Traveling the world with an Indian Passport

A bright future for Indian passport holders

After traveling for 5 years straight on an Indian passport, one does get sick of applying for visas. The stress associated with applying for a visa, submitting copious amounts of documentation, booking flights and hotels upfront, and not knowing if you’ll get your visa on time takes away quite a bit of the fun when it comes to international travel.

Although Indian passport holders can avail of visa exemptions and visa on arrival facilities in several countries, the list is quite small when compared to the average OECD country passport.

Still, I have been to 50 countries on an Indian passport. Although there are people who have circled the globe on more powerful passports and even Indian passport holders who have been to every country in the world, visa free travel remains a distant dream for most Indians.

Traveling in Colombia with an Indian Passport

Traveling in Colombia with an Indian Passport


India is a country that has a lot of people looking for better economic opportunities. It’s no surprise then that people will try and find better opportunities outside their borders too. Also, no one should blame them, we all want a better life for ourselves and our loved ones. But, the unintended side effect of this is that it becomes very hard for Indians to get visa free access to most countries. By default, as an Indian citizen, I’m at a higher risk of being an illegal immigrant. It’s not personal, it’s just statistics.

However, with India’s growing economic power and affluent Indians wanting to travel abroad, countries need to come up with solutions to bag all those tourism rupees. To this, a lot of nations have responded with an innovative twist to their visa policies. Indians who have visas issued by the United States (ordinarily 10 year visas) get visa free access to a much larger number of countries. For example, if you have a US visa, you can travel to Turkey, Georgia, Mexico, Taiwan, Colombia, etc. without needing to apply for a visa.

It makes sense! If you are a legitimate Indian traveler and haven’t illegally moved to the US when you had the chance, why would you move to Colombia, or Mexico, or Turkey? I could list a 1000 reasons why one would want to live in any of those countries, they are amazing places, but the logic still stands.

Similar concessions are available if you have a UK, Canadian, or Schengen visa. Often, these visa exemptions apply to residence permit holders as well.

Traveling in Mexico with an Indian Passport

Traveling in Mexico with an Indian Passport


The best way to ‘upgrade’ your Indian passport at this point is to have a US visa, which is also issued for 10 years by default so that will give you access to the US and several other countries for at least 10 years. Getting a US visa isn’t all that easy but if you have a little bit of travel history and the means to take a trip to the US (some money in the bank) then this is the best way to get more juice out of your Indian passport. You don’t even have to take a trip to the US once you get your visa!

In the past 5 years, the number of countries that grant visa exemptions to Indians who have US visas has grown tremendously. So, 5 years ago when I started traveling, I needed to apply for visas to many more countries that now grant visa exemptions to Indians with US visas.

For example, we visited Colombia in June 2014. I had to apply for a visa at the consulate. A few months later, Colombia started a visa exemption program for Indians with US/UK/Schengen visas. It’s great news that international travel for Indians is getting easier, even if it’s not solely with the power and value of the Indian passport.

I also visited Turkey several times after applying for a visa. Now, I no longer need a visa for Turkey and all I need to do is show a US/UK/Schengen visa at the border.

There is now even a program called CAN+ that grants Indians with US visas easy access to Canada.

International travel for Indians will be complicated until we solve our domestic problems and help our people find economic opportunity within our borders. However, I hope in the future more countries embrace the model of granting visa exemptions based on other visas that a traveler might have. This will help them attract tourism dollars (rupees, in this case) and also reduce costs associated with consular work. What’s more, it will make it far easier for Indian passport holders to travel internationally.

For now, I’m happy to travel to every country that offers visa exemptions (even if based on other visas) to Indian passport holders.

Here’s the list of countries that I have traveled to that offer a visa exemption based on the US visa I hold (a 10 year B1/B2 visa):

- Mexico
- Guatemala
- Turkey
- Taiwan
- Canada (CAN+ program visa)
- Colombia
- Costa Rica

Traveling in Turkey with an Indian passport

Traveling in Turkey with an Indian passport


Some other countries that you can visit based on a US visa:

- Honduras
- El Salvador
- Nicaragua
- Panama
- Philippines
- Montenegro
- Macedonia
- Albania
- Georgia
- Serbia
- Dominican Republic
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Most of the Caribbean countries
- South Korea (flying to/from the US/Canada)
- and more!

Traveling in the United States with an Indian Passport

Traveling in the United States with an Indian Passport


Of course, you can also visit the United States which itself is one of the largest and most diverse countries in the world.

So, five years into our travels, it has become easier for Indian passport holders and I hope this trend continues for a long time to come. Here’s to more traveling and a bright globetrotting future for Indian citizens!

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  • Joey Says

    Hey Ashray,

    I like your blog. The obvious question come to my mind. You have an EU spouse, why don’t you exchange your Indian passport for an EU one? I understand India does not allow for dual citizenship. It might be a very personal decision. Some people wouldn’t even consider it, while others, like Google CEO, Sundar Pichai are more pragmatic.

