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

Editor’s Note — Coronavirus cases are in flux across the globe. Health officials caution that staying home is the best way to stem transmission until you’re fully vaccinated. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on December 31.

(CNN) — 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 started easing — the borders opened for tourism on November 15.

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 different restrictions — see below.

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 arriving from destinations not designated as at-risk. These tests are done at travelers’ expense.

All travelers aged five years and older must upload a self-declaration form on the Air Suvidha Portal, as well as a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of commencing the journey. They must also confirm that they will abide by any Covid-19 decisions taken around potential quarantine or testing.

Fully vaccinated arrivals do not have to quarantine if they are not from a country deemed “at risk.”

Arrivals from the “at risk” list must take another PCR test on arrival. This must be booked in advance of your arrival on the Air Suvidha Portal. You cannot leave the airport until you have received a negative result.

They must then quarantine for seven days and retest on day 8 to leave quarantine.

If they test positive on arrival they will be taken to government isolation facilities, along with anyone seated within three rows of them on the airplane, whether or not they have tested negative. For more information see here.

As of December 31, there are 11 at risk countries and one entire continent: South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Ghana, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Hong Kong and Israel, plus the UK and Europe.

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 1: Low. Make sure you are fully vaccinated before traveling to India. There have been over 34.8 million infections and over 481,000 deaths as of December 31.

Useful links

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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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