Last year, we joined an Arbitration Moot Competition, the Foreign Direct Investment Arbitration Moot. It is a simulation of an arbitration proceeding and we were given a problem to work with. We call ourselves ‘mooters’ and we were a team of 8. After series of gruelling trainings and the qualifying round in Korea, we were finally on our way to United Kingdom, London.
Visa Procedure (Manila, Philippines to London):
- You have to apply for a UK Visa via online. They have this site where you can determine which visa is most appropriate for you. If you will be staying for less than 6 months, you can opt for the travel visa option. That is what we did. Then you have to make an account and fill up all your details online and make an appointment via the application centre. Be ready with all your personal details including passport, monthly income, etc. Also, they will be asking for your budget when you travel the UK and your projected expenses there. You will also be asked where you will stay, and who your companions will be (and their birthdays, so be ready for that, too).
- Our Visa Type is the Standard Visit Visa which covers attendance to conferences. The fee is 85 £ (6,205 PHP).
- Be sure to come on time for your appointment. It is better to choose an early appointment time because there will be no line yet. Our appointment was scheduled at 7am and we were the only ones there. The application center is located at Makati. VFS Global is the UK agent in the Philippines. They will be handling all the visa applications. They have a nice coffee shop at the lobby where you can stay while waiting for your friends to finish.
- NOTE: Personal attendance is necessary, unlike in other countries where you can have your visa processed by an agent. This is because your fingerprint and picture will be taken upon your application. They will also ask you to bring your credentials: old passports, birth certificate, student certificate, work certificate, etc.
- There is a small additional payment if you want to receive text notifications. You don’t need this since they will send updates via email anyway. You don’t really need a blow by blow update on your visa application anyway.
- Then you wait. The waiting time is around 15 days for the standard visa type. You can opt for the priority service visa, but it will cost you an additional (at our time it was 7000-8000 php). But the visa came in 3 days after. It’s worth it if you are in a hurry. Then after a week they will send you back all your documents. Then that’s it! You now have a UK Visa yehey!
- We got lucky and received a multiple entry visa good for 6 months!
We stayed at the Acorn Hotels in Bloomsbury
If you plan to stay longer than one week (of course, who would really stay 3 days in London), rent out a flat. I suggest you check Acorn Hotels. We were really satisfied with their accommodation and it’s relatively cheaper than most hotels. They have good customer service too! We needed to print a lot of documents and the printing service in London was too pricey. They allowed us to use their printer in the office. :’)) We are forever thankful, Acorn Hotels. (We are budget travellers). Nevertheless, there are a lot of backpacker hotels in London. We needed wifi and a sala room because we needed to train for the moot competition so we chose an apartment.
Another reason for opting for an apartment is that they have cooking equipment. If you are to survive in London with a budget, you have to have to cook your own food. So, here, they have full cooking equipment: stove top oven, microwave, coffeemaker, and cooking utensils. They also have some other appliances like washing machine.
Food and Survival Guide
The food prices in London are out of this world! One decent meal (fish and chips or burger with drinks) at an ordinary restaurant will cost about 900-1200 PHP. The water is pricey, too. So we drank from the tap. Which is somewhat ok since the tap water is clean. What to do then, right? You can’t really spend close to a thousand peso for each meal!! Well, if you followed my advise and rented out a flat, you will be able to cook. AND THAT IS WHAT YOU DO TO SURVIVE IN LONDON.
The girl on the left photo is my bestie, Sybil. She cooks all our meals for us. This salmon with lettuce and couscous will take you around 1400 PHP outside. But lo and behold, one plate of this is roughly around 300 only — according to Master Chef Sybil. On the other hand, the picture on the left is us after we just finished our breakfast. For our groceries, they have a wide selection in Marks and Spencers, and in Tesco.
But then if you wanna eat out, try the many restaurants in London. The thing is, they don’t really open early. The KFC there opened around 11am! Imagine us dying in hunger already. Also, they close early, talk about undertiming! Most restaurants and shops are closed by 5pm to 6pm.
We also tried dining in a semi high end restaurant (our rich friend, Rex, treated us when we qualified for the quarter finals in the competition) We had wine, pizza, and steak. Yeaaaah, we deserved a break, too.
Guide to London Commute
For the last part of this London budget guide, let me share to you the most important tip for me: get an oyster card. The oyster card will function for the tube (london underground trains) and the buses. Some of the buses won’t let you in without an oyster card. One will cost around 500 PHP but it is refundable if you deposit it again before you leave london. We kept ours for souvenirs. Without the oyster card, you will pay higher for every single trip. We loaded around 40 GBP (british pound) roughly around 2500 PHP. Enough for our whole 8 days stay. You can always reload at the underground station when you run out. They call reloading ‘top up’. So if you are to ask someone there where to reload, just say, “Hi mate, where can I top up my card?”