Getting A Schengen Visa When Travelling Solo

The last couple of months had been excruciating for me. The virtue of patience has been ever elusive in my case & this time the wait was even more painful. In order not to let anyone go through the same torture, I have decided to share a few pointers into getting a tourist visa in you're planning a trip to Europe.
My case was-boyfriend on site at Helsinki invites me to come spend my birthday with him there. The catch being, he cannot really send me an invitation letter due to company restrictions.

After spending a good amount of time on the internet I finally applied for the Schengen tourist visa on 4th of April, for travel dates on 16th of May. Guess when my visa arrived? 14th May!!!

Hence the first rule apply well ahead in time, especially during summer. Summer sees a lot of tourist visa applications along with a ton of student immigration cases which makes the processing time at the Embassy longer than usual. Although in situations where you have an invitation letter of someone residing in Europe, spouse is on site or if you're going for your honeymoon, the processing rarely takes longer than 2 weeks.

For solo female travellers-strong cover letter is a must. You can read mine here. The letter should not be elaborate, but a concise one that would answer all questions that could arise regarding your application. As you can see, I have outlined everything including purpose of visit, documents attached & brief itinerary.

Next up bank account statement. Keep at least 1 lakh in your account, if you're applying for tourist visa, with the flight & hotel bookings already done. You can even show your RD, or FD, as well as credit card statement, but bank account statement for 6 months is a must. They normally check the closing balance-in my case I was asked to email them the statement as the hard copy attached wasn't clearly showing the closing balance.Usually a balance covering 80 Euro/day of your trip should be enough.

Don't forget to attach your ITR form of last 3 years. This shows that you're not a defaulter of some sort & have been paying your taxes.

At Suomenlinna
Flight bookings are the main worry. But I found this awesome website, that allows you to book authentic tickets, paying as low a price as 1600INR. I booked my flights from Delhi to Helsinki for the scheduled dates & they sent me a booking reference, complete with flight & passengers details. This booking is valid for use when applying for Schengen visa.

Hotel bookings can be easily managed with website. You can add the filter of pay at hotel, book without credit card or free cancellation. In case of free cancellation just ensure that the booking remains valid until your visa processing is done.

For Travel insurance, I used HDFC Ergo travel insurance which cost me something around 400INR and provided the required 30,000 Euro/$50,000 coverage.

Getting a leave certificate  if you're employed is easy. However ensure that the exact dates of leave availed are mentioned along with your designation on the company letterhead. Same holds true for your monthly payslips of the last 6 months.

It is advisable but not mandatory to also submit a letter of employment, if you have one.

If your passport photo is more than 6 months old, better click a new one.

And last but not the least, your travel itinerary should be in place. I used a number of travel websites to come up with a plausible itinerary. When I received a call from the Delhi Embassy I was asked if I have taken help from a travel agent, which I denied. I clarified that I did all the booking & research on my own and they didn't seem to mind.

And lastly always look for direct flights, if not from your city then from anywhere else. It is always better to have a connecting domestic flight rather than international one. I flew from Bangalore to Delhi & then from Delhi to Helsinki via direct Finnair flight. My boyfriend on the other hand had to wait for his checked in bag one extra day, due to some delay at the connecting flight via Amsterdam. And while applying for visa, I had only shown my flight tickets from Del-Helsinki, although my current address said Bangalore. As long as you're coming back to  India, they don't care which city you land up in !

Hope this has been helpful to some extent. In case you want to know more about the actual process of application, what to expect at the VFS Global office in Bengaluru, please leave a comment.

You can read about my trip here on Tripoto..

P.S: Carry cash-around 8000INR, they made me run to the ATM & I got sweaty palms which made it take forever to get my biometrics!