Free Things To Do In Vienna

As a student, budget is always limited, but it never discouraged me to go outside the corners of my university and explore. As much as I love exploring the nearby towns and cities of Marburg, I also enjoy crossing country borders and taking new adventures outside Germany. As many expressed appreciation on my recent post on How I Travel Cheaply Around Europe, I have decided to create a regular budget series on Free Things to Do In varied cities around the world.

The first to be featured is none other than my most favorite European capital – Vienna. Wien (in German) is the capital and largest city of the small central European country of Austria famous for its rich history, culture, and heritage. It is also worth noting that Vienna is the capital of the once Austrian Empire and then the dual monarchy of Austro-Hungarian Empire. Along with this rich history and a lot of wonderful things it brought to the now posh and classy capital, it is a known fact that Vienna is expensive compared to its Eastern neighbors, but more affordable than expensive Zurich. READ: Things You Must Know Before Going to Vienna

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If you are a budget traveler, backpacker, or a student like me, it is with great excitement that I share with you these free activities that you can enjoy doing without needing to pay for even a single Euro. I hope that this list of Free Things to Do in Vienna would help you appreciate the city more without breaking your bank account.

STROLL ALONG THE IMPERIAL GARDENS

The Imperial City is nothing without its majestic and gorgeous palaces and gardens. Entry to the palaces and their respective galleries and museums are mostly paid, but you can marvel at the beauty of the architecture of these century-old buildings from the outside for FREE. You can also take a leisurely walk or an afternoon jog along the imperial gardens and gloriette with no cost at all.

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Schloß Belvedere

To visit: Schloß Schönbrunn, Schloß Belvedere

SAY HELLO TO MOZART AND STRAUSS, SMELL THE ROSES AND RELAX IN VIENNA CITY PARKS

Vienna is known as the Capital of Classical Music in Europe because of a number of best, prolific, influential and world-renowned composers the city has produced. When you are in Wien, pay tribute to the child prodigy and visit his monument at Burggarten (Castle Garden) while you can see Strauss at Stadtpark (City Park). Aside from rubbing elbows (not really) to these legends, you may also go to Volksgarten (People’s Park) and admire the different varieties of roses, enter the Greek Theseustempel (Theseus Temple), or simply sit in a bench and relax your tired traveler’s feet. And yes, you can do all of these for FREE!

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To visit: Stadtpark, Volksgarten, Burggarten

ADMIRE IMPOSING ARCHITECTURE

Hofburg is the glorious Imperial Palace of the Hapsburgs in Vienna while the Burgtheater once housed the imperial court theater, but is now the Austrian National Theater. Staatsoper is the famous opera, which hosts the prestigious, glamorous, and internationally well-attended annual ball. Along with the palaces mentioned earlier, you can visit and admire the neoclassical and renaissance architecture of these establishments for FREE.

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Hofburg
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Burgtheater

There are museums and galleries to be visited inside these buildings, but if you are not a fan of artifacts or have limited budget, then it is okay to pass these. Also, I personally get a better feel of history and appreciation from seeing the place from the outside. Just walk around the exterior, watch the comings and goings of the coaches in Hofburg, and snap some photos.

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Staatsoper

Another unique and beautiful masterpiece is the Hundertwasserhaus created by an Austrian artist, Hundertwasser. The brilliantly painted building that is home to residential houses is a far contrast from the grand and classical allure of most of Vienna. Hundertwasser is known avoiding straight lines and using bright colors and organic forms. His work is even comparable to Barcelona’s Antoni Gaudi. I especially like standing in front of the colorful and quirky designed apartment block and enjoy the living harmony the environment exudes.

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Hundertwasserhaus
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Parlament

The historic Parliament building where the two legislative houses of Austria lies is also a beauty to behold. It shows rich history, culture and art even in its facade. I especially like the Pallas Athena fountain in the middle. Entry is free, I think because I once went to a federal session and a pity that I could not understand a thing.

To visit: Hofburg, Burgtheater, Staatsoper, Schloß Schönbrunn, Schloß Belvedere, Hundertwasserhaus, Parlament

VISIT THE CHURCHES

It is truth universally acknowledged that one could see enough churches in Europe to last a lifetime. This holds true in Vienna as well. The center of the capital is the most important religious building in the country – the 12th century old Romanesque and Gothic Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral). Going inside is FREE, but climbing up to the bell tower and a guided tour aren’t. Most tourists are even satisfied by simply admiring the church from the outside and trying to get the entire height of the cathedral in photos.

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Stephansdom
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Karlskirche

Another favorite is Karlskirche (Charles Church). Like Stephansdom, the only thing paid is when you climb up. This holds true to most, but not all, of the churches in Vienna.

WALK/BIKE ALONG THE RING

The Ringstraße is the central district in Vienna where one can see almost all of the most important buildings in the capital by foot. You can basically check almost everything on top of your must-see list. When you are tired of walking, you can use Vienna City bike for FREE for an hour and explore the sights at your convenience and pace.

ROOFTOP VIEW

Vienna skyline is beautiful and I have been to several viewing decks and towers, which I would write later in this blog. However, most of them are paid. My favorite uncommon, non-touristy and FREE place to have 180-degree view of the city is at the Justizcafe (Justice Café) located at Juztiz Palast (Palace of Justice). This is not really a tourist destination and is in fact in the building of the Austrian Supreme Court. I am continuously surprised whenever I tell this “secret” location to my Viennese and Austrian friends – everyone I asked haven’t been there and do not even know it!

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Justizpalast
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one side view from Justizcafe

The view is at the 5th floor cafeteria of the government building. What I like about the view here is it is nearer and more central – I can really pinpoint and distinguish the buildings. Going here is FREE of course, but buying your lunch is also okay – the serving is generous and not pricey at all.

TIP: Strict security in the building. I read somewhere that foreigners are required to present passports, but I haven’t experienced being asked to show mine. Nope, I don’t look like an Austrian. Also, the café closes at 17:00.

GO SHOPPING (OR NOT)

My favorite go-to place for fruits, vegetables, nuts, and tea is in Naschmarkt, If you want to see what goes on in Viennese markets, this is the place. On Saturdays, there is also a flohmarkt (flea market) where you can walk around, see various trinkets, and feed your curiosity for FREE. For window-shopping, take your pick at Graben, Kärntnerstraße and Mariahilferstraße.

BE CULTURED AND INFORMED

The Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) in Vienna offers FREE entrance on Tuesdays from 18:00 to 22:00. Other museums and galleries in the Museums Quartier are sometimes free as well, especially during the Summer Opening. The Rathaus (Vienna City Hall) is open for FREE entry every first Monday of the month. During April, May, June and September, the Staatsoper (State Opera) offers live first-class performance screening on a huge TV outside the building FREE of charge. There was even a Vivaldi playing last June. During summer, FREE film showing can be found outside the Rathaus and Karlskirche. Also in the same season, the Donauinselfest, the largest open-air music festival in Europe is held in Vienna every year and has FREE entry as well.

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Museum of Applied Arts
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Rathaus

I have tried all three above, but I also heard that there is a FREE summer concert in Schloß Schönbrunn. 

PLAN YOUR FREE ACTIVITIES

There are many leisure activities to have in Vienna that will not even cost a single cent. During summer, don your swimsuits and take a dip along the Danube recreational area for FREE public swimming. You will see many locals there especially in summer, so why don’t you join as well? There are areas that are paid, but there are also those that will not require you to pay for entry.

free things do in vienna, austria, travel guide, budget, wheremonicagoes, itinerary, travel blogger, viennaOn a beautiful day, you can also take a hike and have a picnic at Kahlenberg for FREE. The view there is amazing and you can see Vienna stretched before you. For leisurely walk or jogging, you can go to Prater-Hauptallee, Schloß Belvedere, Schloß Schönbrunn, etc. all without cost. If you want to be surrounded with entertainment, go to Prater and walk around for FREE as well.

