A holiday abroad was something that majority of Indians could only dream about, some years ago. This was mainly due to high airfares and hassles of procuring a visa to travel to some country. This scenario has drastically changed over the past few years. Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) operating to foreign destinations from India combined with affordable accommodation that can be booked online has put holidays abroad within reach for a broader section of Indian society.
In a bid to attract tourist, the government now allows citizens of some 140 countries to enter India with the electronic visa (e-visa) and visa-on-arrival. In reciprocity, several foreign nations now offer same facilities to Indian passport holders too. Meaning, you need not undergo the hassles of applying for a visa to visit these countries, prior to departure: you can get one easily upon arrival at destination or are allowed visa-free entry and stay for limited duration.
Thanks to these developments, a large number of Indians, ranging from college students to senior citizens now travel for holidays abroad. However, Indians are a picky lot. They prefer to travel to foreign countries more for the status it accords as well as shopping, rather than the real purpose of tourism, which is primarily to get insights into a different culture and its way of life.
In this article, we look at some top tourist destinations where Indian passport holders can travel without a pre-departure visa. They can get a visa-on-arrival for a small fee or enter the country without visa.
Top Destinations for Indians
Kingdom of Thailand
Hundreds of Indians travel to Thailand daily. This is because of cheap airfares, short flying time of about four to five hours from India to Thailand and the visa-on-arrival facility that Indian passport holders enjoy. For a fee of Thai Baht 2,000, you can get a visa-on-arrival at the country’s main gateway, Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Chonburi near Bangkok. Most Indians travel to Thailand to avail of carnal pleasures and ‘massages’ and cheap shopping.
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
After decades of insurgency, Sri Lanka which shares a common maritime frontier with India offers visa free entry to Indian passport holders. Upon arrival at the Bandaranayake International Airport in Katunayake, Indian passport holders are given a visa-free entry that permits a stay of 30 days with restrictions on taking paid or unpaid work. Sri Lanka is culturally similar to India and offers excellent sun-and-sand as well as eco-tourism. For Indian nationals, Sri Lanka is a relatively inexpensive destination and hence, shopping is also a major attraction.
State of Qatar
The tiny State of Qatar is a peninsular country in the Arabian Gulf which offers e-visa and visa-on-arrival facility to Indian citizens. This country is also host to a large Indian expatriate community. Qatar is a fairly expensive travel destination, considering the high quality tourism infrastructure. However, the country offers rare attractions such as Khor Al Udeid inland sea, desert safaris with overnight stay in tents and belly dancing shows, unique museums and places of historic interest.
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates is best known for two destinations: Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This country in the Arabian Gulf offers Indian passport holders, visa-on-arrival as well as e-visas that can be applied directly or through the four airlines- Emirates, Etihad, Air Arabia and Fly Dubai. Additionally, hotels in Dubai also arrange visas for Indian nationals upon booking confirmed accommodation. Dubai has several man-made and natural attractions including desert drives in Hatta, excellent shopping at glitzy malls and amazing beaches, among others.
Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
Nestling in valleys of the Himalayas and between India and China, this country welcomes Indians without visas and in some cases, without passports too. Entry into Nepal is possible by road, via border checkpoints in Uttar Pradesh. The Tribhuvan International Airport receives number of scheduled flights from airlines in India daily. Entry by road is possible by driving your own vehicle and by bus. In some instances, a valid Voter ID card from India is also accepted for entry into Nepal. The country has excellent shrines such as Pasupatinath, Temple of Virgin Goddess, Lumbini, the birth place of Gautama Buddha as well as national parks such at Sagarmatha and Chitwan.
Kingdom of Bhutan
The Kingdom of Bhutan on India’s north eastern borders offers visa-free entry to Indian citizens. However, the country lays a cap on the number of tourists it will receive every year, due to concerns over environment. Entry to Bhutan is by air, from the Paro International Airport or road from border checkpoints in Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh states. Indian travelers, like other nationalities, have to book a holiday package through Bhutanese travel agents prior to arrival. The country is truly a paradise on earth. However, it is a expensive destination due to the superior tourism infrastructure and facilities that visitors enjoy.
Republic of Kenya
For discerning Indians who wish to experience a world-class jungle and wildlife safari, Kenya offers the best. Indian passport holders can avail of a visa-on-arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi or the Moi International Airport, Mombasa for payment of 50 Shillings. Both these major gateways offer a host of tourist attractions including shopping for tribal crafts, dining at the world famous Carnivore restaurant where barbecued meat of exotic animals is served and historic monument. The main attraction of Kenya is the Masai Mara safari that offers tourists the opportunity to experience life of Masai tribe of Kenya, dense forests inhabited by wild animals that surround their dwellings.
Republic of Mauritius
This Indian Ocean island is considered as part of Africa. The country is immensely popular among Indian tourists since it offers visa-free entry. However, Mauritius is not an inexpensive destination, though several Indian movies, including Bollywood blockbusters have been set there. Mauritius is famous for its clear waters and white sand beaches. You can also take a ride in glass-bottomed boats that allow excellent views of underwater life. Beaches in Mauritius offer excellent water sports while the capital Port Louis is bound to enthrall any avid shopper.
Republic of Indonesia
Indonesia is an archipelagic country that was once ruled by dynasties of Indian origin. You can get a visa on arrival at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and designated entry points for a fee of US$ 35. The visa permits stay for 28 days. Indonesia has myriad tourist attractions including Bali, the world famous beach resort. Capital Jakarta itself has several places of historic and tourism interest as well as superb malls. Ancient Hindu and Buddhist shrines such as Parambanan and Borobudur make Indonesia ideal for tourists with spiritual bent too. There is no dearth of destinations one can visit in Indonesia.
Republic of Seychelles
Seychelles is also an island nation in the Indian Ocean and considered as part of Africa. Indians are permitted visa-free entry into Seychelles for a period of 28 days. The country has been widely popularized in India since several movies were set in Seychelles. In addition to sun-and-sand tourism, Seychelles is a very serene destination that makes it excellent for honeymooners. Capital city Victoria has splendid night life and world class shopping. However, Seychelles is not a destination for those on thrift. The country attracts tourists from all over the world and hence has excellent infrastructure, which can prove pricey for budget travelers.
Point to Remember
Before packing your bags to depart for a visa-free destination or where you can get visa-on-arrival, it is advisable to read visa rules and regulations of that country that are currently in force. Such facilities for entering a country are often subject to certain conditions. You need to possess a return or onward ticket, proof of funds to support stay in the foreign country, vaccination certificates and other documents. These vary according to the country and are subject to change sans notice.
Remember, an e-visa, visa-on-arrival and visa free entry is merely a privilege given to Indians. You cannot claim it as your right when entering a foreign country. The final decision to permit entry into any country rests with the immigration officer processing your passport. An immigration officer is empowered to deny entry into the country for various reasons. Hence ensure you comply with all immigration related rules of the country you wish to travel.
There are several other countries that also offer visa-free entry or visa-on-arrival facilities to Indian passport holders. These include Republic of The Philippines, which consists of over 7,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia- an African state largely unexplored by Indians and Moldova, an East European country that was part of the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). However, limited connectivity from India to these excellent tourist destinations proves a major impediment. Indian nationals can avail of visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry at some 60 countries in Asia, Africa, Central Europe and South America, Oceana and the Caribbean islands. You can explore some of these destinations on fairly moderate budgets.
There are many ways to make money from foreign travel. One is by selling photos of tourist attractions and off-beat places in the country. Other is by selling handicrafts from that country.