Travel Category

ARE E-TOURIST VISAS / VISA-ON-ARRIVAL ATTRACTING MORE TOURISTS TO INDIA?

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Over 1000% growth! Whoa! Sounds unbelievable! But it's true that the number of foreign tourists coming to India on e-tourist visas has jumped by over 1000% in 2015.

These numbers are evidence to the success story of e-Tourist Visas in India.  Ever since the launch of the e-visa facility by the Indian government, there has been no looking back and the Ministry of Tourism has been continuously recording a sharp increase in tourists' number visiting India. Are e-tourist visas/visa-on-arrival attracting more tourists to India? See, the numbers bespeak its bemusing success story!

Tourist visa on arrival

With the launch of the e-tourist visas, the dynamics of tourism in India have changed drastically. It has emerged as a game-changer by bringing up new growth equations in the tourism arena.

According to a Press Information Bureau (PIB) report, a total of 445,300 tourists visited India on e-tourist visas during January-December 2015 as compared to 39,046 during January-December 2014. This was a phenomenal growth of 1040.4% in tourists' number entering India on e-visas.

The month of December 2015 had 1,03,617 tourists visiting India on e-tourist visas as compared to 14,083 during December 2014, recording a growth of 635.8%.
In January 2016, 88,162 tourists arrived in India on e-tourist visa as compared to 25,023 during the same month last year, registering a growth of 252.3%.

Visa on arrival in India

Similarly, in February 2016, a total of 1,17, 210 tourists arrived on e-Tourist Visa as compared to 24,985 during February 2015, registering a growth of 369.1 per cent.

UK stood on top to avail the e-tourist visa facility to visit India, followed by the USA, Russia, Australia and Germany. The New Delhi Airport grabbed the maximum share of tourists arriving and leaving the country on e-tourist visas in 2015, followed by the Mumbai Airport and the Goa Airport.

Family holiday in UK

It was on November 27, 2014 when the Indian Government had introduced the TVoA, enabled by Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), presently known as e-Tourist Visa scheme.

At initial stage, the ETA enabled TVoA scheme was limited to 43 countries, however, later, it was extended to 113 countries, enabling a large number of international tourists to take advantage of the facility. Recently, 37 more countries were added to the list to take the final number to 150.

Presently, the tourist travelling to India with an e-visa is allowed to enter and depart from 16 international airports in the country. However, at the time of launch of the facility, it was limited to 9 international airports in 9 cities of the country.

The e-tourist visa fee structure has also been revised with effect from 3rd November, 2015. The 113 countries that can avail the e-tourist visa facilities have been divided into four groups where each group has to pay a different rate. Even the bank charges are reduced now for the e-tourist visa fees.

These initiatives have helped to increase the number of tourists travelling to India.

The new system has really made things easier for tourists! While they can apply for a visa online without having to visit the Indian embassy, they will can also receive an email authorising them to travel to India when their visa application gets approved. This notification can then be presented to immigration authorities at one of 16 Indian airports, allowing the visitor to obtain a visa-on-arrival. The ETA remains valid for 30 days from the date of approval.

It will be valid for entry at the following 16 airports: Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bangalore, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Tiruchirapalli, Trivandrum, and Varanasi.

Looking at the spectacular rise in tourist numbers, it seems that eTourist Visa would help tourism in India attain newer heights.

As more people become net-savvy, there is a high possibility that the number of tourists visiting India with e-visas will grow many times in the coming years. Also the government has permitted to issue an E-Tourist Visa twice in a calendar year increasing the possibility of attaining higher foreign tourists’ number.

So let’s keep the fingers crossed and wait and watch to see the ETA scheme smashing old records by registering higher growth in the number of foreign travellers visiting India!

The countries eligible for an E-Tourist Visa!

Countries eligible for visa on arrival

Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Cayman Island, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niue Island, Norway, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Macedonia, Russia, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Turks and Caicos Island, Tuvalu, UAE, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

Author Bio: Archana Sharma is freelance writer who is passionate about her profession. Travelling is something which excites her. She has been in the creative field for over 15 years and has been writing for print media and digital media.


90% FOREIGN TRAVELLERS VISIT INDIA JUST TO EXPLORE THE INDIAN CULTURE – WHY SO?

