IAD (Washington-Dulles International Airport

It was a pleasant start of my US tour last Dec20, 2014. Flying Saudia from Riyadh to Washington DC direct. Our plane landed in Dulles at noon time were no other flights landed made immigration clearance quicker and smoother. CBP officer was nice and welcoming. As a first timer in the states and reading all those negative experiences arriving in the US airports from other blogs, the CBP officer really made me feel I am welcome in the USA. The CBP asked me the following:

– what is the purpose of your visit?

– which city did you came from?

– where are you going to stay and how long?

– do you have family or friends here?

– how much cash are you bringing in today?

 

I even asked him if I need to declare the dates (dried) I brought from KSA as gift for my friends as I’m aware that some food items are not allowed and may cause delay at customs. After the CBP stamped my passport with entry clearance, next is to wait for my luggage. In Riyadh it is mandatory to wrap US-bound baggage (I don’t know the real reason why) and you need to pay SR20 per bag. So claiming your bags from the carrousel when you arrive in the US is quite tricky as every bag looks the same, it is hard to identify your bag instantly. But the whole process took me less than 20mins from deplaning to exiting the airport. I had the best Christmas holiday in the US for 26 days and visited Maryland, DC, Virginia and New York. JFK was my airport of departure.   

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Posted in air travel, airlines, Filipino traveler, OFW, philippines, riyadh, saudi arabia, Tourist, Travel, US Visa, Visa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Schengen (Czech) visa for Filipinos in KSA

It’s my second time applying for Schengen visa at Czech Embassy in Riyadh. (Read my first blog about it). This time the staff who processed by application was a Czech national, not the old arab guy before who gave me single entry and 4 days stay only. He is polite and courteous. After assessing my documents, he asked me to prepare SR247 (should be exact amount) which I already prepared. Then the arab lady staff ask me to fill out a form which from what I’ve read it’s a form declaration that I need to provide a valid travel insurance for multiple entry in the Schengen territories so I assumed I will be given a multiple entry visa this time. My current travel insurance is valid until 31/01/2016, my Iqama is valid until 25/12/2015, my exit/reEntry visa is single entry valid for 30days after departure, I tick single entry on my application form. I submitted my documents on 16/08/2015 and they gave me a receipt showing date of release of my passport on 27/08/2015 which is 11 days after submission, same number of days processing like I applied the first time. On 27/08/15 I went to the embassy to collect my passport back and was so happy to know that this time they have given me multiple entry Schengen visa for stays upto 90 days valid for 6 months so now my plan is to go during eid holiday for a few days on september then stay longer by late december during my annual vacation.

Documents required:
1. Application form, filled completely (computerized)
2. Photo, 35x45mm pasted on the application
3. Original passport + copy of data page, previous Schengen visas, US visa, Japan visa
4. Employment letter attested by Chamber of Commerce
5. Copy of Iqama and exit/reEntry visa
6. Travel Insurance, minimum €30000 coverage
7. Copy of credit cards ( front page only)
8. Copy of flight booking, not actual ticket
9. Copy of hotel booking confirmation signed by hotel in Czech Rep sent by fax or PDF attachment or scanned by email, not through internet booking
10. Introduction letter and daily itinerary (not required but helpful)

Procedure:
– call +966 11 4503617 between 12-2pm SUN/TUE/THU to schedule your appointment, provide them your passport details
– submission of visa application SUN/TUE/THU from 9am-12pm/1pm-3pm
– collecting passports SUN/TUE/THU from 3:30-4:30pm

For more info, visit http://www.mzv.cz/riyadh/en/visas_and_consular_information/consular_and_visa_section/index.html

Posted in air travel, Czech Republic Embassy, europe, Filipino traveler, OFW, philippines, riyadh, saudi arabia, Schengen, Schengen visa, Tourist visa application, Travel, Visa | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Barcelona, “pickpocketing capital of the world”, indeed!

