I'm a first-time traveler to the Schengen area. I did a lot of research when putting my documents together and I used a Booking.com (Free Cancellation) booking to support my visa (short-stay) application, which I submitted to the Embassy yesterday; securing Schengen visa (tourism) appointments in my city of Dublin, Ireland is very, very difficult and challenging. I was searching for months to find an appointment and yesterday was the earliest date available to book. Unfortunately, I was told to return for passport collection at the Embassy on July 28th, which is just a couple days before my travel date (August. 1) and several days after the Booking.com Free Cancellation deadline. I'm anxious and facing a dilemma because I've learned that that particular Embassy has been denying visas a lot recently and this is my first Schengen visa application. If I don't cancel my hotel booking on July 23rd, I will be billed € 1,400 for my full stay at the hotel but I won't find out whether my visa application is approved or rejected until July 28! I can't cancel the hotel booking on the 23rd (just in case my visa will be rejected) because the Embassy might call the hotel and deny me a visa on the basis that I don't have a valid booking. I don't know what to do - I've saved up for a couple of years for this holiday and I can't afford to lose € 1,400 if my visa isn't approved. Please advise
If you need a hotel reservation to get a visa best book with the hotel and make sure they agree that you can cancel till after the date you are sure you have your visa, (or do not get it,) which might well be the date you fly to the country.
Booking sites, including booking.com, mostly work with automated systems which do not allow for extended cancellation periodes.
Do read the information about hotel bookings before you apply for a visa, some countries insist on you having a reservation for the hotel you are going to stay and at times that is checked during the visa application process and/or during or after your stay, other countries do not want you to book hotels and even flights till you have the visa. At this time the Schengen countries seem to insist on having a reservation at the hotel you are going to stay.
I don't think Embassy staff call up individual hotels for each application and verify bookings. Happy to be corrected on this fact though!
As a foolproof alternative, you can make a fully flexible booking directly with the said hotel, as these are usually cancellable up to the day of arrival. So in case the Embassy does call them, your name and reservation will be genuine.