Posts Tagged ‘ London ’

Londres! Londra! London!

L-O-N-D-O-N!!!

Big Ben and the Parliament from Westminster Bridge

It’s been 10months since I got to this vibrant city and I still haven’t written anything about it?! Oh my! Have to rectify that ASAP! :))

London’s Eye :)

Relocating to one of the most popular cities in the world is definitely exciting! Since it’s very popular, many people have lots of thoughts about this city. Some feedbacks that I got from friends were very varied and funny!

St. Paul’s Cathedral and Millenium Bridge seen from Tate Modern Museum

“You’re going to London?!!! That’s so exciting!!!” <<It is!

“Why London, Cath?!!! It’s gray and gloomy!” <<When it’s sunny, it’s just wonderful!

“Just in time for the Olympics! Cool!” <<IKR?! :D

“Say hi to William and Kate for me!” <<I’ll even give them a hug IF I get close enough! hehe

“The food there is terrible!” <<No comment. haha

“You can now travel to other European countries!” <<True this! It’s very cheap to travel from London!

Spaniards and Spanish supporters celebrating their Euro Cup victory at Piccadilly Circus!

Terrible weather and food aside, nothing could dampen my excitement to get here! I’ve never been on my own and here I am in this very multicultural city and having so much fun! It’s amazing how people here are from all over. I went to this one house party once and there were around 12-15 of us and we were from at least 9 countries! I also hang out with some girls every other weekend (schedule permitting) and we’re all from different countries!

Olympics 2012 is the 3rd time that London hosted this sporting event!

I love history and this city has got to be one of the most historic in the world: from the London Bridge to the dungeon of Tower of London to the famed Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Also, it just seems that so many things are happening here: from Wimbledon (okay, I haven’t been to the tournament but  I will watch the Barclays ATP World Finals! Federer and Murray FTW!) to the Olympics and Paralympics (I got into the Olympic Stadium!) to cool concerts (Coldplay! Radiohead! Muse! Snowpatrol!) and many festivals and other celebrations (the Queen’s Diamond Jubille celebration, Nottinghill Carnival to name a few).

Coldplay!♥

Dancing on the streets of Nottinghill!

I’ve got to admit that I don’t know this city very well (yet) but I am in no hurry. There were even times when my friends and I still feel like tourists here and we’re totally fine with it. I’m taking my time (coz lately, I find myself travelling outside UK hehe) exploring and discovering what this amazing place has to offer! :D

The Queen’s residence :)

 

Related posts:
DIY: Schengen Visa Application
Getting Around in Europe

Getting around in Europe :)

I know I wanna travel all over Europe but I was clueless as to how to go about booking my trips. I’ve asked friends, read websites and based from my experience, it’s quite easy. As easy as booking crazy cheap fares within the Philippines! :D

Travelling within the UK:

There are various modes of transportation within the country. You can either travel by plane, bus or coach which is almost the same, I can’t differentiate one from the other -_-; or train. Buses are the cheapest mode of transportation but it’s where you’ll spend the most hours on the road. Trains are way more convenient but pricier. Planes on the other hand are affordable but the airport/s are outside of London.

Megabus is a popular choice for bus travel because they’re very cheap! And with cheap, something like £1 to go to Oxford or £8 to go to Paris! Because it’s very affordable, many tend to choose this one. I would have to say that their buses aren’t the most comfy but at least you saved some money. National Express coaches on the other hand are almost double the price of Megabus (their one-way trip for Amsterdam can cost £20) but definitely a more comfortable choice. The seats can be reclined unlike the former and you can charge your gadgets which is a big plus for people with an iPhone whose battery life totally sucks! haha :) But I recently took a National Express coach to go to Cambridge and I didn’t find any plug for chargers. Maybe they only them have on selected buses?

I am yet to travel by train within UK. Though options include National Rail, Virgin, Southwest, East Midlands and The Train Line amongst others.

Traveling within Europe:

Visiting other European countries is easy as well once you have the appropriate papers (ie. Schengen visa).  You can do it by bus, train, plane, ferry, your own car, even hitch hike if you want to. I’ve had guests who got to London via hitchhiking.

