• Travel Stories
  • How to Apply Tourist Visa for US

     

    Since I came back from my trip, a lot of people have been asking how I applied for a US tourist visa. It is known that a Filipino citizen must apply visa before permitted to enter the United States of America. To apply visa, it is important to prepare the necessary documents, pay the fees and have an appointment for an interview at the US embassy wherever you are based.

    So, how do you apply? Everything is done online. First, you need to determine your visa type. Next is complete the DS 160 Form. It is important to read the Guidelines for Completing the DS-160 Form. Once it is submitted online, no changes can be made. DS-160 number will be needed to book for the appointment. Once the visa and DS160 form is filled out, the visa fee must be paid. To pay the for the visa fee, there is the Bank and Payment Option page. A profile has to be created and receipt number will be needed to book for the visa appointment.

    Now you have to log in to the created profile with the same credentials you used to pay the visa fee. Once in the system, there will be a dashboard where the passport number, transaction number from the bank receipt and the 10-digit barcode number from the DS 160 confirmation page will be required.

    The last step will be to visit the US Embassy on the date and time of your visa interview. Once your application is approved, visa will be picked up at the US Embassy. You can check the website http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ph for more details.

    So maybe you will ask me how my interview experience was. It was somewhere in November 2014 when I had my interview for US tourist visa here in Oman. I had no definite plans of going to US as I know it is the hardest country to get a visa with. But knowing there is nothing to lose, I tried my luck.

    I came just on time for my interview just 30 minutes before my schedule time as they have advised.  I remember I was wearing a black dress, a good pair of blue sandals and my Longchamp bag which caught the attention of the lady guard before entering at the Embassy. She asked me if I am a flight attendant. It was funny coz almost all who had their interview were having the same bag as mine as the guard said.

    No electronic gadgets were allowed inside as well. As I entered the embassy, it seemed very quiet. As a walked through the hallway, I was thinking of what could possibly be the result of my interview. When I finally got in to the room where the interview was being held, there were only like 6 people sitting and patiently waiting for their turn. 2 Omanis, 4 expats but no Filipino was there except me.

    Since the room was small, you can observe what was going on during the interview. The only thing was you can’t hear them because there was a door that separates the ones waiting for the interview from the one being interviewed.  I must admit, I felt a bit nervous but my mind kept on saying I just need to answer whatever they will ask me and that’s it! I remembered, I just came from a quick out of the country trip and my mind was still flying from the good experience I had on my vacation. It was just my Mom who knew I will have my interview that time and I haven’t told anyone about it. I didn’t even ask any advice from anyone.  I thought to myself, whatever happens, I’m okay with it, and I’ll be okay with it. But the actual feeling of being there was mind boggling of what could possibly be asked during the interview. The only thing I prayed for was, hopefully the Consul who will interview me won’t give me a hard time. I brought my Bank Statement, Certificate of Employment and Insurance/Investment Policy as supporting documents.

    Then I had my turn. I smiled at him and greeted the Consul. You’re probably wondering what were the questions asked—mostly were the ones on the application form. The Consul asked what the purpose of my visit is, where I am working, if I have family living in the US and if my sister who is based in Oman had been to the US already. He also asked for the countries I have visited for the last 5 years. He checked the stamps of the countries on my passport. Did the consul ask for any documents? Yes, he checked the Bank Statement but other than he didn’t ask anything more.

    The last thing I remembered he told me was, ok just get your passport after 1 week. I was blankly staring at the Consul and my mind was trying to absorb what he was saying. Then he said, “Okay, your visa is approved but you should be back in Oman!” I told him, I will! When I was walking out of the interview room, I had a big smile on my face! I couldn’t express how happy I am that time!

    There you go; I got my 10-year tourist visa to the US!  I think if you are just being honest and will answer all the interview questions confidently, it is not impossible for the US visa to be in your hand.  But then again not all Consuls are the same. So the best way is to prepare yourself whatever the outcome will be. At least you tried!

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    Hello USA!
  • Travel Stories
  • Hiking the Hollywood Sign

     

    Hiking is one of the things I like to do. And it was my foremost plan that I’ll do when I get to US. But then my schedule was pretty tough visiting my relatives. Most of the time I was out of Los Angeles on weekend leaving me little time to do hiking. The nearest hiking area to my place was the Hollywood sign and so I did it one time.

    Prior to hiking, I did a little research on the route going to the Holly wood sign. There are quite number of trails to choose from- easy, moderate to difficult catering novice, adventurer and those who are very well conditioned. I decided to take the shortest trail going up since it was already late when I decided to do it. I took the Hollyridge trail for a 3.5 mile roundtrip hike that climbs 750 feet to reach the Hollywood sign.

    From my place Burbank, I took Uber car to take me to trailhead address: 3400N Beachwood Drive, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA. Yes I took Uber to save time in finding the area. In less than 30 minutes, I reached the hiking starting point. I was with my brother when I had my trekking. Don’t even forget to bring bottles of water in every hiking you do whether it is a short or long trail. A friendly reminder from yours truly.

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    Starting Point: Gate going Sunset Ranch

    The trek started at the top of Beachwood Drive. There is a gate going to the Sunset Ranch Horse Stable and you have to pass through it. The pave road from the gate was a bit steep but not that long and just before reaching the ranch, you have to turn right and you can see the sign board “Hollyridge Trail” where the start of the trail was. I saw some cars parked just before turning to the trail starting point but I am not sure whether hikers are allowed to park their cars out there.

