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. 

Schengen Tourist Visa for Filipinos: Preparation and Application Process

Visa Application Series:
How to Apply for Schengen Tourist Visa in Austrian Embassy for Filipinos Part I

 

Have you ever dreamed of flying to Europe, breathing the European air while you casually eat Sachertorte in a traditional and world famous kaffeehaus (coffee house) in Albertinaplatz, Vienna with musical notes of Mozart playing sweetly in the background? Have you ever fancied yourself walking along the Tuileries then later climbing up the Arc du Triomphe to have the best view of Paris and Tour Eiffel at night? If yes, I am sure you have more vivid pictures in your head where you want to go once you landed in Europe. But first thing first. If you are a Filipino regular passport holder, you have to apply for a Schengen tourist visa to be able to enter the European Union.

Who wants to go to Europe? Raise your hands!

It was the last day of June in the current year when I first applied for a Schengen visa. Unlike my previous travels where agencies and organizations processed my application and the entire preparation for my trip, it took personal effort and appearance in applying for my Schengen visa. When people learned that I managed to get my visa approved in just two days, I began to receive inquiries on how I did it. Hence, this post. For reference to my fellow Filipino visa applicants, here is my post on how to apply for Schengen tourist visa in Austrian Embassy and how you may also get it in two days.

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WHAT IS A SCHENGEN TOURIST VISA?

In a nutshell, it is a 90-day tourist visa valid to 26 countries in the Schengen zone. Countries included are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. This visa provides free and borderless travel within the Schengen region.

WHEN TO APPLY FOR SCHENGEN TOURIST VISA?

You can already apply for a Schengen visa as early as three months before your desired departure date. If you are already certain of going, I highly recommend that you start processing your application as early as you can. Most, if not all, Schengen embassies require an appointment for visa application and interview, and believe me when I say that the schedule really gets filled very fast. Better secure an appointment as early as you can so you will not feel rushed. Furthermore, once you get your approved visa, you can book cheaper flights because there is still ample time prior your departure.

WHERE TO APPLY FOR SCHENGEN TOURIST VISA?

You can apply to any of the 26 embassies of the countries in the Schengen region. If you are visiting several Schengen countries, you must apply only to the country you will spend most of your time in. In some cases, I have read others applied to the country they entered first.

Is there a higher chance of getting your visa approved if you apply to certain embassies? Some told me that some embassies are friendlier and more lenient than others. Well, I cannot really tell from my experience since I have only applied to one as of now. However, I believe that when a Filipino applicant fully prepared all the necessary and supporting documents for his/her Schengen visa application and have answered clearly and truthfully the interview questions, then the chance of receiving a passport with a visa stamp will be high.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR SCHENGEN TOURIST VISA APPLICATION?

Even though some countries have unique additional requirements, most embassies require the following for a Schengen visa application:

PRIOR SCHENGEN VISA APPLICATION

  • A completely filled out application form. You can download it from any Schengen embassy website or you can also find it here.
  • Two recent passport-size, full-face photo with a white background must be attached to the form. Photo must be taken within three months of application.
  • Original passport valid for at least six months with at least two blank pages. Copies of previous visas can also be attached.

BASIC REQUIREMENTS FOR SCHENGEN VISA APPLICATION

  • Proof of travel: copy of round-trip airline reservation with passenger registration number and itinerary
  • Proof of financial means: bank certificates, bank books, bank statements, credit card statements
  • Proof of occupation and will to return: copy of employment contract, ITR, DTI registration of business, copy of real estate property titles
  • Proof of family ties (if traveling with spouse/children: marriage contract and birth certificate from NSO)
  • Proof of accommodation: hotel accommodation, detailed day-to-day itinerary of the planned trip, invitation letter (if any)
  • Proof of sponsorship (if any): proof of relationship with the sponsor, letter of guarantee, invitation letter, copy of the bio page of the sponsor’s passport
  • All-risk travel medical insurance policy covering up to 30, 000 Euros, the sum depending on the number of days you are staying in the Schengen region + 15 days
  • For students (since I still belong to this category): proof of enrollment, certificate of leave of absence, copy of academic calendar, proof of economic means of parents or guardians, proof of occupation (if any)
  • Schengen visa fee of 60 EUR for short-term (90 days) visa

Too many requirements, right? Feel like giving up? Don’t! Just imagine yourself being here.

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Tour Eiffel, Paris, France

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Schloss Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria

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lunch with my student colleagues in Vienna, Austria

It seems fun taking my summer school in Europe, but getting there was no easy cake. I spent an entire week busy, stressed, and blaming myself for procrastinating too much. You will soon find out why.

HOW TO APPLY FOR SCHENGEN VISA AT THE AUSTRIAN EMBASSY

Since the purpose of my travel is to attend a short summer course in Vienna, it follows that I would be spending most of my trip in Austria. Therefore, I applied for my Schengen tourist visa to the Austrian embassy in Makati:

Austrian Embassy Manila
8th floor, One Orion Building
11th Avenue corner 38th street
Bonifacio Global City
Taguig

Telephone: (+63/2) 8179191
Fax: (+63/2) 8134238
e-mail: manila-ob(at)bmeia.gv.at

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TIPS IN APPLYING SCHENGEN VISA AT AUSTRIAN EMBASSY MANILA

  • Make a reservation in the embassy ahead of time. Slots can easily get filled up, so the earlier you apply, the better.
  • Bring all your required and necessary documents. Incomplete application would result to a slow process, frequent trips to the embassy, or worse, getting your visa denied.
  • Arrange your documents in order. When you arrived in the embassy floor, another guard will approach you and give a slip of paper with the correct sequence for your documents. Be sure to follow them accordingly.
  • When something is unclear, do not hesitate to ask questions.
  • Bring exact amount of money for visa fee. In many Schengen embassies in Manila, they require exact and full payment in peso equivalent to 60 euros. They do not give change. Imagine my surprise when the Austrian embassy do give change! They are totally cool.

THE TOURIST VISA APPLICATION PROCESS

Once you have finished arranging your documents in order, wait for your name to be called. You will be summoned to a window and an Austrian consul will receive your application. She will ask basic stuff regarding your trip and be sure your answers are consistent to what you have written in your application.

You will pay the 60 euros visa fee then she will ask you to place your fingers and get your prints digitally. Next, she will ask you to go back to your seat and wait for your name to be called for an interview.

The second part of the Schengen Tourist Visa Application Series will soon be posted on this blog. Please go back to gongjumonica.com and read the interview session and timeline of my entire application. Or better, subscribe via email and get blog updates straight to your inbox.

Do you also dream to travel to Europe? Where would you like to go?