Visas on my passport – three of my favourites, Vietnam, Kenya, and UK

by Anshul
4 comments

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I have travelled with an Indian passport for over 25 years and now 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. Unsurprisingly, India provides a ‘jumbo passport’ with 60 pages for frequent travellers – a service I have cherished immensely. As someone travelling regularly since 1997, I have a stash of visas on my passports, each with a unique story and experience. I wanted to highlight 3 of my favourites;

Visas on my Passport – Vietnam (1997)

First Visa on my first passport, Vietnam will always be a special country for me. Unfortunately, I misplaced my first passport, which held the original Visa. The Visa below is from 2011, one of many I have had since my first trip to the country in 1997.

Visas on my passport

Vietnam tourist visa – 2011

My first trip to Vietnam was to meet family, and I was flying BOM-BKK-SGN on Thai Airways. I had my Vietnamese Visa pre-approved in Mumbai, India. As a 15-year-old unaccompanied flyer, I had a fantastic time with the doting Thai Airways flight attendants and the excitement of flying on my first international flight. During transit in BKK, I encountered issues with the Thai immigration officers who kept asking me about ‘kh么ng’ who was “travelling with me”. Every time I told them I was travelling alone and did not know who ‘kh么ng‘ was, their faces got grimmer. Good thing I had the contact information for my family who was receiving me in SGN. I sat in the immigration office in BKK for ~3 hours while the officers made several calls (to my family in Mumbai, Vietnam, and the Vietnamese Consulate in Mumbai) to confirm my visa details. The ‘accompanying traveller’ field on my visa said ‘kh么ng‘ against it. It was short for ‘not applicable‘ in Vietnamese (eventually confirmed by the Mumbai Consulate), and the Thai immigration officers assumed it was somebody’s name. And my Vietnamese was as good as theirs. I can only imagine the conversations between Thai officers who don’t speak the best English, with my parents who don’t speak Thai or Vietnamese (to decipher ‘kh么ng‘) and wondering why their 15-year-old was being held in BKK. Glad that it was a weekday, the Mumbai Consulate answered their landline.

A great experience nonetheless and one the entire family loves recounting every time we are together 馃檪 While Indian passport holders still require a pre-approved visa to enter Vietnam, Canadian and US passport holders (and many others) can聽apply for an e-visa before travel.

Visas on my Passport – United Kingdom (2004)

The UK offers several flavours of Visa (tourist/work/immigrant, etc.), including one which is not a sticker but simply a stamp for transit passengers.

Visas on my passport

UK ‘Visitor in transit visa’ – 2004

A UK tourist visa for an Indian passport holder can cost upwards of $300, a severe financial barrier for many. I had never been to the UK until 2004. Still a student and on a tight budget, I had no intention of spending $300 for a visa I may or may not be granted. While browsing the聽UK Govt. site,聽I learned about the ‘Visitor in Transit’ Visa, which could be given to some nationalities at the discretion of an immigration officer. Although India was not one of the approved nationalities for a ‘Visitor in Transit’ Visa, those with a US/Canada visa or permanent resident cards could qualify. I took a chance and booked an incredibly long layover in LHR during my YOW-LHR-BOM trip.

You might need a Visitor in Transit visa if you鈥檙e:

  • changing flights in the UK on your way to another country
  • going through UK border control, for example to check in your luggage for a connecting flight
  • leaving the UK within 48 hours
  • not working or studying while in the UK

You may not have to apply for a visa. What you need to do depends on your nationality and whether you need to enter the UK.

Upon arrival at LHR, I made my way to immigration and presented proof on my onward journey, along with my Indian passport (with a Canadian Resident Visa). After several questions about my onward journey and checked bags, I heard the sweet sound of the stamp on my passport, followed by “Have a good time in London. It’s a great day to be out.” 聽From there on, the sticker shock of the Heathrow Express ticket, the expensive pints (CAD to GBP conversion) and fish&chips with mushy peas were all worth it. I beelined my way to the Lord’s Cricket Stadium for a tour and had the time of my life experiencing what I had only seen on tv. I get goosebumps just writing about it.

