• Travel Stories
  • Florence: Italy’s City of Art and Gelato

    Ciao! After my visit to Rome, Florence was my second stop in Italy. Florence is the capital city of Tuscany. Florence, just like Rome was spectacular.Though the city is populous, I fell in love with the place from the moment I arrived. The architecture and the winding alleys make it irresistible. It is an Italian city known for its art and history. You can see art on every corner. No wonder, Florence will give you numerous reasons to visit its magnificent sites.

    What more great is that most of the attractions are free and food are cheap. From Rome, I took a train going to Florence.  The average journey time is 1 hour and 30 minutes. I bought my train tickets online, weeks before my trip. You can check Italo or Trenitalia to book train tickets. I booked my Rome to Florence ticket through Italo that costs 20 EURO/ 23 USD/ 9 OMR/ 1,199 PHP. It is cheaper to book in advance through online.

    Italo Train

     

    Where to Stay

    Florence is full of hostels, hotels, and Airbnb. You can see a lot of places to stay. I stayed at Emerald Palace. The name may sound grandiose but it a hostel located in the heart of Florence. I stayed in a room with other three travelers. The accommodation was 600meters away from Firenze Santa Maria Novella Train Station. I walked from the station to the property. I paid 144 EURO/ 169 USD/ 65 OMR / 8,636 PHP for a 4-night stay. It was my first time to stay in a hostel and to tell you honestly; I didn’t know what to expect. Surprisingly, I liked it. The room is enormous and clean. There is a private toilet inside the room.The only catch, I didn’t know that the hostel is on the 2nd and 3rd floor of the building without elevator. But the staff was accommodating in carrying my luggage. Staying in a hostel is a great choice if you want to save money on your trip. Plus you meet a lot of other travelers on your trip. Book your stay through booking.com


    Booking.com

    Emerald Palace BnB Dining Area

    Getting Around

    Florence is a small town. It is even smaller than Rome. It is best to go around by foot. A map will be very useful to stroll around the place. Make sure to ask a map from the tourist information office or to the place you are staying. The staff at Emerald’s place were very helpful and informative in telling which places to go.

     

    Small winding alleys of Florence

    Things to do:

    This town has an amazing culture, history, and art. There are markets, garden and museums to explore.If you have limited time just like when I had my trip, here are the list of sights and things to do in Florence. I like traveling at my own pace and doing the things that I truly enjoy. Personally, I enjoy going to the main attractions, eating and going to the supermarkets. So even I am delivering my must-see you are always free to tailor your itinerary based on your needs.

    1. Explore Il Duomo Firenze

    This church known as Santa Maria del Fiore is a must-see in Florence. It is one of the landmarks of the city. The exterior is magnificent. It is indescribable. It has one of the churches that I had seen with a unique appearance.  It is free to view but expect a long line in getting in.

    Look at the details!
    The exterior of the Duomo is one of a kind!

    2. See David at Academia Gallery

    David is one of the famous sculptures in the world by Michaelangelo.  It is one of the must do in the city. I wasn’t interested at first but when I saw the masterpiece in real, no doubt a lot of people would want to have a glimpse of the piece. It is big and very detailed. The entrance fee is 12.5 EURO/ 14 USD/ 5 OMR/ 750 PHP.

    The famous ” David” of Michaelangelo
    There are a lot of arts to check aside from the David at Academia Gallery.

    3. Eat at Mercato Centrale

    Mercato Centrale, the most famous market in Florence is also called Mercato de San Lorenzo. The first floor has all the kind of high quality of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, and meat.

    The second floor is with many food stands. It offers a lot of Florentine dishes. I tried Lampredotto which is a must try at this place.  Lampredotto is a local dish made from the stomach of a cow and topped with salsa and spicy extra virgin olive oil. Just be prepared to eat standing or a stool especially to the popular stand famous for local cuisine.

    Ground area of Mercato Centrale
    The food court at Mercato Centrale.
    Lampredotto, local food from Florence. Try it at Nerbone stall located on the first floor of Mercato Centrale. There is a long queue at this stall but it’s all worth it!
    These are the people lining up for the lampredotto!
    Pizza, antipasto and a drink!

    4. Stroll around Piazza della Signoria

    Piazza della Signoria is a piazza filled with sculptures. A replica of David and Fountain of Neptune can be found at this open square. In the plaza, there are a high number of restaurants and bars where people can enjoy.

    It can be crowded at the square.

