Applying for a Schengen Visa!

It’s great to imagine a spontaneous visit to the UK or 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, and  this list is by no means a complete one.

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’. First, however, it would be helpful to understand some background information in order to understand what the Schengen Area actually is.

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The background to the Schengen Area stems from the formation of the European Union (EU) in 1993. The EU is a group of 28 mostly European countries that participate in the world economy as one economic unit and have one official currency, the euro.

 

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From this European Union, the Schengen Agreement was signed which created the Schengen Area. Countries in the Schengen Area have removed border controls with the other Schengen members and strengthened border controls with non-Schengen states. Of the 26 countries bound by the Schengen agreement, 22 are part of the EU and the other 4 are part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

 

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 The countries that are not part of the EU but are part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) include Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. The other six EU members that do not form part of the Schengen Area include Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The first 4 are legally obliged and wish to join the area, while the last 2 have opted-out.

 

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This may all sound very complicated, but for the benefit of travelling around Europe, it does have its advantages as only one visa is needed to cover your journey – the Schengen Visa. To apply for the Schengen Visa it is advisable to allow at least 8 weeks for the process as you have to pay for your travel arrangements in advance, and these travel arrangements form part of the evidence you need to show to the consulate where you are applying. Correct paperwork is also essential for the consulate to issue a visa, so checking you have the right information beforehand is very important.

 

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Notably, 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. Unfortunately, visa refusal is not an insurable event. The best thing to do is make sure you have all the information you need in the first place to obtain your visa.

 

Key points to remember:

  • Apply to 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. BOOK YOUR APPOINTMENT NOW – Allow minimum 10 working days to have your passport returned after the appointment date!

  • 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 as long as your UK residence permit is valid at least three months beyond the return date of the tour.

For the Schengen Visa Global Coach Tours will write you an application support letter when you have booked and paid in full for one of their tours. Again, you must have a UK resident permit to apply in the UK and not just here for a short visit. Your UK residence permit must be valid at least three months beyond the return date of the tour. You should apply in the consulate of the country where you spend the most time. Allow several weeks before your tour as you will be seen by appointment only.

 

 

Beautiful Croatia!

Like many other countries, Croatia has a very rich and and complex history in regards to politics and Independence.  The Croatian War of Independence led to the the break-up of Yugoslavia and was eventually  recognised internationally by the United Nations in 1992. Since the conclusion of the Croatian War of Independence, the tourist industry has grown significantly with over 10 million tourists each year visiting this country’s magnificent beauty.

 

Hilltown in Croatia

Hilltown in Croatia

 

Ranked as the 18th most popular tourist destination in the world, Croatia also has the beautiful City of Dubrovnik to admire.

This stunning location can now boast being one of the filming locations for the very popular television programme ‘Game of Thrones’.

 

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Beautiful City of Dubrovnik.

 

Another amazing sight to see in Croatia is the Plitvice Lakes National Park.

This outstanding national park is actually the oldest to be found in Southeast Europe and the largest national park in Croatia itself.

It is world famous for its cascading lakes, waterfalls and dynamic landscape and is situated within the mountainous border to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Plitvice Lakes National Park

The City of Pula is another must see when visiting Croatia.

This city has many surviving ancient Roman buildings, which include its 1st-century amphitheatre,  popularly called the Arena of Pula and is among the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the world.

Another notable and well-preserved ancient Roman structure is the 1st century AD Temple of Rome and Augustus, now in use as a lapidarium to display items of Roman sculpture. 

 

Coliseum at Pula, Croatia

Amphitheater at Pula

 

The Temple of Rome and Augustus was actually hit and nearly destroyed during World War 11 but was reconstructed again in 1947. 

 

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Temple of Rome and Augustus

 

When you have seen all these  marvelous sights you can then go off and enjoy the local hospitality with a glass of wine…..or two! 

 

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Local produce including wines to enjoy.

 

 

 

Let Contiki Indulge your Wanderlust!

Taking time out after months of hard study and exams is one sure way to get your head, mojo or whatever you feel you need to get back !

A lot of students like to indulge their wandering spirits by setting off on an adventure of a lifetime either between college and university or between university and getting that dream job.

This allows for a real cooling off period from all the stress that has engulfed their lives during their strive for academic success.

We all need an off switch that enables us to ‘just live’ without all the constraints of the on button that tells us to ‘succeed’ no matter what.

Most employers would probably be glad to have someone on board that has lived a bit and experienced some of what life’s got to offer!

Take heart that you are not alone for this thirst for adventure. I think the need to explore this wondrous world of ours is there the minute we are born and never really leaves us.

Some prefer to do it alone, wandering the earth to see what will behold them. Others, not so much, as being part of a group is one way to get to know new people on their once in a lifetime journey.

 

Planning is the key – it allows you to pick and choose the places you most want to see.

Being part of a tour is even better because others do the hard work for you.

Say you wanted to visit Dubrovnik in Croatia so you can see for yourself where ‘Game of Thrones’ is filmed, or the home of the legendary explorer Marco Polo, or just the blue water & rocky Adriatic coastline.

A Croatian Island Hopper tour would be just what you are looking for.

A Croatian Island Hopper tour would be

The choice is vast out there for anyone wanting the time of their life. You can decide where you want to go, what you want to see and when you want to see it by just browsing and  choosing a tour that best suits you.

Forget having to choose different hotels and worrying about how you are going to get about, every thing is done for you – your only job is to enjoy yourself big time!!

