What’s this clearly very British girl doing talking about travel for Indian passport holders, eh? What does she know?
Well, allow me to explain.
First off, I’m currently in the midst of extensively researching countries in the South Pacific region that are accessible for both British and Indian passport holders, as I may do a little bit of exploring with a friend there next year. And what I’ve found is that a lot of the “ultimate” lists of Indian passport-friendly countries aren’t exactly accurate or up-to-date. As India is the 3rd most popular country in terms of visitors to this site, I thought why not be a bit useful in compiling a sort of updated list of some of the countries based on my own independent research?
For a few years now I’ve been relatively integrated into the Indian (specifically South Indian) community here in Cardiff and so, for someone who hails from an area where allegedly just 0.7% of the population is from a “non-white background”, I’d like to say that I have at least a basic knowledge of some of the completely unfair and quite frankly ridiculous hoops Indian passport holders have to jump through to legally enter some countries.
My own included.
And the majority of those hoops are certainly not something I agree with.
Last year I took quite an in-depth look at applying for a UK visitor visa as an Indian passport holder, with the hope that one of my friends could come and visit, and stay with me for a few weeks. And the whole process in what they ask for is quite absurd. On the surface, the UK GOV website makes it seem pretty simple, they just ask for the basics that you’d expect to have to provide when visiting any country: proof of onward travel, where you’re going to stay, do you have the right funds etc. Now, I’ve had to tick a box confirming all of the above in almost every single one of the thirty-eight countries I’ve visited, but with the exception of China (where two policemen came knocking on my door on my last night to make sure no-one was hiding under my bed), nobody has ever checked.
With the UK? Oh, they check.
They’ll ask for your own bank statements, payslips, proof of address and employment and a full itinerary of where you’re going to be staying on each day (including booking evidence, which is quite hard to do if you don’t already have a visa!) amongst other things. And if you plan on staying with friends or relatives you’ll need copies of their bank statements, their work contracts, their mortgage contract or rental agreement, a letter of invitation and a vial containing the blood of their firstborn child.
Obviously, this is unlikely to be the case for all Indian passport holders applying to visit the UK, and I’m sure a lot of them may have a slightly more pleasant and less demanding experience, but from my own personal experience trying to apply on behalf of somebody, it wasn’t great.
I’m of the firm opinion that worldwide movement for all people should be a lot less restricted than it actually is. And, let’s be real here for a minute – throughout history, the British have probably caused a significant amount more long-term damage to this planet than India. Yet according to the Global Passport Index, we have the luxury of visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to at least 160 countries whereas Indian passport holders get a measly 58.
That number seems so tiny in comparison, but you know what? Some of those 58 countries look absolutely incredible and, having visited a few myself, I can confirm they’re just as stunning in real life.
***All facts and figures are up-to-date at the time of posting, as per my own independent research using a variety of visa application sites and embassies of the individual countries below While I will endeavour to double check and update this post as much as possible (maybe every 6 weeks?) please do bear in mind that rules can change quickly.***
1. Bhutan – No visa required
India is one of only three countries whose citizens do not require a visa to visit the only country in the world which uses a Gross Happiness Index to lead its government.
Easily accessible by air or the most incredible road trip, Indian passport holders can take advantage of fourteen days at a time in the enigmatic country which only introduced television for the first time in 1999.
Highlights of Bhutan:
Visit the gravity-defying world-famous cliff-face monastery of Paro Taktsang, try and catch sight of the elusive Yeti in the National Park, try your hand at archery, Bhutan’s national sport, and feast your eyes on the most beautiful Himalayan landscapes. Lastly, if walls adorned with giant penises is your thing, Sopsokha is the village for you!
2. Indonesia – No visa required
No visa is required for Indian passport holders intending to visit Indonesia for up to 30 days at a time. With Garuda Indonesia offering direct flights from Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai to Indonesia from ₹25,000 return, it has become a rising honeymoon destination of choice for many newlyweds these days.
Luxury accommodation in Indonesia is really something else! And, what’s more, the cost is so low compared to many other destinations, that you really can live like a king for less.
Highlights of Indonesia:
Hike one of the country’s many active volcanoes, such as Mount Bromo in Java, relax on the white sandy beaches of Bali, lose yourself in the hustle and bustle of capital city Jakarta, and visit the 9th-century Hindu temple compound of Prambanan. One for the animal lovers is Ubud Monkey Forest, a nature reserve and Hindu temple complex set in the jungles of Ubud, famous for the seemingly thousands of macaque monkeys who call it home.