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    Anyway, after 10minutes of walking, you can already reach a viewpoint of the Hollywood sign. A good place to take pictures. The trail was easy to follow, you will never get lost. There are quite numbers of hikers whom you will join eventually on the top from different trekking route. But the trail we took was near a ranch so there were some poops of the horses to watch out.

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    Once you reached the pave roads, look at the east for the great view of the Griffith Observatory. The road will eventually ascends to the north for a view over Burbank, the Verdugo Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains.

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    Once on top there is a fence that makes a separation where you can see the huge white letters of Hollywood sign, turn left up to the true summit. There you can see the beautiful view of Los Angeles. It took me almost 40 minutes to reach the peak with some stop in between to take pictures.

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    The view from the top

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    The trail was the easiest I guess going the Hollywood sign. If you are not the type who is physically fit but doesn’t want to miss this kind of adventure in Los Angeles, this trail is perfect for you. The scenic sight was worth every step but if you want some extra challenge then might check other routes as well. 

    Planning to visit Los Angeles? Book your stay with Agoda.com.

     

     

     

     

     

  • Travel Stories
  • What I did in Las Vegas

     

    My family had a short trip to Las Vegas from Los Angeles which coincide with my mom’s birthday. It took us 4.5 hours road trip to reach Las Vegas from Los Angeles, California. We checked in to Rio Hotel and from there we went to Market Street Café in California Hotel to meet my mom’s friend. It was difficult to find parking on that hotel, took us 30 minutes to find one that we almost gave up and thought we might just meet them the next morning. But just before leaving, luckily we got our space. We had our dinner there and tried their famous oxtail stew (Bulalo). The restaurant was quite famous for Asians especially for Filipinos. The line was long before you can a grab a sit. Then from there, we went straight to the hotel to have our rest.

     

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    Rio Hotel, place where we stayed

    Every hotel in Vegas has a casino section. We went down and tried to play. It was my mom who played the slot machine first and I was just watching because I don’t have any idea on how to play it. I tried to play too, taking my chances but yeah I was not that lucky enough. It is a policy in the casino for 20 years and below not to play on the casino so my youngest brother was just roaming around. But then a security approached us. I knew from that moment she will asked for the verification of my brother’s age as he still looks young but to my surprised the security asked not only for his ID but mine as well. The only thing I told the security was “Seriously do I look like 20 years old?” She said yes and asked for my ID. Haha! I showed my passport to her and she said ok, have fun! Haha.

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    Casino Section at Rio Hotel
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    The moment a security approached us to ask if we are of legal age to play at the casino

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    From there we proceeded to Jjangan Japanese Restaurant. It was an Eat-All-You-Can restaurant for the price of 21 USD. They have wide varieties of sushi, sashimi and rolls. I like their no rice rolls and green tea ice cream! There are various places to eat in Las Vegas, from fancy down to fast food chain restaurants. If you are on a tight budget,you can always find a place to eat that is fairly reasonable.

     

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    Celebrating Mom’s Bday!

    From there we went straight to Red Rock Canyon. Red Rock Canyon is like 30 minutes’ drive away from the city. Red Rock Canyon is the nearest place to visit if you wish to see a different spectacular view of Las Vegas. It is a 13 mile scenic drive. The fee was 7 USD per vehicle which was really affordable for a day pass visit. The Red Rock Canyon has numerous hiking trails that ranges from easy, moderate to strenuous hiking. The place reminded me so much of Oman (where I am currently based). It is really stunning but it was too cold out there! I didn’t brought with me thick clothes so I was really shaking the whole time I was roaming the place. Even if there was sunlight, the cold wind is too hard to handle. It was 3-10 degrees Celsius I guess!
    It was a beautiful place, a day visit is all worth it. If I had the time and proper outfit maybe I did hiking but we were just in Vegas for 2 nights so just I had a glimpse of the place. At 4.30pm, the sun sets too! From there we dropped off to outlet stores. If you love to shop, you will go crazy with the outlet stores in Las Vegas. It was still holiday that time so there were more promos and discounts everywhere! More reasons to go gaga.

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    At night we walked along the Las Vegas Strip. It is a stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard south in Clark County, Nevada. It is internationally known for its concentration of resorts hotel and casinos. I enjoyed seeing the different view and the crowd as well. The Strip was really long around 6.8km in length. There were so many things to see, try and do on that area. You can just walk around and go to the different hotels. It is like visiting another country without leaving the city. If you want to see Paris there is a hotel where the interior looks exactly you are in Paris. There is the Statue of Liberty as well! There is a fountain show held every night. Las Vegas is a place for fun and to be wild. You can be crazy! Do whatever you want that suits your personality. Definitely a two night stay in Las Vegas is not enough.Don’t miss the fun and take a trip to with Agoda. Surely I will be back to this place someday, I love it!

     

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    Bought cocktail drink and had it while walking around
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    Paris Hotel with European ambiance
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    Along the famous Las Vegas Strip
    Felt like I was in New York City!
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    Something I want to try there but…
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    Free shuttle rides are available
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    On our way back to Los Angeles, California
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    I like the truck there. So different from the usual truck in Asia