Travelling is fun, educative, exciting as well as reinvigorating. Many of the people from my age group (60 +) are generally well travelled, within and outside India, and have sufficient resources, time at their disposal, youthful energy and sense of adventure. It’s not necessary that 60 + age group need to take up only Char Dham or any such religious travel as many of them are more than happy to add colour and vigour to life to enjoy exotic as well as to experience not so explored destinations. However, many of them have some lingering doubts and hesitate to ask. I interacted with some of my colleagues and friends and listed these FAQs, though they are only indicative and not exhaustive and also general in nature. These tips are based on my own experience of travelling to more than 50 countries so far (some are official and not so budget oriented) and I will stand corrected if there are any unintentional errors.
- Do I need a Passport to travel outside India?
Passport is a valid travel document issued to a country’s citizen for identification and for travelling to and from the country for international destinations. However, Nepal and Bhutan permit Indian citizens either with valid Passport or Electronic Photo Identity Card (EPIC) issued by Election Commission of India to travel in these countries. It is a must that your Passport should have at least six months validity and enough number of empty pages to do the stamping.
- Which destinations are ideal?
It depends on the nature of your choices or preferences. The travel scene has tremendous variety to choose from. It ranges from spiritual, religious, heritage, culture, archeological, architectural, wildlife, forests, beaches, mountains, adventure, special local festivals, musical/dance events and much more. It’s not necessary that you have to travel abroad always as our own country offer fantastic and scintillating destinations of all genre, range, variety and beauty.
- Do I need a Visa to travel abroad?
A Visa is a legal endorsement issued on a Passport for allowing a person to enter, stay or leave a country for a specific period. The types of Visas are tourist, student, work and transit respectively. It can be for single entry or multiple entry. Generally Indian Passport holder require a valid visa for the period of travel and stay.
- Which countries an Indian passport holder can travel without a Visa?
Many of the travelers are hesitant to travel as obtaining a Visa is a bit time consuming, procedural and sometimes stressful, though many countries simplified the system and making the application for a Visa online with minimum documentation. However, there are about 58 countries where Indians can visit without a Visa. It ranges from countries like Bhutan, Nepal, Fiji, Jamaica, Mauritius etc where Indians do not need any Visa and there will be just a stamping in the Passport. For countries like Cambodia, Thailand, Seychelles, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Laos, Maldives, Bolivia etc there is a facility of Visa on Arrival. However, some of these countries verify your confirmed return ticket, or onward travel ticket, hotel booking before issue of Visa on arrival and also submission of passport size photograph for the sake of record with or without nominal charges. For the countries such as Kenya, Myanmar, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka (Electronic Travel Authorisation, ETA in short) issue eVisa. it’s very easy to obtain such eVisa and normal time for obtaining such Visa range from three days to ten days. Recently Qatar announced Visa on Arrival facility for citizens of many countries including Indians. It is better to check online from the official portal of respective country to verify whether there are any changes or modifications to the existing rules and regulations.
- Do I need services of Travel Agency or Tour Operator for travelling abroad?
I personally feel that such services are not required if you have sufficient time and patience to explore various options before planning for a travel abroad. Nowadays many a traveler, young, middle aged, elderly (60plus) are venturing to explore and experience of unique destinations as well as routine places on their own without taking the help of agencies or operators. The trend now is for FIT (Free and Independent Traveler), be it a solo traveler or a group of travelers. However, you can seek such services for a limited purpose, either for obtaining a visa or for round trip tickets or some other travel related service.
- Is it necessary to travel in a group always?
Not necessary. The major problem for 60+ travellers is finding right company as your spouse, he or she, may not like to travel, as he or she have their own priorities and may have their own preferences in life and also many of your friends have their own ideas of what to do and what not to do in their leisure time. The ideal size of your travel group is three or at the most four. It’s better to travel solo rather than travel with a companion/s whose tastes and ideas are totally contradictory to what you want to see and explore. If you force yourself to travel with people who are not-like minded, I am sure, you can neither enjoy nor relax and return home with bitter memories.
- How about package tours organized by travel agencies and tour operators?
The package tours consisting hordes of people that take you granted, and goad you to run around. Traveling solo or in the company of like-minded companion/s (not more than three or four) is more exciting and enjoyable. With little bit extra efforts and advanced planning, you can travel in equally greater comfort, better convenience with time at your disposal, as compared with large group oriented tourist packages.
- Do I need to spend heavily for travelling abroad?
Not necessary at all. There are many international destinations from India where you can happily travel for a week or so within the budget of Rs.50000 or even less than that per person that include your round the trip airfare, hotel accommodation in fairly good quality hotel, custom made itinerary for sightseeing and choicest activities. For example, travelling to countries like Indonesia (Bali, Sumatra, Lombok), Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Lanta, Krabi and other islands), Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Nepal, Bhutan etc will cost you less than Rs.50000 (all inclusive) per person. And if combine travel to some of these countries together costs will be more economical and it will not burden your pocket at all. Even to travelling in many countries in Europe, if you do some homework, consult like-minded friends or relatives who travelled to these places recently, plan in advance, do your own flight and internal travel bookings, reservation of accommodation online, informed sightseeing, the costs will be very economical, affordable and competitive. You can obtain Schengen Visa by applying online, if not very comfortable in doing so, you can avail services of travel agent for this limited purpose only.
So folks… happy, exciting and enjoyable traveling to you all.
—-Madan Gopal, IAS (Retd)