To get or not to get an India tourist visa on arrival?

Trivandrum International Airport. All photos mine.
Trivandrum International Airport. All photos mine.

Getting a visa, especially if you’re a Philippine passport holder, can be quite a drag. Aside from preparing the requirements needed weeks (or months) before your trip, you also have to go through the tedious processes of the various embassies. I’ve applied for visit visas to South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan before – and though I didn’t experience any delays – it was still time consuming.

This December, I tried something different. I was invited by the Kerala Tourism board to participate in the #ComeToKerala contest because of my travel blog. The point of the activity was to get travel bloggers who are eligible for a tourist visa on arrival (TVOA) to visit the state of Kerala.

I accepted the offer and the next thing I knew, I was on my way to Kerala, India! Before the trip, I was thinking whether or not to get a visa beforehand – in that case, I’d have to apply in the Indian Embassy in Manila. But since I had work and very little time to prepare, I decided to go with a VOA. It was after all my first time applying for a VOA.

So here’s how you get an Indian tourist VOA:

Kerala 2
The tourist visa on arrival desk at Trivandrum International Airport

 Some things to note:

1) When we entered India on December 13, 2014, only nationals of the following countries are eligible to get a TVOA in India: Cambodia, Finland, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Luxembourg, Myanmar, New Zealand, The Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam

2) VOA facilities are only available in the following international airports: Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, and Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum). If you’re arriving in any other airport, you need a visa beforehand.

3) Starting December 27, 2014, over 40 countries can now have TVOAs provided that they book an electronic travel authorization (ETA) before their trip. You can check this website for more information.

4) You can only get a TVOA twice in a calendar year, with at least 3 months in between visits.

You will need the following documents to get a VOA:

1) Passport valid for 6 months

2) Return ticket or onward journey ticket. You need to print a copy of this since they’ll get your copy at the airport.

3) 2 passport sized photographs with white background

4) Hotel booking confirmation

5) USD 60 fee

6) Proof of sufficient funds (i.e. ITR, bank statement) In our case, we weren’t asked for this anymore since we were sponsored by the Kerala Tourism ministry.

After arriving at Trivandrum International Airport, I immediately headed to the TVOA desk. We caught the officers a bit off guard as they seemed unprepared to handle many VOA applications at the same time. They scrambled at the process for more than an hour but after they sorted it out, it became faster. This should be the process in a normal circumstance:

1) Fill up the VOA application form.

2) Pay the USD 60 fee.

3) Have your photo taken by the immigration officer

4) Stamp stamp and you’re out!

There were 6 of us in the group and it took us about 2 hours to get our TVOAs done. Two travellers went ahead of us and they had theirs in around 20 minutes. I guess it takes longer when they’re processing a group.

An Indian tourist visa on arrival at last!
An Indian tourist visa on arrival at last!

After getting our VOAs, many of us thought we should’ve gotten our Indian visit visas in our home countries. I guess we were just tired after hours of plane rides and transits.

Thinking about it now, getting an Indian VOA was not so bad. You just have to be patient. The immigration officers were nice enough (and we saw them being reprimanded by the supervisors) so I didn’t mind. It would still take more time if I applied for a visit visa in an embassy.

If your job, like mine, doesn’t allow you to spend an entire morning applying for an Indian tourist visa in a travel agency or an embassy, then a VOA is definitely for you. You’ll also spend less since you won’t have to pay added fees by various travel agencies.

After going through the immigration, we were welcomed by agents of the Kerala Tourism Board. I was in “God’s Own Country” and the hassle I just went through was replaced by my excitement of the trip ahead!

This is the first part of my #ComeToKerala blog series. My trip to “God’s Own Country” was sponsored by the Kerala Tourism Board. I had the time of my life in Kerala and I’m sharing my experiences here:

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