So, you are ready to celebrate your life on the road. But there is lot of questions circling in the mind. International travel is not the same as national travel. There is a lot more to think about in preparing for one of these trips: from passports, to luggage, to travel insurance and language, it’s a completely new ballgame. This blog contains details about passport, visa, cheap flight tickets, hotel accommodation and travel insurance. This is what I have experienced during my first international trip.
To travel in any other country except your own country, there are the requirements of two important documents:
1. Passport 2. Visa
Passport: A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies, for the purpose of international travel, the identity and nationality of its holder. The elements of identity are name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth.
A passport does not of itself entitle the passport holder entry into another country, nor to consular protection while abroad or any other privileges. It does, however, normally entitle the passport holder to return to the country that issued the passport. Rights to consular protection arise from international agreements, and the right to return arises from the laws of the issuing country. A passport does not represent the right or the place of residence of the passport holder in the country that issued the passport.
A passport may be a diplomatic passport, an official passport, or an ordinary passport. All types of passport serves the different purposes and as per them entry requirements for a country also differ. But mostly we use an ordinary passport for international travel.
So, if you wish to travel abroad, the first thing is to get a passport for yourself. The details regarding Indian Passport, Application forms and Fee are available at the passport division website:
Consular Passport and Visa Division:Government of India
Most countries accept passports of other countries as valid for international travel and valid for entry. There are exceptions, such as when a country does not recognize the passport-issuing country as a sovereign state. Likewise, the passport-issuing country may also stamp restrictions on the passports of its citizens not to go to certain countries due to poor or non-existent foreign relations, or security or health risks.
International travel is possible without passports under some circumstances, such as a result of reciprocal treaty arrangements. A document stating the citizenship, like a national identity card is usually needed anyway .Examples of this type are the travel between India, Nepal and Bhutan or the travel within European Union by the citizens of any EU member countries.
Visa: A visa is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter the territory for which it was issued, subject to permission of an immigration official at the time of actual entry. The authorization may be a document, but more commonly it is a stamp endorsed in the applicant’s passport. Some countries do not require a visa in some situations, such as a result of reciprocal treaty arrangements. The country issuing the visa typically attaches various conditions of stay, such as the territory covered by the visa, dates of validity, period of stay, whether the visa is valid for more than one visit, etc.
A visa generally gives non-citizens clearance to enter a country and to remain there within specified constraints, such as a time frame for entry, a limit on the time spent in the country, and a prohibition against employment. The possession of a visa is not in itself a guarantee of entry into the country that issued it, and a visa can be revoked at any time. A visa application in advance of arrival gives the country a chance to consider the applicant’s circumstance, such as financial security, reason for applying, and details of previous visits to the country. A visitor may also be required to undergo and pass security and/or health checks upon arrival at the border.
Some visas can be granted on arrival or by prior application at the country’s embassy or consulate, or through a private visa service specialized in the issuance of international travel documents. A fee may be charged for issuing a visa.
Common Types of Visa:
1. Transit visa, usually valid for 5 days or less, for passing through the country to a third destination. For example, if you want to visit Thailand from India for 14 days and then want to go to Cambodia from there, you can get 15 days transit visa in Thailand, which allow you to stay in Thailand for 15 days.
Airside transit visa, required by some countries for passing through their airports even without going through immigration clearance.
2. Tourist visa, for a limited period of leisure travel, no business activities allowed. Some countries do not issue tourist visas. Saudi Arabia introduced tourist visas only in 2004 although it did (and still does) issue pilgrimage visas for Hajj pilgrims. It costs more than the tourist visa.
3. Business visa, for engaging in commerce in the country. These visas generally preclude permanent employment, for which a work visa would be required.
4. On-Arrival visa, granted at a port of entry. This is distinct from not requiring a visa at all, as the visitor must still obtain the visa before they can even try to pass through immigration. Your entitlement of an On-arrival visa does not guarantee the visa at every port of entry. On-arrival visas are issued only at some designated border immigration checkpoints. For example, if an Indian citizen is travelling from Cambodia to Thailand, he will not get an On-arrival visa at the popular land crossing of Poipet- Aranyaprothet Border. But if he will fly from Seam Reap or Phnom Penh to Bangkok Airport, he will get an On-arrival visa at the Bangkok Airport. So, On-Arrival Visas are issued only at designated checkpoints.
5. Student visa, which allows its holder to study at an institution of higher learning in the issuing country. Students studying in Algeria, however, are issued tourist visas.
