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ID card for Nepal

Indian citizens, except children upto the age of 10 years, will have to carry a valid identity card while travelling by air between India and Nepal with effect from October 1, 2000. A valid national passport or emergency certificate issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu to Indian nationals in case of an emergency could be used as identity cards for the purpose.

A photo identity card issued either by the Government of India, any state government or Union Territory Administration of India or identity card issued by the Election Commission of India could also serve the purpose.


US visa fees raised

US visa fees will be raised with effect from August 14.

All consular application and issuance fees will be raised because of the changing exchange rate. The exchange rate will now be USD $1 = Rs 46.

The list of fees with the new exchange rate is:

Bombay: The American Consulate General, 4, New Marine Lines. Phone: 022-2624590.
New Delhi: Shantipath Chanakyapuri. Phone: 011-4198000. Fax: 011-4190017.
Calcutta: 5/1, Ho Chi Minh Sarani. Phone:033-2423611, 2423615, 2422336, 2422337. Fax: 2422335.
Madras: Mount road. Phone: 044-8277835, 8273040. Fax: 8250240.

Tatkal passports

The government of India has revised the Tatkal passport scheme. Under the scheme passport can now be issued on an out of turn basis for a fee. Fresh passports under the tatkal scheme that do not exceed 10 days from the date of application will be issued at a fee of Rs 1,500. This will include the passport fees. Rs 2,500 will be charged for fresh tatkal passports within 10 days of application in case of theft, robbery, damage or any other reason. For tatkal passports between 11 to 35 days from the date of application, Rs 1,000 plus passport fees will be charged.

Visa guide

Travel agencies source visa and travel information from a useful handbook,Source 9--The Visa and Travel Information Manuel compiled by Indira Verma. The book provides information on every aspect of travel. It covers the country fact finder, maps, diplomatic representations, visa notes, IVS advisory, reciprocal visa, Indian missions overseas, international help addresses, SAARC advisory, climate, money, electricity, health, tax and aviation, passport and medical insurance.

The book will be available on at the gift shop stands for Rs 3,000.

Flower show cancelled, summer tourists unwelcome in Ooty

With protests over the falling tea prices assuming 'alarming proportions', the summer resort of Ooty is virtually 'closed' to tourists this season. The Nilgiris district administration has officially advised tourists, who have used the hill station as a safe resort from the simmering heat of Madras, the state capital, to stay away from the city, which even without the protests has been facing water shortage for long.

The picturesque town has also been hosting the famed flower show in summer every year, for the past 104 years, without break. But this year, in the aftermath of the 'tea protests', the state government has seen it wise to cancel the show. In doing so, the government was bowing to the pressure exerted by the tea growers and labour, who had demanded the cancellation of all official functions being held in connection with flower show. The flower show only should be held, they demanded.

"We only wanted the festival cancelled, but the Government has cancelled the flower show itself," says a tea planter. "This can affect the horticulturists in the region," says he. However, officials say that the decision on cancelling the show followed the advice for tourists not to visit Ooty this summer. "There is palpable tension everywhere, and the staging of the flower show would only invite more tourists, who could find the situation here too tense for comfort," says this source. "After all, the state government and the district administration will have to take responsibility for the law and order situation, and would be promptly blamed for any lapse or failure."

As official sources point out, it's the "rich and the mighty" from cities like Madras and Coimbatore, not to mention those in distant states, who have been thronging the summer resort each year, since the days of the Raj. Many corporate houses and individuals have summer houses in the hill town, or those abutting it in the lower ranges.

"Given their own importance, and added self importance, the government cannot risk their presence here when the situation is tense, hence the decision on advising the tourists against visiting Ooty," says the official. "Add to this, the middle class crowd that have started coming here in the past few years, thanks to the time share schemes, and also the children brought here for the annual flower show, and the picture is complete."

What has prompted this official measure is the protest march that turned violent in Ooty. The protestors, mostly tea plantation labour, were seeking Government intervention to ensure higher prices for the commodity. The protests have been going on for over a month, but earlier they had been low key affairs in which leaders from all political parties participated.

N Sathiya Moorthy

Discover your roots

The Uttar Pradesh Tourism department has prepared a unique scheme to attract non-resident Indians (NRIs) to the state. With 'Discover your roots' being the theme of the scheme , the department's plans to provide single-window facility to NRIs who wish to have a feel of what their original native place looks like now .

"Anyone desirous of going back to his roots in Uttar Pradesh could communicate with UP Tourism through its website and he could leave the rest to us ", says the department's director-general Desh Deepak Verma. "I got this idea on intercating with a large number of Indians both in USA and South Africa where I had gone on an official trip recently", Verma told this scribe.