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Indian culture and its cultural sites have been on travellers' mind since time immemorial! Tourists from across the globe have been flocking to India to see and feel the mysterious cultural element in this holy land. Around 90% of foreign travellers visit India to explore the melting pot of its cultural diversity. This diversity exists in different forms such as history, archaeology, music, festivals, dance, etc!

The vibrancy of cultural diversity is at its epitome in states like Kerala, Rajasthan, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. While Uttarakhand basks in the light of culture and spiritual tourism, Tamil Nadu sheds light on Dravid tradition and culture. Cities like Varanasi, Allahabad, Vrindavan, and Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh encapsulates beautiful vignettes of India, attracting a large number of foreign tourists. Taj Mahal in Agra, one among seven wonders of the world, mesmerizes tourists with its majestic beauty.

Rajasthan is yet another state on top of foreign tourists’ minds. This state has been exhibiting its rich culture via its royal and majestic monuments and traditional festivals. Different fairs and festivals have also been singing the cultural saga of India. Pushkar Fair, Taj Mahotsav, and Suraj Kund Mela are a few to be named here which have marked their presence on international charts for exhibiting Indian culture.

Hence, it won’t be wrong to say that cultural tourism is the predominant factor behind India’s meteoric rise in the tourism segment. Let’s look at the important parameters of Indian culture that have been wooing tourists to this country…

1. Archaeology: The historical and archaeological monuments in India are the assets which have been attracting the biggest chunk of international tourists. These monuments reflect the influence of different rulers, and take the tourists back to an era of kings and queens.

Hampi-UNESCO World Heritage Site

2. Music: The synchronisation of rhythm with musical instruments has been mesmerising all since ages. From a variety of folk music to classical notes, Indian music comes with a wide range of traditions and regional styles. North Indian Hindustani, South Indian Carnatic traditions and their various forms of regional folk music are always soothing to ears and eventually foreign travellers have also fallen in love with these melodies.

Traditional & folk music in India

3. Festivals: Festivals form the heart and soul of India. While most of them have a religious origin, there are many others that are celebrated irrespective of caste and creed. Some of the most popular festivals in India are Diwali, Ugadi, Pongal, Holi, Onam, Vijayadashami, Durga Puja, Eid ul-Fitr, Christmas, Buddha Jayanti, and Vaisakhi.

Holi Festival in India

4. Dance: Dances in India have come a long way from the ancient classical or temple dance to folk and modern styles. Indian folk dances such as Bhangra, Bihu, Ghumura Dance, Sambalpuri, Chhau, Garba and special dances in regional festivals have a high-speed rhythm and vibrancy Foreign travellers could also be seen shaking their legs on foot-tapping beats of folk songs in different states.

Classical dance in India

5. Art and Craft: Indian art and craft is yet another area where foreign tourists have a keen interest! Art and culture in India are classified into specific periods where each period is reflected in the form of a particular religious, political and cultural development. From ancient period (3500 BCE-1200 CE) to Islamic ascendancy (1192-1757), colonial period (1757–1947) to Independent and the postcolonial period (Post-1947), the Indian art and craft reflect the rich culture which evolved and progressed under different eras.

Arts & Crafts in India

6. Pilgrimage: India has been thronged by travellers from across the world to explore spirituality. Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Mathura, Vrindavan etc are places where tourists visit in high number seeking spiritual solace.

Pilgrimage in India

7. Cuisines: The Indian cuisine also symbolises the rich cultural diversity. While Lucknow and Hyderabad are known for the relishing Nawabi dishes, the cities in Rajasthan have also earned fame by serving the royal Daal baatis and choorma. Similarly, North India cities have its own delicious variety of cuisine and Kolkata in the East has made a mark with its yummy delicious sweets. South Indian food too has made its own distinguished identity with wada sambhar, idli sambhar and masala dosa!

Indian Cuisines

8. Clothing: The traditional attire in India changes as one travels from one state to another. Clothing is influenced immensely by local culture, geography and climate. While katha work has made a mark in Gujarat, the colorful bandhej sarees and dupattas have won a million hearts of tourists here. Phulkari work in Punjab and Haryana has also garnered the interest of foreign travellers.

9. Multiple religions: Many religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism were founded in India. This, yet again, brought diversity in culture and the different religious influences have made India a very popular destination!

