My Norway trip was not an easy one. It all started right with my visa interview process. This was the first time I was applying for a Schengen visa as an adult. I have been to Europe with my parents when I was a kid, so I wasn’t really aware of the hassle.
When I started checking the requirements for an Indian citizen, I was overwhelmed. I had a month to get my visa, plan my trip, get done with the bookings. This wasn’t my first time planning a trip within a short timeline. Check out my Taiwan blog to see how I planned it within two weeks!
1. A pain in the ass, Visa application
I started with checking out how the process works and this website was very helpful. After filling out the form, I booked an appointment with the consulate in NYC (SFO, Houston were my other options). NYC is the first city I ever visited in the USA as a kid that left an indelible mark on me and the reason why I wanted to pursue my masters in the USA. So I chose the Norwegian Consulate here and was very excited to revisit after almost 10 years. After I booked a date for the interview, I immediately booked a round-trip flight for $260. I also booked an Airbnb apt in Manhattan close to time square.
Closer to the date of interview, I started planning my trip by selecting three major cities that I wanted to check out in Norway- Oslo, Bergen, and Tromso. I was planning to take the train from Oslo to Bergen and I booked a flight from Seattle to Oslo, Bergen to Tromso, Tromso to Oslo and Oslo to Seattle. I spent overall 1500 USD in flight tickets. Jan-March being off-season period, tickets were cheap.
Knowing that for Schengen visa, all bookings and a detailed itinerary is required, I booked my hostels and hotels on Booking.com that provides free cancellation with no initial booking fee. Flight and boarding were taken care of at this point.
I booked my travel insurance with Insubuy, this was very quick and hassle-free. I got my electronic documents within a couple of hours and it cost me $9 for 16 days. Make sure the insurance you buy has zero co-payment and zero deductible. Mine had $300 dollar deductible so when I went for my interview, they asked me to make the changes.
Employment Authorization letter and Bank statement.
Thanks to the efficiency of Amazon Bangalore employees, I got this letter within a couple of hours from when I requested for one. Bank statement of over 3 months is required and can be easily accessed online.
2. New York, New York ❤
I fly to NYC, all excited and pumped. I land early morning around 6:00am, catch a cab from JFK airport and head to my Airbnb. The morning traffic ain’t a joke, it took me two hours to get to Manhattan. I remember staying in Queens when my father was posted here for work and while touring the city, I was mesmerized by the tall fancy buildings in Manhattan, the busy streets, the sparkling Time square, the high-end boutiques and the variety of food 😀 So I definitely wanted to stay in Manhattan this time to see what the apartments actually looked like and what it felt like staying in one. I was bummed to see a five-floor residential building that I was staying in, not having an elevator but it was a well maintained, tiny two-bedroom apartment. My Airbnb host Goran was very active and welcoming.
I got myself some breakfast and coffee from the Lali’s, that serves delectable Dominican soul food and one of the best Spanish coffee’s I have had. They only take cash something that I wasn’t aware of and didn’t have. So I asked her if there was an ATM nearby which was right around the corner. This restaurant is run by few old women who cook and serve from their heart. You can instantly feel the warmth once you enter the restaurant and it was the cheapest breakfast I’ve ever had. A typical Dominican breakfast with a coffee cost me only 10$.
3. Norwegian Consulate’s crappy network
I had my interview at 11:00am on the day of arrival, so I walked to the consulate which took me around 20 mins to get there. I sit at the consulate and ask for the check-in notepad for Norway visa applicants. A lady then takes me out of the room and tells me that their network is down and they have been trying to bring it back up, but aren’t sure if they would be able to. So she asked me to reschedule and just walk-in some other day. I was like WTF!! I informed her that I flew from Seattle just for this interview. She took my number and told me that she will keep me informed. I still had some hopes. I decided to do some shopping in Manhattan and get some food while I waited for their call. I was truly happy to see Halal food trucks everywhere.
So I head out to the Manhattan Mall get some shopping done. Around 3:00PM I get a call from the consulate that they were unsuccessful in bringing their damn network back up and told me to walk-in at SFO consulate, but it has to be in the same week. I was in NYC on a Monday, which meant I had 4 more days to book a flight to SFO and get my visa done there instead. The flight tickets at such last minute were around 500USD. It was disappointing!
While walking back to my apartment, I stumbled upon the B&H shop. I was looking for a tripod for my friend but all I could think of was the trip going out of my budget. Knowing it’s going to cost me more money and time to get my visa done after planning everything appropriately was just frustrating.
4. Norwegian Consulate’s network magically comes back up
I booked my flight to SFO for $500 round trip with a heavy heart. I decided to go check out Brooklyn Bridge Park and watch the sunset. While I was on my way, I get a call from the consulate again saying that their network is back up and I could walk-in the next day if I was still around. That definitely cheered me up. However, canceling tickets to SFO cost me $200 I was trying to enjoy the sunset at the Brooklyn bridge park in the hope of forgetting about the money that was just wasted and walked back on the bridge. I spent the night just walking around the city and checking out the spots that I hadn’t before like the Flatiron building, the Wall Street bull, and the Radio City Music hall.
5. Interview Day yet again
Next day I go early around 9:00 am and wait for my turn. Turns out all the applicants from yesterday were there and were as impatient as I was. No one was attending the Norway visa applicants yet. I was worried because I had to catch a flight back to Seattle at 5:00PM. Although I had enough time I just didn’t want to risk it so I went and spoke to a lady. Soon someone stopped by and took my documents for a check. It took around 20 mins after which I had to wait for fingerprints and photo. It was strange as it didn’t really feel like an interview. They just checked my documents, asked me to make some changes in my travel medical insurance, took me to a dim room for biometrics and photo. That was it.
6. Missed my NBC tour
My friend had booked an NBC tour for me as a gift, which I obviously could not attend. It was supposed to be an hour-long tour and I was really looking forward to it. Things didn’t got as planned
I got my visa within a week, phew! More details and fun part of the trip will be covered in the next blog. Enough of ranting here!
I would have chosen SFO for my visa interview if it hadn’t been for the unfinished love affair with NYC. I was intrigued to have had a one-off experience. After overcoming a few hiccups, I was pretty excited to plan the trip as I was really looking forward to seeing the Northern Lights and checking it off of my bucket list!