Contiki Tours even do a Backstage pass that gives you an incredible exclusive experience. From exclusive food to exclusive accommodation to exclusive access to the best sights, your Backstage Pass gives you unbeatable value & a completely unique travel experience.

Legendary Locations for Game of Thrones!

The excellent award winning HBO production Game of Thrones has now become a phenomenal worldwide success! This is partly to do with some of the most extraordinary film locations and set pieces that have both amazed and moved an audience crying out for some truly outstanding escapism.

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These extraordinary film locations include Northern Ireland, with extensive filming along the stunning Causeway Coast and Glens.

 

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Stunning Causeway Coast

The Giant’s Causeway, renowned for its thousands of interlocking hexagonal basalt columns, was created by cooling lava bursting from a volcanic eruption some 60 million years ago. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is steeped in myth and legend, especially about the mighty giant, Finn McCool. It’s setting within a dramatic coastal landscape rugged cliffs and magnificent views make it perfect for Game of Thrones.

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Giant’ causeway

 

Northern Ireland is not the only amazing film location, the enchanting walled town of Dubrovnik, Croatia is also used for many scenes.

 

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

 

Dubrovnik is used for the many scenes depicting King’s Landing – home to the Crown and where the legendary Iron Throne can be found. It has also been described as ‘paradise on earth’ by George Bernard Shaw so it is easy to see why this beautiful place was chosen as a location.

 

Dubrovnik is not the only warm country to be featured in Game of Thrones, Malta has also had it’s share of fantastical scenes.

 

Malta

Malta

 

Malta is a medieval masterpiece and proved an ideal backdrop for the Seven Kingdom’s capital of King’s Landing during the first series !

On a colder front, Iceland made an excellent choice for some of the Game of Thrones ‘North of the Wall’ scenes.

 The Godafoss in Iceland

The Godafoss in Iceland

 

The beautiful Lake Myvatn with its outstanding and magical landscapes was the perfect backdrop for scenes ‘beyond the Wall’ and where the  White Walkers may roam! The area offers a vast spectrum of geological formations and the intense geothermal activity produces mud pools and spectacular coloured deposits. The Godafoss, also known as ‘The Waterfall of the Gods’, is a spectaculat sight to behold, and only reinforces why this magnificent area was the location of choice.

 

So there you have it, just a glimpse of some of the truly amazing locations that the makers of Game of Thrones have used to fuel our imaginations and secure a place in outstanding television Cinematography history.

Give the family an adventure to remember this summer with Explore

Give the family an adventure to remember this summer with Explore!

Give the family an adventure to remember this summer with Explore  – 

Instead of booking a week on the beach this summer, how about taking the family on an adventure they’ll never forget? Whether you’re chasing the thrill of zip wiring, canyoning and whitewater rafting, or the more relaxed pursuits of kayaking, cycling, and boat cruises, an active break is just the way to keep the whole family entertained over the holidays. With over 16 different family tours departing to Europe alone this summer – from the Azores, to Tuscany, Croatia, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy  – there’s an Explore adventure to suit all interests.

Below are a selection currently on offer in Europe:

 

Family Active Andalucia!

Cycle, kayak and walk through some of southern Spain and Portugal’s most remote areas. In this rural corner of Western Europe, discover a landscape of forested hills, mountain villages and shimmering lakes. Later, cruise along the scenic Guadiana River, travel to the coast and relax among its beautiful sand dunes. Departing in August 2013, this eight day family adventure starts from £739 per adult and £696 per child including return flights; seven nights hotel with breakfast; transport; and the services of a tour leader and driver. Minimum age is six.

 

Tuscan Active Adventure

This energetic holiday explores Tuscany’s hidden gem – the Garfagnana Valley. Combine outdoor activities such as canyoning, climbing, kayaking, and riding zip wires with time to relax by the pool at a beautifully restored Tuscan villa. Walk the ‘Cinque Terre’ coastal path, and cycle on the ancient city walls of Lucca. At the end of each day, return to a homely farmhouse and enjoy home-cooked Tuscan cuisine. Departing July and August 2013, this eight day adventure starts from £1,064 per adult and £967 per child including return flights; seven nights hotel with breakfast; eight other meals; local transport; and the services of a tour leader and driver. Minimum age is 11.

 

Croatian Active Adventure

Join this week of exciting activities in stunning Croatian landscapes. Based in a rural hamlet with access to the Dalmatian Coast, enjoy the thrills of whitewater rafting, go sea kayaking and ‘canyon’ through caves and waterfalls. There is also time to discover Croatia’s historic sights or relax, making this an ideal trip for all the family. Departing in August 2013, this eight day holiday starts from £1,099 per adult and £1,034 per child including return flights; seven nights pension accommodation with breakfast; eight other meals; transport including bus, kayaking and raft; and the services of a tour leader, driver, instructor and support staff for all activities. Participation in canoeing, kayaking, or rafting (including whitewater) requires the ability to swim 25 metres unaided. Minimum age is eight.

Azores Adventure

Bathed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, these little-known volcanic islands rise dramatically from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Spend time on two of the nine islands, Sao Miguel and Terceira, exploring their jagged landscapes and deep lava caves. Take a boat to search for elusive whales and dolphins and try local cuisine cooked in natural ovens cut out of the ground. Departing in July and August 2013, this eight day tour starts from £1,330 per adult and £1,234 per child including return flights; seven night’s hotel with breakfast; two lunches; local transport; and the services of a tour leader, drivers and boat crew. Minimum age is five.