Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mediclaim policy for travellers (foreign)

Travelling abroad? Pack an Overseas Mediclaim policy

Overseas Mediclaim is, in any case, mandatory if you’re travelling to the United States, Europe and a few other countries. But even where it isn’t required by law, it makes sound sense to pack this low-cost, high-value medical cover–along with your beach-bum outfit and your holiday attitude. "Your domestic Mediclaim policy does not cover your hospitalisation abroad."

Medicare, and more. Up until a year ago, you could buy Overseas Mediclaim policies only from the four public sector general insurance players. Since then, three non-life private insurers–Royal Sundaram, Bajaj-Allianz and Tata-AIG–have begun to offer value-added "travel insurance" packages: in addition to offering Mediclaim facilities, these cover other travel-related risks– loss of luggage or air-tickets or passport, flight delays and even hijacks. The premium you pay depends on your age, number of days of proposed travel and the countries to which you plan to travel. You have to pay a markedly higher premium for travel to the US and Canada.

The plain-vanilla Overseas Mediclaim Policy covers your hospitalisation and medical expenses up to the sum insured for 45 days; it also provides cover against in-flight accidental death and for loss of passport.

Typically, a 30-year-old would pay Rs 1,630 as premium for medical cover up to $50,000 for 45-day travel that takes in the US and Canada. Private players offer their value-added "travel insurance" packages for about the same premium (see table: Travel Companions).


Premium (Rs)*

Sum insured ($)


Travel Guard



(Royal Sundaram)











* For a 30-year-old for 45-day travel (including US and Canada); includes 5% service tax
** Available on a case-to-case basis

How it works. This is why it pays to look beyond the premium rates when you’re planning to buy the Overseas Mediclaim policy or the travel insurance packages. Where the public sector insurers’ policy scores is in the fact that it comes with an international toll-free helpline (+44 (0) 1273 749222) you can dial from anywhere in the world when you need hospitalisation or medical attention. If you seek admission in one of the accredited hospital (you can get a list of such hospitals from the insurers), you can walk away without paying a dime.

If you’re admitted to other hospitals, you might need to pay up front and make a claim to the insurer along with the required paperwork (a filled-up claims form, prescriptions and medical records and cash receipts). Private players, on the other hand, offer country-specific phone numbers–so you’ll have to declare your itinerary before you leave and collect the appropriate contact numbers.

Know your deductible. Remember, however, that only claims in excess of a specified amount (called a "deductible") will be settled. Ajay Srivastava learnt this the hard way when his claim for $100 towards expenses incurred on securing medical attention for his son Ritvik while on a tour of Germany was rejected because his policy came with a $100 deductible. "All I got was a card wishing me good health for the rest of my travel period!" he recalls wryly.

Also, the fine print on private insurers’ packages have certain exclusions: they don’t cover you for medical expenses arising from motor accidents. The public sector insurers, however, make no such exclusion. But if you plan to drive abroad, make sure you carry a valid international driving licence, without which any attendant claims may be rejected.

Additionally, none of the private insurers lets you extend your insurance cover once your tour has begun. Public sector insurers, on the other hand, allow you to extend your Overseas Mediclaim Policy for up to 180 days–even after the tour has begun.

Overseas Mediclaim policies can, additionally, be bought only up to age 70. So, what does a person do when he’s required to stay on longer than six months or does not otherwise qualify for Overseas Mediclaim policies? Rakesh Vashishta, 40, who works for a tech firm in the US, found himself looking for just such an answer when his 70-year-old father planned to visit him for a year. Even though his father had a clean medical history, Vashishta couldn’t buy him an Overseas Mediclaim policy. Since he could scarcely have afforded not to buy any insurance, he trawled the Net for insurance quotes. "The US insurance market is much more mature than in India, and I could buy my father a medicare policy right here in New Jersey," says Vashishta. "For anyone who plans to stay longer than six months in the US, I’d recommend only this: buy local insurance!" he says. "You get far more customised insurance products, at competitive rates."

Source: Outlook Money - 2009

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Questions to ask a tour operator

10 things to ask a tour operator

Whether you are booking a holiday through an online travel portal or are relying on a tour operator, being a sceptic can save you a lot of money - and remorse. As it is more important to ask the right questions than to obtain correct answers to the wrong queries, we have compiled a list of posers that you must forward to your travel facilitator before you reach for your credit card.

