SJ Mobilità Travel Diaries

October 14, 2020

An Awesome Spain

Filed under: Travel,Visa — jani @ 5:41 am

About Spain: It’s a country on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula with diverse geography and cultures. Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona, is defined by Antoni Gaudí’s whimsical modernist landmarks like the Sagrada Família church. It is the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, which is also known for its art and architecture. The fantastical Sagrada Família church and other modernist landmarks designed by Antoni Gaudí dot the city.

When IBTM had a conference in Barcelona, I thought I should go as Europe was always in my bucket list of travel. Then I realized that we had initially planned to go to Lakshadweep as Sur wanted me to do the PADI course which I had wanted to do after my Thailand snorkelling trip where I felt I needed to do diving course so that I could join Sur. So, I asked Sur to choose between these two places, as Barcelona conference was scheduled at the same time that we planned Lakshadweep. As expected, Sur chose Barcelona as he said Lakshadweep we can do it later. So I registered and got accepted and we planned our trip to Spain.

Visa:

There are two consulates in India, namely New Delhi and Mumbai and it comes with Jurisdiction.

Mumbai: All four South Indian States, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Daman and Diu, Maharashtra, Pondicherry, and Gujarat.

New Delhi: Remaining states and Union territories fall under this jurisdiction.

BLS International accepts the applications on behalf of the embassy and they are present in most of the cities. Do check the close by office in your own state and then you can submit the application to them.

Document Checklist:

Do check the BLS link (https://india.blsspainvisa.com/) for more details and check for latest updates before filing the application. Sample checklist is mentioned below

  Visa Application Form: Form to be filled in blue pen and with the original signature from the applicant

Photographs: 2 recent photographs as per the specific requirement attached (do refer the link mentioned above)

Cover Letter from the Applicant: Attach the letter with the purpose of travel, dates of travel and with complete itinerary

HR letter from the company:

Company Letter: Letter should Confirm your approved leaves and employment details.

Company Id proof: Recommended.

Invitation Letter: If you are invited by the local entity, do get the letter in Spanish and English

   Hotel Booking: Do attach the hotel confirmation with complete payment done prior for the entire stay.

Flight Details: Confirmed flight booking to be attached.

Tour Itinerary: Give the day wise itinerary.

    Travel Insurance: It has to be issued by the approved Insurance companies, the link mentioned above will give you all the details and as per EU guidelines, minimum coverage of 100,000 USD to be there for at least 30 days .

Sworn Declaration for travel insurance signed by applicant: Attached

Salary Slip: Last 6 months of salary slips to be attached

Bank Statement: Last one-year bank statement in original (with bank seal and signature) to be attached

Income Tax Returns: Last 3-year IT returns to be attached

Pan Card Copy: To be attached

BLS Authorization Form: To be signed and attached

Passport Details: Passport copies of all pages including the old ones to be attached

Marriage Certificate: In case, spouse is accompanying

  Birth certificate: In case child is accompanying

Note: All the documents must be in English like marriage or birth certificate, in case it’s not in English do get the certificate issued in English before filing. In case your trip expenses are split by your spouse, then you need to ensure to share all the documents mentioned above for your spouse as well.

Travel itinerary:

Day 1: We had our early morning flight with Air France and after just over an hour layover in Paris, we landed in Barcelona in the afternoon.

The hospitality of Air France was good. Once we landed we hired a cab to go to IBIS Styles Barcelona City Bogatell, this is a budget hotel and weather was little cold as we visited in the month of November. We had a smooth check in and went to the room. Once we freshened up, we came down for lunch, they didn’t have much option, but we ordered some omelette and enjoyed the coffee and went around in the evening for a walk close by. We went to Ciutadella Park which was close by. The 70-acre grounds has the Parliament of Catalonia, lot of official buildings, beautiful garden, fountain, statues, trees with lots and lots of oranges. I was so tempted to pluck the oranges, which is always a fun activity in India specially with the tamarind trees on the roadside but I had to control myself as we were in a different country. We found lot of birds specially parrots and people were feeding and they were quite used with the people as they were not scared and stayed for their food until they were full.

