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How I Manage Visas on My Indian Passport As I Travel Around the Globe.

On a sweltering hot summer day, I stood on the street outside the Embassy of Georgia in Delhi. Beads of sweat lined my forehead and anger boiled my blood. I had been waiting for almost two hours past my appointment time, outside the gate of the Georgian Ambassador’s residence in India – which doubled as their embassy. It would be another hour of cursing my Indian passport, melting in the hot sun, pleading with the guard to let me in, chatting with the Punjabi family who had waited even longer than me… before I’d score a short-term tourist visa to enter the country of Georgia.

But if you ask me now about Georgia, that’s not the part I remember. My mind only conjures up images of hiking to a dreamy 700-year-old church in the dramatic snow-capped backdrop of Mount Kazbeg, cycling to the Russian border, and soul-searching amid the surreal Caucasus Mountains. I remember local cabbies in Tbilisi singing ‘ichak dana-beechak dana’ when they heard I was from India, running into the waves of the Black Sea on a pebbly beach near Batumi, being offered a shot of whisky with breakfast in the remote Racha region.

That’s the thing about traveling the world on an Indian passport; frustrating though it is, it is totally worth the chance to breathe, feel and experience a part of the world so different from ours.

[Looking for visa info for a specific country? Ctrl+F to find it in the list below]

I don’t have a house (aka address proof) or a salaried job, yet I’ve managed to score visas  to over 30 countries on my Indian passport. Here’s how I do it:

Prioritise countries that offer VOA (visa on arrival) or visa-free entry for Indians

Northern thailand, phu chi fa thailand, thailand visa on arrival for indians

Soaking in the beauty of Northern Thailand.

If you hold an Indian passport, you’ve probably cursed it a fair few times when it comes to ease of travelling. I know I have. I’ve enviously looked at the passports of German co-passengers, who can travel to 177 countries (out of 218) without applying for a visa in advance. Show up at an airport, pick a destination, go. Oh, how liberating that must feel.

On the other hand, our navy blue passport allows entry into a meagre 59 countries, of which a fair few are remote Pacific and Caribbean islands, and cost a fortune to get to. But I’m not here to dwell on the miseries and frustrations that travelling with an Indian passport come with. I’m here to tell you, we can travel nonetheless, and we must.

For starters, we still have over 40 epic countries, both in our own backyard (Nepal, Thailand) and halfway across the world (Ecuador, Tanzania), where our Indian passports get visa on arrival or visa-free entry. We have no right to complain until we’ve explored these to our heart’s (and wallet’s) content, right?

Where I’ve been:

  • Ecuador: No visa needed for 90 days; the immigration officer did look at my US visa though.
  • Ethiopia: 30 days visa on arrival; the immigration officer asked me why I was there (just travelling) and how long I planned to stay (a month), but didn’t ask me to show any documents.
  • Indonesia: No visa needed for 30 days; no questions asked.
  • Jordan: 14 days visa on arrival; the embassy requirements say you need to show 1000$ in cash to enter, but many people on Twitter confirmed they weren’t asked. I had a letter from Jordan Tourism confirming I’m a travel blogger, so I wasn’t asked to show financial proof.
  • Mauritius: No visa needed for 30 days; I was asked to show my accommodations details and return flight.
  • Seychelles: Visa on arrival for 3 months; I was asked to show my return flight.
  • Tanzania: Visa on arrival for 90 days; I entered and got my visa at Zanzibar airport; the immigration officer asked where I’ll be staying.
  • Thailand: Visa on arrival for 15 days; when I visited in 2015, it turned out that they’ve scrapped the slightly more expensive priority queue, so getting a VOA involved waiting in a long line for almost 3 hours. I’ve heard that the queues are shorter if you land in the morning / early afternoon.
  • Trinidad and Tobago: Visa not required for 90 days; the immigration officer asked me to show my return flight.