Aboard the Eurostar enroute to Paris! :D

For my first Eurotrip, I went to Paris via Eurostar. I got it for£84 return trip which according to people I know here is very cheap. I checked the prices there and it’s normally around £100+ so I guess it’s better to book in advance and it also help to travel on weekdays rather than weekends, way cheaper fares! There are several train lines to choose from when you are crossing borders within mainland Europe: TGV, Thalys; and much more if you’re traveling within a European country (ie. Italy’s Tren Italia).

Note: If traveling within mainland Europe, it’s perfectly alright to get to your train at least 10minutes before it departs because they would only check your ticket. But please arrive earlier if you’re traveling between UK and  any other European country. They have border control. I totally forgot this and got to the train station at almost the time of departure that’s why I had to miss my train back to London! T_T Disaster was avoided when they allowed me to board the next train at no extra charge. hehehe (And there I was hoping that I could stay longer in Paris! Oh well! lol)

In Brussel’s Central Station :)

Flying is cheap IF you’re going with low cost carries such as Easy Jet and Ryan Air. A one way ticket between Venice and London cost me £30. There are cheaper flights to other countries. Just be patient in looking for those cheap fares and besides, they always have promos. ;) But just with what I’ve said from the start of this post, these airlines tend to operate in airports outside of London so you have to take into consideration that you’ll travel another hour to get to them (Luton, Gatwick or Stansted) and that you’ll need to buy a bus or train ticket to get there.

On the other hand, if you really wanna travel cheap, go to mainland Europe by bus. I paid £10 (one way) for a Megabus ticket between London and Amsterdam. It entails having to sit for 10hours straight though but I guess it won’t be so bad since I’ll be with other couchsurfers! Eurolines also have cheap fares. ;)

There! Hope that helps you out in deciding on how to travel within this part of the world! ;)

Bon voyage!

ps: If you’ll notice, I’ve already bought many tickets to many countries here. Old habits die hard I guess. hehe

Related posts:

DIY: Schengen Visa Application

Practical tips for Paris
Paris Must See(s)
Inside: Louvre Museum
Le French Riviera

Koninginnedag in Amsterdam

Londres! Londra! London!

Bella Italia!
Rome, the Eternal City!
Rome: Must See(s)
Amalfi Coast
Inside: Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square

DIY: Schengen Visa Application

Being relocated to United Kingdom’s London, suddenly, feels like the world of travel threw its doors open wide for me! The possibility of going to Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Berlin and other popular European destinations is easily within reach! However, I just need one more HUGE thing to be able to actually embark on those journeys…. the Schengen visa.

What is Schengen Visa? Why do we need it?

When the European Union was formed, one of their main aim was easier access to each other’s country. They signed a treaty in the town of Schengen wherein it was agreed upon that holders of Schengen visa, they named it after that small town, would be able to travel easily within the borders of member countries.

The European Union now has 27 participating countries, from an original of 6: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Do you need a Schengen visa?

Basically, if you’re not a resident of any of those country, it would be best to check the website of the country you intend to visit just to be certain.

So once you’ve checked and you do realize that you have to apply for a Schengen visa then you apply to the consulate of your destination country (if you’ll visit just one country) OR to the consulate of the first country of your destination (if you’ll visit many countries and you’ll stay stay equal amount of days per country) OR to the consulate to the country where you’ll stay the longest (if you’ll stay longer in any one country).

*Disclaimer: This post is about my Schengen visa application to France. I am a Filipina currently based in London. It would be best if you’ll always check the website of the country wherein you’ll apply for the visa as they may have different/ additional requirements. ;)

Step 1. Decide where you’re headed to and where you’ll apply. Once you’re done with that, download their visa application form and fill it up.

Step 2. Complete the required documents.

1. Filled up application form. Make sure you don’t forget to sign! Anyways, they’ll check your application form and will point out if you missed some or will help you figure out what to write when you get there. ;)

2. 2 identical ID photos: passport size, on a white background, less than 3 months old. One should be attached to the application form.

3. Original passport and a photocopy of the pages with personal info and visas granted. Make it 2 copies of the first page, the one with the personal info. Your passport should have at least two blank pages in it for them to put the visa sticker on.