Answer the following questions in 'Yes' or 'No' to know whether your travel agent is giving you a fair deal or if you are being shortchanged.

Price of the package

Are taxes and surcharges included in the quoted price?

Is booking fee applicable separately to components like tickets, hotels, etc, instead of a single fee for the entire package?

Is there a transaction charge applicable to credit card payments?

Is there a fee for plan modification in addition to cancellation?

Fine print for low costs

Will I get a hopping flight as it’s cheaper than a direct flight?

Can I choose my hotel room’s location, away from public areas?

Will I have to pay entrance fees at tourist spots while sightseeing?

Pricing structure

Does my package fall under the transparent pricing plan (which allows the choice of airlines and hotels, among others)?

Can I negotiate for more information under the opaque pricing plan (where hotel and airline is revealed after full payment)?

Can I modify my travel dates Illustrations: RAJ s under opaque pricing?

Reaching the destination

Does ‘direct flight’ with a single flight number mean a non-stop flight to the destination?

If I have to change flights and miss the connecting flight, will I be compensated for it?

Deal with meals

Can I choose between a buffet and a la carte service?

In a Modified American Plan package, where I get breakfast and my choice of lunch or dinner, can I switch the meals?

Sightseeing trips

Can I choose the places of tourist interest that I want to see?

Will I be assigned a trained guide instead of a chauffeur-cum-guide?

The paperwork

Will the agency help in submitting and collecting travel documents?

Do I need a valid passport for at least six months after reaching the destination, irrespective of when I plan to leave?

Travel insurance

Am I adequately covered for medical emergencies while on a holiday?

Does my insurance plan also cover baggage and passport loss?

Can I pay on a per-day basis and not for a pre-defined tour period?


Is there a 24x7 toll-free helpline number?

Do you have a representative at my holiday destination?

Money Today February 4, 2009 (Edited)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Kerala body massage in Kolkata (South)

I never knew there is a Kerala body massage centre in Kolkata (South).

1.Therapy Ayurveda outlet
Address: 1/428, Gariahat Road (South),
Opp: Selimpur Bus Stop, Near Arambagh FoodMart, Kolkata
Pin: 700068
Phone: 033-24991187 / 24991188, Mob: 9836346344
Timing: 08:00 AM - 08:00

2. There is another one, where consultation is free . Doctors are originally from Kerala. I have once consulted here. They also sell medicines here.
Kottakal Arya Vaidhya Sala

Address: 199 Sarat Bose Road (Near Desha-priya Park,opposite BPCL Petrol pump, nearest Metro/subway station - Kalighat), Kolkata - 700029. Tel : 033- 24630661  
 It is locally named as Bajrang Vyamagar and just beside famous Maharani Tea shop.

3. In fact there are various places one can have Ayurveda from Kerala - Hazra Road and Lansdowne crossing


Tips when applying for an Indian Visa for foreigners
November 15, 2010

If you are planning to visit India either as a tourist or for business purposes, then you will need to obtain the correct type of Indian visa. This process has, over many years, created much confusion, complication and headache for many applicants as the process can appear somewhat complex if not dealt with correctly. This article will explain essential points you will need to consider before making your Indian visa application.

Tip 1: Apply for the correct type of visa from the start

The part that causes the most delays is people applying for tourist visas for a trip when they are actually undertaking the trip for business purposes. If this is the case, then the embassy will change the type of visa required. Therefore on the part of the form where it says what your purpose is, ensure you correctly put “business” or “tourism”. Putting a mix and match will lead to errors.

Tip 2: Leave plenty of time for the Indian visa application

If you are visiting India, then ensure you have your visa before making any flight bookings and committing to a date. The visa can only be processed as quick as 3 working days and no quicker. It is possible to obtain an India business visa in a day though. Ideally a 2 week time frame is the safest time you will need to obtain your Indian visa.

Tip 3: Be careful when declaring your profession

There are various occupations which the embassy are sensitive too and may require more information. If you are any of the following: Writer, actor/actress, pilot, cabin crew, solicitor, journalist, publisher, policeman, civil servant, social worker, media executive then you will need to have a letter from your employer that says you will be visiting India only for holiday purposes and will not be undertaking any work (if you are applying for an Indian tourist visa that is). Having these extra documents will ensure you will not have any delays.

