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Everything Indian students need to know about flying to the US, UK, Australia, NZ and Canada

travel from india to usa
Different countries have different travel restrictions for Indian students / Source: SPENCER PLATT / AFP

Flying internationally can be a frightening prospect. There are airline regulations, the pressure to find affordable tickets, baggage restrictions, and more. For Indian students preparing to travel from India to  USA or other popular study abroad destinations for the first time, this can be even more daunting. 

If you’re unaware of the normal stipulations of airline travel, don’t panic. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of flying overseas, making reintroductions necessary for even the most seasoned traveller. This is more important to keep in mind than ever given the introduction of the new Omicron variant.

You should stay up-to-date with the travel requirements implemented by your country to ensure that you have as smooth of a journey as possible. Here’s a comprehensive guide for Indian students preparing to travel from India to the US, UK, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. 

The US

The US now requires all travellers to be fully vaccinated / Source: SPENCER PLATT / AFP

If you’re travelling to the US, you should know that from November 2021, the US government has made it mandatory for all international travellers to be vaccinated. The US Centre for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) has stipulated that for single dose vaccines, Jansen/Johnson & Johnson is accepted. For double dose vaccines they require Indians to have gotten Moderna.

The US also requires that you get a COVID-19 viral test regardless of your vaccination status no more than one day before you travel into the country. You’ll have to show your negative result to the airline before you board. If you’ve recently recovered from COVID-19, you need to show documentary proof of this.

Flying to the US from India is a long and arduous journey. The time you’ll spend in the air will differ according to where you live, but you should mentally prepare yourself for a long flight. The flight time from New Delhi to New York is approximately 15 hours 30 minutes — and that’s for direct flights. 

A number of airlines provide both direct and connecting flights to various cities in the US. You can check airlines such as Air India, United Airlines, and Emirates for flights, though the latter will most likely require you to stop in Dubai for a few hours — and up to 15 hours. Prices will vary according to when you buy tickets and where you’re travelling from, so you should book well in advance. Conduct your searches on websites like Skyscanner or Kayak to check and compare prices across airlines. 

Baggage allowance will be different according to what kind of seat you book. Air India allows economy passengers to check in 25kg while United allows 23kg. Make sure you weigh your bag before setting off to the airport to avoid any fines when you ultimately check your bag in for your flight. Masks are mandatory throughout your flight. 

Once you land in the US, you’ll need to get tested with a viral test within three to fivedays. Even if your test result is negative, you’ll have to quarantine or self-isolate for a full seven days from the date of your arrival. Be sure to check the CDC website for all the requirements that are expected of you before travelling. 

The UK

The UK doesn’t require all travellers to be vaccinated. Source: Ben Fathers/AFP

The UK doesn’t require all non-residents travelling into the country to be vaccinated. Still, all Indians travelling to the UK, regardless of whether you are vaccinated or not, are required to complete a few mandatory steps before boarding your flight. 

This includes: 

For the passenger locator form, you’ll need your passport details, full travel details, the address you’re staying at in the UK, booking reference numbers for your COVID-19 PCR test, and to indicate if you’re vaccinated or not. Be sure to check the gov.uk website for further details. 

If you do intend to get vaccinated, you should know about the UK’s full list of accepted vaccines. Indians are considered fully vaccinated if they have a double dose of AstraZeneca (or locally known as Covishield), Moderna, or Covaxin, or a single dose of Janssen.

Once you’ve familiarised yourself with these regulations, you can book your flight. A direct flight from New Delhi to London is eight hours 50 minutes, with plenty of options for layovers if you want a break between flying. As with the previous section, you should conduct a wide search for flights and compare prices before booking. British Airways, Air India and Emirates, among other airlines, are well-trusted airlines to fly with. Again, check your baggage allowance before you fly. 

