Monday 1 October 2018

Visa Process for Spain - Detailed Review

Visa is one of the most important aspect to be covered while one plan for an overseas travel. Schengen visa is required to visit any European country. For our euro trip, our stay was for 10 days in Spain and 5 days in France, hence our port of entry was Spain and it is considered to be the most stringent country in terms of approving visitor visa. Also the duration granted is usually a month or less. One must apply for visa at least 40 days prior to the travel start date. Usually the visa is granted in a week's time, however it may take up to 15 days or more in case any document is missed or more information is sought from the applicant. One can refer to the official website - Schengen Visa Info
However I shall be listing the required details below

List of Documents to apply for Schengen Visa - Port of Entry - Spain
  1. Forms
  • Application Form - Either filled with blue pen or printed online. Must bear the original signature of the document. Must carry 2 copies of the duly filled application form
  • Authorization Form - Duly signed by the applicant
  • Declaration Form - Duly signed by the applicant.
      2. Photographs -
  • 3 Recent photographs, Size 4.5cm * 3.5cm
  • 80% focus on face and ears should be visible
  • White background
  • Not more than 6 months old
      3. Cover Letter from the Applicant - This letter must include purpose and date of travel. Also it must include the details of all the family members accompanying.

      4. NOC from the Company (wherever the applicant is currently employed) - Should include the details of the employee start date, title and leave duration.

      5. Travel Ticket - To and Fro from the home country.
      6. Travel Issuance - Issued by Insurance company as per EU guidelines. Valid for at-least 15 days post the date of return to India. It must have minimum coverage of 30,000 Euros or 50,000 $ and posses sworn declaration of travel insurance signed by the applicant.

      7. Hotel Booking for all days of the trip - Hotel for all travel dates must be covered.

      8. Pan Card copy

      9. Salary Slip for last 6 months - Original Salary Slips will be considered.

     10. Income Tax returns for last 3 years (ITR-V)

     11. One year or at least 6 months personal bank statement with the original sign and stamped from the bank. (Online bank statements are not acceptable) - One must have at-least balance of  5 Lakhs or more.

     12. Passport -
  • Valid for at-least 3 months beyond the stay in Spain with 2 blank pages.
  • Photocopies of all pages of the current passport. (Photocopies of blank pages should also be taken)
  • Carry Old Passport if any. Photocopy of old passport is not required.
Additional Documents for Honeymoon Purpose -
  1. Photographs and Wedding card from both the sides
  2. Income tax return (ITR - V) for last 3 years
  3. Pan Card copy
  4. One year or at least 6 months personal bank statement with the original sign and stamped from the bank. (Online bank statements are not acceptable) - One must have at-least balance of  5 Lakh or more.
After ensuring that all the documents are ready, one can take appointment for the BLS Spain visa application center. Visit the official website - Visa Appointment. Appointment can be taken online and payment needs to be done in person in the center. Post document collection, one will be directed to the finger print collection area. Once the finger prints are taken, your photograph would be clicked (no smile, ears visible and no head gears). Post that you may leave the center and would be notified via the SMS (if opted) for passport collection. The individual has to go in person for document collection from 4-5PM only else you may choose the courier service with additional fees.

Important Points
  • Courier Charges - Rs 350 per passport
  • SMS Charges - Rs 81 per passport
  • Please ensure to fill in correct information while booking an appointment. In case you have entered incorrect name or passport number or any other detail, you will not be able to change later and have to take a fresh appointment
  • One cannot take appointment for the same day as the slots will be grayed out for the individual.
  • However you may call at the BLS center and may ask them to book on your behalf. Would recommend not to go that route as they always suggest Premium Lounge (Rs 2000 per person) whereas it is approx Rs 5700 for the normal slot (which is to be paid at the BLS center). To add they do create panic as well and would try convincing hard for your to end up booking the premium lounge. Beware !
  • To add, never take help from as they would charge hefty and not even review your documents properly. And anyways the individual has to go on his own to the BLS center. Will be writing next post as a detailed review of 
Should you have any queries with regards to filing the application form, feel free to write and we shall revert at the earliest.

Happy Reading and Happy Traveling!

Monday 24 September 2018

Madrid, Spain - 3 Days itinerary - Travel Tips

Hola Friends !!!