Then we headed to my favourite place in the city which is the Museu de la Xocolata (Chocolate Museum) where it was all about chocolates. We picked up few chocolates and few which had 90% cocoa for Sur’s dad as he wanted to get the maximum cocoa one, later when he tasted he realized he should stick to 50 or 60% as it was too bitter. The best one here is the hot chocolate, I could drink every time and not get tired of that as it was not very sweet which I liked about. Every time I passed this place I was nagging Sur for a hot chocolate. If you love chocolates, this is a place which you shouldn’t miss. After enjoying my best find in Barcelona, we stopped at a nearby restaurant for dinner, enjoyed some great food along with wine. We found that none of the wine in Barcelona was bad. In fact each one was better than the last and we ended up finishing a bottle for almost every meal. Then walked back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

Day 2: After a great breakfast of breads, pastries, cheese, eggs and juice, we headed to We Barcelona office for the Barcelona Walking Tour with Eco Boat & Helicopter Ride. The best thing that we found for sightseeing is this company called We Barcelona, after the first trip which we found through Trip Advisor, we didn’t look for other tour operators and we booked all the sightseeing tours for the remaining days with them. They were the best and all that you need to do was to go to the pickup point wherever they ask you depending on the trip that you book. Since I had Sur with me, we had taken metros for most of the places as for me it would have been difficult without him. The hotel also had the metro station close by so that helped with all our logistics.

This is to experience Barcelona by land, sea and sir. So we first started exploring by land and did a walking tour by visiting the Gothic Quarter and were listening to the Catalonia stories and their history.

The charming Gothic Quarter, or Barri Gòtic, has narrow medieval streets filled with trendy bars, clubs and Catalonian restaurants. There is also the Cathedral of Barcelona and street arts. After that we walked to the Church of Sant Felip Neri in the Gothic Quarter (The romantic, slightly faded church is an unmissable corner of the Gothic Quarter and in the evening you can see people gathered with friends and family for a evening get together for fun, laughter and music ). We then proceeded to Plaça de Sant Jaume (square at the center of the Old City of Barcelona and the administrative heart of both the city and surrounding Catalonia) and went and saw the Town Hall and Palace of the Generalitat of Catalonia (Government of Catalonia, is the institutional system by which Catalonia politically organizes its self-government). We explored the Jewish quarter and passed by the Santa Maria del Pi (it is a 15th-century Gothic church).

After visiting Spain I realized that walking is the best way of seeing Europe, as it’s so beautiful that you need to explore it by foot wherever possible.

Then we went for a boat ride at Port Vell and enjoyed the cold breeze of the Mediterranean Sea, it was so beautiful.  We visited The Columbus Monument, which is a 60 m tall monument to Christopher Columbus at the lower end of La Rambla, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. It was constructed for the Exposición Universal de Barcelona in honor of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas and then went to the heliport where our sky adventure began. That was one beautiful short ride over Port Vell and the beautiful beaches and view from above was spectacular. The trip ended there but we had a quick bite near the port and then went near the pier.

It was all sea gulls which were huge and then headed to Aquarium Barcelona, which had a collection of 11,000 animals representing 450 species.

After the Aquarium visit we headed in the evening for Barcelona old town walking tour with Flamenco Show and Tapas Tour through We Barcelona. We had a guide who was Catalonian so, as we were walking to the place, she took us through the gothic quarters and old town and explained more in detail which was an eye opener. So we kind of repeated the morning walk tour once again in the evening but didn’t complain as the guide was so passionate about her culture and history, we were glued to her listening to every detail of it. After the walking tour we headed for a flamenco show which was spectacular. After a bit of snacks and drinks, we went to an outside restaurant to try the authentic Tapas in a near by pub. Tapas are bite sized snacks and it was quite interesting in a crowded pub. After enjoying those we walked back to the hotel and crashed for the night. Even though we were walking late in the night, never felt scared as we felt very safe in the city.

Day 3: After a great breakfast, we left for Montserrat Monastery visit and Natural Park Hiking with Railway from Barcelona through We Barcelona. It was a little longer ride from the city and then we reached Montserrat. It is a mountain rising over 4000 ft. into the air from Barcelona. We went to the church and then we rode the funicular railway to a scenic viewpoint, and took a nature walk in Montserrat Park while returning. It was a mini hike and enjoyed very bit of it and found lot of thyme and Rose Mary plants on the way. It was very exciting and beautiful and then returned back to the monastery. Since it was a Sunday we had the weekend market as well with varieties of home made cheese and everything tasted delicious. So we picked up lots of cheese and a dessert wine from the monastery and left. Enjoyed every minute of the drive and we returned back to the hotel. In the evening, we went around closeby, had our dinner and crashed for the night.

