It’s hot outside, and I’m cranky. I spent the whole day researching travel insurance and visas, and the fine print drove me mad.
Travel insurance: to buy, or not to buy? The answer for Joshua and I and the trip forthcoming is “yes, please.” With round trip plane tickets from Minneapolis to London and London to Delhi, as well as one way tickets from London to Dublin, Dublin to Seville, Alicante to London, and Delhi to Ladakh the flight insurance alone is worth it. We’re covered if any of our flights are cancelled or delayed, or in cases of other personal emergencies. The insurance also covers all medical expenses up to 100,000 dollars and provides emergency transportation up to 250,000 dollars, just in case we break a leg deep in the Himalaya. If that weren’t enough, we’re also insured for baggage loss and/or theft up to 1,500 dollars. The price? 780 dollars for the two of us for six months. It’s a lot of money, but even a spendthrift like me can appreciate the piece of mind it has to offer.
Just in case you’re wondering, we bought our travel insurance through STA Travel, and although they specialize in coverage for teachers, students, or those under 25, they also offer insurance for adults. The added bonus of this coverage is that they will insure you as an independent traveler and they have no elevation stipulations. Other travel insurance agencies will require you to stay below 5,000 meters, or if you don’t, to at least travel with a guide. STA Travel had no such restrictions.
Visas: a pain in the ass. Although you might think the advice here is, “don’t wait until it’s too late!” it could just as easily be, “time it perfectly.” Are you ready? Because this is going to make your head spin: Joshua and I leave for London on June 24, but before our departure, we also have to pack up and leave New Orleans, ETD June 13. The date today is… Dear God, what is today’s date? Something June. Or maybe May. Whatev. We’ve got less than a month. Once Joshua and I arrive in London, our tickets don’t have us returning to the United States until December 21. In those six months, we plan to stay in Europe for the first three and then go to India and Nepal for the second three.
Ok. Now let’s consider visas. The UK, France, and Spain are no problem. In Nepal, a 60 day travel visa is issued upon entry into the country with a minimum of paperwork, available at the airport and road borders. India? Sit down. This could take a while.
India offers a 6 Month Travel Visa for non-Indian citizens with no Indian origin. All travelers must apply and secure the Travel Visa before their arrival in India. Ok. No biggie. What else. The Travel Visa is valid 6 months from the date it’s issued, not the date of arrival in the country. Hmmm. Ok. Oh! And just in case you’re traveling internationally before you’re arriving in India, let’s say – I don’t know – approximately six months prior to your estimated departure from India, make sure that you time things perfectly. You see, in order to apply and secure a Travel Visa you must send in your passport to a company called Travisa Outsourcing. They will make sure that they try to get your passport back to you within 7 to 9 business days upon their receipt of your request, but there are no guarantees.
In a nutshell: Joshua and I need to make sure that our 6 Month Travel Visa is not issued too early (before June 11th) because we’ll run out of time at the end of our India trip; however, we also need to make sure that we have our passports back before we leave on June 24th…
Ok. No problem. There are five Indian consulates and partner Travisa Outsourcing offices in the U.S., we can take a quick 100 mile/ 2 hour detour to Chicago on our way home from New Orleans. What’s that? You say Travisa Outsourcing only accepts Travel Visa applications from 9 AM to 11 AM Monday through Friday? We’ll be there. We’ll drive through the night if we have to. We’ll get there before ya’ll open. We’ll sleep on your front doorstep. You say we have to wait to pick up our same day applications until 6 PM? Ok. We’ll go to the Art Museum. We’ll tramp down Miracle Mile. We’ll take in the sights. Then we’ll be back. We’ll get the visa.
One. More. Little. Problem. No reentry within 2 months of departure, you say. Excuse me? That’s right. If you leave India, you’d better be prepared to stay left for 2 whole months. However, my little sunbird, you may apply for a Permit to Reenter Within 2 Months. It is all very official, but I’m afraid India herself must decide if you are worthy of this permit and estimated processing time is… Indefinite. No worries, if you a have a copy of your travel itinerary and you have followed that itinerary exactly, the Immigration Officer at the Nepali-Indian border may let you by. If not…
For now, our solution is to secure our birth certificates, go get passport photos at Walgreens (10 – 15), make copies of our marriage license (some places in India won’t allow us to share a room otherwise), and fill out the application for a 6 Month Travel Visa on the Travisa Outsourcing website. (Also note that you must know your entry date into India, but sources are divided as to whether or not you should buy your tickets before you apply for a visa. One site says that you should not buy a plane ticket because you might not get a visa, and another site says you should buy a ticket because you will not be issued a visa if you do not have an onward travel ticket. And? And you have to have the name of a reference in India? Don’t know anyone in India? That’s ok. Just list the name and address of your tour. No tour? Alright. What about the hotel where you’ll be staying? You’re planning on camping, you say? Hmmm… Do they have a name and address?) Once we’ve filled out the application for the travel visa, we can make an appointment to apply for the visa in person on June 14 (but only from 9 AM to 11 AM). Next, fill out a Permit to Reenter Within 2 Months. When we get to Travisa Outsourcing, submit both applications but prioritize the travel visa. Ask that the Permit to Reenter Within 2 Months is sent to our mailing address where it can then be forwarded to our family in England.
Sound confusing? Don’t worry, I made it much more confusing before I realized that our parents have copies of our birth certificates. Otherwise, we were going to have to send off a formal request with a money order to Alamosa and St. Paul to get the rogue certified documents and then hope they arrived before we left on June 13th. There may have also been a few Indian Embassy calls – or should I say call-waiting – but it was all in good fun. Now, the fam is scanning copies of our birth certificates as we speak, and we’ll be able to print them off an e-mail attachment tomorrow. Phew!