On my wishlist:

  • Bhutan: No visa needed.
  • Bolivia: Visa on arrival for 90 days.
  • Cuba: Visa on arrival (tourist card) for 30 days.
  • Dominica: Visa not required for 6 months.
  • Fiji: Visa not required for 4 months.
  • Jamaica: Visa not required for 6 months.
  • Laos: Visa on arrival for 30 days.
  • Madagascar: Visa on arrival for 30 days.
  • Nepal: Visa not required.
  • Saint Lucia: Visa on arrival for 6 weeks.
  • Timor Leste: Visa on arrival for 30 days.

Check out Expedia’s Visa Free Destinations for Indians tool, for a glimpse of where to go, when to plan your trip, and all the good food that awaits you.

Score e-visas online

Kazbegi Georgia, georgia visa for indians

Hiking in the backdrop of Mount Kazbeg, Georgia.

A little more effort than just booking a flight and showing up, but quick and pretty hassle-free. Most e-visas require that you upload your information and documents online, and carry a print-out (or e-copy on your phone) of the approved visa.

You can either apply for e-visas on the relevant government website of the country, or for a small fee, through a service called iVisa created by a Harvard grad; iVisa makes it simpler to apply and takes care of everything for you.

Where I’ve been:

  • Bahrain: E-visa for 14 days; I was invited on a cultural exchange trip and my Bahraini hosts arranged the visa.
  • Georgia: It now issues an e-visa for 90 days; lucky us!
  • Malaysia: E-visa for 7 days; back when I travelled there, a visa was needed in advance.
  • Singapore: Although they offer e-visas, you can only apply for one through a friend who holds a Singapore PR / SingPass, or through a travel agent. It’s a bit strange, but I applied through a resident friend on my recent trip to Singapore, and the process only took a day.
  • Sri Lanka: E-visa for 30 days; I’ve scored it online twice: quick and easy.
  • Vietnam: E-visa for 30 days; back when I travelled there, I got a visa on arrival.

On my wishlist:

Use the US or Schengen visa to get VOA / visa-free entry into other countries

san marcos la laguna, pasajcap, lake atitlan, guatemala blogs

My abode by Lake Atitlan in Guatemala!

The best visa I have on my Indian passport right now is a multiple-entry US B1/B2 visa valid for 10 years! Not only does that allow me to travel to the US often, it also gives me visa-free or VOA access to some pretty cool countries around the world. Using it, I’ve travelled through most of Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and even Turkey.

Long-term UK and Schengen visas have a similar advantage, but I’ve learnt from experience that these are harder and much more expensive to score. Most US tourist visas are issued for 10 years, and despite the myths surrounding the process, I found it relatively easy to score mine.

Where I’ve been:

  • Costa Rica: Visa on arrival if you hold a valid visa to Canada, Japan, US or the Schengen zone. I entered over land, and my multiple-entry US visa got me in easy, but I did have to show a bus ticket out of Costa Rica (an open date ticket can be bought at one of the bus booths near the immigration area); I got 30 days twice, and 15 days once.
  • Dominican Republic: No visa needed if you have a valid US, UK or Schengen visa; I was asked my purpose of travel and return date at immigration; 30 days.
  • Georgia: No visa needed if you hold a valid visa for the US, UK, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, South Korea, Schengen or GCC countries. I entered with my valid US visa the second time and could stay for 30 days.
  • Guatemala: No visa needed if you hold a valid US, Canada or Schengen visa; I got stamped in for 90 days; no questions asked.
  • Honduras: No visa needed if you hold a valid US, Canada or Schengen visa; I got a 90-day entry; I was asked about my return plan and my passport was taken to another room for verification.
  • Mexico: Visa not required if you hold a valid US, Canada, Japan, UK or Schengen visa. I got stamped in for 1 month at the land border crossing; no questions asked.
  • Nicaragua: No visa needed if you have a valid US, Canada or Schengen visa. However, I entered the country thrice (since I decided to use it as a base for part of my 6-month Central America trip), and immigration at land-crossings was nightmarish. My friend and I were detained for questioning twice, keeping the entire bus on hold, and I was charged a different visa fee each time. Arrive by air if you can, keep proof of a return flight, and carry some patience! I got 30 days each time.
  • Panama: No visa needed if you have a valid US, UK, Canada, Australia or Schegen visa; immigrating at even land crossings was easy.
  • Philippines: No visa needed with a valid US, Japan, Austral, Canada, Schengen, Singapore or UK visa; I was asked to show my return flight at immigration; 14 days.
  • Romania: No visa needed with a valid Schengen visa for 90 days. We were asked to show our visa the moment we stepped off the flight by a policeman, but immigration after that was a breeze.
  • Turkey: E-visa for 30 days, if you hold a valid Schengen, US, UK, Australia or Canada visa; I’ve used my US visa to obtain a Turkey e-visa.

