IndiGo announces direct flight from Bengaluru to Lakshadweep from March 31

The services between Bengaluru and Agatti will commence from March 31, 2024

Boosting air connectivity to Lakshadweep, IndiGo on Monday announced a direct flight between Bengaluru and Agatti island starting from March 31. The services between Bengaluru and Agatti will commence from March 31, IndiGo said, adding that Agatti will be the 88th domestic and 121st overall destination in the airline’s network.

IndiGo will be using ATR aircraft, having around 78 seats, on the route. The airline said Agatti, the virtual gateway to Lakshadweep, is popular amongst those looking for a bit of deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, sailing, skiing and even kayaking.

“The island also serves as an ideal base for exploring the uninhabited and serene isles of Bangaram, Pitti, Thinnakara, Parali-I, and Parali-II which lie in close proximity,” it added.

Lakshadweep came into the spotlight after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the island and pitched it as a tourist destination for Indians. However, three Maldivian Deputy Ministers mocked and made derogatory comments against PM Modi. A section of Indians reacted sharply and ran a ‘#BoycottMaldives’ campaign across online forums.

In January this year, Alliance Air, the only Indian airline that operates to Lakshadweep, started additional flights Kochi-Agatti-Kochi. A senior official of Alliance Air informed that the additional flights will operate two days a week i.e on Sunday and Wednesday.

To book Lakshadweep packages: Laskhadweep Packages

Sikkim all set to get its first railway station after a long wait of 49 years!

Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually laid the foundation stone for Sikkim’s first Indian Railways station in Rangpo

Sikkim is all poised to undergo a transformation in connectivity. It’s the only Indian state that doesn’t have railway access, and this is soon going to change. As per the latest news reports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to lay the foundation stone for the state’s inaugural railway station on Monday, February 26.

Deputy Railway Manager of Alipurduar, Amarjeet Agrawal, highlighted the dual significance of the Rangpo station for Sikkim and India. He explained that the railway station will serve both tourism and defense purposes. If reports are to go by, this ambitious railway project will unfold in three phases: the Sevoke to Rangpo rail project in the first phase, Rangpo to Gangtok in the second phase, and finally, Gangtok to Nathula in the third phase.

Sikkim officially became India’s 22nd state on May 16, 1975, following the abolition of the monarchy.

The upcoming Sikkim railway station will be an integral part of the Sivok-Rangpo railway project, which was initiated in October 2009. Stretching nearly 45 km from West Bengal’s Sivok to Sikkim’s Rangpo, the railway line will have five stations. Notably, Teesta Bazar could be India’s maiden underground halt station. The line will also include four open crossing stations (Sivok, Riyang, Melli, Rangpo).

Reportedly, the upcoming railway station in Sikkim will mark a significant milestone in the broader Sivok-Rangpo railway project, promising enhanced connectivity and accessibility for the region. The development reflects not only a groundbreaking achievement for Sikkim, but will also contribute to India’s railway infrastructure by introducing innovative elements like its first underground railway station.

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India tops the list of passengers at Dubai Airport; know what’s drawing them in

India is in the leading position for the highest number of passengers passing through Dubai Airport. The total traffic amounted to 11.9 million guests

If reports are to go by, the Dubai International Airport (DXB), renowned as the busiest hub for international travel globally, revealed that India is in the leading position for the highest number of passengers passing through its gates. The total traffic amounted to 11.9 million guests!

As of 2023, DXB boasts connectivity to 262 destinations across 104 countries through 102 international carriers. India secured the top spot among destination countries, with traffic totaling 11.9 million guests, followed by Saudi Arabia with 6.7 million guests and the UK with 5.9 million guests.

Interestingly, as per reports, more than 95 percent of guests experienced waiting times of less than seven minutes at departure passport control, while 97.5 percent encountered average waiting times of less than four minutes at security check-in departures. No wonder, in recognition of its service quality, DXB achieved a score of 4.5 in the ACI World’s globally recognised Airport Service Quality (ASQ) program, marking the highest result attained by the airport to date.