Day 4: We had to check out of this hotel and had to check in at Ohla Eixample which was booked by the conference organizing team. It was one of the best hotels and had an amazing hospitality. We just dozed off and woke up in the evening and was hungry. Sur decided to step out for lunch and I didn’t have a patience to walk to much, so we found a Michelin star restaurant diagonally opposite to the hotel where we were staying and Sur said the review was good. So we went inside. I had never been to a Michelin Star and this was my first time. Once we entered, we realized we were not dressed appropriately as everyone at the restaurant was in formals and I was wearing a track pants and T-shirt and Sur was in jeans and T-shirt. I was the most under dressed and I was embarrassed. Since I was hungry, we quickly found a corner, had a quick meal and left. The food was great but the quantity was less and I  didn’t have the patience to order more as I was already embarrassed with my dress code.

Sur found it difficult to get his veg food as we tried to customize a non veg food and that was a disaster, since he didn’t like the veg options from the menu. I learnt few lessons on that day. 1. Never enter a Michelin star restaurant in casuals. 2. If you are really hungry and need more quantity of food and then this is not the place. 3. Don’t try to customize the food, it has to be original. After the embarrassing situation at the Michelin star restaurant, we went back to the room, ordered some more snacks as I was still hungry and crashed for the night.

Day 5: The day was busy with back to back meetings and appointments at Fira Gran Via Barcelona which was the convention centre. We were picked up by bus as it was far from the hotel where we stayed. While I was at the conference, Sur was enjoying the hospitality at the hotel. Once I was done with the conference, we both went to the seafood restaurant at the hotel for dinner. As usual I enjoyed but Sur didn’t have much option being a vegetarian and the customized one was not very great. Then we returned to the room and crashed for the night.

Day 6: Another busy day with meetings and appointments and then evening we had a IBTM world club night Opium Barcelona which was fun after a tiring day. I headed back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

Day 7: While I headed for the final day of conference, Sur checked out and checked back in to IBIS styles where we stayed earlier pre conference days. So he was busy with that and then came to the venue to pick me up in the evening as I didn’t know the way to reach back. We went around nearby and found a grocery store, picked up more cheese, wine (even the local wines were great) for our consumption as we became addicted to the good wines of Barcelona. Then we grabbed the dinner at a close by restaurant along with more good wine and then crashed for the night.

Day 8: After a good breakfast we headed for the winery and cava (sparkling wine) tour of Pere Ventura. Here we found combination of modernity and tradition in which the company takes pride and first time I enjoyed the sparkling wine (Cava). The winery is located on the outskirts of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, in a lovely home reminiscent of an old farmhouse. The underground cellars with vaulted galleries looked breath-taking. We also got to enjoy wine tasting and every single wine was great. Then we were dropped back to the pick up point where we went around to see Gaudi architecture. Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was a Catalan architect known as the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí’s works have a highly individualized, sui generis style. I have never seen such a fantastic creative work till today, I was in awe of the buildings. After admiring the greatest architecture and creative work, we went around for a night walk for some time, had our dinner and crashed for the night.

Day 9: Had another delicious breakfast and headed for Girona and Costa Brava tour with Explore Catalunya. After a long drive, we reached Girona. Girona is a city in Spain’s north-eastern Catalonia region, beside the River Onyar. We had a time for ourselves to explore on our own and enjoyed the medieval architecture, walled Old Quarter (Barri Vell) and the Roman remains of the Força Vella fortress. Landscaped gardens line the Passeig Arqueològic, a walkway following the Old Quarter’s medieval walls, which include watchtowers with sweeping views, I felt I was in Great wall of China. Few scenes from Game of Thrones were also shot in Girona. After enjoying the cathedral and architecture, we went to the shopping place to pick up some souvenirs. Then we headed to Costa Brava. This is a coastal region of Catalonia in north-eastern Spain and the town was almost empty as it was off season. Sur was complaining that next time I need to take him during summer and not winter. We enjoyed the beach to ourselves as hardly any shops/restaurants were open due to off season.

