India to reopen to tourists from 15 October

India to reopen to tourists from 15 October
Initial opening date only applies to travellers arriving on chartered flights

India is set to allow foreign tourists back into the country from later this week, changing its Covid-related travel restrictions to grant new tourist visas to certain arrivals.

The country’s Ministry of Home Affairs announced that visas will initially be granted only to travellers arriving on chartered flights from 15 October, before being extended to those arriving on commercial flights from 15 November.

Those mid-October arrivals will be the first tourists into the country in 19 months.

No tourist visas have been issued since March 2020, when Prime Minister Modi’s government closed borders to foreign nationals in response to the pandemic.

Other foreign visas, such as those for diplomats and business figures, had been reinstalled in recent months, but the government has held off permitting tourists until now.

“After considering various inputs, the MHA (home ministry) has decided to begin granting fresh tourist visas for foreigners coming to India through chartered flights with effect from October 15, 2021,” read the statement from the Ministry.

“All Covid-19 protocols and norms notified by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to be adhered to by foreign tourists, carriers bringing them into India, and other stakeholders at landing stations,” it continued.

Tourists who already held a visa for India will have to get fresh ones, the statement clarified – all existing tourist visas issued before 15 October will be void.

Travellers will have to go through thermal screening and take a PCR test at arrival at the airport in India, regardless of vaccination status, and take another test on day eight of their trip.

The restrictions on British nationals, however, remain complex: arrivals from the UK into India will still have to take a PCR test within 72 hours before arrival and quarantine for 10 days after, a measure announced earlier this month in response to similar restrictions placed by the UK on Indian arrivals.

Last week the UK announced a relaxation of its entry requirements for vaccinated arrivals from India, with the change coming into effect today, 11 October, leading to hopes that travel rules will be simplified for British travellers to India in return.

Tourism is hugely important to India – the World Travel and Tourism Council calculated that in 2018 that it accounted for 9.2 per cent of India’s GDP that year, and supported more than 42 million jobs.

No tourists will be allowed in via India’s land borders, the statement confirmed, specifying entry by “water routes or by flights” only.