Lack of Polish – visa application mess at embassy of Poland

Note: This is a description of my experience. I do not guarantee this will work for you. Please check with the relevant Poland consulate before applying. If you have further questions about the process, please comment on this post and ask.

Target Country: Poland / Schengen Area
Passport: India
Purpose: Tourism
Processing Office: Polish Consulate, London
Processing time: 2 weeks (10 working days)

Documents submitted:
1. Filled out form

2. Letter from Employer saying that I’m employed

3. Bank statements from last 3 months

4. One passport sized photograph, as per their specifications. Any regular photographer in London should be able to give you these.

5. Current passport

6. £58 processing fee per person. My wife and I applied together, so we paid £106

7. Flight bookings to and from the Schengen area, where the first/main destination is Poland.

8. Hotel bookings for each night in the Schengen area.

9. Travel insurance covering your entire stay.

Top Tips:
1. Get an appointment online before going

2. Appointment time doesn’t mean anything. It will let you in through the door. Besides that, arrive at your convenience while the embassy is open.

3.Plan to spend at least 1 hour in queues, even with appointment.

4. If you want multiple entries, make sure you submit hotel and flight bookings for multiple journeys.

5. Don’t get fooled by the long line outside the consulate. That is for people coming for passport renewals. With a visa appointment letter, you can go straight to the door.

Process & Experience:
First we got fooled by the long line outside the consulate. We stood there for 10 minutes, before someone suggested that we go to the door straight away, since we have an appointment letter. That was a huge time saver.

After entering the consulate, there was another queue. They have only 1 visa window, and typically take 10-15 mins to accept each application. We had about 6 applicants in front of us – so had to wait over an hour.

The lady at the window took photocopies of all our documents herself. So we didn’t really have to take photocopies ourselves.

We submitted a copy of our marriage certificate too – but not sure that was necessary.

They took full 2 weeks to process the application. No plea for a quick processing made any difference to them. But the real Shock came when my wife went and picked up the passports.

They had given us a 2-week Mutliple entry visa!!!! How useless is that!! So we can only go on one trip!! This puts us in a difficult situation, since we were planning 2 trips to Europe about 3 weeks apart.

Complete mess. The lady at the counter then graciously (sarcasm!!) says that we should have submitted bookings for future travel as well. No where on their website did it say so. And my previous experience with Schengen visas from other countries taught me that you don’t really need to show bookings for future trips, when applying for the visa. Just for the first trip!! Clearly the Polish consulate does not have well defined or well documented processes. They don’t follow what other embassies do, and they don’t make their own requirements clear up front.

This was overall a disappointing experience for us. I see no reason for applying to the Polish embassy again. The only reason we applied now was because we got a quick appointment. But obviously that was because of f***ed up processes at the embassy.

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First Time Cruising – Indian in the Caribbean

Being Indian, two things struck me soon after I boarded the Celebrity Summit in Puerto Rico:
1. My wife and I were part of a small minority among the passengers (under 45 years old, non-white, childless couples).
2. The staff on the Ship was predominantly Hindi speaking.

This was unsurprising. Indians tend to put up with a lot of hardship, to make a living. But we, as a nation, are not as happy to spend our hard earned money on luxuries. The staff on the ship typically spends 6 months at sea, at a stretch. Living in cramped quarters, getting shore leave once every 2 or 3 weeks for half a day. Not an ideal life.

It was easy to feel out of place, but at the same time completely ignore everyone else on the ship. The population was predominantly white republican Americans, aged over 45. We couldn’t really find anything in common with them, and after the first day, stopped going to ‘social events’ on the ship. It was funny when the ship’s stand-up comedian asked “who here likes Obama”. The theatre echoed with “boos”.

The ship was luxurious though. A bit excessive even. The service was impeccable and we were made to feel very welcome and well looked after. But we also had to cough up $25 a day in tips, in addition to the cost of the cruise. They had an excellent Gym & Spa. The pool was boring and small. The food was good, but not so good if you are vegetarian like us.

Top tips for first time cruisers (especially Indians):
1. No need for visas (or even passports) in Caribbean ports. But carry photocopies of your passport anyway.
2. Bad idea carrying passports to shore excursions — it can get wet or stolen. I managed to drench my drivers license and about $20 cash.
3. Carry a photo ID other than your passport — will need that to get back on the ship.
4. No need to buy a ‘drinks package’ in advance, unless you plan on heavy drinking.
5. All food was included, at least on this ship. Except for one fancy restaurant.
6. Avoid ship organised shore excursions when you can — crowded and generally not worth the price. Explore on your own.
7. Plan a budget before going, and then double it. Your holiday is guaranteed to turn out to be VERY expensive.