If you are one of the few hundred people among millions who get a headache when the plane takes off and ascends to 35-40,000 feet and get even severe headaches when it starts its descent then you and I are the same. Being a consultant I take from 20-40 flights a year and these headaches were a pain that almost made me decide to drop travelling by plane completely. I tried several combination of things people recommend like nasal sprays, chewing gum, popping your ears and none of them worked for me. I was frustrated because if you have had that pain you know there is nothing more unbearable than the feeling of your brain veins about to burst. For those wondering why it happens, its due to the rapid change in cabin pressure that you cant adjust to. Thankfully right before I gave up something as simple as an ibuprofen(Advil) worked a little and the next flights I took I tried different timings of taking it and figured out the perfect combination. Here is what I found, hopefully it works for you too.
Take an ibuprofen 20 mins before take off and 50 mins before touch down is to happen. This makes it kick in at the perfect time of when the plane starts its ascend and air pressure changes rapidly and when it starts descending. I hope this post finds its way to the right people. Let me know your experiences and solutions and if this worked for you.
So you have gotten your visa and tickets, everything seems to be in order and you are ready to pack for your Europe trip, besides clothes and the stuff you will want to take with you, I want to mention the things you should not forget. So whether you are going in the summer or winter here is what you must have with you.
An empty bottle of water.
Good shoes, its best to have long backs mostly called work boots cause bare in mind you need to walk a lot. I got myself these:
Your own toiletries.
A phone that has a good battery, none have a good battery these days so I kept two phones.
Two pin socket adapter, like the ones below (all hotels/hostels have sockets that fit only these) if you dont have one you might have to buy one for as much as 4 euros.
Good quality padlocks, keep at least one extra padlock with you.
A Diary or notebook that contains your hotel addresses(write down the route you plan to take from airport to hotel and from hotel to airport); flight, bus and train details along with the activities you plan to do each day or in each city. This helped me a lot as there is so much to see and so much to do that you might miss out on something you should have included in your trip. Keep this diary with you at all times.
Medicines, pain killers, muscle relaxants and others if you need any.
Plastic bags, lots of them to keep any wet or dirty clothes.
Bonus: Earplugs and a sleep mask.
Try to stay as light as possible, keep a 20 – 25 kg suitcase and one backpack that you will carry everywhere. Remember if you are on a budget, even if you are not its always good to take the metro, bus or tram to where ever you want to go, public transport system is really good in Europe specially in Turkey; taxi’s are to be avoided as much as possible; therefore pack keeping in mind that it should be easy for you to travel with all of your stuff. If you plan to take domestic flights then you will have to pay a good amount of money (30-40 euros) just for that suitcase. They allow hand carries that are not more than 10kg. However you can take your suitcase without any extra charge for baggage while travelling through train or bus. Lastly to save space remember to roll and not to fold. Hope this help, stay tuned for more in this series!
So you have planned to visit Europe; however if you are not a US, Canadian or UK resident chances are you are going to need a visa to enter the Schengen Area. I am not a visa expert/counselor so please take the following as my opinion and information based on my experience only.
The first step is to decide which country you are going to apply to, as the Schengen agreement is accepted by 26 states and you can apply to anyone of them considering that state is going to be your primary destination or first port of entry. I will be talking more about what is best and easiest for Karachites, but most of it will be generally applicable for Pakistanis and residents of a country who require a visa to enter into Europe.
Which country to apply to?
As I mentioned earlier, you should apply to the country you first want to visit. For example you would apply to Spain for a Schengen visa if you wish to start your tour from Spain. My tour did not include Spain and therefore I had the option to apply to Italy, Germany, Netherlands, France or Switzerland, please remember Turkey is not part of the Schengen agreement but yes you can easily get an E-Visa to Turkey if you have a valid Schengen visa stamp on your passport. I applied to Italy for a few reasons, first and foremost Italy has a consulate in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore so if you are called for an interview you will not have to travel to Islamabad where all consulates are of other Schengen states. Secondly relations between Pakistan and Italy are fairly good and lastly it is geographically a good point to start seeing Europe in my opinion.