There are many several festivals in Stadtpark and in front of the Rathaus so regularly check the schedule and score free entry to these, too.

Go to: Altedonau, Kahlenberg, Prater

Date to watch out for: 26 October – Austria’s National Holiday that opens doors for almost all museums for FREE 

CONCLUSION

Actually, there are tons of activities to do in Vienna for FREE and one must only be resourceful to know what and when these are. As Where Monica Goes motto says, traveling does not have to  be only cheap, but must be comfortable and enriching. One can enjoy the relatively expensive Vienna wisely and without breaking one’s bank account. So far, this list reflects only what my favorites are, what I can remember and what made great impressions on me. Remember, these are Free Things To Do In Vienna, but one must be in possession of valid proof of transportation to get from one point to another.

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at Schloß Schönbrunn

Interested to see Vienna? READ: Step-by-step guide on Schengen Tourist Visa for Filipinos: Preparation and Application Process.

I hope this post helps you plan your upcoming trip to Vienna. More tips and guides on Vienna, Europe and Asia soon at wheremonicagoes.com

DISCLAIMER: I do not pretend to be an expert in Vienna and everything posted here are based only on what I have experienced and may be different from what others had. The purpose of this article is to only give a brief orientation to first-time travelers in Vienna. Of course, more tips are welcome in the comments below.

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Things You Must Know Before Going to Vienna

Welcome to my most favorite European capital – Vienna! It is the only capital I keep on coming back and still fall in love with every time. How could I not? It is dubbed as the City of Classical Music where Mozart, Strauss I, Strauss II, Brahms, Schubert, Haydn, and Beethoven reigned. It is where the world’s most famous ball, the annual Opera Ball, is held. It is known as the City of Dreams where Sigmund Freud, the world’s first pyschoanalyst, was born. Vienna is synonymous to Baroque and Rococo architectural styles, as well as unique designs of the likes of Hundertwasser. It is the perfect mixture of the rich imperial Vienna as well as its modern and stylish version.

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To properly introduce you to The Imperial City, I made a list of the Things You Must Know Before Going to Vienna. For sure, there is a lot of information to be found over the Internet over the capital, but I am highlighting here the most important details I think that travelers have to know beforehand to have a more enjoyable and enriching experience.

Pronounce the capital’s name properly

The national language is Austrian-German and the local name of Vienna is Wien. To pronounce it correctly, simply exchange “W” in to “V” and read the rest /veen/.

Know how to get around

Vienna has a very extensive public transportation system including subways (U-bahn), city trains (S-bahn), trams, and buses. If you would like to explore the city through public transport (and I highly recommend that you do), I suggest getting a ticket suitable for your needs instead of buying a single ticket every time. For instance, a 24-hour Vienna ticket is valid to almost all-public transport within Vienna for only 15.40 Euros.

Be prepared to walk! I used to think I love walking back home, but I am challenged here in Europe. Stretch and prepare those feet of yours.

TIP: You are allowed to bring your bicycles and pets (usually dogs) in the trains. Also, wear your most comfortable footwear.

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Vienna’s Main Train Station

Standard and cost of living

Vienna is either the first or second most livable city in the world, depending on various international studies ranking different factors such as safety, healthcare, education, and infrastructure. It is also the capital of the one of the world’s richest countries. At first, I find living in Vienna expensive compared to its Eastern neighbors, but compared to 100 cities in Europe, Vienna only falls #37 in Expatistan’s Cost of Living Index. It is 35% more expensive to live in Vienna than Manila, but 45% cheaper than living in Zurich.

Get discounts for students

Almost everything is discounted for youth, students, and senior citizens. Just don’t forget to bring your appropriate identification card.

Access free public WLAN in key places

I did not appreciate it before, but when I travel outside Vienna and Austria, I feel disappointed to note that many European cities do not have available, strong, and free WiFi. For travelers who want to check maps or hotel bookings, bloggers who want to post a quick entry, or social media rockstars who want to update their followers, this information is really important.

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Strong free WLAN at Stephansdom

Coffee lovers, rejoice!

Coffee is more than just a liquid to start the day for Austrians; it is part of their heritage. Vienna is known for its coffee house culture, which originated in 17th century. It became a huge and important part of Vienna and Austria that in 2011 UNESCO listed it as “Intangible Cultural Heritage.” Go out and try the traditional but pricey coffee houses where even Mozart, Schubert, and even Hitler frequented.

TIP: My favorite is Café Central.

Classical music and opera fans, rejoice too!

There are year-round Mozart and Strauss concerts offered in Vienna. As for the State Opera, it offers 50 to 60 operas, 10 ballet productions, and 300+ performances every year.

Mind the stores opening and closing hours

Most places in Vienna still follow the traditional working hours of 0900-1800. The evening off is an important freedom for Austrians. Also, stores and many establishments are closed during Sundays and holidays. This information must be kept in memory when traveling to Vienna. I didn’t know this before and ended up with nothing to get my necessities from since the supermarkets are already closed.

TIP: Spar is usually opened late (around 2000) in Hauptbahnhof and Landstrasse

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Spend (or not) at these shopping haven

Go to Kärntnerstraße and walk along the most famous shopping street in Central Vienna. Do not forget to go to the exclusive Graben for luxury shopping. Also, many shops can also be found along Mariahilferstraße and main trains stations.

TIP: Although not in Vienna, Parndorf is the nearest luxury outlet store located in the boundary of Austria and Slovakia. 

No stress for vegetarians and vegans

There are a lot of food options for vegetarians and vegans in Vienna. From supermarkets, restaurants, ice cream salons, the list is endless!

Beware of carbonated water!

Back home, it is not usual to drink carbonated water. Apparently, Austrians love drinking this. Imagine my surprise when I accidentally bought sparkling water from the supermarket. If you are also not a fan, stay clear of this type.

TIP: If you are buying bottled water, look for “still” or “ohne”. The ones with gas are usually labeled with “prickld” or “mild”.

But drink tap water!

Vienna and the entire country have excellent, potable and clean tap water. You can drink straight from the tap and from many drinking fountains around the city.

TIP: Bring a drinking bottle so you can easily refill it later during your trip.

However, do not order tap water!

When you are in restaurants, it is generally considered rude to order tap water in Austria. For a country with an extreme high quality of tap water straight from the Alps, this may sound weird. I still don’t know why this is practiced, but ordered tap water is usually charged (except in traditional cafés), so why bother.

TIP: I see many tourists do this, but it is also rude to drink outside beverages while inside a restaurant.

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Recommended food to try

Wiener Schnitzel, Apfelstrudel, Sacher Torte, Kaiserschmarrn, Käsekrainer, etc.

Recommended souvenirs

There are the regular ones – postcards, ref magnets, and t-shirts. However, I highly recommend these: Sachertorte (chocolate cake “invented” in Vienna), Manner Schnitten (Viennese Neapolitan wafers), Mirabell Mozartkugeln (chocolate ball), Freywille and Swarovski jewelry (Austrian brands), and snow globes! Yes, they seem like a typical souvenir, but you would want to get one from Vienna where the first snow globe was invented.

Prost!

Say “Prost” when you clink your glasses and don’t forget to use eye contact for sincerity and proper manner.

Be the Belle of the Ball

Waltz was introduced in Austria, so it only follows that the country/city hosts hundreds of balls in a year. This Viennese ball culture has its roots from the Congress of Vienna. When you find yourself going to Vienna between New Year’s Eve and Shrove Tuesday, you may as well try to attend at least one winter ball. You have around 200 – 400 balls to choose from: from the annual glamorous Silversterball on 31 December at Hofburg Imperial Palace to the world-famous and internationally well attended Opera Ball. Alles Walzer!

TIP: Attendance does not come cheap! From ball gowns to tails, a grand ticket festsaal at Silversterball costs 680 Euros while 25, 000 for double stage boxes at the Opera Ball!

Will you invite me?

