With COVID-19 infections falling in the Omicron variant’s wake, we’re finally seeing broader border reopenings, even among countries that have hitherto kept themselves pretty rigidly cut off from the rest of the world. This week, India became the latest nation to begin welcoming back foreigners for the first time in two years.
At the beginning of the month, India’s central government had announced that it was extending the ban on overseas flights indefinitely but later decided to allow the restart of commercial international passenger service as of March 27. Prior to Sunday, India had only been allowing chartered flights into and out of the country, making international air travel inaccessible to most.
The resumption of commercial flights also signals the end of all previous air-bubble programs—temporary reciprocal arrangements allowing air travel between two countries—according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s announcement. Now, according to TimeOut, Indian aviation regulators are allowing a limited number of weekly flights operated by 66 airlines from 41 countries, including the U.S.
Only yesterday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered its COVID-19 warning level for travel to India to “Level 1: Low” from “Level 3: High”; while the State Department brought down its travel advisory level to India “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution”, reflecting the reduced COVID-19 threat in the country, but balanced with risk of “crime and terrorism”.
India’s current entry requirements for U.S. visitors are fairly straightforward. Travelers ages five and older will need to submit a self-declaration form on the Air Suvidha portal at least 72 hours prior to departing for India. There, unvaccinated travelers can upload a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the first leg of their flight to India, while fully vaccinated travelers can upload proof that they’ve completed a full primary COVID-19 vaccine series.
Approximately two percent of passengers on each arriving flight will be randomly tested, regardless of their vaccination status, but aren’t required to wait for test results before leaving the airport. Visitors are also advised to download the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile devices for use throughout their trip.
For more information, visit incredibleindia.org.