Since 2004, I have availed the ‘Visitor in Transit visa’ no fewer than ten times – a great way to spend a layover. And, of course, I eventually got UK Visas for several work trips in the following years.

Visas on my passport

UK Business Visa – 2014

Visas on my Passport – Kenya (2010)

Who doesn’t love a visa with national animals on it? But when you get one with the ‘Big Five,’ it’s one to treasure!

Visas on my passport

Kenya Multiple Visa – 2010

My first trip to Kenya was in 2010, and I had locked in my Visa in advance in Ottawa. I loved the casual handwriting on a printed visa sticker, with only the initials of my name. But the real treat were the animals, of course, because I was on my way to a Safari, and this Visa was the perfect tease for what was to come. That trip to Kenya and my first ever Safari experience was one such that has not been matched since. It’s special enough to see multiple lion hunts in the wild, but to also see Nile crocodiles take down a zebra at a river crossing and fend off a bloat of hippos that tried to steal their kill – was a privilege like none other鈥攁 very, very special trip.

If you plan to visit East Africa, a聽joint tourist visa聽is available for travelling to and within Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda for tourism.

Take Away

I love my Indian passports, for they have unlocked such great memories around the globe. All while allowing me some of the most fabulous visa stickers and stamps I would not have collected otherwise had I travelled on “stronger passports” that don’t need visas and only get an arrival and exit stamp. Yes, I know, all fantastic things come at a cost.

Look out for future iterations of ‘Visas on my Passport’ as I highlight some of the coolest ones I have collected over the years.

Do you have a favourite visa on your passport? Share with a comment below!

4 comments

CUONG May 18, 2023 - 2:04 pm

Fascinating article Anshul. I am also surprised to know that you visited my country, Vietnam at a young age and got into trouble with ‘Kh么ng’ :-))
From my recent trip, My wife and I traveled from BKK to MLE, with a layover in BOM, and we booked with Aeroplan reward, so from BOM to MLE we flew Vistara. At BKK, Thai Airways told me that we needed an Indian visa to enter. And the reason for that was that Vistara Airline is not a Star Alliance so the system would not transfer my 2 checked bags in BOM, I need a visa to go out and get my bags, and re-enter with check-in. We were in a panic mold. Good thing, my 2 adults children were still in Bangkok’s hotel, they would come and take my big suitcases with them as they will fly home later in two days. Lesson learned partner airlines like Vistara don’t do interline bags as we expected. Also, I need to know that Canadians still need a visa to enter India ( I thought Commonwealth countries don’t need a visa for each country..) With all the hassles at the check-in in BKK we ran like crazy to the boarding gate, we finally made it to the airplane. The airplane door closed right after we sat down in our business class seats, Phew… What an expierence with visa…

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Anshul May 18, 2023 - 2:23 pm

Hi Cuong! I wish we had discussed the visa requirements before your trip – India has reciprocal visa requirements with all countries that require a visa for Indian citizens.
Visatara is not part of Star Alliance and does not interline with Thai Airways as such – https://www.airvistara.com/np/en/partner-airlines/interline-partners
I am glad your kids could help in BKK – that’s exciting enough! Enjoy MLE; it looks like you have a lot of de-stressing to do 馃檪

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Teja April 29, 2023 - 5:23 pm

Nice article Anshul! I only ever got one UK visa before I became a US citizen, but I’ve certainly appreciated some of the many stamps and visas I’ve seen on some of my relatives’ passports over the years. I also love collecting the many entry stamps 馃檪 Still haven’t been to Kenya but it’s def on my bucket list.

Reply
Anshul April 29, 2023 - 5:59 pm

Thanks Teja! E-gates def kill the visa joy. Am just glad to have started early enough to collect some cool ones 馃檪 You will love Kenya, ping me when you start to plan, and I can recommend the best in wildlife!

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