On my wishlist:

  • Albania: Visa not required if you hold a valid, multiple-entry US, UK or Schengen visa
  • Belize: No visa needed if you hold a valid, multiple-entry US visa; an Indian friend who visited in 2016 confirmed that the (infamous) repatriation fee for Indians is no longer required.
  • Colombia: In 2015, Colombia started offering visa on arrival to Indians with a valid US / Schengen visa; 90 days!
  • Croatia: Visa on arrival if you hold a multiple-entry Schengen visa.
  • Ireland & the UK: A valid UK tourist visa can be used to travel in Ireland, and vice versa, under the British-Irish visa scheme.
  • Montenegro: Visa-free for 30 days with a valid Schengen, US, UK or Ireland visa.
  • South Korea: Visa-free for 30 days if you hold a valid visa for Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand or the US, and are in transit to/from that country.

Be smart about visa applications when applying in India

fall colors new york, fall nyc, nyc travel blog

Fall colors in New York City!

I do my fair share of sulking when I need to apply for a visa at a consulate in India, but I always try to go the extra mile in the hope that the visa officer might grant me a longer term, multiple entry visa, yet return my passport quickly. Sometimes it works!

US Tourist Visa: The good part about applying for a US visa (as compared to other visa applications) is that you are not required to show confirmed accommodation or flight bookings. I went the extra mile by getting an invitation letter from my brother who works and lives in the US, as well as carrying a cover letter addressed to the visa officer and carrying copies of my bank statements; it helps to remain calm (and honest) in the visa interview too.

Read: All my tips to score a US tourist visa on an Indian passport

Canada Tourist Visa: The visa application process for Canada is pretty standard; show confirmed flight and hotel bookings for your travels together with a whole stack of documents like bank statements, proof of employment, income tax returns etc – as listed on the VFS Canada website. Then apply in person. I scored a multiple entry 7-year visa for Canada, and my passport was returned within 2 days!

Read: All my tips to score a Canada tourist visa on an Indian passport

Schengen Visa: Similar to the Canada visa process; you apply at the embassy of the country you’re going to spend the longest time in, or the one that is your entry point for Europe. If you are making refundable bookings that you plan to change, I suggest you apply at VFS Germany – I’ve found them very efficient and have received my visas within 1-3 days each time. Once you have a Schengen visa, you can enter Europe from and travel to any country within the Schengen zone.

I have 6 Schengen visas on my passport now, all of them expired; sigh. I managed to score a 1-year multiple-entry visa last year from the German consulate; I went the extra mile by attaching copies of all my expired Schengen visas and details of my past trips to Germany / Europe, as well as a cover letter explaining why a multiple-entry visa is essential in my case. It worked last year, but it didn’t this year.

Read: All my tips to score a Schengen (tourist) visa for Europe on an Indian passport

UK Tourist Visa: One of the most painful visa applications yet. I had 11 working days from the date of my UK trip, and given that the fast track options are ridiculously expensive (like ~INR 21,000 to get a visa with 3 days; ~INR 70,000 within 1 day), I went for the regular option (INR 7,000).

