Monday, July 17, 2017

Vacation in 2017 - Portugal 2

This is a continuation of the last post on Planning a vacation to Portugal and how it came about.
Here I am going to list the actual steps we took. They are:
  1. Applying for VISA 
  2. Checking weather conditions online
  3. Arranging the required finances
  4. Booking accommodation 
  5. Making a list of essentials for the trip and procuring them
  6. Packing 
  7. Making arrangements for my plants to be taken care of
  8. Closing up the house etc.
VISA application:

 Jo is a European national, so luckily for him, he does not need to apply for a VISA to Portugal. I had to go through the entire tiresome process though. It meant looking up on the net all the information available.One plus point for me was that the Portuguese Consulate is in Panjim, a stone's throw from where we live and work.
I needed the following documents to apply:
  • Flight tickets, to and fro to Portugal
  • Bank account statements showing adequate funds to cover the expense for the trip
  • Travel insurance for both of us
  • Photocopies of accommodation already booked
  • Online application form duly filled and printed
  • Passport size photographs as per the specifications
  • Interview date confirmed etc.
 First things first. The online application form could have been more user friendly. A couple fields to fill out were confusing. You just have to guess what they are expecting from you and fill out. If it takes you to the next field, well and good; or try another reply. Did it until all my replies were accepted. We can also choose the date and time for our interview. If everything is correct in the form, the Consulate will reply to your online application asking you to print it out and take on the interview day.
On the appointed day, duly collected all my documents and headed for my interview. The Portuguese Consulate is in Altinho, a hillock overlooking Panjim. Pretty view all round. It happened to be middle of summer and scorching heat from the morning. There is no shelter of any sort. Well along with 50 others I waited and when my turn came, I went inside, and when my name was called did the formalities of bio metric identification etc. I was in for a surprise as they asked me for the VISA fee. Online information in said spouses of European nationals need not pay VISA fee. When I pointed it out, they discussed it back and forth and insisted I pay the fee, in Cash, which I found odd. Aren't we all heading towards digital payments etc.?
Since I wanted my VISA, I went to the bank withdrew cash and paid up. Next step was to wait. Simply wait.... one week .... wait .... two weeks .... wait .... no intimation from consulate .... I found a mail ID from the net and write to them about the status of my form .... wait .... Received a mail saying it is being processed .... wait .... one more week .... wait .... I send one more mail saying I need to make preparations, the departure date is coming close .... 
After exactly four weeks I received a mail asking me to go and collect my VISA. I heaved a sigh of relief!!!! finally!!!!!
At the appointed time, I went and collected my VISA. Armed with it, we were ready to proceed to complete the preparations.
I was warned not to carry cash while traveling. That left the option of cards. HDFC bank insisted I take a Forex multi-currency card, more than 20 currencies; which they were charging Rs.250 for the service. I needed only for euros. After a couple of back and forth discussion, it turns out that the Euro Forex card had problems, so the bank wanted me to take a multi currency card for Rs.100. Very sweet of them, right? not so, as it turned out...
To be on the safe side, I got another International Debit card and made sure there was enough money on it. After all we were going to a foreign country and we needed to have adequate funds .... That is another story ...
At the time of applying for VISA, we had booked our stay in a couple of places. Now, we had only one week to go before boarding our flight, and had to book accommodation for the rest of 17 days more.
Our original plan was to do a road trip. we planned a circular route cover the entire country, starting from Lisbon, traveling north, then east, down south and back to Lisbon. Jo printed out the maps of Portugal in A3 size and we drew the route with a marker, along with highlighting the places we wanted to visit. Below is the list of place we wanted to cover:
  • Lisbon
  • Sintra
  • Mafra
  • Obidos
  • Alcobaca
  • Leiria
  • Tomar
  • Coimbra
  • Conimbriga
  • Aveiro
  • Porto
  • Guarda
  • Evora
  • Faro 

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