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Written by Savi, 82 Comments

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, if you wish to avoid institutional quarantine (7 days in a hotel) upon arriving in India, you need to either get a Covid Test done within 96 hours before flight departure or you can opt for a RT-PCR test that is available in select airports as of October 2020 (Delhi and Mumbai). We chose to get our tests done in UK as we wanted to avoid the 6-7 hour wait at the airport after a long flight. In the UK, this means going private as NHS does not provide tests for travel purposes. So 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. 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).

Please note that even if you are exempted from the 7 day institutional quarantine, you have to self-quarantine at your address in Delhi NCR for a period of 14 days. 

 

Step 2 – Applying for exemption from Institutional Quarantine

All travelers bound for India must complete a Self-Declaration form on Air Suvidha website/app 72 hours before their flight departure. If you are planning on applying for an exemption from Institutional Quarantine, you can do so on Air Suvidha here

Although the website states that the exemption form must be completed 72 hours before departure, in a lot of cases this is not possible as the Covid test needs to be done 96 hours prior and many labs take around 48 hours to return the tests. We filled in the form and uploaded our negative test results on the above-mentioned website 48 hours before our flight and received a confirmation along with an exemption certificate within 30 minutes of completing the form. Once you have your exemption certificate, print it along with the self declaration form and keep it with your passport and other travel documents as you’ll need these at the arrival airport.

 

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 🙂

 

Step 4 arrival in Delhi, India

Upon arrival in Delhi you will be asked for the exemption certificate and a stamp will be put on your arm to connote 14 days of home quarantine. Most of the immigration counters were empty, so we were out of the airport within 30 minutes.

If you do not have an exemption report, you can also opt to get a RT-PCR test done upon arrival – for this you will have to wait for 6-7 hours at the airport lounge till you receive your result. However we would really NOT recommend this as the testing queue was very long at the IGI airport, New Delhi.

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. 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.

82 thoughts on “International Travel To India During the pandemic

  1. Hi, can you please let me know.where did you do a test in Delhi just to be sure after the PCR done in London? Did you isolate till then?

    1. Hey Kavita – You can get a test done at IGI Airport upon landing. But we got it done at home from Lals Path Lab. In addition to that, we also practiced self quarantine, just to be ultra careful – both of the community and our parents too 🙂

  2. Hi, Thank you for the article. It was helpful. Could you please let me know about cabin baggage allowance in Air India? Were you allowed to carry a handbag /laptop bag in addition to the 8kg cabin bag?
    Also hope the bag drop and security did not takw much time in Heathrow.

    1. Hi Smitha – bag drop was super simple. And yes, a laptop bag/handbag is allowed in addition to the cabin bag. As there were not too many passengers on our flight from London to Delhi coz of the pandemic, they were not particular about weighing the bags etc. Hope this helps 🙂

  3. What if you are not from Delhi and you have to travel to another city.
    Is it possible?
    I tried to find the exact answer but couldn’t

    1. Hi Sophia – you can carry on your travel to another city as long as you have a negative RT-PCR test and then practice home quarantine upon getting to your final destination 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for sharing much detailed information 😊. It really did help a lot. Lots of love to you guys ❤️. Have a wonderful time with your parents 💫

  5. Thank you so much. This is really helpful. My sister in law is planning to come from UK and I can’t wait to meet her. So I literally checked your profile every single day to check whether you have posted about the UK – Delhi travel. I want her to travel smooth and come to us ASAP. Thanks a ton again.

    1. Hey Pranita – so happy to hear this. Have the best time with your SIL – don’t worry she won’t have any trouble getting to you. Stay safe and have a Happy Diwali

  6. Hi, thank you so much for this article. We are set to travel next month from London to New Delhi, but have connected flight to our city. We have night stay in airport hotel and flight next morning. We spoke to few people on airlines and hotel, they all said we will be able to travel further with out any complications. Would you know anything about it? Thanks. Any help is much appreciated.

    1. Hi Shivani – yes that’s right. You should be able to travel onwards and take your connecting flights as long as you have a negative RT-PCR report on you. We saw many passengers who were on our flight do this without any issues at all 🙂

  7. Hi. This is such a relief. We were supposed to fly from london to Ahemdabad via Delhi on 19th nov but then UK announced all ban on interns travel so we prepone our tickets on 5th. We got our PCR test here in Canary Wharf for £95. Does that mean we need to fill both exemption and self declaration form? Thank you.

    1. Hey Shweta – Yes you have to fill both those forms – the exemption form and the self-declaration form. Have a safe flight home. Don’t worry at all – it’s a seamless process 🙂
      PS Where in Canary Wharf did you get your tests done from? We are totally going there next time – we paid £165 😉

    2. Hi Shweta ,

      I am also travelling to Delhi from London . Would you mind sharing where in Canary Wharf you got the PCR test done ?

