Lake Ohrid: The utmost travel guide

The Republic of Macedonia (or, FYROM) is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, which is bordered by Greece, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Albania as well as Serbia. even though there’s no ocean in sight, this country has a gorgeous body of water that’s deserving of a visit.

Lake Ohrid is one of the deepest as well as oldest lakes in all of Europe. It’s 30 kilometers long as well as 15 kilometers wide, as well as is partially had by Albania. However, the majority of the water sits within Macedonia’s borders.

Given the size of Lake Ohrid as well as the many sites to see, as well as things to do, having a automobile will truly provide you the flexibility to explore this natural gem at your own pace. We had 3 nights at the Lake, however might have made with lots of more!

Read on to discover why Lake Ohrid must be on your travel bucketlist.


Where to stay at Lake Ohrid

We wished to base ourselves in the actual old town of Ohrid, which has gorgeous architecture, lots of sites to see, as well as the most lodging options. The roads right here are cobblestone as well as the entire town is extremely picturesque. In fact, Ohrid was really provided as a UNESCO heritage site in 1980.

There are many locations to stay here, with the majority being apartments, guesthouses or villas. We selected Mal Sveti Kliment Guesthouse because of its proximity to the lake itself, the fair cost of the spaces ($30 – $60) as well as the invitation we got from the manager to take part in Epiphany!

The only issue with staying in the old town when you have a vehicle is discovering parking. The lanes are extremely narrow as well as there aren’t lots of areas available. We had to park outside of the old town as well as walk in, which took only about 5 minutes (maximum).

There are other locations to stay around the lake, however the old town of Ohrid has the most going on, is the most beautiful, as well as uses the most amenities for travellers.

To find accommodations in the old town, as well as in towns around Lake Ohrid, inspect out:

HostelWorld for budget plan rooms, for budget plan as well as midrange, as well as HotelsCombined to compare a range of booking sites.

Must-See sites of Lake Ohrid

There are limitless amounts of things to do here. Whether you’re thinking about being active, cultural or lazy, you’ll discover something to fit your mood.

We were at the lake in the wintertime, as well as there were still tons of things to do. If you are available in the summer, you’ll never be bored.

Sveti Naum Monastery (St. Naum)

This Eastern Orthodox monastery was well established in 905 by Saint Naum…who is likewise buried in the church! Entering into the complex you’ll pass under a stone archway, across a bit river as well as past lots of peacocks.

The monastery itself is lovely, however when you reach the actual church, which has extraordinary views of the mountains as well as lake, you’ll be totally in awe.

Inside are stone columns, well-preserved frescos on the walls as well as ceiling as well as of course, Saint Naum! The story goes that if you kneel in front of the cushion, as well as press your ear to it, you’ll be able to hear Saint Naum’s heart beating…

This was our much-loved site during our time at Lake Ohrid, do not miss it. You’ll discover this monastery 30 kilometers south of the city of Ohrid, as well as you can get right here by car, taxi, or by boat (around as well as hour, $8).

Sveti Jovan Monastery (St. John Monastery) 

Another picture-perfect monastery, however this time around it’s Macedonian Orthodox. You’ll discover this church clinging to a cliff above Kaneo beach just outside of Ohrid city. The views of the lake from right here are outstanding, as well as if you want to discover a tranquil location to just hangout as well as relax, this is it.

The walk right here is fantastic as well. You can roam with the old town, as well as along the lakeshore, before coming to the church. To total the circle, head up the hill along a path into the forest. You’ll ultimately show up at the fort. entrance fee: 100 MKD ($1.80).

Samuel’s Fortress

This was the funding of the very first Bulgarian empire, when Tsar Samuel ruled in the 10th century. Today this is a prominent area for tourists. The fortress is well intact as well as the views from right here are sublime. entrance fee: 30 MKD ($0.55).

Church of St. Sophia

This church is one of the most crucial monuments in all of Macedonia. It’s been house to a number of faiths considering that 850 – Christian, Bulgarian Orthodox, as well as Muslim. inside you’lldiscover architecture, art as well as frescos from the middle Ages. entrance fee: 100 MKD ($1.80).

Ancient Theatre

This theatre was built in 200 BC, as well as is from the Hellenistic period (between the death of Alexander the fantastic as well as the begin of the Roman Empire). only the lower section of the theatre exists, however it’s still extremely impressive. Actually, during the Roman times, this theatre was utilized for Gladiator fighting! entrance fee: Free.

Check out the standard Homes

Ohrid’s design is unique. The lanes are narrow as well as extremely tight, with homes really developed hanging over the roads. The homes are all painted white to assist with the intense warm of the sun, as well as there aren’t lots of open areas or lawns because of lack of space, as well as to assist avoid the strong winds from the lake.

A few noteworthy houses to inspect out are Robevci & Uranija houses, as well as the houses along Car Samoil as well as Ilindenska streets.

Swimming, Snorkelling as well as Diving

If you go to Lake Ohrid during the summertime you’ll be able to completely take pleasure in all of the water activities. even though Lake Ohrid can be checked out year-round (we were there in January), all of the water activities can only be performed in the summer.

Click right here for the very best beaches for swimming on the lake as well as click right here for some info on diving diving as well as snorkelling.

Dives expense $45 each, however the a lot more you do, the lower the expense per dive.

Hiking as well as Walking

There are a few tracks around the old town of Lake Ohrid (like the one leading to the Fortress above), however for a a lot more interesting adventure, why not walk around the entire lake?! inspect out this publish for beneficial recommendations as well as tips.

If you don’t have about a week to spend hiking as well as camping along the shoreline, you can make your method to the village of Elshani on the east coast. This is a fantastic starting point for many tracks around the area. You can likewise hike to the villages of Konjsko or Pestani from here.

Epiphany Festival

If you’re able to (and if you don’t mind the freezing weather), try to time your trip to Lake Ohrid for the Epiphany celebrations. This celebration is celebrated by Christians around the world, with those in Macedonia (and the east) honoring the baptism of Jesus.

Brave (crazy?) guy jump into the 7° C water (with air temps around -7 ° C), in browse of a wooden cross that was thrown into the lake by a priest just moments before. The guy who collects the sunken cross is blessed as well as provided great luck for the rest of the year. He likewise gets to go home to home to get money!

Where to eat at Lake Ohrid

There are many locations to eat, however in the wintertime months, only a few restaurants are open. during the summer, every restaurant is buzzing.

Objectif – Located along the promenade just outside of the old town. This stylish location has outside seating as well as was hectic even in the winter. Lunch for 2 people is around $10 as well as beers are $1.60 each.

Aleksandrija – This location has wood terminated pizzas for $6, vegetable dishes for $4.50 as well as bottles of white wine from $9.

Dr. Falafel – This bit location serves inexpensive as well as tasty falafels ideal in the primary square at the begin of the pedestrian-only street. $1.80 with hummus.

Gladiator restaurant – Located on the western side of the ancient theatre, this restaurant offers fantastic views. Come right here for a coffee or a meal.

Restaurant Damar – We had our much-loved meal here! choose the vegetarian platter ($6) which includes fried zucchini, cucumbers, tzatziki, olives, grilled eggplant, salsas as well as bread. The stuffed peppers with cheese ($4.50) are likewise extremely delicious.

Kaj Kanevche – This restaurant is a bit additionally out of the old town, however it’s a great walk along the boardwalk. try the eggplant mousaka, pinjur, fried zucchini, fish as well as the mixed omelette. try to get a table on the lakeside terrace!

If you’re on a truly tight budget, you might always o to the bakery as well as grocery store, or regional markets to purchase fruit, vegetables, burek as well as other pastries.

Getting to as well as From Lake Ohrid

As I stated at the begin of this article, having your own set of wheels is the simplestmethod to get to the lake, see all of the surrounding villages, as well as bring on afterwards. We rented a vehicle with as well as Sharr reveal at the flight terminal in Skopje.

To get to Skopje from neighbouring Tirana, Albania, you can take a regional bus for $22.

A bus from Skopje to Lake Ohrid takes about 3.5 hours as well as costs around 520 MKD ($9.40). Buses run every couple of hours from Skopje. The bus station at Ohrid is outside of the old town (30 minute walk). A taxi in must expense around 120 MKD ($2) – always agree on a cost before getting into the taxi.

If coming from Bitola, there are about 6 buses each day. Click right here for the Galeb Bus website which uses lots of routes from Lake Ohrid to neighbouring countries.

Lake Ohrid genuinely is a Gem!

No matter which time of the year you choose to go to Lake Ohrid, you’ll have a unforgettable experience. even in the dead of wintertime it’s still exceptionally sunny as well as the skies are pure blue. The snow-capped mountains just add an additional aspect to this already picturesque destination.

Meanwhile, if you are available in the summertime months, you’ll be able to do some hiking, swimming as well as sunbathing! Plus, a lot more shops, restaurants as well as hotels will be open for tourists.

Lake Ohrid is a natural question of not only the Republic of Macedonia, however Europe as a whole.

For a lot more information, assist as well as inspiration, inspect out our articles!

