Since deciding to visit India after our Nepal stay is over, we’ve faced a series of challenges that lead me to believe that India may actively be trying to keep us out.
Challenge #1: The Visa Process
Getting an Indian visa is a lot like a trip to the DMV, but slightly more painful. The office for applications is open only from 9:30am to 12pm. We arrived early, but not early enough – we were still numbers 55 and 56 in line. And, although the office opens at 9:30, the ticket counter apparently doesn’t open until 9:45. Or maybe 10:00. Or, really, whenever they feel like it.
On top of that, there are four ticket counters at the visa service center, which sounds promising. And with a line of 50+, you’d expect at least two of them would be open. Even the DMV would concede that much.
But not Nepal’s Indian visa service center.
There was one ticket counter open to process applications. One counter was open to process payments. And with no visa costs posted anywhere, there was a backup in the payment line since people had to keep leaving to hit up an ATM.
Did I mention it was cash only?
This was all just step one in the visa process.
- In step one, you pay.
- In step two, you find out if your application was accepted, what kind of visa you get (which may or may not be what you requested), and you leave your passport with them.
- In step three, you collect your passport and visa in utter chaos, because during the pickup hours the ticket dispenser doesn’t work.
You know what, though, India? We did it. We got your stupid visa, and paid more for it because we’re American. Fine.
But wait. There’s more.
Challenge #2: Booking a Flight
The flight from Kathmandu to Delhi should take less than two hours and be direct. We found one we liked (the only one for less than $100 per person) and proceeded to checkout. Except…the credit card was declined. So was the check card and the backup credit card, all of which have travel alerts set AND sufficient funds.
What they don’t have is membership in “visa verify,” which is apparently a very popular verification program among Indian airlines. So maybe that one’s on our banks and not India.
But that didn’t make it any more fun to find the airline office and go book our flight in person – with cash.
Challenge #3: Booking Trains in India
Before this trip I reached out to a friend who had lived in and traveled through India. She recommended using Cleartrip to book trains, and, thus far, I’ve found its listing of the train schedules super helpful. I’d even found the train to get us from Delhi to Agra and was ready to book.
Not so fast.
In order to use Cleartrip, you have to register with Indian Railways IRCTC. In order to do that, you need an Indian cell number and address.
If you don’t have those things, you need to scan and send a copy of your passport. Then you need to send another email requesting that Cleartrip email you a password instead of texting it.
After all that, you can book your train tickets online. But only if you have American Express. (We don’t.)
We will get all of this sorted out eventually. Maybe before we get there, maybe not. But either way, I’m not really feeling the love from India.
And if they keep this up, they won’t feel the love from me, either.