Guide to Cuba Visas for Indians (and others!)

Looks like Cuba doesn’t need a Visa but a ‘tourist card’ which can be purchased in most countries. Check out this link for more information.

India ignores its Tourist Paradise, While South Korea cherishes & promote theirs

It’s a shame that the beautiful coral islands of Lakshadweep in India are going waste from a tourism perspective. Even Indian nationals require a special permit to visit Lakshadweep (http://lakshadweep.nic.in/depts/revenue/entry_permits.htm). No wonder that tourism there is not developed at all. See this photo below to understand exactly what we are wasting.
Agatti Island, Lakshadweep
See this blog for more on Lakshadweep tourism: Top Tourist Places in LakshadweepContrast this with Jeju island of South Korea. A beautiful volcanic island, that South Korea is actively promoting for tourism. Nationals of most countries do not require visas for Jeju Island – even if they do require visas for the rest of South Korea (Indian nationals included). . India should learn a thing or two from its Asian neighbours.
Photos from Jeju Island:


Get more info at the Official Site for Korean Tourism

Brazil Visa for Indian Citizens – Ruthlessly Efficient Process

Target Country: Brazil
Passport: Indian Passport
Visa Type: Tourist Visa
Processing Consulate/Embassy: Consulate of Brazil, New York, USA
I went to the embassy over-prepared with loads of documents including hotel bookings, insurance, marriage certificate, cover letter, bank statements, employment letter etc etc. But the lady at the visa counter was ruthless and only took the exact documents listed on their website (http://novayork.itamaraty.gov.br/en-us/tourism_visa.xml) Note: She didn’t ask for a proof of residence, eventhough that is listed on the website

 

Documents they actually took:

  • Tickets to and from Brazil (in our case, we are flying into Argentina and out of Brazil. They refused to accept any domestic flight tickets or hotel bookings)
  • $20 fee per head, in a US Post Money Order
  • Online application confirmation page
  • Valid passport, with US Visa

Experience:
Very smooth. I didn’t need an appointment. There was a wait of about 20 mins before our turn came. Took me 25 mins total to submit the application. The officer was ruthlessly efficient and quickly took the exact documents she needed, and sent us away. The visa was processed in 5 days and it was easy enough to pick my passport up, with the receipt they had given upon submission.

Need inspiration? See these photos I took in Brazil:
Classic Rio
Misty Iguazu Falls
The Real Macaw!!

Argentina Visa – Straightforward to apply but long wait at the consulate

Target Country: Argentina
Passport: Indian Passport
Visa Type: Tourist Visa
Processing Consulate/Embassy: Consulate of Argentina, New York, USA
Visa Received: 90 Day Multiple Entry Tourist Visa
Documents submitted:

Tickets to and from Argentina (in our case, we are flying into Argentina and out of Brazil, so I included all our domestic flight booking as well).
Hotel bookings for every night spent in Argentina (I also included Brazil, for completeness, as Brazil is part of my trip).

No fee required for Indian Citizens
Filled application form
Valid passport
Notarized letter of employment (also translated into Spanish)
Bank statements for the last 6 months.
1 Photo (4cm x 4cm — US Visa style)
Proof of Travel Insurance (Certificate stating my name and details of policy) – this wasn’t asked for, but I included it anyway.
Also, I included 6 months worth of payslips and my marriage certificate – but these were not asked for

Experience:
Very smooth. I didn’t need an appointment. There was literally no queue here either. Took me 1 hour to submit the application – the officer took her own sweet time to call us in and then to review our documents. The visa was processed in 7 days and it was easy enough to pick my passport up.

The staff were nice, polite and competent, but don’t go in expecting a fully professional process.

Need Inspiration to go? See these photos from Argentinian Patagonia…
Walking on Water?Perito Moreno Glacier

Bermuda … Impossible to figure out whether Indians need a visa or not

Just a note on my recent experience with figuring out the visa system for Bermuda. I was planning to go, but finally decided against going because of schedule clashes, but the visa process is outlined here for you anyway.
 

