for March, 2014
Last April 2013, my Korean best friend was having his school break so he decided to take a vacation in his hometown Hoengsong (횡성) in Gangwondo (강원도). At that time, I really had a plan to go to Korea also because my ‘noona’ (누나, term for an older female friend/sister) was getting married in Ulsan (울산). So it was a good chance for me and my best friend to travel in Korea together especially that April is the start of spring!
The Garden of Morning Calm (아침고요수목원) is located in Gapyeong (가평) in the province of Gyeonggido (경기) . From Heongsong, he drove to Gapyeong for about an hour. Yes, he’s a really fast driver. If you’ve been to the provinces of Korea, you can see how long and wide their expressways are so there’s not much heavy traffic when you travel from one area to another.
Even if it’s not spring, the botanical garden is still open from 8:30 AM to 6:20 PM. The entrance fee is KRW8,000 (about PHP300). They can admit people 1 hour before the closing time but it’s better to go there early so that you can enjoy the place. It’s really huge and there are are many sites for picture-taking.
In a month, I get at least 5 inquiries in my Facebook inbox about Korean visa application. I pretty much get the same questions from people so it’s better to have a blog post about it. As of this article’s writing, I’ve been to Korea 8 times for the past 4 years so I frequently visited the embassy.
1. Who’s the girl in the picture?
She’s just my friend. I just wanted to show how awesome your shots will be once you have your visa and travel to Korea. You’ll finally get to live your favorite Korean drama! (This is during fall in Seoul, btw.)
2. How much is the processing fee for a Korean visa application?
Zero. Nothing. Nada. Wala. It’s free if you plan to stay in Korea for 59 days or less. So go ahead and give it a try!
3. Is it hard to get a Korean visa?
This is a difficult question. In my opinion, if you have complete documents and you can sufficiently prove your capacity to travel, then there’s nothing to fear.
4. What are the requirements?
- An accomplished application form (You can print at home and fill it out or do it in the Korean Embassy. The application form is available in their website. Click HERE.)
- Original passport (Make sure it’s not about to expire.)
- Photocopy of the second page of your passport (Bio page)
- Passport size colored pictures (1 will be pasted in your application form. If I remember it right, you need another 1 and it will be attached together with your other documents when you submit. Just attach using a paper clip.)
- Original & Photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps of OECD member countries for the past 5 years (it says in their website that Korean visas do not count but I still include photocopies to be sure. For the complete list of OECD countries, click HERE.)
- Original Certificate of Employment (with contact number/s & address of company and date of issue. I also strongly advise that you inform your HR to include your date of start with the company and your monthly salary figure)
- Original Personal Bank Certificate (not Bank Statement)
- Photocopy of ITR (Income Tax Return) or Form 2316 (your HR should have this)
- Photocopy of company ID
– If personally invited by a Korean: invitation letter & copy of his/her passport
– If invited by a company in Korea: invitation letter & copy of the Korean company’s business permit
Visa requirements vary depending on the nature of your work, for the complete list, visit their official website HERE. When you submit your requirements, remove them from your envelope or folder. Just file and attach them using a paper clip. Put them together inside your passport. If some of your original visas are in your old passport, tie it together with your new passport using a rubber band.
5. Do you need to set an appointment?
No. Just go to the Korean Embassy in 122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Visa application is from 9AM to 11AM only from Monday to Friday (excluding Philippine and Korean holidays.) Arrive early if you want to finish early. The area is not commute-friendly so it’s better to have a private car or go there by taxi.
6. Is there an interview during the application?
There is no formal interview but the consul may ask a few questions for clarification.
7. Can I ask someone else to process my application?
If (a) it will be your first time to go to Korea (b) you have a fresh passport with no stamps at all, or (c) you have an old passport that doesn’t have travel stamps from OECD countries, it’s better to apply personally.
8. I’m traveling with some friends. Can we apply as a batch?
This is possible if all of your passports will be processed in the same window. First time travelers or passport holders without any OECD stamps will be processed in Windows 1 or 2. Frequent travelers to Korea and OECD visa holders will be processed in Window 3. Make sure you segregate your application based on the window you’ll be lining up. If you’re confused, the front desk there will guide you accordingly.
9. How long does it take before you know the result?
3 working days (for those who have visas of OECD member countries) and 5 working days (for those who do not have visas of OECD member countries). A claim stub will be given to you when you can know the result of your application. Releasing is from 2PM to 4PM only from Monday to Friday (excluding Philippine and Korean holidays.)
10. Can I ask someone else to claim my passport on the release date?
This is possible. However, some people do not immediately get their visa because the consul might request for additional documents as proof. I had a friend who didn’t get her visa on the published release date because the consul wanted to have her ITR number certified/stamped. She was told to come back after a few days. After presenting the new ITR form, she was granted a visa. So it’s better to be present on the release date so that you can talk to the consul and clarify what he/she needs.
11. Does having a roundtrip ticket increase my chance of getting a visa?
Not really. Actually, the consul won’t even take a look at your airplane ticket so don’t bother printing and attaching it as part of your application. Like I said, there’s nothing to fear with your application if your documents are complete and sufficient.
12. If I get denied, can I apply again immediately?
Unfortunately, once you get denied, you can only apply after 6 months.
13. So should I avoid buying a ticket and make sure I have a visa first?
No. If you see a promo ticket going to Seoul or Busan, you should buy it. A normal roundtrip ticket costs at least PHP16,000 so if you see a good deal online, grab it. The first time I went to Korea in 2010, it was a PHP1,400 roundtrip ticket promo by an airline company which I booked 6 or 8 months prior to my flight date. My travel stamps were only Hong Kong and Macau. I was worried that they’ll deny me but I was approved! So don’t entertain negative thoughts and just submit your application.
I went to the province of Camarines Sur to attend the birthday celebration of my friend. For 4 days, my home was Camsur Watersports Complex (or CWC for short). I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy because I’m not sporty in general but the facility can be a playground for a photographer like me.
Sunrise in CWC. I love how Mt. Isarog reflects on the lake.
Wooden cabins. Fully equipped with air conditioning & hot/cold shower.
You can order food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the clubhouse. No kidding. Food delivery to your cabin is also possible. The dishes are delicious and reasonably priced.
Many foreigners stay here for a long time because wakeboarding is insanely cheap compared to other facilities in the world. They have full day (PHP750), half day (PHP460), and hourly (PHP165) rates depending how long you want to glide on water. The prices already include the vest and helmet rental. Since I was a beginner, I paid for 2 hours on my first day and I really had a blast! For a non-sporty guy like me, I never thought I would be able to stand and cover a remarkable distance. But of course, I wasn’t like these pros in my blog post. They’re the daredevils of the lake!
Not into wakeboarding? No problem. CWC has adult and kiddie swimming pools, a massage area, a running/jogging track and a whole lot more. There’s even a club (with a live DJ playing your favorite songs) if you want to dance and get tipsy! Nature trips to the province’s pristine beaches & breathtaking waterfalls can also be arranged in the resort.
To know more about CWC’s promos and packages, here are the social media accounts to follow:
Don’t forget to also like the province’s official Tourism page Visit Camsur: https://www.facebook.com/VisitCamsur/
One of the 7,107 islands of the Philippines. This was taken during my flight to Davao. No idea what island is this.