Traveling to India in COVID-19 times

First I want to start with acknowledging that traveling in these times should be avoided. Nevertheless there are private situations that make it impossible to postpone traveling.

In this post I want to provide my personal impressions of traveling to India (to the state of Rajasthan).

Preparations

Apart from getting a valid visa, anybody that wants to travel to India needs to provide a negative COVID-19 test result. This needs to be a RT-PCR test as they provide more accuracy in case has the diseases or not.

Here in Germany, we went to a local doctor and were tested outside. It costs 90€ (or around ₹ 8.000) and the results took around 24 hours to be available online.

Afterwards each family has to fill the self declaration form, in our case this was available on the website of the airport of New Delhi. This is free but mandatory.

Apart from obviously packing your luggage, there is nothing more to do. We also bought two FFP2 masks per person per day, to protect us and others.

Starting in Frankfurt Airport

After a short drive to Frankfurt Airport, we arrived and could check in our luggage. This process was fine as Frankfurt was pretty much empty for a Saturday afternoon. As Frankfurt is severely hit by the decline in passenger numbers, this came at no surprise to us.

One of the many empty hallways in Frankfurt Airport

Even though we understand that Frankfurt wants to save money, the amount of disinfection stations was very limited and we ended up using our own wipes in order to clean or face and hands regularly.

The boarding came with a surprise to us, as I had to sit in the middle of a three people row a lab coat was needed for the duration of the flight, as well as a face shield.

Mr Werner in a stylish three pocket lab coat

Flying from Frankfurt to New Delhi

The flight itself with Air India was not as safe as it sounded while booking the trip. Not only was the plane basically full but also two meals were served during which every person took of their mask. Afterwards, of course, a lot of people forgot to put them back on.

We did not have any food and kept our masks on for the whole flight as we decided to rather be a little hungry and eat in New Delhi compared to taking the risk in the flight.

The most positive thing of the flight is though, that each passenger was potentially COVID-19 negative due to the negative test that is mandatory to have.

Landing in Delhi and Travel in India

Once arrived in New Delhi, there is directly another COVID-19 Test in store for each passenger (this costs ₹ 800). We really liked this, as it makes sure that no bad surprises are to come for the passengers. The registration and sample giving was flawless and quite fast. Kudos to the Airport in New Delhi for this.

After this diversion everything is normal procedure for entering India.

When Traveling in India for us at least also everything was normal apart from wearing a mask all the time.

After a few days stay, we traveled back and the small local Airport in Jaipur was clearly not as prepared as other airports were. The local flights are being taken much more relaxed when it comes to safety (both by passengers as well as crew). This can also be seen by this order of the High Court of India which stresses this point.

The long way back to Germany

As positive as the journey to India was, as negative was the way back.

After landing in Delhi we got our next COVID-19 test, this was to make sure, that we did not catch the virus in India and also to comply to German rules for entering the country and the mandatory home quarantine.

Even though we flew back at 3:30am local time the Airport was pretty packed. In addition not nearly enough counters were open to have the people not wait close to one another in a queue. We ultimately waited for two hours in the Air India queue for check-in.

The queue started to build up early in the morning.

The security check area and subsequent boarding area were both fine when it came to the amount of people as well as distance.

For the flight back with Air India it was a devastating experience: Hardly anybody followed the rules of wearing masks, the flight was again 100% booked with people and the cabin crew did not do anything to make it any better. As Germany also does not require a negative COVID-19 Test to enter the country (only as of 28th March 2021 and then also a antibody test is enough) also there was no safety given that most passengers are COVID-19 negative.

I can not understand this either from Air India, as well as Germany. When landing in Germany the passengers even have another 48 hours to get a Covid test done. This is from my perspective just to much time and not a good testing concept.

Conclusion

Is it impossible to travel during these times? No

Is it convenient? No

Should it be? Also no.

My personal conclusion is, that as long as the countries and you, the reader, have a good testing concept the risk of traveling can actually be lowered quite significantly.

Our next step will be to get another RT-PCR test done tomorrow and then take it from there.

Helpful Links

RKI Page with country specific risk assessments

General Travel information for India provided by the German government

State wise quarantine rules for India

Self Assessment Form for traveling into New Delhi

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