Finally, got the time to write some useful information about our recent trip to France and Italy. I will focus more on the things you can expect from getting your visa to planning your trip and budget and actually making it happen!
CAUTION: Long post ahead but I swear it’s helpful!
I will go into details about each city we visited in my next few posts.
FIRST TIME VISA for Filipinos
I’m skipping the Schengen visa requirements cause that will depend on what country you are applying to but here are a few tips that might help you:
- Make sure you are applying to the right embassy. You are required to get the Schengen visa in the country where you will stay the longest. If it’s the same number of days, you can apply to the country where you will stay first.
- Yes, show money is important. You need to make sure that you can cover the expenses during your trip. We stayed in Europe for 24 days and our show money was around Php200,000. The Italian embassy even asked us to provide additional bank certificate from another account during the interview.
- We coursed our Italian visa processing through via.ph but even so, you will still need an interview with the Italian Embassy.
- You need to have an itinerary already– places you will visit and how many days you will be in each destination. A travel agent is very helpful if you want to do mock bookings of hotels and tours that you will need to show as part of the visa requirements.
- Make sure you apply early because visa processing takes time especially during peak months. We got our visa the day before our flight so we had to risk confirming hotel bookings that same week (and that means, the costs were quite high!). We allotted 3 weeks for the visa processing, but still not enough. There are also incidents where some got their visa on the day of the flight even when they applied a month ago. It’s case to case basis, but if you get the requirements right the first time then it will give you a better chance of getting your visa early.
Italian Embassy Interview:
Here are a few tips to remember when you attend the interview. Some of these are from travel agents that we encountered while we were frantically getting our requirements.
- Hey Single ladies, I know this will sound discriminatory but they do take it into consideration. The embassy might ask you if you will visit some friends or attend events and weddings. It’s good to tell the truth but also make sure you have enough proof such as employment and bank account to prove that you are not going there to find a husband or work. They want to make sure you are coming back to the Philippines!
- If you can, dress well for the interview. You can go for smart casual or business attire.
- You will be scheduled for an interview but because of the long queue reserve the whole day for it. Our interview was at 12-1pm, but we got interviewed around 3pm.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP:
This is the hardest of all. Remember, it’s better to have a plan and then just scratch out items that you don’t want to push through during your trip. You don’t want to end up having a house that’s too far from train stations or from the landmarks you want to visit because you didn’t do your research.
- Before you can book your flight and hotel, you need to know what places or areas you want to visit so you know how to fix your itinerary.
- My go to for affordable flights is Skyscanner and for the accommodations it’s AirBnB.
- There are certain tours or landmarks that need advance booking so make sure you check it.
- Check the weather forecast so you know what type of clothes you will bring.
- Unless you are on a luxury trip and you have a car that will bring you around, go for small luggages or backpack! This is probably the greatest lesson for me. I brought a 20kg luggage and it was so hard to bring because we transferred hostels a few times and some apartments didn’t have elevator. We had to carry our heavy luggages up the stairs!
SUGGESTED ITINERARY: 24 days
Here’s the itinerary we did for our trip! I’ll put more photos and details in the next few posts.
Paris, France – (September 10-13) 3 days
Of course, you are going to France you have to see Paris, the country’s capital and the center for French fashion, food, and culture. Visit the famous Eiffel tower, Moulin Rouge, Versailles, and some much more. They also offer great food. While you’re at it, eat outside and people watch and maybe get drunk in the afternoon! From Paris, take a train to Colmar. You can check different train websites. Quickest train (TGV) will get you there in 3 hours.
Colmar, France – (September 13-15) 3 days
Colmar is a small town in Alsace region which is in the northeastern part of France. It’s close to Strasbourg and Annecy which also have cute townhouses and fairytale like architectures. They have cobblestone streets and old churches remnants of the medieval times. Do not forget to drink Alsace white wine! You don’t need to stay long here unless you will have a car and drive around the Alsace region. From Colmar take the train to Annecy which is around 4 hours away. In our case, we tried RIDESHARING! You get to ride with people who are going in the same trip as you are and you just need to pay them a certain amount which is cheaper than a train and you get to meet new friends. It’s relatively safe in Europe. It’s called Blabla Car.