When Viennese say they want to invite you for dinner, it means they will treat you. Likewise, when you tell that you are inviting them for dinner, then you must pay for meal. Don’t get misunderstood!

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I hope this list helps you get a better picture of the lovely city of Vienna. If you are a Filipino passport holder wishing to visit the city soon, I have written a detailed and step-by-step guide on How to Apply for Schengen Tourist Visa for Filipinos. More details on Top Places to Visit in Vienna, Free Things to Do in Vienna, among others, will soon be available at wheremonicagoes.com. Stay tuned!

DISCLAIMER: All thoughts written are my own unless stated otherwise. I do not pretend to be an expert and everything posted here are based only on my experience. The purpose of this article is to only give a brief orientation to first-time travelers in Vienna. More tips are welcome in the comments below. 

How I Travel Cheaply Around Europe

 

A lot of people believe that since I keep on coming back to Europe, not to mention my numerous trips around Asia and the Philippines, then I have plenty, if not unlimited, financial resource to keep this lifestyle. I have corrected this misconception many times and will still answer it now. That is simply untrue. Like everyone else, I save, research, and travel wisely. My trips are always in a budget but without compromising my comfort and safety.

As of this writing, I have traveled to 22 countries. 23 if you count my numerous domestic trips in the Philippines. I know what you are thinking. How I could travel this much as a student? How could I maintain this lifestyle? In today’s post, I will share with you Where Monica Goes’ Hacks on how to Travel Cheaply Around Europe.

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1. Apply for just one visa

As a third-world passport holder, there are many countries in the world that are not easily accessible to me without a valid visa. More often than not, these visa applications require fees, which could still cut me back a couple of dollars from my travel budget. Since I love going to Europe, a Schengen visa is the way to go. Currently, there are 26 member countries and 2 candidates for accession. Just imagine paying for just one powerful visa! UK and Ireland are beautiful destinations, but if they are not yet your priorities then applying for separate visas for these two are unnecessary. For Filipinos, here is a detailed step-by-step guide on how to apply for a Schengen tourist visa.

2. Maintain old friendships and create new ones

You may be wondering why this is included in this short list. In my experience, I have a lot of Filipino and foreign friends scattered around the globe. Despite the distance, we still keep in touch and promise that we will meet again someday. Well, some of my old friends are in Europe and you know what it means – free accommodation! Of course, it goes without saying that you should not keep or make friendships solely for this reason. READ: Change the Way You See Friendship.

3. Stay in a hostel, not a hotel

If you do not have friends in Europe yet or they are unavailable, save your travel funds and stay in a hostel. I understand you might have misgivings moving away from hotel accommodations you are used to, but trust my word that staying in a hostel has more rewarding experience. Pay for a €10 dorm bed in a hostel and spend the rest of your money with activities and food. READ: Top Must-try Food in Germany. Traveling cheap and in a budget does not have to be uncomfortable, you know. Hostels in Europe, from my experience, are cool and safe even for single and female travelers. Why pay for an expensive hotel room when most of the day will be spent outdoors? Travel cheaply, sleep cheaply!

Of course, you can also try Couchsurfing and learn the culture from within – instant friends, personal guides and FREE accommodation!

4. Travel with a group

Well, they say the more the merrier! That may be true, but traveling with someone or in a group can also make trips cheaper. Not only do I have someone to share accommodation, food and other expenses with, but my transportation cost can also be lessened. How? In Europe, there are a lot of cities and countries that reduce fare price for group traveling. In Munich for instance, a 24-hour unlimited public transportation for a single person costs €6,40 while a group ticket for up to five adults only costs €12,20. So invite your friends to join you to travel cheaply on your next European trip!

5. Use public transportation

I think it goes without saying that when you are in a foreign land, you should not use taxis unless it is very necessary. If you can help it, walk or cycle around Europe. On one hand, strolling around the continent is free, just wear your most comfortable shoes. On the other, many cities offer one-hour free bicycle use. Rental is also cheap. But if you are covering great distance or simply tired from walking, I highly recommend using reliable public transportation.

One of the things that make me love Europe so much is its fast, safe and reliable public transportation. Of course, fares seem expensive compared to what we have in the Philippines and other developing countries, but I will share you how I was able to travel cheaply around Europe with these important travel hacks.

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I. Train Rides

Back home, I usually don’t take trains. For me, they are slow, always late, overcrowded, and unsafe. In Europe, I love them and they are my #1 choice of transportation. They are fast, efficient, and on-time. They have clean coaches, comfortable seats, and large space. You can even take your bicycles, baby trolleys, and dogs with you! But they are not cheap. After my first-ever trip to Europe, I learned ways how to get train tickets cheaply and did not commit the same mistakes again in my succeeding visits. Here’s how.

ÖBB Sparschiene

Österreichische Bundesbahnen or the Austrian Federal Railways offers Sparschiene (saving rail) or discounted tickets. Instead of paying €90 euros for a one-way trip from Vienna to Frankfurt, I can wait for Sparschiene offers in the company’s website and grab affordable tickets available at €29 or €39. More than 50% off, right?

TIP: Use ÖBB’s main website or mobile app to get Sparschiene tickets. Better book in advance as there is only a limited number of inexpensive offers available per trip. Don’t forget to print your ticket!

Bahn Card (Train Card)

As mentioned, traveling with train is really the fastest way to get from one place to another. However, train rides in Europe are not cheap. In some places, it could be even diamond-expensive! Yeah, I sometimes exaggerate, but you get my drift. For instance, my 3-day pass in Switzerland cost me €195. For frequent train users, I suggest getting a bahn card or train card. Many European countries have this service but in different names. For instance, I have the Austrian Vorteilscard as well as German’s Deutsche Bahn Card. My Austrian card enables me to travel with trains around Austria (and sometimes in other countries) with 50% discounted price while my German card gives me 25% off only.

TIP: I highly recommend purchasing a bahn card if you will stay longer in one country or would really travel around with trains.

II. Car rides

If you want to travel and meet new people along the way, you should try carpooling in Europe. Back home, they have a different notion of carpooling and I hope it will change soon. In Europe, people can travel with strangers if they are going to the same direction. Blabla Car is famous for this. It is a ride sharing website which allows everyone to travel with others and share the cost. For instance, from Göttingen to Berlin costs only €19 per person compared to a train ride with DB of €30.

TIP: Ensure your contact information is correct when you book your ride with Blabla Car. Also, contact your driver and make sure that you understand and agree for the pick-up point.

For a FREE ride, you may also try hitchhiking your way around the Continent. Not sure if it applies all over Europe, but Germany has friendly drivers who can take you in.

III. Bus rides

Recently, this has been my favorite way to travel around Europe. A lot of my foreign and European friends prefer to use trains because they are fast and well connected, so it is only this year that I started taking bus rides. I wish I had done so earlier.

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Flixbus

Aside from hitchhiking, this is the favorite way of my fellow exchange students to travel around – Flixbus. It is a German’s start-up bus company, which now offers 900 destinations in 20 countries. It is very affordable compared to Sparschiene and Bahn card discounts. It takes longer though, sometimes twice the time for a train ride. Well, you get what you pay for. On a positive side, Flixbus offers comfortable rides, free luggage allowance, toilet, snack bar, power outlet, and the most important of all – free WiFi!

How cheap: From Frankfurt to Amsterdam, I got a one-way ticket for €11,11. I booked it during a promo since the regular rate is €25, but it is still cheaper than a train ticket of €120 with Deutsche Bahn. Amsterdam to Brussels regularly costs €9, while Frankfurt to Vienna is only €33.

TIP: Download the app to have hassle-free and paperless travels.

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Hellö

Flixbus seems to have a new rival starting this year – Hellö. This is a very new Austrian bus company under ÖBB. I was lucky to learn about it few days after it started operating this July. It features comfortable and spacious seats, free luggage allowance, mobile apps, power outlets, toilet and a snack bar. Like Flixbus, it offers free WiFI but unlike the former, Hellö has uninterrupted Internet connection after crossing country borders.