    5. Visit Piazza de Michaelangelo

    To get a superb panoramic view of the town, Piazza de Michaelangelo is the place to be. The piazza is dedicated to the city’s most famous artist Michaelangelo. You can see a copy of Michaelangelo’s works like David and the Medici chapel. It is a bit challenging to climb going up to this place, but it is all worth it. You can get a clear view of a number of the city’s prominent landmarks like Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio. During the night, there is live music and it a great place to chill out.

    On the way up to the Piazza.
    The view from Piazza del Michaelangelo.

    6. Eat Gelato

    Eating gelato in Florence is one thing you should do. It is the birthplace of this dense Italian ice cream. The great challenge is finding the best gelato in the town. I asked the locals for recommendations and the top picks are gelato from Vivoli, Gelateria Perche No, and Gelateria dei Neri

    Gelato from Gelateria dei Neri
    Even a baby can get enough of the gelato!

    7. Walk along Ponte Vecchio

    Ponte Vecchio is the oldest and most photographed bridge in the city. It joins the center of Florence with the district of Oltrarno on the river Arno. The bridge is famous for jewelry shops built along it.


     

    Live music at Ponte Vecchio
    Enjoy a beer by the river

    Tips:

    1. It is advisable to be early when visiting museums. Museums can be crowded.
    2. Watch out for your stuff when walking around.
    3. Food is cheap. You can get pizza and pasta for reasonable prices. But learn how to avoid tourist traps where food can be costly and of poor quality. You can have a good meal for 10-15 EURO/ 11-17 USD/ 4.5- 6.7 OMR/ 600-900 PHP. When I was there, I avoid eating on the main square where the waiters are handling flyers and getting pushy to get you in. For a cheaper option, you can eat panino (sandwich). The local delicacy lampredotto costs 3.5 EURO/4 USD/ 1.5 EURO/ 210PHP including water. You can also buy food at the local supermarket.
      People love to eat good food.

      People are falling in line for food if it is taste yummy!
    4. Public transportation isn’t necessary for Florence. Explore the town by foot. It is one of the places I visited where the main attractions are not so far from each other. Just make sure to have a map.
    5. Learn few words of Italian like ciao (hello), please (per favore) and grazie (thank you).

     

    View from Giardino delle Rose

     

    Is Florence the city you want to visit? What’re the things you want to do? Share in the comments below. 

     

  • Travel Stories
  • When in Rome, Italy : Eat, Pray, and Wander

    Italy is one of my dream destinations in Europe. After my trip to Switzerland, I headed to Italy for a 10-day visit. I decided to choose three cities to explore in Italy. First stop was Rome.

    Rome is one of the most popular places to go in Italy. It is considered one of the most historic and probably one of the romantic places to be. A place filled with history, culture, adventure, and food to explore. From charming views, ruins, fountains, parks to great food, there is so much to do and see that an entire week wouldn’t be enough. However, if you plan to visit Rome for a short time, I recommend three days of stay in the beautiful city. Though Rome is a big city, the historical places are near to each other. But to make things easy for yourself, plan and research sights, tours, and food to try.

     

    I went to Italy last April. The month of April and May is the high season to visit Rome. The weather was gorgeous. It wasn’t so cold or hot. It was perfect to go around, but the only thing is high reason comes with a high price for the hotel, tour and more tourists in the city.

     

    Where to Stay

    There are wide choices of accommodation. From a five star hotel to share a room in a hostel, you can take a pick. I stayed in a budget hotel and spent 153 EURO/178 USD/ 68 OMR/ 9,000 PHP for my 3-day stay. It is a small room with a private toilet and breakfast was included.It wasn’t extravagant but just enough to what I need.

    I stayed near Roma Termini Station

     

    The neighborhood where I stayed in Rome

     

    Buffet breakfast at the hotel; unlimited coffee, juices and pastries

    I split up the sights into three days. I spent my first day in the Vatican City and Trastevere neighborhood. Day 2 was for seeing the Colosseum, Roman Forum and the Palatine Hills. Day 3 for exploring the heart of the city such as the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Piazza Navona.

