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. 

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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.

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.

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?