Upon landing, you’ll have to self-quarantine in the place you are staying for 10 full days and take the PCR tests you would have booked before flying. If you’re fully vaccinated and receive a negative result, you can end your quarantine early, but if you’re not, you’ll still have to wait the 10 days out before you’re allowed to move around in the UK. 

Make sure to check the gov.uk website for more information. 

Canada 

Indians travelling into Canada will need to take a negative COVID-19 molecular test from the Genestrings Laboratory at Delhi airport. Source: Daniel Slim/AFP

Generally, Canada requires that all travellers coming into the country are fully vaccinated. Accepted vaccines from India include: AstraZeneca/Covishield, Covaxin, Moderna, or a single dose of Janssen. 

You’ll also need proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test from the Genestrings Laboratory at Delhi airport. This has to be taken within 18 hours for a direct flight or 72 hours for a connecting flight to Canada. You should note that rapid antigen tests aren’t accepted. 

If you’re not fully vaccinated, you may still be allowed entry into Canada, but under a number of conditions. First, you’ll need to check if your university is a designated learning institution (DLI) with a COVID-19 readiness plan. If it is, you need to bring your valid student permit and acceptance letter from your university. If you’re a medical student, you’ll also need to take a medical exam. There are a few other things you may need to do — refer to this website for more information.

The fastest non-stop flight from New Delhi to Toronto is approximately 14 hours 45 minutes. Follow all the same rules before you book your flight — scour the web for a good price, check your baggage allowance, and familiarise yourself with your airline’s regulations. 

On your flight, you’ll need to complete a Declaration Card. If you’re fully vaccinated, you might be exempt from arrival testing unless randomly selected. However, you’ll receive a mandatory self-swab kit upon leaving the airport. 

You may be exempt from Canada’s 14-day quarantine if you’re fully vaccinated. For more information, check this source.

Australia 

Indians travelling into Australia will need to show that they are fully vaccinated. Source: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP

All Indians travelling into Australia will need to show that they have been fully vaccinated. You’ll be considered fully vaccinated if you have any one of — or a combination of — these vaccines: AstraZeneca/Covishield, Moderna or Janssen. You will have to prove your vaccination status before you enter your flight. 

You’ll need to complete an Australia Travel Declaration (ATD) at least 72 hours before departure. Besides that, a negative COVID-19 PCR test will need to be taken at least three days before your scheduled flight and provided to the airline when you check in. Check this website for a full list of things you’ll need to do before you travel. 

Then comes your flight. A direct flight from New Delhi to Melbourne is approximately 12 hours 15 minutes. As always, you should check your baggage allowances and compare prices before booking a flight. If you’re taking a connecting flight, be sure to check if the country you’re stopping in has any restrictions or additional requirements when entering Australia. 

Once you land, you’ll need to comply with the rules in the state or territory of your arrival. This most likely includes quarantine and post-arrival testing. This tends to differ according to where you’re arriving in, so be sure to check in advance before flying. 

New Zealand

Most vaccines in India are accepted in New Zealand. Source: William WEST / AFP

Indians travelling into New Zealand will need to be fully vaccinated. The country’s list of approved vaccines include AstraZeneca/Covishield, Moderna, Sputnik V, Covaxin, Covovax, Novavax and Janssen. Three doses are needed for the Zydus Cadila vaccine. The New Zealand government requires that you conduct a COVID-19 pre-departure test before flying. 

It will take you an average of 16 hours 55 minutes to travel from New Delhi to Auckland. As always, check your baggage allowances and compare prices before booking a flight. Make sure to get a voucher confirming your place in a mandatory managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility for when you land. You can book this before your flight by following the instructions here.

Once you arrive you’ll be screened for cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms at the airport. You’ll most likely be tested within 24 hours of arrival, as well. If you have symptoms or are waiting on your results, you’ll go into a quarantine facility, and if not, a managed isolation facility. Both facilities would be in hotels. 

For more information on travelling to New Zealand, visit this source

We hope you found this guide useful. Have a safe flight!