Melbourne Travel Blog› entry 2 of 5 › view all entries
Visa - noun - An official authorization appended to a passport, permitting entry into and travel within a particular country or region.
Application times for international visas vary depending on what visa you apply for and what country you are applying to. There are several types of visas, depending upon your intention in the country. For the sake of this post, we will use a work visa as an example.
In some countries, a visa is not required, for example in New Zealand, Australians are entitled to the same work oportunities as New Zealanders, as long as they are of good character and have entered the country legally. Australians between the ages of 18 to 30 can apply for a 12 month German Working Holiday Visa, it costs 60 Euro and takes 1 to 2 weeks to process. Work in the Netherlands can be undertaken under the Working Holiday Scheme, once again you have to be 18 to 30, it costs 40 Euro and takes a maximum of four weeks to process. Work in Sweeden is much the same, 18 to 30, around 60 Euro and four weeks to process. For work in the United Kingdom, you can now apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme, 18 to 30 year olds can apply with minimal inclusion of past work, or past education.
In December, I started the application for the Youth Mobility Scheme. First an online application form had to be completed, taking about 30 minutes. Upon completion a window was made available that allowed an appointment to be made at my local consulate to submit “biometric details” (fingerprints and facescan). The paperwork was stamped, and then required to be sent to the British High Commission in Canberra.
I was supposed to leave the country today (11:30am on Saturday the 24th of January), alongside my sister Charlotte, who is off to France for a student exchange. At 3:50pm yesterday, I was forced to cancel my flights, due to the absence of my Youth Mobility Scheme Visa, and more importantly, my passport. They are both still in the hands of the British High Commission in Canberra, who at this present stage cannot give me an indication of when they will arrive, or how far along my application is. All I know is that my application fee of $248 was taken out of my account on the 11th of January, which is a Sunday, those British bureaucrats must work hard.
The 11th of January was three days after I posted the application, which means they must have opened the envelope. When I submitted my biometric details, I was given two pieces of paper, one piece of paper said that a return postage fee was required and another that said that I was to include a self addressed return envelope. Due to my application going through the Visa 4 UK website, I had not come into contact with any specific information relating to processing in Australia. I did a Google search and was directed to the UK in Australia website’s FAQ section. I found out that the system had changed recently and that due to courier charge increases, return postage envelopes were now required.
Looking through the FAQ I stumbled upon another question, unavailable to me before; How long will my Application take? To my horror, it stated 25 Working Days. I rang the consulate on their 1300 number, and to my surprise I was asked for my credit card number. As it turns out you are required to pay $9.90 BEFORE you talk to an operator. This was the last of my problems, so I accepted and was given no more useful information from the operator. My travel agent advised me that a letter with my application would possibly assist me, this was included with my application. I am not the only one to have had problems with the British High Commission and their processing of visas and customer service, and I call it customer service due to the fact that they have a Public Service Agreement Charter. Simply do a Google search for UK Visa Canberra Processing Time Forum, and you will find many people very disgruntled with the system. There is an upside to this however…
“Never do today what you can put off untill tomorrow. Delay may give clearer light as to what is best to be done.” Aaron Burr, American Statesman and Adventurer, 1756-1836
Whinging aside, this means I have re-jigged my plans, and you can view them in full at my TravBuddy page. I am now hoping to leave on February the 5th which is Thursday week. I fly straight to Ko Samui in preparation for the Full Moon Party, with Caitlin and Alex, two friends from High School. I spend about 5 days there, enough to get ready and more importantly recover. I then move onto Hanoi in Vietnam for two nights, Sapa in the mountains of the north for two nights, and then head down to Hue which will take almost a whole day on the train. I plan to stay in Hue the mid point of Vietnam for about 3-4 nights, then onto the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Hoi An.
The final city I will visit in Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh City. From Ho Chi Minh, I then plan to fly into Vientiene in Laos. From Vientiene, I am doing a fleeting tour toward the Thailand / Laos border, so I spend two nights in Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang and then cross over into Bangkok. Becuase of my delayed departure, I am spending just three nights in Bangkok before heading to Kuala Lumpur to visit my VCA friend Govin. Govin and I will hang out in Kuala Lumpur as he is doing a large festival with Peter Wilson, the ex VCA Puppetry Head of School. He and I are planning to head to Manila in the Phillipines for three nights to party it up before I leave Asia. Govin is planning to drive me from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore to drop me at the airport and also visit his Grandparents. I then fly onto Dubai.
I am also now planning to work in Dubai instead of London. This is due to the large amount of work available in the United Arab Emirates region. Audio Visual work is in high demand due to the large number of conferences and events that are held, and the money behind the companies over there. A past collegue has just come back from there and earns about $14,000 a month, with included accomodation, and an $80 a day allowance. I am hoping to work for one of two companies, Gearhouse Staging Connections, or Action Impact. I submitted applications this afternoon after changing my flights and other details.