10. History: The rich history of India has also made it culturally rich! The country was ruled by different rulers such as Rajputs, Mughals, English and Portuguese. And, it is due to the influence of different dynasties that the heritage and culture of India have become exhaustive and vibrant. 

 

Author Bio: Archana Sharma is freelance writer who is passionate about her profession. Travelling is something that excites her. She has been in the creative field for over 15 years and has been writing for print media and digital media.


A MEMORABLE WALK THROUGH THE STREETS OF OLD DELHI

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I love the streets of Old Delhi as the colorful markets, mouthwatering food and monuments just transport me into another world, where everything is so captivating and beautiful. I know I may sound foolish when I say that because many people get apprehensive over the thought of visiting there, saying it’s too crowded and noisy, but for me, it holds a charm that remains engraved in my heart. Searching through the pictures of Old Delhi for some project work ignited emotions and memories of my childhood days. I immediately decided to relive the magic of Old Delhi with my family members.

It was a foggy Sunday, around 7 AM in the morning and nearly all the roads leading to the famous Chandni Chowk market wore a deserted look. I was quite surprised and began to wonder where have all the people gone? The cows sitting in the middle of a road and blocking your path and no near-deafening traffic noise? It was so quiet. Before I could figure out the reasons, the Red Fort was to my right, magnificent and enveloped by a thick blanket of fog.

Red Fort, Delhi

The gates of the Fort were not open yet so I decided to wait for some time and shared fun-filled moments with my family members sitting on the steps leading to the Fort. After a few hours, the sun touched the sky and I could feel the rays giving the much-needed warmth to the body. I could see the Chandni Chowk coming back to life with the shopkeepers beginning to set up their shops along the road and people moving fast here and there through the narrow lanes.

After spending an unforgettable time in the Red Fort and clicking lots of pictures, we all began to feel tired and hungry. We had skipped breakfast and were famished. So, without wasting any time, we marched towards the popular ‘Paranthe Wali Gali’ to satiate our hunger. 

Parathe Wali Gali, Old Delhi-foodie trail

After meandering like a snake through the narrow lanes, we reached through the Pt. Kanhaiyalal Durga Prasad Paranthe Wale's shop. Different kinds of lip-smacking Parantha, Indian bread made of wheat flour and can be stuffed with several different things ) options listed on the menu only increased our hunger. I was quite amazed by the photographs on the wall that showed famous personalities like Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Shrimati Indira Gandhi or Amitabh Bachchan dining at the shop.

My short trip to Old Delhi was completely magical that just can’t be expressed in words but only felt and experienced. Hey! WAIT! More coming up in Part 2 about the architectural charms of Old Delhi. Stay tuned… you thought that the magnetizing charm of the place could be penned down in just one post?


Manish Pandey is filled with passion for travelling different places and sharing experiences through his blogs. A blogger for the past four years, he dreams to explore length and breadth of the country and publish his own travel stories book someday. When he is not traveling, Manish likes to fulfill his love of photography and read lifestyle blogs.


EXPLORING HYDERABAD- THE CITY OF PEARLS

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A couple of weekends ago, a family function made me travel to Hyderabad. Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh (and soon to be the joint capital of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana ) is one of the largest, and most populous cities of Southern India, with a population of over 7 million. Hyderabad, is also known as the “City of Pearls”, as also the “City of Nizams”.  

Charminar, Hyderabad

After a couple of days of exploring the sights and sounds of Hyderabad, the first thing that struck me, and actually a question I asked myself was “ Why is Hyderabad not a more prominent city on the world tourism map? “ In my view, less than 1 % of the total international tourists who travel to India travel to Hyderabad --- which is actually appalling, given that the city has a lot to offer tourists. From monuments like the Charminar and the Golconda Fort (which even has a Sound and Light show in the evenings), museums like the Salarjung Museum (which has a great collection of the Nizam’s jewellery, artifacts etc), to excellent shopping opportunities, to great food, good bars, great Hotels, Hyderabad seems to have it all.  Talking of Hotels, I would actually say that the Faluknuma Palace in itself is enough reason to visit Hyderabad. Towering above the city’s skyline, the Faluknuma Palace, the erstwhile home of the Nawab of Hyderabad, is now a luxury hotel managed by the Taj Group.