Our 3 Days in Skopje: Macedonia’s questionable Capital

Road Tripping Macedonia – checking out Lake Ohrid as well as Mavrovo national Park

The utmost guide to travelling Macedonia

Travelling Eastern as well as central Europe: Highlights as well as travel ideas from 5 extraordinary Months

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Disclaimer:Goats On The road is an Amazon partner as well as likewise an affiliate for some other retailers. This indicates we make commissions if you click links on our blog as well as purchase from those retailers.


Posted: 5/31/16 | may 31st, 2016

This month’s interview comes from Alex, a 29-year-old black traveler from northern California. When he approached me earlier this year to do an interview and told his story and the barriers — racial and non-racial — he faced before and on the road, I knew he had to be featured here.

As a white Western guy, my experience is vastly different than many others. I don’t face many of the prejudices others might and, while this site is called “Nomadic Matt,” I view it as a resource for all travelers — and the only way to do that is to bring in added voices like Alex. So, today, without further ado, here is Alex!

Nomadic Matt: Hi Alex! Welcome! tell everyone about yourself.
Alex: I am a 29 year old from northern California. I grew up in a city near San Francisco called Alameda. After finishing college in Arizona, I moved back to the Bay area and worked in SF before quitting my job to travel the world. 

I know the decision shocked my mom and many of my friends, but I know it was a necessary experience for me to embrace at this time in my life.

What inspired your trip?
The short answer is that I wanted to see the world. The more nuanced answer is that I wanted to see it through my own lens. With the wonders of the world wide web, we are inundated with information and imagery of people and places from around the world. I needed to see what the world was like through my eyes, through my own conversations with people in such places, and through my personal experience of growth and change in traveling to these places.

After reading so many backpacking blogs, I got inspired and knew I needed to do this. My original intention was to travel for six months but 11 months later, I’m still going!

How are you funding this trip?
I worked in finance for five years. I had been saving for travel since I started working. once I made the decision to do this trip, I started making the appropriate sacrifices to increase my travel fund (like skipping smaller trips with friends and cutting out expensive dinners and large bar tabs).

After reading different travel blogs and your book how to travel the world on $50 a Day, I was able to save $25,000 USD for a year of travel.

To make that happen, I began automatically depositing money from my paycheck every two weeks. I reduced my spending on the non-essentials, as well. For example eating out less, canceling services I rarely used, and skipping smaller vacations.

As time came closer to leave, I made money selling furniture and other items from my apartment. Also, the last benefit check from work helped a bit as well. In all, it took a little over a year to save up enough money for this trip.

I had friends telling me they could never afford to do what I am doing but would spend $400 USD/month on organized cycling classes and $500 USD/weekend on drinks. saving the money needed for a trip like this wasn’t easy and required many sacrifices. However, I knew traveling was the ultimate goal and this was a part of the process to accomplish that goal.

Do you have any specific advice for people saving for their trip?
My advice and something that helped greatly was to look at a breakdown of my spending over a 3 month period. Your bank or credit card company usually provides this information free or you can do it yourself. identify what is consuming the largest portion of your income and figure out ways you can reduce it.

Why don’t you think more people of color travel? You said in your original email that your friends and family said you were being “too white” by doing this. 
The “you’re acting white” comment is one I’ve heard all my life. When I showed an interest in my education and a career in finance, I was acting “white.” When I went against the norm by quitting my job to travel I was acting “white.”

Honestly, it’s all quite confusing and makes trying to be yourself that much more difficult. In regards to traveling abroad, people view it as representing a certain amount of privilege that is not generally associated with minorities.

But again, this is about priorities, and if traveling is a priority you can find a way to do it without being a member of the upper-class elite.

I think another reason why people of color don’t travel as much is a lack of exposure. Without close friends and family who have or do travel, how might someone know that this is something to do?

Or that it is even worth doing?

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that people of color do not travel at all. That’s certainly not the case as I traveled quite frequently as a child with my family. However, I’d label this type of traveling as vacationing — and it was always to familiar places.

Where I see a lack of minority travelers is to those unfamiliar places like Southeast Asia. 

In my opinion, Southeast Asia is a perfect place for people of any color and any budget. Yet I mostly see white travelers here. Why is that?

Many minorities my age in the U.S. come from families where their parents and grandparents did not have an opportunity to go explore the world. Instead, they were likely fighting for their civil rights and equality (which was a more pressing priority). many were also recent immigrants to the U.S. and focused on creating a new life in an unfamiliar country.

So I think, due to a lack of exposure in minority communities, this idea of traveling the world isn’t as prevalent. The idea of traveling abroad became associated with white people and privilege.

Although at times it doesn’t seem like it, the opportunity for minorities to travel and explore is now much greater. We should take advantage of the sacrifices made by the generations before us.

How do you think that opinion can change? Do you think it ever will? 
I think the opinion will change with time and an effort to educate minority youth about traveling and its accessibility. It is encouraging to see organizations and individuals trying to help push this effort along. With the emergence of social media, everyone can now share their travel experiences with a wider group of individuals.

Maybe an Instagram picture of the beautiful beaches in Thailand inspires a young person of color to work towards one day visiting, no matter the hurdles in their way. I know for myself it has opened my eyes and mind to hundreds of places I want to visit.

Have you faced any racism while traveling? how do you deal with it?
I thought I would encounter racism on a greater level traveling through Europe and Asia than what I’ve experienced at home.

But in my 9 months of traveling to big cities, small cities, urban and rural areas I can not think of one time I’ve experienced any deliberate racism. There were a couple of incidents of ignorance but not what I would consider racism.

I do have one interesting story I’ll share from when I was in this small town on the border of Montenegro. based on the looks of curiosity I received, I’m fairly certain I was the first black person to travel through this town in a long time. As I made my way to the bus stop, I had a brief encounter with what I would guess were late-teenaged boys.

As I was standing at the crosswalk they slowly drove by with their rap music turned up and yelled out the window “What’s up my n*gga?” accompanied by a peace sign gesture. having heard the word “n*gger” shouted from a car before, my guard went up immediately. but then I saw the look on the young boys’ faces. They were smiling as if they had encountered someone famous.

At that moment I realized they must have assumed this was an appropriate way of greeting a black male. I simply laughed while shaking my head. These kids were repeating what they were being fed through music and movies as being cool, likely not knowing the origin or meaning of the word they used. I only wish I could have used this as an opportunity to teach them the reality of that word and its connotations, but this was not a hate crime.

If anyone was treating me differently for being black, I was oblivious to it. at times I feel like I’m more likely to be treated differently for being American versus anything else. I’ve come to learn that most travelers are extremely open-minded and interested in learning about the places they travel as well as the people they meet along the way. You would be surprised how many other travelers express their curiosity and concerns with me about the lack of minority travelers.

What advice do you have for other travelers of color worried about racism when they travel?
Racism is ubiquitous.  If you are going to put yourself in a setting of “others” you will experience “othering” — this is what humans have done for our entire existence. But I think one important piece of advice is that you can’t confuse racism and ignorance. 

It is likely you will travel to places that are incredibly homogeneous so meeting or seeing a minority like yourself may be a first for them. Take this as an opportunity to teach someone about you and your culture. A smile and quick chat can go a long way in learning about our differences but even more so our similarities as humans.

If you do find yourself in a situation where you feel that you’re being treated differently due to the color of your skin, I’d suggest politely walking away. Don’t allow racism or discrimination to “win” by provoking a negative reaction from you and possibly ruining your adventure. The world is full of fantastic and accepting people and I have faith that if you get out there on the road you’ll find them!

What was the moment you were like “Wow! I’m really doing this! This trip is real life!”?
Those moments happen so frequently. From the first train ride in Europe, staring out the window as I traveled from Stockholm to Copenhagen, envisioning the journey ahead of me, all the way to sitting on top of a pagoda in Myanmar watching as the sun rose, casting light onto an fantastic moment.

This trip has been the best experience of my life so far and I make sure to reflect on and be grateful for all the fantastic moments often.

OK, let’s switch gears and talk about the practical side of travel. how do you make your money last on the road? What are some of your best tips?
My most important tip to the backpacker crowd is to control your spending on alcohol because those beers add up fast. Ask around where the best happy hour and drink specials are located.

If you are with a large group, try to negotiate your own deal on drinks. better yet, go buy alcohol from the store, grab a speaker to play music and drink outside somewhere. Those tend to be some of the best and cheapest nights out!

If you could give three pieces of advice to a new traveler, what would it be?
I’m one of those people who enjoys planning and researching before heading out to somewhere new. However, don’t over-plan your trip. Leave a little room for spontaneity. You’ll definitely meet some cool people or that special someone and want to continue traveling with them.

That’s hard to do if you have your entire trip pre-booked.

Put down your phone, smile, and say hello to someone new. I promise that interaction will be more interesting than whatever you’re reading on Facebook.

Find an activity to participate in that helps you overcome a fear. The open water scares me and in order to face that fear head-on, I went scuba diving. Also, pick an activity that challenges you mentally and physically. I climbed up the 5000+ steps to the top of Adams peak in Sri Lanka. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my trip.