Tip 4: Make the embassy aware if you are leaving and re-entering India within an 8 week window

For those that are taking a side trip to another destination during their trip to India, e.g. visiting Nepal, Sri Lanka, China etc, and will need to come through India again, then due to new Indian embassy ruling, you will need to declare this so that you can obtain the relevant paperwork for a re-entry visa. For this you will need to provide proof of your trip travel into India and out using travel itineraries, e.g. etickets, train or bus tickets whilst making your normal visa application.

Tip 5: Ensure all business visa letters are detailed and accurately

For business men that are applying for an Indian business visa, you must ensure that all the letters are accurate. Ensure that each letter contains the following information: The full name of the passport holder, the passport number, the travel dates, the purpose of the visit and the visa type required. The letters should always been on letter headed paper. Formal letters are required by the Indian embassy. For journalists, there is a separate journalist visa application required.

More information by WetPaint, Mumbai,India,50.0.html

The Indian government has recently made changes to the types of Indian visas that it offers. Of particular interest are the new restrictions that have been introduced for Tourist visas and X (Entry) visas. This guide to Indian visa types will help you find out what Indian visas are available, and for whom.

1. Tourist Visa
Tourist visas are issued to people who want to come to India to visit friends and go sightseeing. Although tourist visas can be granted for more than six months, depending on the applicant's nationality, it's not possible to remain in India for longer than six months at a time on a tourist visa. In late 2009, India introduced new rules to curb the misuse of tourist visas in India (people who were living in India on a Tourist visas, and doing quick runs to a neighboring country and back every six months).

Anyone who has an Indian tourist visa must now have two month gap between visits to India. There are a couple of exceptions two month gap rule.

2. X (Entry) Visa
An X visa used to be issued to people who didn't clearly fall into any of the other categories of visa applicants (such as volunteers). However, as of mid 2010, an X visa is only available to the following people:

* A foreigner of Indian origin.
* Spouse and children of a foreigner of Indian origin or Indian citizen.
* Spouse and dependent children of a foreigner coming to India on any other long term visa, such as an Employment visa or Business visa.

Unlike Tourist visas, X visas are not subject to the two month gap. Therefore, people of Indian origin should apply for one of these visas when visiting India. It's not possible to work in India on an X visa. However, X visas can be extended in India, and there's no need to leave every six months.

3. Employment Visa
Employment visas are issued to foreigners who are working in India, for an organization registered in India. Foreigners doing volunteer work in India are now granted employment visas (as opposed to X visas, which was previously the case). Employment visas are usually granted for one year, or the term of the contract. They can be extended in India.

In order to apply for an Employment visa, you'll need proof of employment with a company/organization in India, such as a contract that states the terms and conditions of appointment. There's a new rule that applicants must be earning $25,000 a year or more. Exceptions are made for ethnic cooks, translators, non-English language teachers, and members of Foreign High Commissions and Embassies.

4. Student Visa
Student visas are granted to people who wish to come to India and study at an officially recognized educational institution. This includes the study of yoga, Vedic culture, and Indian system of dance and music. The main document required is student admission/registration papers from the institution. Student visas are issued for up to five years, depending on the duration of the course. They can also be extended in India.

In regards to yoga, the term "Yoga visa" is often mentioned. However, it's actually a Student visa that's provided for the purpose of studying yoga. Most of the well known yoga centers in India will require those who study with them to obtain a yoga Student visa. A tourist visa is not sufficient.
Ministry of Home Affairs FAQ About Student Visas

5. Business Visa
Business visas are available for people who wish to explore business opportunities or conduct business in India. This type of visa differs from an Employment visa in that the applicant won't be working for, and earning an income from, an organization in India. Business visa applicants will require a letter from the organization that they intend to do business with, stating the nature of the business, duration of stay, places to be visited, and intention to meet expenses.

Business visas are valid for six months or more, with multiple entries. However, holders aren't allowed to remain in India for more than six months at a time. Ten year business visas can be granted to foreigners who set up joint ventures in India.

