We had it all planned out. When we booked our Everest Base Camp trek a few months ago, we decided to spend five days in India prior to our trek, as there was no direct flight from Bangkok to Kathmandu. When we arrived at Bangkok airport to board our flight to Delhi we saw a massive queue of people all wanting to board the same flight. Bizarrely every single person in the queues wanted to check in a big flat screen TVs. Every single one of them! It was such a weird sight. TVs must be expensive in India. 😉 It slowed things down massively, but after about 30 minutes we finally made it to the front of the queue.
I handed over our flight tickets and passports and the check-in lady checked our details and prepared our luggage. She then checked our passports and looked at all the visas we had in there. She kept flicking back and forth through our passports before finally asking where our Indian visas were. We replied calmly saying we planned to get a visa on arrival. She looked a bit shocked and then delivered a devastating blow – we were not allowed to board the flight if we didn’t have a visa! This can’t be right, we thought. In every single country we had visited in Asia (apart from communist China and Vietnam) you can get a visa on arrival. Surely India is no different? Plus, I am sure I checked the visa situation before and read somewhere that you can get one on arrival just like in Nepal, but alas, it wasn’t so.
At this point I started to panic. I may have even shed a little tear (how very mature of me). What are we going to do now? It was a Saturday, so the Indian embassy in Bangkok would be closed. Would we have to cancel our long anticipated trek to Everest Base Camp? The lady at the check-in (who I have to say was most kind and helpful) told us that we could perhaps change our flights, so that we only have a short stopover at Delhi airport then transit straight though to Kathmandu – transit passengers can stay in Delhi airport for up to 24 hours.
As this seemed to be our only option we decided to do that. We had to change our flights to Tuesday night, then spend a horrible night in the mosquito infested Delhi airport transit lounge, and then board the flight to Kathmandu the next morning. Booking a new flight at four days’ notice wasn’t exactly cheap and so to save some money we decided not to go back to Bangkok city centre, but spend the next three nights at one of the nearby airport hotels. The hotel was ok, but there was just nothing to do in the surrounding area. So we spend our days watching TV, browsing the internet and going to the small gym to do some fitness training before our trek.
When we arrived at Bangkok airport four days later we were finally able to board our flight (along with dozens of Indian folk with flat screen TVs again!). I still had a bad feeling about the whole transit thing though. It turns out that my feeling was right. We landed at about 2am in the morning and the security people wouldn’t accept our e-tickets. Apparently they are not allowed in India. Why the Indian airline issues e-tickets when they are not allowed in India is a mystery to me. But either way, we weren’t allowed to go any further to the nice airport lounge with all the shops and restaurants, and had to wait in no-man’s land until someone from the airline showed up to improve our pitiful situation.
After a few hours or so someone finally turned up, we were given some hand-written tickets and were told to go through security. I was searched, my hand luggage was x-rayed and I was through. Chris had no such luck. When he presented his ticket the grumpy security guard shook his head and told him to go back as his written ticket wasn’t allowed either. I went over and showed him my ticket and explained that I just got through with the same ticket and that it was his colleague about 20m back who gave us the tickets. But he wouldn’t budge and angrily shouted at Chris to go back. The guard then stood there for 10 minutes. All of the sudden he called Chris over and he was able to go through. Oh the joy of bored customs officials (and we can’t help but wonder if Chris paid the price for being British, as maybe he should :-)).
Anyway, we eventually made it to Kathmandu, completely exhausted, but happy that we could do our long anticipated trek after all (even though we were about $1,500 down due to the new flights, the costs in Bangkok, and the very annoying fact we still had to pay full price for our hotels in India due to their cancellation policies).
So this was the day we didn’t make it to India, though we did learn a valuable travel lesson. Always get your visa beforehand! We are considering to travel to the States next year and I know that the visa requirements are even stricter over there. I’ll definitely make sure not to make the same mistake again and sort out my visa beforehand in future.
Have you ever had any problems with your visa? Tell us in the comment section below. And similarly, if anyone knows why everyone was taking brand new TV’s from Bangkok to Delhi, please enlighten me!