Thanks for reading this far in the post. I have worked hard on trying to make this post as informational as possible, and with as little whinging as possibel. I am hoping that others can learn from my small mistakes, that have turned into trip altering problems. Please feel free to comment this post with your travel nightmare stories, at least we can have a laugh in retrospect. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you, once I actually leave the country.
UPDATE: Still no word from the British High Commission in Canberra as to the status of my application for “Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme” Visa, so it might be a delayed start to the trip, by anything up to 10 days. Also, if you are around on Sunday, come and bid me farewell, 5pm @ Bar Etiquette, Sydney Road, Brunswick… Details on Facebook now!
Packing and “Packing”
I did a test pack this evening, and had no idea where to begin, so to procrastinate, I went looking on the iPhone App Store for Travel Applications. I stumbled across one called “Packing”. It’s pretty much what it says it is; it allows you to create packing lists for your travels from pre existing templates, and then add items from the pre-existing / customizable database. The application is great, and it gave me a “general trip” template to work off, which made life very easy for me. I added and deleted things as I needed, and changed the title of some things, like “flip flops” to “thongs” and “flashlight” to “torch”. I had figured it out, so now I had no excuse not to begin.
To give you some idea of how I am travelling I have included a photo of the two (and a half) bags below. I have my Mountain Designs 75L Pack that has a little detachable day pack on the front of it (15L). For use during the day, I have the Lowepro Slingshot 350 AW, which has the ability to carry my digital SLR, laptop and other such goodies. See my earlier travel post for more info.
Mountain Designs 75L Pack with Detachable 15L Daypack,
Lowepro Slingshot 350 AW
Now I am going for 9 months, and unlike my last trip (2 1/2 months) I cant be without my tech gadgets. So this time I have brought the lot.
I am taking the plunge and bringing my Nikon D80 Digital SLR Camera, alongside my Olympus compact digital (the one that the dog eats in the advert). I am hoping that alongside the usual barrage of travel photos I can capture some of the locals, their lives and some arty shots. I plan to keep a dedicated section on my Flickr page to these sort of photos. The Lowepro Slingshot backpack (shown above) is designed to house the digital SLR and slings around to your front for easy access. The compact digital has a belt pouch. Due to these cameras taking different memory cards (Nikon takes SD cards, Olympus takes XD cards), I have purchase an 8 in 1 Card Reader. For security, both cameras have removable batteries, so that I can keep the camera safely locked up in my bag whilst the battery recharges.
Clothes and such
Now I won’t bore you with my complete packing list, but I do need to mention one amazingly useful thing I found at the Kathmandu christmas sale… Packing Cells. They are pretty simple, just little rectangular shaped bags with zipper tops that come in varying sizes. Very simple, but they allow me to be able to pack and unpack my bag in a matter of minutes. From my test pack yesterday, my bag came to 16kg with a bit of room to spare, although I am looking at packing slightly lighter and then buying some clothes in Asia.
This is kind of the miscellaneous category. I am bringing an Australian power board, so that I can recharge a number of items using the one plug adapter. I am hoping to get some work in the UK, so my trusty Leatherman, and Maglite are a must. I have my Kathmandu Travel Alarm Clock with built in torch. I brought this purely so I wouldnt have to leave my phone out overnight (worried about theft). When I travel between airports, I generally don’t use my padlocks, instead I use cable ties, and make sure that when I am collecting my bags, the cable ties are intact. This poses one problem, how do you get the cable ties un-done at the other end? Enter the Swiss Card, that lives in the front pocket of my pack (the only pocket I don’t use as it can’t be locked). This business card sized swiss army knife has scissors, problem solved!
Reading and Writing
I plan to take my Lonely Planet Western Europe Guide, and probably a novel, but that’s to be confirmed (I’m not much of a reader). I am hoping to convince the Lonely Planet people to give me the guide I have purchased in digital form so that I can read it on my computer and iPhone, but it’s not looking likely at the moment. I am also taking a small notebook to fill with random thoughts or things that aren’t worthy of being posted on my webpage. A sharpie is a definate, and a pen or two (that will most likely get lost at the first airport I visit).
Now call me a little paranoid, but when you are taking as many expensive items as I am, you want to be sure your pack poses some challenges to get into. I have managed not to loose my three combination locks from my last trip, one of which includes a cable, giving you the ability to tether your pack to some study item (usually a bunk bed). Last time I went overseas, I didn’t take my computer, but did have a phone and a camera, and these locks kept the theives out. This time, I am going for something a little more hardcore. I am employing the services of a group of small ninja that will follow me around and sleep under my bed. No, wait… that was Plan A, Plan B comes in the form of the PacSafe Exomesh 120. It is essentially a large net of wire that wraps around your bag and then tethers to a pole or bed and prevents access to your bag. It is a very full on solution, and I think I will only use it in backpackers where there is a high chance of theft.