Every Indian citizen who has traveled abroad is familiar with the travails of obtaining a visa to visit most countries in the world. This is true for South America too. When Swami and I first planned our trip, we were caught in the spirit of wanderlust inspired by scores of other travel bloggers. But of course, most of these travel bloggers came from ‘western’ countries, or countries whose citizens enjoy the freedom to travel to most places in the world without a visa. The reality came crashing down upon us in the last few weeks and I’ve been prowling the net for accounts by fellow Indians.
The deluge of paperwork, formalities, consular interviews that are more befitting a court of law, the time, money and effort spent in going to consulates can drive anyone insane. And to make things worse, the internet doesnt have a whole lot of information about other people’s experiences. Its surely something to bemoan about, but we must consider ourselves fortunate to be able to travel this way in the first place, so we try to take it in stride and do the best we can.
As our date of travel approaches (Dec 4th, 2011), the need for prompt and efficient action is imminent where visas are concerned. Overnight, our living room starts to look like the command central of a records office. Timing is key. If you get your visas too early, there may be a rule requiring that we enter within 90 days. If you get it too late, then you risk not getting the visa at all. How is one to plan an independent backpacking trip then? Can such a trip still be considered to be in the “its-all-up-in-the-air” variety?
The good news is, my searches on the internet for accounts by similar people have not been futile. There is a great thread on the lonely planet thorntree forums that sees active participation from highly spirited, perseverant and inspiring folks who dont give up in the face of absurd visa rules and regulations that require you to use up the trees! I have also come across some Indian travel bloggers.
So now, I will be adding to that pool of information. I went to SF today and visited the Peru, Chile and Colombian consulate in San Francisco (all blessedly within 5 blocks of each other – 2 in the same building on the same floor) and will publish detailed posts about my experiences at each consulate.