Lastly, find a way to give back while you’re traveling. Volunteering, donating and responsible tourism are some of the ways to help support the local communities you are traveling through and impacting.

This interview is not an end-all discussion on racism and travel. It’s one person’s perspective. since this is a topic I’m often asked about, I wanted to share Alex’s story and perspective on the matter. I know this can be a passionate subject, but please keep all comments civil and respectful.

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Book Your Trip: Logistical tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t forget travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

SafetyWing (best for everyone)

Insure My trip (for those over 70)

Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)

Ready to book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.


That scene alone sums up the park. three zebras escaping the scorching sun took shelter in a garage as well as there they stayed next to a rusty, old Pinoy jeepney. It was an intriguing sight, a harbinger of exactly how I would see the location after costs half a day in it.

The land rover we were riding stirred dust across a huge plain where giraffes roamed gracefully, hopping from tree to tree. Zebras bent their necks as they grazed, pulling the lawn off the a lot more moist corners of the island. Africa, I mumbled as our automobile slowed down to halt. A far cry, maybe, however for now this was the closest I might get to an African safari — Calauit Safari Park.

Zebras in my garage. Well, not my garage.
We climbed down to the arid ground as well as Kuya Florante, a caretaker as well as excursion guide, led us under the shade of a gazebo. four giraffes, I counted. They, too, were avoiding the sun as well as were oblivious to our presence, which up until then was believed to be irresistible (wahaha). “They look small,” my buddy Mica remarked while looking at them from afar. however that would modification as soon as they came better as well as dwarfed us. It was the very first time that I got this close to the tallest land animal in the world, as well as it felt like I would break my neck any type of time as I kept looking up to their cute, gentle faces.

“This is Isabel,” said Kuya Florante while rubbing the neck of the biggest giraffe of the lot. The others, he introduced as Miller, Terrence, as well as Mylene. “We normally name them after their sponsors,” he answered when asked exactly how they come up with the names.

Oh hey there there, Isabel.
Miller as well as Terrence.
Feeding the giraffe is allowed here. Our group tried it. I tried it too, believing that there was nothing wrong with it. however now that I’m composing about it as well as after reading about the habits of these animals as well as their connection with the human inhabitants of Calauit, I figured I most likely did a poor thing. perhaps it would be finest for them to not be get utilized to humans as well as for tourists to minimize impact. perhaps feeding them isn’t a great concept after all. The park may be huge sufficient for these animals however it has faced one issue after one more with the years.

Calauit Safari Park covers nearly 3800 hectares. formerly understood as Calauit game protect as well as wildlife Sanctuary, the park was established on August 21, 1976 by presidential Proclamation 1578 issued by president Ferdinand Marcos.

You may be wondering: exactly how did the giraffes as well as zebras get here? That’s simple to response — by boat. One hundred as well as four animals which likewise included six types of antelopes (impala, gazelle, bushbuck, eland, waterbuck, as well as tobi) were brought right here from Kenya. The eco-friendly island was transformed to a savannah — its residents relocated as well as its bamboo forests cleared to supply a appropriate atmosphere for the animals.

The a lot more fascinating concern is: Why? the most typical reason you’re gonna hear is that this was a conservation effort by president Marcos. It is said that when he attended a summit satisfying in the African state, the Kenyan government asked the worldwide Union for Conservation of Nature for help in the conservation of their wildlife. Calauit was Marcos’s response to the call.

Of course, some do not discover this as well convincing. An Inquirer report in 2011 revealed something else: Marcos wanted to introduce a tourism business. Tony Parkinson, a British guy who organized the translocation of animals from Kenya to the Philippines, said, “None of them were endangered… that was all nonsense. We would never have put them on an island like that if they were endangered.” Which one to believe is up to you.

Today, according to Kuya Florante, there are 23 giraffes, 38 zebras, as well as around 1000 Calamian deer on the island today. The antelopes have all died out. The Calamian deer is endemic to Palawan as well as is an endangered types however their population has improved in the park. The male Calamian deer is horned; we only spotted one male of the dozens we have seen that morning.

Ready for adventure!
More zebras! The males have darker stripes.
A female Calamian deer, endemic to Palawan
Camouflage tree, locally understood as Panato
While most animals are complimentary to run around as well as check out the island, there are those that are in captivity. among these are four Philippine crocodiles, three porcupines, two pythons, a civet cat, a wild boar, a sea gull, as well as a number of tortoises. however the giraffes as well as zebras stay the crowd favorites among all animals in the sanctuary.

Crocodilus Mindorensis aka Philippine Crocodile. They are freshwater crocodiles. There are 4 at the sanctuary.
Porcupine, civet cat, wild bearded pig (endemic to Palawan) as well as a python
The atmosphere (natural, social, as well as even political) has changed considering that Marcos created little Africa in Calauit as well as time does not verify to be friendly to the park, which is facing a number of challenges today. budget plan cuts have pushed the number of workers to dwindle from 300 to 30. The former inhabitants of the peninsula who were relocated decades back are returning by means of the Balik-Calauit movement. as well as the animals are reported to have been on one end of a dispute with the residents.

With the personnel of Calauit Safari Park
Whatever the genuine intentions are, one thing that remains the exact same is that the animals are already here. We brought them here. We adopted them. “All the animals right here are Filipinos now,” Kuya Florante shared, describing that the original individuals imported from Africa are all dead, leaving behind the offsprings, which are all born in Calauit. The least we might do is take care of them.

How to get here: From Manila, fly to Busuanga airport. If your hotel is in Coron, you can take a van/shuttle to Coron town. Here, there are a number of choices available. You may join a group excursion used by travel agencies, usually around P2500-3000 per head. If you’re a huge group, you may charter a personal boat to Calauit (which can likewise take you to other gorgeous islands including Black Island) for P9300 for 1-4 pax or P10,400 for 5-8 pax.
Calauit entrance Fee: P200 for Filipinos, P400 for foreigners
Use of land rover: P1000 (divided by exactly how lots of you are in the group)

More tips on YouTube ⬇️⬇️⬇️

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7 Insightful things to do in Metro Manila, Philippines

They just didn’t take their time.

The local radio the motorist was tuned in to had already played a dozen ballads, but the cab had barely inched forward. The traffic was glacial, and I was stuck in the middle of it all. While I struggled to keep my eye away from the running meter, I looked outside my window and got delightfully lost in the music. My fingers tapped to the slow beat of the Basil Valdez classic. Its sedating melody was often interrupted by the unorthodox percussion coming from the outside — the gentle humming of the engine in the background and the brassy honks from the other automobiles on the road that seem to build up to a crescendo.

This is rush hour Manila. A Holywood actress once said in a magazine interview that she was “ghastly and weird.” An action film director once commented that she was “ugly and stinky.” A fictional character in a novel once baptized her “the gates of hell.” You may say that there’s truth to it, but they did not see enough. They did not stay long enough to see her good, captivating side. Or maybe, they just did not take their time.

Rush hour Manila
I moved to Manila from idyllic Batangas over ten years ago. In the first few weeks, being stranded in the dreadful traffic was one of those situations that nearly pushed me to insanity. For a promdi like me, how the nearly twelve million citizens find their way around this huge concrete labyrinth without getting lost in its fastness and complicatedness and craziness was a question that only time made me understand.

It is not tough to dismiss Manila as an ideal destination. a lot of tourists use her as only a jump off point to the islands. and if they ever stay longer than a layover, they do not go beyond the comforts of the hotel and establishments nearby. Metro Manila is big and dense. just when you have just started searching for anything worthy of a second look, you get lost in the crowd, choke in the pollution, or drown in her constant nagging. but those who make it past her sins are rewarded with an opportunity to appreciate her virtues. here are a few suggestions on how to get close and personal with this criminally underrated city.

1. go back in time at the Ayala Museum.

In the heart of Makati, the poster city of commercialism in the country, lies a cluster of malls. any individual who has been there will tell you that it has everything — from a basic quirky store selling basic quirky stuff to high-end branded boutiques selling high-end branded stuff. The buildings that rise in this spender’s paradise all house items that come with a price tag. except for one: the Ayala Museum. situated in between crowded shopping malls, the Ayala museum is a pot of gold in the concrete jungle that not everyone happens to see. workers going to and coming from the financial district pass by this museum every day without realizing just how much they are missing.

Established in 1967, the museum has been cradling crucial cultural and historical artifacts that will definitely redefine how Filipinos look at its past. among its lots of collections are 60 handcrafted dioramas, documenting the country’s history; and artworks by three of the greatest Filipino painters — Fernando Amorsolo, Fernando Zobel, and Juan Luna. The pot of gold can be taken literally, too, for they also showcase the “Gold of Ancestors” exhibit, with over a thousand gold artifacts on display, an undeniable proof of our forefathers’ highly sophisticated way of life that burgeoned and flourished in the 16th century, even before the Spaniards set foot on Philippine soil. From the intricately molded golden sashes to the highly ornate diadems, these golden pieces give new light to how you imagine our ancestors lived back in the day. and that, my friend, is priceless.

