Being Indian about Passport

From travelling around the globe, to visiting your kids at high school in a foreign university, to do destination weddings outside country, to leaving a country after scam (probably until you are found one to be!); for every act mentioned, you need a valid country-authorized passport. It is an officially recognized travel document that permits a person to cross-borders with other nations.

The word “Passport” – literally means a document to steer “pass” through a destination “port”!

 

How did passports come into existence?

A traveller’s identity across the globe is identified by this crucial piece of document. It carries a person’s face & the country he/she represents. So when you think of hopping borders, just show-off your colourful raffles to enter any country.

The history of passport dates back to 1414, when King Henry V developed a so-called travel document for his subjects to prove their identity in foreign lands. It was a random piece of informative paper which centuries later became an official travel requirement.
The use of Passport started a little more than 100 years ago when European countries constituted The Travel Control Act, 1918, to make it mandatory for people traveling from & into the region post World War 1.

(Come on, let’s give them the credits they deserve!)

 

What about Indian Passports?

The first version of an Indian Passport was released in 1920 and the current version we use was issued in 1986. It is issued by the President of India to its citizens. The Consular, Passport & Visa (CPV) unit of the Ministry of External Affairs has recognised Passport Seva (Passport Service) as the central passport issuing entity.

                  85px-BIpassport               82px-India-Pakistan_passport               Indian_Passport_1986               120px-Passports_Front

(In pic above: from left to right: British India passport, Joint India-Pakistan passport issued to migrants, Current Indian passport, An Indian Diplomatic passport) (Image Credits: Wikipedia)

Additionally, in 1967, The Passports Act was enacted by Parliament of India for the issue of passports and travel documents to its citizens (and other persons) and also regulate their departure.

As I write this article, soon we will have access to Biometric Passports (chip-enabled e-passports) which will carry all the information of a person. The law to bring this into effect was passed in April 2017. The e-passports can be read within 4 seconds, eliminating the efforts of passport officials at the centres and airports.

It will also help in drastically reducing long lines at the immigration counters enabling smooth and hassle-free movements. It will also help in filtering out fake passports. The pilot has been started with Official and Diplomatic Passports first.

Another major development that kicks in soon, is the elimination of details from the Demographic Page, which was largely used by unskilled workers seeking employment abroad.

Important: India does not allow Dual-Citizenship (multi-country citizenship). In simple words, you cannot be a citizen of any other nation, if you are an Indian citizen.

 

Information on Indian Passport

Our Passport has 2 main pages: Profile Page and Demographic Page

Profile Page contains
• Type – The Type of passport (Ordinary “P”, Official “S”, Diplomatic “D”)
• Country Code (“IND”)
• Passport Number
• Surname
• Given Name
• Nationality
• Gender
• Date of Birth
• Place of Birth
• Place of Issue
• Date of Issue
• Date of Expiry
• Passport Holder’s Photo
• Passport Holder’s Signature

Demographic Page contains
• Father’s / Legal Guardian Name
• Mother’s Name
• Spouse’s Name
• Your Address
• Old Passport Number (if any)
• File Number ( a reference application number)

Fact: For adults above 18, the passport validity is 10 years, while for minors it is 5 years

 

Types of Indian Passport

Depending on the requirements and segregation of each country for its citizens, different types of passports are issued. India issues 3 types of passports.

1. Ordinary Passport

• Issued to: Common citizens
• Colour: Dark Blue
• Purpose: Vacation, Travel, Business, Studies
• Type: “P” – where “P” stands for Personal

2. Official Passport

• Issued to: Individuals representing Indian government
• Colour: White
• Purpose: Official Business
• Type: “S” – where “S” stands for Service

3. Diplomatic Passport

• Issued to: Diplomats, Government Officials
• Colour: Maroon
• Purpose: Diplomatic Assignments and Missions
• Type: “D” – where “D” stands for Diplomatic

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(A pro-tip: Never keep passports as shown, i don’t do it either, it might get damaged or unreadable for scanners)

Indian Passport – Global Ranks

As per the Passport Index, which ranks how strong a country’s passport is with respect to its peers, India holds:

  • Visa-Free Score (popularly known as VFS) of 58 (Highest VFS, Singapore 164)
  • Global Rank of 73 out of 98 on the basis of VFS (tied with Uzbekistan and Sao Tome Princepe)
  • Individual Rank of 143 out of 199

These rankings easily explain why our country has less outbound tourists (as you need to get visa for almost every other country). The state of infra for inbound tourists with respect to accessibility is reflected too.

