I actually had no plans to take my kids to Prague this year. Suddenly in January my younger nephew, also known as Brat 2 asked me to plan a trip. By the time I was near completion he backed out sighting too much work at office. By then I was hooked and I decided to travel to Prague with my daughter and niece- Chhavi and Vasu, also known as double trouble! And therein lies the story of applying for Czech Republic Visa with minors in India.
I was able to submit our applications successfully today. I still need to get the passports back but then I will update this post once I get know the outcome.
To get the Czech visa one needs to apply for Schengen Visa. They have a VFS office in Delhi. There is a comprehensive Czech Republic VFS website which lists the documents to be submitted along with the application form for each type of visa. The application form can also be downloaded from the website. We clearly need the tourist visa. The visa fee can be paid in cash at the VFS which is a blessing as I do not need to get demand draft made.
Even though I have taken the girls abroad before, it was Hong Kong which used to be visa on arrival when we visited in 2014. This time it was different as we all need a visa.
If you are traveling with a minor, the first thing to be careful about is parental authority. In my case my husband is not traveling and in Vasu’s case both her parents are not traveling along with us. I needed a no objection from my husband and a parental authority letter from my sister and brother-in-law, signed by both. It had to be done by a notary on a stamp paper. Photocopies of parents passport irrespective of whether they are traveling or not is also to be submitted. The logic is clear, one parent should not be able to run away with the child to another country. I totally get it. I had to submit their school ids as well along with their applications.
I am a little surprised tough because last year when Seshadri (my husband) took Chhavi to USA no such document was required even though I was not traveling. Also last year Vasu went to USA on her school trip and only one of the parents signature was required for the authority letter to the school.
For the kids I could sign off their visa application forms as both are under 12 years of age. Kids under 12 are exempt from bio metrics too. So, thankfully I could go and apply the visa for all three of us, there was no need to bring in the hyper kids in tow!
The rest of the documents are routine- completed application forms, valid passport, the return tickets, recent photos, the hotel booking, proof of funds, IT returns, six months bank statement with bank seal and signed by a bank employee! The bank seal and signature bit also surprised me a bit because even UK accepts online bank statements! But such are the vagaries of visa rules and the trick is to follow them to the letter!
After gathering all the documents, I took an online appointment and got it for the next day. I took the 9.00 am time as the VFS is not too busy at that point of the day. I needed to take the token and then go to the relevant counter. The VFS staff was super efficient. They took my forms and asked me to wait. After a while I was asked to proceed to pay the visa fee and bio metrics. Even though mine was not a very straight forward application, at no point did they ask me any irrelevant questions. They were professionals and I am thankful for that.
When I went for the bio metrics there were three passports in my kit. I did my finger scan and then the lady asked me to send in the next applicant. I looked out and said there is no next applicant! Then I realized that I didn’t have a receipt of any kind. So I randomly stopped an employee and asked him how come I don’t have a receipt even though I have done all the formalities. He took me back to the bio metric room and the lady smiled and said my kit had two more applicants! I too laughed and told her they are minors. She said she asked me to send in the next candidate because she saw two more passports in my kit. And I thought it was a general request. She promptly handed me the receipt and I walked off after thanking her and the two young boys would initially accepted my application!
Now let us see how long does it takes for the passports to arrive and what is the outcome! I will update this post once I know the outcome.
PS. All the passports in the picture belong to my family members! Three of them are mine, one current passport and two expired ones.
When I saw the requirements for visa on arrival for Hong Kong, it looked easy. You needed a valid passport with two blank pages and that was pretty much it. Like everywhere else a return ticket and hotel bookings help in getting the visa. My travel agency advised me to carry 2 passport size photographs, so, I carried it. As I was traveling with two kids I was a bit apprehensive about everything. However, the kids managed to sleep in the flight by twisting and turning at impossible angles. I managed to watch my movies as usual!
We arrived early in the morning without any adventures! The kids were not too cranky but I was! As I started following the sings for immigration, we reached a point at which we had to board a train. This was a first for the kids. They were quite surprised and excited.
When we managed to find the visa on arrival queue after getting down from the train, it was not too bad. Maybe because of the early morning arrival, we missed long queues. I also liked the fact that the immigration staff was concerned about the speed of the queue and would direct you to the relevant counter.
I asked the kids to behave at the Hong Kong immigration counter or we would be sent back home. At New Delhi they were all over the counter, almost trying to climb on to it. When our turn came they simply asked for the passports, they did not ask for any photographs. Once again, I had all the documents in my hand but I was not asked for anything. The man at the counter simply asked me lift up Chhavi as he could not see her. They put a small white square ticket in our passports and we were off! The best part is that Hong Kong gives free visa on arrival, there is no visa fee for tourists.
It was only while going out of Hong Kong I realized that they do not stamp the passports! Now what a lovely thing to do, that surely saved me at least one fresh page of my passport. As this was the first trip abroad for the kids, they simply have the IGI stamps!
So it was that easy to get a visa on arrival at Hong Kong Airport for me!
Update: One my recent visit (August 2016) I could not find the fast track line anymore. Please keep this in mind while reading the post which was written earlier.
Please also look at the online visa option for Thailand, it helps you to go to a separate counter and beat the queue.