Let’s look at the reasons why Indian tourists are drawn to Dubai. What does the city have to offer? Shopping: Dubai is known for its extravagant shopping malls, bustling souks, and duty-free shopping options. Indian tourists often visit Dubai to indulge in luxury shopping experiences and take advantage of the wide range of products available.

Tourist attractions: Dubai offers a plethora of tourist attractions, including the iconic Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, and the Dubai Fountain. These attractions, along with various theme parks, water parks, and desert safaris, appeal to Indian tourists seeking entertainment and adventure.

Luxury and hospitality: Dubai is renowned for its luxurious hotels, fine dining restaurants, and impeccable hospitality services. Indian tourists seeking luxury travel experiences often opt for Dubai for its opulent accommodations and top-notch amenities.

Family-friendly environment: Dubai is considered a family-friendly destination with numerous attractions suitable for all age groups. Families from India often choose Dubai for vacations due to its safe environment, world-class amenities, and abundance of activities catering to children and adults alike.

Cultural experiences: Despite being a modern metropolis, Dubai also provides opportunities to explore Emirati culture and traditions. Indian tourists can visit heritage sites, museums, and mosques to learn about the local culture and history.

Accessibility: Dubai is well-connected to major cities in India through direct flights, making it a convenient travel destination for Indian tourists. Additionally, Dubai’s visa policies, including visa-on-arrival and e-visa options, make it easily accessible for Indian passport holders.

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Visa applications to beat pre-Covid levels in 2024, says VFS Global

In 2023, visa application volumes for VFS Global saw a 16 per cent year-on-year (Y-o-Y) growth compared to 2022, taking it to 93 per cent of the pre-pandemic level of 2019

VFS Global expects visa applications from India to surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2024 with the easing of appointment availability.

Vishal Jairath, head-South Asia, VFS Global, said during a media interaction that based on indications from the client governments in terms of appointment availability and the resources deployed by them, visa applications would surpass the pre-Covid levels by a healthy margin.

“We have geared up. We have looked at our infrastructure and increased capacity in many locations,” he added.

In 2023, visa application volumes for VFS Global saw a 16 per cent year-on-year (Y-o-Y) growth compared to 2022, taking it to 93 per cent of the pre-pandemic level of 2019.

Jairath pointed out that the number of appointments in 2022 was limited. “The situation improved in 2023 and we anticipate that in 2024 the situation will improve further in terms of appointment availability.”

The Covid-19 pandemic had created a backlog of visas increasing the wait time for appointments. For US visa applications it increased to about two years and has now come down to eight-nine months. For Schengen most appointments were available within a one-week period now and, in some instances, within the next day, Jairath said.

Popular destinations for Indian travellers in 2023 were Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, UK and US. However, China was yet to achieve the pre-pandemic level of volumes. Jairath attributed it to direct flight connectivity between India and China. It was available abundantly in 2019, but hasn’t really commenced so far in 2023-24. “We have seen that the Chinese have made a lot of effort in waiving off the biometric enrolment which they previously had for Indians applying for Chinese visas.”

Also, students studying in Ukraine were travelling to other geographies like Georgia. So some other markets have opened for student traffic traditionally going to Russia or Ukraine, Jairath said.

A post-pandemic trend seen across sectors is a shift towards premiumisation, including the visa domain. VFS Global saw a five-fold increase in its Visa at Your Doorstep bookings in 2023 compared to 2019. And Jairath expects the demand for premium services to continue.

VFS Global provides front-end administrative visa services for 52 sovereign governments in India through a network of 560 application centres spread across 19 cities.

Bengaluru-Bali direct flight from March 29, 2024

IndiGo will launch daily direct flights from Bengaluru to Denpasar in Bali, Indonesia on March 29

The daily direct flights from Bengaluru will cater to the substantial surge in Indian tourists travelling to the island of Bali.

Flight 6E 1605 will depart Bengaluru at 12.05 a.m. and land in Denpasar at 10.20 a.m. Flight 6E 1606 will depart Denpasar at 11.20 a.m. and reach Bengaluru at 3.15 p.m.

IndiGo started operations to Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, in 2023. Bali will be its second destination in Indonesia. Denpasar will be the airline’s 33rd international destination.

Bookings for the flight will open on February 20.