Notably,
• The VFS of 58 includes 25 Visa-free countries and 33 VoA (Visa-on-arrival).
• The Individual Rank of 143 takes into consideration the UNDP HDI (United Nations Development Program – Human Development Index) which says about the perception of the country abroad.

To bring some cheer, India ranks 23rd out of 103 with a score of 157 in the list of welcoming nations (Passports accepted visa-free or with electronic travel authorization).

See we are very welcoming 🙂

“The ranking depends on factors like Global Tourism Contribution, Foreign Relations, Domestic tourism inbound & outbound, currency strength, political stability, inbound tourist facilities, tourist friendly policies, safety index of the country, state of Infrastructure and easiness in shuttling between places depending on transportation.”

To ascertain if there is any development in the factors leading to upgrade or a downgrade, the rankings are revised annually. The better the rankings, the better it is for tourists visiting India & for Indians to travel abroad.

Important: Whenever you travel a foreign land, keep the Indian Embassy / Consulate contact handy, as that is the only centre that can help you out in case of any emergency (Passport Lost / Stolen, Instability in visiting country or any other event)

To get Indian Embassy Information Click here

Passports alone do not guarantee a visit across borders, visa plays a crucial role in deciding the fate. You will read about visa in my next post.

Thanks for reading. I hope this gets you to understand your passport or get one. If you find this useful, would appreciate your comments below and do spread the word! 🙂

Be sure to poke me if you have any questions.

Indian but do not own a passport yet? Click here to get one

Know your Passport Seva Kendra (PSK)

Rishikesh – (S)piritual or (A)drenalin?

These 2 words come straight out of dictionary to describe Rishikesh. A place where your soul would feel confused to go for divinity or rush. Read on to pacify your hormones.

A city situated in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, among the foothills of Himalayas. The sacred river Ganges flows through, making it one amazing destination to visit.

I had my visit here back in April 2017 from a warm Punjab Trip. The city was dotted with pilgrims, adventure-seekers, confused travelers & lots of locals. With scores of devotee flags and people enchanting ‘Jai Mata Di’ (Hail the Goddess), the place was seeming eternal. Tourist season was in full-flow & all hotels & stays were overbooked. Package tour operators were not even entertaining customers as they were enjoying the season with both hands.

Tip: Booking early will save you money!

Rishikesh, as the name suggests, is a land of sages and saints who visited in ancient times. Rishikesh is also known as ‘The Yoga Capital of the world’ as it has a number of yoga & meditation centres to learn & practice. People throng here & stay for months if not days just to attain perfection in this field. Consequently though, they turn into a regular visitor.

 

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(In pic above: One of the most sought after activity in Rishikesh, Yoga!)

TheTwin National Heritage Cities’ of India are Rishikesh and Haridwar. The topology of Rishikesh encompasses hilly terrain, mountainous range & a beautiful river flowing in between. The nature sets in to give you a spectacle. Spiritually speaking, the place has lots of temples, pilgrim stories & sacred places to visit.

This place is as ideal it could get, well suited for all types of travellers. Pilgrimage and spirituality invites old-age travellers with families. Adventure activities pull young couples, solo travellers and foreign tourists.

Pilgrims flock here to witness the evening ganga aarti at Parmarth Niketan Ghat and take a holy dip in the sacred Ganges, considered a step closer to attain Moksha or freedom.

 

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(In pic above: Rafting in the ganges in Rishikesh)

There are a lots of adventure sports provider to cater & satisfy the adrenalin gushing inside you. Camping in nature and staying under stars is the ideal way to go! (This comes straight out of an ideal dream, but hey, you can do this actually)

Caution: Do not forget to check operator’s licence when you go for adventure activities, do it from a trusted brand or entity, they should be registered with concerned authorities

Rishikesh displays a perfect balance & calmness for all type of travellers, as they criss-cross the streets & walk through those same by-lanes of the shopping markets. More often, you will see more foreign nationals, making people confused what this city is offering them (I bet you need to explore this place).