Note: Your visa to stay in the UK should still be valid for 3months upon your exit from France (or Schengen country of your destination).

4. Old passport and a photocopy of the pages containing personal info, signature and Schengen visas granted (if you have some).

5. British residence permit and photocopy. I’m just outlining it here but basically, it’s already in your passport so don’t worry about it. Just don’t forget to make a photocopy of this as well. :)

6. Working certificate, original and photocopy. This should be less than 3 months old.

7. Last three month’s payslips, original and photocopy.

8. Proof of financial means of support, original and photocopy. This should be pretty recent. Banks normally send a monthly statement of finances. Also, the minimum amount of money on it should be at least (for France) £55 per day of your intended stay. If, say, you’ll stay in France for 10 days, then you should have at least £550 in your bank account (£55 x 10days). If you don’t have one, just go to your local branch and print one from the machine, that’s what I did. :)

9. Lodging attestation or hotel booking, original and photocopy. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to book for a hotel because a French friend applied for Certificate of Board and Lodging (“Attestation d’Accueil”) in their town hall stating that I’ll be hosted by them and sent it to me.

10. Proof of travel, original and photocopy. They want confirmed travel tickets. It’d be cheaper if you book tickets in advance. I booked mine via Eurostar. £84 round trip ticket, not bad but I guess I’m hoping for something wayyyyy cheaper. Spoiled with crazy cheap fares back home I guess! lol

11. Insurance, original and photocopy. The travel insurance should be valid in the Schengen areas that you’ll be visiting and it should be able to cover at least 30,000euros of medical cost. It should also be able to cover your whole period of stay. I applied at the post office as per recommendation of a colleague at work. Since I plan to travel often, I went with the annual worldwide coverage. Definitely cheaper than if you’ll get one for every trip that you’ll make. ;)

Step 3. Schedule for an appointment. This is done online. Okay, chill, take it easy. You won’t have to go to the actual French embassy. You will submit the documents in TLS Contact. If you’ll check out the French embassy website, you’ll be redirected there as well. Make sure you book for an appointment at least 15days but no more than 3months before your intended visit.

Step 4. Submit your complete documents on the date of your appointment. A short stay visa for France costs £50. You’ll have to pay an additional £23.33 for service fees though. And £8 more if you’ll have them deliver your passport back to you. Alternatively, you can choose to just go back there to collect your passport. You’ll receive instructions online on how to get there. But since this blogpost is to help you out hehe: go to Olympia (Kensington) station, that’s an overground line. Exit at the platform 2 side, the one near the Olympia Exhibition Center. Turn left, walk towards the main road. Across the street, you’ll see The Hand and Flowers shop, turn to the street on its left. Just walk a few more and you’ll see a big sign that says Exhibition House. Go in and just keep on walking until you see the TLS Contact sign. If you’re early, they’ll make you wait outside (bummer!). If you’re late, hopefully not too late, they’ll let you head straight in. Better be early than late to be on the safe side. ;)

Your tube stop in London :)

The entrance to the TLS Contact office.

Once inside, they’ll check your application form and scan your passport. You’ll then be seated coz you’ll have to wait your turn to give your documents. There would be two screens where they’ll flash your name and the counter where you’ll have to head to. When it’s your turn, a staff would go through all your papers with you and collect the papers. Once you’re cleared, some instructions would be given such as what to do next and what to expect. Head over to the cashier and pay. You’ll be charged more if you’ll use credit card. Stick with cash or debit card. Then you’ll be made to wait again for your turn at the biometrics section where they’ll scan your fingerprints and take your picture for the visa. That’s it! I submitted mine on the 21st of February and got a decision on the 22nd! How fast is that?! :D

That’s where you’ll collect your passport as well. ;)

Schengen Visa: check!!!

Good luck guys! Hope this one helped! ;)

Cheers!

Related posts:

Getting around in Europe

Practical tips for Paris
Paris Must See(s)
Inside: Louvre Museum
Le French Riviera

Koninginnedag in Amsterdam

Londres! Londra! London!

Bella Italia!
Rome, the Eternal City!
Rome: Must See(s)
Amalfi Coast
Inside: Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square