2. See Old Manila at Intramuros.

If Manila had a soul, you’d find it hiding inside any ancient structure in Intramuros. She’s probably nearly afraid to death, weeping songs and tales of her long but rich, tragic but hopeful past. The historic core of the capital, it was built in 1571, making it the oldest district in the city. It has survived waves of foreign invasions, a world war, and even booming, unrelenting dangers of overdevelopment. but it continues to stand silently amidst the roaring metropolis outside its fortified walls.

Manila Cathedral. photo by Jay Leano
Yet there is still so much to marvel at in this citadel. walking past the gates of Fort Santiago is walking into a time maker for a ride to centuries before. Intramuros was the seat of power during the Spanish rule, and their heavy influence are etched deep in this part of the city. Don’t leave without seeing the Manila Cathedral and the San Agustin Church!

3. Pamper your tummy in Binondo.

When the Spaniards were still making the policies for this humble nation, they approved the Chinese immigrants the privilege to govern themselves. These settlers continued residingand trading in an area just outside the walls of the city — far enough that they could not interfere with how things were run, but close enough that they could still be monitored by the government. That place is Binondo.

Ongpin St., Binondo
Chinatown is not really a special attraction. nearly every major city in the world has one. but the one in Binondo is worth a visit for two reasons. First, it is the first Chinatown in the world. It was well established in 1594 by governor Luis Perez Dasmarinas for Chinese settlers who were converted into Catholicism. Second, unlike lots of Chinatowns which became a lot more of a vacationer attraction, Binondo is as real as it gets. You’ll see Filipino-Chinese continue to live and work here, with all the joys, the sounds, and the dirt of a normal third-world district.

But one thing that a lot of local tourists come here over and over again for is the food. Binondo is a gigantic food court. Its streets are flanked with holes in the wall. visit only if your stomach is empty, for Binondo would not hesitate to tempt you with the tastiest Chinese dishes, which you would not hesitate to gorge on.

4. help in a coastal cleanup on freedom Island.

Ask a random Metro Manila citizen for the nearest beach destination and chances are he or she is going to tell you to take a bus to Batangas or Quezon, hours from the capital. There’s something about the freedom Islands that is conflicting. one day it makes you delighted and hopeful for it has a stretch of sand that can give the coves outside the metro a run for its money. The next day, it will leave you brokenhearted when its beach is littered with trash. One day, you discover that it is home to over 80 species of birds, both local and migratory, including the Kentish Plovers, the Philippine Duck, and the endangered Chinese Egret, making it a fantastic place for birdwatching. The next day, you learn it is about to be reclaimed.

Satellite image of freedom Island, courtesy of Google Maps

The freedom Islands are two long islands just minutes away from mainland Metro Manila. It is in Las Pinas-Paranaque area and is visible from the Cavite-Manila Coastal Road. There’s a sense of triumph in knowing that we have stunning islands just within the city, and is in fact a coastal periphery for mangroves and multifarious biodiversity. Sadly, they come with a sense of sadness in knowing that it is the only one left and that not everyone is even aware of its existence.

This 175-hectare wetland is threatened both by pollution and reclamation. Heck, you can’t even swim here. So why come at all? A visit to this place opens eyes and minds. This is where you will see the extent of the problem and the toll these problems have taken on the environment. Yet, it is such a hopeful place. You won’t leave the island without a strong urge for change — to take action, be a lot more responsible, and fight for your city.

Freedom Island when garbage-free after the cleanup. photo by earth Island Institute Philippines
The birds know that too. considering that the beginning, the birds, even those coming from the faraway corners of the world, keep coming back to this place. They still believe there’s something worth returning to. They have not given up on it. Why must you?

5. catch a show at the cultural center of the Philippines.

If you love movies, try to catch a motion picture during the Cinemalaya film festival season. The Philippines once had the fourth a lot of prolific local cinemas in the world. We just love the movies. considering that the birth of Philippine cinema, it has took pleasure in three golden ages and has produced some of the most acclaimed cinematic gems in the world such as Himala, Asia’s best film of All Time according to a CNN poll, and Maynila… Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag, which has been included in the list of best films in the world. The local film industry has struggled, competing with Hollywood Blockbusters, but it has found a new breath of life in the form of digital filmmaking, allowing a lot more Filipinos to translate their creative vision into moving pictures that are produced with a lot more freedom and less budget.

A few Cinemalaya films

Cinemalaya has been a major player for this revolution. Cinemalaya Independent film festival is an annual event showcasing the best of the local independent cinema. giving grants to chosen filmmakers, the festival is open to any individual who has an idea. It helped redefine the local cinema as a lot more meaningful subjects have been tackled, a lot more filmmakers have been given opportunities to shine, and a lot more stories are narrated through pictures, a testament to the brilliance and diversity of the Filipino talent.

There are lots of other shows in CCP aside from film screenings. It also plays venue to many plays, musicals, concerts, and art exhibits. You can check out the current events and happenings here.

6. walk around UP Diliman Area.

The university of the Philippines-Diliman is not just an academic institution but a completely different world, sheltered from the deafening noise and the busy jolt of the rest of the city. Take a jog and see the lots of old buildings that incubate some of the best young minds, coming from different parts of the country.


Watch a student film at Cine Adarna. step into the Vargas Museum. visit one of its lots of communities and play a friendly game of basketball with its residents and discover just how warm the Filipino hospitality is. speak to a professor and understand how the university is not just a place for intellectual pursuits but a automobile to reaching one’s dream.

UP Diliman and nearby Maginhawa street are also a food-lover’s paradise, dotted with many restaurants that offer a variety of cuisines — from streetfood (balut, isaw, and kwek-kwek) to home-cooked meals to gourmet treats.

7. enjoy the sunset at Manila Bay.

Manila Bay is the main harbor of the city, playing an crucial role in the country’s history, economy, and culture. A lot has been said about it. Its condition worsens over time but it remains a habitat for large variety of marine life forms. lots of will shrug off any mention of whatever wonder it once had. but as I sat in the cab, tapping my fingers to the beat of a slow ballad, a spectacular heavenly show unveiled before me. The dark slowly blanketed the city and the golden rays painted the skies pink, red, and purple. There really is no better place to see the sun kiss the horizon than the Manila Bay.

Sunset in Manila
Maybe I already learned a way of always looking on the bright side or seeing the glass half-full. Or maybe, Manila is really a beautiful metropolis. like a lot of great cities, it has flaws; it’s not perfect. but between the crowded streets and the skyscrapers, it definitely has something terrific to offer to those who are ready to take the time.

Ah, time. Time is a fleeting illusion in Manila. It passes by just like that, you won’t even realize it. everything here seems to be dancing to an uptempo track. Locals and outsiders alike find themselves moving along and keeping up by reflex that often we forget to stop, listen, really listen, and see, really see that drowned in the heavy instrumental is a soft song — a a lot more heartfelt, a lot more soulful Manila.

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Posted: 2/1/16 | February 1st, 2016

I had a plan. Well, a vague idea. I came back from checking out Southeast Asia after only two months for two reasons: to speak at a nyc travel show in January as well as to provide a keynote speech in Orlando in February about linking with consumers on social media.

It didn’t make sense to fly home, back to Asia, as well as then back again, so what to finish with the time in between talks?

“South America,” I thought. It’s a location I haven’t went to much, so what much better method to spend my time than seeing the continent?

(Well, at least part of it.)

With the seven weeks I had, I organized to check out Argentina as well as Chile. Then, upon realizing that Uruguay was a ferry trip from Buenos Aires, I thought, “Let’s go there too.”

So my seven-week trip was going to look like this:

Buenos Aires (Argentina) – Colonia (Uruguay) – Montevideo (Uruguay) – Rosario (Argentina) – Córdoba (Argentina) – Mendoza (Argentina) – Santiago (Chile) – Torres del Paine (Chile) – Bariloche (Argentina) – Santiago (Chile)

A bit fast-paced however still not as well fast.

I chosen this path since it made the most logistical sense. Whereas my schedule in Southeast Asia revolved around a function (to see Isaan), this schedule came about since I drew directly lines as well as these locations fell on the lines!

But, after two days in Buenos Aires, I altered my plans.

This time it had nothing to finish with being pulled in one more direction or satisfying people as well as choosing to travel with them.

It had to finish with the truth that I was metaphorically drowning.

See, I’ve always been a high-strung person. I work as well much, I don’t balance work as well as play, as well as I make myself vague promises that tomorrow I’ll do things in a different way — however I never do.

I have that new England work principles (which I have no regrets about), however because December, it’s triggered me anxiety. The kind that makes your eye twitch.

My work principles has been referred to as “super full-time,” which typically isn’t a problem, however lately, it’s established into one.

I’m juggling as well numerous projects. While I’ve always done that, after speaking to a truly close friend, I realized that the difference between now as well as the past was that I did all my previous juggling while in one place.

Now, I’m trying to do eight things (literally) while traveling, as well as it’s been difficult to maintain.

Moreover, there have been some truly huge personal as well as household problems going on that have just added to this “weight.”

