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Benefits of having an Indian Passport

9 mins. read

Published in the Sunday Indian Express Magazine - Eye on 17 December, 2023

From the shores of Fiji to the vibrant streets of Armenia, the benefits of holding an Indian passport are expanding, promising a new era of travel freedom...

What are the benefits of having an Indian Passport? I bet you haven’t come across this discussion often. Or let me put it this way, I’m sure you have come across many articles talking about the most powerful passports in the world, but the Indian passport is far down that list! So let me first start by talking about how I arrived at this topic.

A few weeks ago, I was in Abu Dhabi for the year-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. If you are a regular traveller to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) flying either to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Sharjah, you must be well aware that there is a regular process for immigration. Once your plane arrives in any of these cities, you have to go through immigration where the lines can sometimes be super long, then through baggage claim, and finally, after passing through customs, you are out.

But this time, when Heta and I arrived in Abu Dhabi, we were in for a pleasant surprise! After deplaning, we started walking towards immigration at Abu Dhabi Airport’s newest terminal, the Midfield Terminal. The general tendency when you are an Indian Passport holder is,

(1) see the automated immigration e-gates,

(2) get jealous of every other traveller from (what seems like) every other country who can use those gates,

(3) start making your way towards the longest line you can see, and

(4) wait for what feels like an eternity until you can get past.

But just as I was making my way to this destiny, one of the officials approached me and asked whether I have visited Abu Dhabi before, which I had. She then told me I was headed the wrong way, that I should use the e-Gates! I was sure she was mistaken and told her that I have an Indian passport and just wanted to be doubly certain that I could, in fact, go through these super-fast immigration gates! To my absolute surprise, she confirmed that it indeed did not matter, and I can go through! We were shell-shocked! And still not fully convinced she knew what she was saying, we headed towards the e-gates to prove her wrong.

Step 1: Scan your passport.

Step 2: Look into the camera, and in that most wondrous moment, the gates flew open in front of me.

Boom! I was through! No more long lines, no more having to wait forever before you can make your way to Abu Dhabi’s SeaWorld, Ferrari World, or Warner Bros World. It was that simple! Even when we were departing from Abu Dhabi’s Midfield Terminal, it was the same. No more queueing up! Scan passport, stare into the camera, and walk-on like a pro! This small but super efficient change in process, for Indian Passport holders like you and me, gave us a sense of pride for the first time ever! It was like using DigiYatra (the face recognition technology removing the need for boarding passes and IDs for domestic flying within India), but in a foreign country!

Next up was my trip to Singapore, a country known for its most stringent rules! But as I proceeded towards where immigration officers used to be, I saw just e-gates! All you need is a correctly filled up online SG Arrival Card with your visa details, and you are through immigration in less than 1 minute! That’s pretty cool right?

And finally, the one that excited me most of all, entering Thailand last week for the third time this year. If you have been to Thailand, you are aware that Indian Passport Holders need a Visa to enter Thailand. To get this Visa, you can either apply for a Visa before your trip or get a Visa on arrival into Bangkok, Phuket, or any other Thai city with an international airport. The process here used to be fairly straightforward: land, follow the ‘Visa on arrival’ signs, fill the form, attach your passport-sized photo, a Visa officer checks your Visa form, return ticket and directs you to a Visa stamping counter. The Visa is stamped and you are directed to the immigration counter and you are through to baggage claim. Though this process was generally straightforward, it did take a good amount of time! If you have been reading travel news of late, you would have heard that since the start of November, the Thai Government has made the Visa free for all Indian travellers. Heta and I were well aware of this. The visa stamp although free was still required, is what we had anticipated. So we showed up at Phuket International Airport ready to go through the drill making our way to the Visa on Arrival desk, and were pleasantly shocked again. For the third time in less than 2 months. So yes, the Visa is free. But that’s not all, along with being free, you no longer need to go through Visa on Arrival at all. Straight to immigration, get your passport stamped and boom, you are through to baggage claim. So add Thailand to the list of UAE and Singapore for a super-fast immigration process.

So all of these instances got me thinking and researching! I wanted to list down all of the benefits of having an Indian passport, and let me tell you, the list of benefits is definitely growing. So with a great amount of pride, I wanted to list them. I’m sure there are many many more travel benefits, but here are the top ones that I came across: following closely in Thailand’s footsteps, Sri Lanka and Malaysia have now made the Visa free for Indian travellers (the Visa is still required though). Which only means that we can spend these visa expenses more on experiences at all these destinations!

Along with this, if you hold an Indian passport, you can today travel to 60 countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and Oceania without a prior visa. This number continues increasing every year. If a country has a‛visa-free’ status, you can just travel there with an Indian passport and be allowed to pass through. And instead of you having to look up all these countries, I’m just listing the top ones here. Countries where an Indian Passport holder can get Visa-on-arrival or can enjoy visa-free status include: Armenia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Macau, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Laos, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Jordan, Qatar, Fiji, Barbados, Jamaica, Kitts and Nevis, Lucia, Montserrat, Trinidad and Tobago, Vincent and the Grenadines, Madagascar, Rwanda, Mauritius, Seychelles, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. These were some of the top ones that I picked from the list.

So there you have it. If you look up the strength of your passport index, the Indian passport is ranked in the high 70s or low 80s today. But my last three trips to Abu Dhabi, Singapore, and Thailand have given me the conviction that the Indian Passport is quickly climbing the ranks on this index and it won't be long before our passport is in the top 60 or top 50 very very soon! Fingers crossed… And with that, my flight to Udaipur is about to land, so I’ll end this article here, because well if you read my very first write up, you know, that every time my plane lands, I continue my experiment and try to figure if all that rushing once your plane lands is really worth it! So far, I have found that it isn’t effective at all. So here’s hoping that someday, one of Incredible India’s airlines launches a consumer education video series on the perils of standing up when the seat-belt sign is still on! Have a super week ahead and as we always say at Veena World, keep Celebrating Life! Adios…

Kindly note: Visa rules and regulations are constantly changing. It is advisable to check the prevailing rules and regulations before you plan your holiday.

December 16, 2023


Neil Patil
Neil Patil

Founder & Director, Veena World

More Blogs by Neil Patil

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