Recently i travelled to Europe and as much as i love going there, i hate the Visa process hassles. If you are travelling to multiple countries in Europe then process has more rules around it 🙁 . But then the fact that you can travel across multiple countries with same visa pushes you to understand and adapt to process and thats what i did 🙂
The flexibility we get with Schengen visa is one of the reasons why more details are asked along with it. As you can travel across countries Visa officer wants to understand your travel plan, itinerary and where you will stay along with duration.
Before you think about applying for Visa ensure you have prepared an outline of countries you plan to travel , how [air/rail/bus] and when. As i understand from all the research i did that you can slightly deviate from this plan but what should not change is your destination of main travel. Destination of main travel is the country which defines the purpose of travel like in case of business travel or to attend some ceremony etc. If it is just a leisure travel with tourism as purpose then main destination is defined by country where you will stay for maximum number of days. Once an outline of trip is prepared you need to get a verifiable itinerary of your trip along verifiable hotel booking.
Out of all the steps the hardest part is getting verifiable itinerary which include travel dates and travel bookings. Obviously you will not buy tickets before getting visa but one is expected to get verifiable bookings [not tickets] for visa applications. Just to elaborate a ticket is a confirmed booking where your seat is reserved and cancellation charges will be involved. Now unless you know a travel agent and someone helps you out with it, obtaining travel itinerary is tricky. I checked with “Thomas Cook” office if they can help me with Visa process and response was that job of getting itinerary was mine!! After digging whole internet and visiting many travel agents, what worked for me was https://schengenvisaflightreservation.com/ . There are multiple such websites are available but problem was reliability and this website had best reviews and they did their job well [at-least in my case :)].
I also want to stress that don’t present fake itinerary or hotel bookings as Visa officers can get these verified!! I personally know some people where Visa was rejected because Hotel booking could not be verified. Once you obtain itinerary and bookings, rest of process is straight forward.
As travel plans can change even at late stage, one question which pops up again and again is “What if we make changes to itinerary after getting Visa i.e. change the countries you plan to visit”. I don’t think you will ever get a definite answer to this. If you check travel forums, some will say no issues while some will warn you. My take on this question is, you are expected to follow the itinerary but then officers also understand that changes can happen. So unless you are completely deviating from your itinerary generally you will be fine but if you are unlucky then you may need to answer questions.
Now that i understand the process and have gone through it, i think its fine and makes sense but one definitely needs guidance initially.