SJ Mobilità Travel Diaries

July 24, 2020

Have you been to the Tropical Paradise – Sri Lanka?

Filed under: Travel,Visa — jani @ 5:31 pm

My first flight was an international trip to Sri Lanka (SL) and it was a very nervous experience as I was flying for the first time. Even though I was accompanied by the UK diplomat it was a lonely experience as we didn’t know each other. I did visit SL 2-3 times on official trip, however since I travelled alone most of the time, I was too scared to step out, it was just the room service at Cinnamon Grand (CG) where we were staying and my office.

Luckily during one of the trips my team lead had accompanied me, it was such a relief as we explored the seafood restaurant (The Lagoon). Being a seafood lover, I had the best sea food and had an excellent service, other than the cutlerys’ being too heavy.
If you are in CG do go to the Sri Lanka cuisine restaurant (Nuga Gama) in CG. The set up is so beautiful. You don’t feel you are in CG, the set up is done like a typical SL village and the locals were serving the authentic cuisine, it’s an amazing experience.

Since I never got to explore it properly even after 3 visits earlier, a year ago we planned a vacation to SL with two of my friends.

The beauty of SL is that you don’t feel you are entering another country as it’s too close to India and it’s very much similar. There are times immigration officers tell me that I look like a Sri Lankan and then when I hand over the Indian Passport they look surprised. The people are extremely friendly and here again I had to take the help of Santosh to help us arrange and now I trust him blindly after such an amazing Bhutan trip. Since we were just three, he arranged someone locally (Mr. Gayan) to take care of everything. We were lucky to have him and as usual I would credit, such a beautiful experience and memories to Santosh from Exotic Expeditions (EE) for making this trip so beautiful and memorable. His contact details are as below

Santosh Nair – +91 9986450370 – contact@exoticexpeditions.org – www.exoticexpeditions.org

Special thanks to Gayan, our local guide in making sure everything was taken care of and ensuring we had an memorable experience.

About Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean southwest of the Bay of Bengal and southeast of the Arabian Sea. It is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is its legislative capital, and Colombo is its largest city and centre of commerce.

Visa:

Apply ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) through the following website –

http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/

Travel Itinerary:

Day 1: We arrived in Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo and Gayan was already waiting for us. After a few hours of drive, we headed to Golden Rock Cave temple, in Dambulla which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Recognized as a sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries, this cave monastery, a vast isolated rock mass with its five caverns is the largest best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka. The Buddhist mural paintings (covering an area of 2,100 sq. meters) are of particular importance as are the 157 statues including a 47-foot long statue of the recumbent Buddha. Be prepared for steps which are thin, steep and might be slippery especially when you come down, you need to be extremely careful. Then we headed for a lunch buffet closeby and even though I am not a big fan of vegetarian food, I have to still credit for the fresh vegetables and spinach that were served. It was so fresh and delicious. I just loved the vegetarian fare buffet there which was served in a clay pot, which enhanced the flavor more.

Then we headed to our beautiful home stay, where I felt like I was in Kerala, as it was an independent house with lots of greenery around and had a beautiful garden as well. The homestay, we felt at home and the staff was extremely friendly and hospitable. After dumping the luggage in the room we headed for Minneriya National Park. It was an awesome jeep ride and this place you can spent hours and hours as you would see lot of elephants, elephants and elephants. Also you have a view point with a lake nearby and you won’t know how the time flies. When we returned we stopped at a local dessert shop to pick up some local snack items and then headed back to the homestay, had dinner and rested.

Day 2: After breakfast we headed to Sigriya, a 5th Century “Fortress in the Sky”. Built by King Kassapa the fortress was a Royal Citadel for more than 18 years be prepared for a nice hike and lots of lots of stairs, monkeys etc. Don’t be disappointed if you had to climb all the way and find just a painting of a woman topless. We did hear a foreigner saying, did I come here all the way to see boobies and even that doesn’t look good. Remember this is an old historic painting. Let’s respect that as painting fades as time flies. Then after a short break in between, we had a further climb, which is called Lion’s Paw. The majestic Lion’s Paw picturesquely guards the stairway of the palace on the summit. My friends ditched me here, as they were too tired, hence I had to climb alone and the stairs are well done, and the summit point had a beautiful view.

Enroute we visited the Spice Garden in Matale, we spent few hours learning the benefits of various herbs, did a shopping of herbal products. By then we were too hungry and found some place on the way as spice garden luncheon was shut as it was late and we had to grab a quick leftovers from lunch buffet closeby as they were about to shut as well.

