We're heading to China for our 6th Wedding Anniversary. As part of the adventure, we're arranging the trip on our own. We successfully organized the last SG trip ourselves (no hitch at all), so we're doing it again. For budget travelers like us, that's a lot of savings (No more agency fees!).
Tickets: Check! We booked online.
We use the card with a very low credit limit.
Hotel: Check! We booked online.
We go to the hotel's official website, no third parties.
Visas: The start of an adventure...
If you're crazy enough to get your Chinese Travel Visas on your own (I know most Pinoys let their agencies handle this), get ready to do a lot of legwork.
All the Travel Visa requirements are in the Chinese Embassy website.
We completed the requirements in two weeks (We're busy).
The most challenging task: the NBI clearance.
Who has time to go to the crowded NBI Carriedo office? Not us. We couldn't get it from the Megamall office since we're applying for the Travel Clearance for the first time. The Megamall branch accepts only renewals. During one lunch break, we checked out the NBI Quezon City Hall office (10 minutes from work), and the lines were horrific (Think Tutuban in December)! Umatras kami. We tried the NBI office in the Mandaluyong City Hall (10 minutes from home). Thank God, the lines are more humane there. At 8am, there were less than a hundred people. First step: Get Community Tax Certificates (aka Cedula) from the Mandaluyong City Hall. Cedulas from other cities won't be accepted. Step 2: Fill-up NBI form. Step 3: Pay PHP140 each. Step 4: Have your photos taken (via the NBI cam). We then waited for almost 2 hours for my clearance's release. J had to come back after a week (someone has the same name raw). We doubt that but what can we do, right? After a week, he got his clearance.
March 9: Our first trip to the Chinese Embassy
Address: The World Center, 330 Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue, Makati
Office Hours: Monday to Friday, 9-11am
We arrived at the Embassy at 815am and was 115th. I guess, you have to be there around 7am to get a better number.
After 3 hours of waiting, our number was finally called. We submitted our passports and documents to the Pinay officer. Just as we thought we'd breeze thru it, she points out that the birth date on my NBI clearance does not match the birth date on my passport! Oo nga! Arg! My bad! I didn't notice that. Lesson: check your NBI clearance's details! Also, our bank certificates were supposed to come with original receipts or debit memos! Double arg!
All that waiting for nothing? We had to come back with the complete requirements. At one point, we were tempted to ask for an agency's help already (sayang kasi oras) but decided to complete this on our own. We're no quitters.
So we went back to the NBI Office at the Mandaluyong City Hall. I told them about the typo. I didn't have to pay again (Yey!). They checked my file and released my clearance (with the correct bday) in less than an hour. Then we went back to the banks to ask for copies of the debit memos.
Mar 16: Trip #2 to the Chinese Embassy
We arrived before 8am and was 85th. Had breakfast at the Starbucks downstairs while waiting for the Embassy's 9am opening.
I love Starbuck's banana bread. J had corned beef pandesal.
We were called a little past 10am. And was finally cleared! We were told to claim our visas after 3 days. YAHOO!
Mar 19: J picks up our Visas
He arrived at the Embassy a little after 8. And was served a little after 10am. Fee: PHP1,400 each (for single entry)
Now, we're all set! Shanghai Spring, here we come!
So was it worth the PHP3,000 we saved on agency fees? Big sigh.
I choose to see the bright side. Despite all the hassle, we're proud to have done it on our own...without losing it. People can really go crazy with all the red tape, the waiting, the human errors, etc.
If a couple can laugh together through an errand as STRESSFUL as this, I believe they're really meant to travel through life together.
Doing the most annoying errands are worth it, basta't kasama kita.