The UK Visa – Traveling around Europe on Peanuts

Visas are a pain. Anyone who has ever had to apply for a visa knows the struggle. But it is more of a struggle when you have a Nepalese passport. I love the Nepalese passport, let’s be clear. It is one of the prettiest passports there is; one Norwegian air hostess even stopped me and told me about it. But when applying to travel to Europe, a Nepalese passport is not the best.

I knew all about it and I knew it was going to be super hard so I started planning in January. I researched all about the UK tourist visa and the Schengen Visa and I was R-E-A-D-Y! YES!

Alas! Life is not as easy as it seems. I was flying to the UK from Sydney and returning to Sydney from UK because that is where my boyfriend’s mum was. So in order to travel to Europe on my beloved Nepalese passport, I had to plan everything out beforehand. So that meant paid trips and accommodation and paid flights. And the flights aren’t cheap, my biggest dilemma was, do I pay extra and make the flight cancellable or pay less and keep more money in my bank account so that I can spend more when I travel. When you’re backpacking, of course, you’re going to pick the cheapest flights and the cheapest accommodations. We had most of everything booked and planned; I say most because I had no idea how much money I was going to have left by the end of the trip so I had some days empty so that I could bludge around and just travel around.

You can only apply for a UK visa 3 months ahead of the date of arrival. I started filling out my application in February – knowing all of this and also knowing that I need to be on top of all of it, I started filling it out. I was PREPARED! I booked my “interview” in for March, which was more of a documents handover than an interview. I booked it just on that brink of 3 months. So that I would have all the time in the world to prepare myself for any setbacks.

I submitted my payslips, my paid for tickets from Sydney and back to Sydney from London and let’s get this straight they were not cheap! When I got to VFS, that is how the UK processes their visas, the very kind lady told me that I cannot submit the application because I had started the application in February and I was planning on getting there in June and the gap was more than 3 months. I was furious – I tried explaining to the lady that I thought the day that I submitted the application would be when the 3 months would be counted for. She said that she can’t promise or advise me anything but if I really wanted to submit it, I could but it might get rejected on the sole reason that I started it earlier than 3 months. I decided to not take the risk and cancel that application and start another one. I mean can you believe it? I hadn’t even submitted my application and it was considered too early. TOO EARLY!

Almost two weeks later, I went back in again with a new application this time. Paid the $169 for the visa application and paid another $20 to get it delivered to my work. I was so excited. One visa down another one to go. I had already started researching about it and filling the application. They said that I need to call in a few days ahead and then book an “interview” in and then submit my application. Easy. I would be living my dreams sooner than I would know it. LOL!

Most of this whole planning is just a blurred rage because of all the anger and sadness and anxiety it caused me. It took 21 working days for me to get my passport back, that is roughly a month. I open the letter and the application had been rejected. Crushed and devastated are understatements. I could see all of my planning just going down the drain. My tickets, my accommodation bookings. What was even worse was the reasons that they gave me:

  1. My payslips didn’t show that I still held the job or I had approved leave to go away.
  2. They don’t think I have sufficient funds
  3. There was no evidence that my bf was willing to support me or if he even existed. Even though we had tickets flying together.
  4. They didn’t think I was returning, even though I had attached a return ticket and my enrollment into uni.

The UK embassy really does think highly of themselves. Why in the world would you think that I would rather be an illegal immigrant in your country than hold a valid visa and stay in Australia, a country which has better weather and better beaches than them! Nonetheless, I was devastated. Actually devastated is an understatement. I was crushed I had decided to drop the whole plan. There was no way that I could afford to spend another month for the visa and still have enough time for the Schengen visa. I mean 21 working days for a rejected visa. I could’ve just killed someone then. Then I found out that VFS does an express visa thing for an extra $300. I would get a decision in 5 days. So instead of sending my passport to Manilla, Philippines where the UK embassy is, they’ll send it to the UK consulate in Canberra and send my supporting documents to Manilla and it would be prioritised. What a scam! The even greater problem was that the rejection letter said that unless I had a dramatic change in my application it would still more than likely be rejected. So was I ready to sacrifice another $469 for a visa which was possibly going to get rejected? I mean I needed to take a chance.

The even greater problem was that the rejection letter said that unless I had a dramatic change in my application it would still more than likely be rejected. So was I ready to sacrifice another $469 for a visa which was possibly going to get rejected? I mean I needed to take a chance otherwise, all of my bookings and flight tickets would go down the dump. I didn’t even know if I could refund it at all.  I had my mind set on proving the jerks who rejected my visa wrong. So I gathered all the evidence I could. I got a letter from work saying that I had paid leave and that I would still have the job when I came back, I got my boyfriend to write a letter and get his mum to send us a letter and a photocopy of her passport and visa, I also got my bank statements, proving that I had enough money. If this wasn’t enough to prove them that I was coming back I don’t know what would. So I booked in another interview for the fourth time. $638 and 5 days later, I got my passport back and this time with a Visa. But, I wish that was the end of all my problems.

