1. Getting a US Visa for tourist purpose? Nah, it’s not that difficult actually. Inconvenient, maybe. Expensive, absolutely (application fee was MYR 512 back in 2012). Difficult, not really. The first step was to fill in the online form. Then to print the confirmation and bring it to Standard Chartered Bank to make payment. Then to go to US Embassy for an interview, which is what most people are worried about. Tips? Just be prepared and be yourself. Remember basic information about your trip (i.e. why you want to go there, where you plan to stay, what you want to see). Some people get so nervous they forget the answers to these simple questions. Being proficient in spoken English helps aplenty. Having a stable job with a reputable company is also a plus point. Married? Even better. I read somewhere on the Internet, the idea is that they don’t want people to come to their country, find an ad-hoc job and refuse to leave. So if you can prove some sort of commitment back home (i.e. job, spouse, family) for you to return to, it will be easier to get a visa. Some people joke that if you are married, working and already have many stamps on your passport (meaning you are used to travelling), you’ll easily get a visa. If you are single, unemployed and just got your passport issued yesterday, be prepared to donate that MYR 512 to Obamacare. Yup, it’s non-refundable.
2. Going to Universal Studios? There are two things you absolutely must bring: raincoat and rubber slippers. They are really useful when you are going for water rides. Those rides are fun and shouldn’t be missed. What’s not fun is walking around the park soaking wet head to toe afterwards. So pack a raincoat. I bought a cheap disposable one (poncho style) at Guardian pharmacy. And don’t forget your beach (read: toilet) slippers.
3. Staying around Universal Studios? There are plenty of affordable hotels nearby, as long as you are willing to walk for a bit. The area south of the theme park is a very safe and pedestrian-friendly. We stayed at a cheap motel along International Drive and walked to Universal Studios to and fro. Absolutely safe, even late at night.
4. Shopping in Orlando? Take the cute I-Ride trolley bus at USD 2 per ride. It will bring you to both outlet malls (one near to Disney, one near to Universal). It’s rather tiny with only one door at the front, so wait for people to disembark before you board.
5. Catching domestic flights within USA? Be warned, the security checks are just as thorough as international flights. Make sure you start lining up to enter the departure hall at least 2 hours before your flight. The line can be very long and the officers tend to make you go through the screening again and again until they are satisfied that you are good to go. Taking off your footwear is a must, so I would advise wearing sandals instead of shoes. They are easier to remove and to put back on. If you wear boots with laces, I can assure you that you are going to have a long and uneasy time at the x-ray machine. And if you are a Muslim girl wearing headscarf like me, be prepared to get you head patted by the officers. Wondering if they ever find anything by doing so. Hmm…
|Till next time, muah!|