     

    Getting Around

    There are lots of public transport options in Rome. There are buses, trams, taxis, and trains. You can choose from single tickets or travel passes valid for 1,3,5 or 7 days. I purchased 72 hours (3 days) Roma Pass that costs 38.5 EURO/ 45 USD /17.5 OMR/ 2,295 PHP. It includes metro, buses, and tram within the city boundaries. It also gives two free admissions to all national and city museums in Rome and discounts to other covered sites. You can purchase it online, museums and PIT (Tourist Information Points), ATAC – Subway ticket office and Trenitalia Ticket Offices. However, it should be noted that the Roma Pass does not include travel to the airports. I find it convenient to go around by riding any public transportation available, especially at night with the use of Roma Pass. But if you don’t mind walking and you want to save a little money, the best way is to go around by foot.

    I bought a bus ticket at the airport going to the city. A one way ticket costs 5.90 EURO/ 6.9 USD/ 2.6 OMR/ 350 PHP

    First Day:

    The Vatican (Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica)

    I decided to check first the world’s smallest city state. It is a dream come true having visited the headquarter of the Roman Catholic Church. The three spots not be missed are the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and the St. Peter’s Basilica. Vatican Museum has an amazing collection of Christian, classical and Renaissance art masterpieces. It contains roughly around 70,000 artworks. Sistine Chapel with its ceiling decorated by Michaelangelo was incomparable. Seeing the painting for the first time made me realized, he is truly one of the greatest artists of all time.  St. Peter’s Basilica as the largest church in the world will mesmerize you. The church has a great architectural design. Inside the church is where the tomb of St Peter which is the first Pope and Michaelangelo’s Pieta and Bernini’s altarpiece Baldacchino. I suggest exploring the site with a professional tour guide. I’d seen a long queue going inside the Vatican City.  When I went there,  everything went out smoothly with the help of our tour guide. I spent 54.7 EURO/ 64 USD/ 24 OMR/ 3,249 PHP for the ticket ( Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s).

     

    Entrance at the Vatican Museum

     

    Inside the Vatican Museum

     

    St. Peter’s Basilica

     

    Swiss guards at the Vatican

    If you are lucky, you might attend the Papal Audience when you visit the Vatican City. The Pope holds Papal Audience on most Wednesdays at 10 am. I met few Filipinos on my travel and encouraged me to attend. It ended up to be one of my favorite experiences in my whole trip to Europe.

     

    When I woke up as early as 5 am to have this view!
    An opening parade before the prayer and homily at the Vatican

     

    Trastevere

    Enjoy the lovely nightlife in Trastevere. Stroll around the winding alleys filled with restaurants, cafes, bars, and pizzerias. Trastevere is a popular place for the locals. It is a highly recommended place to try for an authentic Italian meal. I tried the rigatoni with pajata ( intestine of veal or lamb) which is a local Roman delicacy. A cocktail glass of limoncello after the dinner is one of the things to do in Trastevere while watching the people around.

     

    Small winding alleys at Trastevere
    Trattoria in Trastevere, one of the best places to try local food. I tried Rigatoni Pajata at this place!
    Trastevere at night
    I can eat pasta every day!

    Second Day:

    Ancient Rome (Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hills)

    Colosseum is probably the thing that first comes to the mind of people about Rome.The Colosseum, one of the famous sights in Italy is not to be missed. Opened in 80 AD; the Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built.  Nearby, check the Arch of Constantine which was built to commemorate Constantine victory at the battle in 312.Adjacent to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum and Palatine Hills which is the center of Ancient Rome.

     

    The Colosseum
    Inside structure of the Colosseum
    Arch of Constantine

    You can buy a joint ticket for Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum that costs 12 Euros/14 USD/5 OMR/715 PHP that gives you access to the three sites. Not everyone is aware of it, so most will fall in line for the Colosseum to buy the tickets. Instead, purchase tickets at the Roman Forum or Palatine Hill.  If you buy a Roman Pass, you might get free access to the three sites.

    The Ancient Rome was spectacular. When I went there, I decided to join a small group. It’s cheaper to buy tickets there, but I prefer to have a tour guide to bring the ruins to life. I paid 38 Euro/ 45 USD/ 17.3 OMR/ 2270PHP.

    Ancient Rome
    Look at the intricate design of the arch!
    At Palatine Hill
    The small group I joined in touring the Colosseum and Ancient Rome

    Third Day:

    Pantheon

    This ancient 2000 year concrete dome is a truly an architectural phenomena. It was built as a temple for Roman gods but now work as a Catholic church. It has been called the world’s only architecturally perfect building and most preserved monument of Imperial Rome. You can visit for free all days except Sundays when Mass is held.

