Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Life-In-Abu Dhabi Calculator - Chapter 1 Visa

I have been frequenting this forum where questions are posted about what needs to be done to go here in Abu Dhabi, or what is the average salary that could keep you comfortable living here or just how much everything here in UAE costs.  So I have decided to break down necessary parts of living the life of an Expat here in UAE with numbers.

So when traveling to foreign lands most of us would be required a visa.  For a Philippine Passport holder like me, we need it.  There are a few number of visas you could choose from depends on the type of stay you will be doing here.

Visit Visa - This is usually issued by a sponsor to be applied at Abu Dhabi Naturalization & Residence Directorate (ADNRD) at Al Saada Road.  Typing offices are located at the left side outside the office of ADNRD.  This is where you will submit the following documents:
                                                   -  photocopy of the sponsor's passport
                                                   -  photocopy of the visitor's passport
                                                   -  1 pc 2x2 picture
                                                   -  visit visa application form
                                                   -  employment contract
                                                   -  tenancy contract
When we applied for my parent's visit visa, we paid AED 200 per parent and a deposit of AED 1000 per parent.  This deposit will be refunded once the visitor leaves the country.  The visa will be couriered after 3 days to the sponsor.  Please take note that visit visa is only applicable for parents, wife/husband and children.

Tourist Visa - This visa can be obtained from many outlet.  Some airlines like Etihad Airways issue tourist visas to those who will be flying with them.  Also, hotels where you will be staying at can also issue tourist visa for you.  The most common, at least from what I know, is through a travel agent.  I also got my brother's tourist visa through the travel agent since siblings are not allowed to be sponsored.  Visa fees depend on the length of stay of the visitor here in the UAE.  The cheapest visa is the 14-day visa.  If you are really just going to visit a relative here in the UAE the 14-day tourist visa is what you need.  I have already bought two (2) tourist visa from two different travel agents.  The first travel agent charged me AED 550.00 for the processing plus another AED 100 for the printing.  The second travel agent  charged me a total of AED 500.  So I went with the cheaper one.  Of course!  The processing usually takes a week or so.  Then you can get the copy from the travel agent and send it to the person who will be visiting you. 

Another tourist visa usually requested by my kabayans is the 30-day visa or the 60 day visa.  The same process is being followed but the fee could go as high as AED 750 and above.  Documents required for tourist visa are the following:
                                                 -  passport copy of the sponsor
                                                 -  passport copy of the visitor
                                                 -  1 pc 2x2 picture of the visitor

If you are from the GCC countries, you don't need a visa to get into UAE.  There are also some lucky countries that are given a free of charge visa upon arrival.  If you want to know more or if your country is one of the lucky ones, click here.

While waiting for the release of the visa, you should apply for Affidavit of Support and an OEC from the Philippine Embassy.  These documents will be asked from the visitor once they pass through the Immigration Officer in the Philippines.

Entry Visa - I have used to this visa twice since I came here in Abu Dhabi.  First was way back in 2010 when there was not much required documents needed to apply for it.  Over the course of 3 years, it has changed and more and more documents are needed.  It will be more difficult to bring in a family member because of most of the accommodations do not provide the documents you need to apply for visa.  Like in our case, our rental contract doesn't have a Tawtheeq permit.  This permit is also needed when applying for this kind of visa.  The same procedure will be done as with the visit visa, you submit documents at the typong center beside the ADNRD Office. Here are the requirements for applying entry visa:
                                                      -  passport copy of the sponsor
                                                      -  passport copy of the wife/husband
                                                      -  1 pc passport size photo
                                                      -  sponsor's salary certificate
                                                      -  emirates id of the sponsor
                                                      -  employment contract
                                                      -  house rental contract with Tawtheeq permit

You would also be needing electric and water bill, depends on the officer evaluating your documents.  Sometimes, they will look for a copy and sometimes if you are lucky they could just waive it.  By the way, this entry visa will only be used upon entry to UAE a permanent residence visa shall be stamped into the passport of the wife/husband after a medical exam.  The cost for the entry visa is AED 250 which will take 3-5 days.  However, if you want it immediately you will need to pay additional AED 100.00.  Also, please take note that there is a minimum salary requirement for this type of visa.  For details please click here.

I hope I covered the necessary information or issue when applying for visas here in UAE.  Note:  This is only applicable to Philippine Passport holders.