We reached the hotel, had a tea break and then headed to a nearby Buddha temple in the night. It looked so beautiful as the Buddha statue was white in color and with the moon light, we could see even from far. It’s a little on a slope. So we spent an hour there, observing the monks, spent some time in the temple campus and we left.

Day 3: After breakfast we left for Kandy, enroute, we headed to The Kandy Lake built in 1807 and the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, which are some of the key jewels of the town that elevate its magnificence. It’s a huge place and worth visiting. After a good lunch close to the botanical garden, we went to visit the famous Temple of the Tooth which houses the most sacred religious relic, the tooth of the Buddha. This is the place never to be missed and the serenity of the place and all around people praying, is a site you just feel one with God, no matter which ever religion/god that you follow/worship.

Day 4: After breakfast we went for a shopping to pick up Sri Lankan saree and after a quick lunch, we went to to catch the train to Nuwara Eliya, however since it was too crowded we couldn’t succeed in getting in. This was recommended by Santosh as train ride to this place would be the best experience. My suggestion, do pre book the tickets, otherwise it’s tough to get in, it was a situation similar to Mumbai local trains. Then we visted Hanuman temple on the way and Sumathi was trying to get an gift accessory of Ravan, but she couldn’t as she was surprised how the country of Ravan didn’t have one. Then we drove to Nuwara Eliya, we reached late night to a beautiful hill station. It was cold comparing to other places. We stepped out for lunch, however many were shut due to the holiday season, grabbed a quick meal from a shady place and we headed to the hotel.

Day 5: After breakfast, we headed to Mirissa, enroute we had stopped at Sita Temple, passed through beautiful hill town of Ella and Bandarawale. We did stop to buy good tea around. Late evening we reached Mirissa. This was beautiful and got an amazing room with a huge balcony. We had a quick dinner and rested.

Day 6: After breakfast, we went for a whale watching boat trip and it was worth doing that, we did see 2-3 whales and enjoyed the beach a little, then had a little break, found an amazing seafood restaurant and finally I was glad that I found the right place where the tables were placed near the beach and enjoyed a delicious sea food platter. I expected every where there would be sea food then I realized, the sea food is more in Mirissa and other places mostly its fresh vegetables.

Day 7: After breakfast, we went to Weligama Fort and then in the afternoon went for a river safari, we stopped to see how cinnamon barks are prepared for commercial purpose, got some cinnamon oils (apparently it has lot of health benefits) and stopped for a fish spa. That was a funny experience and more embarrassing for me as my friends started to giggle and laugh loudly with funny sounds as it was tigglish. I was trying not look at the guide’s face as they were laughing looking at these two’s expression. After that wonderful experience, we headed back to the room and rested.

Day 8: After breakfast we left for Colombo, enroute stopped at Bentota beach, which is the famous beach and more commercial one, we did visit few churches as it was a Good Friday and then reached the hotel. Once we checked in, we went to Galle beach, enjoyed the night food market (lots and lots of snacks made of sea food etc) near the beach. We had fun and then went back to the hotel and rested.

Day 9: After breakfast we checked out, went to Independence square and then went to the mall close by to do a quick shopping and grabbed our lunch. Judy was insisting to visit a church as it was Holy Saturday, so we stopped a church nearby, said our prayers and left from there. It started raining badly, so we had to rush to the airport to avoid any delay. Finally we reached the airport in the evening amidst a heavy rain. We boarded the flight late night and reached Bangalore early morning of Easter Sunday since Judy wanted to spend the Easter with her parents. So Sur also ensured to reach by Sunday early morning from Paris as he had been there for an official visit. By the time we hit the bed it was 4 AM.

My phone started ringing so early on a Sunday and I was surprised to see my ex colleagues calling me continuously which was unusual, finally I had to take the calls as it was ringing non-stop from friends asking me where I am and whether we were ok. When I informed them we were back from SL early morning they were relieved as they conveyed the message of bomb blast in SL on Easter Sunday. It just broke my heart, thinking how could someone think of destroying the peace of such a peace loving country and took the lives of innocent ones, leaving many of them in sorrow on a Easter Sunday. I was angry at the people who had done this evil act. However my heart went out for those who lost their loved ones and I had to console myself and say a prayer for all the people who lost their loved ones and pray for the departed souls to rest in peace. I just prayed for the country and it’s people to come out of this tragedy and be back to the peace loving people and country as they always have been.