3. Maldives – VOA
Located in the middle of nowhere, Maldives is an absolute haven for marine wildlife-lovers. And Indian passport holders can take advantage of visa on arrival for up to 30 days to enjoy the peaceful seclusion of this island paradise.
It’s funny because for many British people the Maldives is a “when I win the lottery” destination, somewhere that seems so far away and out of reach that we can only dream about visiting! But from India? It’s just a three and a half hour flight.
Highlights of Maldives:
Relax and enjoy one of the tropical nation’s many all-inclusive island resorts, take advantage of some of the world’s best snorkelling sites and experience the island’s native marine wildlife like manta ray, whale sharks and sea eagles in their natural habitat.
4. Nepal – Freedom of Movement
As per the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, Indian and Nepali citizens can freely move across the border and comfortably live and work in the opposing country for as long or as little as they like.
This also means, of course, that they can take as many vacation trips to the other country as they like!
Highlights of Nepal:
Spot wild rhinos at Chitwan National Park, marvel at the grandeur of Kathmandu’s Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”, take a stroll through Durbar Square and take advantage of some of the world’s best treks. Oh, and while you’re there don’t forget to feast on some authentic momos – I can guarantee they’ll be the best you’ve ever tasted!
5. Thailand – VOA
Another popular honeymoon destination, Indian passport holders are eligible for visa on arrival in Thailand for up to 15 days.
Although 15 days doesn’t sound like much time for a country as huge and intriguing as Thailand, it’s just about enough time to get to grips with the basics, and experience the best of what Thailand has to offer.
Highlights of Thailand:
Visit the 200-year old Grand Palace in Bangkok, get up close with the elephants on an ethical elephant experience, sample truly authentic Thai street food in one of Bangkok’s many markets, and don’t forget to bask in the glorious sunshine on one of Thailand’s many famous beaches.
6. Serbia – No visa required
Often glanced over in favour of the more Western countries in Europe, Serbia and the rest of the Balkans and Eastern Europe, in general, are more than worth a visit!
As it’s not a part of the Europe Union and not a Schengen member state, the Republic of Serbia dictates its own rules when it comes to visa regimes. Indian passport holders can enter Serbia without a visa for up to 30 days, and I’ll be honest, Indian passport holders should visit Serbia for up to 30 days! Although I, unfortunately, missed it on my trip to the Balkans last year, it’s certainly high on my agenda for future trips.
Highlights of Serbia:
Visit the Skull Tower of Nis, constructed entirely of the skulls of slaughtered enemies, bask in the natural beauty of the Uvac River Meanders, grab a coffee in one of Belgrade’s many cafes, and all science enthusiasts definitely shouldn’t miss the Nikolas Tesla Museum!
7. Jordan – VOA
Visa on arrival can be issued to Indian passport holders on arrival in Jordan, subject to a small fee (to be paid in local Jordanian currency).
Despite its geographical location, surprisingly Jordan can be a budget traveller’s haven. When I visited in 2014, I spent around $456USD in a week – that’s just $65USD per day, including all of the excursions and visits I wanted to take!
Highlights of Jordan:
Unleash your inner Indiana Jones as you explore the historical archaeological city (and one of the New7 Wonders of the World) of Petra, camp overnight in the Wadi Rum desert and see the stars like you’ve never seen them before, feel weightless as you float in the Dead Sea. Don’t forget to try the world’s greatest (unverified) hummus and falafel at Hashem restaurant in downtown Amman.
8. Qatar – Visa waiver on arrival
In anticipation of the 2022 Fifa World Cup to be held in Qatar (will it…won’t it…) you’ll be pleased to know that at the time of writing, Indian passport holders are eligible for visa waiver on arrival in Qatar.
The waiver lasts for up to 30 days, which is plenty of time to catch a few games, right?!
Highlights of Qatar:
Delight your palate with some fine-dining experience at Pearl-Qatar, take a step back in history by visiting Qatar’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Al Zubarah Fort, delight your inner thrill-seeker with some good old dune-bashing in the desert, max out your credit card at the many resplendent shopping centres available in Doha and the rest of the country.
Click on to page 2 for more countries!