Travel Agents:

Paradise Holidays LLC
Tel. No. +971 02 6666943+971 02 6666943
Look for Ms. Rachel

Al Maha Travel & Tourism
Tel. No. +971 02 6770222+971 02 6770222
Look for Ms. Mary

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Around the World in 4 Hours... or so

I think one of the best things in life is to travel anywhere in the world and discover food, culture and pocket a handful of memories.  Of course, its easier if you have enough money to back your journey.  But, here in UAE you can have a taste of what is like jumping from one country to the other without zooming in and out of immigration counters (we know how harrowing that part is!).  In one night and in one place you can finally say you have traveled the world.  Where else?  Dubai Global Village.

The Dubai Global Village is located along the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road.  Its hard to miss especially if you are on your way to Dubai.  These entertainment park is so huge one night is not enough to visit all the countries exhibiting in it.

It opened on October 5, 2013 and will close on the 1st of March 2014.  Basically the park is opened during colder season.  When we visited Global Village, we left Abu Dhabi around 4:30 pm and we arrived there around 5:45 pm.  As I said, it was not hard to miss because its along the highway going to Dubai.  The hard part was finding a parking spot.  That was a Friday so the parking lot was fully jammed.  We did a little waiting until we could find a spot.  It was a bit far from the main entrance, but still better than hanging out inside the car the entire night until a slot is available.

There were plenty of counters where you can buy the entrance ticket.  It's at the right side of the main entrance.  At AED 15.00 per person, the slightly long drive going there was worth it.  Once you get inside it was chaos.  Chaos in a fun way.  The tuk-tuk by the entrance was enough indication that it's going to be one heck of a fiesta of culture inside.

Once inside, we were so overwhelmed with so many people, food stalls and shops.  We can't decide what to do first.  There were so many food I'd like to try it was confusing.  So we did the smartest thing to do when smacked inside a huge amusement park.  Studied the map.  Since it was almost dinner time, we have decided to hunt Philippine's (of course!) area so we could eat the food not readily available here in the city.

On the way there, we slip into some countries and checked their products.  I particularly love Spain.  Their cheese and the hand made items.  There is this shop that sells beautiful printed dresses and pants, I wanted to buy some but it was just too expensive for my liking.  Have to pass.  Then we found one small food court that says Thai restaurant we checked out the stalls one of them serves kwek-kwek.  It's the one most of my companions were dying to eat.  The food court doesn't have enough tables and chairs to accommodate all diners.  So we have to wait and quickly move in in case a table is vacated.

After a quick dinner, we set about roaming the entire place and win some minion at the game fair area.   The place was just too huge.  Every country featured in the village offers a lot of their products and food.  There was even a traditional dance from the Palestine booth.  It was difficult to look for the rides and game fair.  When we reached the dhow indicating the country of Kuwait, a small walkway lead to the rides and game fair.

The rides were all so scary.  I'm not a big fan of carnival rides.  I feel like I'm going to pass out just by watching the people scream their brains out with all those rides.  I love myself, so I rather watch and be happy for those who like to torture themselves.  I wanted to win those big minion toys.  A lot of people were carrying huge stuffed toys that they have won from the games.  I wanted one so badly.  In order to avail of any rides and games you have to buy a card where your money would be converted into credits to be used in the games.

We have spent like almost AED100.00 just to win one freakin' stuffed toy.  Maybe we were unlucky that time.  At least, we had fun playing it.  We even get to ride bump cars one person free!

By 9 pm there was a fireworks display.  My brother and I was so elated.  For somebody who hails from the city in the Philippines where fireworks are banned, it was already something for us.

We were not able to full roam the area.  It was getting colder and our feet were already tired from walking.  We didn't even get the chance to buy more food from European stalls.  Such a shame.

It was a fun night of discovering cultures and exotic food.  Losing on games but having a good laugh.  We went home without the most coveted stuffed toys but we promised to be back in the hope of finally winning one.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Documented Expat

Being an OFW, (well used to be one) but being married to one is not all fun when you are going home to your own country.

One would think, you don't have to worry about documents and identifications if your destination is yous hometown.  However, that is not the case for Filipinos.  I must say, we just love to make everything so complicated.  We adhere to these laws not knowing exactly what it is for.  Yes, I am talking about OEC, Pag-IBIG payment and SSS.  You need to pay for all these documents before flying back home.  Or for some, before going back to where you are located abroad.