Sri Lanka is home away from home. The people are peace loving and so warm. Even though the trip to SL will feel like you have not stepped out of India, this tropical paradise is quite different in their culture, values and people are warm and peace loving. If you have not visited, do that as soon as the borders are open after the Covid. You will be taken to another paradise. Don’t miss this tropical paradise ever.

Until then Stay Safe…………..

July 17, 2020

Why should you travel to Bhutan, the Happiest and Safest Country in the World?

Filed under: Travel,Visa — jani @ 5:25 pm

When the travel bug bit me, the first country that I visited for a vacation was Bhutan. I was in love with Bhutan from the time I read about it and later when I visited and experienced myself, the love was justified. The Royal family, their leaders and it’s people work together as one family to ensure that the country remains the happiest in the world. This is also the only Carbon Negative country in the world due to their various initiatives to save and retain their environment. My admiration grew multifold when I read about the current King (Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck) how he ensures to meet each person from the country during the tea break, to hear their concerns and find a solution to ensure every citizen in their country is taken care of. Bhutan people are lucky to have such a humble King, his family and his team whose only intention is to take care of his people. My love and prayers are with them.

Bhutan people are very warm and hospitable and I have never even heard anyone raising their voice or being hyper. I did have an experience where I was so annoyed when I got an used towel in a hotel but after looking at their smiling face with their apologies I just couldn’t say anything or stay angry with them. I just accepted the apology and returned. Till now I don’t know how did I act so cool at that situation as I knew how annoyed I was. That’s the impact of Bhutan and it just makes you one like them.

I get over paranoid while traveling cause I worry about women safety, this is the country which gave me 100% confidence that you have nothing to worry about. The people behave so responsibly and never take advantage of any situation. They try to help you out of their way. They are not just beautiful outside, they are amazing and beautiful inside too. That’s what sets them apart.

My apologies to the people of Bhutan, this is for the incident where Indian bikers had climbed on a memorial which was a worshipping place for Bhutanese. On behalf of India, my sincere apologies.

My request to every person who travels to this country – people in Bhutan are so warm, full of love and extremely hospitable. Don’t ever take advantage of them and try to hurt in anyway. Be respectful and if you are not sure just ask them, they would be happy to help. But please don’t hurt such beautiful people of Bhutan, instead learn from them to respect, love and welcome everyone with open arms and they ensure everyone has a safe, pleasant and memorable stay in Bhutan.

This would go on and on and I wouldn’t be able to stop writing about them…..So let me put a forceful full stop and discuss other things about Bhutan which I would like to write about.

About Bhutan:

Bhutan, officially known as the Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked country in South Asia. Thimphu is its capital and the largest city, while Phuntsholing is its financial center. It’s a land of snow capped mountains, deep, broad valleys with fertile rice paddies and orchards, tiny villages and bustling market towns. Yet the south is covered in jungle and more reminiscent of India than the Himalayas.

Bhutan is a thoroughly exotic country that stimulates all of the senses. Anyone who visits this Himalayan heaven marvels at its untouched natural beauty and unique culture. Bhutan is mainly Buddhist, as is evident from the many dzongs (monasteries), chortens (stupa’s) and prayer flags scattered all across the country. Bhutan opened to modern development only very recently and tourism is permitted only to the extent that it does not endanger the kingdom’s traditional culture and society. Therefore only a few thousand visitors visit the mountain kingdom every year. In Bhutan, “gross national happiness” takes precedence over economic considerations.

I had traveled to Bhutan few years back through Exotic Expeditions (EE). The entire credit goes to Santosh from EE for making this trip so beautiful and memorable. His contact details are as below..

Santosh Nair – +91 9986450370 – contact@exoticexpeditions.org

(www.exoticexpeditions.org)

Visa formalities:

Indian nationals intending to visit Bhutan are required to carry any of the two valid ‘Travel Documents’ (a) Valid Indian Passport having validity of minimum 6 months; and/or (b) Voter Identity Card, issued by the Election Commission of India. No Visa is required to visit Bhutan.

Indians coming to Bhutan by road are required to obtain an ‘Entry Permit’ on the basis of valid Travel Document from the Immigration Office of Royal Government of Bhutan at Phuentsholing, located on the Indo-Bhutan border opposite Jaigaon, West Bengal. Similarly, Indians coming by air must posses any one of the above mentioned Travel Document and get the Entry Permit at the Paro International Airport. The ‘entry permit’ allows an Indian tourist to visit Thimphu and Paro only.

