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.”