Unlike most other countries, the UK visa application doesn’t let you check your application status online, and its UK-based helpline (which costs 1.6 pounds a minute to call in addition to the call charges; ridiculous) is unreliable at best. I nearly bit off my nails waiting for that visa, but it came through on the 10th day; phew. The process is similar to the Canada/Schengen visa applications, though they recommend that you don’t confirm your travel bookings before you get the visa – but please, give yourself plenty of time (or money) to get your UK visa. I got a 6 month visa; my friends have scored 2-year visas the second time around.

Don’t be afraid to try getting a visa in a country where you are not a resident

South Africa photos, visa list for indians, giraffes south africa

A giraffe in my backyard – South Africa!

As someone who travels long term without any fixed plans, I often find myself wanting to visit a different country without going to India in between. Most consulate websites state that you need to be a resident/citizen in the country where you’re applying for a visa, but I’ve managed to plead my case a couple of times – and scored a South African visa in Germany and a Schengen visa in Georgia.

My friend Ashray has had more success doing this while traveling through South America, scoring a visa to Chile in Ecuador, and a (painful) visa to Peru in Chile.

Other practical visa tips for Indians

Jordan photos, Jordan visa for indians, Jordan travel blogs

Cooling off on a hot day in Jordan.

  • Visa rules change all the time (usually for the better)! Make sure you check the visa consulate section on the embassy website of the country you are traveling to before you go. Call the country’s embassy in India and speak to the consulate section if things are not clear.
  • When traveling to a country that offers visa on arrival to Indian citizens, it’s a good idea to have proof of accommodation (atleast for your first night or two) and a return/onward flight out of the country handy on your phone – or atleast a convincing answer. You usually need the former for immigration forms and the latter to convince hesitant immigration officers.
  • If you plan to quit your job to experiment with long term travel, I urge you to apply for a US tourist visa while you can still get a letter from your employer.
  • Please, don’t work illegally or overstay your visa. It hurts all of us who genuinely want to travel without silly visa restrictions.
  • Share your visa experience on blogs, forums, facebook, wherever – so anyone looking to confirm visa processes can find it, but also so others know that traveling with an Indian passport is not as impossible as it sounds. As more Indians travel, I have no doubt that our visa restrictions will gradually become more relaxed.

It’s just a twist of fate that our navy blue passport makes our travel aspirations a little harder to fulfil.

Travel anyway, because the beauty of the world and its people is worth experiencing.

Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago, visa for indians caribbean

Ain’t no sunset like a Caribbean sunset.

Have you had any memorable (too easy or too painful) visa experiences with your Indian passport?

I wrote this post in collaboration with Expedia. This post also contains affiliate links. Those painful (and can’t believe it was so easy) visa experiences and tips are all my own!

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83 Comments

  1. lovely article .very helpful. I was much older than you (in my 40s) when i quit my job and started travelling the world too. and i’m struggling my way through visas using pretty much the same approach you outlined. incidentally, montenegro lets you in with a valid US visa too (you dont need a schengen one) so that’s one more easy target for you 🙂

    Like

  2. Jatin Doshi says

    First of all thanks a ton for sharing this…I would like to make one addition from a recent experience..Once you have a valid UK visa…you can travel on the same visa to Ireland also provided you enter the UK first on that visa and then go to Ireland…This is under a scheme called British Irish visa scheme and yes Indian Passport is eligible! So you you can club UK Scotland and Ireland in the same trip with just one UK visa and no schengen visa which was required earlier for Ireland… here is the official link for this info — https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/british-irish-visa-scheme/british-irish-visa-scheme

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  3. After reading your post I really appreciate my own Finnish passport… I hope good luck for you and all the other people having hard times getting visas! 🙂

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  4. Pingback: How I Manage Visas on My Indian Passport As I Travel Around the Globe. — The Shooting Star – Giyimkent Kurye 0532 711 80 97

  5. Great Article, as you have outlined the challenges of travelling as an Indian, do you think a better approach would be to get a better passport/residency that enables rather than disable the passion for travel?