      Thanks
      Shivani

    3. Hi Shweta,
      Could you please let us know from where did you get your PCR test done in Canary Wharf. We are planning to travel next month and looking for private clinics to get ourselves tested for COVID-19 and get the fit to fly certificate.
      Thanks

  8. Thank you for this detailed post with all the links as well as it turns out to be quite handy. I just have one query, what if after reaching Delhi we need to travel to different state the same day. Is it possible to get ourselves quarantined in our home town and not in Delhi.
    Would be very helpful if you have any idea on this.
    Thank you again 😊😘

    1. Hey Priya – yes, yes. You can travel onwards to your home state with a negative RT-PCR test the same day itself. You do not need to quarantine in Delhi – you can home quarantine upon reaching your house 🙂

  9. Hey,
    Thank you for the detailed explanation.
    I have one question regarding people coming from abroad to Delhi and then travelling to other cities.
    How does that work?
    Do you still get a stamp on your hand?

    If you have any information regarding this, it would help me a lot.
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Yes Abhishek you get a stamp on your arm and you can take a connecting flight from Delhi airport onto your final destination with it, provided your have negative RT-PCR reports with you 🙂

    2. Hi,
      Thanks for the update. I am travelling from UK to Bangalore next week with my daughter who is 2 years old. Do you have any idea if covid test is required for children.

  10. Hey guys
    So glad to knw your travel wasn’t that bad
    So i will be travelling from brazil to india by british airways And my flight is via london
    The website at heathrow isn’t giving me clear instructions and i need to check if there is any rule of quarintine in london for connecting flights too
    I will be getting the approvals and covid tests before arriving same as u guys but a bit confused on whats the take for passengers who hve a hault in london and have a trasit visa to take another flight
    Mh while idea is to not get stuck at london as i really want to fly home now
    I would be really grateful if u can answer that
    Also last question can we skip the institutional quarintine if we get our tests done in India and the result is negative
    U guys have a brilliant time with your parents and stay safe !

    1. Hey Nivi,

      While we won’t be able to comment on this from our personal experience, but our understanding is that if you have a through ticket and your connecting flight from London departs on the same day as you arrive in London from Brazil, you should be fine. But please do check this with British Airways as the situation in London/UK keeps changing daily. You can also refer to the FAQs here: https://www.heathrow.com/customer-support/faq/coronavirus-covid-19

      As for the last question, yes, you can skip institutional quarantine if you get a test done at the Indian airport you arrive at and if the test result is negative.

      Have a safe trip back home 🙂

  11. Hey I haven’t yet got my test result..though I have filed the air suvidha form..with results awaited..my flight is day after..hopefully should get the results by tomorrow day end..should I fill the form again

    1. Hey Vishal – you might get a rejection from Air Suvidha if you don’t submit the RT-PCR report with it. But don’t worry – just apply for exemption again once you have the test results and you will receive it in a few hours. Have a safe flight home 🙂

  12. Hi thanx for summing your experience . Just a quick check does Home quarantine is mandatory even if the Covid report comes negative (taking covid test again after reaching India )

    1. Hi Neha – yes that is correct! Home quarantine is mandatory even if the Covid report comes negative – there are no checks but would suggest doing it just to be responsible 🙂

  13. Thanks a lot for your detailed blog about your experience. It really helped me. I have to plan an urgent trip to India because my father is undergoing some health issues. And now I am a bit relaxed about it. But I do not have enough time to get the PCR test done here in the UK. You mentioned earlier that RT-PCR tests are being done at IGI, but you did not prefer it because of the long queues. Was it unbearably long? Or if I book the slot now can I avoid the queue? Also, how can I pay for the test? Do they accept card payment?

    1. Hi Manish – yes it is possible to pay by card to get an RT-PCR Test done at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. The queue was about 2-3 hours long (+ 6 hour wait time to get results of the RT-PCR results) at the time we landed.

      I hope your dad feels better soon – don’t worry the journey is seamless and you will be with him soon.

      1. Thanks a lot Savi for your reply. Sorry to bug you again 🙁

        Do I still fill out the exemption form? Or Do I need to do it once I get my RT-PCR done at the IGI airport?

        Cheers
        Manish

  14. Hi there

    This was really helpful. Thanks for sharing.
    But just a quick question, what are the rules if I have to travel from UK to Delhi and then to Rajasthan.
    Do I still need to quarantine myself at delhi for 14days and then go to Rajasthan via flight?