However, any tourist going beyond Thimphu and Paro need to acquire a ‘special area permit’ from the RGoB Immigration Office at Thimphu on any working days (Monday to Friday).

Their application is one of the easiest visa application form and you can fill it up directly at the Immigration office (hardly you would take a minute) and wait for your biometrics taken and your approval permit is granted immediately. I don’t think any other country has such an easier and faster process.

Note: Immigration policies keeps getting changed, hence do check for the recent updates before you travel. For few nationalities it’s recommended to book through licensed operator in Bhutan only and they would take care of your permit as well. Always go through the right person, there is no short cuts for being compliant and ensuring you have a safe travel.

Travel Itinerary

Day 1 : We were a group of 13-15 for this trip. The group from Bangalore had booked an Air India flight before we booked, hence we had to book the same to make it easier for Santosh to pick us all together in Bagdogra. As usual after much delay from AI and we finally arrived in Bagdogra (West Bengal) in the afternoon. Santosh was waiting to receive us in 4 Innovas and we started our journey. From Bagdogra to Jaigaon (Indian side of the border), the roads were bumpy and in poor condition.

After a few hours of drive, we stopped for tea and snacks on the way before we hit the road again to reach Jaigoan. Finally late evening we reached Jaigoan and we could see Bhutan Gate lighted up so beautifully and it just felt like we were receiving a warm welcome. As we entered Phuntsholing, it was quieter and more orderly than Jaigaon which was bustling and loud. We reached the hotel at night and had a quick dinner and crashed for the night.

Day 2: After breakfast, we had to go to the immigration office in Phuntsholing as we needed the permit to go further which was walkable distance from the hotel. We reached, finished the process quickly. The staffs at the Immigration were so supportive and helpful that made the process even quicker. Then we left to explore the town as Santosh had to get permits for the drivers and vehicles which took a little longer.

So we returned and started walking around the street near the hotel. We entered the grocery shops and then we found the peach wine in Bhutan, we just couldn’t stop drinking as it was too good. We went around to visit Zangto Pelri Lhakhang, which is a Bhuddist temple in Phuntsholing. We had checked out of the hotel, loaded the luggage in the cars and started towards Thimphu (Capital of Bhutan) for the next 5 hours drive.

Since the weather was cold, we had to stop in multiple places for the Suja (butter tea) and then we also got to try Ema Datshi (Chilli & Cheese), Lom (turnip leaves), Momos, Chogo (dried yak cheese, more like rock which is an acquired taste) on our journey.

As we were reaching Thimbu, we wanted to stop for a tea break and it was so foggy and we couldn’t find many pitstops, there was just one house which had a light and when we entered there was a lady and her children. They got us some tea and we picked up some snacks from their little shop which was inside their house. I was shocked that the shop was part of their house, tea was made in their own kitchen, the little grocery shop was set up in their living room itself. I was surprised how could they allow strangers in their house late night  and the house was alone and only women. Also we found men who stopped there for a drink, they just had a shot and walked out so gracefully, also few stopped for tea and snacks.

This is what I love about them, the respect, love and how they take care of each other. Then I realized we were in Bhutan and I wouldn’t have experienced such a safe experience anywhere and I know now, and I convincingly can say Bhutan is the safest country in the world.

After such a wow experience we reached Thimbhu and then I find my suitcase was missing as somehow it got left behind in our previous hotel. So I had to rush to the shop to get the toiletries and other emergency items as it was too late, the shops just had 15 minutes to close and even though we couldn’t communicate due to language barrier, we still picked up and the staff were waiting for us to finish the shopping and they didn’t even show that they are in a hurry to shut the shop and they also helped us by getting us things not available in their shop from the neighboring shops and then had to borrow some clothes from Sur (Friend and now my partner). In the meantime Santosh was trying to figure out how did my suitcase went missing and he assured me nothing will go missing in Bhutan. As he said we later got to know that the suitcase was in the same hotel lobby, as all our luggage were together, this suitcase went behind a vase and got hidden, when we were all trying to load in the vehicles we just assumed all the luggage were taken and then later it got arranged to get back in Paro.

Then came to the room and we discover the dirty towel had been folded and kept and I was so annoyed, it happened for two of us and I had to give a piece of mind to the reception as it was late and only they were available and I had to confront them. I went and complained and there were only two teenagers who was there during the night shift. They started apologising with such a warm smile, I don’t remember how my annoyance disappeared and I accepted their apologies and got a fresh towel and returned to the room. So this is the impact that Bhutan has on you, as people in Bhutan are warm and patient and I have never heard anyone raising their voice and it makes you one like them.

