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Updated 24 March, 2021
South-Asian giant India attracts a large number of foreign tourists throughout the year. With its snow-clad mountains, numerous hill stations, the great Indian Thar Desert, pristine beaches, and coastal beauties, tourists can enjoy different attractions of the country all year round.
Many places in the country are highly dependant on tourism for the local economy, and since the pandemic has hit, they have incurred a huge loss. As of 24 March, the nation counts over 11 million cases with 1,60,200 deaths, but thankfully, the count has a declining trajectory now.
While many places have opened up by now for domestic tourism (even one of the seven wonders of the world: Taj Mahal reopened in September), the international borders, in all possibility, are expected to take longer to open, possibly till a substantial portion of the population is vaccinated against the virus.
Current air traffic status
Since March 2020, India shut down all its domestic and international flights to control the contamination. But the country resumed its domestic air travel from 25 May, and since then, a limited number of flight services have begun operating from several states. The progress is under strict surveillance and government-directed guidelines are being closely followed.
Scheduled commercial international flights remain suspended till the end of April.
Latest rules for traveling to India:
The Union health ministry had issued a set of revised guidelines for international arrivals amid the spread of mutant variants of coronavirus in many countries.
- All international travellers will have to submit a self-health declaration as well as a declaration to comply with the government’s rule of home quarantine/self-monitoring for 14 days, on the online Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled travel.
- They will also have to upload a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR report of a test within 72 hours of the journey, and also give a declaration with respect to the authenticity of the report.
- Passengers may be exempt from the 2-week quarantine in case of death in the family. To seek such exemption apply through the online portal at least 72 hours before departure.
- All passengers shall be required to present online SDF/RT-PCR exemption approval to the health authorities upon arrival.
- At the time of boarding the flight, only asymptomatic travellers will be allowed to board after the thermal screening.
- International travellers arriving through seaports/land ports will also have to undergo the same protocol, except that facility for online registration is not available for such passengers currently, as per the civil aviation ministry guidelines.
- Airlines should identify the international travellers arriving from/transiting through the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa (during the past 14 days) and segregate them in-flight.
- All the travellers arriving from/transiting through flights originating in the United Kingdom, Europe or the Middle East shall be mandatorily subjected to self-paid confirmatory molecular tests on arrival at the Indian airports concerned (port of entry).
- All travellers from Europe and the Middle East shall give samples at the designated area and exit the airport. If the test report is negative, they will be advised to self-monitor their health for 14 days. If the test report is positive, they will undergo treatment as per standard health protocol.
To reduce the risk of importation of mutant strains of SARS-CoV-2, SOPs for International Passengers arriving in India have been updated. Make sure you take all the necessary precautions and follow all the guidelines while travelling. pic.twitter.com/5lZtsk17Mv
— MoCA_GoI (@MoCA_GoI) February 20, 2021
Which foreigners can fly to India now?
The following categories of foreigners will be allowed to enter India:
- All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders and PIO cardholders holding passports of any country.
- All foreign nationals intending to visit India for any purpose(including their dependents on the appropriate category of dependent visa) except those on Tourist Visa.
- All existing visas, electronic visas (e-Visa), tourist visas, and medical visas are allowed.
- If the validity of such a visa has expired, the foreign national may obtain a fresh visa of appropriate category/sub-category from the Indian Mission/Post concerned.
- In the case of Medical Visa (including visa for Medical Attendants), foreign nationals intending to visit India for medical treatment in emergencies may be granted Medical visa for appropriate period by the Indian Missions/Posts.
The condition of obtaining a visa will not apply to dependent family members of foreign diplomats/officials who are eligible for visa exemption in terms of bilateral visa exemption agreements or visa-specific agreements entered into by India with various countries. Such foreign nationals covered by para (i) (b) above will not be permitted to travel to India on the strength of any electronic visa (e-Visa) obtained earlier.
Foreigners married to Indians, dependents of foreign diplomats, and foreign nationals stuck in neighboring countries who wish to return to their country through India can also travel to the country. Anyone that falls under those categories needs to obtain a new business visa or employment visa from Indian posts abroad, and those who already have long-term valid visas for multiple entry purposes would have to re-validate them.