We had lunch at Tony’s restaurant and our guide suggested that I try the Paella which I have been wanting to try but was not sure where. Paella is a Spanish rice and is one of the best-known dishes in Spanish cuisine. Since this is not a veg dish, Sur settled for some salads as he had very limited option. After enjoying the places and food we headed to the hotel. We crashed after dinner as we had an early morning flight to catch the next day.

Day 10: We had to wake up early and head to the airport and the hotel helped us to book the cab. We reached the Barcelona Airport but no shops were open as it was too early for the day. Then we boarded Air France, had a stop over in Paris. We did a bit of shopping and then boarded for Bangalore. Landed in Bangalore after a good hospitality from Air France. The awesome Spain visit came to end but this was never enough as we could visit only Barcelona and not the other cities. It’s so beautiful that you need more time to enjoy the beauty, architecture of the country and even then, it would be never enough.

Here is to more visits to Spain and Europe, until then Stay Safe……….

 

October 6, 2020

UAE – The Royal Experience

Filed under: Travel,Visa — jani @ 6:38 pm

About UAE:

The Arabic name for UAE is al-ʾImārāt al-ʿArabīyah al-Muttaḥidah which is referred as United Arab Emirates in English. The sovereign absolute monarchy is a federation of seven emirates consisting of Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain.

I was always been apprehensive to travel to Middle Eastern Countries due to their stricter laws and other restrictions in the country. I also have realized that it’s due to limited news that media shares which is not encouraging either. But on a positive note, I have a lot of respect for these countries, because they have stricter laws which in turn has lesser crimes, which we miss in our country. We are improving now but we still have a long way to go… Many times, when I read the crimes committed in our country, there is one thing always comes to mind, I wish we had their laws so that lot of innocent lives would have been saved. I can only pray we have more stricter laws and lesser crimes in our country.

Just to make me more confident before I decided to travel, I also spoke to few friends who live in UAE and they had only positive news to share about the country and I also read about certain dos and dont’s of the country before I leave. I understand that we need to respect the locals laws, traditions and cultures and there is no two way about it. So when IBTM accepted my application to attend the conference in Abu Dhabi, I thought this is the best opportunity to explore the place as well post conference. As usual, I asked Sur if he can accompany me but I was refused point blank by him. He had few reasons:-

Reason No 1: We were not married at that time, he thought he will get arrested being with me.

Reason No 2: He has the habit of holding my hands while walking and he said he will get arrested for the same while sightseeing in UAE.

To add to my woes, there was two news that we read at that time:

News No 1: There was an expat who went for a medical check-up and found out she was pregnant at the hospital and she was unmarried. She got arrested as it’s against the local law. Her partner was also an expat living in UAE. Her mother was all over the news, begging to release her daughter and she wanted her daughter and unborn grandkid to be safe in her own country. She was pleading that daughter will get out of UAE immediately if she is released from jail but no one could reach out to her. I hear once you are in their jail, you disappear and no one could reach you.

News No 2: There was a couple who checked into a particular hotel and when the hotel staff suspected something fishy, they barged into their room and found out they were having sex and they were unmarried. So they were sent straight to Jail.

These 2 news clippings were reason No . 3 for Sur, to reject my request, to accompany me to UAE  and he was trying to convince me how bad it is. So I couldn’t push him as I completely understood, so I had to do my SOLO travel which is something I don’t prefer as I can never travel alone.

Visa:

You can apply through the below website for getting a visit visa. However, you can get a visa on arrival (VOA) for a maximum stay of 14 days provided you have any USA visas that’s valid and your passport is valid for at six months from the date of arrival into the UAE.

https://www.dubaivisa.net/india/

Since I already had a valid USA visa, I could go for VOA. Then I wanted to be sure that I could travel as my visa was on the old passport since I couldn’t take any risk with UAE. So I reached out to the consulate directly over email. After few mail exchanges, they confirmed I could travel as long as I carried both passports, which anyway I would because I need to show them the visa. I was grateful to the embassy staff for being so prompt and helpful as you do not get such speedy response from many of the consulates.

