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Travel to India during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

<i>Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images</i><br/>Tourists are still banned in India
Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images
Tourists are still banned in India

CNN staff

If you’re planning to travel to India, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the coronavirus pandemic.

The basics

India has emerged from a devastating 2021, in which it was the global center of a new wave of the pandemic, which brought the country’s health system close to collapse. The Delta variant, which has now swept the globe, started here. The country swiftly closed its borders at the start of the pandemic, banning all scheduled international flights in March 2020. However, restrictions have now eased — the borders opened for tourism on November 15 and from February 14, the “at risk” list will be abolished, with its quarantine requirement dropped.

What’s on offer

The question is: What isn’t on offer in India? This vast country has an astonishing range of landscapes, architecture, cultures and religions. Most first-timers stick to the “golden triangle” of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, but other big hitters for newbies include the Kerala waterways, beaches of Goa and Mumbai, one of the world’s most thrilling cities.

Who can go

On November 15, India reopened for tourism for the first time since the pandemic. Arrivals from all countries are allowed, though there are restrictions depending on where you come from until February 14. After that, the restrictions will depend on vaccination status.

Entry requirements

Entry for group tourism using charter flights commenced October 15, with individual visits allowed from November 15.

Arrivals must possess a tourism visa or e-visa granted after October 6, 2021. Those granted previously but not used are not currently eligible for entry.

Note that you cannot use a land border to enter on a tourist visa.

Arriving at an airport, all arrivals are screened. Anyone showing symptoms will be taken to a medical facility. There is also random testing on passengers — at a rate of 2% of arrivals — which is done at travelers’ expense.

Anyone who tests positive on arrival will be taken to government isolation facilities, along with anyone seated within three rows of them on the airplane, and relevant cabin crew, whether or not they have tested negative. For more information see here.

All travelers aged five years and older must upload a self-declaration form on the Air Suvidha Portal. They must also confirm that they will abide by any Covid-19 decisions taken around potential quarantine or testing, and that their declarations are correct.

Until February 14, all arrivals must present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of commencing their journey.

From February 14, those vaccinated with WHO-recognized vaccines, or in countries which have agreements of mutual recognition of vaccine certificates with India, do not have to present a test on arrival. This covers 82 countries as of February 10, including the US and the UK. Those who do not qualify must still test.

From February 14, no arrivals will need to quarantine. Instead, international passengers will be requested to “self-monitor their health” for 14 days following their arrival.

Until that date, visitors from countries deemed “at risk” must take another PCR test on arrival, which must be booked in advance on the Air Suvidha Portal. They cannot leave the airport until they receive a negative result. They must then quarantine for seven days and retest on day 8 to leave quarantine.

The at risk list was last updated on January 7. It is made up of 19 countries including Brazil, New Zealand, Hong Kong and the UK, plus the entire continent of Europe. For the full list, see here. It will be abolished on February 14.

Additionally, non-vaccinated or partially vaccinated arrivals must self-isolate for seven days, test on day eight, and continue to monitor their health for another week.

US CDC travel advisory:

Level 3: High. Make sure you are fully vaccinated before traveling to India, or avoid travel. There have been nearly 42.5 million infections and 506,520 deaths as of February 10.

Useful links

Ministry of Home Affairs

Ministry of Civil Aviation

Arrival portal

Rules from February 14

Our recent coverage

CNN’s Vedika Sud has written about the toll reporting on the situation has taken on her.

We’ve compiled lists of what we think are the best places to visit, the most beautiful temples, and India’s best things to eat, by region. If you’re looking for post-pandemic island life, here are some suggestions. Or read about the incredible history of Indian stepwells. And finally, read a round-up of India’s most famous buildings.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Julia Buckley, Swati Gupta, Aditi Sangal, Esha Mitra, Sophia Saifi, Rishabh M Pratap, Jessie Yeung, Vedika Sud and Eoin McSweeney contributed to this report

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