Three travelers share with the American Bazaar their experiences of traveling to the US via Qatar and Mexico
As the US presidential proclamation continues to be in place for travel from India to the US, many Indians have been entering the US through a third country.
The Covid-19 travel dilemmas have even given a new term to this long transit – the quarantine destination.
As many countries continue to have restrictions for Indians transiting via their land, Mexico followed by Doha in Qatar and then Maldives have become three popular choices.
While there are no official figures available, hundreds of Indians who have travelled to the US via one of these countries have provided lots of immigration and travel related information.
Most of the travelers have been elderly parents of Indian Americans in the US who travelled on the B-1/B-2 visa or those on H-1B, H-4 or L-1,L-2 visa who could not secure a National Interest Exception or NIE to travel back to the US.
Read: After Mexico, Indians now traveling to the US via Qatar (July 26, 2021)
As most Indians who have travelled after spending 14 days in these countries have faced no challenges at American immigration, the routes are getting increasingly popular.
And now, many are weighing the pros and cons of traveling via these destinations to make an informed decision on which country to choose as a third country quarantine destination for themselves or their parents.
A few Indians who travelled through one of these destinations have shared with the American Bazaar their experiences about everything from hotel accommodation, to food services to the ease of RT-PCR tests available and general friendliness of the airport officials, hotel staff and others.
Rajkumari A. who is in her late 60s travelled to New York via Delhi to Paris and Mexico City a couple of months ago.
“Apart from the long 14 day wait to be finally able to enter the US and meet my kids and grandkids, I would describe the entire process as smooth. I didn’t need a transit visa to Paris,” she says.
Her stay at Hyatt House in Mexico City was comfortable. “I would say, the biggest advantage of traveling through Mexico is that by now most hotels, airport officials and even restaurants nearby are aware that many Indians are choosing this route.”
“They are happy to facilitate things for us as the locals are seeing it as a big tourism opportunity especially at a time when Covid-19 had brought all businesses to their knees.”
Another reason according to Rajkumari, Mexico is a better choice is that it does not have a quarantine policy. Just a negative test result means that you can travel anywhere within Mexico and not feel cooped up inside a hotel. Also since there are so many Indian travelers you automatically get company.
“I made friends with another elderly couple and we are still in touch after we reached the US,” she says. “We sometimes even joke about shifting our tickets so that we can travel back together.”
“Another important thing to consider may be that Mexico turns out to be cheaper than destinations such as Maldives especially if you are staying in one of the resorts.”
But Mahesh Kumar who got his parents to travel from Bangalore to the Bay Area via Doha, Qatar, says, “We chose Doha as my parents were more comfortable with a slightly known culture and they were wary of Mexico because of food and they knew nothing about local culture.”
“While they had a satisfactory stay and were happy with the overall experience, here are a few things that can be an issue for many travelers,” he says.
Doha required them to strictly quarantine for 10 days. They had to stay 5 nights in one hotel and another 5 nights in another hotel. This was mandatory and a bit of a hassle.
Also another thing is that the traveler needs to show funds of about 5,000 Qatari riyals. They also check a return ticket, which many buy and then later cancel. Also the hotels need to be approved by the government.
“So, all in all, Doha may be a little more familiar destination, especially for elderly,” he says, but “It involves more planning and paperwork.”
“Also, after I spoke to friends in the US who got their parents via Mexico, they felt much more relieved once the parents reached Mexico City, as the US seemed so nearby.
“Some of them even travelled to Mexico and no quarantine policy allowed them to make a family vacation out of it. For us, with our parents in Doha, the US seemed like still a far-far place. So psychologically it may be a tad bit easier if parents are in Mexico.”
But at the same time, Kumar says, his “parents were very happy with the hospitality in Doha and often among the hotel staff and at the airport they found someone speaking in Hindi, which wasn’t really the case in Mexico.”