Post updated 2020. A major challenge for Indian travellers are the Indian passport visa requirements. But we can’t let tedious visa applications or the color of our passport stop us from travelling the world, can we? This post looks at easy visa countries for Indians, countries to travel without visa from India, visa on arrival for Indian citizens, scoring a long-term US visa for Indian citizens and other visa hacks to fulfill our travel dreams.
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 Indian passport visa requirements for a specific country? Ctrl+F to find it in the list below]
- Prioritise visa-free countries for Indian passport holders and those that offer visa on arrival for Indian citizens
- Look for e visa countries for Indian passport
- Use the US or Schengen visa on an Indian passport to get visa on arrival or visa free entry to other countries
- Be smart about visa applications when applying in India
- Don’t be afraid to try getting a visa in a country where you are not a resident
- Other practical tips to manage Indian passport visa requirements
- Travel anyway, because the beauty of the world and its people is worth experiencing.
- Have you had any memorable (too easy or too painful) visa experiences with your Indian passport?
I don’t have a house (aka address proof) or a salaried job, yet I’ve managed to fulfill the Indian passport visa requirements of over 60 countries. Here’s how I do it:
Prioritise visa-free countries for Indian passport holders and those that offer visa on arrival for Indian citizens
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 Indian passport allows visa on arrival for only 59 countries. Of those, 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 of managing Indian passport visa requirements. 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?
Visa free countries for Indian passport holders + Visa on arrival countries for Indian citizens
Where I’ve been
- Bhutan: Visa on arrival for 14 days if you fly in to Paro airport; visa on arrival for 7 days if you enter via the land border at Phuentsholing. I was asked for proof of accommodation. Visa extensions are possible at the immigration office in Thimphu, but only for 6-7 days.
- Cuba: Visa on arrival tourist card for 30 days. When I landed at Havana airport, they took my passport into another room for examination, but ultimately stamped me in with a tourist card.
- 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.
- Maldives: 30 days visa on arrival; I had to show my return flight ticket and was asked where I was staying.
- 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
- Bolivia: Visa on arrival for Indian citizens for 90 days.
- Dominica: Visa free travel for Indians. Visa not required for 6 months.
- Fiji: Travel without visa from India. Visa not required for 4 months.
- Jamaica: Visa not required for 6 months.
- Laos: Indian passport offered visa on arrival for 30 days.
- Madagascar: Visa on arrival for 30 days.
- Nepal: Visa free country from India. 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. These countries offer the easiest Indian passport visa requirements by far!
Look for e visa countries for Indian passport
A little more effort than just booking a flight and showing up, but quick and pretty hassle-free. The Indian passport visa requirements are usually pretty straightforward. Most countries offering e-visa for Indian citizens require that you upload your information and documents online, and carry a print-out (or e-copy on your phone) of the approved visa.
Countries offering e visa for Indian citizens
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!unfortunately there have been repeated reports of Indian travellers being deported from Tbilisi airport despite a valid e-visa and proper documents, so please beware.
- Iran: E-visa is available for Indians, but mine got rejected; I’ve heard the same from many others. I had to get a visa code from an Iranian travel company and apply at the Iran embassy in India.
- Malaysia: E-visa for 7 days; back when I travelled there, a visa was needed in advance.
- Myanmar: E-visa for 28 days; the process is simple and efficient. I received my e visa within 12 hours, valid for 90 days from the date of issue.
- Singapore: Although they offer e-visa for Indian passport, 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: Sri Lanka visa for Indian passport is super easy! E visa for 30 days. I’ve scored it online twice. Quick and easy.
- Tajikistan: E visa for 45 days; special permit needed to visit the Pamir Highway, which can be applied for at the time of submitting the e-visa. I crossed the land border from Uzbekistan to Tajikistan and was stamped in without any questions.
- Uzbekistan: E visa for 30 days; ensure that you upload a passport photo with the right dimensions!
- Vietnam: E-visa for 30 days; back when I travelled there, I got a visa on arrival.
On my wishlist
- Cambodia: E visa for 30 days.
- Kazakhstan: E visa opened up for Indians since January 2019!
- Kyrgyzstan: Sadly, my e-visa got rejected and I can’t apply again for a year 🙁
- Kenya: E visa for 90 days. I got a transit e-visa for Kenya on my East Africa trip, but this is not needed if you stay at the airport, even if you are changing airlines or terminals.
- Zimbabwe: E visa for Indian passport for 90 days.
Use the US or Schengen visa on an Indian passport to get visa on arrival or visa free entry to other countries
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 access or visa on arrival on the Indian passport 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. The US tourist visa for Indian citizens is typically issued for 10 years. That means 10 years of relaxed Indian passport visa requirements for several other countries!
Countries that offer Indians visa free entry or visa on arrival with a US / Schengen visa
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.
- Croatia: Visa on arrival if you hold a multiple-entry Schengen visa.
- 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. Note that Indians are being deported from Tbilisi airport without reason; read more here.
- 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!
- 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
I do my fair share of sulking when I need to apply for a visa at a consulate in India. But I thoroughly go over the Indian passport visa requirements and always try to go the extra mile. The hope is that the visa officer might grant me a longer term, multiple entry visa, yet return my passport quickly. Sometimes it works!
US Tourist Visa for Indian citizens: 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. I also wrote a cover letter addressed to the visa officer and carried copies of my bank statements. It helps to remain calm (and honest) in the visa interview too.
Canada Tourist Visa for Indians: 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. 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!
Schengen Visa for Indians: 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. I also included a cover letter explaining why a multiple-entry visa is essential in my case. It worked last year, but it didn’t this year.
[Update 2018] For my most recent Schengen visa application, I couldn’t get an appointment in time with VFS Germany, so I applied at VFS Denmark – where you can file your visa application without an appointment. The process was seamless and took 4-5 working days. The only annoying part was that as part of the Denmark visa application, Indian citizens need to submit a color photocopy of their ENTIRE passport. Felt like such a waste of paper and money.
UK Tourist Visa for Indians: 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 (~INR 21,000 to get a visa within 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. 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. 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.
Japan Tourist Visa for Indians: Japan has finally relaxed its Indian passport visa requirements! The applications are to be filed at VFS Japan and you don’t need an appointment. I received a 30-day visa on the 4th working day.
South Africa visa for Indians: While a visa on arrival for Indians in South Africa remains a far-fetched dream, it is possible to score a 90 day multiple-entry South Africa visa! And they’ve waived off visa fee for Indians for now.
Don’t be afraid to try getting a visa in a country where you are not a resident
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.
Other practical tips to manage Indian passport visa requirements
- 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. It’ll make your other Indian passport visa requirements much easier.
- 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 fulfill.
Travel anyway, because the beauty of the world and its people is worth experiencing.
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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