To describe it in one word: Confusing
 

This is what the Bermuda department of immigration website says (link updated June 2019)

  • Indian citizens are on the Visa Nationals list. I.e. we require visas.
  • Indian citizens can arrive in Bermuda without a visa if they have either a) US Green Card, b) Canada Green Card or c) Indefinite Leave to remain in the UK
  • We can get a “visa waiver” if we have any other multiple entry visa to the UK, USA or Canada (and are flying to Bermuda from one of those countries & returning to one of them as well). This includes visas such as (but not limited to) H1, L1, B1, UK Tier 1, UK Tier 2, Student visas, Multiple Entry Tourist visas, Canada Temporary Resident visa etc.
  • We need to pay a $200 per head visa waiver fee — which is preposterous in my opinion

But then when we called the Bermuda Department of Immigration, they told us something completely different :

  • Indian citizens are not on the Visa Nationals list. I.e. We do not need visas at all.
  • And also, very confusingly, we still somehow need multiple entry visas to US/Canada/UK.
  • No clarity on the $200 visa waiver fee

So the visa confusion, coupled with the expensiveness of Bermuda and unavailability of late evening flights to/from New York, ensured that I don’t visit Bermuda.

 

If you have experience in Bermuda visas / visa-waivers – please do comment below

Canada Visa – Rude staff at the Canadian Consulate, but quick processing

Visa Type: Temporary Residence (tourist visa)
Issuing Country: Canada
Application Centre: Consulate General of Canada, New York City

Duration of Visa Granted: 7 Years
Time taken for processing:Next business day

Requirements:
Standard documents — hotel bookings, flight bookings (provisional will do), 2 photos, passport, application form (beware – there are 3 different application forms to fill out), letter from employer, covering letter, marriage certificate, payslips, bank statements. Get details off their website here

Experience:
No appointment needed. Turn up in the morning between 8 and 10.30 AM, go through a security queue, and wait for your ticket number to be called. The officers who collect the documents are not helpful and don’t answer any questions. They just say “submit everything you want to submit”.

They simply told us to come the next day between 1pm and 2.30 pm to collect our passports.

Now, the collection experience was weird to say the least. They made us queue outside the building by the roadside for 10 mins first. Then the guard led us into the consulate in a line (as if we were school children). After security we were given another ticket and then our number was called after about 30 mins wait.

It was OK for me, but another person had a bad experience in front of me. This lady had lost her ticket (which you are given when submitting the application). The guards refused her entry saying that “if you went to a baseball game without a ticket, would they let you in?” … my argument (which I voiced right there – to deaf ears!) “This is not a bloody baseball game”. The lady was basically denied her passport because she had lost this ticket. She was offered no alternative way to get her passports back. I can only hope she figured some way out. If you try calling the embassy for help, their automated voice system only says “we don’t handle visa related enquiries”!! Why bother with publishing a phone number at all! Crazy!

Key points to keep in mind:
1. No appointment needed.
2. Need 30 mins to submit application.
3. Need 1 hour to collect passports
4. Be prepared to stand in line (in the open-air) for 15-20 minutes at collection.
5. Don’t loose your application ticket (issued when applying) else you will not get your passport back!

Second time USA B1/B2 visa application

Passport: Indian Passport
Embassy: US Embassy in London, UK
Visa Decision Time: On-the-spot
Visa Appointment Wait time: About 2 weeks
Passport delivery time: About 3 working days
Points to note

  • No electronics, not even earphones/cables/key-fobs allowed in the embassy
  • You can take a book and/or a snack, but no bags
  • Time spent within the embassy: About 1 hour
  • You need to complete your online application beforehand, and carry the confirmation page & payment receipt
  • Passport delivery costs about £16, you need a credit/debit card to pay for it. No cash.

Documents that they looked at:

  • Current passport
  • Old Passport with old US Visa
  • Application confirmation

I took a slew of documents, including bank statements, payslips, letter from my employer. They didn’t look at any of them.

Questions they asked in the interview:

  • How long will you be in the US?
  • Where did you get your last visa?
  • How long have you lived in the UK?
  • Where did you live before the UK? What did you do there?
  • Are you married? Is you wife in the UK?

Hope this helps!

