Hong Kong & Macau

My wife and I recently visited both Hong Kong and Macau on our Indian passports. Our passports were brand new with new previous visas from any country. We were issued visas on arrival and allowed entry into both HK and Macau with no questions asked, no visa fees or any other complication. We got 14-day stay permissions. Both regions no longer stamp visitor passports, but instead give you a small paper slip with details of how long you can stay – try not to loose this slip.

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Fiji – Hassle free Visa on Arrival

Fiji gives visa on arrival to a large number of countries. My wife and I recently visited Fiji using our Indian Passports, and had no trouble entering or exiting without a visa. We had to fill an immigration form and a health-declaration (ebola related). The immigration officers didn’t ask for anything else. They just stamped our passport with a 4 month stay permit and let us in. Didn’t cost any money either.

FYI – we used fresh passports – with no previous visas or even entry stamps from any other country.

India’s Visa on Arrival – torn down

For those of us hoping that other countries would reciprocate and give Indians visa on arrival – I hate do dash your hopes.

Quoting the Indian Express: “The Bureau of Immigration will set up a website for this and upon submission of an application, it will email an electronic visa/travel authorisation within 2-3 days, allowing the tourist to enter India and also facilitate easier verification at airports.” (http://bit.ly/1fyO2U2)

You may have noticed statements like the above buried at the bottom of all newspaper articles announcing “Visa on Arrival” in India for 180 countries. This above statement doesn’t suggest “visa on arrival” at all!!

For it to be actually “visa on arrival”, the tourist should just be able to turn up at an Indian airport and complete all visa formalities there. Looks like India will still be requiring tourists to get a visa before travel. 

Of course, if they implement what they promise, applying for a visa online and receiving it electronically is a far cry above having to wait in line for hours at various Indian Embassies around the world. So Kudos anyway!

UK Transit Visa Waiver – Denied

My wife and I were in transit in London yesterday. We had arrived on a flight from Los Angeles and were going to catch a flight to New Delhi. The UKBA website has some confusing information on a Transit Visa and a visa waiver.

Apparently, if you are flying to/from the USA/Canada/Australia/New Zealand, then you can get a transit visa waiver – at the discretion of the immigration officer. This means three things for us Indians:

  • If we are flying to a country not in the above list, from a country not in the above list and transiting in the UK, we need to apply for a Transit Visa before we travel. I.e. if we are flying, say from India to Argentina via London, we would need to get a transit visa before traveling. This applies even if we are NOT passing through immigration in the UK and NOT exiting the airport.
  • If we are flying to/from the above countries we can transit air-side (i.e. not exit the airport or go through immigration) without a transit visa. In my experience, flying from India to the USA and from the USA to India via London was pretty smooth WITHOUT a transit visa, as long as we stayed air-side.
  • Now comes the tricky part. If you are flying to/from the above countries via the UK, and want to GO THROUGH immigration (i.e. leave the airport), and don’t have a visitor visa, it is at the immigration officer’s discretion whether they will grant you a visa waiver or not.

We got caught up in the last point on our way from LA to Delhi. We had 7 hours to kill at Heathrow in transit, and thought we’d try our luck with the visa waiver. The immigration officer asked us detailed questions about our visa history and the history of our visits to Britain. Finally he told us 2 things:

  1. If we had a legitimate reason to enter the UK, like “collection & rechecking baggage” we could be given the visa waiver
  2. Because we had taken UK visas before, we know the visa law, hence we are knowingly in violation of the visa law by trying to enter without a visa.

Anyway, in the end, he didn’t let us enter. We had to stay airside. He didn’t give us any ‘entry denied’ stamp or anything similar – which was nice of him.

Indonesia Visa on Arrival (Denpasar, Bali).

Visa Type: Visa On Arrival

Country: Indonesia

Airport: Ngurah Rai Airport, Denpasar, Bali

Experience:

It was a breeze. No questions asked. No documents viewed. Only a fee of USD 25 per head taken. Good idea to have US Dollars at hand – they do take other currencies but exchange rates are bad.

I did not have side-by-side blank pages in my passport. I had 2 blank pages but far apart from each other. This did not present any problem. The officer used literally half-a-page for the visa sticker and his stamps (the entry & exit stamps were both on top of the visa sticker – no additional space used).

Official guidance says the following are required: Two blank pages in passport, 6 month passport validity, onward air tickets, hotel bookings. But the officer didn’t look for any of these things (except I presume he checked my passport for validity – but that wasn’t an issue for me as the passport is valid for many years yet).

Note: You need to pay IDR 150,000 per head departure tax on your way out. Ensure you keep that much in Rupiah at the end of your trip.

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