According to him, "people of Indian origin who have been living in far away lands for decades seemed to be particularly keen on visiting their original homes ; many asked me about their native towns or villages they had left quarter of a century or even half a century ago; and that gave me the idea to work out a plan whereby such persons could satisfy their nostalgia through UP Tourism's personalised custom-made services."

He said, since many people could not even recall the correct names of their native villages, the tourism department would undertake the task of tracking down the "forgotten homes" of such people, and then work out a package to take them down to such places . Verma had already started extablishing communication with Indian missions abroad to get whatever available details of NRIs in different countries.

What seems to have moved the Tourism DG was the interest shown by the affluent NRIs in providing handsome funds for the growth and development of their native homes. "Besides revival of the emotional chord with their roots, quite a few expressed their inclination to adopt some of the villages where there were willing to contribute towards building of roads, schools or community centres", he said.

He cited the case of a man, who had migrated from Azamgarh in early childhood, to now scale new heights as a minister in the South African government. "This gentleman wants to not only visit the school in an Azamgarh village where he had started his education, but also do something substantial for that educational institution", Verma said.

An enthusiastic Verma is hopeful of also promoting a new tourist clientele through this scheme.

Sharat Pradhan

Cab trouble

The restrictions imposed on private vehicles at the Nedumbaserry Airport in Cochin, which was officially declared as an international airport by union minister for civil aviation, Sharad Yadav on Monday, have proved to be a major irritant for passengers.

As per the system prevailing in the airport, no vehicles other than the registered taxis are allowed entry to the terminals. The passengers using their own vehicles will have to leave their vehicles at the exit and actually physically carry their baggage up to the terminal. Or else, they will have to use the taxis in the airport to take them to the terminal.

Tour operators say that the system adopted to help the taxi operators would drive away tourists, who are expected to be the major chunk of the traffic Nedumbaserry airport is expecting. They said that the upper hand given to the cabbies apparently under political pressure. And taxi operators decide who should ride in which vehicle.

K C Chandrhasan, executive director of the Kerala Interserve, in an interview to a travel magazine, pointed out that the tourists would not appreciate this system since they are very sensitive to vehicles they use. Tourists from most countries will refuse to travel in a vehicle unless it is insured to their satisfaction.

"How many taxis in Kerala conform to this precondition? We, who are in the business of bringing visitors into the country, always enter into a legally enforceable contract with the company that supplies, whereby we become responsible for everything that goes wrong during the course of the visit. If a vehicle breaks down, we will be taken to the task", he added.

Chandrahasan said that passengers were being held to ransom by the cab drivers. "Having come all way, he might agree to go through all that. But if, on his return home, he sues the concerned agencies for mental and psychological torture, claiming a couple of million dollars. A lot of us will be in a soup, along with tourism in Kerala", he said.

"A guest, at the end of a long trip comes out of the aircraft all tired and exhausted, looking forward to reaching a room, a shower and fresh clothes. Imagine how he would react when told that he should proceed to the city only if he physically carries his baggage and walks all the way to the exit gate of the airport complex?", he asked.

Many tour operators say that Nedumbaserry is the only airport in the world where cabbies are given a free hand. Kerala Association of Travel Agents president K V Muralidharan feels that the goondaism of cabbies in Kerala is the result of the political clout the taxi drivers union wields with the government, which incidentally runs the airport.

Muralidharan said that the cabby system prevailing in the airport had been a source of friction between the passengers and the taxi operators. Scuffles between the two are frequent.

D Jose

White paper on Goa tourism

The basic infrastructure is collapsing day by day in Goa -- one of the favourite international tourist destination -- while local authorities are still busy forming core groups and preparing master plans for the last four years.

The work on a second tourism master plan has been lingering since 1997, awaiting finalisation of the third part of it, which contains concrete proposals. In addition, the chief minister, Francisco Sardinha has now mooted the idea of forming a core group of hoteliers, travel trade and government officials to prepare a white paper.

In view of tourism being declared as an industry from this year, Sardinha convened a meeting last week of persons connected with tourism and travel trade, requesting them to suggest short and long term measures. "All your suggestions will be implemented thoroughly and funds would be provided for it", he assured.

"But he did not even look at the written proposals put before him which needed urgent attention", said one hotelier who attended the meeting. Even the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa wonders whether the meeting would ultimately have any outcome.

The TTAG has submitted a memorandum to Sardinha, listing out topmost priorities including environmental upgradation in the coastal areas by inviting global tenders on BOOT basis. Providing basic information facilities at the airports, railways stations and bus stands in Goa, as well as other parts of India and abroad, is also on the list.

"We feel the tourism industry is suffering mainly due to lack of infrastructural facilities particularly in coastal areas. In these areas, environmental upgradation is need of the hour', states S V Balaram, the TTAG president.