    Happy travels!

    • Ashray Says

      Hi Joey

      Yes, it’s a very personal decision. How will I write all these articles if I change my citizenship? :)

      Sundar Pichai lives and works in the United States so it’s a no brainer for him, I suppose most things are, given how smart he is!

  • Arnab chakrabarty Says

    Hi..amazed at your blog. Appreciate the hard work.just wanted to know what are the visa costs for costa rica. I am an Indian citizen and a research scholar specialising in Latin america. Thanks a lot

  • Hi Ashray,

    I once made this map and blogged about the same


    Have travelled to Turkey & Phillippines using US Visa..plan to do Georgia soon …


  • naren Says

    Very innovative article re “upgrading” an IND Passport .
    I have a ILR [Indefinite Leave to Remain] in the UK stamped into my Indian Passport, and having retired live between the UK and India.
    Am now thinking of spending longer stretches in the Indian sunshine !
    Have however never attempted to obtain Visas to other countries whilst in India.
    Which Embassies in India would happily issue 6 month/ business visas to a IND Passport applicant with a UK ILR/Residency ?
    And specifically speaking how easy would it be to get a 6 month Ordinary/Business Visa [as issued to UK Passport holders], for Cambodia from India ?
    And similarly a Long Term Visa OR Senior Citizens Visa for Thailand from India ?
    Meeting any onerous financial requirements is not the issue, as much as the Indian Passport is.
    Would appreciate any feedback.

  • Dr Dinesh Joshi India Says

    Dr Dinesh Joshi India is also very much proud of being Indian! Congratulations to u for visiting so many countries.I haven’t gone out of India Uptill now but have my passport with expiry 2019.My dream destination place to visit in #Germany.But u posted a very much knowledgeable point of having a US/UK Visa.We will soon be allowed to travel with on arrival visa to every country including US & UK having Indian passport I believe firmly.I believe if u want to travel whole world then travel across each part of India. #Indiabelongs2me #Ibelongs2India Dr Dinesh Joshi India #ProudlyIndianDoctor Twitter account @DineshGermany

  • Venkat Says

    - Isnt Belize also part of the list of exemptions-if-have-a-US-visa?
    - is a great resource, btw for Indian passport holders.

  • Hey Ashray,

    Thanks for this great forum. Im backing thru Latin America and just finished 2 months in Colombia. I am headed to Quito next and i intend to apply for my peruvian visa in quito. whats the scoop on the peruvian visa ??


  • Roopa Sinha Says

    Hi Ashray,I didn’t know these information regarding VISA.You article is very clear and lucid.Getting US visa is difficult if we don’t have past travel history.Thank you

  • Hey Ashray: A very well researched post and something I will sure refer back and share with friends…. So good to know if you have US visa many more doors open for you… :)

  • Rohit Says

    The problem with Indians is that most of us don’t even realize how bad the situation in our country is. Yes, the infrastructure is growing and the economy is also slightly improving but at the same time, we’re still one of the most poor, corrupt and polluted country in the world. Also the growth in India comes with a very high price tag of degrading the environment but unfortunately most Indians aren’t informed about climate change or even the environment itself. Not to mention that most of us have a nonchalant attitude towards all things. The “chalta hai” mentality in India is th reason why it’s not like China and probably will never be. The best way for an Indian to travel to different countries to change his/hers passport and try to acquire the citizenship of a different country and get away from the sinking ship. Most Indians don’t want to acknowledge the problems that I mention because for them, it’s just about maintaining their ego. To love your country means that you must be willing to talk about the problems in it. I wish things get better but I hvae little hope.

    • Ajay Says

      I am agree with what you said. That’s why I came Brazil to get papers here. But don’t know from where I start.

  • Joao Says

    Hello Ashray,
    I read a few stories on your blog & I honestly think you should take up portuguese nationality. My dad’s a Portuguese citizen, mum Indian. I was born in India & previously held an indian passport until 20. I’m currently 22 & can agree it’s really annoying getting visas for every country with the indian passport. Also, After I switched to Portuguese I can tell you that the treatment you receive when producing a Portuguese passport is much better than that with an indian passport. You can get an OCI card , which I did & you’re free in India too , only can’t vote. You would have to stay in Portugal for a while & learn Portuguese. But trust me, get it , it’s worth it. You have free movement in the EU, can work etc & also, you can just pack your bag, book your tickets & travel to most countries you wish without the hassle of a visa.

  • Kishor Says

    Gosh, traveling is hard, saving money for it is harder. The hardest is to get a US visa. I applied twice, UK visa twice, and Canada once. Rejected all the time. It’s damn disappointing. I hope things get easier for all of us travelers.

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