When I was a kid, all I wanted was to grow up faster and travel around the world. I've stared at the map hanging over my table for hours and circled cities I'd wanted to see. Eventually, the map was all painted in different colors as there were way too many circles
I thought all I need to is to become an adult, make money – I wasn't sure yet if I'd wanted to become a ballerina or a stockbroker – and embark on the RTW trip
All so simple
Finally growing up and getting a decent-paid job when I was 19 and still in University, I managed to save enough money and learned that traveling around the world is a bit more complicated than I've imagined when I was seven
The thing is, I come from Kyiv, Ukraine - a Second World Country. There are twisted visa procedures and other restrictions that won't allow me to travel wherever and whenever I want.
Working and holidaying in Australia or New Zealand, roaming for months around Europe and living in whichever city I wish, scoring frequent flyers miles from credit cards sign ups may not be the option for me….but I still travel semi-nomadically, despite all the challenges I'm facing.
I need to get a visa pretty much EVERYWHERE.
And by that I mean not just paying a visa fee and having a stamp put in your passport at the airport, but of a complicated procedure of compiling piles of documents, getting them all the Embassy and waiting for the results.
There are friendly regions like South East Asia, Middle East, Africa, Island Countries and most of South America countries who would issue you a monthly visa with no questions asked. Just bring your passport, pay the fee and show some bookings paid or not.
Schengen States visas are way trickier to get! Talking of tourists visas for a 90 days max stay each six month.
You need to present quite a bunch of documents including, but not limited to:
- A bank account statement with all the transactions for 3-6 month and balance that will cover your trip of 60 euro min. a day excluding your accommodation costs.
Okay that's 8000 euro for a 3 month trip. Anyone ever spent THAT much for a backpacking trip?!
- A letterhead from your employer stating that you are allowed to go on vacation and that your workplace will be kept. Plus your monthly salary and preferably yearly income indicated too.
- Booked and often fully prepaid hotel reservations + conformations from hotels, sent by fax and on special blanks that prove your payment + booked/paid air tickets.
- A medical insurance covering the whole period of your stay.
Plus application form filled in correctly and a few copies of some other documents.
You need to read the requirements of the specific country you're applying to as the may differ slightly from state to state and follow them. Bring each and every document required.
- Visa rejection rates from some "unfriendly countries" are still high. If you are a single attractive woman in your twenties, without a trust fund or a sugar daddy, your application will get extra attention. You may be considered a potential illegal immigrant or that word starting from letter "W" that I find really offensive to write here.
- Nope, you can't just say that you're going to Couchsurf and live at friends' place. House Sitting? There isn't a special column in your application to explain that either.
And as far as I checked I'm kind of not eligible to register at some House Sitting websites when I choose Ukraine as my country of residence…
- No to open itineraries. Still not sure when are you going to fly back home? Duh, you ODD TO present a return ticket with a fixed date!
- In case your visa's refused, it's all your problems of how you gonna charge back the bookings. Low cost and cheapest airfare are usually non-refundable. So does the visa fees Loads of money wasted.
- I'm a freelancer. I do odd seasonal jobs. I'm an artist and sell artwork. How could I get a letter from an employer?
Things That Worked Out For Me (And May Work Out For You Too!)
- Try getting a visa from a "friendly embassy".
For Ukrainians: that's Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Spain. I believe a quick Google search will return a list for your country too.
These guys are often okay with non-paid bookings (that you can cancel afterwards) and non-paid plane tickets and are likely to issue you a visa for a longer period of time then you requested in the application form.
- Build up your visa karma.
Get an easy country short term visa, then get the next one, most probably it would be longer one. Apply to the same country Embassy a few times and you're likely to get the max visa 180/360 days.
In case you already have visas from UK/USA/CA in your passport – your passport karma multiplies in ten times.
- Register as a private entrepreneur.
It solves the problem with working freelance and asking papers from your employer all the time. The bad thing – yeah you'll have to fill in the tax declarations and pay taxes by yourself. (Total nightmare in Ukraine!)
- Try getting a visa in the neighboring country.
So, France issues longer visas valid for 1-5 years (though, you are still not allowed to stay longer than 90 days in half a year, but your visa is valid for 1-5 years. No need to make visa runs each other month) for Moscow and St. Petersburg applicants.
I came across news the other day. Where the Italy Embassy officials claim they don't issue year-long visas (180/360) to anyone. They just don't have this type of visa! And then one of the journalists shows a Russian passport with a yearlong visa issued by Moscow Embassy. Double standards.
No one prohibits you from getting a visa in another country and there's no need to be a citizen or resident.
- Provide extra documents that prove your intentions of returning home.
It could be something like providing documents on owning a car or an apartment.
I've read of some people who indicated that they are leaving one child at home and bring another one to the trip, just to prove the officials of their solid intentions to return.
How can you explain it to a kid that he has to stay with the granny when his sis is taken to eat gelato in Italy?
In 2000s some EU embassies required you to check in when you return. In case you failed doing that in 3 days upon your return, you get to the blacklist a.k.a forbidden to enter any Schengen state for 5 years.
Some travelers were to leave cash deposit (the deportation money) at the Embassy. It would have been returned back to you upon your arrival to Ukraine when you come to check in.
I'm happy it's no longer true these days...
- Fight for your rights!
In case you got your visa refused, but you are 100% sure you did EVERYTHING correct and your intentions are crystal clear, be the angry traveler.
Make a scene, demand to meet the council directly, issue an appellation request, write letters and make angry calls. Do whatever needed to get all the possible attention to your case.
My friend had a two-year work contract in Poland with a local University. She needed to renew her visa for the 2nd year and was denied for no apparent reason.
After making a huge scene and meeting the Polish Consul directly, she got her apology and a visa glued over the denial stamp.
It turned out she came on the wrong day, when a particular embassy employee had bad mood or whatever.
My documents (one copy of plane tickets for the 1st trip and hotel booking for the 2nd) didn't make it to the Embassy and were lost by someone from the visa center where I applied. (And I pay these people 25 euros to pile up my papers!)
Unless, by some lucky chance, I've gotten a call directly from the Embassy official, I would be refused in my visa.
It is the people who make the final decision. Everyone can be wrong. Be persistent and take the courage to prove that!
I believe that one day the World would become a friendlier place for ALL the travelers despite which kind of country passport you own.