I have been thinking about writing of Thailand visa on arrival for Indian citizens. My first visa on arrival experience has been with Thailand at the Suvarnbhumi International Airport in Bangkok. I am not counting the Nepal experience in this list because if you travel by air to Nepal you just have to show your passport and you can walk off. There is no visa required for Indians to get into Nepal. As Bangkok was going to be my first visa on arrival I was a bit apprehensive. I looked seriously at the list of required documents for tourist visa on arrival. I had all the documents with me as well.
In September, my flight was with Thai Airways. It was a short and pleasant flight. I watched two movies (it was about 4 hour Delhi-Bangkok flight) and the time went by quite easily. Only not sleeping at all leaves me very tired and a bit confused on arrival.
I generally don’t get lost on airports but once I did manage to go to the domestic departures instead of exit at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I made no such blunders at Bangkok though. Soon I was standing at the visa on arrival queue at Suvarnabhumi. I filled the form, took out my picture and was wondering what all documents they would ask for. There are two queues for the visa, one normal and the other fast track. The normal queue costs 1000 Baht and the fast track 1200 Baht. They accept only Bahts at the visa counter and no other currency. You can change money before joining the queue. After a few international trips, I now prefer to carry dollar or pounds as they easily exchange at any airport. I took the express queue.
When my turn came, they just asked for the form, the photo and the money. Once the formalities were done, I showed the visa at the exit counter and there I was at the luggage belt! Duringthis trip to Thailand I exited to Cambodia. It was another visa on arrival but as I was traveling with Tourism Authority of Thailand they took care of my Cambodian visa. When I entered Bangkok again (as my flight to India was from Bangkok) I had to do another visa as I had a single entry visa. The second time as well, the process was exactly the same.
However, I am no way recommending that you don’t carry the requisite documents. There is no way to predict who will be asked what! I had all the relevant documents just in case they asked for it. But my first experience (and second too) of visa on arrival at Bangkok was a breeze.
I got the Malaysian visa (multiple entry, one year) on Friday afternoon. I have to tell you the visa tale as well as about the conference. The conference is the 1 Malaysian International Tourism Bloggers Conference & Awards and it will be inaugurated by the honorable tourism minister of Malaysia YB Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen. The conference venue is Seri Pacific Hotel. I am so much looking forward to the conference and my first visit to Malaysia. I have three engagements at the conference, one on day 1 and two on day 2.
As I have no pictures of Malaysia yet I have to tell you this tale with the visa and other related pictures. I applied for the visa on Monday morning. I could have applied for it on Friday afternoon but that would have meant cancelling an engagement at work. I decided not to and then regretted it for the whole week! But then all is well that ends well.
A lot agents of the visa Gods sit at this building at Nehru Place in Delhi, the brown one you see below in the foreground. It is called International Trade Tower.
It is well connected by the Delhi Metro. So going there is not a pain. On Monday I deposited my visa at 8.00 am, in fact they were still cleaning the place when I gave them my application. The person handling my account was a pleasant gentleman and he said that even though he could not promise anything, I could expect my visa by Friday afternoon. How right he was!
I would have tracked my visa at least 50 times per day from Monday to Friday but my number of tries made no difference to the speed of its arrival! When I finally got it, I deleted the tracking page from my bookmarks with a glee!
Fast forward to Friday. I had taken a day off from work because if I went there it would have been very difficult to reach Nehru Place. I told them I am taking the day off in anticipation of the visa. It proved to be a wise decision. I usually get up quite late if I don’t have to go work but on this Friday I was up by 8.00 am and yes that is early for me on a off day. The visa status was still stuck at the same note, basically no visa for me by 8.00 am, no note that I could pick it up later in the day.
I wrote a note to the event organizers (they have all my sympathies they would be dealing with so many anxious people like me and such patience they have!) saying if I do not get the visa by evening I would cancel the tickets. They wrote back saying I should not do that and I should call the VFS number once again and inquire, they are being told that I would get the visa.
When I called the lady said it is still under process. So I asked her if it was slated for an afternoon delivery? She said yes but I should check again at 2.00 pm! Well I decided to go anyway to Nehru Place because if I started after 2.00 pm I would never reach by 4.00 pm which is the closing time for picking up the passports.
Then I had pressing matters to attend. My daughter had to attend a birthday party in the evening and I had to buy a gift for her to take to the party. So I went to the local market.
I bought the present, got it gift wrapped and then headed to the friendly fruit and vegetable vendor. I had to bring a coconut home to so I asked him here they are stored. I went in to pick one and my phone rang.
It was from Malaysia, from the event organizers and they said they had good news for me. My visa was ready for collection. I thanked them a lot, kept the phone in my pocket and then turned and froze. This is what was staring at me.
Enlarge the image above. These were the posters in the vegetable shop. You can see the poster of the Indian Gooseberry was carrying a copyright sign and it was in my name. This copyright notice was on the poster itself! Well it is my picture as well (scroll down to the fourth picture in my post). I asked the vendor where did he got the poster from and that it was name on the picture! He was a bit subdued and said ‘Azadpur Mandi.’ I reassured him he did nothing wrong, he just bought a poster! As for me I paid him and headed home and then to Nehru Place again.
After reaching the Tower (which takes 2 hours one way from my place) I got the passport back from the VFS in a few minutes with that nice visa stamped on it. On the way back I clicked the Lotus Temple which you can view both from the International Trade Towers and Nehru Place Metro as well.
About that picture at the vegetable shop, well what can I say? I have learnt my lesson and I now post only low res non-printable pictures on this blog. Yet, there are 2-3 years worth of high res pictures on this blog.