    Enchanting design inside the Pantheon

     

    Trevi Fountain

    Rome has more than 2000 fountains, but Trevi Fountain is the most extravagant I had seen in my life. It is one of the most famous fountains in the world which appeared in several notable films.

    Spanish Steps

    Climb the famous grand steps leading to the Triniti Dei Monti church to admire the beauty of Piazza d Spagna and the Benini’s fountain from above. The stairway was built in the 1720s and become a popular place for the tourists and locals to hang out.

    Piazza Del Popolo

    Close by Spanish Steps, Piazza Del Popolo is an impressive square in Rome.  In Italian language it means “People’s Square”.

    The only photo I’ve taken at Piazza del Popolo

    Piazza Navona

    The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona are all free to visit.  

     

    Lots of beautiful churches you can visit!
    Can’t missed the gelato!

     

    Tips:

    1. Join Group Tour When Visiting the Busiest Tourist Spots.I took two tours with GetYourGuide during my stay in Rome which I booked online before the trip. The good thing about the small tour is you get in depth knowledge, and insight about the place visited. I booked skip the line tickets ahead of time for Vatican City ( Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, and St Peter’s Basilica) and the Colosseum and Ancient Rome (Palatine and the Roman Forum). Rome is beautiful but crowded. Having a knowledgeable guide will help you understand and experience Rome in a memorable way.

    2. Stay Connected. As a solo traveler, I decided to buy a local sim card and loaded it with a prepaid data plan from TIM. I purchased the sim card as soon as I arrived at the airport and costs around 20-30 EURO/23- 35 USD/ 9- 13 OMR/ 1,190 – 1790 PHP. You will need your passport to buy a local sim. I find it convenient and efficient. I used it all throughout the ten day trip in Italy.

    3. Stay in a Hotel Closer to the Attractions. I stayed in a place a little far from the attractions but next to Rome Termini train station. Though you can find a lot of hostels and the proximity to the trains and buses can’t be beaten, I suggest you stay in a place where you can just walk out the door and see the tourist places.  I guess it is more worth it.

    4. Adore Early Mornings and Late Evenings. It ‘s nice to wake up early in the morning if you want to see the tourist spots not crowded by a lot of travelers. Rome is packed even during off season, so it is unlikely to have the tourist attractions by yourself. When I went Rome, I woke up around 5 or 6 in the morning then return to the hotel for a siesta in the afternoon then small walk in the evening.

    5. Dress Modestly. Be aware of the strict dress code at the churches and Vatican. Bare shoulders, mini skirt, midriff, and hats are not allowed. Bring a scarf or a cardigan so you can cover up if you need to.

    6. Be Vigilant at all Times. Rome is a safe place but does get a healthy share of tourist scams and pickpocketing. Keep an eye on your valuables.

    Exploring Rome for a limited time isn’t impossible. However, it requires planning and preparation. Hopefully, this will guide on how to explore the city of Rome. Next stop, Florence!

     

    Attending Papal Audience

    Have you been to Rome? What are the things you enjoyed the most? Share in the comments below.

     

     

     

     

  • Travel Stories
  • Mt Rigi, Switzerland: A Perfect Hiking Experience 

    I felt overwhelmed having visited the country of Switzerland. It is one of the best places I have traveled so far.For a nature lover like me, it’s like a paradise. Green sceneries and mountains are everywhere. So when there was a chance to do a hike to one of the mountains, I felt so excited. I visited Mt Rigi, one of the famous places to visit popularly known as the “Queen of the Mountains.” Mt. Rigi is in central Switzerland and not far from Zurich where I stayed in Switzerland. The journey was indeed splendid. The start of spring time was perfect to check the views. It’s a great scenery! Mt Rigi lies between three lakes: Lake Luzern, Lake Zug, and Lake Lauerz.

     

    I didn’t do my research by the time I went to Mt Rigi. I was with my sister and her boyfriend, so I was quite confident I will be okay. I wasn’t just sure though of what shoes to wear before the hike. I’m bit surprised when both of them wore their huge honking boots and me wearing my usual hiking shoes which I have been using for rocky and green mountains but not in the snow.

    Scenic view going to Mt Rigi
    Who wouldn’t want this view…

          

    How to Get There from Zurich:

    We took a private car from Zurich going to Rigi Bahn. If you are taking public transportation, the fastest way is to take a train to Arth Goldau (every hour, duration of 40 minutes). From the SBB Station of Arth Goldau is a short walk to the Rigi Bahn. From there the cogwheel train takes you to the top (Station Rigi Kulm) in another 40 minutes.

