01 May 2009

New Indian visa for mountaineers on the cards

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A new Indian visa for mountain climbers and trekkers is being considered by the Indian government.

The new Indian visa category – the X-visa – would allow foreign visitors to visit previously restricted areas of Indian mountain ranges and peaks, so that more tourists could easily visit these areas of the country, tourism secretary Sujit Banerjee said. 

"The X-visa holders would get inner line permits," he told the Economic Times.

He is also dabbling at the idea of opening up more peaks in the Himalayas, in response to an increasing pressure from tourists to trek largely unexplored territory, and would let them use technologies such as GPS and satellite phones in their treks (which are currently restricted items in the forbidden ranges falling in Indo-Pak, Indo-Tibet and Indo-China borders).

While the fee for the proposed Indian visa has not yet been decided, it is likely it would be lower than the normal Indian tourist visa and have a longer validity period.

The tourism ministry is awaiting approval from the home ministry for the new Indian visa, and in the meantime foreigners wishing to trek in India need to seek permission from various government authorities in order to climb specific peaks. 

"There are restrictions for tourists visiting certain mountain peaks. For example, tourists are not allowed to use GPS/satellite phones while trekking in the peaks. One can imagine what can happen if there is an accident. Without such phones, the adventure could be life-threatening for a tourist," an official who did not wish to be identified said.

The Worldwide Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in India visa and immigration services.

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