Currently, it has a starting promo of having €15 for almost all of its routes! Promo ends in September and until seats last. Some of its routes include Vienna to Frankfurt, Vienna to Venice, Innsbruck to Zurich, etc. It is crazy cheap! Hellö offers €15 for Vienna-Frankfurt while €33 for Flixbus. I wished Hellö were already operating before I went to Venice!

TIP: Try this out until the promo lasts.

PLUS POINT: Student Semester ticket

As I have mentioned in my previous post (READ: Welcome to Philipps Universität Marburg, Germany), the only thing I paid in my German education is the semester ticket. This costs €250 for international students. Is it expensive? You may think so at first. But if you consider not paying any tuition fee in Germany (I paid my full tuition fee in my university back home though), this is really a steal. Also, once I tell you the benefits of this ticket, you would want to offer your Euros in exchange for this.

Basically, a semester ticket allows students from my university to travel around the area of Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund – RMV for free. Yes, we students can take buses, trams, subways, metros, and even IC/EC trains of DB Fernverkehr within the semester and is valid for full seven months entirely free.

For instance, Frankfurt is only one hour away from my university in Marburg, but a one-way ticket for the slowest train possible is around €20. Because we are traveling for free, we can go to Frankfurt at least once a week and do sightseeing and shopping there.

TIP: If you are studying in Philipps Universität Marburg as well, always travel with your semester ticket! Try your best to travel to all cities and locations in the ticket as well.

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These are my major travel hacks on how I am able to roam around Europe with a student budget. Remember, it does not have to be a luxurious trip just so there is something to boast back home or follow where everyone is going. There are numerous ways on how to make a European trip affordable and comfortable without cutting all your savings. I hope these tips help. Come back here for more travel tips, guides, and itineraries in Europe and beyond. You can also subscribe to Where Monica Goes via email to get the latest updates straight to your email.

Guten Appetit! Top Must-try Food in Germany

One of the most exciting things to look forward to as an exchange student in Germany, aside from drinking the night away with liters of beer in hand, is trying the authentic German cuisine. Although international restaurants have been sprouting in many cities and countries offering most popular dishes, they still could not compete with the real deal – the one complete with perfect German ambiance and merry, but not always drunk, people.

I believe that to learn more about a country, one must be able to immerse into the foreign culture. Food is a great part of history and culture anyway. When it comes to trying new adventures through food while studying abroad, here is my list of must-try food to eat in Germany to have a well rounded and delicious study abroad experience. Do note though that this list is based on my preference (and some of my friends’ as well) and you should not limit yourself to the food mentioned in this article.

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The Land of the Wurst

Whenever I ask friends, the first thing that pops in their minds when asked for any German food they would like to try is (drum roll please) sausage! Well, it is truth universally acknowledged that aside from beer, Germany is known for its sausages or Wurst.

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Meat everywhere. Location: München

Now, there are hundreds of sausages you can get in Germany. I am no expert, but below are some of the most common varieties that my friends and I like to order (with or without beer).

Currywurst 

This is a typical sausage fare with either ketchup and curry powder or a homemade tomato curry sauce, usually with side of fries.

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It is the land of the wurst! Location: Frankfurt

Käse Krainer 

I admit I normally eat this in Austria than Germany, but since the food is almost the same in these two countries, I put this in the list. Käse Krainer is a delicious combination of cheese, usually Emmentaler, and sausage. This is my favorite and I love getting it in a Wurstelstand. Pair it with a dark bread and a can of beer for perfection.

Weißwurst

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Wurst and Bier. You can get rid of stress with these. The best match in the world!” – Jeong Ju, South Korea

A specialty of Bavaria, Weißwurst is simply white sausage. Sounds strange at first, but tastes heavenly. Traditionally, Weißwurst is eaten only during breakfast or as a snack before lunch because it is not preserved or smoked, and thus perishable. Eat it with a warm Brezel, mustard and Weissbier for a very Bavarian meal.

Döner

Next to Wurst, I believe that Döner is another German version of fast food. With Turkish influence, Döner is basically a kebab sandwich, filled with thin slices of meat, usually beef though chicken is also available, topped with various vegetables – lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and yogurt sauce.

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Döner stands can be found literally everywhere in Germany and since it is open until late at night and usually near bahnhof, it is also very convenient. I think I should note it here that one serving is huge and I have never finished one order of Döner. Maybe I just don’t eat a lot?

Auflauf

Nope, not that Olaf from Frozen. Auflauf literally means “casserole” and I think that is simply what it is. It has different versions though – potato auflauf, maultaschen auflauf, Spätzle auflauf, etc.

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“We simply love auflauf!” – Valentina, Lucia, and Federica from Italy

Maultaschen 

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Maultaschen literaly means mouth bags. I find them similar to the Italian ravioli. They are usually square or rectangular in shape. They traditionally filled with minced meat, eggs, spinach, and some spices. You can buy a ready-made maultaschen and simply boil it whenever you want to taste some.

Brezel

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“I will recommend German Original Prezel, which can be a main snack or meal for everyone almost everyday!” – Dongha from South Korea

Bakeshops abound everywhere in Germany and I haven’t seen one that has not offered Brezel. It is loved being eaten throughout Germany. In Bavaria, this is usually paired with Weißwurst and washed down with a white beer. But for a normal fare, you can find Brezel cut with butter, jams, or even Nutella.

Schweinshaxe

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It is roasted pork knuckle, especially popular in Bavaria. We paired it with beer! Don’t be fooled. It may look small in the photo, but my friend and I struggled to finish the entire thing. It is too heavy for my small stomach!

Käsespätzle

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Käsespätzle and Maultaschen

Spätzle is like a noodle or dumpling made of flour, eggs, and salt. As most German cuisine is heavy on the meat, Spätzle usually accompanies a meaty dish. Thankfully, there is also a Käsespätzle which can be a stand alone dish served with lots of grated Emmentaler cheese and fried onions on top. I have tasted the best one in Stuttgart.

There is in fact a wide variety of food to try in Germany though those listed here are my favorite and can really recommend. I hope this list offers an insider’s view on what food to try when studying or traveling in Germany. Don’t limit yourself to this list though. Be curious and try everything. That’s what immersing in food culture is all about! So what are you waiting for? Get that chance to travel in Germany or visit a nearby German restaurant and have a taste. Guten appetit!

Come back here for more lists of what to do, where to go, and what to eat and drink in Germany and other countries. Don’t forget to follow Where Monica Goes, too! 

 

Change The Way You See Friendship

How do you define friendship? Over the years, my concept of friendship is that of a relationship between people who care and nurture each other to be the best of what they can be. I believe that friends are those who immediately notice that you are not okay even before you utter a single word of complaint. Friends are those who celebrate with you in times of success and cry with you when the going gets rough. I believe in the existence of this ideal friendship. I just wished I didn’t take that too literally and narrow-minded as before.

This year, a lot of great things happened that made me changed the way I see friendship. And I am very glad it did.

ME BEFORE THEM

Some millenials see my lifestyle as one mirroring their current dreams – living independently from my parents before I reach my mid-twenties, continuing my graduate studies in a top university, staying in a nice condo all by myself, traveling around the Philippines and 23 other countries so far, and having full autonomy of my life.

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Location: Tour Eiffel, France
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Location: Jardin du Luxembourg, France
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Location: Venice, Italy
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Location: Vienna, Austria
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Location: Titlis Alps, Switzerland
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Location: Hallstatt, Austria

However, breaking the beautiful façade one can see the lonely truth of this lifestyle. When the excitement of having my own space started dying, I began feeling lonely – trapped in a box on the 29th floor, watching the world goes by with only my furniture and gadgets with me. I started actively seeking company– going out almost everyday to meet friends, asking people to visit me often, offering to swim with me in the pool, among others. But life happens and I get disappointed when I wanted to hangout but friends have school, work, family and love obligations, etc. I started questioning whether they are really my friends. Why can’t they sense that I am lonely? That I need company? Is the horrendous traffic really a strong deterrent for meeting me?