    Look forward to hear from you.

    Thanks xx

    1. Hi Shweta – no that is incorrect. You need a negative RTPCR test report and proof of domestic connecting flight. Then you can travel straight to Rajasthan and quarantine there itself.

  15. My parents are flying from London to New Delhi on 25th November. They have a connecting flight from New Delhi to Varanasi. As you have mentioned , the 14 days quarantine has to be done in Delhi NCR only or they will be allowed to catch the connecting flight to Varanasi where they can quarantine?

    1. Hi Pritesh – they do not need to home quarantine in Delhi – they can quarantine in Varanasi. However they will need a negative RTPCR report in order to be able to travel from Delhi to Varanasi. Hope this helps

  16. I’m planning visit to UK in Dec 2020, as it is my first international trip I’m bit nervous.
    So I just wanted to know is it safe to travel and is there any change in process at the airports.

    1. Hey Renuka – as the pandemic situation is quickly changing every month it is hard to say how things will be in December. Large parts of UK are currently under lockdown and if that continues till December, your flight provider might cancel flights themselves. However I hope things get better and you ARE able to take your trip <3

      1. Hey Guys! Thanks for the deailed post. This really helped. I am Travelling to Delhi from US in the next few days and from research my understanding was that we need a covid test done within 96hours of our flight departure. I had booked the test slot accordingly. In the section 1 of this post I see you mentioned 96hours before the arrival in Delhi. Can you please confirm? If thats the case, I might have to reschedule my covid test.

        Also, the test I booked just states PCR (dosent mention RT – PCR). I tried finding more deatils but of no help. Will this work for exemption?

  17. This was very helpful. Although I was wondering, dod you then have to do a mandatory home quarantine as well? Also, what if I wish to then travel interstate (outaide Delhi), does quarantine rules apply then as well? Did you guys have any such experiences?

    1. Hey Divyam – yes that’s right. Home quarantine for 14 days upon landing, even if you Covid RTPCR tests are negative.

      If you wish to travel interstate via domestic flight. then you can get a an RTPCR test done upon landing at IGI airport itself and then take your onward domestic flight within India

        1. Hi Savi, your post is really helpful for all the Indians hoping to travel back in Nov/Dec.
          Just wanted to check if you think these procedures are going to remain the same with the upcoming lockdown starting in UK tomorrow.
          I am planning to fly from Heathrow to Delhi on 4th Dec’20.

          Thanks in advance, and have a happy Diwali with your family !!

          1. Hi Bhumika – yes so far the procedures to fly from UK to Delhi is the same in this current lockdown. However things change so quickly these days, so do keep an eye on an upcoming changes 🙂

  18. Hi Savi & Vid,
    This is so helpful. Thank you so much. 😊
    I understand London is in air bubble pact with India so direct flights were available and hence the above steps apply. However would have any idea whether the above steps apply for countries which are not in the air bubble pact with India?
    I live in the Netherlands and what I understand is that I need to travel to Germany or France to get a flight for India. But then not sure if the same rules will apply for me considering my test will be done in NL but my flight to India will be from Germany.
    None of the sites are giving clear information so thought of checking with you both.
    Thanks anyway
    Lots of love to you both 🥰
    Sunetra

    1. Hey Sunetra,

      Not quite sure on the transit requirements in Germany. Our understanding is if you buy a through ticket from NL to India (even with a stopover in Germany), if your RT-PCR test is done within 96 hours of your first departure flight from NL, that test result will be acceptable when you land in India. However, you must check with the airline you are flying with regarding the transit conditions in Germany.

      Have a safe flight back home

  19. Wow that’s great Information Savi and Vid.Thank you.
    Is the procedure same across India or its not for New Delhi airport?
    If we are travelling to Maldives for 2-3 days is the procedure same?

    1. Hey Kavitha – this procedure is the same for major airports such as Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai etc. The rules for flying from India to Maldives during the pandemic might vary- you have to carry a negative RT-PCR report but it is best to check with your resort for any additional paperwork you might require

  20. Hey guys!

    Thanks for this! Iwas curious – is this the same protocol for other cities in India? mainly Chennai.

    Also what was the experience for the return journey? Is it largely the same.

    Sab

    1. Hey there – the rules for flying into Chennai are the same. You need a negative RT-PCR test taken 96 hours before flying or you can get tested upon landing at the airport.
      Hope this helps

  21. Are you citizen/PR holder or UK or India? How did you get the exemption of travelling to India in the first place? When are you planning to go back and what are the terms of UK when you return back? My partner is in Australia on work visa basis and he can come for our wedding but can’t go back since borders are closed 😭 please answer each question I’ve asked.