Must noteNon-Veg Food & Alcohol is not permitted due to religious importance of the place.

Lakshman Jhula is one of the iconic spots of Rishikesh (at a distance of 5kms from city centre). It is an iron suspension bridge over river Ganges which connects two villages of Tapovan & Jonk. The other one is Ram Jhula, situated 2kms away from this place.

A number of meditation centres, spa centres, expedition points and ayurveda centres are located in this area. It is termed as the main activity spot of the city, as it keeps buzzing through the day.

The city is a starting point for the famous Char-Dham Yatra (Four sacred-place expedition) of Badrinath (Lord Vishnu), Kedarnath (Lord Shiva), Yamunotri (Origin of River Yamuna from Yamunotri Glacier) & Gangotri (Origin of River Ganga from Gangotri Glacier) where scores of pilgrims participate to experience the thrill.

 

For tourists into pilgrimage & divinity:
Place to Visit Entry Fee (INR)
Tera Manzil Temple Free
Neelkanth Mahadev Temple Free
Sivananda Ashram Free
Beatles Ashram Free
Laxman Jhula Free
Ram Jhula Free

One can book stays at ashram too, which provide budget accommodation. Few of them are Madhuban Ashram, Yoga Niketan Ashram, Parmarth Niketan Ashram

 

For adventure-seekers in Rishikesh, below is your list
Things to do Cost (INR)
Camping Starts from 1,300
River Rafting Starts from 800
Bungee Jumping Starts from 3,500
Flying Fox Starts from 1,800
Giant Swing Starts from 3,500
Jungle Safari Starts from 1,100
Rajaji National Park 150 (Indians), 600 (Non-Indians)

Few places from where you can book your adventure activities are Haridwar Rishikesh Tourism, River Rafting in Rishikesh, Jumpin Heights

Additionally,

  • Cost may vary for different operators
  • I suggest you to take combo of above activities as it will cost you cheaper by 10%-15%
  • There are restrictions on who can do these activities. Check before you book as it depends on a person’s medical condition, age & height. (Several factors you see!)
  • The cost of river rafting depends on the length (distance) of the activity chosen.
  • Other adventure activities include Cliff Jumping, Body Surfing, Trekking

 

Therefore, i would highly recommend you a trip to Rishikesh, covering all this city has to offer, from soaking the purity & divinity in the air, to performing yoga & meditation at its centres, rafting along its scariest patches & sleeping under the stars besides the same river. Trust me, you will re-discover yourself. (and do not forget me, Phew)

I am certain you would have made up your mind to explore Rishikesh. Let me know what makes you pack by commenting below.

12 ways to Pack smartly, Travel smartly & not feel carrying a cupboard!

We all love to travel & explore places. But have you ever given a thought that the baggage we take with us hampers our energy & memories just because you have to carry it everywhere. There is no denying that only you have to carry it for yourself, so why not make it light & travel freely all around.

No chik-chik, no jhik-jhik.

Let’s delve into how you should make the maximum productive use of every inch available inside your bag without carrying those extra clothes which you never wear on the trip.

“You see some clothes just hang around with you in your trip & comeback home safely without getting touched. But the best part is, they travelled a new place”

So there is no point taking those extras, you can still get a coolie at the station or a carrier at airport, but in your hotel room, it’s you who have to pick that suitcase up & keep on the bed (Bad Practice though! I just said it, I don’t do it, neither should you)

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Manage stuffs in a way that brings out the best in you, avoiding hassles of planning days before on what to take & what to leave behind. Just pack & leave by following these simple guidelines. It is not a standard one-size-fits all, but more or less common to every traveller. It also depends on the type of travel like leisure, business, adventure or any other type of excursion.

1. Always keep your clothes folded in a proper way & not jumbled like you have just thrown them in a dustbin. Folded & well-kept clothes yield more space.

2. Take a maximum of 2 pair of Jeans (keep in mind that you are wearing one while travelling), as these are immortal products which never expire nor they retire (we say rough & tough), until you try to tear one yourself to make it look fashionable. You can wear lots of Tees on a single pair of jeans.

3. Always place your Jeans or Towel at the base of the travelling bag, as they are somewhat sturdy pieces of items that are used the least when you are on the move.

