Are you planning to travel to India from UK this month or anytime during this pandemic? Travelling during these especially difficult times give us headaches. If your plan includes kids, then the word “trip” sounds like a nightmare.
Google becomes our saviour whenever we try to find about the places we are planning to travel. But in highly unlikely times like this, Google seems to be the most unreliable source of information you can ever rely on.
The problem with “half-facts” is it gives us a lot of unaccountable fear, nervousness and anxiety before the travel. On googling about the quarantine protocols and procedures at the first point of entry, you could get multitude of information, which might or might not serve the purpose: alleviate your fears.
So, here I am, writing this to give you some of the factual procedures that you can one hundred percent rely on, if you are planning to travel from UK to India.
Why so many restrictions?
The fact that the government of every country trying to minimize the spread of corona virus by breaking the chain is highly appreciable and welcomed. Having said that, there are much more restrictions on place after the new variant of the virus detected in London and other parts of UK.
The domestic travels within UK, and the international travel from and to UK, is extremely structured, strict and overwhelming for the travelers. The two important points to note about this new variant are: it seems to attack the younger population, and it spreads faster than the first one.
The new variant, currently on research, has a lot of mysteries yet to be unfold, for instance, if it reacts to the vaccine, or if it has high mortality rate compared to the first Covid variant.
UK, currently on national lock down, bans all kind of travel (except for essential purchases,) in and around the cities. It also bans International travel unless you have a legal permission to visit your country or any other country, as a matter of fact.
So, what are the protocols that you must know before the travel?
There are some absolutely essential travel protocols you must know before you plan to travel:
- A negative RT-PCR test (essentially taken 72 hours prior the departure)
- A mandated self-paid RT-PCR test taken at the first point of entry
- Self-declaration forms uploaded on Air-Suvidha portal
- Self-declaration forms to be filled and uploaded on portals of the airlines you are travelling by.
Some websites speak about downloading the apps like: ArogyaSetu App, Quarantine Watch app or some other apps (as per the point of entry to India). Out of all these apps, ArogyaSetu app seems to be the mandatory app that you need to download, as per the protocol documentation issued by the Government of India.
However, these apps won’t work without the Indian contact number, which you might not have if you are living outside India for a longer time. Also, other apps like Quarantine Watch App and others can’t be downloaded from the regions outside India.
It might add to the panic about the travel, but be assured: no one asks or inquires about it in the airport. If you feel restless, you can very well download the ArogyaSetu app on your phone, just in case.
Points of Entry
Currently, from UK, you can reach New Delhi, Kerala, Odisha, Bangalore and West Bengal International Airports through a direct flight. Air India and British Airways operates between UK and India.
To board any aircraft from UK, you must take a RT-PCR test (subjected to the country you are visiting,) and receive negative results. In case of travelling to India, you must take the test for second variant before 72 hours of departure. There are lots of third-party health providers that helps you with this testing procedure.
You can also alternatively login to the airlines you are travelling with, and book a slot for “fit to fly” test from the health provider they are collaborating with. Usually, the results arrive within a day, but with a lot of people taking the test, it might take a day or two to get your results.
Self-Declaration form in airline’s portal
Before your departure, you are required to fill and upload the self-declaration form in the airline’s portal; for which you will need the results of your RT-PCR test. The application is pretty much self-explanatory, and it asks for information like your passport number, flight reference number and test results, etc.
After uploading the soft copy, it is better to carry a hard copy with you during the travel.
Air Suvidha Portal
The Air Suvidha Portal (https://www.newdelhiairport.in/airsuvidha/apho-registration) asks for the same kind of information including the test results, sample taken date and time, flight number and connecting flight details (if any.) It is also mandatory to upload a soft copy of your test results in the portal before your departure.
Anyone who is travelling from UK to India must be quarantined for 14 days: institutional or home quarantine. Karnataka, Kerala and Odisha sends asymptomatic passengers to home quarantine; so no exemption form needed if any of those states are your first point of entry.
What happens next?
If you have a negative RT-PCR “fit to fly” results, then, you are good to travel from UK. When you reach the Heathrow International Airport, you can follow pretty much the same procedure as normal from check-in to security check. Make sure you don’t carry sanitizer over 100 ml (as advised for any other liquid items you carry in the airplanes.)