Golconda Fort, Hyderabad

Of course, in addition to the Faluknuma Palace, Hyderabad does have a good variety of other deluxe hotels too, from the Taj Krishna to the ITC Kakatiya. For the travelling Golfer in me, Hyderabad was good too, and both, the HGA Golf Course as well as the Boulders Hills Golf club offering challenging layouts and excellent facilities.  At the end of actually spending 3 days experiencing Hyderabad, doing a fair bit of sightseeing, playing a bit of Golf, doing a bit of shopping and dining out, I was actually convinced, that we as in the Tourism Industry and as in the Govt of India Tourism authorities, need to do a whole lot more and the city definitely needs to be showcased more prominently of the International tourism stage.  

The author, Kapil Goswamy is the Managing Director of Trans India Holidays, New Delhi.  


GOLF IN SRINAGAR, KASHMIR

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I just wanted to share something interesting that I and my Golfing buddies did last weekend. Well, it wasn't officially a long weekend, but we decided to take Friday off and do a three-day golfing trip to ...Guess where... Srinagar, Kashmir.

Golf in Srinagar, Kashmir

With a lot of apprehensions and skepticism, we froze on Srinigar as our destination .... and believe me, we were glad we did. The valley was just as beautiful as I had expected and remembered it to be (from my last trip 26 years ago), and the Golf far exceeded our expectations. The Royal Springs Golf Course (just off the Boulevard road and just a mile from the Lalit Grand Palace) was a delight, to say the least. Perfectly manicured and lush green fairways, punishing roughs, fast but true Greens ----- the Royal Springs Course is actually one of the best I've played on, and believe me, I've played on quite a few courses around the world. For a course of this standard, Green Fees are pegged at an acceptable level of about Usd 40 for 18 holes. Carts and Caddies are also available.

In addition to falling in love with the Golf Course there, the other important thing was, the feeling of complete safety and security while travelling in Kashmir. Fingers crossed, but the Omar Abdullah Government seems to have got its act together on security issues, and while one did see a significant amount of security forces present, we felt pretty safe and comfortable.

Golf in India

In addition to the roundtrips between the Hotel and the Golf Course, we did travel around a fair bit -- did the usual touristy thing of a Shikara(Kashmiri Gondola) Ride on the Dal Lake, visited the Mughal Gardens , and also did a trip to Gulmarg, including taking the Cable car ride up to about 3800 mtrs above sea level. The Gulmarg Golf Course, at an altitude of about 2600 mtrs, is said to be the highest green Golf course in the world. Currently being upgraded, it is supposed to reopen in the next month or two. There are of course a few telltale signs of the state has gone through hard times, but, other than that --- what the Mughal Emperor Jehangir said about Kashmir "If there is paradise anywhere on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here." seemed so true. It is breathtakingly beautiful!!!

Accommodation wise, Srinagar now as 3 good options, The Lalit Grand Palace , a wonderful 5 star Heritage Palace Hotel overlooking the Dal Lake, then there is the new 5 star Vivanta by Taj Dal View, set on a hilltop overlooking the Lake , and then, there are of course the famous Deluxe Houseboats on the Dal and Nagin Lakes. The Houseboats, while called Deluxe, are about a 3-star standard only, but are very cost-effective accommodation for those wanting to experience Kashmir on a limited budget.

Golf holiday in Srinagar

Flights to and from Srinagar, were surprisingly inexpensive, with roundtrip fares (restricted advance purchase) being available as low as Usd 100 per person. Since it was just a three-day trip, we couldn't visit Pahalgam, the third point in Kashmir's golden triangle of Srinigar, Gulmarg, and Pahalgam, but friends in the local tourism industry told us, that if we liked the Golf in Srinigar, we would love the Pahalgam Golf Course. Pahalgam, about 2 hours away from Srinigar by road, and also, an extremely scenic quaint little resort town, now has an 18 hole Championship course, which I understand is wonderful too !! On the flight back, our four balls took the unanimous decision--- that, our next golf outing would be Kashmir again !! (we all need to work for a few weeks in between though !). The attached images will give you an idea of why !!!!

The author, Kapil Goswamy is the Managing Director/CEO of Trans India Holidays , based in New Delhi,India.