4. If you have a hotel booking or are going to make one, the towel you carry becomes redundant, as it is already provided by the hotel. So be sure to avoid carrying it for no reason.

5. Take Handkerchiefs & not cloth napkins, as they are made of pure cotton, dry easily & beyond a doubt slimmer when folded well. Cloth Napkins on the other hand look stuffy.

6. Keep all your toiletries in a well-maintained kit & not plastic bags. The reason behind is plastics bags assume the shape of the stuff kept within, which looks very bad & shabby plus it has a risk of getting torn which may lead to liquids oozing out of it, while kits have more space, have sections according to the things you want on your travel, like shaving kit, toothbrush, toothpaste, face creams, cosmetics etc.

7. Keep paper soaps and not a full soap, to wash your hands. This will save a lot of space as paper soaps are nothing but thin sheets.

8. Keep more T-Shirts rather than Shirts, as they are easy to fold & are comparatively lighter. Shirts on the other hand, are clumsy to maintain, as they have to be kept-well till arrival (as you can’t risk wearing a shabby looking shirt when you arrive, but t-shirts mostly remain intact)

9. The biggest load of all, your footwear. Try to take cloth-made footwear (canvas shoes) over leather-ones as they are light in weight & easy to carry & fold. If you are going to wear just one pair throughout your journey (not recommended at all, as it might stink after a few days), then you can wear the same while you travel & not keeping in the travel bag. Take a max of 2 pairs of footwear (again wearing one while traveling)

10. If you traveling to a cold climate destination, wear a handy jacket on way to avoid stuffing it your baggage. Even if you have to put it in your bag, don’t fold, rather keep it open, as it takes more space when folded & becomes bulky.

11. If you require a neck pillow, carry ones which can be inflated at the time of use. Cushion neck pillows take unnecessary space when not in use.

12. Do not carry heavy DSLR’s (forget this point if you are obsessed with your thing or are a professional photographer) if you have got a worthy smart phone camera. These days mobile cameras are well equipped and they take superb pictures.

P.S. According to different travel styles, airlines come up with estimated baggage you carry on their flights by doing an analysis of what travellers mostly carry in their bags. This table helps you to plan out & save your money on extra weight. This is highly recommended for people who look for weighing machines after packing their suitcases, and guessing how much will the suitcase weigh? Any guesses?

You might have never come across this table below. (I mean come on, who weighs clothes & other travel stuffs! Ridiculous!) So I weighed it for you, to decide how much you can carry.

Items Weight (in Kg)
A Jacket 1-1.5
A Pair of Jeans 0.4
A Shirt / T-shirt 0.1
A Typical Empty Suitcase 3-4
A Travel Backpack 1.5-2.5
A Shoe Pair (Cloth) 0.75-1
A Shoe Pair (Leather) 1.5-2
A Shoe Pair (Running Shoes) 1-1.5
A Laptop 2-2.5
A DSLR Camera 0.75-1.25
A Travel Kit 0.5
A Towel 0.25-0.5
A Leather Belt 0.2

 

From the table above, you can easily figure out your post-packing suitcase weight sitting at home.

If you are travelling for a wedding, thanks for reading so far, none of this applies on you. 🙂

The only suggestion is to travel by train or road, so that you won’t get charged for that extra luggage.

I tried to cover most of the essentials which these days traveller carry. Let me know your experiences about packing, I am sure you will be having some crazy ideas. Comment below & spread it to the world.

Travel PitStops – April

Travel Camper

Traveling & Exploring is never limited to time or season. It is always the best time to travel, should you have the intent to freshen up & ignite your thoughts. So gear up, throw some stuffs inside your bag and make a move.

I am gonna tell you one domestic & one international destination to visit this month to escape the scorching summers (in some parts of the country!) in my First Article of the Monthly Travel PitStops Series.

Within India:

Darjeeling

Locked in the northern parts of West Bengal, the Elite British summer capital, Darjeeling is just at the footsteps of the Himalayas. Mount Kanchenjunga frames its backdrop. The place is known for its scenic beauty & tea plantations along its slopes. The world-famous ‘Toy Train’ operated by Darjeeling Himalayan Railways is accorded the UNESCO World Heritage status & it has been operating since 1881.

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(In Pic Above: The majestic & thrilling Darjeeling ‘Toy Train’)

How to Travel?

