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Getting a Russian visa in Manila

Posted on 16 February 2016 by Dreidel Regala

Russian visa

First of all, here’s Russian embassy’s general visa information: http://www.philippines.mid.ru/doc/Visa_Section.htm

The requirements you want to know are listed in there along with the visa parameters you want to be aware of. Below is just a story of how I got mine.

***

I’m getting on a train in Ulaanbaatar and I’m getting off in Moscow. I tell this to myself with a smug look on my face while I stare at the map on my computer screen. I’m getting off in Moscow, I repeat that again, now in a whisper as realization sets in – I’m going to Russia! Quickly I make a pass in the internet about my passport’s visa situation to the country. I need one and it’s just about four bullet points away according to the embassy website. Doable, I whisper again, my heart racing a bit.

The Preparation

  • Valid passport
  • Passport-size photo
  • Travel voucher
  • Visa application form

Just four items and I don’t even need to buy any flights! I decide this was probably the easiest visa paperwork I’ve seen so far. And honestly after gathering them all I still think it is.

Step 1

Passport. I had no problem with this since I already have one and I meet all the parameters as stated in the embassy website.

Step 2

Photo. After an hour in the mall, I got this already.

Step 3

Travel voucher (or travel confirmation or visa support). Out of the four items here this is probably the trickiest.

What is a travel voucher and where to get it? The explanation in the embassy website is actually good already but to be sure I went around a little further. It’s basically an authorized confirmation document which is given by authorized agencies. To some people this meant going to any normal travel agency and letting them find the authorized agency for them (and eventually give them the voucher). To others including me this meant ordering the voucher from a website.

RealRussia is one such website and also WaytoRussia. But eventually I just chose my hostel’s own visa support service because they’re cheaper. Unfortunately I think the hostel closed down now.

It had two things: a reference number and a confirmation number.

By the way, I included the transsiberian in my itinerary when I filled out the order form.

Step 4

Application form. I filled out the electronic form using the reference and confirmation numbers from the voucher. And I mentioned the transsiberian again in my itinerary.

Be very careful and exact with the entry and exit dates on both the voucher and application form because they put the same on the visa. I had to double and triple check this with my train’s border crossing timing else I could be left behind, in the middle of the night, in no man’s land.

The Application

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. These are the only open days of the consular division in Rada Street, Makati. I went on a Monday and the small room was almost full already when I got there.

In the entrance there’s a security person who gives a queue number. Now here’s the thing, he asked me about my flight reservation. Of course I didn’t have this because I never read it in the requirements list but he wouldn’t give me a number without it. So I went outside and printed my transsiberian receipt. When I came back he wasn’t in the entrance anymore because he was busy organizing the applicants inside. At this point he didn’t look at my paperwork anymore and just arranged me along with everybody else after assigning me a number.

I guess I could suspect that the flight reservation was never really a supporting document because there is a possibility to sneak in but I will never know.

The consul officer didn’t ask anything but he did notice the transsiberian in my paperwork so it’s good that I mentioned that there. It was a different case though for some people in the room like the two friends who were asked something about their finances and reason for their two month visit. I have to say however that that officer was the nicest officer I’ve seen because he talked to the two friends in the most calm and understanding tone I’ve ever heard inside an embassy.

When they finished confirming the paperwork, they gave me a paper for the payment which I paid in the bank and returned in the embassy. I think the regular two week processing is around Php5,700. I on the other hand paid a whopping Php7,980 (as of 25th May 2015) to get it the following Monday. This may just be one of the most expensive visas out there.

The Release

When next Monday came, I have my Russian visa and a whole lot of transsiberian daydreaming.

Extra

I read somewhere that foreigners must register after arriving in Russia. Some say we just have to do it in the first city. Others say the hostel will do it for us. In the end I just told my hostel about it but never really know if they’ve gotten around to it.

