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GUIDE TO INDIA

VISAS


You must get a visa before arriving in India. Six-month multiple-entry visas (valid from the date of issue) are issued to nationals of most countries (check visa options with the Indian embassy in your country) regardless of whether you intend staying that long or reentering the country. Visas cost A$75 (an extra A$13 service fee applies at con­sulates) for Australians, US$60 for US citi­zens and UK ?30 for Britons.

You should note that most Indian em­bassies and consulates won't issue a visa to enter India unless you hold an onward ticket, which is taken as sufficient evidence that you intend to leave the country.

A special People of Indian Origin (PIO) card is available only to people of Indian descent (excluding those in Pakistan and Bangladesh ) who hold a non-Indian pass­port and live abroad (maximum fourth gen­eration). This card costs A$570 and offers multiple entry for 15 years. People of In­dian origin can also apply for a five-year multiple-entry visa which costs A$240. Both are valid from the date of issue.

Visa Extensions

Fifteen-day extensions are possible only under truly exceptional circumstances (by no means as a matter of routine) from For­eigners' Regional Registration Offices in the main Indian cities. You can only get an­other six-month visa by leaving the country.

Restricted Area Permits

Even with a visa you're not permitted everywhere in India. Certain places require special additional permits. The permit re­quirements mentioned below are covered in detail in the respective regional chapters.

Andaman Islands Foreigners need a per­mit to visit the Andaman Islands. The Nico­bar Islands are off limits to all except Indian nationals engaged in research, government business or trade.

Gujarat At the time of our research, no permits were required to visit the villages north of Bhuj, but for current details check mth PJ Jethi at the Bhuj Tourist Office Tel: 02832-220004.

Himachal Pradesh & Uttaranchal Per­mits are required to enter some regions close to the India -- Tibet border in Himachal I'radesh and Uttaranchal. For the crossing Irom Kinnaurto Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, tourists must obtain an inner-line permit, which is free.

The Milam glacier in northern Kumaon in Uttaranchal, which also falls under Indo-Tibetan Border Authority jurisdiction, is currently open to visitors at the discretion of the local police. Other areas around Nanda Devi are officially off limits, but "roups may succeed in getting the relevant inner-line pennits from the district magis­trate (Tel: 05964-22202) in Pithoragarh.

Karnataka All foreigners are legally re­quired to obtain a Protected Area Permit (PAP) before visiting the Tibetan settle­ments between Hunsur and Madikeri. These can be obtained through the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi (see Visa Ex­tensions & Other Permits in the Delhi chap­ter for contact details). However it can take months for the paperwork to go through, so it's better to inquire with a Tibetan office or organisation in your home country, as per­mits can sometimes be arranged from abroad. Either way, the key is to plan ahead. In the past, some foreigners have visited the settlements without a proper permit; not only have they risked a fine but they have also created problems for locals they've as­sociated with, as well as for other foreign­ers who may henceforth be subjected to increased scrutiny by the Indian authorities. Please don't do it.

Ladakh You need a permit for going up Khardung La, as well as for crossing down into the Nubra Valley. Permits are also re­quired for visiting Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri and the Dha-Hanu valley.

Lakshadweep A special permit is re­quired in order to to visit Lakshadweep. Both foreigners and Indians can stay on Bangaram, Agatti and Kadmat. Indian citi­zens can make day visits to Kalpeni, Mini­coy and Kavaratti.

North States No permits are currently needed for Assam, Tripura or Meghalaya, al­though you may be required to register with the police on arrival at airports in the region. Permits are required for entry to Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram­these can be difficult to obtain. Nagaland is currently the easiest state to enter, but it's best to go through a travel agent in the northeast (which will greatly enhance your chances of getting a permit). Arunachal Pradesh permits cost US$50 per entry. Note that all of these states officially require vis­itors to be in a group of four, although mar­ried couples may also be considered. If you are not in a group of four, a travel agent may be able to bundle you with other travelers to achieve the required numbers - this is most easily achieved in Guwahati.

Rajasthan Special permission is required from the Collector's office (Tel: 02992-252201) in Jaisalmer to travel to most of Rajasthan west of National Highway No 15, due to its proximity to the Pakistan border. Permission is only issued in exceptional circumstances. The only places exempted are Amar Sagar, Bada Bagh, Lodhruva, Kuldhara, Aka Sam, Ramkund, Khuri and Mool Sagar.

Sikkim To enter Sikkim you need a 15-day permit. These are free and easy to obtain.

West Bengal Foreigners need a permit (no charge) for the Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary. These are issued on the spot (on pre­sentation of your passport) at the West Bengal Tourism Centre in Kolkata.