Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.
Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.
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It turns out that all that worry (I wrote about it here) about how to procure a visa for India was unnecessary.
Before we left on a family trip a month ago, I researched and debated using a fairly new system, called Tourist Visa on Arrival, rather than the standard method of sending your passports to a third party and paying them to process and deliver your papers to the Indian consulate. This third-party process was quite expensive (for the four of us it would have cost about the same as buying another plane ticket) and time-consuming, and I had heard horror stories from travelers about not getting their papers back in time.
We went with the simpler, cheaper ($60 per visa) online process, which involves uploading photos and passport images at the Indian government's TVoA website, and then printing out the e-mail that says your visa has been granted. This becomes your visa, which we showed to the agent at MSP when we checked in.
When we arrived in Delhi at 2 in the morning with our two young children, we simply got in a separate line, clearly marked Tourist Visa on Arrival. The agent took our papers, took our fingerprints, and then stamped the visa into our passports. The process was somewhat slow – each person took about 10-15 minutes – but otherwise efficient and simple.
I would highly recommend this route if your travel fits the visa's guidelines: you're staying for less than 30 days, you only need a single entry, you're visiting as a tourist, and you have a return ticket.
Many a press releases passes over the desk of the travel editor. A few leave me scratching my head. Take this, for instance: A company called "crashplan" is touting its services for overseas travelers. Perhaps a name change is in order? When I take to the air on a transcontinental flight, I'd like the idea of crashing -- with or without a plan-- to be far from my mind.
To be fair (and to make up for my gripe by giving the company internet time), Crashplan provides data back-up services and it clearly has many applications. The marketing peeps decided to remind travelers that they can back-up travel plans, passport numbers and other vital travel documents using the company's service. Not a bad idea, though you can share that info with a family member back home for free. But just in case you'd like the service, which you can access 24/7 from any computer or smart device, get yourself a crashplan -- and fly safely.
"A passport is your doorway to the world," says Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says in a video touting Passport Day in the USA, Saturday, March 10. That day, you can visit the Minneapolis Passport Agency in downtown Minneapolis at 212 South Third Avenue and apply for your passport without an appointment between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Usually, the agency assists with passports only for those with planned departures within 14 days. The agency will also be hosting a naturalization ceremy, beginning at 9:00 a.m. in the lobby. Also on hand: staff from the Canadian and Mexican consultes, who will be on hand to answer questions from travelers.
An expectant mother recently asked about getting a passport for her yet-to-be-born baby. She's wondering how quickly she can get it done as she's due in early October and hopes to bring the newborn overseas for the Christmas holiday.
I went to the resident expert, Robert DeWitt, director of the Minneapolis Passport Agency.
“Babies can get passports the minute they are born,” he said. That enthusiasm notwithstanding, in practice it’s a different matter.
To get a passport for a minor, the child must be present at the time of the application and so should both parents. If one parent can’t be there, though — because she’s recovering in the hospital, for instance — the other can bring along a completed, notarized “statement of consent.” Filling that out and getting it notarized before the hospital visit, though, would require the impossible (or a leap of faith): knowing the minor’s name and birth date.
Her best best is to drive as a new family to a “passport acceptance facility,” such as a government service center or a post office, once she and the babe are dismissed from the hospital. She'll need the baby’s birth certificate, both parents’ IDs and a passport photo for the baby, which she may be able to obtain through the hospital or the passport facility.
Since she is due in early October, she should have no problem getting the passport in her hands before the family departs in December. Routine passport applications are being processed in four to six weeks.
Anyone in urgent need of a passport can head to the Minneapolis Passport Agency. This office, at 212 3rd Av. S., can process applications within a few days, but should be used only by the truly desperate. The fee for an expedited passport is $60 in addition to the cost of the passport itself, which is $105 for a minor.
Click here for more information and to print passport application forms.
It's Passport Day, when you can walk up to a passport agency and apply for your book or card without reservation. Read here for more information, and stand warned: if Congress and the President can't come to a budget agreement and the government shuts down, call ahead. The offices may well be closed.
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