I have always wanted to go Petra. When I was finally planning on my travel to Jordan for this, I could not help but mix it up with some of the other countries nearby.
Are you an Indian traveller, who is tired of all the visa interviews that we have to do? Better, visit these 10 countries where we don’t need an advance visa at all!
Egypt was a given, despite all the protests that have been rocking the country recently. And then, the tough call was taking a trip to Israel, which was kind of the link that connects Egypt to Jordan. There were plenty of pros & cons of going to Israel, and I considered them all.
On the negative side, I knew that the Israeli visa stamp was going to cause me a lot of problems in the future, especially since I travel a lot to Malaysia and Indonesia. On paper, both the countries are tolerant to Israel visa stamps. But in reality, you could get stopped and questioned for long hours if you have an Israeli visa stamp.
Regarding the Israeli visa stamp, everybody I meet keeps telling me that I don’t have to be worried about it, because at Israel immigration, they will stamp the entry on a separate piece of paper. And I have to keep explaining to every single one of those people, that a visa and an entry stamp are two different things. I am aware that I can get the entry stamp on a separate piece of paper, but there is no way that I will get my visa on a separate piece of paper.
But on the bright side, I have been fascinated by Jerusalem for long. And one of my favourite couch-surfing friends lives in Tel Aviv, and I do not have to pay a dime for staying with her. And thirdly, the Israeli side of the Dead sea is much more cheaper than the Jordanian side.
So, having made up my mind, I went to the Israeli consulate website, and figured out all the documents required for the visa. And off I went one fine monday, for the visa application.
Right at the security who scanned my laptop bags, I was discouraged. When I informed him that I was backpacking, he suggested that I purchase a packaged tour, or I will not get my visa. I brushed this aside, and went in for my visa application. Provided all my documents to the female interviewer who was getting more annoying by the second. And the communication after that was mind-blowingly stupid.
Interviewer: Are you travelling from Singapore to Tel Aviv
Me: No. From Singapore to Cairo and from Cairo to Tel Aviv.
Interviewer: Ok. I need the ticket copy from Singapore to Cairo, and from Cairo to Tel Aviv.
Me: No problem. (And I gave them)
Interviewer: And you are flying back from Tel Aviv to Singapore?
Me: No. I cross to Jordan via the Allenby bridge, and then my return flight is from Jordan to Singapore. (I give my return tickets as well)
Interviewer: But we also need your bus tickets from Tel Aviv to Jordan.
Me: That would be impossible. Egged allows me to book buses only 6 days before the journey, and it is still 30 days away for my trip. (Egged is the local bus carrier. At this point, I had the feeling that I was pissing her off)
Interviewer: Where will you be travelling in Israel.
Me: 2 days in Tel Aviv, and then 2 days in Jerusalem.
Interviewer: Where are you staying in Israel?
Me: At a friend’s residence. (Gives the name, address and phone number of my friend).
Interviewer: Your friend is Israeli? How did you meet her?
Me: In Singapore. She was travelling here, and stayed with me.
Interviewer: What is the relationship between you and your friend?
Me: When you say ‘you and your friend’, I think the relationship is rather obvious. (Ok, we are both equally pissed now at each other!)
Interviewer: But why would she let her stay with you?
Me: Because I let her stay with me. And what else are friend’s for?
Interviewer: Ok, you are an Indian living in Singapore. You have your own accommodation here?
Interviewer: Ok, I need a copy of your lease contract for your house to prove that you have a proper residence here. And I need a copy of the lease contract for your friend’s house in Israel, to prove that she has a proper residence there.
Interviewer: (She wasn’t done yet). And I need a written guarantee letter from your friend stating that you will be staying with her, and she will be responsible for anything that happens during your stay in Israel, and anything that you do during your stay in Israel.
Me: But, none of these documents are mentioned in your visa application process!!
Interviewer: Maybe, but it is not like we want you to come to Israel, but you want to visit. And if you want to visit, you better have all the documents we require. (Oh, she said that!). And how do we know that you are not looking for employment in Israel.
Me: In my documents is my official business card, and my bank statements for the last 3 months. Take a look and give me one good reason why I should leave all this financial stability and look for a job in your country.
Interviewer: (Looks at the documents). Your bank statement is a print of an online page. How do I know it is not fake or photoshopped? (My mouth is wide-open at this point). Ok, I would also need a personal letter from your bank, stating that this account belongs to you, and that the bank statement attached is for your account.
Me: (Nothing to say. I just look on)
Interviewer: I will take your application now. But you have to email me all the documents that I asked for. And then the visa application process takes about 30 days. Your flight to Egypt is in 25 days. You will not get the Israel visa by then. Do you want to continue with the application process?
Me: There is no way to fast-track or prioritize the application?
Interviewer: No. (looking me dead in the eyes.)
Me: So, you are saying that I have to get these insane documents that you asked for, including house contracts and personalized letters, email them to you with absolutely no guarantee that I will get my visa before I before my trip. Is that what you are saying?
Interviewer: Yes. Like I said before, it is not easy to get into Israel. It is your requirement to come visit it, not our need for you to do that.
Me: With all these hassles, I wonder why I would even go for this hassle. I don’t think I want to complete this application.
Interviewer: (Shrugging). Good call. (hands me back my application, and proceeds to comb her hair, or do whatever she was doing before I walked in)
One lousy visa officer cannot intimidating me into giving up my dream of visiting this beautiful country. I am sure I will try again. Everything in it’s own due time.