Travel Itinerary:

Day 1: We were booked in Etihad Airways and of course, this is also one of the best airlines in the world. After flying various airlines, I have realized the Middle Eastern carriers, stand tall in their hospitality. That’s why I end up blindly booking these airlines, because I know their hospitality would be excellent. After enjoying it’s in-flight hospitality, I landed in Abu Dhabi. I found the immigration officers being so young and they were pretty quick with the process. I took less than 5 to 10 minutes to finish the formalities and got my VOA stamped. I got picked up by the conference organizing committee team and were welcomed in another iconic hotel Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. That’s the  luxury hotel and I already felt like a royal in Abu Dhabi when I entered. We had such a smooth check in and got into the room. It was a beautiful room, with a huge bathroom, where there was a bathtub overlooking the glass windows with amazing beach and skyline view and I immediately had to share the photos to Sur and make him jealous for missing out such a wow experience. Then I wanted a coffee but the machine looked so sophisticated that I didn’t know how to operate it. This had a sealed coffee sachet and I did try one and I failed and by then I was missing my coffee quota for the day as well. After much hesitation I did take courage to ask the housekeeping staff for help, unfortunately she didn’t know either  as she was very new. I felt pretty embarrassed, thinking I was the only one who didn’t know how to operate this one. After my failure in getting my coffee, I had to take the mixed nuts from the mini bar and have to be content with that. Even though I didn’t enjoy those nuts but that kind of distracted me from the coffee craving. Being the luxury property, those nuts were too expensive, anyway that was not a surprise as I was expecting that. By the way, Later I learnt to operate this machine in Spain, which had a similar one and of course Sur was there to figure it out. I always felt handicapped without him during my travel. God I love him that he fits right into my incomplete puzzle. I always thank God for him every day.

Since I had a little time to catch up with my bestie, who was working in Abu Dhabi, I called him to come over to the hotel. He reached and we went to the Pool bar. It was fun catching up with him. We also enjoyed  the bar food and drinks. By evening, he had to leave as he had work next day and I went straight to the room and crashed for the night.

Day 2: After a great breakfast buffet spread, I headed for the conference which was at the same hotel. UAE surprised me and even the IBTM, about how they managed the entire pre and post conference in details. The first thing, that surprised me was the registration fee, which was the cheapest among all the international conference fees that I attended. Comparing to others, it was almost nil. Then our mandatory supplier’s meeting which is usually 30 meetings for 3 days, which is in between various talks, and used to be a little hectic. Here they had only half of the mandatory requirement and half part of it was discovery day to explore the city. So this conference was more relaxing, had lot of time to network, do a bit of sightseeing and time to enjoy the delicious spreads which was very encouraging. Hats off to the organizing committee of IBTM Arabia.

The First day, we just had only the meetings for the first half, along with it, had a destination presentation of Ras Al Khaimah which was very interesting as they had recently opened a longest zip liner in the world beating Puerto Rico. Immediately the next question to the Tourism team was can we get the tickets, since I only loved the zip liner out of all the adventure ones. But unfortunately it was completely booked for the next 3-6 months. So we were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t experience the thrill of it. Then there was a royal buffet which got served in the Mezzoon Ballroom and after such a heavy and great lunch it was difficult to sit for few more meetings.

Then, it was a discovery day to visit Yas Marina circuit situated in Yas Island, enroute we enjoyed the nice drive with the panoramic view of Abu Dhabi. This is the venue for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and it is the second Formula one Track in the Middle East after Bahrain. We had a venue tour, where they had taken us to the race control room, the pit, the media center, VIP area, pit support garages and the Podium. For our live experience there were few drivers practising at that time as well. So we spent some time admiring them. Then we went to the podium, posed for few photos and felt like champions. I don’t think I would have visited this place if not for IBTM. Also we could partake in go karting, drag racing, pit stop challenge. I just admired everything as an audience and I was enjoying looking at others enjoying the moments.

Then we headed to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, which is a mostly indoors amusement park on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. It is the first Ferrari-branded theme park and has the record for the largest space frame structure ever built. Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster, is also located here. Being VIPs there, we were offered one free ride of Formula Rossa, but I declined as I am not big fan of rides as I get headaches. Many of them were scolding me, that how did I refuse such a golden opportunity but I had to just smile and say Sorry. It has more than 10 rides and unfortunately I refused to get into any. I found few companions like me in the group who also didn’t do much rides, so joined with them, had some snacks, admired the souvenir shops and we left.

