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October 31, 2008

How to Apply Schengen Visa in Doha, Qatar

A lot of people are asking us how to apply for a Schengen visa, what are the requirements, etc. In our previous trips, we applied for a Schengen visa at the Embassy of France; thus, most of the info I will share here are based on submitting the visa application at the Embassy of France. I hope that you'll find the following information useful.

Do you need a visa?
If you are holding a Philippine passport like me or you are a third world citizen, you definitely need a visa.

Where to apply?
If you intend to visit only one Schengen Member State, you must apply at the Embassy or Consulate of this Member State. If you intend to visit several Schengen countries, you must apply for a visa at the Embassy or Consulate of the country which is your main destination. If you intend to visit several Schengen countries but do not have a main destination, you should apply for a visa at the Embassy or Consulate of the country which is your first point of entry.

In our previous trips, we applied for at the Embassy of France because Paris is our main destination and happens to be our point of entry also.


What are the requirements:
The general requirements for Schengen visa is the same whether you are applying in the Philippines, here in Qatar or other countries. But sometimes the embassy may have specific requirements in your country of residence. In Qatar, the French Embassy requires the following:

  • filled-in and signed visa application form (must include address in country of main destination)
  • 2 pcs. applicant’s recent passport size photos (format 35*45 with white background)
  • 1 copy of the passport and previous visas bank statement (showing transfer of salary for at least the last 6 months)

  • 1 copy of the original airplane ticket

  • 1 copy of the proof of accomodation (e.g. hotel reservation)

  • 1 copy of the travel insurance covering medical expenses, hospitalization and repatriation in the countries to be visited

In addition to these documents, for non-Qataris :

  • 1 copy of the residence permit (must be valid at least 6 months) sponsor letter (must include informations on salary, position and stating how long you have been employed) + ID copy of the person who signed the sponsor letter

Note that :

  • You have to show your passport when applying. From experience, if you are travelling with your family (husband, wife or children), only one family member may show-up at the Embassy, usually the father or the mother.
  • The applicant can not be out of Qatar

  • Administrative process for deliverance of visit visas needs a minimum of 15 days
  • Separate application must be done for children even if they are on their parents’ passport.
As of the 1st of January 2007, the visa administrative fees will be 60€ (transit, airport transit, short stay), which must be paid in Qatari riyal only. The fee is accorded to the exchange rate of the Qatari riyal against the Euro, so varies around 340 QR. The visa application is free of charge to Spouses and Children of European Union citizens, and to the holders of diplomatic, service and official passports. Please note that no fees will be refunded whatever the outcome of the visa application.

Contacts :
Mr Michel PIEFFET, Head of visas section Mrs Imen HACHEMI
Phone : +974 483 06 50
Fax : +974 483 55 34
Opening hours to the public :
8h30 - 10h30, from Sunday to Thursday

Procedure:
You can submit the completed application form (you can download from the French Embassy site) with the required documents to the French Embassy between 8:30 AM to 10:30 AM.

Tip: Be there preferably before 8:30 AM. Sometimes, the Embassy stops receiving applications even before 10:30 AM. I heard (not sure if true) that during summer, The French Embassy sets a daily quota due to the huge volume of applications received.

Processing time?
Normally two weeks after submission of application.

Tip: Allow sufficient time for processing and provide some allowance.

Notes:
The requirements may change over time. Double check the requirements, processing time, procedure from the Embassy where you are submitting your application. More info about Schengen visa here and here.

October 18, 2008

New Domain Name

Yap, this blog has a new domain name.
Please update your links.
Thank you!

October 17, 2008

PREVIEW: Europe Vacation 2008

We’re back since last Saturday. Walter and I had a great time in France and Italy with my college friend/classmate, Sheila and her mom. We were tired from miles and miles of walking but we enjoyed every moment of our trip. When we were planning the trip, Sheila chose a country where I haven’t been to – Italy. But I told her, she shouldn’t miss Paris and I wanted to go back anyway so the itinerary became Italy and Paris. I love France. I love the romantic city Paris popularly called the city of lights. I will never get tired of going to Paris again and again. In fact, I dream of living in Paris even for just a few months. In Italy, we went to six major destination cities/towns including Florence, Siena, Pisa, Assisi, Rome and Vatican.

