India Reopens for Tourism! Latest Entry Requirements and how to get a Tourist Visa for India in 2021
India, which has been closed for international tourism since March 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, is finally opening for tourism! So I’ve gathered together all the information I can find about India reopening for tourism, how to get a tourist visa for India and the latest guidelines for international arrivals in India.
As the Covid situation in India continues to decline and more people are vaccinated India is finally reopening for international tourists who arrive via air or sea (land borders are not open yet for foreigners) On October 15th 2021 India reopened to charter/ group tourists. On November 15th 2021 India will be open to all international tourists and the first 5 lakh (500,000) tourist visas will be issued free of charge.
However, all existing/current tourist visas remain suspended and the new ones will only be single entry and for 30 days only. Instead of your visa validity beginning on the date of issue you now have 120 days to enter India from the time your visa application is approved and your 30 days start on entry. Hopefully this 30 day limit will change soon as there’s wayyyy too much to see in this huge country than you could ever fit into 30 days.
Also, surprisingly, the ban on regular international flights, which has been in effect since March 2020, has been extended until 15th December. India plans to resume normal international flights on 15th December.
However Air India is operating Vande Bharat mission (VBM) flights across the world and there are approximately 28 countries with an air bubble agreement, including US, Canada, UK, UAE, Russia, France, Holland and Germany. See all the air bubble countries and more details here.
Entry requirements for India in 2021
International arrivals will need a valid visa and proof of a negative PCR Covid-19 test result no older than 72 hours at the moment of boarding. You will also need to submit a self declaration form on the Air Suvidha portal.
You can find it here https://www.newdelhiairport.in/airsuvidha/allairports (even though it’s on the New Delhi airport website its the same form for everyone even if you are flying into another airport in India) You also need to submit a self declaration of the authenticity of the covid test. You can see the full, official Guidelines for International Arrivals here.
What to do when you arrive in India
What you need to do on arrival in India depends on what country you are coming from and if you are vaccinated.
India is treating international arrivals on a reciprocity basis meaning that quarantine requirements are based on how Indians are treated when arriving in the country you are coming from.
Travellers who are coming from a Category A country ( countries with which India has reciprocal arrangements for mutual acceptance of WHO approved Covid-19 vaccines) and are fully vaccinated will not have to quarantine.
Travellers from a Category A country who are not fully vaccinated will need to take another Covid test on arrival at the airport. They will then be allowed to leave the airport and quarantine at home for 7 days. If they test negative on the 8th day they can stop quarantining.
Category A countries are; United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, Hungary, Serbia, Ukraine, Nepal, Belarus, Lebanon and Armenia.
Travellers coming from all countries at risk (which includes some category A countries) technically also have to take a test on arrival (but I wasn’t asked to do one) If not vaccinated, or if not included in category A, they should home quarantine for 7 days.
This flow chart should hopefully make it easier to understand the quarantine, vaccination and testing requirements for India.
I know it all sounds a bit complicated but basically if you are fully vaccinated and have a negative PCR test you should be fine and won’t have to quarantine, unless your from a ‘risk country’ that does not have a reciprocal vaccine agreement with India (category A) If you’re not coming from a ‘risk country’ then it doesn’t seem to matter whether your vaccinated or not.
The countries classified as ‘at risk’ currently include (as of 20th October 2021):
1. All countries in Europe including the United Kingdom
2. South Africa
8. New Zealand
Be aware that the countries ‘at risk’ and countries in category A can change at any time so check the MOHFW for latest updates.
Also be aware that each Indian state can have slightly different entry requirements and covid restrictions so also check for which state you will be arriving in. You can search for the guidelines for every state on this website.
I know a few people who’ve entered India recently and their experience in the airport has been smooth as long as they have all the required documents.
Update 1st December 2021
Cases are very low in India now but due to fears over the new Omicron variant India has changed it’s rules for international arrivals from ‘risk countries.’ Things can change quickly so allows check the MOHFW for latest updates.
All travellers still need to fill out the form on the Air Suvidha Portal and travel with a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before departure.
From 1st December 2021 international arrivals from ‘risk countries’ will also be required to take a Covid-19 test at the point of arrival and home quarantine for 7 days.
The risk countries now include:
- All countries in Europe including The United Kingdom
- South Africa
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
Allow plenty of time ( 6 hours recommended) between connecting flights to wait for the test results before leaving the airport or continuing your journey. A regular PCR test costs 500 – 600 INR and can take 4 – 6 hours for the result. A 90 minute turnaround is also now available at a cost of 3,900 – 4,500 INR. More info here.
Different states can have different rules and requirements so check for the airport that you are flying into. You can see the full list of state wise regulations here. Or check the Mumbai airport website and the Delhi airport website.
If the test is negative travellers will be required to home quarantine for 7 days and re-test on the 8th day. If still negative you can stop quarantine and self monitor your health for the next 7 days.
Travellers from countries not in the risk category just need to have a negative PCR test before departure and do not need to quarantine but a random selection of 2% of the total flight passengers will be asked to take a test on arrival at the airport.
Here’s the latest flow chart to explain it all:
How to get a tourist visa for India in 2021
Nearly everyone needs a visa to visit India. Luckily in recent years obtaining a tourist visa for India has become much easier as around 160 nationalities are eligible to apply for an e-visa at indianvisaonline.gov.in. You just need to complete the online forms, print it off and get your visa stamped in when you arrive.
Sounds easy, but the forms are quite long and the fees are non refundable if you make a mistake. You can make things easier and less stressful by using a trusted agent. I’ve always recommended my friends and family to use iVisa to make the process easier and less stressful.
However, in a reciprocal move, citizens of the UK Canada, China and Hong Kong are no longer able to apply for e-visas for India. They must fill out the application form online and make an appointment to attend the embassy center and obtain a regular sticker visa with VFS.
The wait time for an appointment in London is currently 1 month and then you’ll need to wait between 3 working days to 1 week to receive the visa so I’d recommend applying well in advance of when you want to travel. You can check the High Commission of India website to see when the next appointment available is here. See my guide on how to apply for a regular sticker visa from the UK.
Hopefully this will be resolved soon and the evisa facility reinstated for all nationalities.
(P.S. Business and Medical visas were reinstated earlier and OCI card holders can also travel to India.)
Have you obtained one of the free tourist visas? Have you travelled to India recently?
I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.