How to Get a Travel Visa for India
I've been backpacking before, but only to those joyous meccas where you are granted a Visa on Arrival as a British citizen.
This is new territory to both of us and we are handling it quite differently (Oli = blissful calm & me = Military hysteria). I obviously started with my trusty bible, aka Excel. Plotting by country what visas were required, I worked backwards from the entry date - when, ideally, we would need to apply.
I realised pretty quickly, that it was not going to be as clear-cut as I though, as a few countries would issues visas valid from the date of issue as opposed to the entry date meaning that we would either have to leave it to the last-minute/apply whilst traveling.
Based on this, as well as some research into the ease of getting various visas outside of the UK, we started on the (seemingly) arduous task of applying for our visa to India.
As I mentioned before, Oli had quite a different approach which involved doing nothing...and not stressing. To be honest, his way is better upon reflection - but I'm a control freak and so embarked on a hysterical mission involving excel, Lonely Planet guides...and the internet.
After a few lost hours reading forum chat on the pitfalls often encountered on the online application, I was positively hysterical. So with Neighbours firmly switched off (well, to live pause anyway) I set about applying (India Visa Information - UK - Home Page).
Exactly one and a half weeks to the day.....we both received our lovely shiny Indian visas firmly ensconced in our passports (please excuse the photos, we were stressed. It was early.)
With hindsight; it's genuinely simple, so please find below a step by step guide to completing your Indian visa. Happy Christmas.
Since I wrote this post, the visa rules for India have changed and you now don't have to go down to the Embassy at all as you can apply for an e-Visa instead. The cost has halved too, so double bonus!
I wrote an article all about the new process here. I've left the below info in for posterity, and to remind you all how lucky you are not to have to endure it ;)
1) Go to and work out which visa you need (ours was tourist, so if you need anything else....step away from this blog now).
2) Start your online application here (http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk/onlineapplication.html) noting the Temporary application ID (you will need this!).
3) The form is self-explanatory however there are a few pitfalls: visible identification marks (unless you have a visible tattoo, just say none). There is a series of check boxes throughout regarding grandparents being Pakistani nationals - when you edit your application it will revert to ticking the opposite of what you want, so make sure you check, check and check again at every stage.
4) Uploading passport pics online is an option - don't do it, the visa application centre has a photo booth and for £10 (card, notes or coins!) you can get official pictures conforming to the required size. Much safer.
5) You then have the option of either scheduling your appointment/paying for your visa online or printing your application form. Choose the latter and print along with the declaration - both of which you will need to take down to the visa centre. You can then go back into your form, and pay online if you want (I would recommend this, as you then receive an email when your visa is ready to pick up as opposed to checking it daily!). You will need to wait about a day to re-visit your form (this is my experience) otherwise it doesn't seem to show up, causing mass panic.
6) Apply in person at your local 'mission centre' - in London it is now based near Barbican. Get there at 9.30 on a weekday, take your ticket and expect friendly service (genuinely). We waited a very reasonable 30 mins, the collection is slightly different....
7) If you have paid online, or paid the extra £10 to receive a text when your visa is ready - you will get an email/text when it's ready. Otherwise, I believe you have to check daily (it takes a min of 2 working days).
8) After two working days, we got the email (!) but it doesn't tell you whether you have got your visa or not....which is fun/scary. Going down to collect your visa is a lot different (I actually got out of this one, thanks Oli). The hours are 4.30-5.30 and there is a much longer wait, but by all accounts - still a very friendly service.