I feel obligated to write about our Indian visa adventure as a separate post in order to warn all fellow overlanders heading to the so called by the tourist brochures “Incredible India”, with the not so incredible system of welcoming its visitors.
As we started traveling six months ago, it was impossible for us to apply for our Indian visas as we were supposed to back home in Athens. Through our research we had heard about huge delays on the process so we planned ahead and applied for our visas at the Indian Consulate in Dubai three and a half weeks before our car’s scheduled departure for Mumbai. At that point we thought that this would be a sufficient amount of time to process.
So we thought… In our first attempt and after we had completed our on line application, we headed to the Indian Consulate General in Dubai where we were turned down and directed to apply at another document service organization (BLS). There we were informed that as we were not permanent residents of the UAE, we needed to add some extra supporting documents as well as to buy and attach an air ticket and reapply on line. In our final attempt and with all the supporting documents and tickets in place, we managed to have our application accepted, only to find out that the process would take 7 to 15 days to get approval and another 4 days to be delivered. We then would have to change our flight tickets and reschedule the departure of the car.
After a week, surprisingly enough, we got a phone call informing us that we should proceed to BLS and deposit our passports. When we got there, we found out that only my application had been approved while Rochelle’s was still pending. We assumed that there was a small delay in the process. After four days, when my passport was delivered to me, I had been entitled with a single 3-month visa and not a 6-month visa as I was supposed to. To cut the story short, it took another 15 days and many phone calls for them to get back to us and inform us that Rochelle had to go for an additional interview. Two interviews later and with the most outrageous demands of travel proof, we were told that her visa was approved. We finally got hold of her passport 24 hours before we flew out and while our car was already on the way to Mumbai.
Apparently, although India is a top tourist destination, their systems have so many problems of bureaucracy and coordination that incidents like the above do happen very often. For me it’s almost a joke that, although we tried repeatedly to explain to the embassy, nothing was done to sort out our problem from their side. The levels of stress and frustration for both of us in these past few weeks will remain a negative experience of our visit to India.
P.S. The Ville D Orion in the picture is the Cypriot Boat that Voukefalas is on a cruise on his way to Mumbai.