Valentine’s Day Tickets to Paris for Only $480! (Yep, round-trip!)

SGMT | Valentine’s Day Tickets to Paris for Only $480!
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How does Paris for Valentine’s Day next year sound? ^_^

EVA Air, one of the top 10 airlines in the world, is currently offering round-trip tickets to Paris for only $480, for flights departing January, February or March 2017. That’s just a little over PHP 23,000 for tickets that usually cost PHP 50,000 or more! Take note these flights to Paris depart from Hong Kong but you can nearly always get cheap tickets to Hong Kong from the Philippines, so that’s not going to be a problem.

Here’s how to book:

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How to Get a Schengen Visa at the German Embassy

How to Get a Schengen Visa at the German Embassy in Manila, Philippines | SGMT
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When I visited Munich two years ago, I was on a trip through several European cities and had gotten my Schengen visa from the Dutch embassy. For that reason, when last week my mum’s friend asked me to help her get a visa to visit her sister in Germany, I told her I would still have to look up the specific procedure at the German embassy. (You see, procedures can vary among different embassies: some use third-party visa application centers, some handle it themselves; some require cover letters, some don’t; and so on.)

The website of the German embassy in Manila was very helpful but with the wealth of information there, it took several clicks to tease out just the information that I needed. So…I figured it might be useful if I gathered all the information for tourists/family visits and put them all here in one page.

Please note that this guide is for Filipinos who want to go to Germany either (1) for tourism, or (2) to visit family and friends there. The website of the German embassy in Manila can guide you if you want to go to Germany for other purposes:

  • Au pairs (see requirements HERE)
  • Business (see requirements HERE)
  • Employment (get more info HERE)
  • Fairs (see requirements HERE)
  • Family reunion and subsequent permanent stay (see requirements HERE)
  • Jobseekers – highly skilled professionals who want to look for a job in Germany (see requirements HERE)
  • Language course less than 3 months (see requirements HERE)
  • Language course longer than 3 months (see requirements HERE)
  • Marriage and subsequent permanent stay (see requirements HERE)
  • Nurses seeking employment in Germany (get more info HERE)
  • Seafarers joining their ship in a German harbour (get more info HERE)
  • Studying in Germany (see requirements HERE)
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*Applying for a Schengen Visa at the German Embassy: The Basics
Applying for a Schengen visa at the German embassy_1_The Basics

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Basically, there are 5 things you need to do to get a Schengen visa from the German embassy:

  1. Prepare your travel itinerary.
  2. Fill up the online application form.
  3. Gather all your requirements.
  4. Set an appointment at the Germany embassy.
  5. Go to the embassy at the appointed date and time and submit your requirements.

Personal appearance is necessary.

The earliest time you can apply for a visa is 3 months before you intend to enter the Schengen area. For example, if your flight from the Philippines to Germany is on the first week of November, the earliest you can apply for a visa is on the first week of August.

According to the embassy website, processing will take one week — and it is NOT possible to expedite the visa processing.
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Step 1: Prepare your itinerary
Applying for a Schengen visa at the German embassy_2_Step 1 Prepare your itinerary

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The first thing you need to do is to prepare your travel itinerary because you will need to write the details of your trip when you fill up your application form online (in Step 2).

The information and documents you need to have on hand are as follows:
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How to Get A Schengen Visa Through the French Embassy (2016)

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SGMT France Paris Hotel de Ville

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The French embassy in the Philippines has just recently entrusted processing of Schengen visa applications to VFS Global. Here’s what you need to know about the NEW procedure for getting a Schengen visa through the French embassy.

See if you are one of the people allowed to apply directly to the French embassy HERE.

Want to know about my personal experience applying for a Schengen visa at the French embassy? Read this article.
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Basic steps
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  1. Prepare your documents.
  2. Schedule an appointment with VFS.
  3. Go to the visa application center on your appointment schedule to submit your documents and have your biometrics taken.
  4. Wait for the result.
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http://smalltowngirlsmidnighttrains.com/2015/05/25/7-days-paris-budget/

When should you apply?

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You can only submit your visa application within 90 days from your date of departure. For example, if you are leaving the Philippines on August 1, 2016, you can submit your visa application from May 3, 2016 onwards.

