Eurotrip Step 1: VISA

So this is what’s keeping me busy these past few months. We’re planning a Eurotour!

My high school friends N, MM, M, C and I are going to Europe this August! It’s C’s wedding, you see, and she’s getting married in Mettray, France. So the three of us based in Asia, N, MM and I, decided to go on a Eurotour after the wedding. Too bad S can’t join us. M, on the other hand, will be coming from San Francisco.

We hatched this plan in January, and made plans since. MM and I went to the Manila Travel Expo last February and managed to buy roundtrip tickets to Paris from Manila for USD828.10 with Malaysia Airlines! At that time, the exchange rate (USD-PHP) was just in the 41-42 level, so it was just about PHP33k (however, with credit card charges, I think I paid PHP34k. Here’s a tip, local bank issued credit cards have a lower charge for USD purchases). We’re planning the whole trip ourselves, so we used Booking.com for our hotel bookings. I have to note that our flight booking can be cancelled (for a fee), which was great because at that point we didn’t know whether we will be granted visas.

As Filipinos, we know that probably the hardest part in planning a trip to Europe (apart from saving enough money, of course) is getting a visa. So this post details what MM and I did to get our visas.

In the travel expo, we went to the RAJAH TRAVEL booth and inquired. I also called up other travel agencies but we decided to go with Rajah.

The Schengen visa allows you to enter the 27 countries of the European Union with only one visa. You have to get the visa at the country where you will be staying longest, in our case, France. 

I managed to talk to Regina of Rajah, and she gave me all the requirements for the French visa, which are the following: passport, filled out application form, 2 passport sized pictures with white background, letter of intent, certificate of employment stating the position, tenure, gross annual income and approved leave, bank certification, credit card statement, income tax return, travel insurance, hotel certificates, and flight itinerary. I asked Regina if she could schedule me for an interview, and she asked for a scanned copy of my passport and application form. With these two documents, I was scheduled for an interview in 3 weeks, or on 20 May 2013.

A week before my interview, I was asked by Regina to submit all the other documents. The lacking documents, I just scanned them and emailed them later. The reason for this is that they will arrange the documents and check if there was anything lacking. 

On the day of the interview, I was requested to meet the Rajah representative Carlo 30 minutes before my appointment at Starbucks in Pacific Star. He was busy! Apparently, he was assisting 9 other interviewees that same morning. Anyway, what he did was give us the visa fee (which was prepaid to Rajah when I submitted my documents), and the documents which were already neatly arranged in an envelope. He explained that there will be 2 submissions of documents and the papers were already segregated.

So we (I was scheduled with two other Rajah clients, cousins B and B) were escorted to the French Embassy. We entered and were given a number for the payment. The waiting room was packed, but there were seats for almost everyone. There were 5 windows, with window 4 acting as the “cashier” window, and the others were “interview” windows. You can actually hear some of the conversations between embassy official and applicant, which is good, in a way, because you can prepare. The number was called, and we paid and gave the first set of documents (which included the application form, travel itinerary and hotel vouchers). We sat down again and waited for our names to be called.

When my name was called, I gave the second set of documents (financial and work-related), and my fingerprints and picture were taken. The embassy officer (I think she’s Filipina) asked only the following questions: (1) So you work at the —-? (2) And you work there as —? (3) Who are you travelling with? (4) Why were you not interviewed together? <to which I answered “She had difficulty arranging her interview” – which was true! MM was scheduled for interview the following week>. I thought I did well, I mean it wasn’t really a tough interview. I authorised Rajah to get my passport and visa for me, which I got the following week , 29 May. I was granted a 2 month visa. 

My total cost (visa fee, service fee, and travel insurance) is PHP9,377.08.

RAJAH TRAVEL is located at Gercon Plaza, Makati Ave., Makati City. You can contact Regina at +6328940886, or email them at documentationmkt@rajahtravel.com.

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