I’ve spent the past 3 years traveling the world and living in various countries for months on end.
- I spent nearly 1.5 years in south east Asia (mainly Vietnam and Indonesia)
- I spent nearly half a year traveling Europe
- and now I’m probably going to spend a couple of years traveling South America
and I have one of the weakest passports out there (the Indian one!)
Of course some people have it so much worse than, just go through the passport index. Having a passport from Afgharnistan or even Pakistan is a nightmare compared to my relatively priveledged Indian passport.
If you spend any amount of time taking to most people from a country like mine (or one of the above with a weak passport) almost everyone will tell you how they want to travel so badly.
Sadly many of them also use their passport as an excuse and don’t even try to become a digital nomad!
Well, the main reason I started writing this article was because of the sheer number of questions I get when it comes to being an “Indian Digital Nomad”
How do you deal with Visas as Indian?
How can you travel with a weak Passport?
How can I become an Digital Nomad if I have a weak passport?
This article will be the summation of all the emails I’ve ever replied to on this topic, so don’t ask me “How to travel like a digital nomad with a weak Passport” again because this article is the answer.
So, if you google Visa requirements for Indian citizens, Wikipedia will show you that we can go up to 58 countries visa-free. But honestly who even cares about that? 58 is a meaningless number when half are basically just Island countries most people aren’t planning on going to.
How does knowing that you have visa-free access to “Saint Kitts and Nevis” help you unless you’ve got a $150k and planning on buying a passport there (more on this later)
This article is not a good guide if you want to know how to get vacation visas more easily!
This article is going to dive more into how can you stay longer in countries ie a couple of months.
I’m also going to dive more into detail about the places I’ve spent a long time in eg. How I spent 10 months in Vietnam/ 6 months in Indonesia etc.
Because honestly if you want a guide to “visa-free travel for XYZ country” other blogs have already covered that. I travel full time and this article is mainly to show that it’s possible even with a weak passport.
So let’s start,
How to Travel Like A Digital Nomad With A Weak Passport
Yes, Life Isn’t Fair
If you are reading this you probably feel like it’s unfair. Well, you’re right! You’re completely right its fucking unfair that something that’s completely out of your control has such a big impact on your life.
Is traveling with a weak passport harder than for our European/American counterparts? Yes
Do we get discriminated at Imigration counters and Embassies all over the world? Yes
Are we made to show a lot more documentation at embassies? Yes
We don’t live in an equal world, people will treat you differently for things that are completely out of your control eg where you are born or the colour of your skin.
Spending your entire life playing the victim doesn’t help anyone, especially not yourself.
Do what you can with what you have
How do you increase the ease at which you can travel the world with a weak passport?
1. Make More Money (duh)
Sadly in an idealistic world, the amount of money you have shouldn’t matter but rather your character or merit should. But we don’t live in that kind of world.
In the world, we live in your bank balance matters, sadly. If you can prove that you are self-sufficient and won’t be a drag on the economy of the country you are visiting you’ll be accepted my easier.
Also as you make more money you can afford to reduce the friction of all your travels. Eg. I can afford to not think about a $10 dollar flight (that I don’t even take) that I buy just to show Immigration officers when I fly into Indonesia.
2. Get a US/ UK or Schengen
Spend some time and invest and try to get a long term US/UK or Schengen visa.
Just their US visa can make your travels sooo much easier.
Here’s just a few countries that I can visit without a visa with my Indian passport + US visa combination:
- 6 months visa free: Mexico and Peru
- 3 months visa free Guatemala, Honduras, Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Albania, Georgia, Serbia,
And a ton more countries for a month each. In fact I’m currently writing this from Albania and the US visa made my visits (3 so far) to Albania possible.
Is getting a US visa Easy? No. Worth it? Hell yeah Yea!
3. Buy a passport or Get a new residency
If you have the dough you can always find investment opportunities that give you residency or a passport.
- 650k Euro for A Malta Passport
- 250k Euro for a Greek residency
- $1 Million for a USA residency
- 2 Million Pounds for a UK residency
- 2 Million Euro for a Cyprus Passport
The list is endless…
However, you can also get a new residency or passport going down a different path: It usually requires moving to a new country and working there (full time). Eg. Getting a green card, becoming a Canadian resident, studying in Germany and then working etc….
I wouldn’t recommend that if you want to travel full time because it’s a decade long commitment before you get results. But if you’re interested in going down this path check out the subreddit r/IWantOut
4. Be exceptional
One of the best advice I give freelancers is the title of Carl Newport book, “Be so good they can’t Ignore you”
The same thing applies to countries and visas, if you are at the top of your field ie the best at what you do, countries will start opening its doors to you.