6. Conference Visa
Conference visas are issued to delegates who want to attend a conference in India that's offered by an Indian government organization. Those who are attending a conference with a private organization in India should apply for a Business visa.
Ministry of Home Affairs Information About Conference Visas

7. Journalist Visa
If you're a professional journalist or photographer, and you'll be making a film or documentary in India, you should apply for a Journalist visa. The main benefit of a Journalist visa is if you want access to a particular region or person. A Journalist visa is issued for three months. However, these visas can be notoriously difficult to get, so only apply if you really need to.

If you're employed by a media company, or if you list your occupation as journalist or photographer on your visa application, it's likely you'll be made to get a Journalist visa regardless of what you intend to do in India. India is very sensitive to people involved in the media (including editors and writers) coming to India, due to how they may portray the country.

8. Research Visa
Research visas are issued to professors and scholars who wish to visit India for research related purposes. This is another difficult category of visa to get. It's restrictive and comes with a lot of requirements. Applications are sent to the Department of Education. Ministry of Human Resource Development for approval, which may take three months to be granted. Many people choose to apply for a Tourist visa instead, if they're conducting research informally and not going to be in India for more than six months.

9. Medical Visa
Medical visas are provided to those seeing medical treatment in India at recognized and specialized hospitals, and treatment centers. The treatment should be significant in nature, such as neurosurgery, heart surgery, organ transplant, joint replacement, gene therapy, and plastic surgery. Up to two Medical Attendant visas will be issued for people to accompany the patient.

10. Transit Visa
Visitors staying in India for less than 72 hours can obtain a Transit visa. Otherwise a Tourist visa is required. A confirmed airline booking for the onward journey must be shown when applying for the visa.

Birds eye view of visa rules for SE Asia

Are you a Indian citizen planning to visit Asia? Well, you’re in luck! The following guide covers the latest visa requirements for popular travel destinations in Asia. It has all the basic information you need to plan your trip and attain your visa quickly and easily. The guide is applicable to Indian citizens, holders of passports issued in India and those born in India, and it’s for Tourist Visas only, not Business or Diplomatic Visas.

We’ve sorted the guide based on the suggested time required to apply for your tourist visa in certain countries, they are – No advanced planning, Three-day preparation, and Two-week preparation:

No Advance Planning

Some Asian countries will grant you a tourist visa automatically upon your arrival, and there’s no need for pre-arrangements or payments. The immigration officer will simply stamp your passport with a date showing either the number of days you can stay, or a date indicating when you must leave the country.

The stamp on your passport will technically serve as a ‘visa,’ which allows you to enter the country multiple times within a specific number of days. The countdown begins on the first day you enter the country. Sometimes, this is also known as ‘a multiple-entry visa.’

Three-day Preparation

Some Asian countries require you to submit your visa application in advance, that is before you arrive at the entry point. Usually, you’ll be given a reference number or an approval letter to indicate that your visa has already been approved.

While some countries will grant you the visa without payment, others will require you to pay for a stamping fee at the visa-on-arrival counter. These days, you can submit a visa application online, without the need to hand over your original passport.

Certain nations will grant you a Visa by email, soon after you’ve submitted your online application. Since you get the visa in advance, this is by far the most convenient way. All you need to do is print out your visa and carry it with your passport. Once your visa application has been approved, however, you must usually enter the country within a specific number of days.

Two-week Preparation

Some Asian countries expect you to get a visa ready well before you make the trip to their country. This usually means you’ll have to apply for the visa at the embassy of the country you wish to visit, and they’ll issue the visa to you. For obvious reasons, visa applications at embassies are usually much easier to do when you’re in your home country, before you travel.

In some cases, you can also apply for a visa through travel agents; they have ‘runners’ who’ll go to the embassy for you. Some embassies will even let you mail in your passport and visa application. Depending on the country you visit, the start date of your visa may begin once it has been issued to you, instead of counting down from the day you first entered the country.

Indian citizens tend to find traveling a bit of a hassle, as they are required to get a visa prior traveling, or are not eligible for visa on arrival. But do not fret. Information from multiple sources in the same thread at Thorntree will surely help if you are an Indian citizen planning to travel/backpack around South East Asia.

Can get a Visa on Arrival. 30 days from date of issue. Immigration officers did not ask for an outbound ticket, but advisable to have a flight out of Indonesia within 30 days.