6. Electronic visa, The visa is stored in a computer and is electronically tied to the passport number; no label, sticker or stamp is placed in the passport prior to travel. You can apply for an e-visa online and it will be processed within 2-3 days. You just require to take a print out of the visa copy to submit it on the immigration counter.The visa fee is required to pay online through credit card. For Example, Cambodia issues an e-visa on the payment of USD 20+USD 5 (processing fee). However, Visa-on-arrival at Cambodia border cost USD 20 only.
Visas can also be single-entry which means the visa is canceled as soon as the holder leaves the country; double-entry, or multiple-entry which permits double or multiple entries into the country with the same visa. Countries may also issue re-entry permits that allow temporarily leaving the country without invalidating the visa. Even a business visa will normally not allow the holder to work in the host country without an additional work permit.
Please understand re-entry permits carefully. I lost around INR 10,000 and 2 days of my trip during my first trip in absence of proper guidance. Suppose, you have double entry transit visa for Thailand and used it twice at the Bangkok airport. Now, you are planning to go out to Cambodia by road. If you will cross Aranyaprothet Border from Thailand to enter in Cambodia, your double entry visa will be over. To enter in Kingdom of Thailand again, you need a new visa from embassy or you can get a visa-on-arrival while returning back from Cambodia. First case will serve the purpose, but visa-on-arrival is issued only at certain immigration checkpoints and it is not being issued at famous Poipet-Aranyaprothet Border crossing between Cambodia and Thailand. So, in that case you have to fly out to Bangkok Airport to get a visa-on-arrival. Here re-entry permit comes in picture. Suppose your second entry visa in Thailand was valid until 15th April 2012 and you are going to Cambodia on 3rd April, 2012. You want to enter in Thailand again before 15th April and have your connecting flight to onward destination before 15th April. In this case, you can apply for a re-entry permit at border checkpoint by paying 1000 Thai Bath and this will help you to enter in Thailand without getting any new visa. This way you need not to fly out to the airport to get a visa-on-arrival and you can enter in Thailand by road only. At Bangkok Suvarnbhumi Airport, a re-entry application can be made one hour prior to your departure from the airport on the same day of departure only.
Once issued, a visa will typically have to be used within a certain period of time. Entering a country without a valid visa or visa exemption may result in detention and removal (deportation or exclusion) from the country. Undertaking activities that are not authorized by the status of entry (for example, working while possessing a non-worker tourist status) can result in the individual being deemed deportable—commonly referred to as an illegal alien. Such violation is not a violation of a visa, despite the common misuse of the phrase, but a violation of status hence the term “out of status.”
Even having a visa does not guarantee entry to the host country. The border crossing authorities make the final determination to allow entry, and may even cancel a visa at the border if the alien cannot demonstrate to their satisfaction that they will abide by the status their visa grants them.
Some countries which do not require visas for short stays may require a long stay visa for those who intend to apply for a residence permit. For example, EU does not require a visa for many industrialized countries for stays under 90 days, but its members require a long stay visa for longer stays.
It is not always necessary to get a visa to visit any country. There are many countries that offer visa free entries to the citizens of some countries. For Example, An Indian citizen does need any visa to travel in Macau and Hong Kong. Macau immigration allows you to travel in Macau for 30 days without any visa and Hong Kong immigration allows you for 15 days.
I met lot of people who have confusion between Passport and Visa. Please note that Passport is a proof of your nationality, which is issued by your own country and generally must for an International travel before departure. While visa is an authorization for the destination country for your entry in that country and smooth passage through that country governed by laid restrictions. A visa may not be necessary to get before your international departure for certain countries.
According to the “Henley Visa Restrictions Index August 2011”, holders of a British citizen passport can visit 171 countries visa-free or with visa on arrival,while Australian citizens can travel to 166 countries visa-free / with visa on arrival. Americans could travel to 169 countries visa-free, or with visa on arrival. According to passport information from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), some 72 countries and territories provide visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to holders of Republic of India passports.
Cheap Flights: There are many low-cost airlines where you can book your tickets cheaply. Some regular carriers also offer flights between a sector that may be comparable to the low-cost carrier. For example, Air France Phnom Penh-Bangkok sector fare is almost equal to Air Asia fare on the same sector. Popular low cost airlines in Europe are Ryanair in Ireland and across Europe, Bmibaby in United Kingdom and across Europe, Pegasus Airlines in Turkey and TUIfly in Germany.
In Asia, popular low cost airlines are Air Asia in South East Asia and Oceania, Spicejet and Indigo Airlines in India, Tiger Airways and Jetstar Asia Airways in Singapore and Air Arabia in Middle East.
JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines are the most popular low-cost airlines in Americas for Domestic, Caribbean and South America Routes.
So before booking a ticket, take your time to find the best fare deals for you. You can also check on the websites like Expedia, Priceline or Make My Trip, but as per my observation their search results do not include low-cost airlines like Air Asia. But they will give you an idea about the low fares on regular airlines and you can compare them with low-cost airlines by visiting the websites of low-cost carriers.
Sometimes I have seen that if you are booking a ticket from India to European Countries, it is better to book the tickets on Aeroflot for the best prices. Similarly, from India to Egypt, Middle-East carriers like Qatar Airways and Air Arabia offer best deals.Sometimes, you may get a cheaper ticket to nearby airport from your ultimate destinations, which may be at one hour long drive. For example, You may get a cheaper ticket to Sharjah while travelling to Dubai or a cheaper ticket to Macau, while travelling to Hong Kong. So try to explore alternate options also, but be aware about the visa regulations at alternate destinations. Keep your travel dates flexible to get the best fare deals. Sometimes, by changing your date by 2-3 days you can save thousands of bucks on air tickets. It totally depends on your luck and you may loose some time in transits,but it may save some part of your hard-earned money, so try to search as much as possible for the best deals.
Hotel Accommodation: Accommodation is a crucial requirement for any trip. There are many hostels and cheap hotels around the globe, where you can book a budget accommodation. Agoda offers the best choices for hotels in Asia Pacific. Booking.com is the best website to book hotels in Europe and America. Both websites are now acquired by Priceline and offers choices from 1-star to 5-star hotels. Hostels can be searched on the Hostelling International or Hostelworld and Hostelbookers.
In my personal experience, I have seen in Hong Kong, that hotels are giving 20 % of the booking cost to the website like Agoda as a commission. When I extended my stay in Hong Kong, I got that 20 % concession from my hotels. So, if you are planning to stay long time in a city you can book your hotels for initial 3-4 days on these websites and thereafter you can deal directly with the hotel. I may save your money. In another case, I paid USD 7.00 at Agoda for a hotel booking in Seam Reap (Cambodia) and when I extended my stay there, I had to pay USD 7.00 only to the hotel. So here the direct dealing did not help me.
Travel Insurance:Travel insurance is insurance that is intended to cover medical expenses, financial default of travel suppliers, and other losses incurred while traveling, either within one’s own country, or internationally. Temporary travel insurance can usually be arranged at the time of the booking of a trip to cover exactly the duration of that trip, or a “multi-trip” policy can cover an unlimited number of trips within a set time frame. Coverage varies, and can be purchased to include higher risk items such as “winter sports”.
For a national travel, travel insurance is generally not necessary, but for an international travel, it is highly recommended to get a travel insurance for the duration of the trip, There are lot of varying circumstances in unknown foreign land, when travel insurance can pay a crucial role in your survival.
It’s mandatory to take an overseas insurance in before visa application in all of the 15 Schengen countries, which include France, Germany and Finland. This cover could really come in handy as the cost of medical treatments in the US as well as Europe is steep. When you travel to the US or any European country, you are moving to a higher price index zone. So the local mediclaim policy will not cover you once you cross the Indian peripheries.
For a good travel insurance it is advisable to buy the insurance that offers at least USD 2,00,000 cover on Medical Expenses, Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains cover in case of any emergency. Your travel insurance also covers the cost related to Trip Delay, Hijack, loss of checked baggage, delay of checked baggage, loss of passport etc.
The insurance premium is one time paid for the entire trip duration for a single visit and its cost depends on your age and areas to be visited. Mainly there are four geographical coverage like Asia, Asia (excluding Japan, as medical cost in Japan is very high), Worldwide (excluding USA, Canada) and Worldwide (Including USA, Canada). An insurance premium covering USA and Canada will cost you more as medical cost is high is these countries. An Insurance can be purchased only for a single trip or for annual multi trip. Annual multi trip insurance is useful for frequent travelers.
In India, the best way to get travel insurance is to compare them on websites like Policybazaar or Insurancepandit and choose the best one. Using these websites the insurance can be purchased instantly online. In Feb 2012, I paid a premium of INR 1021 for Bajaj Allianz Travel Insurance with worldwide (excluding USA) geographical coverage and USD 5,00,000 cover on Medical Expenses, Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains (Emergency Dental pain relief inlcuded upto $500). It also included the cost related to Trip Delay, Hijack, loss of checked baggage, delay of checked baggage, loss of passport etc.