With time passing on, India’s regulations for international arrivals were expected to loosen. But more contagious strains of the virus from the UK, Brazil and South Africa causing an upsurge to the pandemic have made the rules for international travel to India more stringent than before. Consequently, the new guidelines for air travel to India, with effect on February 23, make pre-arrival RT-PCR testing mandatory for all incoming travelers including newborns and invalidate most of the exemptions/relaxations available until February 22, 2021.
Travel Beats, a subsidiary of Indian Eagle – a leading travel-booking partner of Indians in USA, addressed below some of the most common queries related to travel to India in view of the newly issued guidelines. Hope our attempt towards making your travel convenient and hassle-free helps. If your query is not listed below, feel free to write it in the comment section.
I will travel with two kids to India this month end. One is 10 months old and the other is 3 years old. Is an RT-PCR test mandatory for them?
The new guidelines that took effect on February 23 requires all international travelers flying into India to take a pre-arrival RT-PCR test within 72 hours of undertaking the journey, irrespective of their age. Even a newborn is not exempted. Not only taking a pre-arrival RT-PCR test, but also giving a swab sample upon arrival is mandatory for the kids and you, if you transit in the Middle East or Europe. Basically, the latest guidelines for international arrivals in India do not provide exemption for travelers accompanying kids.
Can I apply on Air Suvidha for exemption from taking a pre-arrival RT-PCR test?
Until February 22, 2021, India-bound travelers were able to seek exemption in four categories – traveling with kids below 10 years, pregnancy, medical emergency, and death in immediate family. The latest revision of the guidelines scrapped all the categories except exemption in the exigency of death in family. You can apply for exemption on Air Suvidha given there is a death in family and you take a direct/nonstop flight to India from the US. Please note the request for exemption is subject to approval. However, you will have to give your swab sample for a molecular test before exiting the arrival airport or taking a domestic flight in India.
Can I choose to get myself tested upon arrival at New Delhi Airport, instead of taking an RT-PCR test before undertaking the journey from the US?
Until February 22, 2021, international travelers not having a pre-arrival negative RT-PCR test report were allowed to take a test at arrival airports in India. The new guidelines for international travel to India make it mandatory to take an RT-PCR test and upload the negative report onto Air Suvidha, irrespective of the entry airport you arrive at. If you transit en route to India from the US, you will have to take a molecular test upon arrival despite your pre-arrival RT-PCR test report.
I have been inoculated with two doses of a COVID vaccine in the US. Am I exempted from taking an RT-PCR test for my upcoming travel to India?
The Government of India has not yet issued relaxation/exemption for vaccinated travelers from abroad. You need to follow the new guidelines for your travel to India unless GOI scraps mandatory pre-arrival RT-PCR test for vaccinated travelers from the US and other countries. As soon as there is an update on this, we will share it on our Facebook page and in our dedicated Travel News section.
The lab in my neighborhood provides RT-PCR test results in 48-72 hours. Hence, I need to take a test at least 75 hours before my scheduled departure from the US. Will the report be valid for exemption from institutional quarantine in India?
Some airlines, including Air India, United Airlines, and Qatar Airways, are very particular about the guidelines that require you to take an RT-PCR test not more than 72 hours before you board the flight in USA. Some of the travelers reported denial of boarding at the origin airport for having taken the test more than 72 hours before their scheduled flight from the US.
I am an Indian-origin US citizen with a multiple-entry tourist visa to India. Can I travel on air bubble flights to India?
The tourist visa to India has remained suspended since the government banned normal/regular international passenger flights in March 2020. You need to apply for a regular entry visa or an emergency entry visa if a medical or death-like emergency is the purpose of your travel to India.
I am traveling to Chennai from the US. I will take an RT-PCR test and carry the negative report as per the guidelines. Will I have to self-monitor my health or home-quarantine myself in Chennai?
If your itinerary requires you to transit in the UK/Brazil/South Africa, you are to undergo 7-day home quarantine in Chennai or any other destination in Tamil Nadu. You shall be tested after 7 days of home quarantine and can monitor your health for another 7 days if the result is negative. You will be advised to self-monitor health for 14 days if you transit in the Middle East or Europe (other than the UK) given the negative result of the molecular test for which you will have to give your swab sample upon arrival at Chennai MAA Airport.
What are quarantine guidelines for those traveling to Mumbai from USA?
If Maharashtra is your destination and your USA to Mumbai travel is via the Middle East/Europe, you are subject to 7-day institutional quarantine upon arrival at Mumbai International Airport, despite you being asymptomatic and having a negative RT-PCR report. However, you can seek exemption by providing a copy of your vaccination certificate to the officer in-charge at Mumbai Airport if you are vaccinated with two doses by the time you will travel to Mumbai. If your destination is outside of Maharashtra, you will be allowed to take connecting flights without having to wait for the result of the test of your swab given you are asymptomatic and have a negative RT-PCR report approved on Air Suvidha.
Is there no exemption from institutional quarantine for Mumbai-bound travelers coming from or transiting in the Middle East/Europe?
Usually, institutional quarantine is compulsory for travelers arriving from or transiting in Europe/the Middle East, as per the policy for international arrivals in Maharashtra. The new SOP with regards to institutional quarantine in Mumbai allows exemption in certain cases, such as vaccinated travelers, pregnant woman, senior citizens above 65 years needing assistance/support, parents accompanying children below 5 years of age, passengers having serious medical conditions (physical disability, cancer, mental illness, etc.), and extreme family distress (death-like emergency or any of immediate family members in critical condition). Exemption is subject to approval on condition of providing valid documents to the satisfaction of the In-charge officer at Mumbai International Airport. Please note you will have to take a pre-arrival RT-PCR test, upload the negative report onto Air Suvidha, and give your swab sample for a molecular test upon arrival.
I will arrive on a direct/nonstop flight from USA to India. Am I required to take a molecular test at the arrival airport before taking a connecting flight for onward domestic travel?
The revised guidelines do not need you to take a molecular test upon arrival unless you seek exemption from taking a pre-arrival RT-PCR test in the exigency of death in family. Having taken an RT-PCR test and uploaded the negative result onto Air Suvidha within 72 hours prior to your travel from the first port of departure in the US, you need not take any COVID test before exiting the arrival airport or taking a connecting domestic flight.
I am traveling on Qatar Airways to India. After four days of my arrival in Kochi, I will travel to Mumbai. Do I need to take an RT-PCR test for my inter-state travel?
A negative RT-PCR report is mandatory for traveling to Maharashtra from Kerala, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat and Rajasthan these days. If you take a domestic flight or a road trip to Mumbai right after arrival at Kochi Airport, you don’t need another negative RT-PCR report for inter-state travel. If you travel to Mumbai after a few days of stay in Kerala, you must take an RT-PCR test prior to traveling to Mumbai by air or road. The test report must be issued within 72 hours prior to taking a flight to Mumbai and within 96 hours prior to catching a train.