Something had to provide and, unfortunately, it was my sanity.

In an effort to reclaim my sanity as well as health and wellness as well as recommit to producing the balance in my life I guaranteed myself months back after my friend’s passing, I chose to make a change. Mind you, I’m not dissatisfied (my life is quite awesome) or feeling ungrateful, as well as I understand I brought this upon myself, however I can’t go on like this.

So what does that mean? Besides dropping jobs left as well as right, my schedule now appears like this:




Can’t see anything? Where’s that map?

Nope, your browser is not broken. That’s no mistake. There’s no schedule anymore. I now have no timetable for this trip. I’ve spent the last week in Mendoza, Argentina, drinking red wine as well as completing a couple of jobs I needed/wanted done, however with those complete, all that is left is whatever blog messages I select to write.

I don’t plan on truly seeing much other than Netflix (please, no Making a Murderer spoilers!), the end of numerous great books, as well as the excellent outdoors as I hike the crap out of Patagonia.

As I believed about the triggers of my stress and anxiety as well as feelings of panic, I kept coming back to the word have.

I have to do this.

I have to go to this event.

I have to go to this satisfying or I have to state indeed to this.

My good friend James Altucher composed a book called The Power of No, and I’ve believed a great deal lately about that liberating word — no.

I feel in our contemporary life we autumn into “the hectic trap” where we state indeed to everything. Suddenly, we get caught up in a cycle as well as we’re going nonstop. We’re overcommitted, burnt out, as well as drinking energy drinks or coffee to stay awake for it all.

But beyond a few fundamental needs (eating, drinking water, taking care of family, as well as working), we don’t have to do anything.

We don’t requirement to state indeed to whatever or everyone. We can state no. We are the masters of our ship, as well as if we don’t want to do something, we don’t have to!

It’s our life. who cares what people think?

I always understood this on an intellectual level, however it wasn’t up until my eye started twitching as well as I felt like I couldn’t deal with everything that I lastly realized it on an emotional level.

I got caught up in the cycle as well as didn’t recognize up until I was drowning. I let it get out of control.

So I am saying: no more.

I turned down that keynote. I don’t plan on running trips this year. I stated no to all upcoming podcasts and interviews. I cleared the calendar, nuked the inbox, put up an out of office, as well as let go of some people in my life that shouldn’t have been there.

Now, I am off to Chile, where I’ll take an Intrepid trip of Patagonia.

After that, I’ll stay in Patagonia as well as extremely slowly make my method back north to Santiago.

A few weeks ago, I viewed the film The Way. There is a excellent line in it: “You don’t select a life. You online it.” however I only partially agree with that. I believe you do make a choice.

Each day is a possibility to get one step better to your ideal, since if you don’t try to make tomorrow much better than today, what’s the point?

As I make my option to get better to my ideal, I don’t understand what the future holds, however I understand I’m on the best path as well as that brings me a great deal of comfort.

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Book Your Flight
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Don’t fail to remember travel Insurance
Travel insurance coverage will safeguard you against illness, injury, theft, as well as cancellations. It’s extensive security in situation anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to utilize it numerous times in the past. My preferred business that offer the very best service as well as value are:

SafetyWing (best for everyone)

Insure My trip (for those over 70)

Medjet (for extra evacuation coverage)

Ready to book Your Trip?
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TNN: senior citizens traveling separately

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Why having a sponsor can be bad for Visa Application & immigration

It’s one of the most common misconceptions about visa application: having a sponsor guarantees approval.

In reality, in a lot of cases, the opposite is true. having a sponsor can actually minimize your chances at being approved a visa.

Of course, it’s still on a case-by-case basis. Some countries like UAE require visitors to have a sponsor before they’re approved a visa. In these countries, a sponsor doesn’t need to be someone you know personally. A travel agency or even hotel can serve as one.

However, for lots of other countries like South Korea, Canada and the Schengen states, a sponsor is not always a good thing. It depends on a variety of factors: your relationship with your sponsor, your sponsor’s socioeconomic status, and your own rootedness here. but my policy of thumb is: If you can verify that you can support your trip using your own credentials anyway, better do so on your own, without enlisting the help of a sponsor.

Many visa applicants are under the impression that just because they are invited by someone living in that country indicates it is much easier to be approved a short-term vacationer visa. We cannot count the number times we have received inquiries from applicants who have no proof of employment, funds, or rootedness but are very confident in their chances because their sponsor will be shouldering all the costs. little do they know that it can actually hurt their application. even after describing this to them, lots of still took a chance and proceeded with their application. a lot of of them ended up getting denied a visa.

Hence, I made a decision to write this post to share the little knowledge I have about it. but first, let’s understand why visa policies are in place, to begin with.

Note that I’m NO expert and I cannot guarantee approval. (No one and nothing can!) but this is based on the personal experiences of myself, my friends, and the members of our Facebook support Group. It’s also helpful that we have generous friends who work(ed) at a visa-country embassy and immigration that we get to consult. I’m writing this so I can easily refer to this post when replying to messages asking for my opinion. Haha. If your case is somewhat complicated, it would still be best to seek advice from a travel agent and seek professional assistance.


Why are Visa and immigration Policies Needed?
Why are policies stricter for sponsored applicants?
Your relationship with the sponsor matters a lot
Immigration requirements for Sponsored Travelers
More helpful Visa and immigration Articles
More ideas on YouTube ⬇️⬇️⬇️Related Posts:

Why are Visa and immigration Policies Needed?

Visa policies are in place generally to secure the national interest of the country. As far as tourism is concerned, their normal worries are visitors overstaying and working illegally.

Many apply for a vacationer visa but once they’re in their destination, they will stay longer and not return within the time allowed. We, Filipinos, have become notorious for doing this, which is why policies are stricter on us. We even developed a colloquial term for it: TNT, which is short for “tago nang tago,” referring to the act of regularly hiding from police or immigration authorities.

This prompts embassies in the Philippines to be much stringent in their visa screenings. It’s not that they prohibit longer stays or working there. It’s just that you need to have the proper papers for it. having visa policies in place also helps address other severe worries dangers to national security.

But why is the Bureau of immigration in the Philippines incredibly strict with Filipinos too? immigration officers are mandated to secure Filipino citizens leaving the country by making sure that they will NOT be prone abroad. They need to see that you will not put yourself in a hazardous situation abroad or that you have sufficient funds to support your trip. Human trafficking is real, and those who have no financial resources are a lot more prone to falling victim to this.

‼️ As an applicant, your goal is to convince the authorities that YOU will NOT OVERSTAY OR work ABROAD. ‼️

Why are policies stricter for sponsored applicants?

If your trip is sponsored by someone else, it can indicate that you do not have the financial indicates to support the trip. knowing someone in that country also gives you a strong reason to overstay and not come back.

The visa officer will then have to take a closer look at your rootedness here in the Philippines, your sponsor’s socio-economic status, and your relationship with each other. This is why a lot of Schengen countries zero in on questions like: Do you know any individual in Europe? Do you know any individual in the UK? how are you related to them? What do you do for a living? What does your sponsor do for a living?

You’ll have a lot more papers to submit, some of which have to be secured by the inviting party abroad.

Your relationship with the sponsor matters a lot

You must be able to show the embassy why the sponsor is ready to commit to carry your trip or be responsible for you. Schengen countries, for example, ask for photos, conversation records (phone bills, etc.), and other evidence. They also need to understand your relationship.

Not all relationships are equal. Some are quite easy to prove.

If you’re invited or sponsored by a parent or sibling, it’s easy to understand why they want you to visit. Birth certificates or marriage certificates can be submitted as evidence. but things get complicated when they are not your kin.

If the sponsor is just a friend or a boyfriend/girlfriend, it’ll be harder to convince the visa officer that your relationship is reliable.

If you met the inviter/sponsor online, it will be very tough to convince the embassy because the proof of relationship is weak and unreliable. I know, long-distance relationships are not less valid than physical ones — I get it; I was in one for a period of my life. OK, TMI! —- but unfortunately, that’s not how embassies see it. If you’ve never met before, ask them to visit you here first instead of the other way around.

Same with applications that are sponsored by someone you just met once. I have a few traveler friends who have a stellar travel history but were refused a visa a lot of probably because their sponsor was someone they just met in one of their travels.

These types of relationships are just very hard TO verify but very easy TO FAKE, which is why visa officers just err on the side of caution and choose to deny.

Immigration requirements for Sponsored Travelers

Let’s say that you’re able to safe a visa. The next challenge is passing through the Immigration.

Having a visa doesn’t guarantee that the immigration Officers will allow you to leave the country. The visa can help and is a factor, but they check independently.

Normally, for non-sponsored travelers, they just ask for three things:

Valid passport (with at least 6 months validity)

Roundtrip ticket

Visa, if applicable

Sometimes, they ask for a company ID and hotel reservation. For a lot more information about the normal immigration processes, READ: how TO avoid getting OFFLOADED ✅

Sometimes, they ask for a lot more, especially if you fall under any of the following:

If it’s your first time to travel abroad and you’re traveling to a not-so-usual destination.

