Pre-Travel (P1) – Trip to Europe
Yes, am still here. No, I didn’t disappear into the void. I’ve just been busy with work (usual excuse 😉). But that ‘being busy’ got me an opportunity for a short trip to Europe. So no complaints whatsoever. So that leads me to this post. I decided to add a new category to my blog. To be honest am optimistic here, assuming I will visit more places to write about.
But hey you have to start somewhere.
I have no idea how to write a travelogue, but thought to give it a try. I am going to start with the prep before my trip. Future posts will focus on the places I visited etc. (Hopefully)
This was my first trip abroad, so naturally, I was a bit anxious about everything. Thankfully I already had a valid passport. So I only needed to figure out the Visa stuff.
My office gave all the resources to get the Visa, but I still had to figure out the nitty gritty stuff myself. The primary visit was to Germany. But we wanted to see if we can visit at least one other country nearby (And we did. More on that later)
So first thing on the list
Applying for the Visa
We pre-applied on the VFS Global before we even started looking at what to fill out for the application. Apparently, it is really difficult to get a slot. I suggest, getting a slot first. And then keep checking everyday evening after 6 pm. Sometimes random slots open up and you can pre-pone or postpone (if you are lucky)
Then we proceeded to get all the documents for the Visa Application. Now the Visa application, that’s is a very weird site. You cannot save it online. Each time you fill in something, you have to save it as a JSON. Next time you fill it, you upload the same file again and continue where you left off. It is easy enough. But you need to have the file handy if you plan on filling it in as and when you get the data.
Adding the Business Visa checklist here: Checklist
- Specific Schengen Visa dimension photo – I hate it when you have to take photos without glasses, I look like a zombie in every single one of them
- Covering letter, invitation letter – All those I got from my office. But had to run behind each to get it attested etc
- Travel Insurance (from Thomas Cook, around 2k for 15 days)
Pretty much everything on the list is straightforward. It just may take time to get it all ready. That’s why booking a slot and then filling out the application helps. Otherwise, you waste a whole lot of precious time.
Our Company had a tie-up with JetSave tours so they double-checked all the stuff before the submission.
I was a bit apprehensive about this part. But it went smoothly. Except for a slight issue in the accepting the application part. The signature on my passport differs slightly from my current signature by the shape of a dot 😂. Well, I did get my passport right out of College. Some mild variations have happened since then. But it was ok, the kind officer, asked me to re-sign everything again. Visa fees were around 10k.
Post this was the biometrics scan where they took scans of my fingers from both hands.
And that was it. I had to wait approx 11 days I guess to get the visa on hand. But it felt great to finally see something on my passport for the first time.
The next prep was mainly for winter. Of all the time in the world, we decided to go during the main winter season. And I have never been anywhere with a temperature lower than 13-15 deg C. So obviously I was lacking in the clothing department.
I was suggested to get thermals, sweaters, caps, scarf, gloves, woollen socks, waterproof shoes and a warm jacket. I borrowed the jacket from a friend who was in Paris before. So that was one expense off my list.
The rest? Well, I bought thermals and a sweater from Mynthra. And all the rest of the stuff except shoes from Eastern Stores in Commercial Street. They have good customer service over there, you just need to tell them where you are going and they help you out.
Buying in layers helps. Offices usually maintain a pretty good normal temperature. So if you wear thicker clothing instead of layering up, you will feel unbearably warm. With layering, you just take off the top layers if it gets warmer.
Now as to what I could have done better
- I bought woollen gloves and not waterproof ones. It’s fine as long as you don’t go dipping your hand in the snow. I am also having a glove which is smartphone supportive would have helped so much when taking photos. I had to take my hand out of the glove each time I wanted to take photos 😑
- Didn’t have a hoodie type of jacket/overcoat. It will give double the protection if it gets too chilly.
So I ended up taking ICICI’s Forex card, and a VISA (One Card) and Mastercard (ICICI) Credit cards (it has lower forex rates). And Amex card for office transactions. I didn’t take much cash, I just took around 150 Euros. (Which I didn’t use up completely. Most places accepted card payments).
Make sure the cards you take are international. And check out the charges for taking cash from them abroad before you travel. Also, see if any of your cards have free airport lounge access. This will get you free food and time to relax in most airports. Some cards only have this for domestic airport lounges. But some have it for the international lounge as well. This was new information for me.
I had copies of my Vaccination certificate, passport, visa, travel insurance, tickets and hotel reservations on hand. Although it wasn’t used much, I think it is better to keep at least this much on hand.
For the vaccination certificate, it needs to have a passport number on it.
We travelled by Emirates. So for the onward journey, we had a 25 kg limit and the return had a 30 kg limit. And the best part, they don’t restrict the weight to 1 bag alone. Only the overall weight counts.
Also, I stuck some stickers and tied some strings on my check-in bag. That helped a lot when I had to search for my bag.
I guess everyone has their own checklist for travel. I am not going to list out mine. I will just point out a few key things, which helped me.
- Medicines for usual ailments
- Travel size (Soap, toothpaste) – I literally cut my soap into smaller pieces and took a smaller soapbox
- Deodorants and other stuff which is about to expire or will get over soon
I planned to throw away the about-to-get-over/expire stuff on the last day of my stay there so that I can save up on baggage again.
This is important. I am not kidding. Make sure your primary sim which has the 2FA for your main emails and banks have roaming enabled. I suffered cause of the 2FA part of my Gmail and had well, that’s another story.
I took Airtel’s International Roaming pack for 30 days. It was around 3999 Rs. Just before I left, they introduced this plan. So I was lucky in a way. You can take the plan ahead of time. It activates when you land outside your country. Enable Roaming on your phone and put a limit on the data transfer per day. Just in case you have a lower data plan.
But to be honest. Most places had free wifi: Airports, Hotel, Hostel, offices etc. But you need it to check maps etc if you get stuck somewhere. Also, do any bank-related work only on your data and never on public wifi. You never know…
My colleague bought a lot of cup noodles, biscuits, ready-to-make food and other snacks. This proved useful cause when we were visiting places sometimes there was no time to search for good places to eat food. Also, food is kind of expensive (from the perspective of Indian Currency), especially in Swiss. For a normal meal, you will have to pay as less as 5 Euro up to 11 Euro. 2-3 Euro food is more at a snack level. This is only based on the few places I saw.
When you go as a group, buying fewer food options and sharing is the better option. Especially when you didn’t know how much quantity it would turn out to be.
For our personal trip, we planned and booked tickets on flixbus and in hostels ahead of time. Office-related stay and travel will be reimbursable ofcourse. But our personal visits etc would be from our own pockets. Booking early helped since ticket prices went up the closer we were to the travel dates.
The hostels were amazing. More on that in the upcoming posts.
Next post should be up within a few days. Writing this made me realize how much data there is to pull. And I am still exhausted I suppose.