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    • Absolutely Praveen. A residency doesn’t help much, but having a different passport definitely will. Of course, it’s not easy to get another passport. You have to live and work in another country for years and then *maybe* you’d get it 😉

      I used to be really possessive about my passport as my identity until a few years ago. But now I know it’s just a document and changing that to another color won’t change anything other than making life so much easier for me! Oh well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cuba, Mexico and host of Caribbean nations give you either Visa on Arrival or you are eligible for No Visa on Canadian Permanent Residency. It does not matter if you have USA VIsa or Not. Thank God, I have both 🙂

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      • Any insights on getting a better passport would be great, this indian passport has become a curse for frequent travelling. An embassy recently held mine for almost a month during which we are supposed to wait. Other downsides are that they expect a confirmed hotel reservation for every day of the travel, the VFS people even expect insurance for every day of the trip. on the other hand an american just buys a one way ticket and can make plans on the fly.

        Hence any suggestions on how to do away with the cursed passport to get a better one?

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  6. Great post! Well first of all its really amazing to see the amount of traveling you had done by now! 🙂 ….I have not traveled much as you have done for sure, but with with little side passion, research and experience of the few trips i have made so far, it true that getting a visa in India would not be that hard as it sound to be. But I do the other way round, visa cost are always smaller in comparison to flight or hotel cost, so I always lookout for hacker deals on that side, and if you have connects with real actual authorized travel agents (not b2b ones you find everywhere) who only deals in visa services, I mean you never needs to practically do any flight,hotel, insurance etc booking for your visas beforehand. And they usually charge very minimal margin on the actual visa cost, the one you can easily bite! 🙂

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    • Fair enough. I for one, hate dealing with agents. I’d rather do it all myself – especially since in my case, I don’t have letters from my employer, salary receipts, etc. Explaining that to agents is frustrating in itself 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ya I can imagine that part, but I mainly use them to save my time Nd money as It can sometimes become hard to balance with my job. But really excited to see your passion.. Looking forward to reading more… Recently followed you on instagram as well! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. The only visa I was ever refused was for Morocco and they did not give any reason for it but because they refused it I went to Antarctica!!!

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    • Interesting. I just got a Morocco visa in a super efficient manner. Submitted on Fri got visa on monday

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      • They refused to talk to us and gave a silly reason that a letter stating my leave from work was not submitted even though I had sent them a copy of my sanctioned leave card. The reason I think was my Israeli visa stamp on my passport.

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    • So cool that you went to Antarctica instead Aadil, but that sucks. The whole Israel / Iran stamps on the passport is pretty complicated; I have neither yet, need to plan that carefully.

      Arun, good to know you got your Morocco visa smoothly. I’ve been thinking of going soon!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve had Iran stamped first followed by Saudi Arabia with many extension stamps every 15 days till I completed 82 days in Dammam during the Iraq war till Saddam Hussein was captured but did not have problems with Israel giving me the visa from the Israeli embassy in Cairo, Egypt.

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    • i was thinking of israel too but then this whole visa stamp on the passport issue cropped up. so scrapped the idea and picked morocco instead. the plan now is to go to israel as the last trip (just before my current passport expires). that way the new passport wont show any israel stamp and the middle east is still open to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great informative article. Malaysia e-visa has started from April, 2016 and I travelled in March,2016, just missed the convenience by whiskers. Getting a Singapore tourist visa is a cumbersome job, though they offer a e-visa but either you need to visit an authorised agent or get it done by someone(relative/friend/agent) in Singapore holding a citizenship or PR status. The processing is swift and breezy and usually done by 1 business day.

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    • I missed it by a while too Amitava; back when I lived in Singapore, I had to physically go to apply for a Malaysia visa, although they often gave a 1 year visa. E-visa sounds much better.

      Singapore – I can’t believe that a country that’s otherwise so hassle free has made this e-visa business so complicated. Sigh. I added it above in the list though, thanks for reminding me!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. A great page to bookmark. I travel a lot and I think I have million miles air travel. Most of it has been on Business (US, Japan and Europe). The blue passport has prevented adventure. Thanks for the article, now I know where I can go.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Nice article and very useful information shared in so much of details. And its true people should make excuses if they actually want to do something and instead find a way out else enjoy what they have in hand instead of regretting for which they don’t….

