Pandemic Travel in India: Restrictions You Need to Know About

In order to contain and curb the spread of Covid-19, India has been under total lockdown since 25 March 2020. Currently on its fifth phase, Lockdown 5.0, the government has announced further relaxations for activities but some of the primary travel restrictions are still in place. Here’s a compilation of all the restrictions and advisories you need to know about.

Travelling to India

One of the first major steps taken by India in response to Covid-19 was the suspension of all non-essential traveller visas on 13 March. Since then, as the number of cases continued to rise and source of transmission was primarily linked to international travel history, the union government of India has introduced a complete suspension of visas for foreigners as well as all scheduled commercial flights arriving into the country.

All existing visas granted to foreigners, except diplomatic officials, employment and project categories shall remain suspended till further notice.

Airlifts & Repatriation Flights

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India has taken noteworthy steps to facilitate the process of bringing home its citizens from countries worst affected by the Coronavirus.

The first airlift happened on 1 February, bringing citizens from Wuhan, China, where the Coronavirus originated. Over the span of two months, airlifts were also conducted from Japan, Iran and Italy. 

Beginning 7 May, the Vande Bharat Mission was launched to bring in stranded Indians from over 12 countries using special non-scheduled repatriation flights. This mission is currently in its second phase and plans for the third phase are underway as over 3 Lakh people have registered with Indian missions abroad.

Advisory for returning Indians

All Indians who have registered for repatriation flights are not only advised to undergo testing before boarding the aircraft, but will have to be medically screened upon arrival as well. A mandatory  quarantine period of 14 days must be observed with the first 7 days in paid institutional quarantine (self-cost) followed by 7  days isolation at home with self-monitoring of health.

A complete home quarantine is permitted for exceptional cases – such as pregnancy, human distress, death in family, parent(s) accompanied by children below 10 years. Use of Aarogya Setu app is mandatory for home quarantine.

International Travel from India

All international air travel has been suspended since 22 March. While repatriation flights continue to fly in and out of the country, all commercial travel outside of India remains prohibited.

Movement for stranded foreign nationals in India

For the foreign nationals who are currently in India with visas that have expired post-midnight on February 1, or would expire during the ongoing lockdown, will be granted an extended stay on ‘gratis’ basis which will be valid for 30 days after official opening of international travel in the country. They can also choose to book a seat on the outbound repatriation flights under the Vande Bharat Mission.

While the life-long multiple entry visas given to OCI card holders are also suspended temporarily, those who are currently in India, can remain in the country for any length of time.

Unlock 1: Decision Pending

A decision about dates on which international air travel will be resumed is due to be announced during the third phase of Unlock 1 – India’s latest directive to gradually bring the nation out of total lockdown.

Domestic Air Travel

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Domestic air travel in India resumed operations from 25 May, with airline operations limited to 1/3rd of the flights. Only passengers from non-containment zones are allowed to travel with specific guidelines in place including mandatory face masks, self-declaration on Aarogya Setu app and web-only check-in. Strict social distancing rules are to be followed at the airport as well as aboard the aircraft.

While quarantine upon landing is not mandatory across the country, each state has a different protocol in place and passengers should confirm at time of booking.

Land Travel

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Land travel includes public transport, private & hired vehicles and intra-state bus & train travel. With Unlock 1 announced under Lockdown 5.0, plenty of relaxations have been introduced for non-containment zones in India. Green zones have freedom of movement and re-opened public transport at 50% capacity, orange zones are restricted to private & hired vehicles only and intra-state travel guidelines are determined with mutual consent of the respective states.

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