Madrid - the city of bear and strawberry tree, was indeed our first destination in Europe. It is the capital city of Spain and also known for its political, economic and cultural center. Madrid lies on the river Manzanares and we were lucky to book our hotel right across the river. We stayed at Hotel NH Ribera del Manzanares for 3 nights and had a gala time. Weather was nice and we enjoyed every bit while exploring this city. From history to magic, croissants to chocolates, cathedrals to palaces, this city had it all. Great place for shoppers as well.

Day 1 - 23rd August
We arrived at the Madrid Barajas airport at 08:30 PM after a 14 hour long flight, but I was still an enthu cutlet. The feel of being in a distant land cheers me up against all odds. Quickly grabbed our luggage we approached the information desk in order to buy a SIM card but alas majority of the shops were almost shut and we just managed to book a cab via the airport wifi. The drive to the hotel was approx 30 minutes (charged €30) and I liked the silent streets, greenery around, graffiti on the walls, uphill and downhill roads, heavily lit underpasses and a chilly breeze. My dream of euro trip had come true and while I was still dreaming we reached our hotel. After a quick check-in we dozed off to sleep.

Hotel NH Madrid Ribera del Manzanares

Front View from the Hotel - River Manzanares

Day 2 - 24th August
After a sumptuous breakfast, I was all dolled up to explore the city. We left at around 11 AM and walked directly to the nearest metro station “Piramidies”. We quickly got our tourist pass for 2 days and moved to our first destination - Royal Palace Of Madrid. A regal palace with more than 2000 rooms and armoury, it is the largest palace in Europe by floor area. Awestruck by its majestic views and incredible beauty we spent approx 2 hours learning the Spanish history. Entry charges are 10€ per adult and it may vary if you choose other options like audio guide or a guided tour. Sharing moments captured from this place.

Royal Palace of Madrid

Awestruck by the beauty!

Map - Royal Palace

Detailed Guided Map - Royal Palace

Interior View - Architecture at its best!

Ticket Receipt - Front Side

Ticket Receipt - Back Side

Post this we headed towards the Puerta del Sol on foot and explored little shops that were round the streets. Grabbed our quick lunch from Burger King on the way and also picked up some grapes and apples from the famous San Miguel Market on the way. It is one of the best food markets I have ever been to and every corner filled with rich essence of Spanish cuisine. Walking straight from there we reached Puerta del Sol- one of the busiest public squares of the city. We spotted a huge Vodafone store and we ran to grab a sim. There were lot of package options and we chose a plan that was valid for 10 days with free browsing of google maps. It costed us 25€ with unlimited local calls, Internet 3GB and a call balance of 5€. Post this we were much relieved as the easiest way to navigate is through google maps and we were struggling to understand directions from paper map till now due to lack of internet. πŸ˜“πŸ˜“ After our cell phone was fixed we jumped out to explore the square. The famous statue of the bear and the strawberry tree was beaming bright in the sunlight. It is the centre of the radial network of the Spanish roads. The kilometro cero is a plaque on the ground near the post office and it is the symbolic centre of Spain. We also spotted the famous clock that marks the traditional eating of Twelve grapes and the beginning of the new year. Sharing couple of pictures from this location. Later we proceeded back to our hotel, had dinner and dozed off.

San Miguel Market - The best food market known so far!

Puerta del Sol, Madrid

Iconic - The Bear and The Strawberry Tree !

Guess - Real Beggar or a Statue 😝 

Day 3 - 25th August
Today we started our day with a visit to the famous El Retiro Park. However we stumbled upon the famous Museo del Prado before reaching the park. Neither me nor my husband are huge fan of art and we decided to skip this museum. We walked ahead to the famous park and it was filled with beautiful flowers and trees. Spent some time exploring the park and headed towards the famous crystal palace. It's a glass and metal structure built inside the park. Entry is free of cost and we had a quick walk of the palace. After enjoying the flora around we exited the park and boarded bus to the famous Plaza Mayor. It's a central plaza with many eating joints. Our hungry stomachs were satiated here. We roamed around the Spanish streets, hopped on and off the buses and went back to our hotel for a quick nap. Our evening was quite eventful as we had tickets for the famous football match at the Wanda stadium (La Liga). Had evening tea cakes and coffee, while we waited for our Uber. Reached stadium almost on time and we had our dream come true, one more tick from the bucket list! First live match of my lifetime and trust me the feeling is beyond that words can express. Sharing a link that captured this precious moment.

