In late March, when India went into coronavirus lockdown, the government suspended all international flight operations. Seven months later, countries are opening up their borders to other nations with close geographic, economic or cultural ties to resuscitate the tourism industry, which has been severely impacted because of the pandemic. As of November 18, India has air travel bubbles with a total of 22 countries, Ethiopia being the most recent addition to the list.
India initially entered into bilateral travel bubbles with a total of seven countries including the U.K., the U.A.E. and the U.S.A. in August. The list was then expanded in October to include ten other countries including Japan, Oman, Kenya, and Bhutan. Now, after the Ministry of Civil Aviation has confirmed that an air travel bubble has been formed with Ethiopia, the full list of countries that Indians can visit is as follows:
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Bhutan, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Maldives, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda, Tanzania, the U.A.E., the U.K., Ukraine and the U.S.A.
However, all passengers must follow quarantine guidelines as mandated by authorities in their destination country. Quarantine regulations and other entry restrictions will likely vary from country to country.
To minimize the risk of Covid-19 transmission, travellers might have to provide proof of having tested negative for Covid-19 on arrival, apart from undergoing mandatory quarantine or self-isolation in the destination country. For instance, passengers flying to the U.A.E. are required to produce a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR negative test report, and fill out a health declaration form before departure and after arrival.
As per the air travel bubble agreement with Maldives, travellers might have to undergo a random Covid-19 RT-PCR test, and must wear face masks at airports, during travel within Maldives and in enclosed public spaces. However, Indians can still obtain a visa on arrival in the Maldives.
Detailed information about all of India’s air travel bubbles can be found here.
It is important to note that despite the bilateral air bubbles, all international travellers returning from abroad will have to follow the Indian government’s quarantine and self-isolation guidelines. According to a document published by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on November 5, 2020, returning travellers must submit a self-declaration form through an online portal at least 72 hours before scheduled departure. While it was previously mandated that all international arrivals undergo seven days of institutional quarantine followed by seven days of home quarantine, passengers will now be exempted from institutional quarantine if they can provide a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test result. If passengers cannot produce said test result on arrival, they can make use of testing facilities at the airport if available. Passengers who test negative will be allowed to bypass institutional quarantine.
The revised guidelines from the Ministry of Home Affairs dated August 22, 2020 state that those flying under air travel bubble agreements will not have to register themselves with the Indian Embassy before flying, as was previously required. However, stranded Indians who wish to fly back to India under the Vande Bharat repatriation effort will still need to register with the Indian Embassy before flying.