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Prepping for India and Nepal, Part 1

By UrbanAnthropod, March 14, 2010 6:15 am

I’m going to India next month! My cousins and I are flying to Delhi where we will be staying in 4 or 5 star hotels as we tour through Agra and Jaipur. Following this week, we’ll be flying to Kathmandu for a few additional nights where I’ve arranged for a private tour of the Kathmandu Valley. These things have pretty much been arranged a while ago, but there are still many things left to do.

Visas

Having travelled through numerous countries, I’ve always shrugged off the visas until recently. I’m used to the on-arrival visas or the airport exit taxes as revenue streams for other countries. The only time I’ve had visa issues was exiting Bangkok to Vietnam. Anyone flying out of Bangkok can be denied exit without showing proof of a Vietnamese visa. But the Vietnamese visa is received on arrival. I’m not sure where it comes from or who designed this scheme, but it’s clearly designed to double the revenue associated with the Vietnamese visa. The way around this problem is to go online to order a letter from Vietnam stating that you are pre-approved for the on-arrival visa (received in your email as jpg of the letter). It’s true! None of this makes any sense, but you go through the motions and you’re eventually granted the right to board a plane and then allowed to pay more money on arrival to some cheerful customs officer who has let his uniform get to his head. That recounts the most difficulty I’ve had for a visa. Most countries, after all, want Americans in their country to spend money on tourism.

So where am I going with this? Well, apparently, the India visa is tougher than this. (Yes, I’m aware it’s a pain to get the Chinese visa… but this is India we’re talking about) For the visa, you fill out the application through an outsourcer and make an appointment to submit the forms. The application itself requires verification of residency in the form of a license or utility bill. That’s reasonable. It requires 2 passport pictures. Still reasonable. But then it requires your birth certificate. The irony of this was pointed out to me by an Indian colleague who indicated that many Indians aren’t born in hospitals and simply don’t have birth certificates. Not just ironic, but almost hypocritical. Yes, it was a bit of a chore to find the document. I even ordered another one. In the end, these documents were submitted. My cousin was nice enough to take time off and bring all our documents into the consulate. I counted before hand and still had about 4 pages left free spread around the back of the passport for stamps and visas. And I had just about 7 months left on the passport before renewal. Hopefully, my 2 pages in the passport have been filled by now.

And then there’s the other problem. So our return flight to the US is in Delhi after the Kathmandu Valley excursion. Since the time that we booked the trip and now (actually under a month after we booked) India had enacted some arbitrary tourist visa rules. It turns out that terrorists in Mumbai were able to cause such havoc –so they claim– following multiple exits and entries within the 6 months of the multiple entry tourist visa. So to combat terror, returns from exits are now limited to periods exceeding 2 months. Surely, you’d expect that our KTM to DEL flight is simply a vehicle for us to catch the onward flight from DEL to EWR and we’re not really re-entering the country. However, assumptions based on logic never seem to follow through correctly. So out of vigilance and prudence, we’ve asked the consulate multiple times if we would be detained or turned back to Nepal. The truth is, the US state department has issued advisories about the arbitrariness of immigration agents in India with regard to the enforcement of this re-entry rule. Check the blogosphere. Others have had varying success re-entering. While their goals were to actually re-enter and our goal is for onward travel, I’m still apprehensive about our return. Suppose we’ll see what happens when the time comes.

As a postscript, I’ll say that Nepal has on-arrival visas at $25 USD for 15 days. The Indian visa costs more than $70 USD with the various fees associated with processing. And unless you’re from Japan, Finland, New Zealand, Luxembourg or Singapore, forget about the luxury and ease of the on-arrival visa.

Related posts:

  1. Prepping for India and Nepal, Part 2
  2. Transit through India
  3. Prepping for India and Nepal, Part 3
  4. Colossal waste of time
  5. Taming Thamel

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