    1. Hi Shaily – right now the UK has 14 days of home quarantine upon flying back. However Australian borders are much stricter at the moment, so you are right in assuming flying from India to Australia is not exactly a possibility right now unless one is an Australian citizen

  22. Hi Guys,

    Thank you so much for this, easy and simplified stuff. However, I wanted to ask do you know any restrictions while heading back from India to Dublin ( transit via UK). I’m planning to travel from Dublin to Mumbai, however I’ve heard that British Airlines are not letting you board unless you’re UK citizen or on diplomat visa. Does it still holds true?

    1. Hey Praveen – I don’t believe this is true. However things keep changing (for eg UK has announced a second lockdown now), so it is best to check with the airline before your scheduled date of departure

  23. Hey tha ms for the article. My question is slightly different and related to getting a visa to travel to Delhi in these times. Say if a foreign passport holder wishes to visit India will they get Visa easily?

  24. Hi
    Many thanks for your post. I am traveling to Delhi next week, was the queue for the testing at airport too long? Any idea what was the turn around time?

    1. Hey yes the queue was around 3 hours long when we landed. The turnaround time is 6 hours long – you can wait in the lounge when you wait for the result 🙂

      1. Hey, I am planning to visit Maldives for 3 days from Bangalore. I will for sure carry -ve RT – PCR test report for entry in Maldives. I agree in order to exempt from quarantine I need to get test done in Maldives but it is way too expensive. Bangalore airport also doesn’t have on arrival covid test option. We don’t want to do institutional quarantine, I checked rules online and it is written that home quarantine is required which we are fine. Any idea about this?

        1. Hey Sanjana – perhaps you could request your hotel in Maldives to include it in the cost price of the room? If not, I would still suggest getting it done in Maldives itself as a number of airlines are requesting a negative report before you board the flight out of Maldives.

          1. Thank you so much for your response.
            My airline is goair both ways, I tried calling them but call is not going through. I am not sure if GoAir airlines need -ve report. Do you have any idea if GoAir airlines needs -ve report to board the flight?

            Thank you so much.

          2. Hi Sanjana,

            When we flew, we were not asked to produce the test result before boarding (this is because there is a testing facility at Delhi airport now so those who don’t have a test result before boarding can opt for getting tested at Delhi airport if they want to avoid 7 day institutional quarantine.

            That said, it would still be a good idea to check with GoAir as these rules are changing on a daily basis.

  25. Planning to go to Maldives for my honeymoon. Very unsure due to the uncertainty. Cant get tested in maldives as if positive will have to quarantine there which will cost us a bomb. Delhi Airport is taking 12hours for tests

    What do you suggest? Should I just postpone intl travel and go on a peaceful domestic honeymoon?

    1. Hi there – yes you should definitely postpone your visit to Maldives if you don’t want to get tested there. This is because even though it is not compulsory, most airlines are asking for a negative RT-PCR report when you board the flight from Maldives to India. So if you don’t have a Covid negative report, you might be stopped from boarding the flight

  26. Hi…. Thankyou for sharing the information. I wanted to ask you if we show the NHS mail in pdf form at the Delhi airport will that be acceptable.

    1. Hi Rucha – no. You need to submit that NHS email for your exemption certificate. Once you get approval, just print the exemption certificate and carry it with yourself to Delhi. At the Delhi Airport, staff only sees the exemption certificate. No other documents are accepted

      1. Thanks for your reply. Just to confirm that the 96 hrs prior NHS Covid 19 test is acceptable at Delhi airport and I won’t need to take another test on my landing.

  27. Hi thank you so much for a great post. My mother is an Indian passport holder. She is travelling to Delhi tomm. I just got her PCR (about 28 hours before departure). The test was done 48 hours before. I submitted the exemption certificate but she hasn’t been approved etc . Do you know if she will still have to stand in line (she is old) or is the PCR report enough. Also do you know if the exemption certificate is for international citizens or also Indian passport holders. Thank you so much

    1. Hey Sonali,

      She should receive her approval for exemption certificate soon (if she hasn’t already). The exemption certificate is for everyone irrespective of nationality.

      In case she doesn’t receive approval in time, just ask her to carry the acknowledgement that you must have received when you applied for exemption in addition to the RT-PCR test negative result.

      🙂

  28. Anyone trird boarding Emirates without out covid test from the Uk. Im thinking of getting it done on arrival in India as it appears to be very cheap. I might get NHS and try if it works. Worth taking risk

  29. Hi,Can you tel me?what are the procedure for those who are waiting for covid test result and have not be able to obtain it while arrived at Delhi and need 1 more days to get the result?

    Thank You

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