If you can’t show company ID or any proof of employment.

If you give inconsistent and nervous answers to their questions.

If your trip is sponsored by someone else.

✅ If you’re simply invited but you’re paying for your trip, it’s easier. You can present proof of employment like company ID, ITR, COE or service registration documents. Usually, when immigration Officers see you’re in a good employment or financial standing or you are a frequent traveler, they rarely ask questions. You can declare you’re checking out a friend but prepare for follow up questions. They might also ask for an Invitation Letter. That’s why some just say they’re traveling as a vacationer — not that I approve of it — and book a hotel.

✅ If your trip is sponsored by a relative, present an Affidavit of Support/Guarantee/Undertaking. The sponsoring party need to be a relative within the 4th civil degree of consanguinity or affinity. We have a sample here: AFFIDAVIT OF support & GUARANTEE!

✅ If your trip is sponsored by a foreigner, you’re very likely to undergo secondary inspection. According to a friend who is an immigration Officer, an Affidavit of Support/Guarantee/Undertaking can help. Although this affidavit is mostly for relatives, often they accept it from a non-relative if everything else looks good. The keyword there is SOMETIMES. Not always. It’s on a case-by-case basis, so don’t count on it. The inviter need to first have the paper notarized outside of the Philippine embassy before having it authenticated at the embassy (sealed with red ribbon). Each country may have their own additional rules, requirements, processes, and fees.

Setting up fake worker failed: “Cannot load script at:”.

In addition, it is best that the traveler show proof of relationship with the foreign sponsor. This can be photos together. You might also be asked how long you have known each other and how you met.

Please note that NONE of these can guarantee you’ll be allowed to exit. even if you have all the papers above, you may still end up getting offloaded! it all depends on the immigration officer and his judgment.

More helpful Visa and immigration Articles

For a lot more information about visa applications and immigration processes, read these articles.



✅ how TO avoid getting OFFLOADED


2️⃣0️⃣1️⃣9️⃣ • 7️⃣ • 1️⃣

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How to get a DSWD travel CLEARANCE: requirements & Application process

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AUSTRALIAN VISA: requirements & online APPLICATION



HOW TO apply FOR A new PASSPORT: requirements & DFA appointment ideas

The road to VISA APPLICATION APPROVAL: When is the ideal Time? how to Prepare Early?

HOW TO apply FOR A SCHENGEN VISA & other frequently Asked questions

Last updated: 16 JANUARY 2020.

We have made four European tours so far, two of them lasted 2 months. Hence, we receive tons of questions about getting a Schengen Visa. It’s quite expected. Europe is a dream destination for many, and the Schengen Visa is probably the most complicated visa there is. In this article, we’ll try to answer the questions we have been asked the most as adequately as we can.

However, bear in mind that we are writing based only on our own experiences and some contributions from our readers. The goal is to help other applicants have a better picture of the process. but we strongly encourage you to still contact the embassies for more updated info.

Anyway, it’s gonna be a lengthy post, so let’s begin.


What is a Schengen Visa?
What are the Schengen countries?
Which embassy should I lodge my visa application?
What if I’m spending equal number of days in different countries?
What are the requirements?
What is the application process? What are the steps?
Do we need to book flights before applying for a visa?
Is travel insurance really necessary?
Where to get travel insurance?
Can I book hotels on my own?
What does a detailed itinerary look like?
Can I check out countries that are not in the itinerary I submitted?
Can I check out the UK using a Schengen Visa?
Can I check out other countries in Europe that are outside the Schengen zone using the Schengen visa?
What non-Schengen countries can I check out in Europe with a double entry Schengen visa?
If my application is approved, do I have to stick to the itinerary I submitted?
Is a cover letter required?
Are embassies really strict?
Is there an interview?
What are the usual questions they ask at the interview?
How early should I apply for a Schengen visa?
How soon do they release the visa after receiving my application?
How much money should I have in the bank to be approved?
How long is the validity of the visa?
What are the usual reasons why applicants are denied a Schengen visa?
I’m traveling to multiple cities. Do I need to submit train transfer and flight reservation within the Schengen area?
I’m traveling to multiple cities. Do I need to provide hotel reservation for all the countries I’m visiting or for the embassy’s country only?
More tips on YouTube ⬇️⬇️⬇️Related Posts:

What is a Schengen Visa?

The Schengen Visa is a travel document that allows the holder to enter any of the 26 states that are part of the Schengen agreement. think of it as an almost all-access pass to many countries in Europe, eliminating the immigration borders within the Schengen zone and the hassle of having to apply for a visa for each individual country.

What are the Schengen countries?

Here they are, all 26 of ’em.

Czech Republic


Which embassy should I lodge my visa application?

It will depend on the purpose of your trip or your overall European itinerary. The rule is:

If you’re visiting just ONE country, apply at the embassy of that country.

If you’re visiting multiple countries, apply at the embassy where you will be staying the longest. For example, if you plan to spend 3 days in the Netherlands, 3 days in Italy, and 5 days in France, apply at the French Embassy.

However, some countries have additional rules. It is best to double check with the embassy to be absolutely sure.

What if I’m spending equal number of days in different countries?

I’ll just copy-paste what the Dutch embassy has to say about this:

“If you will be staying an equal length of time in more than one Schengen country and cannot designate one of these countries as the country of your main destination, you must apply for your visa at the mission of the first Schengen country you intend to enter.”

This means if you’re spending 3 days in Germany first, then 3 days in Italy and 3 days in France, you should apply at the German Embassy.

What are the requirements?

Schengen embassies usually ask for almost the same requirements. but there are some variations.

Here are the documents that are in common to all of them:

Valid Passport

Accomplished Application Form

Recent Photo

Proof of available Accommodations (Hotel booking if no inviter, or invitation letter + citizenship/residency documents of contact abroad if invited)

Photocopy of Passport stamps and visas

Proof of employment (ITR, Certificate of employment for employees, and business registration documents and permits for self-employed)

Proof of financial means (bank statements, bank certificates, land titles, etc.)
Travel insurance covering the entire stay. Some require coverage for additional days.

Identity Documents

Complete Itinerary

Flight Reservations

Visa Fee

Some embassies add more to thelist above, so make sure you check with the embassy that will process your application

For more details, here are the embassies that we have personally tried lodging our applications at.

German Embassy

Greek Embassy

French Embassy

Italian Embassy

What is the application process? What are the steps?

It varies from mission to mission. Some embassies, like the French and the Italian, employ a third party unit to handle most visa applications (VFS global or VIA). Others take care of ’em in-house.

Here are the embassies I have personally tried:

German Embassy

Greek Embassy

French Embassy

Italian Embassy

I’ll be updating this part of the post to include a link to the processes per country. (Please check back later.)

Do we need to book flights before applying for a visa?

NO. Don’t book your flights yet. They only require flight reservations, not flight booking. Don’t pay for your flights yet. (Unless you grabbed promo fares at a seat sale.) Some travel agencies can reserve flights (often for a fee).


We recommend Gazelle travel and Tours, a DTI-registered DOT-accredited travel agency. You can get flight reservations, hotel reservations, and travel insurance from them online!

For the rates and more info, read: ✅ flight RESERVATIONS FOR VISA

Is travel insurance really necessary?

The short answer is YES.

The long answer is still YEEEEEEESSSSS.

Some embassies, like the Italian Embassy, requires an additional 15-day coverage on top of the travel period. Make sure you know these little rules when purchasing travel insurance.

Where to get travel insurance?

You can simply purchase travel insurance online. I have tried Pacific cross and conventional Insurance, and had no problems.

You can book conventional insurance with Gazelle travel and tours too! You can use the same form we made for flight Reservations. just tick travel insurance in the checklist on the form.

✅ more info HERE: travel INSURANCE

Can I book hotels on my own?

Yep. You can book via third-party websites, but book hotels with free Cancellation policy so you won’t be wasting money in case your visa gets denied.

What does a detailed itinerary look like?

Like this

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Can I check out countries that are not in the itinerary I submitted?

Yes, you can, as long as it is within the Schengen Zone.

However, we encourage you to at least check out the country that granted you the visa.

Can I check out the UK using a Schengen Visa?

NO. The united kingdom is not part of the Schengen zone and does not honor the Schengen visa. They have their own visa policy.

If you want to check out the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, northern Ireland and other British territories), you will need to secure a UK visa. You can find more info here: UK Visa.

Can I check out other countries in Europe that are outside the Schengen zone using the Schengen visa?

Yes, there are some non-Schengen countries in Europe that accept a double or multiple entry Schengen visa. Not all countries, but some.

Countries like Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, North Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo allow entry to holders of a valid passport with a valid multiple entry Schengen visa (provided that the visa has been used to enter a Schengen country before).

Note that each country has certain conditions including the length of stay.

What non-Schengen countries can I check out in Europe with a double entry Schengen visa?

A double entry Schengen Visa (two-entry) is also accepted by Croatia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania, and Cyprus provided that the visa is valid and that it has been used once.