I must admit, I have never understood why our government requires everybody to have all these documents.  Okay, the SSS (Social Security Services) is helpful.  It is sort of your bank where you get to loan if in case you need additional cash.  Ever since I started working, I have already contributed to SSS and never had the chance to use it.  Some warned me that idle accounts are sometimes used by other people.  How can they call themselves Security Services if the member won't be secured with their system?  Then the Pag-ibig membership, if you are buying a lot or a house and lot in the Philippines, it is better if coursed thru Pag-IBIG. I'm not really sure about it too.  And last in the list is the OEC - Overseas Employment Certificate.

Before I plow further with my dislike on the issue.  Last December 2013, while I was preparing for my brother's visa going here, I was informed by the travel agent who processed it that aside from securing an Affidavit of Support, I also need to provide an OEC so my brother won't be hold at the Philippine Immigration counter.  That's the thing, every time I apply for visa a new requirement comes up.  Philippine Immigration just can't seem to make up their mind.  They try to stop people from going out of the country - why?  Can the country offer better opportunity compared to what these hopeful OFW's wll be earning?  Sigh.

Anyway, those new requirement pushed me to visit Philippine Embassy here in Abu Dhabi.  So aside from the Affidavit of Support, I have to apply for an OEC, but since I am not employed we have to get one for my husband.  We visited the embassy around 3 pm and was informed that they only serve 300 people per day.  We were advised to come early so we could get a priority number.  The following day, we were surprised when we got there, at 6:30 am there was already a queue.  It was DFA Davao city 2008 all over again.  Some people were already there as early as 3 am.  Who does that???  Apparently Filipinos itching to go home for Christmas.

Anyway, at 7:30 am, somebody from the embassy was distributing forms to be filled up. The first 150 will be served in the morning and the remaining 150 will be in the afternoon.  Warning to those who will be getting their OEC during December, start early and take the day off as the process will take up the entire day.  And it won't be a Philippine institute/service without fixers.  Yes, even abroad they still thrive.  One "Ate" was lurking among a group of people who was giving unsolicited advices and suddenly say "madali lang namn po yan, pwede ko po ipasok yan dun para mas mabili..."  Alam na!  It is so typical Filipino.  It is embarrassing.

I might have covered the entire post with my rant over my experience at the Philippine Embassy here in Abu Dhabi.  Additional infor for those who needs direction going there, bus numbers 8, 9, 10, 11 and 161 passes by the area.  Or if you have extra cash you can always take the cab.

I hope, one day the system will be fixed.  A better service will be provided for the OFW not just for the documentation but also for those who really needed assistance.  OFW's are worth more than a  dozen of Vhong Navarros, you know.  I'm just saying.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Chicken Kitchen - First Chow Test of the Year

As 2014 kicked off with quite a bang, we started our "nom-nom" adventure with a chicken meal.

In one of those Fridays where we don't have a specific activity set, we found ourselves wandering around The Gourmet Republic of Al Wahda Mall's extension.  At 11 a.m. most of the restaurants there just opened.  So not much diners in the area.  Or maybe because only a few knew about the area.  On that floor, there was the Mc Cafe, Papa John's, Burger Bureau and Chicken Kitchen.  Since I was craving for anything chicken and fried we decided to give it a try.

The menu was simple, all chicken!  What else?!  I was sort of missing this fried chicken patty back at home so I scanned the menu for something similar to it.  Luckily there was, I just hope it tastes as good though.  I ordered the Chicken Schnitzel with fries and sauteed vegetables while hubby ordered the 1/2 rotisserie chicken and corn as side dish.  We ordered fountain soda a.k.a bottomless soda drinks.  I asked if I could get a glass of service water, turned out they don't provide one so I have to order a bottle of water. Bummer.

Our orders came after half an hour.  I don't know why it took that long, considering there was only me and my husband as their first customer.  They could have been prepared at 11:00 a.m.  Anyway, we were surprised with the size of the plate my order was placed.  It was huge.  I mean really really huge.  It took almost half of the table.  Presentation wise it was appealing.  So we dug in and first bite was okay, second bite it was not as appetizing as it looked.  My stir-fried vegetables were all so soggy and overcooked.  The chicken was coated with something sour and it just doesn't blend well with the crispy coating.  Husband's order was acceptable but honestly it was not as good as Kenny Roger's Roasters as what the waitress was bragging about.

The serving was huge.  So I was ready to pop when I finished 2/3 of my plate.  The over all experience was mixed.  The yellow rice that go with the roasted chicken was good.  The roasted chicken was juicy but not so tasty.  For the schnitzel, better not order it again.  It's not that good.  Unless you like crispy sour chicken for your meal.  We paid a total price of AED 125.00.