We were then dropped back to Yas Vicerory – Skylite for a welcome reception. After another royal experience we were dropped back to the hotel and I crashed for the night.

Day 3: After another great breakfast spread, headed to travel supplier’s meetings, amazing lunch and then meetings and then it was time for another discovery in the capital. We headed to Louvre Abu Dhabi. It is an art and civilization museum and located on the Saadiyat Island Cultural District. It is approximately 24,000 square metres in size, with 8,000 square metres of galleries, making it the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula. After interesting experience at the museum, we headed to the Gala Evening, white themed party at Beach Rotana. It was in the open garden and it was quite an entertainment with music, food, networking and memorable experiences. Then we were dropped back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

Day 4: After a great breakfast, meetings, lunch and back to meetings. After that we had a Sunset Farewell Cocktails by the Pool at the hotel. Had a great fun and then crashed for the night.

Day 5:  After breakfast, had to pack and check out. I waited for my friend who was working in Dubai to pick me up as he was kind enough to take me out for a sightseeing in Dubai. So I had to stay near Dubai. He had booked me in Crystal Plaza Hotel in Sharjah which would be convenient to go around for the next few days. We had an amazing drive from Abu Dhabi and then late evening headed to the hotel. It was a hotel mostly run by the Malayalis, so I felt I was in India rather than in UAE. When I checked the menu, you would be surprised what I found out, it was rice and Kerala Fish Curry and I felt at home immediately. I ordered the same thing every time I ordered the room service during my stay. Another surprise was I just had a 500 ml drinking water bottle in the room and everything else was over charged and I was like, that wouldn’t be enough for me. So I had to ask them if there was any shop close by since I needed more water, the hotel staffs were helpful in guiding me a grocery shop close by, owned by another Indian who spoke Hindi. I immediately went and got a 5 litre can. That saved my stay for the next few days and I knew where to get it if I was short of water. The grocery owner was very sweet and helpful and after a quick chat, I headed back to the room with much relief. Ordered my usual staple order through room service, enjoyed the Kerala homely meal and crashed for the night.

Day 6: I had a lovely Kerala breakfast and as I was waiting for my friend to pick me up to start my sightseeing. Then I heard a knock and he was at my door. I got panicked and I am like, who allowed you to come to the room. He laughed and asked me to just relax. Since he wanted to have a tea before we head out, I ordered the same. After few minutes, we got our tea and as we were trying to finish and leave the room, we heard there was another knock. It was a housekeeping staff, checking on us. Since he saw us standing and found us walking near the door, he left without saying. So my worst fear came true. So I told my friend, I don’t want any trouble in the country, so next day I told him to stay down when he comes to pick me up and promised him to get his tea and the smoke outside the hotel. He did laugh but understood me after seeing how uncomfortable I was after the knock on my door.

After that weird experience, we headed for a sightseeing to Ras Al Khaimah. He asked me, why Sur didn’t accompany me, I was narrating him all the reasons that Sur had told me along with the news that we read. He just laughed and he said Dubai is a city with lot of expats, yes, there are local laws which needs to be respected, otherwise he agreed that there is no issue and it’s a good place. I also clarified with him on the news that we read about, first being lady found pregnant without marriage, he did say, it might be true as it’s against the law. 2nd news about a the couple having caught in sex, he said he was not sure, as he read a different news where, they arrested that couple because they were found to be carrying drugs. So the news that we hear mostly, are completely not true.

I was waiting to inform Sur about the same in the evening when I trouble him for the daily late-night call, as I was missing him. First you cannot use WhatsApp since there is restrictions in UAE for that, so we had to make the international calls, even that roaming didn’t have a good network. So Sur had to call the hotel room landline. It was very frustrating with calls getting disconnected time to time, and finally Sur surrendered saying, next time he is accompanying me as that was easier than making these phone calls every day which was more frustrating. Not allowing WhatsApp calls was a let-down in UAE.