We accumulated almost 8GB of photos (average of 3-5 MB per photo) excluding those taken from Sheila’s personal camera. I am done downloading the photos to my computer but I haven’t really sorted them. I also have some video footage though I was not able to cover the entire trip. It’s difficult to read guide books/maps, enjoy the sights, be cautious with your belongings and take videos at the same time - not to mention the herds of tourists around and maybe some pick-pockets. To enjoy our trip, I decided to just concentrate in sightseeing though I felt a little bit of regret not being able to take more videos like I did in 2oo6 and my own photos. I relied on my husband to take the photos because he is the better photographer between us and he has a better camera (Nikon D300 with different lenses, wide and zoom) but I felt I should have taken my own photos for blogging purposes. You know how other blogger share every detail of their trip including a photo of the bus stop or the ticket booth? I am afraid my blog entries will lack those details but definitely I will post many beautiful photos taken by my husband and I will share as much information as I could. Right now, I’m still quite overwhelmed with the loads of photos and information I’d like to share with you so for now, let me first give a preview of the cities/places we visited.



Paris

Paris, France
Above is a night shot of Eiffel Tower, one of the famous sights in France. We were surprised that it has blue lighting now (it used to be gold) and it has the European Union's circle of gold stars. Walter and I went to the sights we haven't been to before. We also revisited some sights with Sheila and her mom.

Florence

Florence (Tuscany, Italy)
This is the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore) - Florence's Cathedral. Florence (Italian: Firenze, Old Italian: Fiorenza, Latin: Florentia), is the capital of Tuscany Region of Italy. It is the cultural capital of the world, home of renaissance and the birthplace of modern world. In Florence, we visited great museums, churches and monuments.

Siena (Tuscany)

Siena (Tuscany, Italy)

Above is the Palazzo Pubblico located, in a square called Il Campo. Siena is a town in the Tuscany region. The color of the square and its buildings is a color known to Crayola users as "burnt siena."

Assisi (Umbria)

Assisi (Umbria, Italy)

This is the St. Francis Basilica. Assisi is a town in Umbria Region of Italy. It is the birthplace of St. Francis and St. Clare (founder of Poor Clare).

Pisa (Tuscany)

Pisa (Tuscany, Italy)
Above is the Leaning Tower, one of the known sights in Italy and the Duomo (Cathedral). The leaning tower is actually the bell tower of the cathedral.

Rome

Rome (Lazio, Italy)

This is the Colosseo (real name: Flavian Amphitheater) ruins in Rome where gladiator contests are held. Aside from Colosseo, we also went to other interesting sites and museums.

Vatican City

Vatican City

Above is the St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. I guess it is every Catholic's dream to visit Vatican. We also visited the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel and attended the papal audience.

Which of the places above would you like to visit?

September 26, 2008

We're Flying Today...

We're flying tonight. So many things to post but I'm afraid they have to wait until I return in two weeks. Happy Eid to all!!!

September 21, 2008

France and Italy 2008: Updates on Planning and Preparation Part 2

I am very excited to share the progress of our planning and preparation but I was swamped the whole week. I need to finish some reports before I leave on the 27th. I am glad that even with my hectic schedule, I managed to finished our 'must dos' before leaving for this trip. It helped that it's already my second time in Paris so I just did extensive research on Italy segment of our trip. It also helped that this time, we're focusing on two (2) countries only (France and Italy) and three major cities: Paris, Rome and Florence with side trips to Siena, Assisi and Pisa. Now, I just have barely one week left to do miscellaneous stuff and prepare the things in my packing list...well...the list isn't done yet. :) For updates:

Visa
I submitted our visa last week (September 10th). The schedule for our visa application is very tight. Given the normal 15-day processing, the earliest I could get it is Thursday, September 25th. I was so relieved when I was asked to come back after 10 days. I am supposed to collect it today but I arrived late (around 10AM) at the French Embassy. The security told me to come back tomorrow at 8:00 AM to 8:30 AM. I was surprised they did not let me in. Before I left the Embassy last week, I asked the consul what time I should come back and he said anytime.