Visa Free Travel to Mexico – if you have a US visa

I just read on the website of the Mexican embassy in London that people of ALL nationalities do not require a visa to Mexico, if they hold a valid USA visa. Have you tried entering Mexico on a US visa? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Here is the exact wording from the Embassy of Mexico …
“According to the new regulations, from the 1st of May 2010 it is not necessary to apply for a tourist, business or transit Mexican visa if you hold a VALID VISA for the United States of America -regardless the nationality- . Immigration authorities in Mexico will ask for your US visa and a valid passport when you arrive. ”

“Permanent residents in Canada, Japan, The United Kingdom (Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK), The United States of America or the Schengen countries wishing to travel to Mexico do not require a visa to enter the country as a tourists and business visitors for a 180-day stay and as a visitors in transit for a 30-day stay.”

This is an extract from an email I got from the Consulate of Mexico in Washington DC: “If you have a valid passport (any nationality) and a valid US visa (any kind of visa) or green card, you do not need a tourist visa to visit Mexico”

Adding my first hand experience below
The wife and I traveled to Mexico in August 2012. We have US L1 and L2 visas, and we also have older B1/B2 visas. The Immigration Officers at Cancun Airport just looked at our US B1/B2 visas, stamped our passports and let us in. No questions, no hassles, no need for a Mexico visa.

An Indian in Luxembourg

Hello Travellers & Visa Lovers 🙂

The better-half and I recently spent a weekend in Luxembourg. I know! Who goes to Luxembourg!! But it was totally worth it. An affordable luxury holiday in beautiful surroundings.

Highlights of the trip were:
1. Excellent Hotel — we stayed at the Sofitel Grand Ducal, which Tripadvisor ranks as the best hotel in Luxembourg. And it was surprisingly affordable! Service was impeccable and location was great too.

2. Beautiful Country — Luxembourg City itself is quite striking in appearance. Its full of beautiful valleys and via ducts. Think of it as Edinburgh without the grunge and drunk teenagers. Echternach and Remich were beautiful too!

Echternach
Vases in Luxembourg

3. Chilli Red Mini Convertible — From SixT rental. Was a pleasure to drive. The scenery was excellent too.

4. Very few tourists! — On the whole there were hardly any tourists. Only one group of Chinese school children and some pensioners.

5. Surprisingly Cheap — food, tourist attractions (or what few there were), public transport are all quite cheap for Western Europe standards!

6. Schengen — Visa lovers will love this 🙂 … we actually went to Schengen. The town where the agreement of the same name was signed, forming the Schengen zone and the ever elusive Schengen Visa. It was like a pilgrimage.

This is a pic of the scenery near Schengen …
Near Schengen

7. City tours that can only be described as ‘cute’. They had the offices of Arcelor Mittal on the tour. Awww … Luxembourg has a multinational.

The Downside …

1. Lack of decent vegetarian food … but we found a nice french style cafe (can’t remember the name for the life of me) near the main town square.
2. Bit dead overall — not much to do after Day 1 (we hoofed it to Brugge on Day 2).
3. Hard to get there from London, unless you fly.

Overall, I would recommend going there. But for no longer than 2 days.
If you have questions, message me on Twitter — @villdre

Ireland visa waiver for Indian Passport Holders

There’s been some buzz on the internet about being able to travel to the Republic of Ireland if you have a UK Visa in your Indian passport. For a while my Wife and I have been quite excited about this, since we both want to see Ireland.

But I checked up the exact wording of the visa waiver programme. It seems that you can only visit Ireland on a UK visa if you have a Tourist or Short term business visa. Bit of a bummer for us. I am here on a work visa and my wife on a dependant visa. Looks like we will need to get an Irish visa!

Here is the link to the exact wording on the Irish embassy website:
http://www.irelandinindia.com/home/index.aspx?id=86830

Update
Three of my friends have recently entered The Republic of Ireland under the visa-waiver programme, on a UK tourist visa. Also, my wife, who is on a UK resident visa (Tier-1 Dependant), had to apply for a tourist visa to Ireland (they gave her a single-entry visa). Note: The visa was issued to her FREE of cost and took 1 week to process.