Annecy, France – (September 15-17) 3 days
It’s an alpine town in the southeastern of France and is popular for it’s old town called Vieille Ville and also Lake Annecy! Do not forget to visit the Chateu d’Annecy where Counts of Geneva used to live. From Annecy take a rideshare to Aix-en-Provence which will take around 4 hours as well.
Aix-en-Provence, France – (September 17 – 19) 4 days
It’s in the Provence – Alpes- Cote d’Azur region south of France. It’s known as a university city and if you stay in the centerville with cobblestone streets filled with different clubs and restaurants you will have a great time especially at night! The restaurant in the photo – Jacque Croquant is our favorite restaurant. It’s just downstairs of our AirBnB hotel! From here you can take the train to Marseilles which is around 38 minutes. The only reason we had to go to Marseilles is because we needed to take the train there to crossover Italy straight to Pisa, Tuscany.
Marseilles -(September 19-20) 2 days
Marseille is a port city in South of France. Not all people will advice you to go here because according to them it’s relatively not as safe as the other cities because of immigration and mix of culture. But we still went, and the port area was really nice! We wanted to check out the Calanques in Marseilles but we didn’t have enough time cause you need a car or join a tour! Calanque is “a narrow, steep-walled inlet” along the Mediterranean cost and you can hike and swim in that tiny area! Look it up! From Marseilles take the TGV train to Pisa which will take around 6 to 8 hours depending on the change of trains.
Pisa – (September 20-29) 10 days
Pisa is one of the towns in the Tuscany area. We stayed here longer so we can just take the train when we want to explore the other areas of Italy. Sure it’s a small town and famous for the Leaning Tower of Pisa but it’s also a good area to come home to instead of moving around for every 3 days. You get to hangout by the River Arno with beer and shawarma or gelato after walking the whole day from your tours!
You can book your train tickets in train stations or in Trenitalia website!
In those 10 days, we also visited the following areas via train:
Lucca – it’s an old city surrounded by a fortress, famous for it’s renaissance architecture too.
Florence –The capital of the Tuscany Region and home to many Renaissance art and architecture. You can find the Ponte Vecchio and also the Duomo cathedral. If you are into arts, you can also find the famous Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture.
Siena, San Gimignano, Chianti Hills– This is known as a UNESCO World Heritage Area. You can find old medieval houses and cobblestone streets and experience the vineyard view, Italian wineries and local products.
Venice – The City of Romance, located in the northern part of Italy. It is well known for it’s canals- including the Grand Canal as well as the Piazza San Marco. It also has other islands that you can visit. Just check the schedule of the boats. I think it’s better to give this city 2 to 3 days instead of a day trip so you can check out the other islands! I’ll definitely come back to explore this area more.
We skipped Cinque Terre and Volterra but those are also good areas to cover when you are in Tuscany! From Pisa take the train to Rome which will take around 4 hours.
Rome – (September 29-October 2) 4 days
Our last stop was Rome, Italy’s capital. Don’t forget to visit the Vatican City and the famous tourists spots like the Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, and Colosseum. When you are done with the tourists areas, get lost and find piazzas and cathedrals along the way!
Now let’s get to the budget. In total we spent around Php140,000. This is an estimated budget based on our expenses sheet. It already includes all our meals including snacks and gelatos! We didn’t go to a lot of tourists spots and museums with entrance fees except maybe in Rome and also in Versailles. We only did 1 paid tour which is the one in Siena, San Gimignano and Chianti Hills but the rest is DIY.
You can find cheap meals around EUR 5 to 10 but if you really want to experience France and Italy do get the plate of the day. A good meal with good wine is around EUR 13-15. You can also share meals cause they really do big servings! Water costs around EUR .50-2.
If you can, do not eat near main tourists areas or spots. The good restaurants are almost always just a street away from these spots.
Oh yeah, you can drink from the tap in France and Italy.
Here’s the breakdown of the budget:
Hope this helps you plan your trip!
I’ll be posting more details about each destination in the next few articles.
For now, you can find me in Instagram @lencaccam for some random trips and daily musings! Ciao!
This was purely vacation, no work! 🙂