DAWN OF A NEW DAY

It started early January of 2016. As a frequent traveler, I have heard about several apps for travelers, one of those is Couchsurfing. Basically, Couchsurfing is a global community of travelers that believes in the idea of a paying-it-forward hospitality. Members are encouraged to host other members traveling in their country or hometown and provide them free accommodation and opportunity to know a local and understand the culture from within.

One day, I was chatting with this Swiss national who was in New Zealand at that time. He asked if I could host him in my flat in Manila. I had Couchsurfing hosting experience before, but only for females so I was a bit wary offering my home to a complete male stranger. He fully understood where I was coming from and we both agreed that I could at least meet him first and decide from there.

However, I totally forgot the date of his arrival and it was only two days after when he also messaged me and said that he had found a male host. I was both happy and relieved. Later that day, as I was eating lunch prepared by my new Korean neighbor, I spontaneously invited her and a Filipino friend to come over for dinner at my place. As an afterthought, I also sent an invitation to the Couchsurfer.

The Fateful Day: 11 January 2016

On that momentous day, I hosted a simple dinner for my Korean neighbor, fellow Filipina blogger friend, and the Swiss traveler. It was love at first sight, if there is even that occurrence for friendship. From 8 PM of that day, we talked nonstop until 2 AM when I finally voiced my concern of the lateness of the hour. It seemed no one wanted to leave. The company was simply that great, conversation easily flowing, atmosphere friendly and uplifting.

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L-R: Sunny (Korean), Eyah (Filipina), Me, Marcel (Swiss)

Sometimes, we meet people who we feel very good instantly with – from the very beginning of meeting each other. There is this lightness in the feeling that you can trust this person. That you can see yourself being friends for so long. That just upon that meeting, you see this person can be part of your future.

On that day, the Stinky Project was born. Well, our group didn’t have that name until a weekend after when we went for our Banaue-Sagada trip and were followed by stinkiness in the air. Long story, but filled with fun memories.

TRAVELERS BOUND FRIENDSHIP BY TRAVELING TOGETHER

Below would be several photos taken during our travels around the Philippines together. Sometimes, I would bring my Canon DSLR to our trips to come up with better quality images. However, I often complain on its weight and bulkiness. Besides, I want to be a traveler and not a tourist and the DSLR screams very touristy for me. I mostly prefer using a smartphone because it’s lightweight and handy. However, it sometimes cannot produce high quality photos especially when zoomed and the battery won’t last an entire day especially while I am wandering around and snapping photos of beautiful landscapes.

For now, let me share some memories of the friendship captured in these photos. Most of the time there were only three of us because Sunny’s school schedule couldn’t match our free time. However, we try our best to spend time together whenever we were in Manila. She’s my neighbor anyway. 🙂

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Location: Batad
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Location: Sagada

The weekend after our first meeting, we had a spontaneous trip to Banaue and Sagada. It was a litmus test for the newly formed friendship. Will we return to Manila as friends or enemies? That was a senseless question. We had so much fun like old souls who have known each other for so long!

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Location: Pico de Loro, Batangas

Our first climb together. Due to Sunny’s school schedule, she couldn’t join.

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Location: Chocolate Hills, Bohol

For our first flight, I was very excited to show them Cebu and Bohol. Both Eyah and Marcel had never been to these islands which happened to be two of my favorites in the country. We keep on remembering how Marcel, being a Swiss with four official languages, keep on pronouncing tarsier as /tar-syee-yay/ with a French accent. Haha!

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Location: Kawasan Falls, Cebu
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Location: Osmena Peak, Cebu

Cebu captured our hearts. It was simply beautiful. We did not want to leave. As I look back, perhaps I can blame that statement for what happened later. We arrived in the airport few minutes after the boarding gate closed and the final call was announced. We missed our flight. I expected this would ruin the mood we were in, but boy I was so wrong. I think we only got disappointed in less than five minutes! Can you believe that? No complaining, blaming, or finger pointing. We were all chill and even laughed at the situation we were in. Friendship tested during stressful times!

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Location: Legaspi, Bicol. Sorry, Sunny. I really like this photo!

These photos and videos are testaments that we really met in this space in the world and had forged friendship which I hope would stand the test of time. The proof that my friends, no matter where they are in the world right now, exist and I was lucky enough to meet them. In these digital files, I tried to capture those moments when friendship and companionship are in the air, when we were all strangers in foreign places and have only each other to rely on.

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE?

However, Marcel’s journey had come to an end. With a heavy heart, we said our goodbyes along with tearful messages of gratitude for a wonderful and intense friendship. We hugged each other tightly, not wanting to let go for fear of being forgotten as we slowly put distance from each other. Promises were made, future plans and hopes of meeting again were said. On the 16th of February, The Stinky Project bid farewell to one of our friends.

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Location: Maginhawa, Quezon City

Do all good things really have to end? What about those promises? Are those simply empty words to console those who would be left behind? Despite the intense friendship, I had a moment to doubt him. I had many foreign friends who simply forgot about the Philippines and me as soon as they arrived back in their countries. Will Marcel be different?

ONLY TO MEET AGAIN TWO MONTHS LATER

Exactly two months since Marcel flew back home, I found myself in his homeland – Switzerland. I am taking my exchange program in Germany and was traveling around Europe with a friend when this happened.

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Location: Lag la Cauma, Chur, Switzerland

Just look at our goofy faces! Finally reunited. Half of the Stinky Project was in Europe, while the other half was in Philippines. Talk about balancing. 🙂

Even before this day arrived, The Stinky Project made true to its promise. We keep in touch. Our group chat remains active and loud. We do Skype video calls despite the wonky Internet connection wherever we are. Whenever we are free, we try to check on everyone and see if all is well. I am very touched. I honestly did not expect the friendship to come this far.

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Location: Zurich, Switzerland. I bought him a belated birthday present!

It’s as if nothing happened. Nothing changed. It didn’t feel like we were separated for two months already. I didn’t feel that he was only friendly to me because he was in a foreign land with no one to depend on. No. Marcel is the same person. Our friendship stands. The bind of friendship still holds. I was surprised with this. I didn’t know before that this can really happen. Like Charles Dickens once said, “The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.”

skype call_edited

After that trip to Switzerland, I continued with my journey. On the 11th of June, to mark our sixth month of friendship, we had a video call via Skype. Marcel was in Zurich, I was in Vienna, Sunny was in Quezon City, while Eyah was in Pasig City. We were all over the place. It was loud, we were talking at the same time, someone got disconnected sometimes, Internet connection got sloppy. It was very funny!

CHANGING THE WAY I SEE FRIENDSHIP

How can one define friendship? Well, I still hold to the ideal friendship I have formed in my head. However, I found out this year that it is possible to find wonderful people in the most unexpected ways. Moreover, I realized that friendship does not have to be about consistent presence and proximity. That friendship is not measured by how often you see each other or how near one person lives next to you. Daily conversation is not a validation of true friendship. The Stinky Project is a group of four people from three different countries, living from different sides of the world, who bind themselves in a friendship no matter the distance.

I am grateful that in 2016, the way I see friendship was changed. That no matter where I go, how long I haven’t seen and meet my friends, nothing will change between us. That the next time we will meet, we would still be the same crazy and loving souls we were from the beginning. I learned that to keep the friendship alive, we need to hang on, to stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for us. To value a friend, we should not give up. Do not be too busy or tired. Do not take them for granted.

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The Stinky Project

Friends, they say, are the families you choose for yourself. I am glad I chose well. I am more grateful that they chose me. And I am beyond appreciation that we choose to be friends despite of everything – country borders, distance, colors, races, gender, languages, culture, and religion. I am confident that wherever we are in the world, the Stinky Project will keep the friendship alive no matter how busy we will be. And with us being avid travelers, I know it won’t be far before we find ourselves in one place in this world again.

