When we planned a family trip to India, we saved up for the big plane tickets, lodging and internal travel. We spent a lot of time dreaming and reading books and trolling sites about where to stay in Goa; when to visit the Taj Majal; the history of Delhi; train travel in India, and many other interesting subjects. We renewed everyone’s passports.

One thing I didn’t realize was how much time, cash (to the tune of nearly $800 for the four of us) and planning it would take to get a visa, required for Americans visiting India.

There seem to be two ways of procuring a visa: through a third-party company that processes and bundles applications, at a tidy markup, and forwards them to the Indian consulate in Chicago (the closest one to Minneapolis), or through an Indian government website  that processes everything – photos, passport images, lengthy questionnaire – online. The latter, called Tourist Visa On Arrival (TVOA), was far cheaper and simpler.  

But I didn’t know anyone who had tried it – it’s fairly new for U.S. users – and that made me nervous. Frequent travelers to India were not encouraging, urging us to use the tried-and-true method.

Then I reconnected with a friend who takes student groups to India every other year, and he gave me the low-down: several kids in his latest group had used TVOA, arriving in Delhi on New Year’s Eve, and it had worked perfectly.

We have the TVOA “Visa Granted” e-mail in hand, and we’re leaving in a few days. I’ll let you know how it turns out.