Day 3 : After breakfast we explored the sights of Thimphu visiting the Buddha Dordenma – gigantic Buddha statue, which is world’s largest sitting Bhuddha, that overlooks the city. Then we visited Thimphu National Memorial Chorten, Clock tower square, and then headed to Motitang Takin Preserve to see the rare and unique national animal of Bhutan, the Takin. It’s a small place, so don’t except to see so many animals.

Just out of Thimphu, the road begins a steep, twisty climb to the Dochu La pass at 3,450 meters. We stopped on top of Dochu-La pass  for the breathtaking views of the eastern Himalayas, 108 memorial chortens or stupas known as “Druk Wangyal Chortens” which had been built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother of the country. The top of the pass is visibly marked by a large Bhutanese chorten and prayer flags, an ideal place for photography and such a beautiful place. The road down from Dochu La into the Punakha Valley and on to Wangdi Phodrang goes on for some distance, descending 1,700 meters to the valley floor. We reached Punakha by late evening after 2.5 hrs drive and the hotel was such a beautiful place. Had a great dinner and got some rest.

Day 4 : After breakfast we visited Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility temple built in 1499 by lama Drukpa Kunley. A short but beautiful walk through the villages and fields takes you to Chimi Lakhang. This city will make you smile, because you would see everywhere the murals of phalluses and the facades are filled with the painting of gigantic phalluses with the spray of sperms which was interesting. You also have accessories with the same which you buy and even the restaurants had a wooden phallus at the entrance where we stopped for lunch, which was overlooking the field. Here again we had lost patience as the food was taking hours and hours to reach the table. Sometimes the main came and the side dish was missing. After 2-3 hours we had to rush out with whatever was given as we were getting late. So I had to go to the kitchen and tell them to hurry up. The only consolation here was beautiful overview of the field.

Later we visited Punakha Dzong, arguably the most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan located between two rivers and surrounded by jacaranda trees is a delight to watch. It just feels amazing to walk on that road and awesome place for picture perfect photographs as well.

Also we took a walk across the largest walking bridge in Bhutan. This suspension bridge is beautiful and set amidst the mountains and the flowing river beneath and we also had our snacks break on the other side of the bridge and returned back. After 4 hrs of drive we reached Paro by evening.

Day 5 : After breakfast we drove to the starting point and prepared for our hike to the legendary Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) – a magnificent monastery. You can hire a horse half way and then you can hike the remaining distance. Since we wanted to hike the whole way, we didn’t take the horse. Sur was hiking along with me and there was a horse which was coming down, I think it just felt of stretching the leg without any provocation and it kicked Sur on the thigh and by the time we realized what just happened horse went down as usual. Sur somehow managed to hike with his painful leg. It was a very relaxed trek and the monastery was so beautiful and had stunning views. Midway we stopped for lunch and we saw quite a few beautiful birds and then returned back by evening. Then headed to National Museum and went back to the hotel. There I got the good news that my suitcase had finally arrived intact.

Day 6 : After Breakfast we travelled for 3 hours to the beautiful Haa Valley . The drive to Haa valley crosses 3988m Chele-la pass, from where you have a superb views of Mount. Jhomolhari & Jichu Drakey. The quaint valley is enchanting with mountains and apple orchards. It’s like a small township, but a really charming place with traditional Bhutanese houses. We visited the 7th century Lhakhang Karpo (White temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo  (Black temple) at the foothills of a venerated three brotherly mountains known as Meri Puensum and then headed back to the homestay, which was a traditional Bhutanese house, it was run by an old couple and we had an amazing hospitality. We went around and everyone was inviting us to sit and spend time with them, was offered tea without even asking us. Mostly there were senior citizens. We just felt we were with the our own grandparents and felt home. After an delicious lunch, laughter, fun and talk we went to rest late night.

Day 7 : We woke up to the beautiful and stunning  apple orchards around. After breakfast we drove back to Siliguri (West Bengal) through the mountains of Bhutan and then got down to the plains of north Bengal. We just chilled and rested for the night.

Day 8 : After breakfast we were dropped at Bagdogra Airport to return home.

Our beautiful and memorable Bhutan trip ended, but every moment we spent there remains a life time experience. If you have already visited, you are lucky, if not make a plan as soon the Bhutan opens it’s borders after the Covid.