Need to get a visa from India, Chennai Consulate. No hassles there. 1 year, multiple entry with 30 days for each duration. barkingcrab crossed into Malaysia (Peninsula, Sabah and Sulawesi) multiple times and generally faced no hassles but was asked for an outbound ticket at a couple of border points (Thai/Malaysia) even though he had a valid visa for Malaysia. Fortunately, he had a “ticket-out” and it was within the 30 days duration.


15 days Visa on Arrival available at restricted port-of-entries, with flight-out tickets. This was enforced at Bangkok and Phuket airports. The Thai border agent demanded $10 “bribe” from barkingcrab (despite the papers being perfect). jayanraj got VOA for 15 days without fee, onward / return ticket required, other documents like hotel booking, sufficient funds, insurance not needed. Please note that Indian residents CAN NOT get a Thai visa at any Embassy outside of India.

30 days Visa on Arrival available. Simply arranged for a Lao visa at their embassy in Bangkok. Straightforward. Can cross into Laos at Ching Khong/Huey Xai with no issues. Please note that VOA is not available for Laos from Cambodia.

30 days Visa on Arrival available. Cambodian visa can be arranged at Vientiane. Straightforward. Can cross into Cambodia from Don Det with no issues. Please note that there is no VOA border crossing into Thailand from Cambodia for Indians. jayanraj reports that for the visa on arrival stamp for 30 days at USD25, he had to get a prior e-visa before that but didn’t inform airline until he reach Phnom Penh, nice experience.

30 days Visa, apply at Embassy/Consulate. Straightforward. barkingcrab got his at Sihanoukville. jayanraj reports that it was very simple but as he was a new traveler, he had to get a pre-visa approval letter from his tour operator from Hanoi after sending him passport & flight details prior to that. Visa sticker is from Mumbai consulate, dates as mentioned in letter, btw there are some websites too who provide such letter, this system is applicable only while entering by air, but still very straightforward, got 30 days stay single entry, Validity starts as per your arrival flight’s date.

Requires a visa from Embassy/Counsulate in India (except for transit with valid onward ticket). Apply through travel agents in India, furnish complete itinarary with outbound ticket to get a visa. Straightforward at border crossings. No outbound ticket is required if you have a valid visa.

Sri Lanka
Free Visa on arrival stamp at Colombo Airport, smiling immigration staff, asked how many days wanted and gave 30 days.

Hong Kong
14 days Visa on Arrival available.

Philippines issued barkingcrab a single entry, 59 day stay (valid 3 months from date of issue) at the Philippines Consulate in Chennai. A lot of mistrust and initial acrimony. He was told at the Chennai consulate that he can only apply in New Delhi, as the case of a tourist visa on a well travelled passport was apparently too complicated for the Chennai consulate to handle. He did not want to travel to New Delhi and the travel agents were too dogmatic. But barkingcrab persisted and finally, was issued visa within 24 hrs of submission of docs after a week long drama, multiple calls to the Embassy in N Delhi etc. $50 was the visa charge.

barkingcrab also managed to get a single entry tourist visa to Japan at the Consulate in Chennai. When things were going no where, he asked to speak to the Vice Consul but was refused. After writing a worded complaint, he received a call later in the evening that the Vice Consul wanted to chat. Arrived the next day and was met with a smiling and pleasant Japanese guy who asked about travels, why Japan etc for 15 minutes. He was issued a single entry visa, 30 days stay, valid for 3 months from date of issue within 24 hours. INR 420.00, did not have hotel confirmations for every day of stay, but did have air ticket in and out, bank statements and 3 years tax returns.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Budget 2011 in a new light

Pranab, Prince of Serendip

Posted on March 2, 2011 | Author: Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar |

India is in surprisingly good fiscal shape despite populist spending, venal politics and misgovernance.

artical Picture

In ordinary English, a budget lays down what you earn and spend. A government budget determines how much money each department gets, with a clear understanding that nothing more will be given save in exceptional circumstances.

Budget discipline for each department is supposed to ensure that the government overall does not overspend, and that spending priorities are not distorted by excessive demands from this department or that. Departments with lowered allocations are supposed to sack consultants and even staff if salaries cannot be financed from their allocations.

