The Turkey Shuffle

by Karen

No matter how much careful planning you think you do, there’s always something small that can slip through the cracks. In our case, it was a pretty big crack!

Somehow we got the idea into our heads that Mark didn’t need to apply for a Turkey visa beforehand, that he would be able to purchase one upon arrival for $20. We both could’ve sworn it was true. In fact, it IS true for US citizens, but not for Philippine citizens.

We were thisclose to booking our 14 days in Turkey, when on a whim we decided to read the page about visa requirements.

Ordinary passport holders are required to have a consular visa before travelling to Turkey.

To say that we panicked is a gross understatement. We scrambled to get all his visa paperwork together, going through the motions of booking fake hotels, printing out flight itineraries, filling out forms, and grabbing cash, and raced towards the Turkish embassy in Paris, only to find out they were closed. We then realized that it might take days or weeks to get the visa approved, so we gave up on the idea of going to Turkey for 14 days.

Turkey was an important strategic segment of our trip. Because we’re only allowed 90 days in Schengen territory, and because we want to experience Christmas & New Years in Europe, we needed a way to extend our time in the Europe region through January. An obvious solution would be to fly to Asia, then come back, but we have bigger plans for that trip later. 😉

So what were our other options? We couldn’t go to a country that required Philippine citizens to get a visa in advance, and we couldn’t stay too long in Schengen, lest we go over our 90-day welcome.

  • Extend our stay in Morocco (US & Philippine citizens OK for 90 days)
  • Go to Israel (no visas required for both of us)
  • Go back to London

After e-mailing the Turkish consulate in LA about our visa issue, I found out that there was a loophole for Mark entering Turkey. According to the friendly Turkish consulate worker:

If you come to Turkey by a cruise ship and thereafter leave Turkey for another country by the same cruise ship, all cruise passengers on board are exempt from visa for a daily stopover. If your cruise ship starts from Turkey or ends up in Turkey, all passengers are subject to a visa to enter Turkey. Depending on the citizenship of the passenger, an advance visa may be necessary to disembark.

Really? Even if we have to disembark the ship? *flutter of hope*

Mark found a cruise with Costa Cruises that fits into our itinerary quite well (anyone back home wanna join us???). But, we need to be absolutely sure, for real this time, lest we repeat our mistake:


Yes sir, we will go and visit Turkey! With the supposed blessing of the Turkish consulate, we went ahead and booked our cruise!


Now because we are leaving from Italy, we would be spending extra time in a Schengen zone. We did the math and so far it seems to work out (we hope). So if we’re on a cruise ship, which country are we technically in? I e-mailed the Greek consulate in LA and got back this response:

When you are on the cruise ship in Greek waters, you are considered as being in Greece.  They will stamp your passport when you enter and exit the country.  As a U.S. citizen traveling on a U.S. passport you can stay in the Schengen area 90 days in any six months.

So, hopefully this all works out in the end. A cruise will be a nice break from all the planning, and in addition to Turkey, we get to visit Greece, Croatia, and 2 new Italian cities in the process, something that we hadn’t planned. 🙂


Electronics Packing List for Overseas Travel (2013 Edition)

Since Karen and I are only bringing our backpacks to Europe we had to pack light. A full packing list will be forthcoming, but I wanted to share a mini-list focused on electronics first.

Hopefully it helps other tech light travelers on what to bring overseas. 🙂


+iPad and Case*
+Samsung A157 – unlockable cheap GSM phone w/ SIM card
+Nintendo 3DS with circle pad**

+Vivitar, 2 USB port charger (euro and iPad friendly)***
+International travel power adapters (3 regions)

+USB iPad cable
+USB to Micro USB cable for SIM phone
+Daiso USB iPhone retractable cable****
+Daiso USB Nintendo 3DS cable
+Daiso Cable organizers (3)

+Earbuds w/ mic
+Audio Mini-jack splitter

+Daiso Plastic Storage Bag


* iPad and Case – This is a Trident Kraken case (AMS-NEW-iPad-BK). I had a fancy OEM Apple foldable case and it did not protect the glass display from shattering from a 2 foot drop while in a backpack! I got a free new iPad from Apple (long story) and threw this case on it. It feels way more secure and I have more confidence leaving it in a backpack when traveling.

** Nintendo 3DS – Still haven’t decided on bringing the 3DS overseas. I’ve kept it while traveling in the States, but it’s kinda heavy and I’ve rarely had time to play. I may have to give up the idea of having a 100 level rank Monster Hunter and a massive international StreetPass village, at least for this trip ;P

*** Vivitar 2-Port USB Charger – This is actually my second charger, the first was a Skiva 4-Port QuadFire which totally fell apart after a month of regular use. Skiva is not recommended. So far it’s been a month and this Vivitar charger (VIV-AC-3A) has held up and it’s good for what we need.

Quick specs: 100-240V + 3.0 amp + plug adapters = great for traveling Europe w/ iPad.

**** Daiso Travel Products – We should probably give Daiso Japan’s travel products it’s own post for how cheap and useful it’s been. For people unfamiliar, it’s a Japanese dollar store. Everything is just $1.50USD, designed in Japan, but likely made in China. For this list specifically we’ve bought retractable USB cables, cable organizers, screen protectors, audio splitter, and storage bags.

Another thing worth mentioning is the lack of laptop or sophisticated camera on this list. While our iDevices may not be the most robust computers or have the highest megapixels, they cover the basics of what we want. We explored ideas of combining ultralight net books, wi-fi enabled cameras, and mini tablets, but pound for pound an iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch (for Karen) has worked for the two of us and is lighter on our backs. I don’t consider myself an Apple fanboy, but it’s nice to have the frictionless versatility that they offer. Also since these devices have limited storage capacity, we’ve been heavily reliant on the cloud, both Google Drive and iCloud, but perhaps that’s another post. 🙂

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International Driver’s License

Went to my local AAA branch and applied for my international driver’s license, just in case I needed one. It was super easy, just had to fill out a form, take a photo, and pay $23. Much easier than applying for a visa or passport, and I get it on the spot. Granted, it’s a booklet and somewhat cumbersome, but still handy to have.

We also bit the bullet and rented a storage unit near our apartment for $55/month. It’s a simple 5’x10′ that should fit our needs. We plan on leaving our large, replaceable items there, such as shelving, mattress, miscellaneous toys. My friend Samantha was generous enough to let me store my car in her garage, along with Mark’s motorcycle.

Less than a month to go!


At the UK Visa Office

Who knew applying for a UK visa would be a bit complicated? Actually it’s not, we just neglected to read all instructions!

While at the USCIS office in Santa Ana, the security guard told Mark that he didn’t bring our booking confirmation for his biometrics appointment. We were confused, because we thought that the email confirmation notice was our booking confirmation–but it’s not. We needed a sheet with a barcode from the Visa4UK website itself, something that the security guard mentioned was a very common blunder people made.

We rushed over to the nearest FedEx and printed out his booking sheets. Fortunately, the British embassy doesn’t require much paperwork like the German consulate did. The only hassle is that there is only one British embassy in the entire US! And it happens to be in NYC. I think Mark ended up paying close to $100 just to buy postage and a return envelope just so we could get his visa on time.

Just 6 weeks and counting!