“The most interesting stories are found between the pages of your passport”
I can’t remember who said that, or where I read it. But I do remember when it got etched into my mind. It was in one of my weekend trips from Singapore to Malaysia. I was travelling with an Italian friend to check out the Putrajaya region of Malaysia. At the immigration, she just showed her passport and walked through – because Italians do not require a visa to enter Malaysia. I showed my passport, with a brightly coloured Malaysian visa. The immigration official checked the visa dates carefully and then stamped me into Malaysia. When I was outside the immigration, she couldn’t resist.
“That looks so cool! Show me your passport”. I did. It was my 3rd passport, and one of those jumbo passports which had more pages than the normal Indian passport. And mine was nearing its end.
“Whoa! You have visas from everywhere!”, she exclaimed. Mind you, this girl was a traveller too, and had been to almost as many countries as I have. But the difference was, most of the countries she visited, she never had the need of a visa. Just an entry and exit stamp. So, she couldn’t stop gushing at my passport, which was decked with visas of all kinds, colours and shapes.
And then – in a rare reversal of passport privileges – she said something which I will always remember.
“I feel jealous! I don’t have all these colourful visas on my passport!”.
I don’t know if she was being sarcastic, or just being compassionate about my visa woes, but that was a very different way of looking at my Indian passport. Hell yeah, my passport was uber-colourful, if you put it that way! Compared to hers, which was mostly blank, it DID look like I had more stories between the pages of my passport.
Thinking about this yesterday, I decided to take a look through my passport. Or passports, as I am currently on my 3rd jumbo passport right now. Are there enough stories in my passport to write a post about it?
Turns out there were. In fact, it was more difficult to condense this article to just 5 of my favourite visa stories. But here are 5 of the most quirkiest, weirdest visa details that you can find in my Indian passport.
Note: Visas are different from entry/exit stamps. This blogpost is about the visas on my passport, and not entry/exit stamps. I will probably write another blogpost about that later.
So Jordan is visa-on-arrival for Indians, but you still need a visa. The visa fees is 40 Jordanian Dinar (was 20, when I visited in 2014) and you need to show hotel booking and proof of atleast 1000 USD. After all the requirements, you will be given a visa stamp on your passport. And that is when it became interesting for me.
You see, the Jordanian visa stamp is actually a stamp. I mean, it’s a real postage stamp. When I got the visa, I couldn’t help but keep looking at it in wonder for a while in front of the Visa officer. He had no idea why I was staring like a madman, and asked me to leave the queue.
To Read: If you feel adventurous, you can also try couchsurfing with Bedouins in their caves.
Is that even a country? No. Do we need a visa for it? Yes.
Reunion Island is located to the east of the African mainland, and is one of the 5 remaining overseas territories of France. Although it is a part of France, it is not a part of the Schengen region, so Reunion has separate visa rules and regime.
The visa process and requirements are similar to getting a French visa, but you have to clearly state which overseas territory of France you are visiting. So, in the end, I got a visa that looked exactly like a Schengen visa, but it also said very clearly on top that the visa for Reunion, an overseas territory of France.
Why visit Reunion?: To see a fascinating cultural amalgamation between Indian, French and African cultures.
To Read: A little bit of France in Africa – St. Pierre, Reunion Island
Ukraine launched visa-on-arrivals for Indian citizens around April 2017. So, I headed there in August, before it started getting touristy.
The problem with the visa-on-arrival process was, it was very vague. I am not ranting, as this is understandable whenever a country changes their visa policy. In the end, I had to wait 3 hours in the airport to get my visa. But nevertheless, Ukraine turned out to be an amazing experience!
Why Visit Ukraine?: If you are adventurous, go for the Chernobyl Nuclear site. If not, go straight to Lviv and Odessa, which are beautiful cities in their own right.
If you are racking your head to try and figure out where exactly is San Marino, let me help you. It’s a small country located completely inside Italy. (And no, I am not referring to Vatican City). It does not have an airport, so the only way to get to San Marino is to take a bus from the Italian town of Rimini.
Technically, San Marino is visa-free for everyone. Yes, everyone! But since there is no passport control, the only way to get to San Marino is via Italy. And you definitely need visas for Italy.
But once I managed to get through Italy, and made my way to San Marino, I found out that there is an option for travellers to get a San Marino Visa stamp as a souvenir. Ok, it costs 5 Euros, but its one of the most prettiest visa stamps that I have ever seen.
Why visit San Marino?: Go for delightful walks through the mist-filled walkways of a castle city.
Sometimes the saddest stories become the funniest after a few years. Such was the case of the United States visa, which was the first ever visa I got on my passport.
The year was 2007, and I was working in Chennai. My company then asked me to make a trip to US to attend a training session related to SAP. I had barely entered the corporate world, and had just got my passport a couple of months ago. They applied for my visa and I soon had a 10-years valid, sparkling new US visa stamp on my passport.
And just 3 days before my flight, I was told that the trip was cancelled. Apparently, the trainers wanted to come to India instead. Screwballs!
This story should have been sad. But it became funny because I would eventually visit the US only in the 10th year of my US visa – in 2017! And by that time, I had already used the US visa in a multitude of other countries, which accept US visas as substitute visas. Like Turkey, Serbia, Taiwan, Panama and Dominican Republic.
Moral of the story: When life gives you lemons, pick up a shot of tequila. And dance, baby!
This post is part of my travel stories about Visas. Click here to check out other amazing visa stories.
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