In India, however, budgetary allocations have long ceased to be sacrosanct. Cynics say that the Budget is now simply the starting point for finance ministry negotiations with every department for additional funding. Supplementary demands for grants grow year after year.

This year’s Budget sets a new benchmark in allocations that defy credibility. In one area after another, spending in 20011-12 is budgeted to be less or only marginally more than actual spending in 2010-11.

Sonia Gandhi is a dedicated populist who swears by subsidies, and her National Advisory Council constantly produces new ideas for evermore subsidies. Yet the Budget says subsidies will fall from Rs 1,64,153 crore this year to Rs 1,43,570 crore next year.

The oil subsidy looks like ballooning after the recent surge prices in global prices, yet is projected to fall from Rs. 38,386 crore to Rs. 23,640 crore. Global fertiliser prices are skyrocketing, yet the fertiliser subsidy is projected to fall from Rs. 54,977 crore this year to Rs. 49,998 crore next year. Non-Plan capital outlays (excluding defence) are to be more than halved, from Rs. 27,696 crore to Rs. 13,212 crore.

The food subsidy is to remain virtually unchanged at around .60,000 crore, although procurement prices have gone up and carrying costs for the huge government food stock are high. Something as innocent sounding as “other non-Plan expenditure” is to be slashed from .1,45,884 crore to .1,28,859 crore. Pranab Mukherjee claims in his Budget speech that social spending will rise 17%.

Yet the Budget papers show non-Plan expenditure on social services plummeting from Rs. 35,085 crore this year to Rs. 20,862 crore next year. A small part of this may be explained by the reclassification of some revenue spending as capital spending. Yet look at the bottom line, which is total government spending. This is budgeted to rise just a smidgeon from Rs. 12,16,576 crore to Rs. 12,57,729 crore. Is this possible at a time of high inflation and raging political populism?

Optimists like economist Surjit Bhalla interpret the Budget figures as Mukherjee’s determination to get spending under control. Cynics like me will say the spending targets are no more than the start of negotiations with each department on how much more it will get.

Optimists may think Mukherjee is going to be the toughest finance minister in history, wielding a fearsome budgetary axe. Cynics like me see this Budget as simply the preface to the real spending figures that will show up in supplementary demands for grants in autumn.

Having said that, let me add that the recent era of highly elastic Budget estimates has not been a fiscal disaster. On the contrary, Mukherjee was able to say with pride in his Budget speech that the ratio of central government debt-to-GDP for 2011-12 is now estimated at just 44.2 % of GDP, against the Finance Commission’s recommendation of 52.5%.

This looks very impressive at a time when the same ratio looks like crossing 100% in the US and 200% in Japan. We need to add state government debt of around 24% of GDP, but the resultant consolidated government debt of around 69% of GDP does not look unreasonably high.

The credit goes not to budgetary stringency, but to two other factors: revision of GDP data and buoyant revenue. Based on new GDP deflators, it turns out that we have understated GDP for years, which in turn means we have overstated our fiscal problems for years. Besides, revenue buoyancy has consistently surprised us on the upside, and is doing so again this year. Revenues look like rising 25% this year against the budgeted 19%.

Conclusion: populism in India has not wrecked government finances, as widely feared. India does not require a painful fiscal squeeze that would be politically difficult. Fairly modest steps in the direction of fiscal virtue are enough.

The revenue gains of rapid growth have consistently been underestimated by financial analysts. Fiscal prudence is the last thing on the minds of our venal politicians, who are always looking for ways to buy off voters disgusted by political venality. Yet, without intending it, the populist giveaways of politicians have been well within the limits of fiscal prudence.

This is called serendipity. The word is derived from an Arabian tale of Three Princes of Serendip (a mispronunciation of Swarna-dwip or Ceylon), who had the happy ability to constantly make fruitful and productive discoveries without intending to.

Our politicians too have discovered without intending to that they can boast of fiscal virtue even while indulging in farm loan waivers, enormous oil and food subsidies, and other giveaways. Their aim is to buy popularity, not stimulate GDP, but they have achieved both through serendipity.

This may not continue forever. But as of now, India looks in surprisingly decent fiscal shape. This is not because of good governance but in spite of terrible governance. So, even slightly improved governance — like waste reduction by using cash transfers instead of subsidies — can improve fiscal fundamentals faster than venal politicians can erode them.

Chronological order