Guide to Indian visas
Unless you are from Nepal, Maldives or Bhutan, you will need a visa to enter India. In my guide to Indian visas, you will find out everything you need to know about obtaining one. It can seem like a perplexing process, but like anything else in life its never as bad as hard as you think. I have applied for one many times so now I want to share with you everything I have learned and the system I use. So read on and save yourself the unnecessary stress.
If you are planning a short trip for a couple of weeks, you can apply online for a visa on arrival. There are currently 174 countries listed illegible for this. It also states on the website that you can apply for a one year visa on arrival, but I would definitely have that booked from your home country.
The paperwork for a visa on arrival must be filled out online before you arrive, and the date of the visa starts from when you arrive. This service is available from 28 key airports across the country, and here is the link to the official website.
Visas can be applied for in Indian missions across the world, but, many countries employ private companies to process the application. In my country (England,) they use VFS global. It is a trusted company by the Indian government, and the application is easy and straight forward. Here is the link to download the form.
You can quickly get a 180 day Indian visa from here, just make sure your paperwork is in order, and you have the correct photographs. They are a different size, so make sure, and you have to sign them. If you don’t have the exact size, you can buy at the offices but obviously at a hugely inflated cost as let’s face it you won’t want to go out and come back again to save a few pounds.
Also if you are applying for someone else ( as you don’t all have to be there and suffer.) Make sure the other person signs the paperwork where it is needed. I have been caught out like that before. This involved me going to the other side of London and back in a blinding rush to get the application finished that day. Save yourself the stress and double-check.
If you pay a little extra and state its what you want you can get a one-year tourist visa, but you have to leave the country after the maximum of 180 days stay. Most people decide to plan a visit to Nepal for this as there are no aeroplanes involved and it is relatively straight forward to get over the border and back again.
Check online where is your nearest office that issues Indian visas as you fill the form out online and then apply in the office. A few days later and presto you have your visa. The nearest office to me to process your application is – Indian visas Application Center,142-148 Goswell Road, London EC1V 7DU. The nearest tube is Barbican and its only 2 minutes walk.
As long as your paperwork is in order, it is pretty straight forward. Just take a ticket and wait. Then in a few days, do the same thing. Applications happen in the mornings and collecting in the afternoons, and as I understand it, that’s the same system all over.
Visas for onward travel
Now I have covered Indian visas, let us talk about obtaining visas for onward travel. India has a mixed relationship with its neighbours, and this dramatically affects the process of applying for a visa. Here is a breakdown country by country.
There are consulates in Dehli, Kolcutta and Agartala where you can apply for a visa. This is only necessary if you are planning to travel for more then 15 or 30 days. I would still recommend applying in your home country for more extended stays as there is less bureaucracy involved. Bangladesh now has a visa on arrival scheme, where you pay 50 dollars plus tax at Dhaka international airport. Providing you have 500 dollars in cash to prove you can pay for your stay and proof of onward flights.
Getting Indian visas in Bangladesh is not easy, and crossing the border is definitely not your best bet. There is a lot of red tape involved, and I strongly recommend flying out of Dhaka and into India. Crossing into Bangladesh providing you have the relevant paperwork is straight forward enough, and there are four borders to choose from.
It is common knowledge that India has a rocky relationship with Pakistan, and travelling between the two countries is not easy. The only border crossing that tourists can currently use is the Wagah border just outside of Amritsar, and this is open most of the time. There is also the Thar express train you can book (sometimes) from Jodhpur to Lahore presuming that it is open and if you have a valid visa. I would use the Wagah border as this is open more often.
The Indian government tends not to give visas for Pakistan although there is a mission in Dehli and you can try your luck. Its a much safer bet to apply in your home country and have both visas running concurrently.
Crossing into Nepal compared to the rest of India’s neighbours is a breeze. There are five border crossing, and I have used three, so I can confirm it is a painless affair. Make sure you have dollars ready and passport photos.
I have found it is best to carry smaller denominations as they rarely have change in dollars and you can bet you will lose out with a crappy exchange rate. Make sure you pay in dollars as that’s what you are supposed to do. You seem to be able to pay in just about anything! Just be ready to lose out significantly on the exchange rate.
Getting an Indian visa from Katmandu is relatively straight forward, but the fees depend on a lot of factors. Your nationality, purpose and length of stay. Check this out for yourself on this link Also, if you are thinking of doing a visa run, you will have to stay in Nepal for a few months as you will be likely to be turned down. Indian visas are not extendable in themselves and do not overstay!
I know there is no land crossing, but many travellers go to Sri Lanka from India. It is not worth applying for a visa in advance. Apply online and have your paperwork ready. I also used VFS global for this. You will also need more passport photos so I would recommend carrying quite a few as you will need them for visas and applying for permits to restricted areas.
It does not matter if you use land borders or get a flight to the capital. You will need to apply for a visa, and you are only even illegible if you have booked a very costly all-inclusive tour with a Bhutanese government certified company. The costs are epic for backpackers, but I hear worth it. Tours are two hundred and fifty dollars a day from December to February with a 40 dollar surcharge for those travelling alone or in a couple. Two hundred dollars in the offseason and these include a guide that is with you at all times.
Tours tend to be tailored to your needs, and I should think so at those costs unless you go with a big company and the route is fixed. The clear benefit is avoiding that surcharge that mounts quickly over days. But then that depends on your budget. I would imagine applying for Indian visas in Bhutan to be super expensive due to the time it will take so make sure you have your multiple entry visa ready for your return.
In summary of my Guide to Indian visas.
I think I have covered most of the vital information required to get your hands on Indian visas. If you need inspiration on, why would you be applying in the first place, check out my post. If I have missed anything or you have any further questions leave them in the comments box provided and happy trails my fellow intrepid travellers.
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