With governments worldwide extending travel restrictions, ease of travel is also being considered for high-frequency travel routes. The Indian government has made it easier for passengers looking to travel back to India by extending air transport pacts to as many as 34 countries, the latest country to be added being Saudi Arabia to facilitate travel for pilgrims to Umrah.
As per a Government of India circular effective December 20, 2021, international passengers arriving in India cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad from or transiting from “at-risk countries” are mandated to pre-book a rapid PCR or RT-PCR test. As of December 9, 2021, the countries at-risk include countries in Europe including the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, Ghana, China, Mauritius, Tanzania, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong and Israel.
Passengers travelling from or transiting via “countries at-risk” will not be permitted to depart the airport or proceed to connecting flights until a negative test result is obtained.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation extended the previous ban on international flights to January 31, 2022 and said it would allow select international flights on a case-to-case basis. Indian Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia had earlier said international flights may resume from December 15, an order he later revoked in light of the ambiguity arising due to the new coronavirus variant Omicron.
Special international flights have been in operation via the government’s flagship Vande Bharat Mission since May last year. Certain air travel arrangements have also been in place since July 2020. “Transport bubbles” or “air travel arrangements” are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services when regular international flights are suspended as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The government states these pacts are reciprocal in nature, meaning airlines from both countries enjoy similar benefits.
Here’s the latest information and guidance on travelling to India from key travel destinations including the U.S., UK, Canada and Singapore.
Advising increased caution when travelling to India, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 1 travel health notice and the Department of State has issued a Level 2 travel advisory, which encourages U.S. citizens to exercise increased caution throughout the country due to possible risks to their safety and security.
U.S. citizens are advised to:
Travel to India for tourism and other short-term purposes resumed fully on November 15 for individuals holding tourist or e-tourist visas issued on or after October 6, 2021. The U.S. government states tourist visas issued before October 2021 will not be honored and travellers attempting to enter India using one of these visas are likely to be detained and returned to their point of origin.
Additional categories of travellers including certain business travellers, as well as individuals moving to India as residents, are permitted.
All international travellers arriving in India, regardless of vaccination status, must upload a self-declaration with a negative RT-PCR report to the Air Suvidha portal taken within 72 hours prior to departure for India.
All travellers will undergo thermal screening upon arrival in India.
Symptomatic travellers will be isolated and re-tested. Travellers opting to use the rapid test will be charged INR 3,500 and can expect to wait up to 1.5 hours after landing to depart the airport. Travelers opting to use a PCR test will be charged 500 INR and can expect to wait up to 5 hours after landing to depart the airport.
Travellers with negative tests will be required to home-quarantine for seven days, retest on the eighth day, and continue to self-monitor for an additional seven days. Travellers who test positive will be held in stringent isolation.
Commercial flights are operating within India. A reduced number of international flight options are available and airlines may have strict policies regarding who can book or board these flights based on Indian government restrictions.
Individuals in public spaces without a mask could be fined as high as INR 2,000 for non-compliance. The amount differs from one state to another.
All regularly scheduled international flights remain suspended. However, under a bilateral agreement between the UK and Indian governments, a limited number of flights between India and the UK continue to operate.
All travellers have to follow the general mandate determined by the Indian government. It includes a self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled travel, uploading a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR report of a test conducted within 72 hrs prior to undertaking the journey, a declaration with respect to the authenticity of the report.
You will not be able to travel if you’re showing coronavirus symptoms (you will need to self-isolate and travel later). Passengers need to comply with any additional healthcare screening measures put in place by the authorities prior to your departure.
Since the UK is on the Indian government’s “at-risk countries” list, travellers are required to pre-book their RT-PCR test and also required to wait for their test results at the arrival airport before leaving or taking a connecting flight. If the Covid-19 test is negative, travellers will be required to home quarantine for seven days. A further Covid-19 test is required on the 8th day of arrival in India. If the 8th day test is negative, travellers should self-monitor their health for the next seven days.
Any travellers testing positive for Covid-19 will have to undergo treatment and further monitoring at a separate isolation facility for a period of 10 days.
Entry requirements may vary in different states for international and domestic air travel, and may include restricting entry for foreign nationals or mandating quarantine for international travellers. Entry requirements can change at very short notice. You should check with your airline before travelling.
All land borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal in East and North East India are closed for movement of people, except for returning Indian nationals.
Passengers may need to provide contact details and be asked to download the Arogya Setu app.
The Indian government has now made the RT-PCR test taken up to 72 hours prior to the departure time compulsory, updated from its earlier mandate for travellers arriving from Canada that did not require a test report instead travellers had to undergo a mandatory 14 days of quarantine upon arrival.
Both Vande Bharat Mission flights to Delhi and air transport bubble arrangements are available for passengers to travel to India.
All travellers have to submit a self-reporting form on the online Air Suvidha portal preferably 72 hours before the scheduled travel.
Passengers with covid negative certificate can travel in public transport including domestic flights to reach their final destinations.
Earlier only pregnant women, those who have suffered a death in the family, those who are suffering from serious illness, parents accompanied by children below 10 years and those with negative RT-PCR certificate were exempt from quarantine. This has now changed with the Indian government mandating a negative RT-PCR report, which makes 14-day quarantine null and void.
As on December 11, India removed Singapore from the “countries at-risk” list and vaccinated passengers from Singapore are being allowed to travel to India.
India requires all international arrivals from Singapore to submit an online self-declaration form via Air Suvidha portal and have proof of a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test conducted within 72 hours prior to departure for India.
Travellers who have taken a Covid-19 RT-PCR in Singapore for overseas travel will receive a digital test result certificate from Singapore. Travellers have to digitally authenticate their test results with the help of the clinic and/or via Singaporean government website Notarise. All successfully authenticated digital result certificates are then converted into a QR code, which can be used during boarding and immigration clearance overseas.
Travellers who have generated offline QR codes before December 10 and are experiencing vaccination expiry date issues during verification are recommended to regenerate their QR codes on Notarise.
All passengers arriving from Singapore have to undergo a self-paid Covid-19 RT-PCR test at the airport and be tested negative before they can leave the airport.
The Singapore government has recommended its citizens to familiarize themselves with India’s Covid-19 restrictions including immigration procedures and entry requirements.
The government advises travellers to:
International passengers from Dubai have to take a covid RT-PCR test before taking off. They need to submit documents including:
Upon arrival, all passengers need to follow the below mentioned instructions except those landing in Mumbai:
On‑arrival at Mumbai, passengers need to follow the below mentioned instructions:
All the countries that have a transport bubble arrangement with India allow travellers to visit India. Besides U.S., UK, Canada and Singapore, the countries that have air bubble pacts with India include Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kuwait, Mauritius, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan.
Aashika is the India Editor for Forbes Advisor. Her 13-year business and finance journalism stint has led her to report, write, edit and lead teams covering public investing, private investing and personal investing both in India and overseas. She has previously worked at CNBC-TV18, Thomson Reuters, The Economic Times and Entrepreneur.