We will be visiting three countries–Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet. So why do we need FOUR visas? Fair warning–this post will likely only interest those that are taking a similar trip, or are planning to visit India.
For the three of you that are still reading, here goes.
We fly into and out of Delhi, so since we have at least one overnight stay in India, we need a visa. A visa that costs (depending on the service used) anywhere from $135 to $173, per person. A visa that requires you to complete an on-line application that is challenging to decipher. But there IS a positive aspect. The visa is good for 10 years. So, should we decide to spend more than an overnight in India, it will be best to do so before 2026.
If you are anything like me, you are probably wondering how to score the $135 charge. Well, Cox and Kings is India’s approved visa grantor, so you get the best price if you opt to go direct to them.
Our travel company, OAT, sent out a package with very helpful, clear instructions. Good thing, because there are lots of hoops you need to jump through for that India online application.
OAT recommends PVS, a visa processing company located in DC, probably because you can send your passport to one service and they take care of visas for both India and Nepal, which is not the case with Cox and Kings. PVS is convenient, yes, but as with everything, you pay for that convenience. If we had used PVS, we would have paid a total of $566 for both visas, including mailing charges.
Instead, our total cost was $362, a savings of $204. How did I pull that off? In addition to using Cox and Kings, I dealt directly with the Nepali Embassy.
I happened to be traveling to NYC to meet a friend for lunch and a show, so I figured, what the heck, I’ll just go in a little earlier and stop by the embassy. Located at 216 East 49th St, it is only open between 9:30 and 1:30 during the week. Right between these two restaurants,
you’ll find this sign on the side of the building:
You have to press the button on the side of the wall to get buzzed in. I walked up to their tiny office on the 4th floor, but there IS an elevator. The visas cost $40 per person versus $90 for PVS, so that represented half of our $200 in savings.
One thing that is important to know if you decide to go–they ONLY take money orders. No cash, no personal check, no credit or debit cards. Of course, I had everything that they didn’t take, but all was not lost because there is a place that sells money orders on the next block. I have no idea what a money order costs, because my bank had a branch on the same block, so my money order was free. If I had been smart, I would have found this website before I left home. It EXPLAINS the money order requirement and tells you what is needed to submit by express mail or courier–good news for those of you that have no intention of traveling to NYC.
It took 30 minutes for processing to be completed. Passports and visas clutched in one hand, my other raised to hail a taxi, I was off for the Cox and King office 23 blocks away.
I thought I might be able to drop off my package (to be mailed to my home when processing was completed) and still be on time for lunch. I was delusional. It was a total waste of time and cab fare. The smart thing would have been just to express mail the damn thing in the first place and be done with it. Which is what I ultimately did. Less than 2 weeks later, our passports arrived.
Two down, two to go.
Bhutan and Tibet both require that you send them a color copy of the first two pages of your passport in advance of trip. (OAT , bless them, is handling this part). The actual visas are provided when you arrive, but only if you have 2 color passport type photos (2 for each country, 4 in total), ANOTHER copy of our passport pages (for Tibet) and approximately $70 for Bhutan and $190 for Tibet, per person, in cash. Cash means pristine bills–no wrinkles, tears or marks. OAT recommends we bring more, because these fees are subject to change without notice. See why we use a travel company when we venture to more non-traditional locales? Knowing me, I would have missed one or more of the requirements.
So, what did I learn from this adventure? If you have enough time to submit directly to the embassy and Cox and Kings by express mail (or Fedex or UPS–whatever) you can save a bundle. You just need to send for one, wait for the passports to be returned, then send to the other. If, however, money is no object (that’s definitely not ME), and you prize convenience, or are short on time, then a service, like PVS is the way to go.
Next post will be about something other than this future trip. I promise!