How to Get a German National Student Visa for Filipinos in 10 Days

 

Have you ever dreamed of pursuing your studies outside of the Philippines, in Europe in general? To be specific, have you fancied yourself studying in Germany, watching your favorite football team in the bundesliga matches, munching your delicious currywurst, downing a Maß of dunkel beer while biting your huge schweinshaxe, getting drunk in Oktoberfest, and salivating over those beautiful Benz, Audi, BMW, VW and Porsche cars?

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Are you dreaming of visiting the inspiration of Disney Castle?

If you keep on nodding while reading this and have other fantasies to add, then you indeed are dreaming and very excited to study in Germany. Read: Top Reasons Why You Must Study Abroad.

Especially now that most German public educational institutions are tuition-free, there are more and more international students flocking Deutschland in search of a better educational system and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But first things first: if you are a Filipino passport holder, you must apply for a visa to be able to study and stay in Germany for the duration of your studies. In this post, I would help you know how you can perhaps possibly also get your German student visa within ten working days.

Who wants to study in Germany? Say, Ja!

I get several emails and private messages with inquiries on how I successfully managed to get a student visa in Germany. Many of them are afraid to apply in that country as Germany is known for being a stickler for rules. To help others know the process as well as not to repeat myself over and over again to my friends, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to apply for national student visa in Germany for Filipino passport holders and hopefully get it within 10 WORKING DAYS, like how I did it.

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Generally, Filipinos are required to get a visa before entering Germany. Last year, I have written about the process on how to successfully secure a Schengen Visa for Filipino Tourists. However, if you plan to stay longer than 90 days, the rule of thumb is for you to apply for a national visa.

What is a National Visa?

A national visa is a long-term visa issued by Germany to those who are planning to stay longer than the 90-day tourist Schengen visa offers. Unlike the Schengen Visa, the national visa has different and more sets of requirements. Also, national visas can only be issued after the approval of responsible Aliens’ Office in Germany. Therefore, processing time of several weeks to months must be expected and visa application should be done at an early date.

The embassy generally issues national visa for specific purposes: study, marriage, family reunion, employment, au pair, etc. Maximum validity is 90 days with multiple entries. Shortly after arrival in Germany, visa holders should visit the responsible Alien’s Office and apply to get a residence permit.

Who can apply for German national student visa?

To apply for a German national student visa, you must be a prospective student, student applicant, or long-term language course student in Germany.

What are the requirements?
  • Valid passport
  • Two copies of your application forms completely filled
  • Three identical and current passport photos. Check the embassy’s photo requirement.
  • Two declarations signed. Get this form in the website.
  • Certificate of admission (for students) or proof of standard matriculation (for student applicants)
  • CV in tabular form including your education background without a gap. My CV was in EuroPass format. Just Google it and you will be safe.
  • Motivation letter and study plan essay. Just write clearly, briefly, and honestly. Remember what you have written as this may be asked in the interview.
  • Proof of finance of at least €659/month or €7908 per year.
  • Depositing the required sum in a special savings account in Germany (Sperrkonto) with Deutsche Bank
  • Letter of award of an official scholarship
  • Formal obligation of a person who will take over the cost (original with two copies)
  • Confirmation of and registration with the language school if taking a German preparatory course
When to apply

The important thing is to apply as early as possible. Based on what I have read online, many people follow the three months rule. I have never done this, as my national student visa and even Schengen visa (for tourist) applications were never sent more than three weeks before my flight. But that’s just me. Haha! Still, it is better to apply early so if the embassy requires further documents from you, you can still have time to prepare and send them.

However, it is necessary to note here that you must have your school application settled beforehand. If possible, you must already have a Letter of Acceptance, or better, Letter of Matriculation or Enrolment as these documents will greater support your claim to get a visa. The embassy will confirm your application to your selected university and when you have these documents, your chance of getting your passport back with a visa stamp increases.

Where to apply?

Since you are applying for a student visa to study in Germany, then you must apply at the German embassy. In Manila, it is located at:

German Embassy Manila:  25/F Tower 2, RCBC Plaza  6819 Ayala Ave (cor Sen. Gil Puyat Ave)  Makati City  Metro Manila, Philippines

Office Hours:

Monday to Thursday from 7:30 to 15:30 hours | Fridays from 7:30 to 13:30 hours.

Visiting Hours:

Our general visiting hours are Monday to Friday from 10.00 to 11.30 hours. Please note that an appointment is necessary for passport applications and civil status matters.

Contact the visa section:

Phone: (0063 2) 702 3001 | Fax no.:(0063 2) 702 3045 | E-Mail: visa@mani.diplo.de

How much does it cost?

The application fee costs €60 but must be payable in Philippines Pesos at the current exchange rate. There is no refund if the application is rejected.

However, in my experience last February, I was first asked to ready my payment but after answering questions whether I have been to Germany before or if I had Schengen visas prior to the application, the staff suddenly told me that I no longer need to pay. I forgot to ask her why so up to this day, I still do not know.

STEP-BY-STEP APPLICATION GUIDE TO GERMAN NATIONAL STUDENT VISA APPLICATION FOR FILIPINOS

Here, I am now giving you a step-by-step guide on how to prepare and apply for your German national student visa based on the German embassy website’s instructions and my experience.

Prior to Application

  • Get the list of all required documents mentioned above and prepare them. Also fill-up the student visa application form found here: http://www.manila.diplo.de/contentblob/3618550/Daten/6193697/MB_student_jan13.pdf
  • If you are a self-supported student (does not have a scholarship), you must open a Sperrkonto at the Deutsche Bank. Download the form in its website and answer as many items relevant to you.

A note of advice here: you can only apply for your account in the main Deutsche Bank located in Hamburg and for you to do this, you need to present your application form in the embassy and have it signed. Then, have your entire bank application mailed to Germany. I used FedEx in Zuellig Building, Makati for this. When you are finally advised that your account is active, you should start depositing the required amount for you – a semester, year, or two year’s worth of required money. You can also deposit an amount higher than what is required. When you finally reach the minimum amount required, Deustche Bank will inform the embassy that you fulfilled the necessary application requirement, and therefore your visa application will proceed. The amount deposited in your account can only be withdrawn in Germany and only at maximum of €659 per month or a specific amount you may have mentioned if you have deposited higher than what is required.

When you already prepared the required documents or can already estimate when the rest of your papers will arrive, book for an appointment in the embassy for your visa application. It is better to regularly check the appointment database as slots can be easily filled.

Application of National Student Visa at the German Embassy

  • Bring all your documents – application forms, photos, supporting documents and exact cash. Do not forget a printed copy of your appointment schedule. Ensure that you have every forms filled completely and double check the information you have provided.
  • Arrive on time
  • Have yourself checked by the security team then hand in your mobile phones, tablets, and other gadgets in a locker provided for you by one of the guards.
  • Get your queue number. An embassy staff will ask for your application purpose and will then give you a color-coded card number.
  • Proceed to the waiting area and wait for your number to be called.
  • When it is your turn, give your application forms and required documents.
  • Please answer all the interview questions given to you clearly and honestly! If you do not understand, do not hesitate to ask. Your interview will be done right there and then at the waiting area in front of the consular staff.
  • Follow instructions when you are directed to the digital fingerprint machine.
  • Submit your request to open a Deustsche Bank account to a separate counter mentioned by your interviewer.
  • When all of your application documents have been submitted, your interviewer will return your passport and say that you will be contacted when your application for national student visa has been pre-approved.
  • If you need the national student visa in a specific time, inform your interviewer about it so he/she can note it down.
  • When you finally get an e-mail notification from the embassy (or maybe a phone call), go to the embassy and hand in your passport. If there are additional or supporting documents requested from you, give these to the staff as well.
  • You will be given a slip of paper with a schedule on when your passport will be released. Go to that specific date and time. Never be late.
  • When you finally received your passport, and hopefully with a national visa stamp, the consular staff will read the details in your visa to check if everything is correct.
  • Double check this, especially the spelling of your name and travel dates.
  • The consular staff may or may not give you instructions on what to do after arrival in Germany, i.e., visit the Alien Office to register your address and get your residence permit.

