St Denis, Reunion Island- visa waiver Indians-details - eNidhi India Travel Blog

St Denis, Reunion Island- visa waiver Indians-details

Reunion island is a small island off the coast of Africa. Reunion Island is a French overseas territory and has its own visa requirements. While on the onset it is said Indians and Chinese are eligible for visa exemption, the process feels more complex and expensive than a convention visa/e-Visa process.

This post lists my findings w.r.t visa requirements for visiting St Denis in Reunion Island as an Indian.

Summary:

  • Most of the St Denis travel agencies, I wrote to, seeking details and quote didn’t reply
  • Several Indian travel agencies I checked with said they haven’t sent anyone to Reunion island
  • Curated Holidays in Mumbai seems to be dealing with sending people to Reunion island and arrange visa. 
  • Indians need to apply for visa waiver through a travel agent costing about 6000 INR for visa alone or buy a package worth 40000 INR or more in which case no extra charge for visa
  • Not suited for budget travelers, can’t apply directly with Embassy/agencies like VFS

Now read in detail


When we plan an international trip, Visa requirements are a major consideration. Typically a destination would fall under one of the following categories

Visa Rule

Complexity

Examples

Visa on Arrival

Very easy, just book flight n go

Maldives, Nepal, Indonesia

Visa on Arrival based on other visa

Easy, if you qualify

Philippines gives Visa on Arrival if you have US/UK visa etc

e-Visa /Authorization

Moderate- apply online few weeks in advance, submit docs, wait

Vietnam, Australia

Stamped visa

Complex- Submit passport, documents, wait for decision

Schengen, UK, Canada

Stamped Visa after interview

Most complex- physical interview required

USA


But one country I have been tracking since 2018, called Reunion Island, a French overseas territory in Africa, has a special process. It is this complexity that held back my travel to this island prior to covid.


Visa rules for Indians visiting Reunion Island

On the face of it, the statement says “Indians and Chinese can avail visa on arrival at Reunion Island”- that sounds great, but this Visa on Arrival is granted on a very specific condition. The visitor should book a package through a registered travel agency and this travel agency should send request for visa waiver to Govt.


The other option is to request French Embassy for a visa that would be valid for reunion Island (regular short term Schengen Visa do not qualify this, you would need a long term Schengen visa or explicit marking on your visa calling it is valid for reunion island- the process to get this is not very clear on French Embassy website or agency like VFS.


This is where the process gets complicated. I can’t book a flight, hotel, arrive and get Visa on Arrival. A local travel agency should provide visa waiver letter and notify immigration about my arrival.


As per the information available online, this webpage has a list of travel agents authorized to facilitate this- link here. The website says Visa waiver costs 20 Euros and is free if we book package worth 500 Euros ( per person, not whole group)


From this list, I found email ID of a few agencies and sent them an email briefing my requirements and asking further details

The last email bounced. Remaining 3 didn’t reply (over 1 month now)- maybe they don’t know English or they don’t see a value entertaining a lone budget traveler from India.


I tried a few other things

  • Tried connecting with few Air Austral staff on Linked In, hoping they can connect me to right person for Visa on Arrival/Visa Waiver process. No luck
  • Sent an unsolicited mail to few person in Reunion Tourism Department. All mails bounced.

  • Scanned net for more inputs- this post was most useful.
  • Asked on twitter. Hrish Thota shared an Instagram clip of someone who had been to Reunion island. Send a DM to agency mentioned in that post. Got a response as below

Curated Holidays can get a visa waiver for a fee of around 6000 INR

  • 35 Euros for visa waiver (INR 3000)
  • 18 Euro handling fee  (INR 1500)
  • 1500 INR Curated Holidays Service charge

I was told  that option to apply for a visa through France Embassy doesn’t exist.


Effectively Reunion Island Entry would cost 6000 INR per person in visa cost. This could be saved if you are willing to buy a package worth 500 Euros per person, excluding flight (INR 40000+). Agencies will have a bigger margin on a 500 Euro package so can absorb visa fee. Most people travel with family or groups, so we’re looking at 1000-2000 Euro spend.


We would need the usual- return ticket, hotel proof etc to go with Visa waiver application


I travel on budget- I stay in hostels, eat affordable food and explore using public transport, rented vehicles etc. For a 3-4 day trip, spending 40000 INR on stay+food+site seeing is bit too much for me.


Flight between Chennai and St Denis used to be available for around 27000 pre-pandemic. Now best we can get is 32000 Return. Air Austral has also downgraded aircraft to an A220. I would have booked a multi city ticket (St Denis, Mauritius and Seychelles) but that is not possible on Air Austral website. We have to take support from their call center/sales team, who are not reachable.


Flight between Chennai and St Denis used to be available for around 25000 pre-pandemic. Now best we can get is 32000 Return. Air Austral has also downgraded aircraft to an A220. I would have booked a multi city ticket (St Denis, Mauritius and Seychelles) but that is not possible on Air Austral website. We have to take support from their call center/sales team, who are not reachable.


I was told by Mumbai travel agent that option to apply for a visa through France Embassy doesn’t exist.


I am currently left with following thought

  • If getting visa is such a complicated process, is it really worth it?  What is so unique about Reunion Island?
  • Why have they kept this process so complex? Why not issue a proper visa through French embassy/VFS or have an e-Visa process? Like how Vietnam does- collect some 20-25 Euros online and issue an eVisa, saving us trouble of having to go through multiple travel agencies. Maybe they want to weed out budget Indian travelers and want only wealthy ones who can spend thousands of euros.
  • Instead of current process Reunion could have offered Visa on Arrival like Bali for Indians having US/UK/Schengen visa (if they don’t trust all Indians)
  • If there was enough clarity and a fair process I would happily planned a trip to Reunion island when I get a cheap/fair priced ticket. But with this much complexity, better look someplace else. 

Nearby Seychelles and Mauritius give visa on arrival to Indians- we can hop on a flight any day. Why bother about Reunion island?


So at this moment I am undecided. I will keep an eye on ticket prices. If I get it around 25000 INR then will plan further. 


What are your thoughts? Have you been to Reunion island? Are you considering?

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