreal through AirTransat, an airline which is based mainly in Montreal. I flew from Europe as it’s so much cheaper to fly from there compare to like flying directly from Dubai. So first things first whenever I arrive in a country, to go through Passport Control. For some reason, whenever I go through passport control, I always feel some jitters. Maybe because I’ve felt discriminated from all the interrogations from officers from my previous travels.

British Columbia Parliament Building

Ok so going back, to my surprise, upon handing my passport to the officer, she just looked at the pages then looked at me with a smile and said ‘welcome to Canada!’- that was like the first time an immigration officer greeted me with actual words and welcomed me to their country with a huge smile! Oh well, only in Canada! 

Banff, Alberta

I have spent two-whole months exploring Canada, from the exotic coast of British Columbia to the snowy-peaks of Alberta. Within those months of exploring, I’ve concluded that Canada is basically one of the most beautiful countries I’ve visited. This country just boasts breath-taking natures, from Icy Peaks to turquoise-colored lakes which definitely has made the photographer in me giggled with excitement each time. It is also in Canada where I’ve experienced extreme hospitality from people. Definitely one the many good things which I will never forget from this trip. 

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Canada is one of the most-memorable country which I visited. Mainly because of how beautiful the country is and how friendly people there are. So imagine how I felt when I needed to leave the country- yeah, I was filled with emotions. I know this visit is basically just an introduction and I know that I will be back for sure. I also think that  it is a destination which I will always go back to for a visit but will feel the same excitement as if it’s my first time visiting. So definitely looking forward to it, and hopefully it will be sooner. 

Have you been to Canada? If so, how was your experience? Feel free to share them on the comments below! 

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.

How to apply for a UK Visa for Philippine Passport Holders

Recently, I have applied for a Short-term UK Visa in Abu Dhabi upon my intention to visit my friend who lives in the UK. Before my application, I have read tons of websites and blogs. Upon checking, I just let a big sigh upon seeing all the list of requirements that you need to acquire and submit. I know it’s hard to be Filipino sometimes!

So one month before my application, I started to collect all the documents needed. I started with requesting a Certificate of Employment from my employer then requesting a Bank Statement from my Bank. Upon completing all my documents, I went to the UKVI website to book an appointment and paid 141.00USD online and received a confirmation booking for their office in Khalidiya. You need to print the confirmation letter before going to the application center, otherwise they won’t let you in the Visa Application Center without it.

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Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

So on my appointment day, I went to the VFS Global Office which is located on the 25th floor of Shining Towers in Khalidiya, went for security checks then submitted all my documents to the agent. Upon verifying all of it I paid an extra 10aed for SMS and Email Tracking, he then asked me to proceed to the biometrics room for my photograph and fingerprints collection. The whole process only took about 14-minutes or less, so quick! They then informed me that the visa processing time will take up to 3 weeks.

To be honest, I was so nervous that my visa might get denied because I’ve read some blog posts from applicants who have been denied because they only have stayed here in the UAE for not so long, and since I’m only 20 years old and has only been staying here in the UAE for a year, the fear of getting denied is real! But after 8 working days, I received my passport anxiously praying and hoping to see a UK Visa stamped on it while browsing all my passport pages, Thank God! They gave me a multiple visa valid for six months! One of the happiest days of my freaking life! See you next year UK!

You should not worry about your application as long as you’ve provided all the required documents and that you’re completely honest with your intention of visiting the UK.  In my scenario, I got a letter of invitation from my friend who lives in the UK. It’s stated in the letter that I will be staying at his place most of the time and that he will make sure that I will exit from the UK before the Visa expires. And I also stated in my cover letter that I will only go there purely for tourism purposes and that I have no intention of looking for a job in the UK.

I hope this experience will help a lot of you, especially Filipino expats here in the UAE who are applying for a UK Visa for the first time.

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Documents required

Letter of sponsorship from sponsor/s

Cover Letter Addressed to the Embassy of UK in Abu Dhabi

Passport copy of sponsor/s

Statement of Account of sponsor/s

Six month pay slip of sponsor/s

Itinerary plans with Budget

Your Passport Copy

Residence Visa Copy

Employment Certificate showing your annual income and Approved Leave dates

Bank Statements For The Last Six Months

Application form, duly dated and signed 

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Frequently asked questions:

I’m in the UAE as a tourist, can I apply for a UK visa in any of the emirate?

-No, unfortunately most of the UK Visa application center only accepts applicant with a visa enabling the applicant to stay in a country/ territory for more than six months and in this case, UAE tourist visa is only valid for 3 months max.

Will the UKVI Accepts Scanned copy of the documents of my sponsor/s?

-Yes! They do, so you don’t need to ask your sponsor to courier all the original documents.

Should I have a confirmed return flight tickets before applying?

-No, not necessarily.

Thanks for reading!