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5 things to keep in mind while Airbnb-ing in Europe

Airbnb is a pretty cool flexible and affordable way to book places to stay in when you’re traveling but there are a few things you should keep in mind that’ll make your trip a bit less stressful and easier.

  1. Check the cancellation flexibility of the listing – On Airbnb you can set the flexibility of your cancellation policy of your listing. If your plans are tentative, but you’ve found a really good place that is usually booked, you can check the flexibility of the listing and book it ahead. That way you can secure the booking but not worry about committing to a certain place.
  2. ALWAYS read the reviews – Airbnb is based on reviews. Hence, the number one rule of booking through Airbnb is read the reviews. Sometimes the places are fairly new and don’t have many reviews or any reviews at all but you have to make a judgment call in those cases. But I recommend reading reviews for places that you don’t want to fall through.
  3. Create a wishlist – You can create wishlists on Airbnb and pool all the listings you like. This allows you to have a glance at them and compare them before booking. All the listings have unique things to offer, and each one can seem more tempting than the other. Creating a wishlist allows you to plan ahead and not crowd your chrome tab at the last minute. You can also invite the people you’re traveling with to your wishlist and ask their opinions on the listings and they can add new ones that they like too.
  4.  Communicate with the host – You’re going to be in living in someone’s house, even better you’re going to be living in a local’s house. Airbnb hosts are mostly happy to give you a quick run through about the area that their house is in, what are the attractions near it, how easy it is to get to the place; you name it. Communication with the host is essential when you’re booking an Airbnb. The bonus about this is that when you get there, they’ll be more than happy to direct you around the area. And as a traveler, nothing is better than having a local on your side helping you out.
  5. Research about the area – It is always a good idea to research more about the area that the listing is in. You don’t want a good listing in a very dingy place. If it is a popular tourist city or area, you will find heaps of blogs and reviews about the place. And you can always ask your host about the area and crosscheck it with the reviews to estimate the honesty of their post.

Overall Airbnb is based on a network of trust and honest reviews by people like us traveling the world. Out of the 10-15 places I’ve booked on Airbnb, only one has been very disappointing. So the positive outcome is very high. I have had the best experience with Airbnb and I suggest people to take more risk and start trusting the internet more. 🙂

If you guys want AUD45 off your first Airbnb trip, you can use this link!

Best of luck for your travels and I hope this post helped you out a bit.

Introduction – Travelling around Europe on Peanuts

Europe is not cheap. The flights are expensive, the food is expensive, their currency is more expensive and when you’re spending in a currency that is more expensive than the currency that you earn in – everything is super expensive.

When I first met my boyfriend he was planning on going to the UK to visit his mum and also make a mini Europe trip out of all this. At this point, I was both happy for him, hated him, envious of him and couldn’t see how this was fair. He had been to Europe before, not to forget USA, Iceland and more than likely some other place. The only place I had ever been was Nepal and that one time I stepped over the border to China. I took a huge gamble then and decided that if I could save enough money I would go with him to Europe. God knows I’ve wanted to do it ever since I was a little girl. <probably every girl who isn’t born in Europe dreams about this, but it was a pretty big deal for me>

Even thinking about traveling to Europe was a big victory in my half. I cannot imagine how a 19-year-old me even had the guts/determination to save up for this trip – but she did and she went to Europe. Because I was a student and so was my boyfriend, this whole trip was planned around a very tiny budget; most of which was spent on my visas.I’ll make another post about that as it was a challenge in itself.

The one thing that made the whole trip possible was Airbnb. Airbnb allowed us to have a more or less central location without the prices of a hotel room in the city. Another factor that made the trip possible was my boyfriend’s  mother. After we had saturated our funds we ended up leeching on her for a couple of weeks. I don’t know how I will ever repay her, but I do plan to try.

I’m planning on turning this topic into a daily blog for a couple of reasons:

  1. I don’t want to condense all the information into one massive post that people will find hard to read
  2. Different topics in this trip deserve a certain amount of attention which one blog would definitely not be able to satisfy.
  3. I would love people’s feedback on this so that I can improve as I go.

I hope you look forward to reading more about my trip. I’ll try and post every day so that I can finish talking about this trip and discuss other adventures that I’ve had.