The dreaded visa

It’s hard to believe it, but in just 6 weeks and 5 days I will be beginning my adventure! I realise I ummed and ahhed about a variety of routes and may have left some confusion, so for clarity, here is my absolute plan of what’s what:

India

26th February I will depart London Heathrow at 8:50pm and arrive in Delhi, India, on 27th February at 10:40am! I will then engage in a month long guided tour of all the best bits, including a variety of beautiful temples and the Himalayas Mountains!

South Africa

Then, on 29th March I will depart Dabolim Goa, India Airport at 6:45pm and arrive Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mumbai airport at 7:55pm. Then at 1:35am (so, 30th March now) I will depart Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mumbai and arrive in O R Tambo Johannesburg Airport, South Africa at 6:55am. THEN at 10:45am I will depart O R Tambo Johannesburg Airport only to arrive, finally, at 12:25pm in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Here, I will spend two months working within a Game Ranger internship, helping on the Safari and by the end have a FGASA qualification. Will it come in handy one day? Who can say!

Zambia

So! 25th May at 6:10am I will depart Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and arrive at 7:50am in O R Tambo Johannesburg, South Africa. Then I’ll catch another flight at 10:40am, which will see me land safely at Livingstone Airport, Africa, at 12:30pm. I’ll then be transferred over to an area of Zambia where I’ll be volunteering within the community. I will also drift over to Botswana for 4 days somewhere in the middle, to explore the Safari and go bush camping!

Botswana

And finally

Wednesday 17th June at 1:10pm I will depart Livingstone Airport, Africa, and arrive at O R Tambo Johannesburg, South Africa, at 2:55pm. I will hostel it up for a night, then 18th June I will get an 11:25am from O R Tambo Johannesburg, South Africa in order to arrive at Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mumbai at 12:05am (now, by all technicalities, on 19th June). Then, at 1:05am I will depart Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mumbai, arriving at Suvarnabhumi International Airport Bangkok, Thailand, at 6:55am!
After what I’m sure will be a memorable night on Khao San Road and a day tour of Bangkok, I will jump on the train all the way up to Surin where I’ll stay for four weeks caring for elephants!

Thailand

It may seem like a funny order to do things in, but there’s method to the madness. First, I couldn’t start until this time of year due to the slow drag of savings. I’ve heard the Holi Festival (the festival of colours) happens in March in India, and I would just love to see it! Then, I’ll be receiving a really interesting education in South Africa about what in nature effects different animals in different ways, and I’d like to see how I can make that apply in Thailand!

Even though it’s been in the planning for about a year, I still feel caught very much off guard and with a list of things to organise that’s as long as my arm, including book return flight to England! Though I imagine this will be 20th July.

One thing that’s been new to me is the horror that is a visa application. If you’re a UK citizen visiting India as a tourist, you need to apply for a visa for entry, even if you’re just going for one day AND you must have this organised before you leave! You can’t organise it at the border, if you arrive with no Tourist Visa, they’re sending you straight back!

Unfortunately, the visa process itself is stressfully vague, so I’ll share where I’m up to so far. A how to certainly would’ve helped me out, so if you’re reading this with the intention to go to India yourself I hope I’m able to help!

First, begin your application via the India Visa Online website. You will be asked a series of questions on this application that are quite standard, such as your passport number, your national insurance number and which airport you’ll be arriving in. You’ll also be asked some unexpected questions such as the TOWN each of your parent’s were born in, whether your Grandparent’s are Pakistani and your profession with a drop down box of limited options… I just went with “Business Person”.

visa

You will also be asked for two references, one based in India and one based in the United Kingdom. I’ve arranged my trip through Real Gap, who provided me with a reference in India. I’m not sure how you’d get this otherwise, so I would discuss with a travel agent. For the UK reference, the norm is to put one of your parents or your manager. I put my Dad!

Next, you’ll submit your application and be given the option to print, or to book appointment. Make a note of your reference number and do both! I stress to make a note at this point, because when I pressed ‘print’ the system obliged but then the website automatically closed after! If this happens, go back to the website and click on ‘print registered application’. It will repeat a few questions from your application to verify, then when you’re given the option to print you should also be given the option to book an appointment and pay.

I should explain at this point the need for an appointment. I was lucky that I have a colleague who’s had to go through this process before, who was able to provide me with a little guidance! You have the option to either:

1. Print your application and post it to your nearest Indian Embassy, along with two 2″x2″ passport photos and your passport, and a self addressed Special Delivery envelope for your visa and passport to be returned to you in

or

2. Make an appointment to go to your nearest Indian Embassy. Here, you will provide your application (which they would have also received via your web submission), two 2″x2″ passport photos and your passport. The next day, your passport and visa will be ready to collect in person.

passport

So I’ve gone with the latter as I’m terrified about posting my passport anywhere this close to my trip! Plus, if anything is wrong with my application, I’d rather know while I have time to fix it! When I booked the appointment, I received no notification of any kind of what I will need to bring with me, so along with my application, passport and two 2″x2″ passport photos I will also be taking my proof of address, proof of my flight bookings and declarations of where I will be staying and when. Better to be too organised in these situations!

So, via this section of the website I booked my appointment (29th Jan, whoop!) and paid… This was a lot more money than I had expected, so just to give you a heads up if you’re going for it… I paid £93.60 for this visa. Which is leaving me with a rather frugal January now!

I received no confirmation of any kind that my application has been received, my appointment has been booked or that my payment has been successful, other than the page changing accordingly on the website! No email… Nothing!

That’s the process of my application thus far! Hopefully I’ll be updating you 30th January with only good news!

Another, far more fun, aspect of the trip I’ve had to organise this week is the choosing of the bag!

Since deciding on my intention to travel way back in December 2013, I must have tried on or read about 100 different kinds of travel bags! Big ones, small ones, ones with extra backpacks stuck on them, ones designed especially for women, cheap ones, expensive ones… Everything! Recently my Mum’s been helping me out too, during which time she’s found a brilliant quote that applies here
“The backpack chooses you.”

A little corny, but very true!
The ones that were considered top of the range I just found bulky. The ones that came with the feature of an additional small back pack stuck to it I found killed my back. The ones that were designed especially for a woman’s frame- while comfortable on the chest- I found sat way too high up and put an unbearable amount of pressure on my hips!

At the end of the day, you just have to be honest about which one is right for you, and for me that’s the
Lowe Alpine Cholatse II 55.65
back pack

Fits me right, has lots of internal pockets, can open from the bottom or the top, has a waterproof cover, and has a place at the top where I can store water and have a big straw leading to my mouth, to name but a few features!

So, this decision was finally made on Tuesday after another session of backpack trying on with my Mum. After that, we commemorated the occasion with a lovely dinner at The Fox & Hound pub in Brington where I rapidly inhaled pork medallions with this appley gravy, baked apple and vegetables!

IMG_4946

A twee and cosy pub that is the epitome of Britishness! If you’re in England, and happen to be stopping by the Northamptonshire region, I very much suggest you stop by Brington for a pint!

IMG_4947

Proper log fire and everything!

So! Next;
Zambia Visa, Travel Insurance, Malaria tablets, return flight, etc…

One thought on “The dreaded visa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s