Opening Up India

I’ve been lucky on my travels so far in life. I’ve never had a holiday from hell. I’ve met a few people who have, and more than one has come from India. Most of them seem to involve the vacationers digestive system. But the saddest horror story I’ve heard of happened about three years ago. I used to chat to a Portuguese lady employed as a cleaner at the insurance company I worked for prior to jumping aboard the rail network. She was going to Goa with her partner, in just a weeks time. I thought she’d looked happy recently.

Her trip stoked my interest. I had been thinking of going to India. I’d gone so far as to buy a couple of Lonely Planet Guide books. But the tourist visa process had rather dampened my enthusiasm. It looked expensive and overly complicated, involving trips to London. What the hell?! Did they not want me to come and spend my hard earned wages there? Perhaps I was just overreacting though. I asked the Portuguese lady how easy she’d found it. Her response was disconcerting. “You need a visa?” Oh dear. The horror story of a holiday that never was.

Portuguese lady did her best to get that visa. But alas, it takes weeks, even months. Not days. She did not go to India. Her expensive flights became luxury footrests for her neighbouring passengers. Assuming they did their due diligence with regards visas. I also did not take my interest in an Indian summer any further. There were plenty of other destinations who were more welcoming to foreign holiday makers. Mrs P and I picked one of them.

But times change and India has caught up with the times. They recently introduced e-visas for nationals of selected countries, which happily includes the UK. It’s still slightly expensive, but it can now be applied for at home, online. I scanned a pair of photos and a pair of passport pages. I resized the photos and turned the passport pages into PDFs. I filled out the lengthy online forms. I paid the fees, just under £62 each. I crossed my fingers. I waited. And within 48 hours, Mrs P and I were proud visa holders. Visas that matched the flights I had bought just the day before.

There’s still lots to do. Hotels need to be booked in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and the Ranthambore National Park. Railway tickets need to be purchased – I am awaiting ‘account verification and activation’, which is proving a pain in the neck. But I will persevere. A barrel of Pepto-Bismol must be purchased. Two new rucksacks too. Exciting times are ahead, and the more preparation I put in now, the less likely we’ll have a tale of woe for me to write about upon our return. Or so goes the theory…

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