Travelling to India from the UK
Whilst India is reopening for travellers again – for British tourists, it was a little more complicated. The e-visa system, which started in 2014 and made things relatively easy, is still not open for British passport holders (nor for Canadians) a result of a tit for tat exchange over vaccine recognition during covid that still has not lifted.
However, the e visa is back again and you can get a visa within a day or two. You will need a jpeg of your passport picture and a copy of the picture page of your passport to upload, the cost for a 30 day one is around $25.
The good news is that the old Air Suvidha online declaration form, which was needed to upload a health declaration and vaccination certificates has now been removed. PCR testing prior to travel is also no longer required but YOU WILL NEED TO BRING YOUR VACCINATION CERTIFICATES. Make sure they are up to date as from the NHS app, they are dated from and to…
On the ground in India masks are not mandatory and the overwhelming majority do not wear them including on public transport – it is almost back to normal. Restaurants and bars are open and people go about their day as it has always been.
According to the UK government travel advice, ’Travellers are no longer required to have proof of vaccination or, if unvaccinated, a negative PCR test. Yet on our arrival we were ask to bring covid vaccination certificates. The country is obviously going through something of a transition so our advice is to bring them and keep watching the Indian portal for more information.
Is it safe to travel to India?
For most parts of India, there is no UK Foreign Office advice to avoid travel — the only areas to which all travel is advised against are the majority of contested Jammu and Kashmir, and right by the border with Pakistan.
Flights to the north such as Delhi are plentiful either direct or via the Middle East. If you are heading to the south of India such as Kochi, you can also fly direct but more often than not (and cheaper) travellers go via the Middle East.
There’s a range of indirect flights to India to choose from. Airlines such as BA, Emirates, Gulf Air and Qatar Airlines leave from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester. It is also possible to fly indirect from smaller airports in the UK as many of the main hubs connecting India to the rest of the world, are in the Middle East. For example, there are some connections from Bristol and Edinburgh is catered for too to the Middle East and then on to India. The most common connecting flights to Delhi for example are via Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Abu and Delhi.
Transfer times between flights – how much time is comfortable?
When transiting between flights for example, changing in the Middle East you should allow a minimum of one and a half to two hours – 3 hours is more comfortable as this also allows for delays. It can take time to disembark one plane (for example 45 minutes in some cases), enter the airport, go through transit security and find your next gate (some of the airports are huge too). When checking into your indirect flight from the UK, check if your checked-in baggage is checked all the way through to India.
India is +5.5 hours ahead of GMT.
In Delhi they’ve set up a brilliantly simple arrival system where you follow a painted line on the floor whether you have an e visa or a paper one.
Has tourism changed in India since the pandemic?
The answer is yes, it has. For one, there are less international tourists and to survive over the last 2 years, industry suppliers have been focusing on the domestic market. There’s subtle differences here. For example, many of the internationally used houseboats in Kerala have been mothballed, to make way for enclosed air conditioned boats that domestic Indian tourists prefer. Whilst Brits, escaping the grey skies of blighty, might expect to sit on an open sun drenched deck with a gin and tonic on a houseboat in Kerala, many of the current houseboats have had glass put all around them and are now enclosed, so choose your houseboat wisely for the ‘classic’ experience.
Some experiences set up for the foreign tourist are only partially open. Some hotels with pools are inviting in locals to come in and pay for a swim, buses are slightly out of condition, and hotel decors – through lack of use and income – can sometimes feel a bit tired. But perhaps these are sacrifices worth making to have more of a local experience.
The bottom line is that India is still as magical as it has always been, and to come now, without the crowds might add to this appeal. The country is vibrant, full of life and it seems on the surface at least, that they have put covid firmly behind them. Bring your covid vaccine certificates for immigration on arrival, but after this, you’ll hardly need them. The choice is yours.