Tiger Balm Tales Vol. 21
Even though I didn’t start traveling internationality until I was 30 years old, I’ve done a lot of traveling; some people may even consider me an ‘expert’. I’m not real sure if I deserve the ‘expert’ title, but there are certainly a few things I’ve learned about international travel.
You need a valid passport to travel. That passport shouldn’t expire within 6 months of you traveling. You need to have at least 2 empty (non-stamped) pages in your passport. Countries require a visa to enter their country and sometimes that costs money. However, if you are only passing through the country via the airport, you don’t need a visa if you are simply transiting through the airport.
At least that’s what I thought.
Dad and I were leaving in two days on Jet Airways (an International Indian airline). We were flying out of Kathmandu together to Delhi where we would split up and then go separate ways. I was headed to Sri Lanka from Delhi and my dad was going to Singapore. The Singapore Jet Airways flight goes from Delhi to Chennai (also India), THEN to Singapore. Neither one of us were staying in India, we were simply passing through.
We had been advised to confirm out flights so Giri, our tour operator manager handled that for us. He took our passports and had someone run to the Jet Airways office to confirm our flights. We sat in Giri’s office going thru our photos of the circuit and making plans for lunch with his family the next day.
The phone rang in his office, there was a problem with our tickets; my heart sank. This is not the news you want to hear in Nepal two days before you are supposed to leave. Dad didn’t have an Indian visa in his passport. I immediately thought…hmmm…this must be a translation issue, he didn’t need an Indian Visa, he wasn’t staying there. We tried to explain that we didn’t need a visa, he was traveling to Singapore and simply had layovers in India.
Over the next hour of arguments and explanations which made little sense to me, we learned if dad was to get on a plane in two days, he would need an in–transit visa for India. Apparently, since we flew into Delhi and he needed to change planes in Delhi and fly to Chennai, his flight to Chennai would originate out of the domestic airport in Delhi. The Domestic airport is right next to the International airport. You simply go out side and into the next building.
Ah…there laid the problem…he had to go outside.
It didn’t matter that his final destination was Singapore, nor did it matter that it was all Jet Airway’s flights. This was a strange black hole of visa requirements encountered only in odd situations like this at the Delhi airport.
We gave in, we next had to figure out how to somehow get an in-transit Indian visa in less than 36 hours. An Indian visa can normally take weeks to get and it’s never an easy process. There’s only one way to do it…you know someone who knows someone who you pay off to get it for you. One good thing about undeveloped countries, sometimes bribes can work in your favor. At least it’s a viable option that you can take.
We looked at all of our options and consulted with Giri who was intent on helping us through this issue no matter what. We decided to go the ‘pay a friend’ route. Giri knew someone who knew someone at the Indian Embassy who reportedly could get an in-transit visa for a slightly higher fee than taking the regular route. I don’t know that I would’ve went this route unless I had known Giri so well; he was a friend. I trusted that he had our best interests in mind and he genuinely wanted to help us. He had been our guardian angel so far on this trip, and that wasn’t going to change now.
The woman from the embassy came to Giri’s office, she reassured us that she could get the visa by the next day, we paid her the money, and we said a little prayer to the travel Gods that it would all work out.
Luckily – it did. Money talks.
Never again will I assume that I know about travel – at least when it comes to visas and India!
Read the complete Tiger Balm Tales from the beginning!
Vol. 1 – The Begining of a Nepal Trekking Plan
Vol. 2 – Preparing the Parents
Vol. 3 – Annapurna Itinerary
Vol. 4 – Travel Back in Time
Vol. 5 – Breathe Through Your Mouth
Vol. 6 – Road Work Ahead
Vol. 7 – Changing Rhythms on the Annapurna Circuit
Vol. 8 – And on the 7th Day We Rested
Vol. 9 – Paralyzed on the Annapurna Circuit
Vol. 10 – No Room at the Inns
Vol. 11 – A Mouse in My House
Vol. 12 – Beware of Falling Rocks
Vol. 13 – The Longest Day
Vol. 14 – Motorized Travel
Vol. 15 – A River Runs Thru It
Vol. 16 – Carbo Loading
Vol. 17 – Danger Curves Ahead!
Vol. 18 – Going Up Again
Vol. 19 – Coming Down to Reality
Vol. 20 – Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round
By Anil April 6, 2010 - 4:05 am
That’s so ridiculous. You’d think they could build a tunnel between the airports to connect them but maybe they make a bit of extra money with that set up.
By admin April 6, 2010 - 7:48 am
Yes – I’m quite sure they make money off of it. But more often than not I’m sure they screw up a ton of people’s travel plans – if we would have showed up at the Kathmandu airport the next day without the visa then they never would have let my dad on the plane…he’d be stuck in Kathmandu! What a disaster!
By admin April 7, 2010 - 9:31 am
I’m positive that no one is trying to get the ‘system’ fixed since it does bring in extra dollars!
By chaminda November 17, 2013 - 9:19 am
I ran into the exact same problem with expedia and jet airways#@$%@. I spent a good $600 on a new flight and hotel bookings.
I thought it was 2 international airports, oh well. Expedia refuses to acknowledge they dont indicate domestic vs international transit.