Things to take into account as you decide when to apply:

  • The processing time for a short stay visa is 48 hours from the time the complete application is received at the French Embassy, while the processing time for a long stay visa is 15 working days receipt at the French Embassy. If you are asked to submit additional documents, processing time may take up to 4 to 8 weeks.
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  • In 2015, the French embassy received almost 20,000 visa applications! (That’s actually why they decided to get the help of VFS for visa application processing.) Don’t take it for granted that there will be an appointment slot available anyday.

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Is personal appearance necessary?

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Yes! You will need to have your photo and fingerprints taken.

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Will there be an interview at the French embassy?

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How to get a Schengen visa for Poland in 4 simple steps

The World Youth Day will be held in Krakow, Poland this year. In response to a reader inquiry, I’ve put together a simple step-by-step guide for getting a Schengen visa to visit Poland.


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In the Philippines, Schengen visa applications for Poland are handled by the embassy of the Netherlands.* Thus, many of the steps and requirements are similar to the ones for getting a Schengen visa at the Dutch embassy.

* There is no Polish embassy in the Philippines. Rather, the Polish embassy in Kuala Lumpur represents Polish interests in Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, and the Philippines. In the Philippines, there are honorary Polish consulates in Manila, Cebu, and General Santos City, but they do not process visa applications.

You can lodge your visa application no earlier than three months before the start of your intended visit. For example, if you are scheduled to depart for Poland on July 25, you can submit your Schengen visa application from April 25 onwards.

Here are the 4 basic steps to getting a Schengen visa for Poland:

  1. Pay the necessary fees at any Unionbank branch.
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  2. One day after payment, book an appointment with the Embassy through VFS.
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  3. Go to the embassy on your scheduled appointment and submit your requirements.
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  4. Wait for the results.
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11 Days in Europe: Paris, Venice and Rome Sample Itinerary (and Insider Tips)

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A few days ago, I reviewed an 11-day 14-city European tour and concluded that it’s not a tour I would personally take or recommend. I can understand the appeal of the tour — the number of cities visited, the convenience of having someone else arrange everything — but it was just too rushed and too inflexible for my taste. Visiting 14 cities for $850 sounds like a great deal but I think, in this case, the proverbial “less is more” applies — you can actually get greater value for money if you take the time to really enjoy each of your destinations.

If it was my first time in Europe, and I had 11 days to spend, here’s what I would do instead.
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How to Tell If A Tour is Good Value or Not


We break down an $850 11-day tour of France, Switzerland, and Italy — its real costs, pros and cons — and discuss the questions you have to ask before signing up for any tour.

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Yesterday, a friend asked me to take a look at a tour he was considering going on later this year. I’m hardly a tour expert but, from experience, I think there are basic questions we need to ask before we decide to take a tour or not.

First, a few points:

  • On the road, I’ve met people who proudly say they “never do tours” and I think that’s a shame. There are good tours and bad tours, and even good tours have their pros and cons. The trick is to figure out whether a tour’s pros outweigh its cons far enough to make its price worth it.
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  • I usually go DIY because I have to stick to a certain budget and because when it comes to itineraries, I’m often fiercely independent to a fault. That said, I have loved many of the tours I’ve joined; there is a lot to be gained by listening to a local or an expert. A few favorites come to mind:
    • The tour with an archaeologist at the Colosseum in Rome — fascinating, plus signing up for a tour gets you through the mile-long lines much more quickly
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    • The Louvre tour with an art historian a/k/a how the French feel when people go to their museum only to see an Italian work of art 😀
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    • The tips-basis walking tour we joined in Munich, learning about the Beer Hall Putsch and the Kristallnacht and standing in a square where Hitler had marshalled his army
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    • Our Highlands tour with Andrew MacDonald which brought up a lot of surprising parallels between Scotland and the Philippines and touched on a lot of the things that I personally value very much, like freedom and loyalty and family
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Now back to the topic. 🙂

How to dissect a tour

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Below are the basic questions that will help you decide whether a tour is good value or not:

  1. What does the tour include? What doesn’t it include?
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  2. How much does the tour really cost when you add the “hidden” charges?
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  3. What are the tour’s stops? How much time do you spend in each stop? Is the time per stop consistent with your goals for the trip?
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  4. What are the tour’s advantages and disadvantages?
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  5. Given all of the above, is the tour worth it for you? If you don’t take the tour, do you have the time or resources to come up with an alternative itinerary?

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