Accommodation
I didn't have any problem booking a hotel in Paris but finding accommodation in Rome and Florence was quite a challenge. The other week, I spent my entire weekend trying to find a tourist hotel or bed and breakfast accommodation in Florence and Rome that is within my requirements. It can be frustrating to inquire from several hotels, bed and breakfasts and apartments and then get only a few responses. Those few responses are not even the preferred ones. Finally, I was able to reserve and confirm our accommodations in Paris, Florence and Rome for the next two weeks. We'll experience three types of accommodation: hotel (Paris), bed and breakfast (Florence), and furnished apartment (Rome). I was very careful in choosing our accommodations because my college friend and her mom will be travelling with us. I hope I made good choices. Later, I'll post some details about our accommodations, tips and the links to websites I used.

Advance Purchase of Museum Tickets
Travel guides advise tourists to reserve tickets for Accademia and Uffizi gallery in advance either by calling, online or through your hotel. I purchased ours online at B-ticket, the official website of Florence Museums, In addition, I also purchased tickets for Bargello Museum and Medici Chapels from the same website. According to Rick Steves guide book, besides Accademia and Uffizi gallery, the only other places that should be booked in advance is Branccaci Chapel (reservation is mandatory and free to see Massacio frescoes) and the Medici-Riccardi Palace (reservation recommended for quick entry into the Chapel of the Magi) but I don't have reservations for these sights :)

In Rome, I reserved tickets for Borghese Gallery through their offical website and I requested tickets for papal audience from The Church of Santa Susana. The tickets for papal audience is free but you need to request them and pick them up the day before from the Church of Santa Susana.

When buying/reserving tickets online booking fees up to 5 Euros per ticket is added to the cost of the ticket. Pricey but it will save you from lining up for hours!

Advance Purchase of Train Tickets
Unlike in our 2006 trip, I did not purchase a rail pass this time because based on my calculation, buying point to point tickets will be more economical for our chosen itinerary. To go to Italy, we will be taking a night train from Paris to Florence. Since we can't afford any delay (our accommodations are booked, our museum tickets are reserved, etc.) I already purchased train tickets at TGV-Europe website to be picked-up at any French Station. In France, you can purchase tickets in advance at TGV-Europe website or you can also go SCNF website (choose English) and there is a link that will direct you to TGV. Later, I will post another entry about train travel, rail passes, tips and more.

Guidebooks and Gadgets
The Rick Steves guide books (Europe 101, Europe Through the Backdoor, Florence and Tuscany, and Rome) I ordered from Amazon already arrived. I browsed the pages as soon as I got them from the courier yesterday. They were very good! The best travel guide I ever read so far and they are worth every cent. I wish I ordered them sooner so that I'll be finished reading them by the time we leave. Rick Steves guide book is all you need for your Europe Travels. Rick Steves also maintains a website about Europe Travels with up to date information. Even without buying a book, the website will be a very good resource in planning your trip.

I also got my new video camera. Sometimes, a nice DLSR camera is not enough to capture everything. I've been putting off this purchase for quite a while thinking it's not a necessity. But since we're traveling to Europe again, I think the purchase was justified.

Reviews and Tips from Other Travellers
I searched the net extensively for tips, tourist traps and recommendations. One reader (anonymous) gave helpful tips and good recommendations in Rome. I'll definitely check them out and thank you anonymous!

This post is getting very long. I think I'll stop here for now but keep checking for my future posts!

September 9, 2008

France and Italy 2008: Updates on Planning and Preparation Part 1

I thought I'd give you updates on planning and preparing our forthcoming trip to Paris, Florence and Rome. Over the last few days, I was busy booking airline tickets, making hotel reservation, completing requirements for visa application, creating detailed itinerary, researching about Florence and Rome, etc. While I'm not yet done with our pre-departure preparations (we haven't submitted our visa application yet!) - I already booked tickets for Accademia Gallery, Uffizi Gallery, Medici Chapels Museum and Bargello Museum in Florence! Apparently, you need to reserve tickets for Accademia and Uffizi ahead of time (at least one month before for Uffizi) to avoid wasting time in long lines. Plus, these four museums implement timed entry for visitors so reservation is really necessary.

