Kathmandu, Nepal (Second Visit)

I had only one goal when I returned to Kathmandu after my trek:  get a travel visa for India.  And get it quickly.  Marie was scheduled to arrive in Goa on the morning of 11/19 and I wanted to be able to meet her at the airport.  That didn’t give me much time, but the Web site of India’s Kathmandu embassy said they offered one-day visa turnaround.

I arrived back in Kathmandu the afternoon of 11/16 and went straight to the Indian embassy, where I learned they only offer one-day turnaround for a short-term transit visa.  Normal tourist visas take at least five business days.  My stomach dropped.  A whole week!  And the clerk said there was no way to expedite the process.  Very frustrating – even Myanmar will speed things up if you pay a little extra.

So a transit visa – which only allows you to stay in the country a maximum of 15 days – was my only option if I wanted to avoid missing half of Marie’s trip.  Crap!  I’d planned to spend more time in India, but nothing could be done – two weeks would have to be enough.  And I had only myself to blame.  I should have researched the visa situation earlier.

To apply for the transit visa I needed to show proof that I had a flight into and out of the country, so that night I went on-line and bought both tickets.  My flight to Goa connected in Mumbai and had me arriving the night of the 18th.  And my flight out of India left on 12/2, which – according to my calculations – was exactly 15 days after the date the visa would be issued.  I then spent about an hour locating an Internet café that would let me print out the flight confirmations.

The next morning I arrived at the Indian embassy an hour before they opened so I’d be sure to have a good place in line.  Eventually my turn came and I submitted my paperwork.  “Not possible,” the clerk said.

“What do you mean, ‘Not possible’?” I asked.

“Not possible,” the clerk repeated, looking bored.  “Transit visa only good 15 days.  You leave on December 2nd.  That is 16 days.”

I pointed to a calendar and started counting out the days.  “Tommorow is the 18th,” I started, “so that’s day one.”

“No,” the clerk broke in.  “That is day two.  Today is day one.”

You have to be kidding me…  There’s something uniquely frustrating about petty bureaucracy.  I saw red for a full minute before I calmed down enough to figure out my next move.  First I had to go back to my hotel room so I could use my computer to log into Expedia and change my ticket.  Naturally it turns out that Expedia doesn’t let you change tickets on-line, only over the phone.  I had to call them at a U.S. number, but Gmail’s helpful “Call phone” application made that surprisingly easy and an Expedia agent had no problem moving my departing flight up a day.  Next I had to return to the Internet café I’d been to the night before so I could print out the new flight confirmation.  And then I had to race back to the Indian embassy before 11am, when they stopped taking visa applications for the day.

I made it with a half hour to spare.  And this time the clerk accepted my application.  That evening I returned to the embassy and picked up my passport, which now sported a shiny new India transit visa.  I checked the dates.  “Date of Expiry 02-12-2010,” it said.  Valid through 12/2?  So my original ticket would have worked after all?  I was beginning to understand why I’d heard other travelers joke that NEPAL stands for “Never Ending Peace And Love” while INDIA stands for “I’ll Never Do It Again.”