What is going to be your length of stay?
The duration of stay is an important thing to consider before you apply for a visa. If it is your first time travelling and you have a blank passport, keep your duration as short as possible. A week is good to visit one or maybe two countries of your interest. The more days you apply to stay for, the harder it can be for you to get a visa and you will require to show you can afford your trip for the complete duration of your stay.
Should I apply for Single entry or Multiple entry?
Definitely a single entry visa if you have not been to Europe before.
How to apply?
After selecting the state you want to apply to, you will need to read all requirements to apply for a visit visa, some states require more things than others. For Italy, you should have:
6 month Bank statement of all bank accounts you hold against your name.
Bank account holding certificates of all bank accounts you hold against your name.
A letter from your employer stating your proof of employment.
A letter from your employer stating the dates of your approved leaves and rejoining date.
Tax certificate (Must have)
A health insurance of upto $50,000 (Don’t be worried it is not so costly to get insured)
Passport valid for at least 3 months after visa expiry date.
Please read the consulates website for any updated requirements or information.
How much money do I need to have in my bank account?
The easy rule is to add up the cost of your air tickets, your hotel accommodations and €100 per day for each travel day for example €1700 for 17 days. The total of all this is the minimum amount you should have in your account.
Am I ready to apply?
If you have all of the above, have been in employment for more than an year and have a bank statement to prove that, then your chances are very good. However, if you don’t have any one of the above even the optional stuff your chances will decline fairly. I personally would not advise students or those who are still dependent on others to apply. Most people do not know that if your Schengen visa is refused your passport is stamped with the rejection and certainly that is bad for any future travel plans you may want to fulfill. So please do consult a a good travel agent before applying and get all documents required.
As most of you have requested me for the travel agency I used, it was Pak Shaheen Aviation. They have been my travel agency of choice for the past 4 years, if you do call them ask for Mr. Amjad Ali (+92-343-2703803). You too can get your air tickets, hotels on promotional prices, travel insurance and any tours your would like from them as I did. If you have any further questions about the visa process, let me know through your comments below and stay tuned!
As an avid traveler, I too have a goal of visiting a specific number of countries during my lifetime but lets leave that for another day. I love to travel and last month I fulfilled one of dreams and had the opportunity to tour Europe. My destinations were Turkey, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, France and Switzerland in that order. I explored a small circle containing the best and most famous attractions of the world going from eastern Europe towards western Europe.
It was an amazing experience, one that is hard to describe and can only be felt and witnessed. I would like to share part of that experience by describing how I planned and spent my time in the most beautiful and famous cities of Europe. I will be sharing my personal experiences, advice about what to pack, where to stay and the best and cheapest ways to travel, some pictures of course and any other useful tips I can think of. I aim to provide this information for future travelers in a series of posts to follow. I will be writing a blog for each city I visited, so readers can bookmark this page or follow me on Twitter if they would like to stay tuned. I will also be adding links to the complete tour series at the bottom of this post. Most importantly, I will be sharing valuable visa advice specifically for Pakistanis interested in creating their own travel adventures in Europe.
Now, for some basic details about the tour in general. The tour was 17 days days long, starting from 18th December 2014 and ending on 3rd January 2015, during the winter season. The trip cost me PKR 350,000 ($3500) and the breakdown of costs will be included in the series of posts to follow. The cities I visited were Istanbul, Rome, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris and Zurich. I stayed mostly in 3 star hotels and one famous hostel in Berlin. I traveled using domestic airlines, buses and a high speed train to get from city to city. To conclude, I would like to mention that if anyone has any questions / any specific topic they would like me to address in detail in the following posts, they can simply comment below and I’ll try to answer as well as possible. Stay tuned!