I will submit our visa application to the French Embassy tomorrow. We just completed our visa requirements. My husband got his employment and salary letter only today, which is one of the requirements for visa application. I'm already worried because of the tight visa schedule. Given the 15 days processing time, we should be getting our visa on the 25th of September (that is a Thursday - end of the week here!). Our flight is on September 27th, Saturday; therefore, so we must have our visa on the 25th, otherwise, we won't be able to leave.

In the next days, I will be completing our detailed itinerary. Meanwhile, here's the overview of our itinerary.

Day 1 - Arrive Paris
Day 2 - Paris
Day 3 - Paris
Day 4 - Paris
Day 5 - Paris; depart for Florence - evening Train
Day 6 - Arrive Florence
Day 7 - Florence
Day 8 - Florence - side trip to Siena
Day 9 - Florence - side trip to Pisa
Day 10 - Florence - side trip to Assisi; evening train to Rome - sleep in Rome
Day 11 - Rome
Day 12 - Rome
Day 13 - Rome
Day 14 - Rome; evening flight - fly out

Do you have any travel tips for visiting Paris, Florence and Rome? How about tourist traps to avoid?

September 6, 2008

Off to Europe Again...

I created this blog because I wanted to write about our travels and adventures but I know, I've never really been able to. I keep promising but also keep breaking them. We're off to Europe again and I hope that this time, I can share this another memorable trip with you.


Litratong Pinoy - Hugis Pahaba



Me and my husband are going to France and Italy for two weeks. It's my second time in France but first time in Italy. I love Paris - it's very romantic. I don't think I'll ever get tired of visiting Paris. In 2006, we spent about 8 or 9 days in France out of our 17-day trip.

We will be travelling with my college friend and her mom. They are coming from the Philippines and will be flying Qatar Airways so we can meet at the airport and travel together to onward flight to Paris. We are yet to submit our Schengen visa application to the French Embassy but I'm so excited already. In the coming days, I hope to share with you our experience in visa application, booking flights and later the trip itself so check it out!

Have you been to Europe? Which European country would you like visit and why?

March 27, 2008

Service Fees for Air Tickets

I'm sure most of Qatar residents are already aware that the Qatar government already removed the agent's comission on airline tickets. However, in lieu of agent's commission, travel agencies are now charging service fees for utilizing their services in booking flights. I'm not sure if travel agents in Qatar have uniform fees but here's what our Office's Travel Agency is charging:

Ticket issuance: 7% of face value
All types od re-issues: QAR 100- over and above the actual charge by the concerned airline
Credit Card payments: 7% + 3% on Amex/ Diners and 7% + 2% on other cards
Refund processing: QR 100 over and above the actual charge by the concerned airline

Note: All fees are non-refundable.

Re-issuing tickets used to be free unless the airline have specific restriction and payment by credit card has no surcharge. If the company is providing tickets, individuals will not be affected by the charges; but those receiving airfare allowance can save some bucks by booking tickets from airline's online booking facility. This will avoid the 7% service fee and will save a significant amount of money especially to those travelling with their families. But there are drawbacks too. Online booking requires instant payment through credit card and the traveller has to use his own card because it is required to be presented during check-in. One more thing, having an e-ticket can be a hassle in NAIA. Read my husband's experience here.

Do you book your tickets online or through a travel agency?

Schengen Visa Expanded

Great news for Europe travellers who are required to obtain Schengen visa to gain entry in Schengen States of Europe. As of 21 December 2007, additional nine new countries became part of the Schengen travel area including Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. This means tourists can extend their borderless travel to nine more countries with just a single visa.

Prior to the 2007 expansion, the existing fifteen Schengen states were Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France (Monaco is treated as part of France), Germany, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Spain. However, UK and Ireland still maintain boarder controls and are not part of the Schengen visa.

Happy Travelling and enjoy Europe!


Related Article:

Borders fall in Europe overnight

March 20, 2008

I'm Back!

I'm back after a long hiatus! It's been a while since I last updated this blog. In Shala, I will be able to post my trip to Oman last December along with my other other trips in the past. I guess, it's still worth sharing past travel experiences especially if they were memorable! So come back and check my posts :)