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This post continues the ‘Visa on Indian Passport’ series, which the readers have received well. This a quick reminder that I travel with an Indian passport and carry my Canadian Permanent Resident card as a supplementary document where required. The Indian passport ranks 66th in the Global Passport Power Rank, which means I have to get visas for most countries I plan to visit, often in advance. Currently, the Indian passport offers access to only 24 countries visa-free, 47 visa-on-arrival, and a whopping 127 that need a visa in advance. Each ‘Visa on Indian Passport’ comes with a unique story and experience, and I have collected several while travelling regularly since 1997. While many countries now offer the convenience of an e-visa as an option, I truly cherish the ones that are visa stickers on my passport. This week, allow me to showcase visas from two small but significant African nations, the Republic of Uganda and the Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland, until 2018);
Visa on Indian Passport – The Kingdom of Eswatini
Formerly known as the Kingdom of Swaziland, it was renamed in 2018 to the Kingdom of Eswatini. A true monarchy, Eswatini is a small African nation bordered by Mozambique and South Africa.
My work trips to Africa would encompass visits to up to 13 countries in under three weeks, and arranging visas for all countries in advance used to be a significant production. My trip in 2010 would look like this Canada-South Africa-Botswana-Swaziland-Zimbabwe-Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya-Uganda-Rwanda-Ethiopia-Nigeria-Ghana-Canada.
My first visit to Eswatini (then Swaziland) was in 2010, and the second in 2012. Trying to figure out the visa requirements for Swaziland was difficult, with essential information on the embassy website in 2010. After repeated calls to the only Embassy in Washington DC, I was told that a business or tourist visa could take up to 30 days to process and would require me to mail in my only passport. Unfortunately, I was still travelling and could not yet part ways with the passport. Human connection is a beautiful thing, as I managed to explain my hectic work-travel schedule and convinced the understanding embassy staff to process my visa request with a scanned copy of my passport. The expectation was that I would send in the passport as soon as there was approval.
As luck would have it, despite our best attempts, my visa was approved a day after landing in South Africa on my 2+ week trip. The embassy staff were kind enough to send me a letter stating that the visa was approved but could not be stamped in time due to my travel plans. I was to present that letter with my passport and hope that South African Airways (SA) would allow me to board my flight to Swaziland. While the airline was ok with accepting the letter from the embassy (in place of a Visa on a passport), immigration officials in Swaziland were less than pleased. After an hour of questioning and confirming my itinerary (a day trip to the country) and a stash of visas on my passport, I was allowed to enter the country without any entry stamps. On my way out, though, I was never asked for the letter or the entry stamp and was given an exit stamp for my return flight back to Johannesburg. A stressful but successful day trip to Swaziland in 2010 saw me return to the country in 2012, this time with a proper visa stamp on my passport 🙂
Current Eswatini Visa policy: US and Canadian passport holders do not require a visa to visit Eswatini for up to 30 days. For those that need a visa to travel to Eswatini, you are out of luck as the official website returns a ‘404 error’ on all visa and permit links 🙁
Visa on Indian Passport – Republic of Uganda
Uganda is in Eastern Africa, bordered by Kenya to the East, South Sudan in the North, the Democratic Republic of Congo to the West, and Rwanda and Tanzania to the South. The country gained independence from the UK in 1962, followed by several years of military rule under dictator Idi Amin.
As with Swaziland, my first visit to Uganda was also in 2010. Although procuring a Ugandan visa was much more straightforward, I was gobsmacked when I saw the visa sticker on my passport. Who uses a whiteout on an official sticker?!
The Uganda Embassy in Ottawa, that’s who. The staff in the embassy assured me that it would not be an issue since they had included initials in the correction. As a force of habit, the staff had written ‘Canada’ under my nationality, which was corrected later using a whiteout. Sigh.
In an anti-climax, the immigration officer at Entebbe airport in Uganda did not bat an eyelid and stamped my passport. No questions, not even a curious look. So much for anticipating and preparing all my explanations in advance!
Unfortunately, my multiple visits to the country have always been short and work-related. I have been yearning to go back for Gorilla trekking.
Current Ugandan Visa Policy: Uganda is part of the East African Tourist Visa, allowing travellers to travel to Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda on a single visa (USD 100), where the issuing country must be the first entry point. Visa applications can be submitted online and granted for three months from the issue date.
I have not returned to the continent of Africa since my last trip in 2014. A lot has changed, for good, regarding visa applications, as many African countries have adopted e-visa systems making it easier for travellers to plan and procure visas in advance. If you have more recent experiences with visas from Uganda or Eswatini, please share with a comment below!
Related links to Visa posts on PMB:
Look out for future iterations of ‘Visa on Indian Passport’ as I highlight some of the coolest ones I have collected over the years.