    Cogwheel train is located in Vitznau

    Rigi Bahn is the first mountain track railway in Europe, reaching a height of 1752 meters above sea level when it reaches the summit of Rigi. There are different stops when you can exit or get back to the train to start your hike allowing you to choose the length of the walk. We walked starting at the middle part of the mountain up to the top. Hiking is only one of the many activities to do. I was glad my shoes was just right to the kind of weather when we hike the mountain.It was cold yet sunny, perfect for a hiking day. We ended doing a 2- 3 hours hike with mild to the moderate trail to the top.

     

    Here is the cogwheel train…
    The view while on the train
    This view!
    When we started our hike
    Checking the trails
    Such a breathtaking view!

    At the top of the mountain, there are restaurants, souvenir shops, and hotels.

     

    Every spot is like a picture perfect that I have only seen on the postcards. The snow-capped mountains were visible from the top. The panoramic view was fantastic. No wonder it is one of the popular destination in Switzerland. And a great place to visit!

     

    Have you been to Switzerland? What activity did you like the best? Share in the comments below. 

     

  • Travel Stories
  • My Travel Adventure in the Land of Alps, Cheese, and Chocolate: Zurich, Switzerland

    When you think of Switzerland what comes into your mind? Most likely you will picture banks, luxury watches, chocolates, cheese, skis, and mountains. A country with well diverse attractions and the reputation of being one of the most expensive travel destinations in Europe. But this shouldn’t stop anyone from visiting the beautiful country.

    Old Town, Zurich

    What was my impression when I first landed in Switzerland? I was completely amazed! I visited Zurich last April which was the start of the spring season. From the airport going to the city, I was quite impressed how organized, systematic, and clean the place is. What caught my attention, Zurich is a place of well-dressed people, private banks, and good-looking men. It is a great place with lots of places to eat too. There’s a lot of gourmet restaurants and less of fast food chains. High-end shops, top kind of restaurants, vibrant museums, historic buildings and art galleries are examples that the city has a good taste for beauty and sophistication. There are around 50 museums to check, 14 dedicated to arts. Zurich seems to have it all. The place is safe. Crime is almost non-existent. Zurich is easy to navigate either by foot or by tram. It is in some ways the best of the big city and best of a small town.

    Here are some interesting facts that you may want to know about the city:

    1.Zurich as Switzerland’s largest city is very well known as the center of global finance.

    2.Around 400,000 people are living in Zurich. Despite being the largest city, only two-thirds are Swiss citizens. Germans and Italians are the next most major population groups. The city speaks four main languages: German, Italian, English, and French. But German is the most common spoken language.

    People love hanging out by the river

    3.Train timetables are very accurate. If a train is due to leave at 2.03pm, then it will leave at 2.03pm. So don’t make any mistake of being late if you want to catch the next train. Take note of the connections and be ready to move quickly.

    Zurich’s Main Train Station – Zurich Hauptbahnhof often called Zurich HB

    4.There are 1200 drinking fountains in the city where you can drink. Almost every street corner has a fountain. Some fountains are plain and simple, but others have an artistic design. The water is fresh. A bottle of water costs 7 USD/ 348 PHP/ 2.6OMR in a restaurant. Around .97USD/48PHP/.370 OMR in grocery stores.

    5.These are some of the Swiss brands that you might not aware of, like Credit Suisse (banking), Novartis (pharmaceutical), Lindt and Sprungli (chocolates), Swatch (watches), Nestle (food).

    6. The home of the University of Zurich and Federal Institute of Technology which has produced 21 Noble Prize winners in its 150- year history

    7.Switzerland uses Swiss Francs, not Euro.

    Zurich is a fascinating city with numerous things to do. Here are the list of activities you can try:

    1.Visit Old Town (Altstadt)

    The medieval houses in the narrow alleys with shops, bars, and clubs all around the old town makes it a popular place for visitors and locals. It is a place to find everything that you need in one location. You will also find several museums such as Swiss National Museum and hotels around the area.  Make sure to visit Muhlesteg Footbridge which is famous for its love locks.

