Ask the Traveller

We travel around India for five months in the winter. There are rumours that next winter the tourist visa period will be reduced from six months to three. However, despite letters to various Indian authorities we can't get an answer. Can you help? We like to get our plane tickets booked early. Linda Greed

India is one of the most alluring countries in the world, with a vast amount to offer the visitor – from sublime beaches to mighty mountains, with spirituality and city life in abundance. As regular visitors, you already know that. And you will also be aware that the bureaucracy involved in a holiday to India is time-consuming, complex and confusing.

We have found it difficult to get definitive answers. The visa service is now outsourced to VFS Global, and you apply at in.

A tourist visa currently costs £41.24. The authorities are very specific about the condition of your passport: it must be valid for at least 190 days, with a minimum of two blank pages. But for someone hoping to make an extended trip, the official line is maddeningly unspecific.

We were told "a tourist visa may be issued normally for three months to six months"; and more opaquely, "The duration of the visa is the sole discretion of the issuing authority". In other words, only when the visa turns up do you find out how long you have got. In many nations, you could apply for a longer stay once you are in-country, but tourist visas for India are strictly non-extendable.

Indian visas are valid from the date of issue, not from when you intend to start travelling. So the only advice we can offer is to apply for a visa one month before you plan to fly, and hope that you get six months. Then you can book your flights – but of course they are likely to be more expensive then than now.