Friday, December 11, 2009

Schengen Visa

Today I collected my Schengen visa from the Italian consulate in Cape Town. That too was pretty simple, and I'll post how I got mine. Though we'll be staying in many Schengen states on our trip, we're in Italy the longest (4 days, 2 in Rome, 1 in Venice and 1 in Florence) so that's the consulate we had to go to.

The documents required are the same as the UK visa and the fee is slightly cheaper, at R709 per person. The process is pretty much exactly the same, except that you have to fill out a form by hand rather than online. You can download the form here, and book your appointment here. You'll need your passport for the last few digits as your reference. You get to choose your appointment time and date as well. When selecting your date, a separate window pops up with the times available. You need to click on the save button on this window, and once done, click the "Make Appointment" button on the first window. I forgot to do this first time round, and my appointment wasn't made, so when I showed up at the consulate for my appointment they looked at me like I was stupid.

Once you click the "Make Appointment" button, an email is sent to you confirming the time. You then go for your interview on the day. The consulate building is here:

And it's a fairly painless process. Make sure you have all your documents, and make sure you have copies of everything. The consulate doesn't make copies, so you need to provide. Also, they don't return any documents, so if you give originals in, you won't get them back. Another thing to note: they only accept cash, so make sure you draw enough cash before hand.

As a timeline - after I discovered I hadn't clicked the "Make Appointment" button first time round, I went straight to work and went online and booked another appointment for the next day, Wednesday, at 11:10. I made the appointment for 2 people, so we both went in and gave our docs in and paid. I collected our passports with visas in this morning, Friday, at 10:00. So it took 2 days, nice and easy.

Next step: buying train tickets to get to Liverpool and back.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

UK Visa

So, as a South Africa, you now need a visa to get into the UK. It's a fairly simple and painless task, if you have all the documents and a valid passport. Here's how to get a UK visa in Cape Town:

  1. Go to the VFS website: and click the "Apply for a UK visa now" button
  2. Click the "I have read the above information and the relevant guidance notes" checkbox and then click "Continue"
  3. A new window will pop up, which is the application form. Enter all your info in here.
  4. If at any point you don't have any info, you can just click the "pause" button, that looks like so:
  5. Once you've entered in all the information, choose your appointment date and save.
You can also pay online with a credit card, which is what I did. Make sure you have all the necessary documents with you when you go for your visa appointment, as you don't want to be in a situation where you are missing something. Also, make copies of everything, just in case - that's what I did. They should send back the originals with your passport, but be safe.

I had the following documents:
  • flight ticket
  • travel itinerary, with names, contact details and addresses of hotels
  • travel insurance
  • latest payslip
  • proof of address (I had a copy of my lease)
  • letter from my company stating that I work there and will be required to return to work at some date after my trip
  • latest bank statement (I simply printed a statement for my credit card from my internet banking)
  • passport
  • passport photo
The visa costs R938 (or did, at the time, it's dependent on the exchange rate I believe) and I paid an extra R120 at the consulate for sms notifications and courier services. The consulate / VFS place is in Cape Town on Riebeeck street, at the Absa building. Map here:

I think it's on the 23rd floor. I arrived about 10 minutes early, and once the place opened the security at the building gave me an access card and I went up to the place. They searched my bag, told me turn off my cellphone, and in I went. There is a ticket machine at the entrance where you press a button and it issues you a ticket with a number on. I was number 004, and my number was called pretty quickly by the electronic woman.

At the counter, I just handed in all my documents and paid for the courier and sms service (card only, no cash). I was then directed to the biometrics queue, where I waited for about 3 minutes before being called. They took my photo, and fingerprints (electronically) and then I was done.

That was all on Thursday morning. On Friday I got an sms telling me my application had been processed, and was being couriered to me, and on Monday morning my passport, documents and visa arrive. Nice and easy!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Killers

We arrived at Val de Vie Wine and Polo Estate at roughly 14:00. We went and queued in the golden circle queue shortly thereafter, buying overpriced cool drinks and biltong, and sat in the sun for 2 hours until they opened the gates at 16:00. We then made a headline for the beer tent where we purchased some much needed cold alcohol, and grabbed some waters from the coca cola tent, and then squeezed through the masses at the golden circle entrance and parked ourselves about 10 rows from the front of the stage. We made alternating trips to and from the coca cola tent and Spur tent (Spur burgers - ingenious idea!) whilst waiting in the baking hot sun, listening to crap spewed out over the loudspeakers while Zebra and Giraffe and The Killers either sat in traffic with the masses, or sat in the shade drinking cold beverages (not sure which is more truthful).

At roughly 19:00, Z&G graced the crowd with their presence, and played a good opening to the show. At this point, the sun stroke ridden and boozed up crowd proceeded to crush ever closer to the stage, throw rubbish around, sweat on their very close neighbors, and be generally discourteous and unmindful of those around them. Some clever pricks near the front decided it would be a good idea to make a massive beer-cup stack, and so hundreds of helpful folk threw their mostly empty beer cups at the stack makers, pelting nearby crowd-members with cups and splattering sticky beer on those in between.

At roughly 20:30 The Killers made their entrance, played their show, did the encore, and left. At 22:45, we had purchased our Killers and Z&G merchandise from the stand, and made our way to the car (being some of the lucky few to actually remember where the car was at this stage) . By 02:00 this morning, majority of the cars in our parking lot had not yet moved. At all. A whole host of people had slept in their cars, us included, to wait for the crazy traffic. Eventually, by 02:30, we started our car and began the trek home, through much traffic still on the dirt road providing access to Val de Vie Wine and Polo Estate. We collapsed into bed at 04:00, exhausted.

All in all, we payed R1052 for 2 tickets to watch the Killers, spent over 12 hours at the venue doing mostly nothing, 5 of those hours being in the achingly hot sun, and a further 4 of those hours waiting for cars to move, and the remaining few spent being crushed and sweated on and bumped and elbowed and groped. And you know what? It was TOTALLY worth it. The Killers absolutely kicked arse, rocked out, and drove the masses wild. Brandon Flowers is one hell of a front man, a great performer, and knew exactly what we wanted and how best to give it to us (I never thought I'd take such pleasure in a man asking me if I was ready to receive it as hard as I can). The stage setup was phenomenal, and their use of lighting amazed me. I've never seen anything like it, and I'm guessing that the hordes of screaming fans around me felt the same way. The Killers absolutely blew me away, and that day is one I will never forget, thanks only to a few hours of sheer awesomeness.

Killers - you guys rocked hard. Thank you!