If you have been featured on covers of multiple magazine I doubt you’re sitting at home googling “how to travel with a weak passport”.
Fun story: I once was interrogated by immigration officers in Indonesia and I showed them my blog and how I travel and they was amazed and followed my Insta haha!
Caz and Craig from Ytravelblog, got a USA green card by been in the top of travel blogging.
I feel weird about things like this because on one hand its saying that “some people are better than other people” but on the other hand we live in a world where countries are closing borders to normal people but selling passports as above. I feel like merit based is better than just cash, but I still don’t know how I feel about this.
Understand what your visa/immigration official wants and try and give them that and beyond. Eg if you are dress like a bum when trying to enter Thailand don’t be surprised if you are asked some additional questions.
You don’t want to seem like a desperate guy trying to get laid, you to act like you has options (because you do!)
Hey, I want to visit your country but if you don’t want to let me in then go screw yourself and I’ll go to your neighbor and spend my $s there!
How to Become A Digital Nomad With a Weak Passport
So the next time someone says “oh I’d love to become a digital nomad but I can’t cause my passport is weak” send them this article.
However, there’re obviously some obstacles that come to make money traveling.
For starters, most people don’t know how to get paid properly and most of them only try to compete on price. Listen to this podcast I did with And.co on How to Get High-Paying Clients No Matter Where You’re Based
Also here’re a few other resources to get started on your journey
- How to Become a Digital Nomad
- How to Make Money Traveling
- How to Start A Blog And Make Money
- How I Became The Head Of SEO at Foundr at 20
So… what are you waiting for? Book that flight and create your own adventure!
Countries I’ve Visited With my Weak Passport
Vietnam is one of my favorite countries in South East Asia. I’ve been to Vietnam a total of 5 times spending a total of 10 months across 2.5 years.
Vietnam has one of the best visa policies out there. Vietnam has a new “e-visa” but I would recommend you skip it as it is only 30 days.
Instead apply for the “visa on arrival”, to do that all you have to do is have a travel agency in Vietnam send you a letter that you print. With the letter, you just have to pay $25 on arrival in a process that takes about 15 mins and you can get 3 months in Vietnam.
I’ve used “https://www.vietnam-visa.in/” multiple times but they’re many other sites out there. It costs less than $10 for the 1-month letter and $15 for the 3 months single entry visas.
You can even get it done faster for extra. Once I paid to get it in 2 hours cause I was flying the next day as I had to change my flight due to the volcano explosion in Bali and had to fly out of Thailand before my visa was over.
- I’ve never been asked for an outbound flight in Vietnam
- You can leave and come back the next day. Ie Stay for 3 months, leave for a day and come back.
“Nomad capital” of SEA? Bali is incredibly popular among a lot of Nomads and for good reason. But honestly Indonesia has so much to offer other than just Bali and I would recommend venturing out. I spend about a month biking the Island of Flores a year ago while I was out in SEA.
Indonesia has visa-free access but I’ve never used it as it’s only for one month. Instead, I’ve always applied for a visa before going to Indonesia. The process needs to be done in an Indonesian embassy.
However, I never recommend applying for visas while in Indian (unless you have to). Embassies in India are more strict than most parts of the world (who wouldn’t when you have a population of 1.2 billion people who want to get the hell out!).
I’ve applied in the Indonesian Embassy in Bangkok twice and in Malaysia. The process takes about 2 working days in Bangkok and took only 3 hours in Kuching, Malaysia which is a much smaller city. Compare that with India where it would take over half a week and you’d be questioned about why you need more than 30 days.
- Indonesia sometimes but not always has asked me for an outbound flight so what I do is just book a cheap ~$10 flight from a city in Indonesia to Malaysia. PKK to KCH is an example of a flight I would book and just not take. The $10 is worth not having to deal with all the questions/ uncertainty.
- You may be asked for a bank statement at the embassy. Just a simple Interest certificate showing at least around $2000 and they’re usually no more questions.
- You can leave and come back the next day. Ie Stay for 3 months, leave for a day and come back. But I would recommend staying out a while longer
Malaysia has a 3 months multiple entry Evisa (30 days per visit) that you can get, I’ve never applied directly on the website but instead always used Ivisa.com to do the process.
They also have an eNTRI visa that’s cheaper and shorter for 30 days but it’s 30 days so I’ve never used it.
Belgrade is one of my favorite cities in the Balkans. Serbia is 30 days visa free for Indians per year. Also if you hold a Valid visa of Schengen or the United States you get 90 days within 180 days. I’ve spent about 3 months in Serbia over 2 visits.
- I’ve not been asked for an outbound flight or proof of funds.
