Can I travel to India?

Asia's Tech News Daily

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In 2019, more than one million British nationals visited India. After closing its borders to foreign nationals in March 2020, India announced that it would grant tourist visas to some foreign tourists again from 15 October 2021.

If you’re considering a trip to India this autumn or winter, here’s what you need to know about current and upcoming entry requirements, rules while you’re there, and travel insurance.

Entry requirements for India

The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) began granting tourist visas again on 15 October this year to foreign tourists arriving on chartered flights only. Chartered flights are those organised by tour operators.

From 15 November, tourists entering by flights other than chartered flights (independent travellers on commercial airlines) will be allowed to enter with new tourist visas. Visas issued before 6 October 2021, will no longer be valid.

You can apply for a visa here.

Before travelling, you must submit a self-declaration form on the online ‘Air Suvidha’ portal and upload a negative Covid-19 PCR report from a test taken within 72 hours prior to your journey.

This should be a private test, not one via the NHS. You will need to submit a declaration about the authenticity of this report and will be liable for criminal prosecution if this is found to be untrue.

On arrival

All travellers should complete a PCR test in the designated area and leave the airport. Results are reported to you by State authorities/ airport operators.

If your result is negative, you must remain in home quarantine for seven days. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) says you “can expect regular follow-ups by the concerned State/District IDSP”.

You will be tested again after seven days. If this result is negative, you will be released from home quarantine but must monitor your health for a further seven days. If the result is positive, you’ll be isolated in an institutional isolation facility for treatment.

The FCDO also advises that thermal screening will be carried out by health officials on arrival and that you may need to provide contact details and be asked to download the Arogya Setu app.

Other entry rules

As explained earlier, you’ll need to apply for the correct visa before travelling to India. The FCDO advises: “If you enter India on the wrong visa, you could be detained on arrival and you may be deported and blacklisted, meaning that you cannot enter India again.”

You can apply and find out more information about e-visas here.

All applicants of Pakistani origin who hold dual British-Pakistan nationality must apply for an Indian visa on their Pakistan passport. If you have renounced your Pakistani nationality or cancelled your Pakistani passport, you will need to submit documentary proof of this.

The FCDO says: “Processing time for applications from those holding dual British-Pakistan nationality will be substantially longer. For further details see the Indian High Commission website.” Processing is seven to eight weeks or more.

Passport requirements

Your passport should also be valid for a minimum of 180 days at the time of entry to India to prevent problems at immigration. Your passport also needs to be machine readable, with two blank pages for your visa and valid for a minimum of 180 days at the time of your visa application.

At the moment, the same rules for quarantine and testing apply both to fully vaccinated and non-vaccinated travellers.

When in India

According to the FCDO, cases of Covid-19 and deaths are falling in most parts of India, though the situation varies from state to state.

Covid-19 restrictions can be implemented at any time and may vary between states. It says that these may involve city or state-wide restrictions such as night curfews, weekend curfew and/or restricting the assembly of groups and people in public spaces.

Random testing

Other measures may include the requirement to present negative Covid-19 tests to enter some states and there may be random testing in public areas including airports, stations, malls and restaurants. The FCDO recommends monitoring local media and following procedures in place by local authorities.

It is compulsory to wear a face/cloth mask in all public places and there are restrictions on large gatherings. You may be penalised if you don’t follow restrictions.

If you have symptoms of Covid-19 while in India, you can contact a registered medical practitioner to get tested or for further information.

A government supported central help line number +91-11-23978046 can be used to re-direct you to a medical practitioner.

The FCDO says: “You may be liable for prosecution if you’re symptomatic or a confirmed case and deliberately attempt to hide symptoms and/or travel history.”

Returning to England

You will not be able to travel if you are showing any signs of Covid-19. The FCDO says: “you should comply with any additional healthcare screening measures put in place by the authorities prior to your departure.”

As India is not on the UK’s red list for travel, if you are fully-vaccinated, you won’t have to quarantine on your return to England.

Before you travel you must:

  • Book and pay for a Covid-19 test to be taken before the end of day 2 in England

  • Complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before you arrive in England.

From 22 October onwards, you’ll be able to book a lateral flow test instead of a PCR for your day two test.

If you are not fully-vaccinated, you will have to quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days, plus follow testing requirements and complete a passenger locator form. Find out more about the rules here.

These requirements are for arrival in London and other parts of England only. Rules may vary in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, so check the most up-to-date advice.

Travel insurance for India

While the FCDO does not warn against travel to India as a whole, it advises against all travel to:

  • the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan, other than at Wagah (currently closed due to coronavirus)

  • Jammu and Kashmir, except for (i) travel within the city of Jammu, (ii) travel by air to the city of Jammu, and (iii) travel within the Union Territory of Ladakh.

It adds: “The tourist destinations of Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg, the city of Srinagar and the Jammu-Srinagar national highway are within the areas where the FCDO advises against all travel.”

This means that if you travel to these places, your travel insurance is likely to be invalid unless you have taken out a specialist policy.

Get covered asap

If you are travelling to India, you should take travel insurance out as soon as you book your trip as it can protect you financially against a number of possible issues, such as unexpected cancellation, lost or damaged possessions and medical expenses.

At the moment, it can also provide valuable protection against disruption caused by coronavirus, so make sure you pay attention to the levels of Covid-19 cover that policies offer, as well as any exclusions.

To find the best travel insurance for you, always compare a number of policies before committing so you’re comfortable with the price you are paying and the level of financial protection that you’ll have.

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