When I was planning my trip to India this time, I had very similar kind of anxieties that I had when I travelled to Germany for the very first time: Do I have all the required documents? Did I miss anything? What is going to happen next? Travelling during corona re-invigorate the very similar feeling. Do I have all the documents required? What about the quarantine? So on and so forth. While social media posts and groups helped me a great deal, but at the very same time, a lot of the posts created a lot of confusion too as to what all things are required and what is actually happening at the airports.
So how does a trip to India during this pandemic look like? Here I am specifically talking about flying from Frankfurt (Germany) to Delhi (India).
For the first time in several years I created a checklist, just to be sure that I don’t miss anything. How does the checklist look like?
First and one of the most important entry in the list is a negative RT-PCR report. According the Ministry of Home affairs guidelines, the RT PCR test has to be conducted within 72 hours of the time to travel. With effect from 22nd Feb, 2021, the negative result should be uploaded on Air Suvidha portal and original negative report should be produced when asked for during the check-in process at the airport. I had the flight on Mar 10, 2021 and had taken the test on March 8, 2021. The test in itself is also quite straightforward. The healthcare professional took Nasopharyngeal (nose) and Oropharyngeal (throat) specimen from my nose and mouth. I actually didn’t realize before the test that the nasal swab can go this further in the nose, for a moment it felt as if it touched my soul.
I received the report the next day, with my name, Passport number and the result (negative) mentioned on it; these are the three things officials at the airport looked at. Although it is not mandatory to take a printed copy of the report, but it is much more convenient at the airport to just handover all the printed docs at once to the person concern to have a look at the airport, and get it done away with in seconds. Moreover, the staff is more than willing to make your travel possible without much issues.
Second document that would be required at every check point is the self declaration form (SDF). You can find this form at Air Suvidha web portal. It would not take more than a few minutes to fill up the form, it would give an option to upload the negative RT-PCR report.
I had done a web-checkin and so had a boarding pass with me, this helped in escape the long queue at the counter while dropping the baggage. The lady at the counter looked only for these three documents (RT-PCR report, self declaration form SDF and the Boarding pass) and of-course the passport. Quite surprisingly, the nice looking lady at the counter took my temperature using the non-contact infrared thermometer. But this was unusual, I did not see her using it on others that were on the counter before me and after me, may be I looked ill to her or may be it was her extra affection towards me, this kind of affection I used to receive from my teachers during viva, an extra tricky question specially for me. But whatever be the case, everything happened in less than a few minutes.
Moving on, security check was as usual, nothing different except the queues were very short. The same documents, (RT PCR and SDF) were checked at the boarding gate as well.
The people who had the middle seat (not a window seat nor an aisle seat) were asked to wear a white gown like a PPE kit. So, if you don’t want to wear that, use web-checkin option to choose a seat for yourself. Although, choosing a seat the seats in the front add extra costs but the ones towards the tail end of the plane are free. I did web-checkin just a few hours before the flight, fortunately there was only one free seat left. You could do it at the same time when you fill your SDF, because the form also asks for the seat number. I had filled 00, as I didn’t have the seat number at that time.
As some one who has travelled with Air India a lot of times in the past, I noticed a difference: the wooden cutlery. The wooden cutlery provided reminded my of my niece’s kitchen set. It looked funny but the food as it was last time. Air India is going eco-friendly and cutting on plastics. I opted for veg food with a soft drink, there wasn’t any juice this time. Wine was available though. The crew was friendly and nice as always.
Unfortunately, there was a crying baby, two seats away, and he made sure that he cried the entire night every 10 minutes at the top of his voice. My co-passenger next to me could not sleep, but I slept like a Kumbhkaran.
The flight landed at sharp 8:30 AM Indian Standard Time, it was quite warm outside; 25 degrees.
Here comes the last part of journey. As soon as the flight landed and I stepped foot on the brown carpet, it felt like being back home. Everyone was asked to fill up a form, which asked for pieces of information like where the passenger is going to stay (address), contact number, and email address. The next step was to get one more RT-PCR test done. I had already registered for the test online and was carrying a printout for the same. It costs only INR 800. You could also book the test right there at the spot and pay in cash. There were six or seven different stalls where the samples were being collected. It took around five to six minutes. Everything was conducted extremely professionally and I could not find anything to complain.
Once I was done with the sample collection, they gave me the invoice and I started moving towards immigration. Here also it was quite normal, they asked for the passport and the self declaration form. And that’s it. However, at this stage I found something to complain about. Out of the seven or probably eight immigration counters, I noticed that a bald person with glasses probably in his fifties was a typical “sarkari babu” i.e. what everyone else was doing in less than five minutes, he was taking more than 20 minutes for the same. Every one else would just take the information from the Self Declaration form whereas he would ask “what is your contact number – blah blah blah blah, what is your address – blah blah blah” and a lot of gossip with his other colleague.
In all I was in and out of the Delhi Airport in less than an hour. The experience was very professional and I was quite happy about it. Although, since I had not expected all this to happen in less than an hour, I had asked my mom to come pick me up a little late and had to wait for a while her. My bad! You do not have to wait for the result of the sample collected at the Delhi Airport.
So here is the final checklist and the summary of the documents you will need if you are travelling from Frankfurt to Delhi, have not travelled to UK, Africa or Brazil in the last fourteen days and Delhi is your exit airport (i.e. no other connecting flights) :
- RT-PCR report, the test should have been done with 72 hrs of the start of your journey. Carry a printout, if possible and the report should have your name and passport number.
- Self Declaration Form (SDF), you can find it at Air Suvidha web portal . Carry two printouts for this page, the airlines crew explicitly asked on the plane if we had two copies for SDF. Although, later no body kept the copies, they took it checked the information and returned the copy. I still have the copy with me.
- If you book RT-PCR test at Delhi Airport, please carry a printout for the same.
You can have a look at the complete guidelines issues by the ministry of home affairs here. Moreover, I saw a lot of posts on social media saying you need to register with Vande Bharat Mission or the embassy and get a printout. This is not true. No such document was asked for and is even not mentioned in the MOHA guidelines. I hope this article would answer some of the questions for any travelers coming to Delhi now.
Welcome home!! सुस्वागतम्
Thanks for reading!