As the holiday season nears, India is fixing one of the most annoying problems that tourists visiting the country face – getting a local SIM card.
India’s Union Home Ministry has sanctioned a proposal to give SIM cards to foreigners who visit India on e-tourist visas. The plan could be enforced by the end of September this year. I think the facility will probably be launched on World Tourism Day, said Tourism Secretary Vinod Zutshi. September 27 is celebrated as the World Tourism Day.
Foreigners are currently required to go through a fairly lengthy procedure to get an Indian SIM card. A range of documents including a proof of identity, a photocopy of passport with valid visa stamp, proof of address along with the address of local reference, and photographs among other details are required at the time of applying for a new connection. In addition, a traveler is also required to do a tele-verification with the respective operator, which itself can take up to two days. If the new proposal gets approval, things could get a lot simpler and swifter.
The move comes as India attempts to attract more tourists. The country was the 38th most visited place in 2014 and tourism contributed as much as 6.77 percent to the countrys total GDP in 2014, according to the National Council for Applied Economic Research. In comparison, the IT-BPO industry, which the country focuses heavily on, accounts for 7.5 percent of the GDP.
State-owned telecom operator BSNL is likely to provide the service to foreigners, officials with the Tourism ministry said, adding that the discussion had reached the last level. In addition to a SIM card, foreigners with an e-tourist visa will also be provided with maps, booklets with information about various destinations, and emergency contact numbers. The SIM card will be loaded with some free credit, though the exact amount is yet to be decided.
Getting an e-tourist visa from the Indian government is fairly straightforward. Anyone who wants to visit the country needs to apply for the e-tourist visa four days ahead of their arrival. India allows citizens of 150 nations to visit the country for tourism purposes via an e-tourist visa.