By Ahimsa April 6, 2010 - 7:14 am
Oh man. I had something similar happen on my way from Seoul to Kathmandu….with three stopovers in China the red tape came down. It worked out in the end, as it usually does. But I have a flight from Kathmandu to Bangkok via Delhi coming up…hopefully I can avoid some of the stress and cost of a pointless transit visa.
By Donna Hull April 6, 2010 - 9:36 am
The Visa issue is always complicated. It’s one reason my travel agent earns her keep. I’m glad you resolved the problem and were able to continue with your Nepal adventure.
By admin April 7, 2010 - 9:30 am
Good point about travel agents. We booked this ticket thru Expedia as a one way ticket from Kathmandu to Singapore – and there was no mention of this weird loophole of course. It’s really just a good thing that we confirmed the flight 2 days ahead…whew!
By Shannon OD April 6, 2010 - 9:50 am
Oh man! I had this same exact issue when I was flying from Kathmandu to Europe…via Dehli. Because I switched airlines and would thus have my bag in my hands, they insisted that I buy a transit visa…short on time as well a “friendly tip” did the trick!
By admin April 7, 2010 - 9:27 am
I think it’s just a way to make more $$! The Delhi airport certainly need it I guess! However on our trip we didn’t even switch airlines – this was all on Jet Airways…crazy.
By Heather on her travels April 6, 2010 - 1:06 pm
Wow – just as well you had someone with local knowledge helping you, but that’s a good thing to know – better than find out when you got to the airport
By Laura April 6, 2010 - 4:08 pm
I thought the same thing. I’ve never heard of needing the in-transit visa for the airport. That’s a bit extreme.
By Michael April 6, 2010 - 11:51 pm
It’s worth noting that India is not alone in this. The USA also requires you to have a transit visa even if you’re changing between international flights.
By admin April 7, 2010 - 9:26 am
Really? I had no idea. You mean if you travel from Hong Kong to Brazil, but go HK to NYC to Miami to Brazil – but never leave the airport in the US you have to have a US visa? Weird. This situation in India was simply because my dad was going from Kathmandu to Delhi to Chennai to Singapore…the Delhi to Chennai part was the problem – even though the airline sold the ticket as a ticket from Kathmandu to Singapore.
By Brian April 7, 2010 - 1:36 pm
That’s true. While traveling in Mexico a few weeks ago my wife and I met a woman in Oaxaca Mexico who had tried to get a US transit-visa simply so she could use JFK as a layover on her trip from Mexico city to Africa.
She was denied.
By Ben Chua April 7, 2010 - 9:42 am
Post like this remind us not to assume we know everything.
Good post Otts 🙂 Keep them coming.
By Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels April 9, 2010 - 5:39 am
Just when you think you know everything there’s a loophole like this one! I swear I can’t keep track of it all – now Spirit airlines is going to charge for carry-on bags in the overhead bins, some crazy thing changes every week. Oh well, as you say, sometimes a bribe works the best – especially in India.
By Mark H April 12, 2010 - 5:52 pm
Visas are a tricky thing and I’ve been fooled once or twice over my travel times. I travelled for a couple of days in Europe with an Israeli traveller and it made me so happy to carry and Australian passport and its limited hassles in travel. The Israeli traveller (and he was a keen traveller too) needed visas to go nearly anywhere in the world (and Europe back then were all separate entries) needing time in embassies, expense of the actual stamps, endless checking as to transit and entry rules and more.
By Ankit May 1, 2012 - 4:11 am
I dont understand how is it a loophole .. you wanted to take a domestic flight ( getting out of international airport transit area ) from delhi to chennai, what on earth made you believe you can do this without an Indian visa.
Another point which i want to make is you could have easily take a Jet flight from DEL to SIN. why bother DEL-MAA-SIN
By irc July 6, 2012 - 8:17 am
try flying to New Zealand through Sydney – eve if it is a through flight and you don’t set foot off the plane – you still need a transit visa …
By Sherry July 7, 2012 - 4:39 am
By Amy October 1, 2012 - 5:21 am
I’m dealing with this issue right now. My flight leaves at 2 am…less than 10 hours from now, from Beijing to Dusseldorf, Germany but first through 2 Russian cities. and I just figured out that I need a transit visa to get from Omsk to Moscow. So I’m screwed and have no been on hold for 3 hours with flightnetwork.com to cancel flight/book new flight. Luckily I bought the insurance. Sure, some may wonder how I did not figure I needed a transit visa, but I had done a lot of research regarding transit visas and my vague understanding was that I did not need one if I were in the airport’s international zone. In Omsk, I will no longer be in the international zone and so would of course need this visa. When I first purchased the ticket, I even asked S7 (Siberian Air) whether I would need the visa and they didn’t respond. They are no responsible for such questions. But who is at fault? Me for my ignorance? I believe not, as I feel the airline or agency should warn travelers of these things. No where on my ticket or in the fine print is “transit visa” even mentioned. The airlines are not required to comment on visa issues, but how is a normal girl to know? Why does flightnetwork.com have such horrile customer service? 3 hours and counting.