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.

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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

  • 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

Where Aryan (Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom2) can go on visa-free crime sprees

I was watching ‘Dhoom 2’ yesterday. How the heck is Aryan (the character played by Bollywood super-hunk Hrithik Roshan) such a far-reaching international criminal, when he is clearly an Indian? Doesn’t he need a visa for each country he’s planning a robbery in?

Here are the top 8 places where Mr. Aryan can go on a visa-free crime spree, and enjoy beautiful vistas too.

Bahrain
This middle-eastern country is known for pearls. Mr. Aryan can steal pearls and enjoy views of a majestic skyline. If travelling for business purposes, visa can be obtained on arrival by Indian passport holders.

Bermuda
Beautiful Island nation, famous for its ‘triangle’ where ships & aircraft are fabled to go missing. Mr. Aryan can rob one of the wealthy off-shore banks, where rich Brits & Americans stash their dosh. Visa not required for upto 6 months, generally speaking, for Indian passport holders.

Hong Kong
International financial hub with excellent food, nightlife and city views. Mr. Aryan can hold a rich Chinese businessman to ransom and earn millions of Renminbi. Indians don’t need a visa for upto 14 days.

Iran
Home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations, and owner of large oil reserves. This fascinating country is full of history. Also great views near the Caspian sea and the Azerbaijan border. Mr. Aryan can come to steal one of the WMDs that Iran is allegedly developing (though I’m not aware of any proof of existence). Visa on arrival available for tourist visits of upto 7 days, for Indian passport holders.

Jamaica
Beautiful Caribbean nation, known for reggae music and stunning beaches. Not much for Aryan to steal, but he can come here to relax. No visa required for upto 14 days for Indian passport holders.

Macao
Casino Island off the coast of China, near Hong Kong. Has a charming old Portuguese part of the city. Mr. Aryan can come to pull an Oceans-11 at one of the ginormous casinos here. No visa required for visits upto 30 days for Indian passport holders.

British Virgin Islands
Laid back Caribbean archipelago, famous for being a tax-haven and for local resident Richard Branson. Mr. Aryan can hob-nob with Branson and chill on the beach. 1 month visa-free access for Indian passport holders.

Ecuador
Famous for the Galapagos Islands with all their fauna. Additionally, Mr. Aryan can make vital contacts with local mafia, near the Colombian border. Visa free for 90 days for Indian passport holders.

First Time Cruising – Indian in the Caribbean

Being Indian, two things struck me soon after I boarded the Celebrity Summit in Puerto Rico:
1. My wife and I were part of a small minority among the passengers (under 45 years old, non-white, childless couples).
2. The staff on the Ship was predominantly Hindi speaking.

This was unsurprising. Indians tend to put up with a lot of hardship, to make a living. But we, as a nation, are not as happy to spend our hard earned money on luxuries. The staff on the ship typically spends 6 months at sea, at a stretch. Living in cramped quarters, getting shore leave once every 2 or 3 weeks for half a day. Not an ideal life.

It was easy to feel out of place, but at the same time completely ignore everyone else on the ship. The population was predominantly white republican Americans, aged over 45. We couldn’t really find anything in common with them, and after the first day, stopped going to ‘social events’ on the ship. It was funny when the ship’s stand-up comedian asked “who here likes Obama”. The theatre echoed with “boos”.

The ship was luxurious though. A bit excessive even. The service was impeccable and we were made to feel very welcome and well looked after. But we also had to cough up $25 a day in tips, in addition to the cost of the cruise. They had an excellent Gym & Spa. The pool was boring and small. The food was good, but not so good if you are vegetarian like us.

Top tips for first time cruisers (especially Indians):
1. No need for visas (or even passports) in Caribbean ports. But carry photocopies of your passport anyway.
2. Bad idea carrying passports to shore excursions — it can get wet or stolen. I managed to drench my drivers license and about $20 cash.
3. Carry a photo ID other than your passport — will need that to get back on the ship.
4. No need to buy a ‘drinks package’ in advance, unless you plan on heavy drinking.
5. All food was included, at least on this ship. Except for one fancy restaurant.
6. Avoid ship organised shore excursions when you can — crowded and generally not worth the price. Explore on your own.
7. Plan a budget before going, and then double it. Your holiday is guaranteed to turn out to be VERY expensive.

French Polynesia Visa for Indian Citizens

Updated – see the end of this post My wife has Bora Bora at the top of her list of ‘dream destinations’. I have been trying to figure out if we need a visa, and how to get the visa. Turns out the French embassies issue a ‘Dom Tom’ visa applicable to some of its overseas territories.