It was a long drive to Ras al Khaimah. It was a dry place but was a hilly terrain and was a beautiful drive so we just enjoyed the drive, that also took us to the residential area as well and it was very different from the high rise buildings in Dubai. We went around, the zipline which is called Jebel Jais Flight which allows thrill-seekers to soar from the country’s largest mountain peak for nearly three minutes, suspended while gliding through rocky terrain. Measuring 1.76 miles long, this zipline stretches longer than 28 football fields, and crushes the former record holder in Puerto Rico by almost 2,000 feet. We were just enjoying the view of the people going in the zipline, it looked scary though. Then we found a shop near the parking and we found a tea shop, the owner was from Pakistan. He guessed we were from India, we got the tea, started chatting with him for some time and then left from there after such a hearty conversation. At the end of the day people are good, no matter which country they are from. I wished we had better relations with Pakistan provided they didn’t support the people who intend to harm the country and people. I heard the country is so beautiful but losing out on all the tourism and revenue for the country because of evil activities by few, affecting majority of the innocent people and am sure the innocent and good hearted people of Pakistan, might also be wishing the same for their country. My prayers for the country, that they work on improving relationship with India by eradicating the evil people/group, who destroy the peace of the country and the innocent people. Then we headed back to Dubai and I had to visit my friend’s family and kids. Spent some time with them, then I got dropped back to the hotel, had my homely food at the hotel and crashed for the night.

Day 7: After the breakfast, I headed down to the lobby waiting for my friend. Had his usual tea and then we headed for a sightseeing in Dubai. We went to the Dubai Mall, went around looking at various high end shops. It also has Aquarium & Underwater Zoo in the mall itself, so as you walk through the mall, you can see the sharks through the glass and it was amazing. So we didn’t go inside and then headed to the food court for lunch. The food options were great and one of my best dessert that I tasted here was Kunafa at my friend’s insistence. Kanafeh (Kunafa) is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert made with shredded filo pastry, or alternatively fine semolina dough, soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and typically layered with cheese, or with other ingredients such as clotted cream or nuts, depending on the region. He said I should try that. I still salivate at the thought of it even today and I haven’t found yet here in Bangalore. Even though once for a dinner at Hyatt, MG Road, Bangalore, there was kunafah, am sorry it was nowhere close to that. I am still waiting if I can get the same here in Bangalore. I haven’t succeeded yet. Once I did try to ask my friends to get it when they visited Dubai, unfortunately they got something else. I wanna go to Dubai, at least to taste that Kunafa again. After such an unforgettable dessert experience, we drove again. We passed through Burj Al Khalifa, Dubai Frame etc.  Since we were short of time, we didn’t get down to go into those places. My friend being a perfect guide was pointing me every iconic buildings in the city and explaining about it as he drove me along.

Then we headed to the souk, for perfumes as he was raving about the oil-based perfume. He insisted I should visit them. So we headed off to the souk. Here they have the oil-based perfumes of David Off and many other known perfumes. The advantage with the oil based was, it stays longer in your body against the water based ones, which is usually we get to buy in the perfume stores. Once you select the perfumes that you want to pick up, they have 15 to 30 ml small bottles where they pour and give you. I could just stay there forever, inhaling those amazing scents. That is the only thing I was ok to shop, since I just love those amazing scents. So we picked up quite a lot of bottles with different brands and then headed to find a t-shirt for Sur. We picked up more perfumes from another shop and then headed back. There were gold, dry fruits, nuts and many beautiful things. Then we headed to a famous dry fruits store, picked up some dates, dry fruits and fruit candies. If you love shopping, this is the perfect place.

I also heard that you need to be careful here. There are people inviting you on the street to buy their stuffs and they take you to a shady place/hidden place, in that case please don’t go as it might be fake products. However, if you are going directly to an open shop, then you are good to go. I was reminded of Sex and the city 2 and the tips when they travelled to Abu Dhabi. Do respect the local customs in terms of dressing, that would always make your stay pleasant. But you have nothing to worry about safety as hardly anyone dares to do any crimes as the laws are pretty stringent.

After such an amazing experience, I had a quick dinner at the hotel and crashed for the night.

