Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gaya pilgrimage more costly as visa fees rise

Tour packages for pilgrimages to Bodh Gaya, India, are expected to increase to K30,000 per person in the wake of rise in visa fees charges collected by both the Indian and Myanmar governments, a member of Bodh Gaya Pilgrimages Committee told The Myanmar Times.

India visa fees increased to US$102 (K138,637) per person from $42, if the visa is applied personally in the consulate, according to industry experts.

But online applications would only cost a little over $50, so many Gaya pilgrimages operators will try to apply the visa through online system, the experts said.

“We are trying to get Indian visa online for my clients because it’s much cheaper compared with getting the visa from the Embassy,” U Maung Maung Myint, owner of Dar Na Gaya Pilgrimages company said.

There are only 102 Gaya pilgrimages operators who are members of the Gaya Pilgrimages Committee, out of over 150 companies in the whole country.

“I will still collect the same US$800 and K50,000 price for the six-night, seven-day packages and US$900 and K50,000 for 14 nights and 15 days per person even if the other Gaya tour companies will re-fix the prices after our annual meeting ,” U Maung Maung Myint said.

There are about 30,000 pilgrims going for the Gaya Pilgrimage annually. The tour season usually starts in October until the end of April. Air India and Myanmar Airways International have regular scheduled flights to Gaya during the tour season. There would also be one charter flight.

Aside from the Gaya pilgrimages, people are becoming more interested in Nepal, which will be a new destination for Myanmar travellers who want to visit other countries, U Lynn Zaw Wai Mang, general manager of Unique Asia ticketing and tour company said.

Last year, about 26,000 Myanmar pilgrims went to Nepal, most of them visited Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha by passing through India border. Others went to Nepal for trekking.

Himalaya Airline has direct scheduled flight between Kathmandu and Yangon, twice a week, starting in March this year.

“There were about 200 people who visited Nepal from March to May after the direct flights have been restored and we expected to increase the number of leisure travellers in the coming tour season,” he said.

A seven-night eight-day package cost $ 1,400 per person, but it could drop to as low as $950 if the traveller prefers to take local bus transportation rather than take the domestic flights, he said.

“I am also planning to include Nepal packages in the coming tour season so people can find out for themselves the beauty of Nepal as the Lonely Planet identified the Himalayan country as ‘the best place for 2017’,” U Maung Maung Myint said.