Couple of clicks from the places we visited -  

Museo del Prado 

Parque del Buen Retiro, Madrid

Palacio de Cristal del Retiro

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Love Locked! πŸ’–πŸ’ž

La Liga - Wanda Stadium, Madrid

Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, Madrid

Day 4 - 26th August
The last day of our stay in Madrid. We woke up around 9, quickly finished our lunch and left for the airport as we had a connecting flight to Barcelona. I did pen down my experience with the vueling airlines. Loved Madrid to the core and would visit again if given a chance.

Commute/ Transport Options - 

There are ample of ways to commute via the bus, train and taxis, however the most convenient way is to buy the tourist pass. It is applicable on all buses, metros and trains. You may also use Uber and My Taxi app for quick commute. We used both the apps twice while we stayed in Madrid and the rest of the journey was We bought the tourist pass for 3 days and helped us a lot in commute.

Travel Tourist Pass

Metro Map- Madrid

Important Points -
  • Majority of the shops at the airport shut by 9 PM. Make sure you have the required information prior to reach your hotel. 
  • Counters to avail tourist pass etc. for commute are shut as well. Either buy passes in advance or  push out the buy to the following day.
  • Do download google translate app as it would help in conversation while people aren’t very fluent in English.
Happy Reading and Happy Traveling. Do leave in your comments and experiences.

Friday 21 September 2018

La Tomatina, Spain (Review & Safety Tips) ... Experience of a Lifetime!

Hola! Greetings from Spain returned ! πŸ˜‰

Spain had been a great host and I loved every bit of it. Great architecture, blooming balconies, chocolates loaded, bicycle rides on spanish streets, sweetness of macarons, I was completely overwhelmed. A trip to be remembered for lifetime, the high point being a part of the La Tomatina festival! I hope you remember glimpses from the famous Hrithik Roshan starer - "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara". Thought of penning down my experience for all those who may be excited for splashes of sauciness in the coming years.

#La-Tomatina2018 #Madness #TomatoFestival #Bunol #SpainDiaries #Sauciness

LaTomatina was held on 29th August this year and we were a part of this festival. We had booked 1 day package from Barcelona via Stoke Travel (Charges - 95Euro for 1 day package per person). Ever since we booked, i was bouncing off the walls. Stoke Travel is indeed one of the finest tour operators that we experienced so far in the foreign lands. We had our itinerary defined well in time and also instruction mailers were received well in advance containing some crucial tips to follow during the festival. They own a pretty responsive help desk, which can be contacted through emails or calls and your queries are resolved timely. For booking you may visit Stoke Travel here
Also to highlight we were little confused between and Stoke Travel, but honestly we made the finest choice by booking with stoke as team was nowhere to be seen at the pick up point for almost 1 hour and the tourists who made bookings through them were jittery by then, not exaggerating - almost in tears. They thought for once been cheated until the team arrived. Highly unorganized, no less than a nightmare... what a pity sight!

#StokeTravel - Barcelona the city that never sleeps but sometimes passes out!

Finally the D-day arrived. I was all bright eyed and bushy tailed standing at the meeting point (Hard Rock Cafe, Placa de Catalunya, Barcelona) in the middle of the night (2AM) πŸ˜‰. The team arrived and the entire crowd was split into 2 groups. After quick briefings of the do's and dont's, we got our hand tags that were to be worn for the entire festival duration. (To be identified as Stoke Traveler). One could opt for paella and unlimited beer/ sangria at the base camp with additional 10 Euros. Few folks also opted for Stoke travel t-shirts with slogans flashing - "Don't Keep Calm - It's Tomatina". Our buses departed at 3AM and we were off to the port city of Spain, Valencia. From there we further went ahead to Bunol, the real smashing ground and reached around 09:30 AM in the morning. City was flocked with thousands of people coming from all over the world to enjoy the tomato madness for next couple of hours. We quickly got one cell phone pouch and two swimwear goggles to protect our eyes from the tomato juice and started walking towards the main street of action. We walked down our way to the pole wherein the ham was hung. People tried endlessly to grab it and start the show, but alas! All in vain. Finally the festival started with a gun shot at 11AM. Trucks loaded with tomatoes started moving across the streets and the tomato fight was in full swing. We witnessed 6 trucks that passed by, it was indeed a full entertainment for next 1 hour. Loved every moment of it. It ended at 12 with another gunshot, post which people started heading back The roads were filled with tomato debris by then and Bunol was painted in Red! Roads flooded with tomato puree all over, this sauciness turned thousands of strangers into friends in just an hour. People laid down on the streets, enjoying the puree, splashed water while the city council started the cleaning process immediately after 12 noon. As we headed back, locals provided water from hoses to clean the tomatoes from our body. But trust me you are all soaked up and it definitely needs a shower to clear every bit of it. Skin felt fresh, all due thanks to the tomato facial 😊

