Can I fly to India from the UAE and do my children need a PCR test for travel?

Children under 5 no longer need to take a PCR test when travelling under the UAE-India air bubble agreement

Children under 5 flying to India no longer need to take a PCR test before departure. AFP
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As India reopens its borders to commercial travellers from nearly 100 countries, authorities have also eased PCR testing requirements for children.

Authorities in India have updated regulations for travel to the country. This is good news for families planning to fly to India in the near future.

After halting tourist visas in March 2020, India is allowing quarantine-free entry from Monday to fully inoculated travellers from 99 countries, including the UAE.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India has updated guidelines for international arrivals.

Previously, babies, infants and children of all ages had to have a PCR test before flying to the country. This has now been eased, with children aged under 5 no longer required to take a pre-flight PCR test.

Despite India not yet being on the Abu Dhabi green list, travel between the UAE and India is open.

On November 7, Abu Dhabi extended its green list of countries from where travellers can travel without quarantine. Authorities added 13 new countries to the list, which now runs to 95 destinations, almost half of all the countries in the world.

India – a country of more than one billion people – remains notably absent from this ever-evolving list. However, the UAE and India have an air bubble partnership in place, which means travel is allowed between the two countries, with no quarantine for vaccinated travellers flying to or from India.

However, there are some additional restrictions in place.

Who can travel to India from the UAE?

Tourists inside a Mughal garden in Srinagar, India. EPA

India and the UAE have an air bubble agreement that allows airlines to operate flights to and from both countries.

Travel to India via this scheme is restricted to specific categories of passengers. Nationals from India, Bhutan or Nepal, and Overseas Citizen of India and Person of Indian Origin cardholders with foreign passports can fly to India. Emiratis and foreigners from other countries in Africa or South America can also fly to India, but must have a valid visa. Tourist visas or e-visa issued on or after October 6 are now valid for travel to India.

From India to the UAE, only Emiratis, ICA and GDRFA-approved UAE residents, and nationals from India, Bhutan or Nepal holding a valid visa can travel via the air corridor agreement.

Vaccinated travellers flying to Abu Dhabi from India do not need to quarantine on arrival, but will undergo a PCR test on arrival.

Travellers also need to stay up to date on the latest requirements for flying to Abu Dhabi from India. Currently, these include registering via the ICA Smart Travel Service, taking a PCR test no more than 48 hours before travel and having a rapid PCR test within six hours of boarding at the departure airport.

What do I need to do before travelling to India from the UAE?

Travellers at immigration counters at Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. AFP

Travellers need to submit a self-declaration form before travelling to India. This can be found here and needs to be completed for each person flying, including infants and children. After filling in the form, travellers will get an approval code that will be required before boarding any flight.

All passengers must also have a printed colour copy of the self-declaration form when travelling, unless flying to Hyderabad where two copies are required.

Vaccinated travellers need to upload their vaccination certificate on the Air Suvidha online portal and carry a printed copy of the certificate, which should be in English.

Finally, passengers need to download the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile phones – you can find the link here.

Depending on which state travellers are flying to, there could be other rules to follow, such as to Chennai in Tamil Nadu where travellers need to apply for an e-pass at least 48 hours before flying.

All travellers should regularly check the local regulations for their destination.

Do I need a PCR test before flying to India?

A healthcare worker collects a swab sample for the Covid-19 test from an international passenger at a facility inside Chennai International Airport. EPA

All travellers need a PCR test before flying to any destination in India. The test must be taken no more than 72 hours before travel and results must be uploaded on to the Air Suvidha online portal.

Babies and children aged under 5 no longer need a PCR test, after Indian authorities updated regulations on November 11. Children under 5 are also exempt from any on-arrival tests, unless they display Covid-19 symptoms. If this happens on arrival or during the home quarantine period, the children would need to undergo testing.

Travellers also need a hard copy of their negative test results with them when they travel; digital copies are not accepted.

Do I need to be vaccinated to fly to India?

The Golden Temple, also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib, in Amritsar. Getty Images

Travellers do not need to be vaccinated before flying to India. However, there are different rules in place for travellers who are fully immunised and those who are not.

India recognises all vaccines administered in the UAE, but travellers must have completed both doses of any vaccine at least 15 days before travelling.

What restrictions are in place in India?

Tourists visit the Taj Mahal in Agra on September 21, 2020. - The Taj Mahal reopened to visitors on September 21 in a symbolic business-as-usual gesture even as India looks set to overtake the US as the global leader in coronavirus infections. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)

After landing in India, travellers need to follow the rules in place for the destination they have flown to, as these change from region to region.

Vaccinated travellers arriving in any destination must self‑monitor their health for 14 days after arrival in India. Non-vaccinated travellers will have to take an on-arrival Covid-19 test and then home quarantine for seven days. Another test must be taken on day eight.

The cost of these on-arrival tests varies depending on the airport that travellers land at. Mumbai has the cheapest tests, from 600 Indian rupees ($8), while Bangalore's express tests are some of the more expensive options at 3,200 Indian rupees ($43) per person. Travellers arriving in Kerala and requiring an on-arrival test will receive it free of charge.

All travellers may have to undergo thermal screening and should wear face masks in public places and avoid crowded areas when in India.

Which airlines are flying between India and the UAE?

Airline stewardesses pose for a photo during the unveiling of a special liveried SpiceJet Boeing 737, to celebrate India administering its billionth Covid-19 vaccine. AFP

Because of the air bubble restrictions, there are fewer flights operating between India and the UAE at the moment than there were pre-pandemic. However, several airlines are flying between the two countries.

Etihad Airways operates from Abu Dhabi to several destinations in India, including Hyderabad, Kochi, Trivandrum and Mumbai. From Dubai, Emirates airline flies to several cities across India, including Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Delhi and Kolkata.

Other airlines operating to India from the UAE include flydubai, Air India, Air Arabia, IndiGo, Vistara and SpiceJet.

When will India be added to the Abu Dhabi green list?

It's not clear when India will be added to the Abu Dhabi green list.

Abu Dhabi authorities will continue to add or remove countries to the list “subject to change based on global Covid-19 developments”.

Updated: November 15, 2021, 8:09 AM