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India is go

I now have a visa for India. That's means I'm pretty much set.

That said, the Indian visa was a bit of a rigmarole. The small print on the visa says that whilst you can have up to six months or a year multiple entry you cannot actually re-enter India within two months of your last visit. I'm not really sure what they're protecting themselves against but thems the rules.

However, you can apply for a tourist re-entry thing if you do want to return within two months. I phoned the Consulate and they said that was what I should do and don't forget the £7 postal order payable to the High Commission.

The Indians have outsourced the face to face paperwork to a company called VFS who try to push you through an online form the net result of which is that you print out the offline visa form with most (but not all) entries filled in which you have to sign then trot down to see them in, in my case, London. Naturally, VFS have a different interpretation of the rules.

I couldn't ask for a one year visa so that was scratched out and six months written in instead. Explaining that I was travelling overland and wanted to visit Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh for a few days each whilst I was in the neighbourhood resulted in the tourist re-entry form being dismissed and I was told I need to write a letter to the High Commission of India (HCI) explaining my itinerary including flight times (I don't have any -- I'm on a motorbike) etc..

So I borrowed a sheet of A4 and sat in the corner and scribbled out my tale and request. That seemed to satisfy the woman but not her supervisor who explained (via the counter woman, not directly to me, of course) that I needed the border crossings I was going to use.

I borrowed another sheet of A4 and went back to the corner and surfed the web for twenty minutes looking up India's border crossings and double checking that the ones I'd picked were OK for foreigners to cross at and re-wrote my letter.

Back to the counter and it was all looking fine until I was asked how many times I was entering India. Four? From Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Well, it seems that four is one too many, I would have to cross one off. Obviously I can't cross Pakistan off so I chose Nepal on the grounds that when I return next time to retrieve the bike I can pop into Nepal then as it's the nearest to Delhi and has an easy enough to get visa.

Actually, getting a visa for Bangladesh might be tricky as you're supposed to apply in your home country and have a hotel booking. It's too late to apply now and I have no idea when I'll get there for a hotel booking. If you want to go to Bhutan you're meant to apply 30 days in advance of arrival (and book through an official agency). Which could be tricky especially if they want my passport for those 30 days. But it's worth a punt.

Fortunately, I was allowed to merely cross out Nepal on my existing letter rather than re-write it. I don't recall the last time I wrote a letter long hand and three in a day would be pushing it. That seemed to satisfy everyone albeit that she wasn't particularly optimistic about my chances. Just submit it and we'll see how I get on, I said.

So, I'd either get the passport back on Friday Special Delivery or I'd get a phone call from the HCI wanted more explanation.

Friday came and went. In fact the postie went past today with no SD envelopes -- I'd been told my travel money was on it's way too! As it happens, the postie (explained at great length) he couldn't be bothered standing in the postie queue for SD deliveries at the crack of dawn so had done the basic round, gone back and found six to be delivered, two for me. Passport and money.

The visa itself, has my details printed on it: triple entry, re-entry from Pakistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh (and my finger in the wind return date of 18th Feb 2011). So, no sneaking into Nepal and returning a few days later!

Still, good news. There's some loose ends to tie up next week (more Cholera meds for starters) but I can look to be leaving Blighty on the 31st August 2010 to return in January 2011.

How exciting.

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