    The famous love locks
    Colorful buildings in Old Town

    2.Indulge yourself with chocolates and sweet pastries

    Lindt, Sprungli, and Laderach are some of the top-quality chocolates to be tried. Sprungli is probably the most famous and expensive chocolate in Switzerland. Aside from the chocolates, there are a lot of variants of sweets to try on such as their signature macarons called “Luxemburgerli” and cakes. Someone told me that Sprungli makes better macarons than France.  Well, it is yummy and fluffy.

    At Sprungli

    Luxemburgerli, the famous macarons from Sprungli

    3.Enjoy the View from Lindenhof

    Lindenhof is a hill and a public square in the center of Zurich. The place is peaceful and best spot to take a photo of the city. Due to its location, it requires a short uphill climb. Once at the park, you can have picnic lunch to enjoy the park trees. There are no facilities at the park, but there are a lot of restaurants and bars near the area. You can reach Lindenhof by foot or tram. The nearest tram is Rennwegg which is only blocks away from the park.

    View from Lindenhof
    Perfect spot to take photos

    4.Try Cheese Fondue

    When you think of Swiss cuisine, it is common to think of cheese and chocolates. There are a lot of Fondue restaurants in Zurich, but the one I tried was in the Old Town. The name of the restaurant is Swiss Chuchi which is in the heart of Niederdorf in the Old City. I can’t say if it was excellent since the one I ordered was with cherry liquor, but the restaurant is popular with both locals and tourists. For more information here.

    How cheese fondue is served
    Ohh, cheese!!

    5.Check Opera House

    Stop by at the Opera House located on the riverbank at the Sechseläutenplatz which is the home of  Zurich Opera since 1891. You can just take a photo from the outside or buy tickets if you wish to watch.

    Opera House

    6.Take a Cruise on the Zurich Lake

    Take a stroll along the lake, watch the swans and the people relaxing along the lake. There are various things to do with the availability of shops, restaurants, garden and park along the lake. Or you can take a boat trip with plenty of sightseeing opportunities. The boat journeys I took costs CHF 8 extra CHF 9 surcharge. The shortest lake cruise lasts 90 minutes and longest 4 hours. For more information here.

    Spring time in Zurich

    Sausages called Bratwurst and Currywurst are very common anywhere. Perfect place to eat, near the lake!

    View from the cruise

    7.Visit the Grand Church (Grossmunster)

    The Grand Church is one of the pride of the city. It is in Grossmunsterplatz in Old Town. The legend claims that the church was built on the graves of the city’s patron saints, Felix and Regula.  The stained-glass windows by Sigmar Polke, bronze door by Otto Munch and the Reformation Museum are just some of the highlights to see.

    The church is open every day. It is free of charge. You have the option to can climb the 187 steps to the top of the Grossmunster Tower and get a panoramic view of the city but with a small charge.

    8.Hike Uetliberg

    Though it is outside the city, going to Uetliberg is worth it. The mountain gives a panoramic view of the city, lake and the Alps. There is an observation tower to get a better view of the surroundings. There is no charge to go up the mountain. You can hike going up or take a train which is the easiest and most convenient way to get to Uetliberg Mountain. There is a direct train that departs from Hauptbahnhof.At the top; there are restaurants, hotel, and clean toilet facilities.

    Tired but it was worth the hike!

    Wine schorle…Cheers!

    9.Chill out in Zurich West

    The neighborhood where used to be abandoned warehouses and factories turned into galleries, museums and boutique shops are getting attention from its impressive artistic revival. The main attraction is Viadukt, a stretch of shops, bars, and restaurants that run between the bank of the river of Limmat and Hardbruke station.In general, Zurich has an active nightlife offering something for every taste.

    10. Window shopping in Bahnhofstrasse.

    If anyone looking for branded Swiss items, this is the place to be. Bahnofstrasse is Zurich’s main street. It is one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world with its luxury stores all over.Bahnhofstrasse features high-end shops like Gucci, Dior, Hermes, Chanel, Prada and a lot more. If you do not wish to buy luxury items, you can still walk around and enjoy the top restaurants and cafes around the area. It is easy to visit Bahnhofstrasse using the tram system; it stops at two stations – Bahnhofstrasse and Rennwegg.

    Have you been to Zurich? What are the things you love about the city? Share in the comments below. 

  • Travel Stories
  • Schengen Visa Application Guide for Filipinos

    Europe is a dream destination for every traveler. It is alluring, with its vast wealth of sights, art, culture and people. From hiking the Alps to riding the gondola in Italy and seeing the great arts of Michaelangelo to attending the Mass of the Pope, it caters every passion of every traveler.