I have tried entering Croatia and Montenegro with a two-entry Schengen visa. double entry is also specifically mentioned on their official websites.

The foreign Affairs website of Serbia does not specifically mention double entry but I emailed them and they confirmed that Serbia allows double-entry Schengen visa.

Again, note that each country has certain conditions including the length of stay.

If my application is approved, do I have to stick to the itinerary I submitted?

Ideally, yes, but not really.

There are no checkpoints between countries within the Schengen Zone, there’s no way for them to check. You can deviate from your original itinerary if you want. We made a number of changes to our itineraries on the two occasions we visited Europe.

But my only guidance is this: At your point of entry, know that you might be asked questions about your itinerary. At the very least, stay the longest in the country where you got your visa so you won’t run into trouble. They have the right to refuse entry even if you already have a visa.

Is a cover letter required?

No. but I highly encourage you to provide one especially if there will be no interview. You can explain the purpose of your trip further. Here’s a sample.

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Are embassies really strict?

Yes, but some are more strict than others.

For example, in my travel circles, the Italian and Spanish Embassies are notorious for being extremely meticulous, while the Dutch and Austrian Embassies are known for being more forgiving and considerate.

Is there an interview?

Some embassies conduct a short interview, some don’t. Usually, when a third party company (like VFS or VIA) is involved, there will no longer be an interview.

Here’s what I know so far: Do the following embassies usually conduct an interview?

Austrian embassy – NO

Czech embassy – LIKELY

Danish embassy – NO

French embassy – NO

German embassy – NOT ANYMORE

Greek embassy (for Greece and Portugal) – LIKELY

Italian embassy – NO

Norwegian embassy – NO

Spanish embassy – LIKELY

Again, that’s usually. Some applicants will be called for an interview at the embassy when they need further clarifications. It really depends on many factors but mostly how strong your case is.

In many cases, even when there is no interview involved, personal appearance is sometimes required. It’s best to check with the embassy to be sure.

If your embassy requires an interview or you are called for one, just answer their questions truthfully and confidently. Don’t lie. most of the time, they will know.

What are the usual questions they ask at the interview?

I asked my pals what were the questions thrown at them during the interview and here are the most common. true enough, when I applied for a Schengen Visa on two separate occasions, these were asked too.

What is the purpose of your trip?

How long is your trip?

How long will you stay in (country)?

What is your first stop?

What countries are you going to visit?

When will you leave?

When will you be back?

Will this be your first time in Europe?

What countries did you check out on your first trip to Europe and for what purpose?

Do you know anyone in (country)?

Do you know anyone in any other Schengen country?

Do you know anyone in the UK (United Kingdom)?

How are you related to them?

How did you meet?

With whom are you traveling?

How are you related to your companion?

What do you do for a living? (Expect a lot of follow up questions about your job.)

How long have you been with your company?

Does your company know you’re taking this trip?

Do you own properties in the Philippines (home country)?

Based on experience, most of the questions were about three things:

the details of the trip, which means you must know your itinerary by heart

my connections to anyone in Europe. In my case, I had none. I have no relatives or close pals there.

my job and my rootedness in my home country. In both cases, they gravitated towards finding reasons for me to return to the Philippines.

Again, answer truthfully and confidently.

Note that these are just the common questions. They might still ask a lot of other questions relevant to your background and application.

How early should I apply for a Schengen visa?

You can apply up to 90 days (3 months) in advance. While most embassies process applications relatively fast, it is wise to give some time allowance just in case something doesn’t go as planned (e.g. they ask for additional documents). I consider “a month before” too tight. two months should give you enough time to secure a copy of all required documents and fix a problem should it arise.

How soon do they release the visa after receiving my application?

Depends on the embassy. If things go smoothly, the French embassy releases visas after 5-7 days, the Greek embassy 14 days. most of the time, the wait is shorter. Sometimes, when they have doubts, it can take much longer.

For example, when I applied for a visa for my second Euro trip, the German embassy took only 6 days. My partner Vins, who was app

HOW TO save money IN DUBAI (AND 9 cool things TO DO THERE!)

Updated: 8/2/20 | August 2nd, 2020

Dubai is a big stopover destination for travelers flying Emirates Airlines as they transit around the world (or Etihad passengers if they decide to visit from Abu Dhabi). It was how I ended up there. I was transiting to/from the Maldives.

As I explored the city, I concerned realize the rumors I heard were true: Dubai was expensive.

But like every destination (except maybe Bermuda), I found plenty of ways to save and visit on a budget.

In Dubai, the ways to save are not obvious. They are hidden far below the surface as the city. much like Las Vegas, Dubai is developed to extract as much money from you as possible.

Fortunately, I had some local friends share their secret suggestions with me during my trip. Today, I’m going to share those suggestions to help you save money in Dubai — and I’ll share some of my favorite activities too!

How to save money in Dubai

Dubai doesn’t have to bust your budget but it easily can if you aren’t careful! like many cities with incredibly high prices, numerous of the city’s residents have found suggestions and tricks on how to squeeze every last dirham possible.

Use Groupon – Groupon is huge in Dubai and you can find tons of discounts, 2-for-1 specials, and deals on the website. If there is something you want to do, check there first as there is a high chance you’ll find a discount (including eating out as there are a lot of restaurant deals here).

Get The Entertainer – The Entertainer, a magazine and app that provides discounts and specials on restaurants, hotels, and activities. There’s one for the UAE that all locals promise by. You’ll get 2-for-1 specials and discounts on attractions, restaurants, drinks, clubs, them parks, and hotels.

You can pick up a copy when you arrive in Dubai at supermarkets and bookstores, or find an online version on their site (the app costs 445 AED or $121 USD). The hard copy costs 495 AED ($134 USD) but can rapidly pay for itself. check for sign-up sales too. in some cases you can find the app 50% off or get a totally free trial.

Find a cheap brunch – I strongly recommend attending brunch, as it’s a tradition among locals in Dubai and quite fun. Every Friday, locals flock to a midday buffet of limitless drinks and food. As the day goes on, it often turns into debauchery that would make Nero proud.

However, brunch is not a cheap affair. Some cost as much as 700 AED ($190 USD). Therefore, knowing where the deals are very important.

Warehouse and rock bottom are two of the most affordable you’ll find in the city, with prices between 150-300 AED ($40-80 USD) per person. For a good alcohol-free brunch, try much more or Beirut.

You can ask people on Couchsurfing too. There’s an active Dubai group on the site.

Attend a pleased hour – The lifeblood of any drinker, pleased hours are where you can go to save a buck: from McGettigan’s drink specials (29 AED ($8 USD) for selected house drinks) to The Agency’s 100 AED ($27 USD) bottle of wines. Dubai is full of pleased hours (and drink specials can be found in The Entertainer too). To see what current pleased hours there are in Dubai, check out:

The best pleased hours in Dubai

15 best places with pleased hours in Dubai

TimeOut’s list of pleased hours in Dubai

Moreover, check out the app Guzzler, which also lists the current best pleased hours in the city.

Eat in Old Dubai – step away from the hotels, malls, and fancy souks implied to make you think you are in Aladdin and head into Old Dubai for cheap eats. meals at restaurants in this area typically cost 35-62 AED ($10-17 USD). I really loved Al Usted, an Iranian restaurant near the Al Fahidi metro.

Take the metro – While the metro only really cuts through the middle of the city, it does go to the marina, airport, and Old Dubai. At 8 AED ($2 USD), it’s less expensive than any taxi. If you do need to take a taxi, prices start at 12 AED ($3.25 USD) and go up 2 AED $(0.50) per kilometer.

To keep your transportation costs low, pick accommodation near a metro stop.

Know where the cheap accommodation is – hotels in Dubai are expensive. Fortunately, all the major hotel chains have locations here so if you have hotel points, use them. point redemptions are a bargain here. I used my SPG points for a night at the Sheraton for 10,000 points! (Start travel hacking today if you want to earn totally free hotel stays!)

If you lack hotel points or simply don’t want to stay in one, there is a very active Couchsurfing community in the city. I would certainly recommend contacting residents before you visit and see if anybody has a room.

Airbnb is also an inexpensive option here. You can find private rooms starting at 128 AE ($35 USD) and entire apartments from 312 AED ($85 USD) — though only if you boo early (last-minute bookings will cost around double).

There are also five hostels in town that cost 55-146 AED ($15-40 USD) per night. I didn’t stay in any of them, but some Couchsurfers told me they weren’t great and many of them have less-than-stellar reviews.

Skip the booze – outside the pleased hours and all-you-can-eat brunches, drinking is expensive ($12 USD beers, $15-20 USD glasses of wine), so I would go easy on the drinking during your visit.

9 things to See and do in Dubai

Dubai doesn’t have a lot of conventional “things to do” — it’s not Paris, London, Hong Kong.

But it does have enough attractions to fill a few days. some of my favorites are:

1. delight in the view from the Burj Khalifa – This is the tallest building in the world — by a whopping 200m (656ft) too! Standing 830m (2,723ft) tall, you can ascend to the 128th floor for 149 AED ($41 USD). From there, you get panoramic views of the city and desert.