Praying for you and your family’s good health. This too shall pass and we will soon be back to traveling. Until then STAY SAFE…..

December 27, 2019

Travelling to Antarctica?

Filed under: Travel,Visa — jani @ 12:42 pm

This is going to my first blog about my travel diaries, and it’s more exciting to start writing about Antarctica which remains a distant dream for many. I will try to cover as much details as possible to help the readers. Being an Immigration Expert, my target would be to guide more on the immigration/visa part as well for the international travel.

About Antarctica:

Antarctica, the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole, is a virtually uninhabited, ice-covered landmass. Most cruises to the continent visit the Antarctic Peninsula, which stretches toward South America. It’s known for the Lemaire Channel and Paradise Harbor, striking, iceberg-flanked passageways, and Port Lockroy, a former British research station turned museum. The peninsula’s isolated terrain also shelters rich wildlife, including many penguins.

Antarctica is not just one-time life experience and also this is the most expensive one. Hence it helps to plan well in advance. Ideal time for Antarctica is from November to March as that is the summer time there and it’s mostly undertaken by cruise, for which the embarkation point is Ushuaia, Argentina. There are other countries as well but we had settled with Ushuaia.

Cruise: Our cruise was from 9 nights and it was Antarctica – Discovery and Learning Voyage with M/V Hondius (Oceanic Expeditions) and our bookings started way back in March 2019. A friend of mine referred Mr. Prabhat from offbeat travel when we were telling her about our Antarctica plan. Since she referred personally, we went ahead and booked the trip through his company.  By the time we had finalized in April 2019, most of the lower categories of the cabin got sold out and we could get only the top 2nd and 3rd cabin which is Grand Suite with Private balcony and Junior Suite as 4 of us were travelling on a twin sharing basis.

Cruise Booking Contact: Mr. Prabhat Verma – prabhat@offbeat.travel – +91 9717704083

Visa: You don’t need a visa for Antarctica, however you need to apply for a tourist visa to Argentina as the cruise embarkation point is from Ushuaia. It’s a little nightmare to get the Argentina visa from India as you have to go through getting Spanish translations & notarizations etc. which came as a little surprise as even the Spain Embassy didn’t ask for it when I had applied for a visa last year in 2018.

ETA (Online): If the purpose is tourism then, you can apply for ETA – For the holders of Valid B2 US Visa (Valid for 6 months) OR For the holders of valid Category C Schengen Visa (Valid for 6 months)

Link: http://www.migraciones.gov.ar/ave/index.htm

Step 1: Pay the fees of USD 50 and there is receipt generated which carries the sticker number

Step 2: File ETA (login details will be your passport number and reference number which is the sticker number)

Note: When you upload the passport copies, do ensure to scan the entire pages of passport including the blank pages. In the same way if your valid US visa is in old passport then scan the entire old passport and submit. Please note, its recommended that the visa has to be valid for 6 months from the travel end date, otherwise there is a possibility of denial of ETA.

Processing Time: 20 working days

Validity: 3 months from Date of Issue with multiple entries

Contact: ave@migraciones.gov.ar

Tourist Visa at the Consulate: If you are applying in India, then you must apply at the New Delhi (If you are residing in states other than Maharashtra & Karnataka) or Mumbai (People residing in Maharashtra & Karnataka only)

Fee – Gratis for Indian Nationals

Documents Required:

  1. Passport: must be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the intended date of entry and have at least one completely free page left for the visa.
  2. A completed visa application form: (Refer the link below) Answer ALL questions BLOCK letters and fill with Blue Ink (Do enter the Aadhar details in the q.no 10 in application form (local id number details – Mandatory for Mumbai)           https://cnyor.cancilleria.gob.ar/userfiles/fsv_2019_ingles_editable.pdf
  3.  One recent passport style photograph (4X4 cm in white background)
  4. Confirmed Flight ticket (round trip)
  5. Confirmed Hotel reservation
  6. Personal bank statement of the last six months in original with seal and signature from the bank
  7. Cover Letter (English & Spanish): A letter explaining the purpose of your trip and the complete itinerary from the day you land to the day you depart. This letter must be notarized and duly translated into Spanish by a professional translator (the translation does not need to be notarized).
  8. HR letter from the employer (English & Spanish) A letter from your employer, authorizing the trip, confirming that you are currently employed by the company and for how long. This letter must be written on company letterhead, signed by the person in charge, notarized and duly translated into Spanish by a professional translator (the translation does not need to be notarized)
  • Contact for Translation – Ulka Ghorpade – ghorpade@anzsolutions.in – +91 9619622760
  • Notarization – Contact the local notary office, they would attest the English documents as Spanish is not required, if you wish you to do the Spanish, then the translation has to be signed by the translator with the seal and signature so that the notary people can sign as they wouldn’t know Spanish.
  1. Last month salary/pay-slip (Recommended last 3 months pay slips)
  2. Last 3 year’s Income Tax Return – ITR
  3. Company Id copy (Recommended)
  4. Insurance booking details for the entire trip (Neeru Dua – info@travelindiainc.com –9311530053) It’s mandatory for Antarctica, which has to be shared to the cruise while filling up the personal information form. Antarctica’s weather conditions can change in a minute, so its mandatory to get one, Mr. Prabhat from offbeat had recommended to book with Travel India Inc.