***

Embassy of the Russian Federation
Consular Division
Room 402 A, 4/F, RCI Bldg, 105 Rada St., Legazpi Village, Makati City

Embassy of the Russian Federation (main office)
1245 Acacia Road, Dasmariñas Village, Makati City

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Getting an Argentinian visa in Valparaiso

Posted on 22 November 2015 by Dreidel Regala

Argentinian visa

Just like the Chilean visa, I also didn’t have an Argentinian visa before leaving the Philippines because to be honest I didn’t plan on including it in my limited time in Latin America. But of course plans change a lot on the road.

When my friend and I were figuring out how to get to Patagonia, the name Argentina kept on popping up along the way. It was not possible to travel in Chile by land to Patagonia without crossing the border (flying is okay). So in the end I tried to get one while I was still in Valparaiso, Chile.

I had the following paperwork as was stated in the Argentinian Consulate website:

  1. Passport photo
  2. Bank statement (print out from my online bank account)
  3. Flight ticket (print out of my unpaid reservation from gomosafer.com)
  4. Hotel reservation (print out from booking.com)
  5. 35,000 Chilenos

When I walked in the door I was greeted by a friendly “Hola! Buen dia” by the man behind the barrier. Told him I wanted a tourist visa to see Patagonia and probably repeated that a few more times with my biggest smile possible. Yes I played the eager tourist card because I didn’t want to be told I could only get it in the Philippines. Thankfully they accepted and granted me one.

Some points of concern:

  • Credit card statement. I told them that I don’t have this at the moment and redirected them again to the bank statement. In the end they just asked if I have a credit card and if they could photocopy it. Recipe for card fraud but thought oh well.
  • Ticket going to Argentina. I didn’t realize this was important so this was my mistake but I told them I was crossing by land (bus) from Chile so I could only buy it then. Eventually they agreed to confer with their superior which they told me after a day of waiting that it was okay.
  • Number of days. This is entirely dependent on the paperwork so make the bookings long if you want to stay long in Argentina. Conversely it is possible to extend the visa when inside Argentina.
  • Multiple entry. Like the Chilean visa it is best to have a multiple entry visa so you can freely cross borders.

While now I found out that Argentina is crazy expensive, overall I’m happy that I got to see the end of the world, some penguins, Perito Moreno glacier, and Los Glaciares.

 ***

Consulado General de la Republica Argentina is in #625 Calle Blanco Valparaiso, Chile near Plaza Sotomayor.

***

Extending your Argentinian Visa

If you found yourself in love with Argentina and thus causing your visa to run out, well good news, you can extend it. Just head over to the Argentinian Immigration (there is one in Buenos Aires) and bring your passport and $600 cash. They’ll double your current visa, give you a document about it, then return your passport same day.

Direccion Nacional de Migraciones is in Avenida Antártida. Nearest subway is in Retiro station.

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Getting a Chilean visa in Arequipa

Posted on 13 November 2015 by Dreidel Regala

Chilean visa

When I left the Philippines some months ago I didn’t have a Chilean visa. I know I wanted to see Patagonia but since I was traveling for awhile and I was flying to South America far into the future I couldn’t apply yet. Thankfully I read about Kach Medina’s post about how she got hers in Peru. She was right and it turns out to be much easier than applying in the Philippines.

Most of what she said is still the same but I had to give two other paperwork. In summary I gave this:

  1. Passport
  2. $60 (multiple entry)
  3. Proof of fund (print out from my online banking account)
  4. Hotel reservation (print out from booking.com)

Since I didn’t know about #3 and #4 I walked back to the hostel, booked stuff, printed them, and then walked back to the consulate. I had to do this the same day since I was trekking Colca Canyon next morning and will be gone a few days. To my surprise it was a lady behind the desk that time around so I had to restart the best Spanish conversation I could come up (everything else we were typing on google translate). She didn’t ask me for #3 and #4 so of course I didn’t initiate thinking I got away with that one. But I did have to sit down there a long time while she alternated between typing the application and greeting visitors. By the time she finished I was already standing behind her dictating what to type. She was so nice and even told me my Spanish was good but honestly most of the words just sounded Filipino to me.

I did have to give #3 and #4 though when I went back because the man remembered me.

Tip: Ask for the 90 day visa because Chile is long you need the time. Ask also for a multiple entry especially if you’re doing Patagonia. Technically you can do it without going outside of Chile but it is quite common to go back and forth Chile and Argentina in the south.

I do recommend this rather than applying in the Philippines because the paperwork is less. Plus you can get the 90 days multiple entry.

***

Consulado Honorario de Chile is in #212 Calle Mercaderes. On the right from Plaza de Armas in front of Interbank.

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How Filipinos can travel in Turkey for 30 days instead of 15 (Turkish e-visa)

Posted on 08 October 2015 by Dreidel Regala

Turkish e-visa

A few months ago I was in Turkey, a country full of history, diverse culture, and varying landscape. I would for sure tell anyone to go see it even though I’ve only just saw a small part of it. But for Filipinos this would also mean going through the trouble of applying for a visa because yes we do need a visa to enter Turkey.

Last time I checked a sticker visa requires a whole bunch of paperwork and around two weeks waiting time. And that will only result in a 15-day visa.

So how did I get to stay in Turkey for almost a month legally? Thank you e-visa.

In a gist the e-visa means us Filipinos can stay in Turkey for 30 days provided that we have a supporting document (i.e. a valid OECD or Schengen visa). I didn’t have this but I realized it was easier to secure one rather than the traditional Turkish sticker visa so I went to the one that gives out the fastest – in my case it was Japan.

When I got my Japanese visa (after 2 days) I then completed the rest of the checklist for the Turkish e-visa which was easy enough. Although they didn’t check my paperwork when I entered Turkey, technically they will so better have all of it on hand.

In summary…

  1. Secure a supporting document. If you’ve traveled to Japan before I suggest to get a visa from them because it’s easier the second time around.
  2. Complete the e-visa checklist. Make sure to get them all and at the ready when you enter the territory.
  3. Pay and print the e-visa.

Turkish e-visa

If all goes well then you have 30 days to see Turkey, congratulations!

Oh just to add, I didn’t get a chance to use my Japan visa but if I did the e-visa would still work.

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How to Prepare for Solo Travel

Posted on 25 January 2014 by Dreidel Regala

You probably heard of some people who traveled alone and probably told yourself you could never be as brave as they are. But did you know that once upon a time they all felt how you feel now?

The idea of solo travel did not come easy to me as well. Like everybody else, I had apprehensions in the beginning. Heck I remember how my first commute alone made me feel incredibly anxious! What if the people in the jeep ignore me when I pass my “bayad”? What if I forget where I should go down? But hey look, commuting alone is now like a walk in the park to me (except for the random bad traffic and chaos).

I’ve traveled alone in Batanes, Singapore, and Taiwan. Not really a long list that would say I’m an expert in this but I just wanna share that it’s totally doable. And you can do it too!

Solo travel in Batanes

Solo travel in Batanes

Who is this for?

If you…

1] are thinking of embarking on your first solo travel some time in the future
2] need a different adventure in your life
3] want to go somewhere but cannot find any companion
4] want to learn how to be independent
5] are curious about the idea

If you answered YES to at least one of the above then maybe it’s time to consider going on your first solo travel adventure. Here’s how I transitioned from being too nervous about it to being comfortable with the idea of traveling on my own.

The Transition

Step 1] Travel with family or friends

If you haven’t traveled before, this is a good introduction to traveling. Going with your family or friends makes traveling fun and comfortable. It can also build up your knowledge of what happens while traveling without stressing too much about dealing with it on your own.

Step 2] Join a group tour with a friend

A group tour is an organized tour that is open for anybody to join. Organizers will pool all joiners then go together on the trip. I joined my first group tour with Travel Factor to Northern Cebu (Malapascua + Bantayan) in 2009 with the intention of meeting people at the same time cutting the costs of doing the trip alone. But the thought of knowing nobody in the group made me extra nervous. So I brought a friend with me and we had fun. Had we done it on our own, our expense could be higher so good thing we joined a group instead.

Step 3] Join a group tour alone

There are then those times when you wanted to go somewhere but couldn’t find somebody to go with. Maybe your family’s not interested or your friends are not available. Either way you find that everything in your body is ready to go except that you are alone.

When the idea of doing an Indochina overland trip occurred to me, I couldn’t find someone to join the boat. I think at that time going abroad was regarded as impossibly expensive for a Filipino, especially a yuppie, that the idea of doing several countries on a single go is unthinkable. But I did. I mustered all my nerves and went ahead with the trip by joining a group tour. And I had a grand time!

Going on a group tour on my own allowed me to get a glimpse on what it’s like to travel without knowing anybody. Only that I’m not entirely alone cause I got a group to go with. It also helped me get used to meeting new people.

Step 4] Travel alone and meet locals

By this time you are almost comfortable with traveling solo. What you have to do now is make that step. Should you feel lonely? No. It will only feel that way if you aren’t meeting people.

Before I went on my solo trip to Singapore, I contacted some locals to hangout with. I am a couchsurfer so finding one was easy. I met up with them, a mix of locals and foreigners, and we drove around town. It was fun but most importantly I had company.

****

It’s never easy to start traveling solo but when you do you will surely find yourself traveling even more and gaining more friends.

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Sea sickness and how to remedy it

Posted on 26 August 2013 by Dreidel Regala

Sea sickness is a common problem for a lot of people. The constant rocking of the boat renders an unwelcomed headache and eventually nausea to the vulnerable subject. Usually we hear advises to take motion sickness medicines but I prefer not to take any of these drugs.

Faluwa boat to Sabtang

Faluwa boat to Sabtang

In my recent boat trip to Sabtang island in Batanes, this problem is consistently the talked about topic. I traveled in August where typhoons and storms commonly linger around the country and thus causing clumsy waters.

Batan and Sabtang crossing

Crossing between Batan and Sabtang islands

The Solution

 
The simple (and tested) way to combat this is by just looking at the horizon. Sit near a window, face ahead, and stare outside (or if possible at your destination). I’ve done this a lot of times and I never left a boat with a used barf bag. And probably the same reason why boatmen rarely suffer from it too.

Boatmen looking ahead

Boatmen looking ahead

Now if you don’t have access to a window or you’re traveling at night you can just simply take a nap. This will make the rocking of the boat seem like it’s cradling you.

There you go. Now you can go hop islands with more ease.

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How to score good valued air ticket

Posted on 20 August 2013 by Dreidel Regala

Kolkata Airport Terminal

Kolkata Airport Terminal by Yuvipanda

I am one of those who frequent their favorite airline sites looking out for promo fare deals. Sometimes I visit the site even if I don’t plan on going somewhere. Why do I do it? Well mostly because I don’t wanna miss out on good finds. But if you think this method takes too much time then maybe you can check out the points listed by the author of The Epic Adventurer on how to score good valued air ticket.

Julia writes about web tools and useful tips that can help us average joes find a reasonable flight price. So check out her post on – Flight hacking for the rest of us.

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Manila Train Guide

Posted on 16 August 2013 by Dreidel Regala

Trains and Manila in one sentence usually meant confusion and hassle. But thanks to a new project of 3 individuals, a cleaner and straightforward representation of the 4 lines around the metro is now available. The site is in its pilot run so if you guys found anything that can help improve it, feel free to let the cool authors know about it.

Manila Train Guide

Manila Train Guide

Manila Train Guide

The Manila Train Guide can be found in it’s sandbox environment http://trainguide.ph with the full site said to be out in the coming months. I did a quick browse and I liked how the 4 lines are easily laid out although I got held up for a few seconds cause I didn’t immediately understand the icons beside the station names. Turns out I had to click the station points (not station names) which opens a popup for nearby establishments, awesome!

Transfers

Another cool thing about the Manila Train Guide is that it shows which stations are near via the transfer guide. Yup, I said just near cause I don’t think they can be classified as an interchange since you have to go out of the platform gate. Very useful information especially for visitors who’s never been in the country.

So if you’re traveling to Manila, you might wanna checkout the Manila Train Guide along with my points.

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How to battle solo travel nerves and start making friends

Posted on 24 June 2013 by Dreidel Regala

Solo travel is all hit recently. Travelers are talking about it and encouraging others to do the same. But for the unconventional ones it’s a major step not to be taken any time soon. “It would be scary to get lost on my own”, “It’s embarrassing to eat alone”. If we look at it closely though we can see the root of this nervous feeling.

Remember the first time you entered your new school? I’m guessing it felt really awkward. Awkward in the sense that you didn’t know where to sit or with who are you going to eat your lunch. You’re in the edge, you have to approach someone and make friends. He or she will be your entry point to your new world.

If getting acquainted with strangers was easy for everybody then maybe being on a foreign land on our own won’t be bad at all too. But do we really have to be nervous about it? No. From what I learned about traveling alone, local people are actually friendly to travelers. They have this excited-enthusiastic aura that they want to hear the stories of this traveler in front of them and in turn brag about their home town too. It’s a nice exchange that could very well take any travelers whole afternoon.

There is no formula to it just like there is no formula to meeting your future best friend. It just takes a small talk. I remember being in Taiwan on my own and didn’t know how to get out of the town. I went inside 7eleven and asked a crew for bus directions. The query took long because of the language barrier but good thing somebody overheard us and helped. I was just excited to be talking to someone in English so we talked for some time and ended with him taking me to the train station in the next town.

Hostels are great way for conversations too. Since there are different types of travelers in there you are bound to meet someone who’s probably on his own too! Starters like “Where are you from?” or “Til when are you in town?” are a good way to begin with. You can even go further and ask to go eat dinner out together.

They say if you travel in big numbers it will be much harder to meet someone. So maybe we have better footing when we travel solo. But bear in mind also that being a traveler doesn’t always mean you will be the one in help. Sometimes you have to be the one showing concern. It’s raining and you are waiting for a ride, you see someone beside you struggling a bit because she doesn’t have umbrella. Share yours and you just might have the greatest conversation for the day.

People are just like you so don’t be afraid to approach and make conversations. Of course being careful is still important. Never give too much information cause the person is after all still a stranger to you. Different people, different personalities, so if someone didn’t respond the way you would expect just move on.

Happy conversations everyone!

An Indonesian solo traveler

A fellow Indonesian traveler (middle) we met while going around Borobudur

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The Round-the-World Ticket

Posted on 08 March 2013 by Dreidel Regala

Round-the-world (aka RTW) is a term that has been around the travel space. In essence it means going around the world. When I hear about something like this I can’t help but think how expensive it must be. First I spend on accommodation then I need budget for food. And since I’ll want to look around I have to set aside also money for fees and transportation. Good thing though that there are ways to keep these expenses at a low or better zero. But there is that one vital expense that is inevitable. Airline tickets.

Even with the surge of budget airlines, tickets are still sold high especially in long haul flights. Seat sales have been rampant to attract passengers to take that trip and I think it did. But if it’s a round-the-world trip I don’t think it’ll even make a difference considering the fare rules they put in on that.

So if I have a 6-country-4-continent trip does that leave me no choice but take that US$6,000-7,000++ ticket? Before I would say yes or maybe encourage you to scout for trains, buses, or ships whenever possible. But I just read something else.

Round-the-world ticket

Did you know that some airlines (if not all) sell one-way tickets more expensive than round-trip ones? With this we can say that a round-the-world trip will cost us more since we have several differing flight segments. Okay so what’s a round-the-world ticket? I found out that we can purchase a single ticket that we can use on several flight plans spread to a maximum of one year. It’s not a cheap ticket but some say that their total is much cheaper rather than opting for one-way tickets. This single ticket is called a round-the-world ticket. As of the moment I only know airline alliances offer them namely: SkyTeam, Star Alliance, and Oneworld. An airline alliance is like an agreement between several airlines which makes sense they can offer round-the-world tickets.

Your round-the-world ticket doesn’t automatically make it cheaper for you. You have to carefully plan your routes such that you can maximize the use of your ticket. There are downsides and upsides so be sure to research first to know underlying conditions.

Here are some great links to get you started:

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