India currently has bilateral travel bubble arrangements with 27 countries– Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania, Ukraine, the UAE, the UK, the USA, and Uzbekistan. Seychelles and Uzbekistan are the latest additions to the list, and to-and-fro flights are expected to start from 17 February.
All foreigners (including those in the travel bubble countries) are allowed to travel to India on any visa, except for tourist visas. Nepal and Bhutan nationals can travel to India from any other third country.
The current update of Vande Bharat Mission
The Vande Bharat Mission started on May 6th to help foreigners in India return home and help Indian nationals head back. Over 68 lakhs of stranded people have been brought in or flown back to their country through international Vande Bharat flights. Currently, the eighth phase of the mission is underway and is going to extend till March 2021.
VBM, the mission of hope has so far facilitated repatriation & International travel of more than 68 lakh people.
27 air bubbles are in place. We are also negotiating with other countries for similar travel arrangements.
The world's largest repatriation mission continues ahead… pic.twitter.com/Dt4qFfvyn6
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) March 23, 2021
Phase 9 of VBM will kick off on 28 March and go on till October 2021.
International flights have resumed with bilateral air bubbles
After the Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri announced the resumption of international flights through bilateral air bubbles, the US, Germany, and France had approved flights from India to travel to their respective nations (more countries have been added to the list since then, as stated above).
Air Asia, Lufthansa, and Air France are carrying passengers from Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru to Paris and Frankfurt with Vistara airways joining the game from mid-August. A similar arrangement had also been finalized with the UK since the fifth phase of the VBM. Kolkata-London route now has direct flights operating.
All in all, there are twenty-seven countries now which have travel bubble arrangement with India currently (mentioned earlier).
How safe is it to travel around India now?
India is a vast country with several places recording a high rate of COVID-19 cases like Maharashtra, Delhi, Kerala, and Uttar Pradesh while some places like Sikkim, Meghalaya, Ladakh, among others have succeeded in controlling the impact of the pandemic and are thus welcoming domestic tourists.
Although the country is currently going through various relaxations on lockdown guidelines, it is still unsafe to travel through the country especially in the heavily affected areas. The number of cases has crossed 1.1 crore, even though the recovery rate has also increased. It is advisable to limit the travel within the states which are least affected, and strictly adhere to social distancing and other guidelines.
What about the hospitality industry?
Many states and union territories of India like Puducherry, Kerala, Goa, and Northeastern states depend highly upon tourism for their economies. The state governments have moved to relax restrictions on a few hospitality and tourism facilities. Domestic tourism is gradually taking shape post the lockdown and ease of restrictions.
Most of the hotels, restaurants, temples, entertainment centers, and beaches are now open. Interstate travel has begun to Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Kerala, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Sikkim, and Meghalaya, among others. Tourism departments are also encouraging citizens to explore their own state i.e. backyard travel.
The hotels and restaurants have arranged for limited siting capacity, provide thermal checkup, and evaluation of the Arogya Setu App for any booking. It is likely that the hospitality and tourism department will need to gear up for a more cautious operation.
What's the COVID situation in India?
Currently, the nation counts over 18 lakh (10 lakh = 1,000,000) cases with 38,161 deaths, and its trajectory is facing steep rise with every passing day... Read the full article on Wego Travel Blog.
What is the current air traffic status?
Since March 2020, India shut down all it’s domestic and international flights to control the contamination. But the country resumed its domestic air travel from 25 May... Latest updates available on Wego Travel Blog, check now.
What is the Vande Bharat Mission?
The country came up with its Vande Bharat Mission to bring back its citizens stranded in different countries, Currently, the nation is still restricting international tourism, but flights to a few selected countries related to work and repatriation are now operating... Full details available on Wego Travel Blog, read now.
Which foreigner can fly to India now?
The Indian Government has decided that a few select categories of people can travel to India, like foreign businessmen on business visas, B-3 Visa for sports... Full list available on Wego Travel Blog, check now.
What is the current update of Vande Bharat Mission?
The Vande Bharat Mission started on May 6th to help foreigners in India return home and help Indian nationals head back. As of July 30th, around 7.5 lakh passengers have been flown to and from India... Full story available on Wego Travel Blog, read now.