The tourist inflow has almost doubled in last 15 years, expecting around 1,400, 000 tourists this year while it was just 750,000 in 1985. Goa still attracts around 80 per cent of domestic tourists which has risen from 682,000 to around 1,000,000 today.

The number of foreign visitors has increased from 92,000 to 350,000 lakh in last one and a half decades, though it also shows that Britishers are shying away from the coastal state. From 60 per cent in 1995, it has now reduced to mere 33 per cent.

"We have told the chief minister that the government should undertake projection of Goa's positive image so that high profile tourists visit the coastal state", says Kirit Maganlal, former TTAG president who attended the meeting.

With more emphasis being laid down on lower middle class charter tourists, while also encouraging Goa as a land for drugs, rave parties and nude tourism, decent foreign tourists appear to have been keeping away from the Goan beaches. Around 52 star hotels here thus find mostly domestic occupancy rather than the foreign tourists.

Though Sardinha has now assured that he will make enough funds available to promote the hospitality sector, the roads still get washed away during monsoons while water scarcity, erratic power supply, improper sanitation and beaches polluted with plastic and other waste is still a challenge, for which no solution is on thwe horizon.

Sandesh Prabhudesai

'De-train' and change your money

Thomas Cook has opened the first foreign exchange bureau in a railway station, in New Delhi. It will be open 24 hours, everyday.

Thomas Cook already has a 24 hours foreign exchange office at the airport in New Delhi.

Thomas Cook, New Delhi Station, Platform No.12, Ajmeri Gate Side. Phone: 011-3211819.
Indira Gandhi International Airport, Terminal II. Phone: 011-5653205.

A Goa good food guide

Creative Ideas, a firm of young former journalists -- Lester Fernandes and Sapana Sardesai - have come out with guide for tourists visiting Goa. It's called Food Stop, a 320-page colour guide, released recently by renowned cartoonist Mario Miranda.

"Food Stop is targeted at both, domestic and international tourists and will be a boon for housewives and cookery fans", says Melanie Sequeira, the editor. Whether you are celebrating with your friends, taking an important guest out to a business dinner or just taking a day off from cooking at home, help is at hand,"she adds.

A special feature of the guide is the guide's restaurant ready rReckoner that enumerates over 150 good restaurants in Goa, stating their special features, speciality, price range, etc. Food Stop also locates anything and everything to do with food and drink for shoppers, in a special yellow page section, from traditional fresh toddy to luxuries like pink mushrooms.

But it is just not a simple guide to search for restaurants but also contains over 350 traditional recipes, typical to the Hindu, Catholic and Muslim communities.

Creative Ideas have includes features on VIPs' favourite foods, glossaries, chefs' choices, calorie charts, history and local customs, fruit and vegetable carving designs and tips for beginners on everything from stocking your kitchen to cleaning fish.

And for those inclined to start their own food industry, there is a general guide to all the avenues available with essential requirements, as well as a special feature on how to grow your own mushrooms. Discount coupons in the book also give the buyers their money's worth.

The book is priced at an invitational price of Rs 125 or US $ in Goa and Rs 150 outside Goa. It is available in all leading bookstores and can be also accessed on the internet at

Creative Ideas, a division of Wordsworth Communications Pvt Ltd, has earlier successfully launched Getting Married, Goa's first and only wedding Guide, also available at married.

Sandesh Prabhudesai, Panjim

Message from the New Delhi Regional Passport Office

Dear Passport Applicants,

Please note:

Easy transactions in Bhutan

Visa card holders from India and Nepal can now use their cards in Bhutan as well. Over 100 merchant locations in Thimpu and Phuntsholing are now accepting card payments made by business travellers and tourists from India and Nepal.

In addition to that, Bhutan National Bank also provides the Visa card holders the facility to avail advance cash from select locations. Billing will be in Indian rupees with all other transactions in India and Nepal.

Is the traffic slow today?

Dial 5181717 and find out. The Godrej business house in conjunction with the Bombay traffic police offers a helpline on the traffic (roads and local trains) and weather situation in Bombay.

No cell phones please

The Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), that administers the famous Lord Venkateswara Temple atop Tirumala, has prohibited the use of cell phones in the temple premises. The devotees entering the temple, will have to deposit their cell phones outside before joining the queue.

This restriction was imposed to uphold the sanctity of the temple and in view of security reasons.

The temple board has also approved construction of a Rs 330,000,000 township at the foot of Tirumala hill. Rs 600,000,000 will also be invested in laying a pipeline from the foothills to augment water supply to Tirumala, now reeling under an acute water shortage.

Other plans include the installation Rs 7,100,000 silver kalasam or gopuram for the sanctum sanctorum, and the construction of a Rs 2,000,000 Padmavathi Balaji temple in Goa.