How to apply for a Philippine visa

After making up your mind that you want to visit the Philippines, you will need to decide how long you intend to stay. As mentioned in the previous article, a US citizen does not need to obtain a visa if they plan on staying for less than 30 days. If you plan to stay for more than 30 days, you can apply for a temporary visitor’s visa. Visas are issued in 3,6 and 12 month durations.

In order to apply for a temporary visitor’s visa, you will need to make sure you have the required items before submitting your application. First and foremost, you need to double check that your passport expiration date is at least 6 months valid from the return date. For example, if you are planning to travel to the Philippines from March 1st to April 30th (which is a 2 month stay), your passport expiration date should be no sooner than October 31st.

Once you’ve figured out your travel dates and have your itinerary, make sure to keep a copy to submit with your application. You can download and complete the ‘Non-Immigrant Visa’ application form from the Philippines Embassy website. This form must be filled out, written or typed in either black or blue ink. Please note that the form must be notarized if you are submitting your application by mail.

Along with the application, you will also need to provide a 2”x 2” photo taken within 6 months. Similar to a passport photo, the photo needs to be a clear front view of the person applying with a white background. The photo also can’t be taken with sleeveless attire, blurry or low quality. You can usually have this done at your local pharmacy or grocery store.

Depending on your purpose, business or leisure, you will need to submit one of thePassport in hand following; either a proof of financial capacity or a letter from your employer or sponsor of the trip. If you are going for leisure, you will need to provide financial support for your trip to the Philippines which can be a bank statement or an affidavit of support. If you are going for business, you will need to provide a letter from your employer stating the specific purpose and length of the trip. Please note that if the application is for a minor (under 18), an affidavit of support and bank statement from either parent is required as well.

When you have all the required items, you are ready to submit your application along with the required items to the Philippine Embassy either by mail or by visiting the Consular Services. If you are sending by mail, you will need to include your passport, application, 2 x 2 photo, financial support or letter from employer, self-addressed and pre-paid return envelope, and visa fee.

At the time of this article, the cost of visas are as follows: $30.00 for a single entry visa valid for 3 months, $60.00 for a multiple entry visa valid for 6 months, and $90.00 for a multiple entry visa valid for 12 months. The fee must be paid in cash or money order made payable to “Embassy of Philippines”. Please note that personal checks and credit cards are not accepted.

If you decide to go to the embassy in person, the physical address in the D.C. area is 1600 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036 of in New York – 556 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10036 (between 45th and 46th streets). Once your documents have been received and verified, make sure to keep your receipt. You will need to present your receipt if you plan to pick up your passport. Expected processing for visas is between 30-60 days.

For further information or assistance, including other consulate locations and assistance, please visit the Philippines Embassy’s website: http://www.philippineembassy-usa.org/

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A Beginner’s Guide to Rome

To say the least, Rome is one of the most iconic and most traveled cities in the world. About 14 million people travel to the Eternal City annually to enjoy the famous architecture, savor authentic Italian pasta and cuisine and of course shop for fine Italian made clothing and products. No matter what type of traveler you are, there is always something for you in Rome.

Romans are the friendliest people in Italy due in large to their relaxed but cosmopolitan lifestyle. Socializing and leisure time are highly regarded and you find many locals are captured by the magic of possibility, in which anything can happen in Rome.

Here are some tips for your next adventure in Rome.

Getting There

trentitalia
Nonstop train from Leonardo Airport to Termini Station

Since Rome is the most popular destination, there are tons of flights arriving and departing Leonardo Da Vinci Airport daily. If you are coming from the U.S., you will most likely arrive in the morning before lunch which allows you to enjoy more of your time in Rome. I would suggest taking an American Airlines flight which has nonstop flights from Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Miami and Charlotte. I find having my connecting flights still in the US more comforting especially since customer service in Europe is not so hospitable.