    Venice, Italy

    It was January when I decided to visit Europe for the first time. For Filipinos, we are required to apply for Schengen visa for short stays in the Schengen countries. It is probably the most challenging and demanding part when visiting a country, completing and complying with the requirements. But it wasn’t as difficult as what I have expected. My application for the US tourist visa was more nerve wrecking, having to go through the interview process. In Oman, you don’t have to go through an interview in applying for Schengen Visa.

    What is Schengen Visa?

    The Schengen Visa is the visa needed if you wish to visit 26  Schengen zone countries like Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Most of the countries in Europe are part of the Schengen area except the UK and countries which are still in the process of becoming part of agreement like Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Cyprus and Ireland.

    However, Croatia extended a ruling for holders of Schengen visas. This regulation allows holders of valid dual or multiple entry Schengen visas to enter, stay and transit in or through Croatia without the need for an additional visa (for tourist purposes).

    If the visa is approved, you will be allowed to enter the zone up to 90 days within the 180day period in a single or multiple entry visas.

    Mt Rigi in Switzerland

    It is noted that Schengen visa should be submitted to the embassy of the country you want to visit. If you are planning to visit multiple countries, apply to your first point of entry or main destination.

    I applied for a tourist visa to Switzerland. It was my point of entry. I originally planned to apply for visiting a family visa since my sister is there, but it has more requirements than the tourist visa. So, I applied for Tourist Visa since my whole plan was to visit different countries in Europe. It should be noted each type of Schengen Visa demands different proof and requirements.

    I applied to Switzerland via their visa processing office, VFS Global in Oman.  VFS Global, the authorized tourist visa application center of the Embassy in Switzerland in Oman but they do not decide for the approval of the visa.

    Requirements for Schengen Tourist Visa:

    1. Book an appointment online. You will never know when will be the earliest date available, so it is better to book in advance. I applied a month before my planned trip. It was too tight and not the best thing to do.  I recommend to apply 90 days in advance, and this is going to be the basis to allow yourself to prepare the needed documents and to fix any problem that may come.

    First, you need to sign up and go to the appointment system page. Print the confirmation letter. It is necessary to the VFS Global Visa Application Center located in Level F1, Nawras Campus, Tilal Complex, Muscat Grand Mall, Doha Al Adab Street, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.

    2.Gather all the required documents. The requirements are the same in every embassy but may require additional documents. As an advised concentrate on the visa type and the particular embassy, you are applying. Check what is written on the checklist.

    1.Download the application form. Make sure to fill out the form correctly, not missing any -questions.

    2.A valid passport with three months’ validity from the end of visa duration. Photocopy all valid and former visas if any.Photocopy of the old passport which includes visas and stamps.

    3.Two recent photos.

    4.Hotel Reservations. You don’t have to pay for the hotel yet. You can book online through booking.com or agoda.com which doesn’t require any reservation fees. And if you decide to change the itinerary, you can easily modify your hotel reservation.

    5.Flight reservation. Find a travel agency that can reserve flights for you. Again, you don’t have to pay until your visa is approved.

    6.Certificate of Employment (if employed). Make sure the salary with the no objection to travel/ leave of absence approval is on it.

    7.Bank Statement. Must show records for the past three months. You must have 100 CHF / 92.34 Euro / 38.6 OMR/ 4993PHP per day for your trip if you are applying for Switzerland. Other embassies have a different monetary requirement.

    8.International travel insurance. Make sure it will cover the whole duration of the trip and valid for all Schengen countries.

    9.Visa Fee. 26 OMR/ 3365 PHP plus 11.3 OMR/1462 PHP for the VFS service fee. The fee is non-refundable even if the application is unsuccessful.

    3.Submit the requirements at the VFS Visa Application Center. It requires a personal appearance on the day of the appointment.

    Reminders:

    Do not forget to bring the Visa Appointment letter.

    Arrive 30 mins. earlier than your scheduled appointment.

    Bring a photocopy of each document and arrange it accordingly.

    The processing usually takes around 5-7 days, wherein you will be clueless on whether the visa will be approved or denied. You will receive a message from the VFS once the passport is ready for pick-up.

    This application is for Filipinos currently based in Oman.  But I hope it has given you the directions on how and what are the essential things needed in applying for a tourist visa. For any questions, like Traveling Slippers page and send me a personal message.

    Zurich, Switzerland

    Have you applied for Schengen visa? Share your experience in the comments below.