The nearest airport is Bagdogra & nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri (Station Code: NJP). After reaching you can travel by road (75kms, approx. 2.5 hours) or train. A train runs every morning @ 8.30 from New Jalpaiguri (Station Code: NJP) to Darjeeling (Station Code: DJ) (Even the station code sounds musical).

It is always advised to make your bookings quite early to avoid last-minute rush & any disappointment.

The Toy train booking too can be done from IRCTC Website. It runs between 2 sections: Darjeeling-Ghum & Siliguri-Rangtong Jungle Safari.

Now this piece of information can be quite an amuse but important too, read on. The Toy Train rides are always booked roundtrip, visit IRCTC Website and in ‘From Station’ put Darjeeling (Station Code: DJ) & in ‘To Station’ put To Darjeeling (Station Code: DJRZ) & not Ghum. Similarly for Jungle safari Toy Train, input ‘From Station’ as Siliguri Jn (Station Code: SGUJ) & in ‘To Station’ To Siliguri Jn (Station Code: SGUD). The Jungle Safari train is highly seasonal, so you may need to contact the desk before confirming your travel dates. Excited?

 Book your tickets!

What to do & visit?

You can do Trekking, which can range for hours or days if you choose to. You can choose a road trip to Sandakphu which offers superb views of peaks. One can travel to Singalila Forest to do safari. You can pay a visit to The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Museum, Batasia Loop, War Memorial, Peace Pagoda, Barbatia Rock Garden, Shruberry Nightingale Park, Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Bhutia Busti Monastery, Senchal Lake

Tip: Take your sports shoe, as you have to do a lot of walking where vehicles can’t go!

Clothing: We do not have option to rent winter clothing, hence it is suggested to carry woollens like jackets, muffler, gloves to protect from evenings which get chilly by night.

Temperatures: Range from 10oC to 20oC

Fact: Darjeeling is home to Asia’s largest ropeway, Rangit Valley Ropeway!

Want to read about India in detail? India – United, Diverse, Unexplored

 

Outside India

South Africa:

Remember Shakira’s song, “It’s time for Africa”, yes, it is. It’s a country of diversity & offers a lot to its tourists. Major cities are, Cape Town (is the Legislative Capital, yes they have different judicial & administrative capitals), Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria (Administrative Capital), Bloemfontein (Judicial Capital) & Durban. The country is rich in green cover & is home to dense ecologies. Jungle Safari & Forest Tours are a must here.

 

CapeTown

(In Pic Above: An aerial view of Cape Town City with Table Mountain at the backdrop)

How to Travel?

Major Airports across the world have daily connections to Johannesburg, Cape Town & Durban. The national domestic airlines fly to other cities within the country.

What to do & visit?

You can visit Kruger National Park, Table Mountain National Park, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape of Good Hope, Robben Island, Gold Reef City, Tsitsikama National Park, Mossel Bay, Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, Sun City, Apartheid Museum, Cradle of Humankind, Bloukrans Bridge (Famous Site for Bungee), Big Hole (A Diamond Mine Pit). The adventure activities you can do are Abseiling Down, Explore Cango Caves, Kayaking, Bungee Jumping, Zip-Lining, Shark-Cage Diving, Skydiving.

Tip: Kruger National Park is prone to malaria-mosquitoes, I would suggest to wear full covered clothing at the time of visit.

Clothing: Keep a jacket handy, although it is pleasant at this time of the year. You will be fine with light clothing having Tees, Jeans.

Temperatures: Range from 12oC to 22oC

Currency: South African Rand (1 SAR = INR 5.5 approx. at the time of writing)

Driving: Left side of the road, right hand drive

Visa: Check visa rules & fee for your country here! It may vary depending on the type of passport you hold.

Fact: South Africa is home to Lesotho, a country within a country (seriously!)

 

Guys, this is all about this month’s Travel PitStops Series, which is eventually my first article of the series, from next month onwards, I’ll make sure to publish this on very 1st of the month so that it becomes easy to plan your month in advance.

Let me know your thoughts about the blog. If you want me to add any other details going forward in this series, just comment below & don’t forget to subscribe! Kindly share with people who are intending to travel to these destinations.

Want to know about another international destination? Dubai – A truly cosmo-global city!