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Bits: Indian Visa changes, Sofitel Terminal 5, how HFP impacted East Coast Rewards

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More news in brief:

Massively inconvenient Indian Visa changes for British visitors

This story had passed me by until a HFP reader emailed me this week to tell me how much money he has lost due to changes to the India Visa regulations.

Our reader had planned a three generation trip for nine people, from children to elderly grandparents.  The new rules mean all visitors to India must make a pre-booked appointment for full biometric scanning and fingerprinting.

Appointments can only be made online via a website which rarely functions.  Even when it is working, you can only book for one person at a time and there is no guarantee that subsequent bookings will result in slots for the same day.  You cannot arrange dates for children to guarantee that they do not need to be taken out of school.  On top of all this, the fee has been raised to £92 from £38. This meant a cost of over £1,000 for this family including photographs, Special Delivery postage costs etc.

Faced with the virtual impossibility of being able to get a visa for every family member, he had no choice but to cancel.  Some money and Avios (he had done a ‘miles for upgrade’ booking) will be returned but he has had to take a loss of £3,000 over the nine seats.

More information on the new regulations can be found here.  Ironically, India has recently rolled out ‘visa on arrival’ to visitors from 43 countries – but not the UK.

Sofitel Terminal 5 Heathrow

Sofitel Terminal 5 back on lastminute.com as a ‘secret hotel’

Reader Andy dropped me a line to say that he has been able to book the Sofitel Heathrow Terminal 5 (directly linked to Heathrow Terminal 5) again as a lastminute.com ‘top secret’ hotel.   You may remember that this was a popular deal last year but supply dried up.

The ‘Top Secret’ page is here.  You are looking for a Heathrow hotel described as ‘Luxury hotel offering unforgettable stays at Heathrow’.

For a random Saturday in May it was £109.  However, using code SAVE01033103 you get a further 10% off taking it down to £99.

East Coast thumbnail

How Head for Points impacted East Coast Rewards!

The @SaveECRewards campaign to stop Virgin Trains dismantling East Coast Rewards made a Freedom of Information request to see how many gift vouchers East Coast Trains had sold recently!

On February 3rd, I published an article on HFP showing how you could top-up your East Coast Rewards account by buying East Coast gift vouchers.  This would allow you to reach the correct level for a redemption before the scheme closed on February 28th.  This technique was also written about on the Save East Coast Rewards website a few days earlier.

This is what the publicity did for sales of East Coast gift vouchers:

East Coast vouchers 2

Congratulations to everyone who jumped in to maximise the value of their remaining East Coast Rewards points.

Comments (53)

  • Kiran says:

    I am an Indian citizen just about to give it up as I have recently been naturalized as a British citizen. If it is any consolation, the Indian visa process is actually much easier than say for Indians trying to renew their Indian passports at the high commission in London. The entire system is completely broken. I was hoping the new Indian government would clean up the foreign service but evidently it isn’t easy.
    However, I have no sympathy for British people complaining about the cost of Indian visas. UK visas are ridiculously expensive as well (around £85 for a 6 month visa) and the process is equally difficult. In comparison, one just pays about USD 130 for a 10-year multiple entry visa to the US. Even the Schengen visa which lets people travel across most of the continent costs less. The application process is easier too. I know loads of Indians who come to Europe and don’t bother visiting the UK because of the visa process.
    My parents visited us for a few weeks back in 2013 and getting UK visas for them was a costly and stressful process. They have property in India, enough savings, I was employed in a well-paying job and have a own house in England. It was still a long-winded process. My father in his 70s doesn’t want to go through that again. It is a shame really

    • JohnG says:

      It’s a shame most British people don’t realize this. We act like India (and other countries with difficult visa processes) is well out of order, yet are completely ignorant of the fact that our own visa process is just as bad or worse! Too many people wouldn’t care anyway, they’d expect India to bend over for UK citizens and Indians to suck it up and deal with our process anyway because DYKWIA!?

  • CV says:

    On he subject of Heathrow hotels – there is a promo on at the Thistle which gives free use of those pods for transferring into T5. Small print shows dates its running:

    Out of all the Heathrow hotels, Thistle is the only one to offer completely free of charge transfers to and from Terminal 5 via the Ultra Pod Network for a limited time only*.

    *Take advantage of this exclusive offer on all bookings made directly on our website between 2nd March 2015 – April 19th 2015. Offer valid only for stays before April 19th 2015.

  • TomTom says:

    Does anyone know if this is affecting Sri Lanka visas?

  • JT2015 says:

    Hilarious. Just doesn’t sound like a true story unfortunately. But a very good excuse I would personally make to get out of a “three-generation” holiday.

    “You cannot arrange dates for children to guarantee that they do not need to be taken out of school.”
    DOES ANY EMBASSY WORK ON WEEKENDS?!

    “On top of all this, the fee has been raised to £92 from £38. This meant a cost of over £1,000 for this family including photographs, Special Delivery postage costs etc.”
    YES – IT IS A FAMILY OF NINE PEOPLE AFTER ALL. YOU DON’T GET BULK DISCOUNTS UNFORTUNATELY. IF YOU ARE SUPPOSEDLY BOOKING A LONG-HAUL HOLIDAY, SURELY ANOTHER 100 POUNDS PER HEAD WON’T BE THE DECIDING FACTOR IN WHETHER OR NOT YOU TAKE A TRIP?

    “Faced with the virtual impossibility of being able to get a visa for every family member, he had no choice but to cancel.
    VIRTUAL IMPOSSIBILITY? WELL, IF YOU HAVE TRAVELED TO DUBIOUS COUNTRIES IN THE PAST, THEN YES, THERE WILL BE VIRTUAL IMPOSSIBILITY OF GETTING A VISA. BUT SURELY PAYING FOR SPECIAL POSTAGE AND PHOTOGRAPHS DOESN’T MAKE THE CUT??

    Some money and Avios (he had done a ‘miles for upgrade’ booking) will be returned but he has had to take a loss of £3,000 over the nine seats.”
    SO TO AVOID SPENDING THE EXTRA £92 PER HEAD ON VISA FEES, HE CHOSE TO LET GO OF £3,000?

    • Rob says:

      No, embassies do not generally work weekends. The Indian Embassy system spits out random dates and times so no guarantee a party can be seen together. It would have involved taking the kids out of school and getting elderly grandparents to London for full biometric screening. Faced this all this and the need to double down with another £1k for the visas, he decided to fold.

      What I did not mention in the article is that he had already found availability for a different holiday which he could pay for with the Avios and cash refund (less £3k). The family is now having a holiday and they are not paying out any more money on top of what is already spent, albeit they have still lost £3k.

  • Labels says:

    Labels

    Sofitel Heathrow Terminal 5 discount

  • Rob says:

    Amazing – although not surprising. You see, British bureaucracy isn’t that bad by global standards despite what people think!

    • fiona says:

      Yes. Even just filling in the application is a nightmare. I get stressed every year! The website is also a disaster area.