My passport done, I wondered what next? Keeping in mind the strange look given by the passport officer at the Stage 2 during renewal, I promised myself that I would have the stamping’s of at least 10 different countries before my next renewal!
I had various countries in mind, I spent a lot of time going through the visa procedures, cost and the currency conversions of these places. I finally zeroed in on Sri Lanka. The comments from my friends was – ‘What’s great about Sri Lanka? It’s going be the same as Kerala, with the same greenery and same Tamil speaking people! Where is the feel of visiting a foreign country?’ Still I managed to convince them and moved to the next level.
The excitement started for me while planning my first international holiday! I googled for the do’s and don’ts. Most of the sites confuse you with instructions like plan your daily budget, mark important places, check for travel alerts etc. I concluded that none of these sites were actually going to help except a few tips on travel planning! Period!
Few points that were useful though were the instructions to be followed in case the passport is lost abroad. It’s advisable to carry a photocopy of your passport along with 4 passport-sized photos and keep a copy of the same in our emails. It is also insisted that we carry the passport in person always wherever we go! Along with this was another set of interesting information about the common mistakes Indians make when traveling abroad.
Once the dates were decided the next on the agenda was the search for economic flight fares.. As usual Spicejet was cheapest, but the inner devil did not allow me to settle.. It said when it is international, then the flight service too should be international. Why desi flight? I finally settled for Mihin Lanka and got the tickets booked!
I hunted for visa formalities. There were 2 options.
- Visa on arrival for USD 20
- Online visa for USD 10
Obviously I chose the second option and applied visa online with ardent prayers that it should get approved.
After completing the formalities it said it would take 2-4 business days but surprisingly I got the visa through mail in the next couple of hours!
Next I needed currency conversion. Googling again for the rules to be followed during the process of currency conversion, I found that the RBI mentions a lengthy procedure about whom the currencies should be bought from, what documents should be produced and carried to collect the same, the cash limit allowed etc. It gave me a clear idea that In connection with private visits abroad, viz., for tourism purposes, etc., foreign exchange up to USD10,000, in any one calendar year may be obtained from an authorized dealer. The ceiling of USD10,000 is applicable in aggregate and Forex may be obtained for one or more than one visit provided the aggregate foreign exchange availed of in one calendar year does not exceed the prescribed ceiling of US$10,000. More details
Finally I decided to go through a regular foreign exchange vendor with whom I have transacted for my friends during their visit to India. The stay abroad was planned for 5 days and kept the budget at 10,000 LKR per day on the upper hand as their currency value is about 50%.
And now for the remaining part – Travel Itineraries. As we were a team of 4 people – one a camera enthusiast, second one interested in history, nature and architecture, third a beach boy and fourth – myself Jack of all and Master of none . We kept it as follows:
Day 01 – Heritage & Architecture
Day 02 – Nature
Day 03 – Adventure sports
Day 04 – Beach
Day 05 – Partying and Casino.
With this we identified a list of places and waited for the D-Day