Almost everyone needs a visa before travelling to India. If you’re going to study or work, you’ll need to apply for a special student or business visa; otherwise, a standard tourist visa will suffice.
Tourist visas are valid for six months from the date of issue (not of departure from your home country or entry into India), and vary in price according to your nationality. Fees were hiked to £82 for UK citizens in early 2013 but cost around £32/US$48 for most other applicants. You’re asked to specify whether you need a single-entry or a multiple-entry visa; as the same rates apply to both, it makes sense to ask for the latter just in case you decide to go back within six months.
Visas in the UK, US, Canada and Australia are no longer issued by Indian embassies themselves, but by various third-party companies or sub-contractors. The firms’ websites give all the details you need to make your application. Read the small print carefully and always make sure you’ve allowed plenty of time. Processing time is usually two to three working days but it’s wiser to leave at least a week. Postal applications take a minimum of ten working days plus time in transit, and often longer.
Elsewhere in the world, visas are still issued by the relevant local embassy or consulate, though the same caveats apply. Bear in mind too that Indian High Commissions, embassies and consulates observe Indian public holidays as well as local ones, so always check opening hours in advance.
In many countries it’s possible to pay a visa agency or “visa expediter” to process the visa on your behalf, which typically costs £60–70/US$100–120, plus the price of the visa. This is worth considering if you’re not able to get to your nearest Indian High Commission, embassy or consulate yourself. Prices vary from company to company, as do turnaround times. Two weeks is about standard, but you can get a visa in as little as 24 hours if you’re prepared to pay premium rates. For a full rundown of services, check the company websites, from where you can usually download visa application forms.
It is no longer possible to extend a tourist visa in India, though exceptions may be made in special circumstances such as serious illness. Many travellers who want to spend more time in India go to a neighbouring country such as Nepal for a new visa when their old one expires, but there is no guarantee a new one will be issued right away, as you are not officially allowed to spend more than six months in the country within one year.
Indian embassies, high commissions, consulates and visa-processing centres abroad
Australia c/o VFS Global (w vfs-in-au.net). Offices in all states except Tasmania and NT – see website for contact details.
Canada c/o VFS Global (w in.vfsglobal.ca). Nine offices countrywide – see website for contact details.
Ireland Embassy: 6 Leeson Park, Dublin 6 t 01 497 0843, w indianembassy.ie.
Nepal c/o Indian Visa Service Centre (IVSC), House no.296, Kapurdhara Marg, Kathmandu t 01 400 1516, w indianembassy.org.np.
New Zealand High Commission: 180 Molesworth St, PO Box 4045, Wellington t 04 473 6390, w hicomind.org.nz.
South Africa 852 Schoeman St, PO Box 40216, Arcadia 0007, Pretoria t 012 342 2593, w indiainsouthafrica.com; 1 Eton Rd, Parktown, PO Box 6805, Johannesburg 2000 t 011 482 8484 to 9; The Old Station Building (4th floor), 160 Pine St, PO Box 3276, Durban 4001 t 031 307 7020, w indcondurban.co.za.
Sri Lanka High Commission: 36–38 Galle Rd, Colombo 3 t 011 232 7587, w hcicolombo.org. Consulate: 31 Rajapihilla Mawatha, PO Box 47, Kandy t 081 222 4563.
UK c/o VFS Global (w in.vfsglobal.co.uk). Offices in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow – see website for contact details.
US c/o Travisa (w indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com). Offices in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Houston – see website for contact details.
CIBT UK t 0844 736 0211, w uk.cibtvisas.co.uk, US t 1 800 929 2428, w http://www.cibt.com.
India Visa 24 UK t 0800 084 5037, w indiavisa24.co.uk.
India Visa Company UK t 020 8582 1117, w indiavisacompany.com.
India Visa Office UK t 0844 800 4018, w indiavisaheadoffice.co.uk.
Travel Document Systems US: Washington t 1 800 874 5100, New York t 1 877 874 5104, San Francisco t 1 888 874 5100; w traveldocs.com.
Visa ConnectionUS & Canada t 1 866 566 8472, w visaconnection.biz.
Visa Link Australia t 03 9673 1500, w visalink.com.au.