Four Visas, Three Countries

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,
IMG_2241
you’ll find this sign on the side of the building:
IMG_2240 (1)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!

 

Adventures? We Had A Few.

What an amazing trip!  I couldn’t possibly include ALL of the adventures in one post, so here are some of the highlights, which, coincidentally happen to be the answers to Africa Quiz #3.

1. Bungee jump? No way! Even after Jeanne and I were offered two for the price of one, we declined. Did the vendor want to show that insanity knows no age limit?

2. Zip line across the gorge…you bet! And it was GRAND! Fortunately, my friend Jeanne was up for it as well. And no, that is NOT a tattoo on my arm. It is a special code– so if the rope broke, the divers would know who was who. (Only kidding–it was our weight, in kilograms, and other secret stuff). P1100925 You are probably going to want more than just a photo of us leaning against a sign, aren’t you?  Well, Jeanne went first, so she was able to take these photos of my transit. IMG_0486

Did I enjoy the experience?  See for yourself. IMG_0489

3. Yes, we did play netball, a type of basketball, with six very pregnant young women. The staff at the health center encourages them to exercise, so after their checkup they go to the school playground for a fun game of hoops. IMG_4856And yes, I WAS tossing the ball to a member of the other team.  She’s PREGNANT, for crying out loud!  I didn’t want her to have to run TOO far.

4. All 8 of the women in our group were taught the many uses of the chitenge by lovely Doris. Here we are, rockin’ our new look. IMG_4380 5. Friends and family will be shocked, because I am known as a picky eater, but I DID consume a mopane worm. IMG_4499 Despite the look on my face after that first bite, I actually DID finish it.  Jeanne was equally enthusiastic. P1100137 6. On the other hand, I did NOT finish the beer.  One mouthful was more than enough– enough to convince me that it tasted exactly like dirty gym socks. Not that I have ever tasted dirty gym socks before, but if I had, that is exactly how I imagined they would have tasted. P1100146 7. Since I am sharing the contents of my overactive imagination with you,  I might as well admit that wallowing in the mud with the hippos was indeed an imaginary activity. The only mud wallowing was done by this fine fellow.  What’s he doing?  Why, he’s asking the others if two tones makes his butt look smaller.  I think their body language indicates their answer. P1100725 8. Mike and I loved the helicopter ride over Victoria Falls. The views were spectacular! P1100965 9. Yes, I did trade my tevas, and fortunately had flip flops in my backpack so I didn’t have to walk back to the hotel barefoot. Same for the tee shirt.  Us former girl scouts are ALWAYS prepared.  No photos of the transaction exist, fortunately.

10. Although I climbed more than one tree, I never made it to the TOP of a baobab (sorry Sammy).  This one was growing through the lobby of the Moremi Wilderness Camp.  I made it as high as the ceiling allowed. P1080579 P1080900 11. We had a fantastic dinner at Savoy Cabbage. Mike gave me a taste of his warthog, and I sampled the “other” Mike’s kudu, but stuck with rack of lamb for my entree.  Neither of us had our cameras with us, so sorry–no visuals exist.

12. I never missed a chance to sing and dance with the camp staff. They were incredibly talented. We were willing and enthusiastic.  That blue arm on the left belongs to me. IMG_4474 13. The kids were sweet, beautiful and curious. When one asked about snow, I ran back to the bus to fetch my ipad. IMG_4822 14. I did not grind millet, but Connie and Marisa (mother and daughter) did. IMG_4874 15. We all had our Ringo Starr moments in the Boma, an outdoor meeting place, where we would gather around the fire the last evening at each camp for a great dinner and entertainment.  Check out my very own rock star! P1100777 Remember I said I did 10 of the 15 activities?  Well, I was in such a hurry to upload the post before I ran out of time and MBs that I miscounted.  I actually did 11 out of 15.  The only ones I DIDN’T do were:  bungee jump, wallow in the mud with the hippos, climb to the top of the baobab and swing down, and grind millet.

Our Africa trip is over, we are back home, but if I get inspired, I might be able to come up with one last Africa quiz. Thanks to those who played!  I loved seeing the answers and the logic behind the choices.

The “Adventure” part of Overseas Adventure Travel

During our trip, we had so many wonderful opportunities for what Arthur, our wonderful guide termed “learning and discovery –and I took advantage of MANY of them.

Are you ready for another quiz? My sisters, cousins and friends MIGHT have an unfair advantage with this quiz. But maybe not. Let’s see who does the best determining just how much of a spirit of adventure I have.

Which of these activities do you think I did? I’ll give you a hint: I did 10 out of the following 15, and a couple of the activities are figments of my imagination.

1. Bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge

2. Zip line across the gorge

3. Play netball against a barefoot and pregnant team

4. Model a chitenge

5. Eat mopane worms

6. Drink local beer

7. Wallow in the mud with the hippos

8. Ride a helicopter over Victoria Falls

9. Trade the shoes I was wearing for bracelets and my tee shirt for a carved hippo

10. Climb to the top of an Baobab tree and do my Tarzan imitation to get down

11. Taste kudu and warthog, but pass on the zebra.

12. Sing and shake my booty with the camp staff

13. Play with the children at a village school

14. Grind millet in a village hut

15. Play the drums in the Boma

Answers when we return to the USA and I can upload photos, because I know you’ll want visual proof!