Too many things to prepare and keep in mind, right? Here are also 10 Tips on Preparing for Your Student Exchange Program. I know it is a lot to take in now and it can be overwhelming, but just imagine yourself being here.

If you keep on nodding while reading this and have other fantasies to add, then you indeed are dreaming and very excited to study in Germany.

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TIMELINE ON MY GERMAN NATIONAL STUDENT VISA APPLICATION

Long term visas, including those for students, can only be issued after the approval of responsible Aliens’ Office in Germany. Therefore, processing time of several weeks must be expected and visa application should be done at an early date.

I. PREPARATION

13 January – Request for documents from home and German universities, Philippine banks, and health insurance provider. Download and filled up the application forms. Took passport photos, etc.

14 January – first attempt to set an appointment schedule. All slots full. Earliest at mid-February. Contacted my German university and informed them about my situation

15 January – German university directly requested the German embassy Manila for a special appointment slot for me

18 January – reserved for the earliest slot given to me

II. APPLICATION TIME

26 January– Appointment schedule -> application and interview (window 5)

1 February – Received a phone call from the German Embassy. My visa has already been pre-approved after only 4 working days! Consular staff informed me to submit my passport, travel date information, and travel insurance.

4 February – Submitted required documents. Consular staff told me to return after two working days to get my passport and visa.

8 February – Chinese New Year holiday

10 February – Went to the embassy and got my passport with a German national student visa stamp. Yay!

TOTAL DAYS OF PREPARATION – 9 working days

TOTAL DAYS OF VISA PROCESS IN THE EMBASSY – six working days for the process, ten working days including time to submit supporting documents

TOTAL DAYS USED – 15 working days

Notes: I only counted embassy working days (Mon-Fri) and excluded counting 8 February as it is a national holiday.

HOW I GOT MY GERMAN NATIONAL STUDENT VISA IN 10 DAYS

First, let me begin by saying that what I had is a special case and perhaps won’t happen again the next time I apply for a national visa. The result was probably mainly due to the circumstances I had that time which the embassy recognized and therefore tried its duty to serve me as fast as they can. Normally, friends and people I met along the way told me that national student visa application normally takes more than one month of just embassy processing, so not including the preparation process. As seen in my timeline above, my entire visa processing took only 10 working days while with preparation is only 15 working days.

So how did I successfully manage to get it so fast? Here are my tips – none of them is illegal, by the way! J

  • Gather as much information as you can about the embassy, its office and visa hours, address, etc. You do not want to waste precious days and hours going there when you are not even allowed to.
  • Read, read, and read. Anticipate what you will need in the application. Always go to the embassy website for its updated requirements for the national student visa.
  • Always duplicate or triplicate printing and copying of your documents. Some items in the requirements must be in twos or threes, so always ensure that you have enough copies done. My rule is to always have the required number of copies, one copy for myself, and at least one extra copy for emergencies.
  • Try to book an appointment as early as you can.
  • While waiting for your appointment, try to finish collecting all the required documents and forms.
  • If you are running out of time, i.e., your semester will start soon, ask your German university coordinator if he/she can contact the embassy and inform your situation while asking the possibility to expedite your visa application process.
  • Write in your application form how soon you need the visa or when you must fly to Germany.
  • During the interview, inform your interviewer about your circumstances. Mention your situation so the consular staff can at least note the urgency of your application

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There you go. I hope this post help current applicants and aspiring students to apply for German national student visa. Everything that I wrote here is based from my experience and information from the embassy. Things may changed without notice, so I highly recommend that you still check the German embassy’s website for updated requirements. Again, this is simply a guide to help out fellow Filipinos who would like to pursue their education in Germany. Let me know if this helps. Good luck and pursue your dream to study in Germany!

Welcome to Philipps Universität Marburg, Germany

In the About Page of Where Monica Goes, I have mentioned that I am currently an overseas graduate student in Germany and this new website would be an online chronicle of my life abroad as well as my travels around the world. After my previous entries about the Top Reasons Why You Must Study Abroad and 10 Tips on Preparing for your Student Exchange Program, I believe now is the perfect time to share information about my host university. As it is my first time participating in a student exchange program, I am very excited with this new experience and would like others to understand my happiness in being here. I am studying here for five months now and I can confidently say that I love every minute of the program.

Whether you are an existing student or an excited overseas exchange who is digging the Internet for more information about your future university, this website is for you! Without further ado, let me introduce my host university, Philipps Universität Marburg.

marburg cover

Welcome to my university!

Philipps Universität Marburg: An Introduction

Established in 1512 by the Magnanimous Landgrave Philipp I, the Philipps Universität Marburg is the oldest Protestant university in the world and one of the oldest educational institutions in Germany as well. That is how old the university is! Overtime, it has become a non-secular state university.

For more than five centuries, the institution was proudly a place for research, teaching and learning. A variety of academic disciplines are represented in the university, except engineering. Before, only Medicine, Philosophy, Theology, and Law were offered, but this has expanded to 17 departments encompassing physical and social sciences. The university is especially known for its scientific fields and is home to the country’s traditional medical faculties.

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Elisabethkirche, one of the earliest purely Gothic churches in Germany

Location: Where is Philipps Universität Marburg?

The university is located in Marburg, in the state of Hessen, 100 km north of Frankfurt, heart of Germany. Marburg is a small, charming medieval town popular for its gothic churches and castle. Adding to its enchanting appeal are the cobblestreets, 17th and 18th century timber houses, and Elisabethkirche, one of the first purely Gothic churches ever built.

How to get to Marburg?

From Frankfurt Central Train Station (Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof), take a train in the direction of Kassel and alight at Marburg Main Train Station (Marburg Hauptbahnhof). The ride takes roughly one to one and half hour depending on which train you get – ICE, RE or HLB.

Student body

Marburg has 86, 000 residents, 25 000 of them are students. The majority of the student body comes from all over Germany. Among these, more than 12% are from all over the world, making the university the institution that has the largest foreign students in the entire Hessen state.

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School cafeteria

It is common to see and hear a saying here that goes, “Other towns have a university, but Marburg is a university”. Wherever you are in the town, you are part of a vibrant academic community. Therefore, Marburg is the proverbial “university town” or Universitätsstadt in German

School Fees

Like many German public educational institutions, studying in Philipps Universität Marburg will not require a matriculation or tuition fee. Instead of paying for a lofty sum, the university only requires students to pay for the semester ticket (semestertiket), a student contribution. It costs €150 for Erasmus students and €250 for exchange and free-mover students. The semester ticket enables students entirely free transportation service within the semester ticket area of Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund – RMV whether buses, trains and even IC / EC trains of DB Fernverkehr within the semester and is valid for full seven months. So if you like traveling, this is perfect for you!

Noted alumni

T.S. Eliot, Wilhelm Grimm, Jacob Grimm, Hermann Cohen, Christian Wolff, etc. The list is actually long, but based on my experience here, Marburg is exclusively the Grimm brothers’ town. If you are a fan of their wonderful stories, then you are in for delightful fairytale walks around here!

How is the weather in Marburg?

spring, germany, marburg, meme, weather

This, I believe, is especially true in Marburg. It is normally colder in Marburg due to its location. Especially when you live in Studentendorf where you are surrounded by woods and forest, temperature can drop quickly. Even in summer, temperature can sometimes be as cool as 17 degrees. How can my friends in warm Vienna do sunbathing while my fellow exchange students still wear cardigans? Haha!

Where to stay in Marburg?