In our case there was a search and rescue operations that our vessel got involved while returning from Antarctica, as the Chilean aircraft C-130 Hercules crashed in drake passage enroute their Antarctica base. Our vessel was close by at that time hence Maritime board had asked to do the search and rescue until the Chilean Navy reaches which would take minimum 24 hours to reach the Drake Passage. So our vessel delayed to reach Ushuaia and many passengers had to reschedule their flights on their own as Vessel had issued the letter mentioning the reason for delay so that the insurance can refund the reschedule cost. Vessel had helped with the accommodation only.

  1. Aadhar card copy (Mandatory for Mumbai consulate)

Process:

  • Submit all the documents in person, it can be the applicant or anyone who is authorized to submit on your behalf. For Mumbai consulate, would recommend submitting in person as they can come up with varied requirements and even we were informed that the visa application form was incorrect when the same form was accepted by New Delhi. So it helps if the pax is present so that you can clarify if there are any concerns.
  • Submission Time:
    • 10-11 AM (New Delhi – Embassy of the Argentine Republic in New Delhi, F-3/3 Vasant Vihar, New Delhi 110057, India – +91 11 4078 1900)
    • 30-10.30 AM (Mumbai – General of the Argentine Republic in Mumbai (CHANDER MUKHI Building, 10TH Floor, NARIMAN POINT – MUMBAI, 400 021 Mumbai, India – +91 22 2287 1381/1383)
  • Status update within 72 hours on the below (For Mumbai consulate it would be updated in person) on any one of the points as mentioned below
    • If the application meets all the requirements then interview date is scheduled with the time, mostly it might be in person, sometimes it might be scheduled through whatsapp video call (Mumbai: the documents will be handed back to the person who went to ask for the status and it has to be re-submitted in the morning of the interview date by 10 AM)
    • If the application doesn’t meet the requirements, then it would be rejected and handed over the documents
    • If any additional documents are required then that would be communicated
  • Once the interview is done, they would update by when the passport would be ready for collection, usually it’s 5 working days from the interview date
  • Someone who is authorized can collect the passport with the authorization letter.

Note:

The authorization letter is required only while collecting the passport with visa, it’s not required for submission/status update

Applicant has to travel in person only if he/she is called for interview in person

Accommodation: It’s recommended that you reach in Ushuaia a day before the embarkation and also depart a day later to keep in mind for any exigencies. We had booked our stay in Mysten Kepen B&B in Ushuaia.

Airport Transfer: Mysten Kepen can arrange for the same for an additional cost, please note from our personal experience most of the taxi drivers in Ushuaia had charged as per meter which came much cheaper. Be prepared that in Argentina, very few spoke in English. Hence be prepared with google translator which would help with Spanish translation. However people are very friendly, helpful and they go out of their way to understand. In return it helps that we try to speak Spanish, that would be much appreciated as we can’t expect them to speak our language in their home country.

Flight: Most of the flights directly to Ushuaia are from New Delhi. We had booked the Ethiopia Airlines which was literally a marathon of almost 29 hours of flight to reach Ushuaia.