 

Once you arrive in Rome, the immigration and custom processes are very quick and you are out of the airport within 30-45 minutes. Collect your bags and proceed towards the Leonardo Express (Trentitalia) which runs every 15-20 minutes non-stop to downtown Rome. The cost per person is 14 Euros ($15USD), for children 4-14 years old the cost is free. In a matter of 30 minutes you will arrive in Termini Station and can proceed to your accommodations to relax before you explore the city.

Where to stay

When choosing where to stay in Rome, the first question you need to ask is what you are willing to spend. Rome is filled with tons of hotels throughout the city to accommodate all the foreigners with different amenities and services. Location plays a major factor in pricing and the closer your hotel is to major landmarks, expect to pay top dollar.

For those looking for something with elegance and style, check out Grand Hotel de la Minerve, a 5 Star boutique mansion hotel which overlooks the Pantheon and is just minutes from Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. For mid-range hotels, Hotel Borromeo is a popular hotel within walking distance from Termini Station along the main Via Cavour. Most hotels offer free breakfast and internet, but please note breakfast in Italy is simple pastries and coffee, sorry no eggs and bacon here.

Getting Around

One of the first things you will notice is that Rome is a walking town and learning the public transportation is key. There are only two metro lines that connect the city which passes around the downtown area. Buses are more convenient with stops throughout the city center and are widely used by locals and tourists. To cut down cost, purchase a 24 or 48-hour pass which works for unlimited rides on the metro and buses.

TIP: Try walking to each landmark with short stops in between. One of my most memorable trips in Rome was a midnight tour which we strolled by the major landmarks like Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon, and saw a different view of the city without of the packed tourists and cramp space.

Things to do

Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica – The highlight of your trip to Rome will always be the Vatican and you should make sure to properly plan your visit. Pre-purchase your tour tickets for entrances and an escorted tour guide into the Vatican Museum to avoid long lines and queues. Last time I went, the waiting for to enter without reservations was 2+ hours. TIP: When choosing your entry time, choose an afternoon slot when the lines are shorter and less people waiting. Morning tours are always packed from 9am until 1pm.

ColiseumThe Colosseum –Spend a few minutes just admiring this magnificent structure which was built more than 1,900 years ago and still stand today. Tours are available to enter the amphitheater every hour, but I would suggest opting in for the Underground Colosseum tour which brings you to the underground chambers which are off-limits to the normal public. You will also stroll up the Palatine Hill which offers great views of the Colosseum and a perfect photo op.

Trevi at Night

Trevi Fountain – The Fontana di Trevi – or Trevi Fountain in English -is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and the most beautiful in the world. A traditional legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome. Don’t forget to visit Bar Trevi across from the fountain which have some of the best gelato in Rome.

The Pantheon – Only a few steps away, is the historic Parthenon, the most preserved and influential building in Rome. Dedicated to the worship of every god (Pan-every Theon-divinity), the Pantheon was built by the Emperor Hadrian between 118 and 125 A.D. Live singers are always close because of the beautiful acoustics around the structure.

More Tips for Travelers

fountainFood can cause serious damage to your daily budget if you don’t beware. Pass the touristy restaurants and cafes along the streets and opt for a simple panini or pizza to save money. If you do decide to eat in a restaurant, make sure to avoid the bread or bottled water which they charge up to 2-3 Euros. Tap water is clean and refreshing and you can even save your plastic bottles and refill them with water fountains throughout the city.

Get the Tourist Card

If you plan to visit a lot of the museums, check out the budget tourist card which allows you entrances to the attractions for one flat fee. The Roma Pass is one of my favorites which also includes transportation on buses and the metro plus additional discounts of tourist services and tickets.

Take a culinary class

Learn how to make pasta the Roman way! Food is an important part of Italian’s life and they spend a lot of their time eating and socializing. If you are a complete foodie like me, you will definitely enjoy a break from the sightseeing and tours. Expect to pay around 25-30 Euros per person depending on the length of the class.

Buy tons of wine

Wine cost as little as 3-4 Euros per bottle almost the same cost as bottled water. Go figure.