26 April, 2006

European Holiday

A lot of Indian women dread to travel alone to distant countries. But traveling alone in most of the European countries is not only easy but also quite safe. It requires a lot of careful planning though. Planning for the trip sometimes requires more time than you actually spend at the place you visit. I lived in London for a while and I traveled to a few countries in Europe. The following tips to travel to European countries are only for Indian Nationals with a work permit to United Kingdom that is valid for a period of more than six months . This list is not complete. You should refer to the website of the embassy through which you will be applying for your visa.

Applying for the visa:
Indian nationals require a Schengen visa (http://www.eurovisa.info/)to visit most of the countries in Europe. The visas are expensive and cost you between 20 and 30 Pounds. However the only consolation is that the visa is valid in all the countries that are a member of the Schengen union. Before you apply for the visa, ensure your have

1. A valid visa to visit the country. However if your work permit is valid for a year or more than a year, you do not require a separate visa to visit Switzerland.

2. Purchase a multi trip medical insurance. The embassies do not issue a Schengen visa if you do not have a medical insurance covering the entire duration of your trip.

3. Salary slips for three months. If you cannot produce salary slips request your employer to issue a letter to the concerned person in the embassy stating your employment details. The companies will generally have the template of the letter to be issued.

4. A recent bank statement. Do not print the balance details from the internet. Request your bank to issue the statement. You can also purchase travelers cheques and provide the details.

5.Have a detailed itinerary and confirmed tickets. You should also have a confirmed hotel reservation. Hostels are also a good option if you have a limited budget. You can become a member at the Youth Hostels Association of India (http://www.yhaindia.org/) and stay in the youth hostels world wide.

Since a single visa is required to visit any Schengen country, you can apply for the same through any embassy. But it is simple and convenient to apply through French embassy (http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/venir/visas/index.html). But then your port of entry should be France. Therefore you need to include one place in France in your itinerary, travel to that place and then visit any other Schengen country. You might get a visa valid for 90 days if all your documents are in order. However the embassy's decision is final and you might not get the visa for 90 days if you are unlucky.
People living in London can also book online with the French Embassy for an appointment to get the Visa(https://www.consulfrance-londres.org/consulat/texte/visa/rdvvisaautres.htm). Book a slot and be present at the embassy at the allotted time. Spend about half a day at the embassy and you will walk out with your visa! You might have to wait for about 2 months before you get an appointment with the visa as Paris is a favourite tourist destination.
Some embassies require you to call on the premium numbers to get an appointment. The calls on the premium lines are expensive. You can also get a Schengen visa from the Austrian embassy by sending them an email to obtain the appointment. However I am not sure if the embassy issues a 90 days visa.

Travel check-list

Before you set out on the journey, ensure you have the copies of the following documents on your personal mail id that can be retrieved quickly if needed

1. Scanned copy of passport
2. Scanned copy of work permit
3. Itinerary
4. Emails / scanned copies of the hotel / hostel reservations
5. Scanned copy of your medical insurance
6. Scanned copy of your employment letter
7. Scanned copy of the letter issued by your employer to the embassy. This is not really required. But you can have it, just in case.
8. Important phone numbers and address of relatives, friends, employer, doctor
9. Scanned copies of flight / train / coach tickets
10. Scanned copy of Youth hostel card and a student identity card if you are a student

Booking flights
1. If you are a budget traveler book your tickets on the cheap flights.
2. Try and book your flights months in advance.
3. Flights scheduled at odd times (early in the day or late in the evening) usually cost less.
4. Most flights that fly to major international airports cost more. Try and locate a smaller airport that is close to your travel destination and fly there instead. For instance, flying to Venice is more expensive than flying to Treviso that is just about an hour away from Venice.

Your travel kit
1. Travel light.
2. Find out the weather details of the place you are traveling to before you travel and be properly equipped.
3. Place photo copies of all important documents in all the travel bags that you take along with you.
4. If you carry any medicines with you, ensure that you also take the doctor’s prescription to avoid any unforeseen problems.
5. Take backpacks instead of heavy suitcases.
6. If you are a strict vegetarian ensure that you learn “no egg”, “no fish” and “no meat” in the languages that are spoken in the place you are traveling to. You can also take a print out of the following translated words / phrases if you don’t want to buy a translation book
1. WC [toilet]
2. police station
3. hospital
4. directions: right, left, straight etc
5. restaurant / hotel
6. thank you very much
7. do you speak English
8. metro / train station / coach station / bus / airport
9. tickets
10. please
11. I only speak English
12. sorry

7. Try and find out if you get MTR or any other branded “ready to eat” food and take some along with you. You might not find the food to your liking in most of the European countries.

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