The ‘Dom Tom’ visa is applicable to the following overseas regions of France: Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion Island, Guyana, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, French Southern Territories, St. Pierre and Miquelon or Mayotte. The application for this should be made at your nearest French embassy.

The more travel-savvy reader would know that Bora Bora is part of French Polynesia, along with Tahiti and a bunch of other islands and atolls.

If you hold a Schengen visa, you can not use it for French Polynesia (or any other Dom Tom territories). Similarly, a Dom Tom visa will not get you into main land France or the Schengen zone.

See this link for more details: http://www.ambafrance-uk.org/Different-types-of-visa.html

We received the following information from the TLS contact centre in London, where the France Visa applications are made

The French Polynesia visa process is exactly the same as a Schengan visa, except that in the registration one has to mention ‘French Overseas territory’ as the destination. The visa appointment can be made online: www.tlscontact.com/gb2fr Indian passport holders have to apply in person.The list of required documents will be revealed when the application is filled in online (I will share this in a couple of days). Here is much more information on the Dom-Tom visas: https://www.tlscontact.com/gb2fr/help.php?id=def_DOM_TOM_CTOM Update Just applied and got this visa. It is as explained above. Process is identical to Schengen, but the cost is lower (around £7.5 + TLS contact centre fees). In London, the French embassy has outsourced visa applications to TLS. Hence one needs to apply through them. Validity of visa starts on my intended date of arrival in Tahiti and ends about 2 weeks after my intended date of departure.

Need inspiration to put yourself through the process? See these pics I took.

First breakfast of 2012, being delivered by room service The home away from home, Bora Bora Swimming with Jaws

Pirating the Caribbean – Visas on the high seas

My wife and I had planned to honeymoon in the Caribbean, but had some rather funny visa problems ( see old post ). So we ended up going to Hawaii instead.

Now we plan to pirate the Caribbean sea once again. We have signed up for a cruise on Celebrity Solstice, departing Puerto Rico (USA) and returning to Puerto Rico. The table below lists destinations the ship is visiting, and the visa situation.

Destination Visa on Cruise Visa Otherwise Motivation to go
Puerto Rico (USA) Need a valid US visa to enter Puerto Rico. The cruise starts from here, and we arrive here by air. Valid US visa needed Old San Juan
St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands Valid US visa needed. The cruise company has advised us that we require a US visa for the US Virgin Islands, despite going there for 1 day on a cruise. Valid US Visa Needed Trunk Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands
Sint Maarten / Saint Martin Cruise Ship passengers do not require a visa for stays of less than 48 hours. The Dutch embassy in London (and I assume other cities around the world) issues visas to Sint Maarten. Not sure if the French Embassy issues visas for Saint Martin. FYI, the island is shared by Netherlands and France. Phillipsburg Harbour, St. Maarten
Antigua Cruise Ship Passengers do not require a visa to Antigua & Barbuda Tourist visa required by Indian passport holders. There is no Antiguan embassy in India. However, their High Commission in London will accept applications from Indian nationals. Boat in Antigua
St. Lucia Cruise Ship Passengers do not require a visa to St. Lucia I have written to the High Commission to find out. I have read somewhere that Commonwealth citizens do not require a visa The Pitons, St. Lucia
Barbados Cruise Ship Passengers do not require a visa to Barbados Tourist visa required by Indian passport holders. There is no Barbados embassy in India. However, their High Commission in London will accept applications from Indian nationals. Thunderclouds

Hope this helps you plan your travels to the region!

Update:
I am just finishing up this trip. I had no trouble at all with visas. My US B1/B2 visa was perfectly valid for Puerto Rico (this was my 3rd entry to the USA on this visa). I have had no trouble using the B1/B2 visa for business and tourism. No other country on this trip demanded a visa (or even a passport).

Sources:
St. Maarten: http://www.dutchembassyuk.org/consular/index.php?i=538
Antigua & Barbuda: http://www.antigua-barbuda.org/Agtip01.htm
St. Lucia: http://www.stlucia.gov.lc/faq/do_i_need_a_visa_to_enter_saint_lucia.htm#Visa_Fees_And_Exemptions

Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda Visa Experience – Indian Passport

Problem: Antigua & Barbuda and Barbados, both don’t have embassies or consulates in India.

So I could not find a legal way to apply for a visa to these countries for my fiancee, who is currently in India, without getting her to fly to London.

The High Commissions of Antigua & Barbuda and Barbados both recommended applying for a visa in London. But Indian passport authorities clearly warned against sending a passport abroad with someone else. The penalty for such an action could be Jail for the person carrying the passport, and a 10 year ban for getting a new passport (I don’t have a link/reference to support this. But this is the response my fiancee got from a senior passport officer).

Result: No trip to Antigua & Barbuda or Barbados this winter!