I didn’t know that Barcelona has a title the “pickpocketing capital of the world”, not until I was victimized. Then I googled it to confirm, indeed it was, lots of articles about it and even youtube videos. During my stay in Barcelona, on 19JUL2015 me and my friend checked out early at 5am from our hotel near Las Ramblas to walk until Placa Catalunya to catch AeroBus to BCN. To go to Las Ramblas we need to pass a small alley where a group of young guys were chatting (in a non-spanish language). Then a guy came up to me to promote their “strip club” and gave me some kind of flyer and demonstrated how the ladies dance on guys lap, while doing the demo and talking to distract me, I didnt noticed that they already took my mobile and my passport in my front pocket. Then we walk few steps and another two guys asking for a lighter and speaking to us in a language we dont understand and pretending maybe I have lighter on my pocket by touching it and then the copy of my plane ticket fell on the ground, thats the time they run away and noticed that my pocket was all empty. My friend who’s with me couldn’t react as he was shocked by what happened, but i kept my cool. Then the guy who first demo on me shouted “don’t worry we will help you find those guys”. People passing by is telling us in spanish which from what I understood it they’r telling me ‘dont worry your stuff will be returned to you soon”. Couple of minutes later this first guy run towards me, playing as a hero, returned back all my stuff (mobile and passport) and told me to take care next time and asking for a reward for the help, he asked me eur50 or 20 as thank you, I told him I only have eur10 and I gave him then we left. Those guys are working in groups. Good thing my money is secured on my back pocket, only bills without bulkiness in my back pocket so they didnt took notice. No police to ask for help during that time. Other blogs I read about this scam is telling that if you report it to police, the police will even laugh at you and ignore you, Spanish law states that if someone caught pickpocketing and the amount is less than eur400, they will just ask for a fine of eur150 and they are free to go and pickpocket again and again and again. Bad experience in Spain, its a shame that those Eastern European thieves are putting Barcelona a bad title. Tip, if you have cash, put your bills on your pocket (even at the back pocket as long as it’s not bulky, not on your bulky wallet inside your front pocket. When someone approach you tell them to move away from you and talk to him few feet away, and dont let them touch you or get near you or your stuff. Make a scene and shout if they insist so they will leave you when attention is on them. Always pay attention to your bags and avoid any kind of distraction.

Posted in barcelona, europe, Filipino traveler, pickpocket, spain, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Schengen Visa from Spain Visa Center Riyadh

Earlier this year, while I’m still on holiday in the US, I’m already thinking where to go on my next trip which is going to be during Eid Al Fitr 2015, I have decided to visit Spain and Belgium this time. One of my Pinoy friend wants to travel with me and it’s going to be his first time applying for Schengen visa (he doesn’t have any previous significant visa stamp on his passport, although he already traveled to Turkey, South Korea, Qatar for tourism). We decided to apply together, here is what we actually did:

  1. Check http://www.vfsglobal.com/spain/saudiarabia to know the step-by-step procedures and all details. 
  2. Booked our appointment on 05/05/15 at 8:10AM, print the appointment confirmation letter and bring it on your submission date. Check the appointment availability atleast 3 weeks prior to your intended appointment date. Our actual travel date starts on 16/07/15 so applying atleast 90 days prior to your intended travel date is a must.
  3. Completed the following documents prior to our appointment date: Schengen visa application form, pasted 1photo (3x4cm) in it, employment letter attested by Chamber of Commerce stating the phrase “no objection to travel” from my employer, exit/re-entry visa, 6 months bank statement stamped by SABB, copy of my Iqama, copy of my Bupa travel insurance, copy of my credit cards, copy of my passport and previous Schengen & US visa, hotel bookings in Madrid Paris Ghent Brussels as these are the cities i plan to visit, copy of my actual paid ticket RUH-MAD-CDG-RUH (I already paid my ticket in advance to save up more as ticket goes more expensive as travel date is near) although flight booking will do, introduction letter stating why i want to visit with details of my trip and my daily itinerary.
  4. The visa center is located at Dove Center at Um Al Hamam near Panda. Etimad is the company authorised agent by VFS Global in KSA, it’s a one stop shop for visa applicants for Schengen countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore etc., no need to go to the Embassies in Diplomatic Quarter. We arrive before 8am and the staff just started to arrive at 8am. 95% of its staff were from India. At the reception they will check appointment letter and all your documents and remove the documents they dont need before they give you a token with number. Then go to the section designated for Spain and wait until your number is called. I was the first applicant that day 05/05/15 and the Indian staff who checked my documents seems not happy with his job, no smile, no courtesy. Ater checking all my documents he said “where is your flight booking from madrid to paris and the train tickets to/from brussels?” I told him i already stated on my introduction letter that i will book it when my visa is approved. He said “no I will not accept your application unless you show me flight and train booking, go back here before 9:30am”. I said OK i’l be back then. 
  5. I waited until 9am before the travel agency on the same building opens up for us to get flight booking MAD-CDG. We paid SR100 each for that simple booking, but train ticket between paris-brussels is not possible as you cannot book in advance and the system on that travel agency is not working for train tickets. We went back at the visa Spain section and the grouchy Indian guy told me to go to family premium appointment section. This time the staff who check my documents was a Saudi woman who is polite and courteous eventhough i can only see her eyes (she’s wearing niqab). It was fast with no further remarks about the need of train tickets. I paid my visa and avail of the courier service for the return of my passport to my office address (SR370 total paid). As i had my Schengen visa last year were I already had my biometrics done, theres no need for another finger print scan this year.
  6. We applied Tuesday 05/05/15 and got our passports back with Schengen visa on Thursday 07/05/15. Very quick processing, muchas gracias Embahada del EspaÑa. Also I was so happy that my friend got approved  for his first time Schengen visa application.  
Posted in Filipino traveler, OFW, philippines, riyadh, saudi arabia, Schengen visa, Tourist visa application, Travel, Visa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Christmas at USA capital

Some pics i took while touring Washinton DC on 21/12/2014

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Posted in Filipino traveler, OFW, riyadh, saudi arabia, US Visa | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prague, surprisingly great city

Photos taken by me during my solo 4 days stay in Prague last July 2014. A surprisingly great European city I’ve been to, rich in culture, picturesque architecture, nice people, home to the best beer, where the biggest castle complex in world is located, hundreds of churches although 80% of the population are atheist. I enjoyed this city as I love European architecture. Don’t ever miss this city when you visit Europe.

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Charles Bridge

view of Prague Castle from Charles Bridge

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Church inside Prague Castle

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government palace inside Prague Castle

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view from Prague Castle

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the great city of Prague, seen from Prague Castle

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Apartment Pushkin, very friendly staff, room was nice and clean, walking distance from all tourist sites of the Old Town, I had a great stay, check them out http://www.apartmentspushkin.com/en/

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Mala Strana

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Old Town Square

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view from my hotel window, I stayed at Apartment Pushkin located at Husova Praha 01, part of the Old Town, walking distance from all tourist spots

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part of Prague Castle

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interior of Church inside Prague Castle

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Thomas, my personal guide in the castle (because I was the only one who availed of the guided tour). He’s also my photographer 😉

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During my last day while waiting for my afternoon flight, i just sit on one of the corner of the bridge to kill time by people watching

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Hakuba, Nagano, Japan

Some pics taken during my trip to Hakuba autumn 2013.DSC_0335.JPG
Autumn snow at Hakuba mountain

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The chalets, not a typical japan japan scene

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We met a 90+ old japanese woman during our hike

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Perfect weather for hiking, its the only day that the sun showed up.

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Early autumn snow

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Me

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The lake (happo pond) a rewarding view after a tiring hike

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This is where we stayed, very homie atmosphere, run by a swiss guy Marcus with his japanese wife Kyoko, I highly recommend it B&B koyuki http://www.koyuki-hakuba.com

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Time to go down town

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Autumn scene in Hakuba

Posted in Hakuba, Japan, Nagano, OFW, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment