I got a few questions on the whole issue of Visas while cycling through Europe the last few months. Everyone starts to stress when they hear the word “VISA” but actually it’s not that difficult. Firstly Im going to give my view on applying for Visas and secondly the Visa’s you require to visit the biggest part of Europe.
*Just keep few things in mind: Im talking as a South African (different origin = different rules) and things tend to keep changing. *
1. Applying for a Visa
1.1. Stop Stressing
Every single country want as much tourists as possible to visit their country and they want to show it off. So get your things in order and then apply
1.2. Do a little research
We are blessed to have something they call… GOOGLE… so use it 🙂 Millions of people have applied for the same Visa you are about to apply for and many of them also had questions. There are thousands of Blogs. Forums and Websites that explain everything you need to know. So, take an hour or two and Google.
Some of the most helpful websites for me is:
– http://www.lonelyplanet.com – Go the the Thorn Tree Forum and browse through the specific country you intend to visit. If you don’t find what you are looking for, post a question. Take time and read through some of the other topics as well… you might just learn a few things you did not know before.
– http://www.tripadvisor.com – Just a good all-round website. Use it… you’ll like it
1.3. GET YOUR ALL YOUR PAPERWORK READY
This the most important part of applying for basically any Visa. So… Google the The Embassy of “X” or the The Consulate of “X”. Somewhere on the websites they will tell you what you need to apply for their visas. Print out the checklist form and mark them off as you get things in place.
You can also go to most travel agencies and they can give you necessary info for the Visas you require.
1.4. Visa Processing Time
Make sure you know how long it takes for a Visas to be processed. Book appointment a long time before you need to leave the country. Always give it between one to two weeks EXTRA.
Don’t stress.. Its not a work interview 🙂 Just chill and answer the questions. Always smile, be polite, be patient and after a short while, you will be out the door if all your papers is correctly filled in and have all supporting documents.
2. Europe Visas
Europe might just be one of the easiest continents to travel to at the moment, because of the European Union. For those who don’t know, the EU is a political and economic union between European countries which makes its own policies concerning the members’ economies, societies and laws. The EU makes traveling to Europe much easier than 20 years ago. WHY?
Currently the following countries is part of the EU:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia , Slovenia , Spain , Sweden , United Kingdom
So this means you only need two Visas (for most countries):
– United Kingdom Visa, which gives you access to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
– Schengen Visa, which give you access to the rest of the EU countries. Remember to apply at the Embassy from the country where you will spend the most days
As I got to the Bulkans, I could still use my Schengen Visa to enter their countries if my visa was valid. So, my Schengen Visa gave me access to Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria.
I’ve been to Europe may times and I can’t wait to return in the future. The variety of things you can see and do in Europe are enormous with all the countries, different cultures, nature and from the oldest cities to the most modern.
**Just a hint ** : When you are looking to travel to Europe in the future and you are a bit more adventurous, skip the usual tourist destinations and visit countries like Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia and Bulgaria. Its not just 3x times cheaper than the Western part of Europe, it will also be some of the most beautiful destinations you will ever see. You won’t be disappointed.
Some useful Visa links which might help:
VFS Global : http://www.vfsglobal.com
German Embassy : https://www.visa-germany.co.za
The Netherlands : http://southafrica.nlembassy.org/services/consular-services/visa/visas-for-the-netherlands-schengen-visas.html
Lonely Planet : http://www.lonelyplanet.com
Trip Advisor : http://www.tripadvisor.com