Ethiopia – Transit:

  • Transit visa is required only if the stopover is more than 12 hours or more
  • All the flights to Ushuaia goes to Buenos Aires (EZE – Ezeiza International Airport) which is the International Airport and then it goes from (AEP – Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery) which is for Domestic flights to Ushuaia. Do note the airport is different for both locations, please keep at least 2-3 hours as you have to get out and travel for approximately for 45 minutes to 1 hour to go the AEP from EZE by car

Yellow Fever Vaccination: Vaccination is required if the stop over is more than 12 hours or more for Ethiopia

Packing for Antarctica:

  • Boots (Provided by the cruise), ensure it’s filled in the Personal Information Form (individually) once the payment is done, Jacket, Wind Sheeter, Thermal Inner, Sweater, Layer Jackets, Monkey Cap, Muffler, Ear muffs, Gloves, Socks, Pant (Water proof), Goggles, Binocular, Electric Jacket, Water bottle, Torch, Swim Suit, Sunglasses, Adapter, Sunscreen, Lip Balm, Body Lotion, Motion Sickness Tablet (carry as many as you can), Personal Medical Kit, Water proof cover for Mobile/Camera

While landing in various Islands in Antarctica, there might be wet landing hence it’s required that the outer layer is water resistant.

Some of the island, we may not be able to land, hence binocular is mandatory so that you don’t miss out the sightings

Cruise would provide the water proof boots hence you need not carry extra.

While standing in the dock for sightings, most of the time you might get wet hence it’s recommended to wear the water proof clothes on the top layer

Activities in Antarctica: Camping, Hiking, Polar dip & Kayaking

You can either choose hiking or Kayaking and we had finalized for hiking, camping is charged extra which need to be bought while booking the cruise.

Please note if you opt for Kayaking then you will only do kayaking for all the landings.

Cruise: Be prepared for almost 2.5 days on the Drake passage enroute Antarctica which is treacherous and do expect to have a very bad motion sickness. Once you reach Antarctica its normal for next 4 days before we return back through Drake passage. We had landed in Useful Islands, Orne Harbour (Continental Landing), Damoy Point, Port Charcot, Vernadsky Station (Ukrainian Research Station), The Yalour Islands, Deception Island & Whalers Bay. It all depends on the weather conditions and ice conditions. We couldn’t land in Yalour due to ice where zodiac couldn’t land, hence expedition team had compensated with another island which is Whalers Bay which got added later.

Also there are multiple lectures by the expedition team starting with bio security check, mandatory IAATO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators) briefing on safety and wildlife regulations in Antarctica, camping regulations, kayaking briefing, on sea birds, acoustics of wild life, seals, whales, penguins, polar bear, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his Imperial Transantarctic Expedition,  meaning of the sea in paintings, Introduction to photography and videography, impact due to global warming etc. through which you are kept busy. Would recommend to attend all the lectures which helps to know more about the wild life in Antarctica as many of us hardly read about it unless we are traveling there.

This was such an amazing and informative expeditions and due to delay we reached in the evening instead of morning. Since we had booked the flight next day we didn’t have any problems. We reached in Ushuaia and then took the flight next day. Aerolíneas Argentinas (Argentina Airlines) while boarding from Ushuaia had rerouted our flight to EZE airport so that we needn’t change our airport, that was very thoughtful of them.

Ethiopian Airlines: We had a little stressful experience with Ethiopian Airlines. The ground staff in Delhi could not assign the seat as the website for the second leg of journey was not open for some reason and they said we can get the seats allocated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. When we reached the customer service as soon as we reached Addis Ababa, she had said to go to the gate and figure out as she said she couldn’t do anything. There were few more who had the same issue and then when those guys were insisting whether their seats would get confirmed she scared us by saying that the flights are running full and seats would be allocated on first come first serve basis and she was not sure that we our seats would be confirmed. So we got into panic mode as we couldn’t afford to miss the flight and we went to the gate and they said until boarding starts they cannot do anything. So literally we were sitting next to the gate to make sure we don’t miss any chance and every staff came there we were asking for an update. Finally once the boarding started, our seats were assigned to our relief. However since we didn’t go any rest room break/water for almost 3 hours we went to the rest room and it was not well maintained to our surprise. Then we came to the water dispenser which was empty, there was a house keeping lady who maintains the rest room was standing near and I asked her for water, she came and checked and she just ignored saying there is no water. We couldn’t go back to the main where all the shops were there as we had to board. I haven’t seen such heights of bad customer service.

However the airline staffs were good and didn’t have any concerns and when we returned our seats were allocated in Buenos Aires and we also were prepared to be at main gate so that we didn’t have issues and were prepared this time.

Finally we reached back after a marathon of flights.

If you get a chance, please do this expedition, it may be expensive but its worth.

Disclaimer: Please note, the immigration requirements change frequently so please ensure to check for the latest update before travel. Do let me know your feedback and I am reachable at jani.jermans@sjmobilita.com.

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