It’s a fact – if you’re a citizen of the United States or a Western EU country, then you have it pretty good for spontaneous international travel. Theoretically, all you have to do is go to an airport, buy a same-day ticket on credit, fake a smile at immigration, and suddenly 150 amazing countries are at your fingertips.
For Indians, however, spontaneity usually begins and ends with whether or not to get the special Asian Vegetarian Meal. Let’s be honest – trip planning for Indian passport holders is often a goddam nightmare that’s filled with what I like to call the 4Ps of terrible travel – papers, proofs, perseverance and patience. And not to mention a little luck.
That said, it’s not an entirely tragic situation. There are indeed pockets of hope, or countries with heart, that welcome Indian citizens with arms wide open. Here’s a list of 10 awesome countries that allow Indians to travel within their borders either with a visa-on-arrival or without a visa altogether. Disclaimer – the rules may change by the time you read this so please double-check with the specific country’s consulate before you go. Don’t blame me if you get turned away at the check-in counter. Now that would be tragic!
What to See: The happiest country in Asia is home to Himalayan peaks, tranquil monasteries and colorful festivals known as Tshechus.
How to Enter: No visa needed – just take your valid Indian passport or Voter ID Card and you’re good to go!
2. Sri Lanka
What to See: Those who think “Arrey, but what is there in Sri Lanka?” are making a huge mistake. Sri Lanka has white sand beaches, ancient ruins, rolling hills and all sorts of wildlife crammed into an island that’s half the size of Tamil Nadu.
How to Enter: Apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) online. No passport copies, documents or photographs are required. The ETA entitles Indians to 30 days of travel. It costs $15 and you’ll get your response within 24 hours.
What to See: Ummm…what’s not to do here? Thailand is famous the world over for all-night parties, cheap and delicious food, pristine beaches and lady boys, of course.
How to Enter: Indians have been queuing up at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport’s visa-on-arrival area for years. All you need is a valid passport and a couple photographs, which you can take at the nearby booths.
What to See: Landlocked Laos may not be on most people’s bucket lists, but that’s because it’s overshadowed by Thailand to the west and Cambodia to the south. Taking a two-day slow boat on the Mekong from northern Thailand to Luang Prabang is worth the trip in and of itself. Once in the cultural capital, pop in and out of colonial-style cafes and walk the quaint streets, which are filled with the aromas of fresh baguettes.
How to Enter: Laos has a visa-on-arrival system. Just make sure you have a valid passport.
What to See: There’s more to Cambodia than Angkor Wat. After temple hopping around Siem Reap for three days, head south to Phnom Penh where you can see first-hand the effects of the Khmer Rouge atrocities. After that, make a bee-line for Sihanoukville on the coast.
How to Enter: Cambodia has recently launched an e-Visa to make your visit to the Kingdom of Wonder an easy and efficient experience from the get-go. It costs $27 and is valid for three months from the date of issue. The visa allows you to travel for 30 days.
What to See: Here’s a little perspective – Vietnam has a longer coastline than California’s so yeah, you’ll never be short of things to do. On the mainland, make your way from Ho Chi Minh City in the south to Hanoi in the north or vice versa. Leave some time for a multi-day motorcycle excursion with the Dalat Easy Riders. Off the coast, head to Phu Quoc Island.
How to Enter: Vietnam has a “visa-on-arrival” but it works a bit differently – you have to apply for it online beforehand, after which you’ll receive an approval letter in two working days. Present that letter and two photographs at one of Vietnam’s airports to get your actual visa and you’re good to go!
What to See: Visiting Ethiopia is like stepping into the pages of a history book. The Rift Valley, ancient castles, tombs and treasures await! Those who don’t have an adventurous palate can take solace in the fact that Ethiopian food is very similar to Indian cuisine.
How to Enter: Indians can obtain a visa-on-arrival at Bole International Airport.
What to See: About 5% of all known plant and animal species can only be found on this magical island. There are lush rainforests, picturesque baobab trees and dive sites that compete with some of the best in the world.
How to Enter: Visa-on-arrival at Ivato airport.
What to See: Wander the Lost City of Petra, effortlessly float on the Dead Sea and traverse the red sands of Wadi Rum.
How to Enter: A 5.5-hour flight and a $30 visa-on-arrival are all that stand between you and this incredible Middle Eastern country.
What to See: This music video does the job. You will be dancing strong, you know it.
How to Enter: No visa needed – woah oh oh oh!
Have you been to any of these countries? Know of any others? Let me know in the comments below!