We reached back at the spot where in our bus has dropped us. Pulled in our change bag and literally changed under a towel ... looks like I got expert in that 😜Post that we were taken to our campsite in Putzol which was an hour drive and we had unlimited sangria to ourselves and some nice food. There was a beach nearby and we basked in the sun for about 2-3 hours. Later we boarded our buses at 6PM and bid good bye to this beautiful city and reached Barcelona at midnight. A total 24 hours journey with absolute strangers in a foreign land has now become a sweet memory to be cherished forever... Indeed a dream come true!

Some quick tips -

  • Show up early and fetch a good spot as it will be crowded later
  • Wear old clothes as later you would need to trash them
  • Carry a set of fresh clothes and a towel
  • Wear shoes instead of flip-flops, will save you from slipping
  • Do not bring anything with you- Prefer empty handed
  • Wear eye shades (swim goggles) to protect your eyes from the tomato juice. It burns!
  • Carry a waterproof pouch for your cell phone (to click pics during the festival).
  • Always squeeze the tomatoes before throwing else it hurts badly
  • Stay Hydrated at all times
  • Beware of shirt rippers!
  • Preferably wear white t-shirts ... they paint well in red.
  • Know your bus drop point and remember the bus number.

Clip from the La Tomatina Festival 2018

Hope you can contain your excitement until next year to be a part of Tomatina! Happy Traveling!

Monday 10 September 2018

Emirates Airlines - Flight Experience and Review

Euro Trip, all started with my Emirates flight. All the way from New Delhi to Madrid via Dubai (23rd August 2018, 10 AM local time). We had a halt of 1 and a half hours and that was enough for me to scan all the shops ;) All tickled pink with the thoughts of exploring Spain and France, I just could not wait to board the flight at the airport. While Emirates owns its place in the premium category airlines, it quite stood by it as well. Overall experience was quite good. Will be highlighting the details in my post.

  • Flight Check-in Experience – Excellent – We had already done the web check-in and were directed to the baggage drop counters. The boarding passes were issued and the bags were dropped.

  • Boarding and Departure – Excellent – Boarding started timely and the takeoff was smooth. Had to change our planes in Dubai. The whole transit was quite easy and well navigated. The arrival at Madrid airport was on time.

  • In-flight Experience (Seating, Legroom, Crew Hospitality, Cleanliness) – Excellent - Seating was comfortable. There were cushions provided as well along with a good quality blanket. Legroom was spacious and one could move easily between the seats. Crew was quite friendly and helpful. Cleanliness was well maintained both inside the plane as well as the washrooms.

  • Menu (Food and Beverage) – Good. They had both vegan and non-veg options. Plenty to choose from the beverage section too. Food was tasty and hot tea was served (unlike my other flight experience).

  • In-flight Entertainment – Good. There were lot of movies, TV shows and games etc. Both international and regional options are present. In short a full entertainment package. Headphones work well and sound quality is great too.

Happy reading and happy travelling!