Vinay Malhotra, head of Global Sales at IndiGo, said, “We are extremely excited to announce Denpasar (the main hub of the Indonesian province of Bali) as the newest international destination to join the 6E network. With a hassle-free visa process, Bali has become a preferred destination for tourists. With the launch of these new flights, we aim to not only strengthen the ties between India and Indonesia, but also promote tourism and foster potential business collaboration. IndiGo will continue to deliver on its promise of affordable, on-time, courteous, and hassle-free travel experience across an unparalleled network.”

To book international packages: International Packages


Your Foreign Holiday Trips Will Get Costlier From July

Your Foreign Holiday Trips Will Get Costlier From July, TCS from 5% to 20% on an overseas tour

In the Union Budget 2023-24, the government has proposed to increase the tax collected at source or TCS for overseas tour packages to 20%

Are you planning for a foreign voyage to break away from the monotony of your everyday routine? Be aware that it may make a big dent in your pocket.

In the Union Budget 2023-24, the government has proposed to hike the tax collected at source (TCS) from five per cent to 20 per cent on overseas tour packages. The government modified Section 206C of the Income-tax, Act, 1961, to levy higher TCS on overseas package tours.

The proposal has been mooted on the assumption that people make high-value remittances, but tax returns do not reflect the proportionate income tax payment.

The move could potentially impact international travel from India.

Funds exceeding Rs 7 lakh sent out of India under the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) Liberalised Remittance Scheme (LRS), 20 per cent TCS will apply from July 1, 2023.

TCS is an extra amount collected as tax by a seller of specified goods from the buyer at the time of sale over and above the sale amount and is remitted to the government account.

As per the rules, sellers must collect a specified percentage of tax from customers at the time of receipt of the amount or during debiting the buyer’s account, whichever is earlier. Section 206C of the Income-tax, Act mentions the goods on which tax is collected from the buyers.

Finance Secretary T.V. Somanathan told the media the measures taken based on information that people make high-value remittances, but their tax returns do not reflect proportionate income tax payments.

Experts say the government’s view on TCS has been to reduce tax avoidance by high-net-worth individuals. Says Rajesh Gandhi, Partner, Deloitte India: “TCS rate on any remittances under LRS scheme except for education and medical purposes has been steeply increased to 20 per cent. While the introduction of a five per cent TCS was understandable since it would enable the government to monitor offshore payments. Increasing the rate will create cash flow issues for individuals since the TCS is on expenditure, not income. This could discourage the use of the LRS route.”

“The steep increase proposed to the TCS rate on foreign remittances could potentially cause cash flow constraints in some cases as the taxpayer would effectively have to upfront a large part of their annual tax outflows in these cases. Though that was considered from an administrative reform standpoint, this move ought to help widen the tax base and prompt increased voluntary compliances in hitherto untapped cases,” says Sumit Singhania, Partner, Deloitte India.

What It Means For You

Experts say the TCS increase in overseas travel is aimed at increasing domestic travel in India. This is a disappointing move for agents dealing with international tours. However, there would be an increase in the number of domestic tourists, and inbound tourism is likely to see a boom.

Suneel Dasari, founder and CEO of @, an online income tax filing portal, says the Budget 2023 proposal to raise the TCS on overseas tours is a difficult decision, all in the name of encouraging domestic tourism.

“The proposed changes may impact businesses more aligned with travel packages, as consumers may be hesitant to spend extra through TCS, even if the money will be returned in the form of TCS credit when filing income tax,” says Dasari.

“Today, overseas tour operators and travel companies are hit hard by COVID-19: the depreciated rupee against the dollar and the 20 per cent TCS that travellers must deposit. The silver line in the budget is not increasing the rate of TCS from 0.5 per cent for any education (either as a loan from financial institutions or otherwise) or medical treatment outside India,” he adds. This move would also cause resentment among middle-class travelers, as it would shoot up their overseas travel budget. It is likely to impact students aspiring for foreign education, as the 20 per cent on all residual remittances would mean foreign remittance for education and maintenance will likely get costlier. This would also affect people looking to invest in overseas stocks.

To book international packages: International Packages