As a student, there are many options for accommodation in Marburg. If you are an exchange or overseas student, Studentenwerk Marburg offers affordable student dormitories and flats. In my experience, the university searched and assigned a room for me in a WG or Wohngemeinschaft (shared flat) so I didn’t have the hassle to do it for myself.

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My room in Studentendorf

Aside from this, private accommodation and homestays are also available. I will share more about this in my future posts.

Philipps Universität Marburg is a wonderful and charming university to attend to and if you are considering to take your overseas program here, then you are in for a treat!

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The ball has just started rolling for this blog and this is simply a short overview about Philipps Universität Marburg. More information on Marburg, its town highlights, and overseas students’ survival guides and tips will be uploaded regularly on Where Monica Goes. Stay tuned!

 

Where have you been? | Travel World Map Generator

Ever wondered how many countries in the world have you visited so far? If you are as addicted to traveling as me, chances are you have a fair amount of numbers to share. Today I stumbled upon this travel world map generator and it made me so giddy to input and color places I have been. 

As May is about to close and soon half of the year is already over, I think it is a good time to evaluate how far I have been in my mid-twenties. I only discovered my passion to travel last year and know that I have places to catch on. As of 30th of May, Where Monica Goes has visited 20 countries in the world. I know it isn’t much and I probably covered less than 10% of the globe. Still, as Susan Sontag says, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.

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Where Monica Goes has been to:

Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Macao, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates.

So where have you been? Feel free to list your countries here or share a blogpost of your own travel world map! I got mine  generated for free from Matador Network.

My 2016 Travel Bucket List

This year, I am very excited to achieve more of the things I have only dreamed of before. As I travel more and get addicted to moving from one place to another, I become bolder with my ever growing to-dos and must list. Without further ado, here is my 2016 travel bucket list.

Go in a tripoint and be in three countries at once.

There is something novel in standing in a place where the borders of three countries lie. Though most of the tripoints I have seen are really not so spectacular, even some are in the middle of lakes or rivers, I think it would be fun to put each foot and a hand in three different countries. Just imagine the idea!

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Austria, Slovakia and Hungary tripoint. Photo credit to Corinna Back.

Go skiing in the Alps.

My first experience in the Alps will always stay with me, but now I am upping the ante. I am most likely the least sporty person you could ever meet and I know nothing next to skiing, but this sounds fun!

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Salzburg, Austria. Photo credit to skiingthealps.

Ride a hot air balloon in Turkey.

I once watched a TV series where the characters went to Turkey and witnessed the sun set while up in the sky in a hot air balloon. Since then, it has stayed in my mind.

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Hot air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey. Photo credit to Meanwhile in Rotterdam

 Visit ten countries.

I was able to achieve this last 2015 and plan to do so again this year.

travel around
Photo credit to NoGarlicNoOnion

See the northern lights.

It is in my list for years now and I hope to be able to see the auroras this 2016.

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Reykjanes peninsula, Iceland. Photo credit to discover the world uk.

Attend a traditional festival in a foreign country.

The last time I was able to attend was in 2009 in Japan and I would like to witness and participate in one again. I feel more attached when I celebrate a festival along the locals – it makes me feel like I’m one of them.

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Lantern Festival, Thailand. Photo credit to Justin Ng.

Walk along roads lined with cherry blossom trees during Spring.

My homeland does not have these trees and I do not have the opportunity to gaze up and admire these beautiful blooms.

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Photo Credit to Dallas Nagata White.

Try to be a guest of a Couchsurfer.

I am a member of Couchsurfing for two years now yet I haven’t tried being hosted. It was only in mid-January when I had my first guest and I hope I can avail the hospitality of others when I travel around and be hosted.

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Couchsurfing. Photo credit to welovewonderlust

Go backpacking abroad.

I am known by my friends as the overpacker and suitcase girl. I used to prepare at least two days’ worth of emergency clothes and pack my full skincare regimen. However, I somehow broke this routine and had tried traveling to some provinces in my country for three days with only a backpack! It was a very unique and freeing experience that I would like to do again.

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These are my travel bucket list this 2016. I hope to accomplish at least half of it. How about you? What are you looking forward to do this year?

Dreaming of becoming a Foreign Service Officer

Few weeks ago, I celebrated my 11th year of being twelve. There will only be two years left for me to prepare for the Philippine Foreign Service Officer Exam. Graduated with a degree in International Relations, I dream to be a diplomat in the future. Since I entered the halls of my university to learn about international affairs, I knew that the path I’d like to take would not be easy. In fact, the road to being a diplomat was seldom taken by others due to its nature.

I am not sure with other countries’ FSO exam, but in here the test takes almost a year to finish. For the past years, it was reported to have a 1% passing rate. Just last year, 9 out of 534 passed the five-level, elimination tests. There was even a year that no one passed. Some said it is the most grueling government exam and others even went as far as to say that it is harder than the bar. From blogs and testimonies of those who attempted to be a career diplomat, I assumed that being included in the most elite department in the government will take a lot of guts and effort.

DFA

The FSO Exam: An intellectual version of Survivor reality game

I. Qualifying test. According to DFA and from previous examinees, this is like a college entrance test with logic, grammar, and math. The questions are pretty easy, but time-pressured. Others say this is a degree higher than Civil Service Examination. Good thing I passed the professional level of CSE three years ago!

II. Preliminary Interview. This seems like a job interview. Three panelists will be there to question the examinee about his current work, his plans of joining DFA, etc. The main tip is to be honest and clear of your goal. I got an advice to link my answers to the three main pillars of Philippines’ foreign policy and to always cite examples and cases to support my statements.

III. Written Test. Alas. This is the make or break point of the entire exam. 600 examinees can be easily put down to 20 because of this. It is a three-day essay type test. I found sample questions from a blogger and new FSO IV on this level. Please check his examples below:

 

  • English (20%)

A Filipino citizen was sentenced to receive the death penalty in China for acting as a drug-mule. As Secretary of Foreign Affairs, propose a plan which outlines the courses of action the President may undertake.

  • Filipino (5%)

Towards the end of El Filibusterismo, a priest in the novel discussed the idea of freedom. Describe what the priest said and relate it to how Philippine society understands freedom today.

  • Philippine Political, Economic, and Cultural Conditions (30%)

Give five examples of the government’s proposed Public-Private Partnership (PPP)projects and give explanation for each.

Explain how the Conditional Cash Transfer program will alleviate poverty.

Name a National Artist and describe the significance of his/her work.

  • International Affairs (20%)

What are the benefits of forging an ASEAN Economic Community in 2015?

  • World History (20%)

Compare and contrast the Spanish colonization experience of Latin America and the Philippines

  • Foreign Language (5%)

You can choose from Mandarin, Japanese, French, Spanish, and Arabic. The entire test will be in the selected language and questions include basic greetings and expressions as well as grammar.

credits to: Rafael Ignacio, FSOE passer

IV. Psychological Test. One must be proud after passing the third level. However, this test must also not be taken for granted. A series of questions plus an interview with a shrink will assess one’s mental capability of working in the Foreign Service.

V. Oral Test. This level has two sessions. The first day is a 20-minute panel interview consisting of ten people from the academe and DFA. Like the preliminary interview, they might ask anything under the sun. One example of a question I found is: What do you think about the President’s appointment of Domingo Lee as the ambassador to China?

The second day is a debate/group dynamics and formal dinner. In the debate, just freely express your opinion on the subject matter. For the dinner, ensure that you know or have read about proper dining etiquette. Then later, there will be an impromptu speech where examinees will only have a minute to prepare for his/her three-minute speech.

After that last hurdle, there will be few months to kill and when you are lucky, you will be notified as one of the passers of the FSO Exam!

Thoughts

I hope that after a few more years, I will be able to pass those five tests. In the end, I would see myself applying what I’ve learned in my university’s simulation test/diplomatic dinner in my senior year. It was such a good practice to be able to dine and chat with real diplomats. I remember the experience. Fancy location, delectable food, intelligent people, good atmosphere, and gorgeous clothes!