It’s great to imagine a spontaneous visit to Europe. If you are from one of the following countries you don’t need a visa for a tourist stay of up to 90 days: UK, European Union, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia. This is by no means a complete list.
However, if your passport is from India, China, Pakistan, Indonesia, any African country, most South American countries and many others, then you must apply for a visa for the UK and the ‘Schengen Area’. Allow at least 8 weeks for the process as you have to pay for your travel arrangements in advance. This is part of the evidence you need to show to the consulate where you are applying. A visa refusal is very rare, but make certain you have all your paperwork correct before you apply. Unfortunately the consulate where you apply has no connection with the tourism office for the same country and no matter how much you have paid for your travel arrangements, all they care about is if the paperwork is correct so they can issue a visa.
Similarly the booking conditions of most tour and travel arrangements do not provide a full refund within 8 weeks of travel. A sliding scale of cancellation charges kicks in usually within 8-10 weeks before departure. If you have to cancel your travel plans you will lose your airfare, your tour deposit and probably a lot more since you won’t know if your visa has been granted until possibly a couple of weeks before travel. Visa refusal is not an insurable event.
It’s not all doom and gloom. In 15 years of helping guests form overseas with their tours I can recall four failures to obtain a visa out of hundreds. Two applications didn’t apply in time. The other two were refused for unknown reasons. Only one person lost money because they decided not to re-schedule. The others we managed to re-schedule their departures for a later date with minimal charges. This is due to our excellent relationships with the tour operators and their goodwill. You should not count on this as each case is looked at on an individual basis. The tour operator booking conditions allow them to treat any change within 8-10 weeks of departure as a cancellation and you can lose anything from the deposit only up to 100% of the tour cost.
This article is just to remind you to be prepared and get your application right. Global Coach Tours does not provide a visa processing service, but we will provide all the evidence required to prove your travel plans with us. We will write you an application support letter when you have booked and paid in full for the tour. The process is usually straightforward, albeit bureaucratic.
- Apply in consulate of your main destination. If you are visiting different countries in the Schengen area, but one country in the Schengen area is where you will be spending most of the time (in number of days) that is your MAIN destination.
- If you are visiting different countries in the Schengen area, but you are spending an equal number of days in each country, your first port of entry in the Schengen area is the country you apply to.
- Apply in your country of residence. If you are currently living in the UK as a student or worker you can apply in the UK, but when family come to visit you from your home country on holiday, they must already have a Schengen visa.
Further reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen_Area