Day 8: Had another Indian breakfast and then packed my luggage and was time to head out to the airport. My friend already had instructed me that there was a pickup point in Dubai for Etihad Airlines, so I needn’t go all the way to Abu Dhabi. So hotel had helped me with a cab, reached the airport lounge in Dubai and checked in there itself. It was such a smooth experience and then I was waiting for the bus. Then we boarded the bus, reached the airport and bid adieu to UAE. The warm hospitality of Etihad Airlines, came to an end as I landed in Bangalore. My appreciation and love to the airlines.

So my fearful UAE trip came to an end, but I came with an enriching experience and lots of respect for the country. Yes, you need to respect the local culture, there is no two way about it. But they have the best legal system, because no one messes with it, since they know they can’t escape from the law. The stringent law keeps the country clean, crime rates low and everyone does their job ethically and at their best. I just wish, we have the same legal system to ensure the guilty is punished and doesn’t go scot free just because they are from a powerful/influential family and also the judicial process is faster and not goes on and on and on and never ending……..

UAE, am coming again with Sur, so that I can explore more, this time he is not scared because we are married now. I can still make fun of him on this………Let’s defeat this Covid soon, so that we can travel again and in the meantime start appreciating the little things in life, be thankful to all the best friends who shaped your life  and be grateful for all the opportunities that we are blessed with every day….Until then Stay Safe…..

October 3, 2020

Passport – Things to keep in mind for International travel

Filed under: Travel,Visa — jani @ 7:56 pm

About Passport:

It is a travel document, usually issued by a country’s government to its citizens, that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder primarily for the purpose of international travel. In India passport is usually issued for 10 years for Adults and 5 years for minors.

Validity Requirement:

When you apply for the short visit visas to the consulate, ideally it has to be valid for at least 6 months from the return travel date to ensure you have a smooth travel to the destination country. Some countries might ask for 6 months validity from the travel start date or even for a year. Do check the passport validity requirements before you apply for visas and then before you travel.

It’s not just the validity period, it also has to be the number of empty pages available in the passport. Ideally for short visit visas, it has to have at least 2-4 pages being completely empty sans even the immigration stamps. For work permits, some countries require 4-8 pages being empty. Some of the countries like UK, might require having minimum of 2 pages (front and back of the single paper to be empty) due to the security codes present on the visa vignette, otherwise they cannot stamp the visas). Ideally ensure at least 2-3 papers of the passport to be empty on both sides of the respective papers.

In terms of work permit applications, countries like US/Europe, it can be valid from few months to 1 year. For these countries, visa is not issued as per passport validity and they go ahead and issue the maximum period of the work permit from 1 year/4 years/10 years. Only requirement for them is passport has to be valid until the complete process is done. When the passport expires before the visa validity, you can apply for a new passport. When you travel all that you need is to ensure, you carry both old and new passports since the work permit/visas are in the old passport.

For countries like Europe/few Asian countries, there is post landing formalities for work permit as the residence/work permit gets stamped only after landing in the destination country. In this case passport cannot expire until the post landing formalities are done. If it expires before landing, then you might have to reapply for the passport and have to reapply for the work permit with the new passport, which again adds unnecessary cost to the corporate/individual.

For countries like Malaysia, the passport has to be valid for full 2 years in order to get the maximum period to be issued, as the work permits (EP) are issued for a maximum of for 2 years. If you don’t have the 2 years validity, then your work permit gets issued only until the passport validity date, which means, you have to reapply for the work permit, once your new passport comes through which would add additional cost for you.

For countries like Singapore, the visa has to be transferred to the new passport, if the old passport expires and your visa is still valid. This also adds additional cost to you, as Singapore doesn’t accept travelling with the visa in the expired passport, even if you carry the new passport along with it.

Physical Condition:

Passport cannot be physically damaged while applying for visa application specially while travelling.

Ensure the passport is kept safe, so that physically it’s not damaged.

The paper from the passport cannot be torn no matter what.

You/your kids cannot scribble on the passports.

Ensure, if the lamination from bio or address page is coming off, ensure to get a new passport.

If there is any accidental physical damage to the passport, better get a new passport and travel or else you might get into problems at the destination country

It’ s also important that you ensure, the passport is not damaged while travelling, then there is a possibility of you getting stuck at the destination, until your new passport comes through.

It’s better to apply passport in your home country which might be easier than applying at the destination.

Happy Travelling…and Stay Safe…..

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