Indians get 15 days visa on arrival to Thailand. I’ve used Thailand multiple times as a transit stop so that 15 days used to be super convenient. If you want to travel in Thailand for longer you can apply for a 2 months visa in the embassy (I’ve not done this as I’m not a huge fan of Thailand.)
I’ve spent around 2 months in Laos on 2 separate visas. Each was 30 days each. You can get it on arrival at any international airport or major land border. Biking around the mountains of Laos was an incredible experience and would definitely recommend a visit.
Cambodia has a 30 days visa on arrival at all land borders as well as airports. I was asked to show around $200 in cash but an atm statement sufficed.
I love Armenia! It’s got some of the friendliest and lively people I’ve met. Indians can get a 120 days e-visa/visa on arrival to Armenia.
I crossed into Armenia from Georgia and the immigration officer was so friendly he even offered me an orange he was eating while stamping my passport.
Indians can get 30 days visa to Azerbaijan, you can even get the visa at the airport but I’d recommend doing it beforehand online.
Brown Power! Bhutan is the one time, and maybe the only time I can be happy to have an Indian passport. Indians have freedom of movement to live in Bhutan and one of the only 3 countries whose citizens don’t have to pay $150+/day to visit Bhutan
Indians can visit, live and work in Nepal for as long as they want. Ever wanted to train to climb Everest? Why not go straight to the source…
Saperavi, Khachapuri and the Caucasus mountains… what more can you ask for. I loved my time in Georgia so much so that it was the first country I ever even considered buying an apartment in.
Georgia has an E-visa for Indians for 30 days, however, there’s been a lot of cases of Indians been turned away.
- Georgia E-Visa for Indians: Is it Worth the Hassle? | The Shooting Star
- Indians tourists with Georgian e-visa sent back – The Asian Age
Valid Visa holders of USA, UK, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, South Korea, Schengen, and GCC countries can stay up to 90 days every 180 days. I entered Georgia with my US visa twice and never had any issues.
Note: However, there have been many cases where those holding valid residency of GCC countries have been denied access without assigning any reason, especially if they are citizens of India and Pakistan.
- Our bags were scanned and searched as we came from Turkey
Honestly, I find the Maldives a little overrated and not worth it. (but that’s a whole other article). Indians get 90 days visa-free to the Maldives.
If I’m ever flying across the world, eg Asia to Europe, Asia to the Americas, etc. Qatar is my favorite transit stop. Why? Well for starters Qatar Airways is a great airline (tied with Emirates for me) and on top of that if your transit time in Qatar is more than 8 hours you get a free 4-star hotel stay.
So basically you can turn your transit as a free stopover. Qatar Airways will cover everything including transport to and from the hotel, the hotel stays as well as give you money to use in the hotel for your meals. Almost every country has visa-free access to Qatar including Indians who get 30 days.
Note: It’s now $23/night for the hotel room.
15. Sri Lanka
Despite the headlines you may read, Sri Lanka is safer than the media may have you believe (I was in Sri Lanka during the recent explosions)
I first learned to surf when I was in Sri Lanka and also spent a month biking around. Indians get 30 days multiple entry visa for Sri Lanka, once they apply for the ETA (takes about 10 mins to process).
Ever wanted to explore the Sahara Desert or live in a cave? Well head down to Tunisia and you’ll get to experience a mix of Arab and French culture. Indians get 90 days visa-free access to Tunisia.
17. Hong Kong
Indians can apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization and get 14 days in Hong Kong.
Countries I Traveled Thanks To My US Visa
One of the biggest advice I have for most people who want to travel long term is to try and get a long term visa from a country like the USA or UK. That visa basically makes your passport double the strength. I have a 10 year US visa that I got a long time ago and that made the below countries possible without a visa.
Visa-free for a maximum stay of 90 days within 180 days for valid visa holders or residents of the Schengen Area member states, the UK and US, subject to the visa being used at least once before.
- Never been asked for an outbound flight.
19. Bosnia and Herzegovina
National visa may be substituted with a valid multiple-entry visa issued by an EU or Schengen Area member state or USA.
- Had to show my an outbound flight.
- Was interrogated and had my bags searched.
Istanbul is an incredible city and one of my favorite cities in the world. I’ve been to Turkey 3 times. Indians can get an eVisa for 30 days if they hold valid visa or residence permit issued by one of the Schengen member countries, US, UK, or Ireland.
You get 30 days in Montenegro with a US visa but if you leave and come back you get another 30. I spent 2 months in Montenegro doing this.
Ps. I’ll only be updating this article once a year so it may be out of date based on when you read it. Updated: October 2019