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Can I Travel to India Now?

by James Wilmshurst
View of the Amber Fort with a lake and fisherman in the foreground and blue sky in the background

This article focuses on the critical question, ‘Can I travel to India now?’. We’ll detail if and how you can travel to India and the practicalities of travel there too.

Kerala was the first place to have a case of Covid in India in January 2020.  Cases didn’t spread too much in February but then a surge in cases in March meant the Government introduced a very harsh and prompt lockdown that extended until June 2020.  Cases climbed slowly until September 2020 when they started to decrease significantly despite restrictions dropping and domestic travel thriving.  From October 2020 to January 2021 a number of our favoured rural properties experienced their best months ever as Indians holidayed outside the cities.

However, come the end of February 2021 cases and deaths started to rise at the same as the Kumbha Mela (the single largest gathering of people in the world) and election campaigning across the country.  This forced the country into another very strict lockdown as hospitals became overwhelmed quickly and India became the face of Covid 19 across the world as the delta variant swept the country.  However, cases and deaths started to then fall again in June, quite quickly.  Domestic travel has again bounced back strongly albeit with more state-to-state restrictions, such as requiring negative test results and/or only being able to leave your home state if double vaccinated.

When will India open its borders to foreigners?

India’s borders are now open to Indian citizens, those moving to the country as residents and those travelling to the country on business visas. It was announced on 7th October that foreign tourists will be able to travel to India via charter flight from 15th October.  Tourists will be able to enter India on non-charter flights from 15th November.  Great news!

Please see below for the current quarantine guidelines on UK travellers though.

Tea pluckers in Kerala with their huge bags of tea being organised

Is India on the UK Go list?

Yes, as of 17th September India is on the UK go list – previously the UK green list. This means a holiday to India is now a possibility again! Fully-vaccinated arrivals will no longer need to take a pre-departure lateral flow test or a post-arrival PCR test if arriving from a country on the low-risk list. Instead, you have to take a lateral flow test after arriving. Travellers who have not had had both vaccines arriving from non-red destinations must still have pre-departure tests, take PCR tests on day two and eight and spend 10 days in self-isolation.

Does the FCDO advise against all but essential travel to India?

There is no COVID 19 specific FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) advice in place for travel to India. This means that the UK government do not believe there is any specific risk relating to COVID 19 whilst you are there. In turn, this means that most standard insurance policies will be valid for your trip.

What are vaccination levels like in India?

As of early October 2021, 19% of India’s population are double vaccinated, and over 49% have had one jab, with over 920 million doses administered.  The vaccination rate in India has increased since July and is continuing to climb, after a slow and rather muddled start in early 2021. In August India administered more jabs than the G7 nations combined with 100 million jabs being given in a 13 day period at one point.  Let’s hope that continues.

Do I need to be fully vaccinated to get into India?

You do not need to be double vaccinated to travel to India but if you’re not you have to quarantine.  Once the border opens for tourists from October 15th, we fully expect those who have been double vaccinated to have easier access into India.

View of the Himalayas in India with trees in the foreground and blue sky in the background

What tests do I have to take to get into India?

The requirements differ from state to state and may be subject to change with very little notice but it is highly likely you will need to have a negative RT-PCR Covid-19 test to be conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey or check-in for the flight. Then you must take another PCR test in the airport at your own expense and wait in the airport until results are received and are often subjected to a thermal body scan. As of February 22, all travellers must upload a self-declaration form on the Air Suvidha Portal as well with test details.

With testing at the airport and security checks, you do spend longer in the airports on arrival compared to previously.

Do note that some states do ask for the vaccination certificates and if you have them then you do not need the RTPCR test done.  As with the all information below, it is very much subject to change as different states have different rules at different times in India!

Do I have to quarantine on arrival in India?

If you are a British citizen then unfortunately you still need to quarantine on arrival for 10 days.  We believe (at least hope!) this will be dropped soon as it seems more of a political stand off with the UK government after they didn’t recognize Indian produced vaccines.  All other citizens do not need to quarantine on arrival from October 15th.

Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur is an example of Islamic architecture in the Deccan plateau in Karnataka

Do I have to wear a mask in India?

It is a legal requirement to wears masks in India.  However, the application of this rule is hit and miss.

Can I eat in local restaurants in India?

Yes, you can. Currently, there are some restrictions in places in Kerala which is experiencing the highest levels of cases in the country and is coming out of some localised lockdowns. Opening times are generally between 0800 and 2100 for restaurants in most cities countrywide too.

Traveller with Devotees drinking Chai close to the Golden Temple in Amritsar

Do I have to quarantine in the UK on return from India?

If you return from India as a double vaccinated passenger then you do not have to quarantine on arrival in the UK. If you’re not double vaccinated then you do need to self isolate for 10 days.

Why should I book a trip to India now?

We believe you should book a trip to India now:

KEEN TO TRAVEL TO INDIA OR ELSEWHERE IN ASIA?

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