The Schengen Visa – Traveling around Europe on Peanuts

After getting my UK visa, I was a bit more excited and pumped up. I had one approved valid visa and I was pretty sure the Schengen visa wasn’t going to be much of a trouble. I had already filled out all of my application, booked places to stay in mainland Europe. Now I just had to get an appointment and submit the documents which I had already set up, thanks to the UK visa.

The next thing for me to do was call them and book an appointment “2-3 days ahead” like it was mentioned on the website. As the Schengen visa covers a lot of countries, there are certain ways to determine the primary country you are visiting and which country to apply to for a Visa. From what I understood, it was either the country you spent the most days in or the country that you first enter. I was spending 9 days in France, and it was also the first country that I was visiting so with my hopes for France I called the French consulate in Sydney; to my surprise, I was prompted to check the consulate website and book a day for the interview in. I didn’t have a good feeling about this clash in information on the Schengen website and the French consulate. Regardless, I proceeded to book an appointment with the French consulate on their website and knowing my luck the next available date was only available in July. IN JULY! I was supposed to fly on the 23rd of June from Sydney and had a booking for an Airbnb in Paris for the 28th of June. And I had to apply from a country of residence. That crossed out my idea of possibly applying for it from the UK.

 

At this point, I was probably having a panic attack and what not. My soul would’ve been crushed if I went to the UK and did not go to mainland Europe, especially France. A country that I have longed and loved for so long. I actually wanted to study in Paris but my parents didn’t think it was a good idea, and now that I’ve been to Paris – I sort of second that. But the problem at hand was still unsolved. I needed to get a Schengen Visa before I left for the UK and manage to get my passport back in time too. In a desperate attempt, I tried to resort to the other option of applying to the country of first entry. This was a bit tricky and also a gamble because I only had 4 days between UK and Paris to fit in another country, but at this stage it felt like I had no choice. I started scouring for Schengen countries which had the earliest appointment available. And then I found it – Denmark. The next available date was two days after; simply perfect. This would give the embassy enough time for the passport to get back to us because unlike the UK visa, the Schengen visa only takes 14 working days. I booked my accommodation for Denmark through Airbnb and I was at VFS. 

The Denmark thing didn’t really work out because he told me that you needed to spend the most days there and it didn’t matter if I entered the country first. Only if school taught you all of these things in a subject rather than all the random things I learned and have never used and more than likely won’t use. Ever since I’ve left school, no one has ever actually asked me to find the value of x or find the value of an angle in a triangle. But I’ve had to go out of my way to learn more about traveling. In a desperate attempt to find a Schengen country that had dates available for an interview, I stumbled across Netherlands. the people at the embassy were the nicest. And even though I didn’t have all the documents, the very kind lady just asked me to email them to her and even noted down that I was flying on the 23rd and will be needing my passport by the 22nd.

It was Monday morning and my flight was on Wednesday and  I still didn’t have my passport. I was panicking at this point but I got an email that at 8 am saying that my passport was ready to be picked up. And that is officially how I managed to be able to go to the UK and Europe.

A lot of people contributed a lot to this, my very supporting boyfriend who agreed to pick up my passport in peak hour just for my sanity, his family who always gave us positive vibes and support and helped us throughout the way, my sister who has been my absolute support system, and a special shout out to Sue who found a interview date for Netherlands. Yes, this post is very cheesy and soppy. But this trip has been nothing but a dream come true. And I’m grateful for all of these people for helping me out and making it possible.

 

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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.