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sivya,
    Please include East Africa eVisa. You dont need to submit any proof like Hotel bookings etc and gives you entry to 3 countries – Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
    Indian passport is eligible 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My daughter who is 10 years travelled to USA alone this year in June and we had a very easy and relaxed interview and her visa was approved. Now she has a 10 years US visa whereas her passport has expired (kids only get a passport with 5 year validity) Got the new one issued just a few days back.. I agree when you say that it pays to be honest and straightforward for any visa interview.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. hi Shivya Nath!
    i am a fan of your works.. i love to travel like you and see the wonders of the earth..heheh but i need to have a budget for that too..i envy your experience.. thank you so much for more motivation,… i hope to see more of your works… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank You Shivya for this very useful and informative article. Personally i think although it may not be a cakewalk to get visas for a lot of countries with an Indian passport, with a little time spent on research and planning, things are not that crazy afterall. And then we have good samaritans like you making life a lil more easier..! Cheers Shivya & happy travelling 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pingback: How I Manage Visas on My Indian Passport As I Travel Around the Globe. — The Shooting Star – TRAVEL ENTHUSIAST

  16. I was asked to show the 1000$ when I reached Jordan. I had them, otherwise I’m not sure if I would have been allowed. So I think carrying it is a good idea.

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    • Aww thanks Ayush! I prefer to travel on my own, but I suggest you start with exploring parts of your own backyard, and towns / villages nearby. You’ll be 18 in no time and then there should be no stopping you 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  17. shaji a.k says

    Thanks dear friend , i so glad your all blogs and details, please reply me how to obtain Europe visit visa i wish to go CZ republic AND Greece,,please reply friendwith friendly shaji 

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  18. I travelled to Georgia this past September and loved it. I have a residence permit in Kuwait (GCC) and was asked no questions in spite of my blue Indian passport.
    Check out my blog

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  19. oh, live the dream! I’m not well traveled, but maybe someday! I had always dreamed of living a nomadic lifestyle. However I never realized how much went into going from one country to the next. I’ve only been to Haiti and not as a civilian, so I’m not sure where to start.
    I hope this isn’t too forward, but how do you manage to fund all your trips and flights etc? Did you already have a little nest egg set aside? Is it money from blogging that is enough? I figure once you travel enough you make contacts throughout the world to connect with once you touch ground. But how to start? If you’ve already written on how you started this journey forgive my questioning, a link to it will suffice my curiosity lol ❤

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  20. There are some countries where Indian nationals are eligible for Visa that is free of cost and those countries also provide the Visa on Arrival, but in case of Visa on Arrival, Indians have to pay the Visa fee that is equivalent to what others have to pay. Hence, avail the benefit of being an Indian passport holder and the bilateral agreement in place. Please note, Bolivian Visa is free for Indian nationals but not the Visa on Arrival.
    Regarding finances or showing US/ UK Visa/Schengen Visa at Visa free nations, there is no uniform rule. I am a research student and hence without a employment by definition but I wasn’t even asked either for the US Visa or (or any other) or financial position at the Ecuador entry point, and easily stamped for 90 days in November, 2015.

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  21. Anish says

    Brilliant post. Willing to bet this will be among your most visited pages, in the next decade at least. 🙂 ( By when Indian passports might become slightly more useful and less burdensome, a few more bloggers will have some similar write ups, etc.)

    Like

  22. Ayesha says

    How was your trip to Philippines? Is it safe for Indian tourists? Will travel to Philippines affect my US visa application? thanks

    Like

  23. Prianka says

    Today after reading your blog I realized I shouldn’t be missing any blog of yours. Very informative 🤘 good going girl 🍾😊

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  24. Roshnee says

    Hi, thanks for such a useful post.
    However I am still confused as to whether you need to book your flight tickets before the visa interview in case of the UK visa.
    We have booked our accommodation.

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