The airlines provide you with a pouch of sanitizer and an antibacterial tissue as a complimentary item, which will be readily available on your seat when you board the aircraft. Make sure to wipe the arm rest and seats before you take the seat with tissues. You might also be given apron if you occupy the middle seat (which is not compulsory). Relax and enjoy the 10-hour flight to India.
The airline also manages to provide you with a drink, a meal and a snack during the 10-hour flight. You can also pack your own food, but avoid liquid or semi-solid items, as they won’t make through the security check.
When you reach the first point of entry…
Once you reach the first point of entry, you must take RT-PCR test again, even if you carry the test results with you. You can also pay for the results online, or alternatively, you could use cash or card at the counter. If your Indian sim doesn’t work, the airport had also made arrangements to order a new sim for you.
I will try to give you a broader outline on how the process works:
- After arrival, you have to take the test first.
- Fill the RT-PCR test form with details like passport number, Aadhar number, and address, and give the test in the counter.
- Order a new sim by giving your details in the “new sim counter”, or check if your old number is working, and skip the process.
- Pay for the test, and take the temperature in the next counter.
- Go on with pulse oxymeter reading in the next counter.
- If you have no problems with any of these processes, then you must submit the self-reporting form that you uploaded on Air Suvidha portal in the next counter. After the scrutiny of your boarding pass, negative RT-PCR test results that you took before you boarded the flight, and the self-reporting form, the official gives you a green signal by stamping on your left hand. Here is where you get stamped for 14-days quarantine. Then, you are good to go to documentation check.
- The officials in the passport documentation counter check your passports, validity and your identity.
- You can then claim your baggage, go through customs (if required,) and then wait for the test results you gave after entry, in the waiting area.
If you are travelling with kids…
It is a lot of pressure to travel alone, as it is, during this pandemic time with heavy protocols and rules to follow. If you are planning to travel with kids, then it is super-stressful and nervous during the planning part.
But, relax: the officials, health care workers and airline staffs, everyone who you meet and greet during the travel, are making sure to make it comfortable and relaxed for you and your family.
If you are travelling with kids who are 10 years old or under, then you can fill the exemption form for home quarantine. You must carry negative RT-PCR test result, have no symptoms and test negative during the paid-test you take at the point of entry.
If your first point of entry is anywhere in Karnataka, Kerala or Odisha, you need not fill any exemption form. The health-care workers taking tests for kid are super-friendly and trying to make it comfortable for the kids and the parents.
The only downside to all these procedures while travelling with kids are the wait time. It takes solid 4-5 hours before all the processes are over until you can claim baggage and wait for a “good to go” sign. I would suggest you to change diapers, or do any baby care in the flight before arrival; as the facilities for baby care is available only after you are checked asymptomatic.
Also, carry some food/snacks as you don’t get to see any food counter until you claim baggage and pass through customs to the waiting area.
If your test results are negative, and you show no symptoms, then you would be able to quarantine at home. Sometimes, due to the overwhelming amount of self-paid RT PCR tests taken, the airport authorities might ask you to leave before giving away the results. You will receive the results through e-mail. If you are tested positive, then you will be taken to hospitalized quarantine, and formalities to follow.
Lastly, what about connecting flights?
Due to the wake of new corona virus strain, a lot of International airports including Chennai, has not lifted their ban. So, you can either reach these cities through road or take a connecting flight.
If you are booking for a connecting flight, choose the flight in a time frame that is at least 8 hours after your entry time. The procedures take almost 5 hours, and the results take 6 hours minimum to arrive from the time you give the test.
So, if you reach the airport by 5 in the morning, it is advisable to book connecting flight after 12 PM in the afternoon. Also, in case of any check-in baggages, you will have to collect it from the baggage claim, and check-in again in the domestic airlines.
You do not need e-pass to travel within the Chennai city, but it is better to take one beforehand. Check with other city’s guidelines and protocols before your departure to know about how they regulate traffic within the city.
I know that this post is a little vague, draining and has a lot of information. But, I hope that it will be a one-stop point for all of your doubts and travel inquiries. In case, if you need any other information, please ask away in comments section. I will be happy to help.
Have a safe journey, and a good day. Happy travel!
/ lots of love,
sahana, aka, The Tummy Mummy.