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.

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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

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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

Seoul, South Korea

Here are some photos I took when I visited Seoul for 3 days (13-15 October 2013)

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Dresden, Germany

Late post of my photos taken on July 2014 at Dresden , GermanyIMG_3704.JPG

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Zwinger palaceIMG_3750.JPG

Brühl’s  terraceIMG_3727.JPG

Fuerstenzug (parade of rulers)IMG_3754.JPG

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