Sunday 9 September 2018

Vueling Airlines - Flight Experience and Review

While I am still struggling to get away with the Jet-lag and choosing my favorite pictures from the trip, I pen down my second flight experience. This time it was Vueling airlines and I traveled from Madrid to Barcelona (26th August 2018, Local Time - 1500 hrs, VY 1500). While there are lot of travel options to move across Europe, I preferred flight for this transit as I was running short on time and had to reach Barcelona the same evening. Detailed reviews are below -

  • Flight Check-in Experience - Excellent. The person available at the counter was quite warm and helped me and my husband get adjacent seats. To add, she even suggested if the cabin bags could be sent to the baggage drop belt. We were fine with the approach, as that left us free handed to shop at the airport ;). I was glad that she spoke English (We struggled to articulate while we were in Madrid :P) She even guided us the directions towards the gate (H, J, K). Finalized gate number appeared just 20 minutes before the departure time, which created a panic situation for me.
  • Boarding and Departure - Pathetic. Plane arrived an hour late than the scheduled time and the boarding was done in haste. Although the pilot did make up for the delay, we still arrived 20 minutes late than the scheduled arrival time at Barcelona airport.
  • In-flight Experience (Seating, Legroom, Crew Hospitality, Cleanliness) - Good, apart from the fact that the crew was highly disinterested while safety briefing during the take off. Legroom space was just ok. Seats were clean and comfortable to recline as well. Air hostess was available as and when called for help. Plane (washrooms as well) was quite clean and well managed.
  • Menu (Food and Beverage) - Good. There were variety of options to choose. (Both Vegan and Non-Veg).
  • Luggage Receiving Experience at Barcelona Airport - Pathetic. There was no announcement with regards to the belt number for collecting luggage. None from the crew guided to the correct direction. We were de-boarded at one corner of the BCN airport and waited clueless for the luggage for about an hour. Later few passengers (who knew Spanish) went ahead and checked with the airport authorities and we were later moved to another corner of the Airport (The real place for arrivals) to receive our luggage. The entire process took more than 1 and half hour before we finally left airport. I was glad that we received our stuff while few passengers had even reported missing luggage. Phew !
  • Value for Money - Yes, to some extent! Just in case you are not in a time crunch situation and have rest of the day at ease, you may want to travel by this flight as the prices are cheaper than the others. :) Just an added risk of losing luggage ;)

Happy Reading and Happy Traveling!

Friday 7 September 2018

Flight Review - Air India - Horrible Experience !

Hope you are doing well and enjoying the monsoons. Delhi is absolutely flooded, almost sailing every day, I feel lucky to have skipped couple of such days while I was off on a vacation. ;) I am recently back from my Euro trip, all charged up with energy, almost turned into an enthu-cutlet! Next few days will be busy in writing blogs around the places I had visited and will be sharing pictures as well. Hope you all enjoy and gather some tips and tricks from my travelogue. To begin with, I am penning down the flight reviews. 

Air India Flight Review - Horrible Experience

I had traveled from Paris to New Delhi on 4th Sep flight ( departure time - 10 PM , Paris local time) and the experience was below average. In order words I can term it as horrible. It was a long distance flight and I certainly expected better comfort from Air India. Details are below.

Recline - Horrible. The push button to recline the seat was missing and I traveled the entire 12 hour journey in upright position. On informing the crew, they asked us to find an empty seat and shift instead of helping us out themselves. Irony is that they did not even bother to take a note of the seat number so that the issue can get fixed for future travelers. Nevertheless, I wasn't lucky to shift either as people slept on empty seats by that time. Lots of passengers faced issue wherein the recline was not getting fixed in any position. 
Legroom space - Good, one can easily move in and out
Seat comfort - Pathetic. Stained and no cushions in the seat.
Foot Rest - Bad condition. They were free and could not be maintained at required height.

Food - Below Average. Cold food was served which wasn’t tasty either. It was hard to gulp down the food. Croissant shared in the morning were soggy. Even the water shared for tea was absolutely cold.

Hospitality - Pathetic. Air hostess was quite cold and even on raising alarm calls, they would not come at your seat. One has to eventually get up and reach pantry area to get the required help. Food was served in haste and there was no gap in between the welcome drink and the food served. It appeared that they had to wind up everything quickly in order to sleep, so dump stuff as quickly as they could.

Flight check-in and travel time - Excellent. We reached 15 min early than the arrival time and also the check-in experience at Paris Airport was good.

In flight Entertainment - Average. Wide variety of movies were there however the head phones were distorted. Majority of them had voice cracking issues and low sound quality.

Hope the above review helps when you decide to choose your flight. Happy Travelling!

Neemrana - Delhi Weekend Gateway

With the onset of holiday season, I thought of penning down my Neemrana experience, one of the favorite weekend gateways from Delhi. Neemra...