The UK & I

Believe it or not, I started drafting a blog post about my “future” dream trip to the UK waaay back in 2011. Back then, it was blank (how could I write? I haven’t even been there yet!) and it was titled “It’s been a long time coming…” Haha. It’s not surprising, though, because as early as age 7, I’ve already dreamed of going to the UK. Some dream of having the ultimate Euro trip (traveling to countries covered by the Schengen visa), but me, though I still want to do that, my priority has always been the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland through and through! So if you’re wondering why I spent almost half a month in the UK (to be honest, bitin pa nga!) and didn’t go to other European countries (with the exception of the Republic of Ireland), then obviously we’re not really close. Wahahahaha! Simply put that those who really know me know that the UK has always been the apple of my “travel” eye and if there’s anyone who deserves to go there, that’s me! me!! me!!! Pag-agawan na ng iba ang France, Spain, etc. Basta ang UK, sa’kin at sa’kin lamang!!! Lakas lang maka-#Brexit noh?! Mwahahahahaha! But yes, as early as age 7, I claimed it, then I finally went, and I sure as heck “conquered” not just the United Kingdom, but also Ireland! This is the very draft I started almost five years ago, and I’m so happy I’m now finally able to click “publish”!!! 😀

So the UK and I. The “I” can literally mean ME, but it can also refer to “Ireland.” 😛 You see, waaay back in history (even before Magellan landed in the Philippines! Haha!), there was no United Kingdom — they were “divided” kingdoms. Back then, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales were all independent states (or “kingdoms,” headed by monarchs). I’m not going to lecture you about their history per se, but let’s just say that somewhere along the way, the four became “united” into one country — hence the United Kingdom. BUT somewhere along the way again, Ireland became divided, and so now there’s Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK; Belfast is its capital) and there’s the Republic of Ireland (which is an independent country and requires a different visa; Dublin is its capital).

So technically, I’ve been to only two countries: the UK and Ireland. But trust me, if you’ve been there, you can easily distinguish the different characteristics of each “kingdom” that it’s not fair to write about the UK as a single country. (Plus! A week after I left, #Brexit happened. Go figure.) 😉

Now that you know that, you can further understand why I’ll be writing about England, Scotland, and Ireland separately — and why I still have more reasons to go back: I still haven’t been to Northern Ireland and Wales! Told yah, half a month wasn’t enough for the UK alone! Tapos ine-expect pa ng iba diyan na pumunta ako sa ibang European countries?! Kayo kaya ang pumunta at gumastos! ‘Nuff said. Haha!

Anywaaay, here’s a summary of the things you’ll be reading on this blog in the next few months (monthsss talaga! HA HA HA):

The UK & I

June 2016. Buckingham Palace, London, England, UK

ENGLAND

London

Big Ben

Did you know that this is actually called the Elizabeth Tower (prior to 2012, the Clock Tower)? Big Ben refers to the bell of the clock but not the tower itself.

York

Yorkminster

Trivia: some scenes from the Harry Potter movies were shot here at Yorkminster!

Stratford-upon-Avon

Shakespeare's grave

That’s the grave of William Shakespeare, one of the greatest writers of all time lang naman. 😛

Oxford

Christchurch

Two words: OXFORD UNIVERSITY.

Wiltshire

Stonehenge

One UNESCO World Heritage Site off my bucket list, more to gooo! #Stonehenge

Bath

Bath

One of the Roman baths (guess you know where the place’s name came from! haha).

SCOTLAND

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

Mary, Queen of Scots sure was lucky to have this view when she was still alive!

Glencoe (the Scottish Highlands)

Glencoe (the Scottish Highlands)

One word: BREATHTAKING! (This was also where we passed to go to Loch Ness…)

IRELAND

Dublin

Dublin Castle

Look, it’s the Dublin Castle! Hehehe!

The Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Ever heard of the lyrics, “where the fields are green, to see you once again… #mylove”??? THEY WERE RIGHT! Hahaha!

And this was just a teaser, so stay tuned for more!
Besides, when it comes to the UK and me, mahaba-habang usapan lagi yun noh!!!

Mika xx

How to Apply for a U.K. (Tourist) Visa in Manila

How to Apply for a U.K. Visa in Manila

It’s no secret that I have an upcoming trip to the U.K. Some may think that I’m bragging, but to be honest, I’m just REALLY, REALLY, REALLY EXCITED!!!!!!! My family, boyfriend, and close friends know this. As an Anglophile, I’ve always dreamed of going to the U.K. Heck, I’ve dreamed about this trip since I was seven years old! Yes, almost 20 years in the making!!! I’ve even expressed my Anglophilia on this blog many times, two of which are this post, AND this post where I wrote the following words:

Honestly, I want to go to only two European countries: ITALY and of course — being your resident Anglophile and all that — THE UNITED KINGDOM. 😉 If I’m able to go to the rest, I won’t complain! But I’ll just consider those as my “bonus.” For me, Italy and the U.K. are my “all or nothing” when it comes to traveling to the EU (yep, even the Eiffel Tower takes only third place!). But, and a BIG BUT at that, I told my sister that if we’re going to those aforementioned countries, we have to go to FlorenceMilan, PisaVerona, Venice, and Rome ; England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Uh-huh, syempre the whole Italian and English package dapat noh!!! 😛

Based on that alone, you already pretty much have an idea where I’m planning my next great adventure! Haha! But yep, I wrote that way back in 2012. Come to think of it, this blog itself is U.K.-inspired! Where else did you think I got the idea of “Lady”? The British Aristocracy, of course! *ahem, ahem* So to be honest, if you think that I’m being mayabang or something (hahaha, a friend of mine could relate!), it’s none of my business. My true friends know that I’m NOT, anyway (marami rin siguro sa kanila ang nauna nang nakapunta dun, so they can relate!). In fact, I know that they’re truly, madly, deeply happy for me!!! Mwahahahahaha 😛

Rambling aside, let’s get down to business. If you’re a Filipino and you’re planning to go to a country outside of Southeast Asia (SEA), chances are, you’re required to have a visa. As of this year (2016), Filipinos can travel to only 61 countries visa-free (and some of those countries don’t even have direct flights from Manila, so you might still need to apply for a non-visa-free country’s transit visa! nyek!). Someday, I’ll be able to blog more about my firsthand experience on the visa processes of other countries. I’ll get there — WE will get there — someday… For now, I can only give you my firsthand experience on applying for a U.K. Tourist Visa in my hometown, Manila, Philippines! 😀

FIRST, complete your documents (original and photocopies). I’ll divide this into two categories: the required and the others.

The required documents are only three actually:

  • application form (more on this later)
  • valid passport (for at least 6 months from date of travel to the U.K.)
  • 2 photos (45mm high by 35mm wide, with cream or grey background) — your local Kodakan probably knows this already, so don’t worry!

The others, or what you call your supporting documents. ALL SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS ARE REQUIRED TO BE PHOTOCOPIED. Basically, these are the things that will help you “convince” a consular officer that you have strong ties to the Philippines  (a.k.a. hindi ka magtatago sa Inglatera dahil may babalikan ka sa Pilipinas!) and that you have enough funds for your trip. Since the British Embassy in Manila is document-dependent when it comes to their visa applications (unlike other embassies that require personal appearance/interview), I believe it’s crucial that you really don’t lack any of the following:

  • proof of previous travel (i.e., passport stamps)
  • bank statements or payslips (for the last 6 months)
  • certificate of employment (or proof of business/self-employment, whichever applies to you)
  • booking details/itinerary (it’s not really advisable to book your airfare/accommodation without having a visa first, so make sure that your bookings are not yet final to the point that you can’t refund them anymore)
  • others (any other document that you think might be helpful to your visa application)

SECOND, accomplish the application form. In order to do so, you need to create an account first from this site. Once you already have an account, log in and then start filling it out. It’s really not that complicated. The only heads-up I can give you is to remember your travel history for the last decade! Yes, for the last 10 years! So start backtracking those old passports and their stamps as early as possible…

THIRD, pay for the non-refundable visa fee. The short-stay visit visa is GBP85 or around PHP6,300 (as of February-March 2016). That’s usually valid for six months. The other visa types are priced differently, so better check the U.K. Government’s official site about visas for more info on those. Also, you might be needing a credit card for this. I don’t think they have a bank deposit option (or maybe I just overlooked that one).

FOURTH, book an appointment (through VFS Global). Once you accomplish the form and pay for the visa, you will also see the option there for booking an appointment. However, know that the appointment you’re making is for submitting your documents to VFS Global. VFS Global is “hired” by British Embassy Manila (and other embassies) to collect documents of visa applicants so that applicants don’t need to go to the Embassy itself.

FIFTH, appear at VFS on your appointment date (and have your photo taken and fingerprints scanned). Our appointment was the earliest (7AM), so this was pretty fast. From the time the doors opened until they closed as we exited the building, it took us around 30 minutes max! The only heads-up I can give you are about the TRAVEL TIME and ADDITIONAL FEES. (And oh, the photo they will take using their webcam is the one that will be used on your visa! The 2 copies you will submit are for your application form only. I didn’t know this before, so obvious naman sa visa photo ko noh?! Hahaha! So yeah, make sure you look your best during that time! Anyway…)

VFS Global’s office is in Makati, so plan your routes ahead especially if you’re going to be stuck in the “morning rush hour.”

The additional fees, on the other hand, are optional and only offered for more convenience, so it’s up to you if you’ll avail them. You’ll be asked if you want your passport (and original documents) delivered to you for PHP500, and if you want to receive text updates of your visa status for PHP150. To be honest, I paid for both (a total of PHP650), but I haven’t received any text update — not even one! Hay! So yeah, the only convenience there was the delivery of my passport (with the visa, of course!), right at my doorstep! (But if you don’t want to pay a fee for the courier delivery, you can also opt to pick up your passport at VFS Global. Just coordinate with them).

SIXTH, wait for your passport (hopefully, with the visa!). The normal processing time is 15 business days, but I received mine just after 10 days from the time of our appointment date. YAY!!!

SEVENTH AND LAST (but definitely not the least), ENJOY YOUR U.K. TRIP! But that’s another blog entry altogether! So until then! Hahaha!


Have you tried applying for a U.K. visa in Manila or elsewhere? How was it?
Let me know what you think! 🙂