Budget to Travel

Budgeting is really difficult, well at least it is for me. For someone who is a drama student and an amateur traveller, I find it very hard to allocate things especially not knowing what you’re going to need while planning a trip overseas. I’m going to discuss the major things that have affected my travel that I didn’t count in my budget.

  1. Visas – Although this may be an obvious thing for many, I overlooked this and it ended up costing me a lot. Mainly because I had my first visa application rejected for the UK and I had to reapply and fast track it because you are only allowed to apply 3 months before the arrival date and they took a month to respond just to give me a big no. Not only did this double the cost of my visa but I had to fast track it which was an extra $300 that I could’ve spent on my trip. The visas for the EU and the UK have very similar rules. You need to have a visa in the first place you enter either the EU or the UK before you apply for the second visa.
  2. Travel Insurance – Many countries need you to have a travel insurance for you to get a visa and in some countries, it’s just recommended. I would definitely recommend getting it regardless because it’s always good to have a safety net especially when your country is known to not be that great in looking after its people overseas. Nothing bad about it, its just sometimes you might be in a city without a Nepalese embassy and it’s better to have an insurance that you know is going to cover you in the countries you are visiting.
  3. Transportation – You might think the plane tickets are the biggest cost but that is where the expenses start. I didn’t factor in the costs for the numerous buses and trains we took overseas getting to places and most times you don’t even know the best deals that the different transportation have to offer so more than likely you’re going to cop an expensive rate. We were purchasing single trip tickets in Paris for 2 days until we realised on our last day there that they do all day tickets and weekly tickets that would’ve been way cheaper.
  4. Food – I only have one thing to say about this, please have a generous budget for food. When you are travelling you realise that you will be more generous spending than you have been budgeting and you’ll want to try everything and you will run out of money in an amazing city that has amazing food and you’ll end up having to cook yourself dinner.
  5. Souvenirs – Being in a new country will tick off something inside you and you’ll turn into this souvenir monster because everything will be super cute and will remind you of everything your trip was. As ridiculous as it sounds you will want to factor this in. This will be your breathing space because the last thing you want is to chip into your food budget and beats having to walk everywhere either. Just account a couple of hundred dollars on top of your cost for every place. This will allow you to spend without making it too tight and if you don’t end up spending so much you will have some extra cash for when you come back or even better for food.

These are the 5 things where my budgeting failed me and I found myself wishing I had saved more money for these or at least accounted for before diving head in first and purchasing my tickets to Europe. I hope this helps some of you out there planning on travelling soon. If you have any questions please feel free to ask me and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Prathu

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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.

 

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.

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.