You’ve decided to travel to India. Now all you have to do, is check that the country will let you in. That’s right – it’s not really up to you. They’ll decide whether you’re worthy or not.
They obviously judged us as innocent and were happy to take our cash.
Here’s what we learned along the way, including how you can shave off a chunk of that cash.
Visas types and basic cost
As a UK citizen, you can get a travel visa for up to 6 months, and opt for single, double, or multiple entry. They don’t seem to mind—it’s not harder to get one more than another. You could also opt for a business visa which is valid for up to 5 years.
- Travel visa – £89.44 (whether it’s 1 day or 6 months!)
- Business visa
- £114.44 (up to 6 months)
- £284.44 (up to 2 years)
- £517.20 (up to 5 years)
You have to do it through VFS at their fixed rates. We checked and there is no cheaper alternative. It’s also non-refundable—even if your application is denied! More on that later.
The process of applying for the visa is semi-online. And the website is POOR. But it is what it is. Perhaps it annoyed me so much because I had to use it twice – an application for both Janine and I.
It asks for all kinds of nonsense that you may have to make up, such as ‘Sponsor in India’. Assuming you don’t have family or friends there (or a sponsor!), I’d just use the details of a hotel you’re likely to stay at.
In our case, we are going to housesit a bunny rabbit in Chennai, so used his ‘owner’ as a reference.
Part 1 (Online – 20 – 30 mins):
- Start with this website – VFS Global India – read about the types of visa on offer. You’ll be guided through everything you need to know
- Apply online. You’ll need your passport handy
- Book an appointment to go to your nearest application centre (14 in the UK)
- Print the visa application form (2 pages)
Part 2 (What you need to take):
- Your passport
- Debit/credit card for payment at the application centre
- Printed forms (generated from the online application)
- 2 x 50mm x 50mm passport photographs
- A prepaid special delivery envelope for up to 500g. (To send your passport back to you.)
Part 3 (When you get there):
- Get to the application centre (Google Maps) 10 minutes early (no earlier they say)
- Submit the forms, photos, and envelope and have them check everything over
- Pay them by credit or debit card
We asked what would happen if they rejected our application, and the chap said ‘That’s very unlikely, they approve 99.9% of them’. That made us rest a little easier to be honest. Presumably, we’d have to be criminals to get denied. And we’re good sorts.
It took exactly 2 weeks to receive our passports back (with the Indian visa insert inside).
How to shave off some costs
2 x 50mm x 50mm passport photographs
These are not your typical passport sized photographs. They’re bigger. They’re standard in USA and India.
They cost £7.50 for 4 at a vending machine (if you can find one). They were offered at £5 for 2 at the application centre in Glasgow. I don’t know if this is the same at all centres.
It’s handy to have a few of them since bureaucracy is quite high in India. You’ll need them for silly things like getting a mobile phone SIM card. Here’s how to get 12 of them for 80p:
- Have someone snap a photo on your phone
- Open it in photoshop & tweak to meet the photo specifications
- Create a 6″ x 4″ blank image and lay out 6 of your new passport photos (fits like a glove)
- Save to a memory stick (or your phone)
- Pop to Boots and print two 6″ x 4″ photos off for a total cost of 80p
You now have 12 photos 🙂
A prepaid special delivery envelope (up to 500g).
If you don’t take this with you, VFS will ask you for £14.95 per application to return your passport. There is no option to collect. If there’s 2 of you, that’s £29.90! We asked if they could just pop ours into 1 envelope, but they weren’t having it. It’s all to do with security and trackability.
To save yourself £15.40:
- Go to the Post Office
- Ask for a special delivery, prepaid envelope (per application)
- Tell the counter staff that it’s for a passport and needs to carry up to 500g
- Hand over £7.25 (per application)
… and dance home.
Avoid the extras
- During the online application, don’t use the upload photo service (£10)
- Don’t pay for the extra SMS service (£1.50 ish).
Conclusion and free dinners
If you follow the advice in this article, and there are 2 of you travelling, you stand to save £31.10.
That will buy you 15 meals out in Delhi. Good for you!
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