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.
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.
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.
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.