31 December 2007

Photos for your visa

"Yes", I tell visa applicants again and again, "you do need more photos even though you already have a passport if you want a visa". Almost every country wants at least one standard passport-style colour photo attached to each visa application. The general rules are the image should be passport-photo size, usually colour, full face, head on, no hats and usually no glasses, never sunglasses, white or grey background, and taken recently. If you wear religious or cultural headcoverings, you will have to make certain of the requirements. All photos must be identical. Some embassies require the photographers stamp and date on the back, but most do not. Most embassies want one or two, but a handful of embassies demand four! The good news is these are available almost everywhere now, including many pharmacies. And it is always best to have extra copies of both the photos and the visa application forms (filled-in) with you during your travels in case some nasty border guard insists on more paperwork.

28 December 2007

Best hotel in Cambodia

The best hotel in Cambodia, and one of the finest in all of Asia, is the new Hotel de la Paix in Siem Reap, near the temples of Angkor Wat. The rooms and suites are superbly detailed and cared-for, and staff are attentive and helpful in a useful way. I never wanted to leave the swimming pool on the rooftop. When the poolboy asked what flavour of crushed ice I would like after my swim, and if I wanted to be misted with cool water, I simply died and went to heaven. Food is beyond compare, and rooms include breakfast in the Meric room under the direction of Joannes Riviere. The spa suites are two stories with private outdoor plunge bath and massage tables. Even the regular rooms are far from ordinary, with beautiful Khmer designs and artwork. And you do not have to feel guilty about enjoying the luxury in the midst of a sea of poverty. HdlP is a major sponsor of community charity activities. Noelene Henderson will help you help the locals. Recently we bought 5 tonnes of rice to distribute to local orphanages and support groups.

23 December 2007

Schengen Zone Enlarged

The biggest travel news of the week is the massive enlargement of the Schengen Zone for borderless travel in Europe. Originally signed in the town of Schengen in 1985, the agreement created a borderless zone of western European countries, mostly from the EU, which use a common set of border procedures and forms. Thus was created the Schengen visa. When you get a Schengen visa for one member state, you can travel to any other Schengen state without further papers. On 21 December 2007, the first fifteen states from western Europe (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden), were joined by nine states from eastern Europe (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia), forming a giant borderless zone from Lisboa, Portugal, all the way to Tallinn, Estonia; and extending up from the Mediterranean Sea to beyond the Arctic Circle. The area has a population of 400 million. Canadians can freely travel to the Schengen zone without a visa for a stay of up to 90 days. VSC can help non-citizens acquire a Schengen visa.

22 December 2007

Credit card security

Credit card company computers are programmed to find strange activity in credit card accounts. This means if you have spent ten years only buying things in your city, then all of a sudden there is a charge from someplace far away, the computer will flag this as odd, and the account may be frozen for security reasons. Solution? Tell your bank and especially your credit card company about your travels well beforehand. Call their toll-free number on the back of the card and tell them what dates you will be in what places. This will usually prevent them from flagging what are legitimate transactions made by you while abroad. Thanks to Jacqueline at CitiBank for this great advice.

21 December 2007

From "QE2" to "QE New"

On 18 June 2007 Cunard, owned by Carnival Corp., announced it would retire and sell the 40-year-old QE2. The last true ocean liner will become a tourist destination at the Palm in Dubai come next November. In early October of 2007 Cunard and Carnival signed an agreement with Fincantieri Shipyards (Monfalcone yard) in Italy to build a new ship, already destined to be named "Queen Elizabeth", and scheduled to be launched and named in the autumn of 2010 by the Queen. The new ship will be the second-largest ever built for Cunard at 92 000 tons, and will carry 2092 passengers. Cunard is hoping for a lot of ship for its €500 million. In keeping with tradition, the ship will have the standard black hull and red funnel, and be registered in Southampton. In keen anticipation of this new ship, on which I intend to sail the inaugural voyage, allow me to be the first to say: "I hereby name this ship the "QE New". May god bless her and all who sail in her."

Chinese Visas for the 2008 Olympics

China is firmly at the top of the list as a destination for Canadians which requires visas for all travel. But the good news is that a Chinese visa is surprizingly easy to acquire. However, with the Beijing Olympic Games coming in August 2008, there will soon be a rush for visas. Visas for the Olympics will go on sale in two months. People buying a double entry visa will be able to apply as early as mid-February 2008. Fans wanting a cheaper single entry visa will have to wait until mid-May 2008 to apply. VSC can get you that precious Olympic visa without any hassle or fuss. Just click on the link to get the details and the forms.
Visa details: http://www.visaservicescanada.ca/countries/china.php
Visa forms: http://www.visaservicescanada.ca/docs/China.pdf

20 December 2007

Best hotel in Paris

My favourite hotel in Paris is the Hotel De Vendome, on Place Vendome. This beauty, now fully rebuilt, dominates the entrance to the square, and is two blocks from the Louvre art museum. With only 18 rooms and 11 suites, the HdV is a jewel of exclusivity and style. The tiny lobby, done in marble, is attended by multi-lingual staff who take you to your suite in a round elevator. My multi-room suite in Louis XIVth style is so inviting I never want to leave. Only the great food of Paris tempts me away from the perfect hotel: Laduree's famous macaroons are an excellent example of this.

19 December 2007

India travel visas

The Indian consular office in Canada issued over 140 000 travel visas last year, or more than 500 per day. So how do you get your visa, and how long does it take? The basic charge for the Indian tourist or business visa is $62. The best part is that with our help we can turn around your application in only a day without any extra visa charge. Unlike other services, we only charge a small service fee of $60 for all the work that goes into quality assurance and financial transfers. Visist our Indian visa page for details, and click on the big blue button in the middle of the page to view and print the .pdf visa form. http://www.visaservicescanada.ca/countries/india.php

Sign the application form

You would not believe how many people forget to sign the visa application form. This is the msot common error seen by embassies. It is also a great way to be denied a visa and to lose your application fee. The fee you pay for the visa is for applying, not for the visa itself. So the embassy takes the money just for opening the envelope. So take the time to sign the form; please.

Visa travel tip: the time to apply

Most countries will not issue a visa for travel which takes place more than three months after the visa is issued. You normally have to apply within three months of your travel date. Also, ensure your passport will not expire for more than six months after the end of the visa period. If you know the passport wille xpire too soon, it is best to apply for a new passport. In Canada, there are now new expedited on-line ways to apply.

How we started

In early 2007 we sailed around the world on the QE2, where we met many people who had lots of trouble getting visas, or who were ripped-off by overpriced and unhelpful visa companies. We vowed to fix this problem, and thus set up Visa Services Canada Inc. to help people living in Canada travel the world for business or pleasure by using a great service at a fair price.