When I went it was pretty hazy, but it still made for a beautiful contrast. I would highly recommend it (but don’t pay to go to the 148th floor. It’s not that much of a difference!).

At night, the building is illuminated by a spectacular light show of fish, palm trees, and other scenes while the fountain below dances to music. It’s easily the highlight of the city.

2. The Dubai mall – This was one of my favorite malls simply for the cool aquarium, ice skating rink, film theater, large bookstore (though it didn’t have my book), and all the little cafés that dot the mall.

It’s worth a wander. You’ll see a lot of people just hanging out here, drinking coffee, reading a book, chatting, and escaping the heat.

3. Jumeirah Mosque – This beautiful mosque is one of two in the city you can actually visit. It’s small, consisting of one large room but there is a guided trip taking place each day at 10am and 2pm. It’s 25 AED ($6.80 USD), comes with a great breakfast spread, and is much more cultural information on Islam than a tour. but if you don’t know much about Islam or the role it plays in the UAE, it’s pretty interesting.

4. The palm Islands – On this well-known palm tree-shaped island, you’ll find a large shopping walkway, the Atlantis resort, Aquaventure waterpark, and a host of fancy restaurants, bars, and clubs. It’s beautiful to walk around and explore during the day (at night, it’s pretty boring!)

5. The Marina – The marina area is surrounded by tall buildings and includes a beautiful boardwalk. You can see the fancy boats and get some spectacular photographs of the harbor and skyline.

Be sure to check out Pier 7, which is seven floors of restaurants and bars on the water. I liked Asia Asia, with its gaudy Asian theme.

6. Souk Madinat Jumeirah – This souk (market) is a modern building developed to look like something out of Aladdin, but it’s home to some amazing restaurants, like Agency, a modern red wine bar with a huge selection of wines and yummy meat and cheese plates. There’s a beautiful inner courtyard pond in this complex, too.

7. Dubai museum – A small museum in Old Dubai with not a lot of information but some really cool displays. opened in 1971, it showcases the history and culture of Dubai as well as life in the desert. There are also some interesting maps that let you track the development of the city from when oil was discovered in the 1960s to today.

At $1 USD admission, you can’t go wrong!

8. Old Dubai – This is Dubai as it used to be. Markets (like the well-known gold market) pepper the area, small merchant shops line the streets, and you can get lost in a maze of alleyways! Take a boat across the river, wander aimlessly, visit the Dubai Museum, eat at some of the conventional restaurants (there’s also a lot of good Indian food here), explore the art district, and see Dubai as it is away from the glitz of the malls and high-rises.

9. visit the desert – I didn’t get a chance to do this during my visit but everyone — from friends to travelers to locals — said this is one of the best things to do in Dubai. Take a day trip or spend a night out in the desert. It’s expected to be beautiful.

Expect to spend around 200 AED ($55 USD) for a day trip into the desert.

While Dubai may appear expensive (and if you indulge in modern Dubai’s nightlife, it will be), there are plenty of options to save money in Dubai without missing out on all the incredible activities this oasis in the desert has to offer.

Book Your trip to Dubai: Logistical suggestions and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search sites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. start with Skyscanner first though because they have the most significant reach!

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most significant inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use as they consistently return the most affordable rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.

Don’t forget travel Insurance
Travel insurance will safeguard you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s extensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it numerous times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Safety Wing (for everyone below 70)

Insure My trip (for those over 70)

Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)

Looking for the best companies to save money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Want much more information on Dubai?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Dubai for even much more planning tips!

Photo Credit: 3 – PhareannaH[berhabuk]

THE 8 best NAPA red wine trips

Last Updated: 2/2/2020 | February 2nd, 2020

Napa Valley is easily one of the most well-known wine-producing regions in the world, and last year nearly four million people headed there — it is big company for northern California!

Of course, if you plan on spending some time in Napa Valley and nearby Sonoma, you’ll many likely want to explore some of the 600 wineries in the area. A great way to do this — both to get some local, insider knowledge and so that there’s no need to drink and drive — is to take a Napa red wine tour.

There are nearly as numerous red wine trip options as there are vineyards. I’ve noted some of my favorites here, and you can decide which fits your style and, much more importantly, your budget. just remember that you’ll typically also have to pay tasting fees on top of the trip costs — these vary between $20 and $40 — though numerous will waive that fee if you purchase some wine. also don’t forget, especially if you’re coming from outside the United States, that you’ll need to be 21 or over to join these tours, though some allow children to label along.

1. Napa Valley red wine Trolley

If you’re after something a bit different, then the Napa Valley red wine Trolley is a good way to go. instead of a regular trip bus, you’ll ride on a replica of a cable television car. It’s an open-air car, of course, so make sure you pick the best weather to try this.

Tours leave from the Oxbow Market in Napa; a $99 trip includes four wineries and a casual picnic-style lunch, plus limitless bottled water and soft drinks between tastings. You can upgrade to the full-day Castle trip ($139), which includes a two-hour stop and tasting at Castello di Amorosa.

2. Napa Valley Bike trips

Of course, being a valley full of vineyards, Napa is a really beautiful place, so exploring it by bicycle is a great option. Napa Valley Bike trips provides either guided or self-guided rides, leaving from their store in Yountville. The popular half-day guided trip is $124 per person, with two winery visits and a great guide who’ll give you the full story of the area.

The useful part about the self-guided trips is that besides being able to visit the wineries you choose at your own pace, you still get a box lunch, and any red wine you purchase will be picked up for you (riding with red wine in your backpack gets old really fast). Self-guided trips cost $114 per person and also include comfy bikes, helmets, and all the planning info you need.

3. Calistoga Bikeshop

Another bicycle option is Calistoga Bikeshop, a popular rental shop that also runs guided day trips for $150, including a hybrid bike, a picnic lunch, and pick-up for any red wine you buy. The guides plan a distinct route depending on what the group members want, starting from their shop in Calistoga.

If you have an extra day in the area and don’t need much more wine, Calistoga also provides great mountain biking trips to the Palisades or along the Oat hill Mine Trail.

4. Platypus red wine Tours

Platypus brands itself as the “anti-wine-snob red wine tour,” so if you want to have a fun day learning much more about wine, then this is a good choice. (The name is memorable, but you won’t actually see a platypus anywhere in Napa Valley, in case you’re wondering.)

Platypus runs small-group trips, taking in four wineries for $110 (including a picnic lunch), focusing on small and medium-sized, typically family-owned wineries. You can choose from trips centered on Sonoma Valley, Napa Valley, or North Sonoma.

5. active red wine Adventures

As the name suggests, active red wine Adventures provides trips that include much more than just red wine tasting, so it’s a great way to explore Napa Valley. For example, the Hike & red wine trips start with a two-hour hike in some of the valley’s beautiful landscapes and relocation on to a lunch and winery tasting experience. These cost $139 plus lunch because you can choose from a high-end restaurant lunch or a vineyard picnic. They offer similar trips in the Sonoma area, too.

6. green dream Tours

Try some red wine and help the world. green dream has a focus on sustainability: besides using green company practices, it also purchases carbon offsets to balance its use of fuel. Their Napa Valley trips ($144, $154 on weekends) are among the few where the tasting fees at three boutique wineries are included.

Green dream also provides a combo tour, taking in three wineries across Sonoma and Napa Valley, with lunch at the Oxbow Public Market ($139 weekdays, $149 weekends). For visitors to San Francisco, there’s a combo with a trip of Alcatraz plus two Sonoma boutique wineries, for $179.

7. small lot red wine Tours

If you’re coming by car to the Napa Valley region, then small lot can be a really budget-friendly way to delight in a red wine tour. They offer a trip guide who’ll drive your car for you for the day, and design a trip route just best for you, depending on the kind of red wineyou want to taste, what you want to do for lunch, and whether you’re planning on purchasing wine. At $50 per hour (with a four-hour minimum), if you’ve got a car full of friends, this can work out to be one of the most affordable ways to explore Napa but still have local expert advice.

8. Napa Valley red wine country Tours

Napa Valley red wine country trips offer full-day trips from San Francisco, including a golden gate Bridge photo opportunity, to four wineries in the Napa and Sonoma regions. trips include a picnic lunch and are typically $119 per person (sometimes there are $99 specials on the website).

For something a bit different, they also run red wine trips around the Napa Valley in an open-top convertible limousine, including a castle visit, for $150.

There are so numerous options for touring the Napa Valley and experiencing all the red wine culture the area has to offer, depending on your tastes and preferences. These suggestions ought to guarantee that you have a great day out exploring one of the world’s many well-known red wine regions.

Book Your trip to Napa Valley: Logistical suggestions and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search sites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. start with Skyscanner first though because they have the most significant reach!

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the most significant inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use as they consistently return the most affordable rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:

Don’t forget travel Insurance
Travel insurance will safeguard you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s extensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it numerous times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Safety Wing (for everyone below 70)

Insure My trip (for those over 70)

Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)

Looking for the best companies to save money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.

Want much more information on the United States?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on the united states for even much more planning tips!