International Travel To India During the pandemic

Travelling to India during the Covid pandemic is not easy. We researched a lot about exemption from Institutional Quarantine on landing in India, Covid tests with guaranteed turnaround time etc. in London, and the flying experience from London to Delhi in 2020 before planning our trip. But we only found half-baked information and no clear facts! So we thought we would share our experience of flying from London, UK to Delhi, India right now.

London heathrow airport in Covid
Oh how we missed these sights ?

Step 1  – Getting a covid test in UK

First things first, according to instructions for overseas visitors flying to India from UK, you must get an RT-PCR test 72 hours prior to boarding your flight. Each test ranges from £150-£300 depending on where you get it done from. We suggest researching before choosing a practice so you are sure you’ll get results in time.

We got our tests done at Top Health Clinic at Tottenham Court Road for our trip in October 2020. We paid £165 per Covid test (exorbitant I know but that is the standard rate!) A nurse takes swabs from the back of your throat as well as from your nose. Try not to sneeze ? Their service was good but we would suggest you to research and visit a practice or clinic most convenient to you. We arranged for our test to be conducted 94 hours prior to our flight and we were promised the results within 48 hours (although we got the reports within 30 hours). For our trip in March 2021, we got our tests done from JSBiomedical who charged £150 per person but they came home to collect the sample and the results were delivered within 12 hours.

Step 2 – Fill Self Declaration Form online

All travelers bound for India must complete a Self-Declaration form on Air Suvidha website/app within 72 hours before their flight departure. Airlines will not let you board without this completed form. You also have to upload your negative RT-PCR test report along with the Self Declaration Form.

Step 3 Airport and flights during Covid pandemic

Travel is seamless these days as flights aren’t very crowded and airports have much fewer passengers than usual. So that is a comfortable process – we saw many elderly people and families with kids on our flight. All precautions are taken by airport and flight staff – including use of complete PPE kit by flight crew. Our temperatures were checked before we were allowed on to the aircraft.

A snack box, mask, sanitizer, and hot meal were all provided to us on the flight. However this varies from airline to airline, so we would recommend carrying your own masks, sanitizer, headphones, and snacks too.

We also carried wet wipes to wipe our seats as an extra precaution. All in all our flight was quite comfortable and event-free.

Personal protection kit provided to flying passengers during covid
The new normal ?
Pre-packed snack boxes, masks, visor, and hand sanitiser on flight
Pre-packed snack boxes, masks, visor, and hand sanitiser
We were lucky our flight wasn’t full – physical distancing easily maintained ?

Update March 2021 – Airlines have now started serving regular meals

Step 4 arrival in Delhi, India

Upon arrival in Delhi you will be asked for the Self Declaration form and negative RT PCR test report. At the Delhi Airport, you are also supposed to take an RT-PCR test (if you are travelling from UK). You can book this in advance (which we suggest doing) or pay for it on the spot. The process is streamlined and clear instructions are provided once you exit the aircraft.

This RT-PCR test done upon arrival is compulsory for all passengers. Following this you can exit the airport if you reside in Delhi NCR. However, if you are in transit and connecting to another flight within India, you must wait for your test results (usually around 6 hours) – for this reason, please ensure that you leave ample time between the 2 flights.. Most of the immigration counters were empty, so we were out of the airport within 30 minutes.

separate queue for pre-approved and exempted passengers at delhi airport
Segregated sections for those with pre-approved exemption certificates
New Delhi airport exemption from quarantine on arrival
Regular checks upon leaving the aircraft

That’s it. You can then exit and head to your destination in Delhi or outside Delhi. Upon arrival at your residence/hotel, you are to quarantine for 7 days. During this period, you will get phone calls from officers confirming you are quarantining. At the end of this seven day period, an officer will come to your residence to collect a swab sample for another RT-PCR test. This service is free of charge and provided to all passengers travelling from UK to India during the pandemic. If your result is negative, you are then free to go about your daily life. Even in that case, please ensure you follow all rules and take necessary precautions.

So to sum up, all passengers travelling from UK to India have to take 1 RT-PCR test before leaving UK, fill the Air Suvidha form and book your test for Indira Gandhi International Airport, take 1 RT-PCR test upon arrival in Delhi, quarantine for 7 days, and take one final RT-PCR test provided by the Govt of India before you are free to go about your life.

Hope you have all the information you need about Travelling internationally to India during the pandemic.

If you have any questions about travelling to India during the pandemic, RT-PCR testing, and/or exemption from institutional quarantine, please leave them below and we will try and answer them at the earliest.

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