In a bid to boost tourism, the Indian government has overturned the requirement for foreigners to have a Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to visit 29 inhabited and 11 uninhabited islands in the Andamans. At research time, the permit removal was still trickling through in practice on the ground and additional permits were still in place for several day-trippable islands.
The new list of RAP-free islands includes Havelock Island (Swaraj Dweep), Neil Island (Shaheed Dweep), Baratang Island, Long Island, North Andaman, South and Middle Andaman (including Port Blair but excluding tribal areas), North Passage, Interview Island, Smith Island and Little Andaman (excluding tribal areas), as well as Great Nicobar, Kamorta and Little Nicobar.
Day visits without RAPs are now allowed to 11 uninhabited islands, selected at the discretion of the Andaman and Nicobar authorities. At the time of writing, however, you still need additional permits for day trips to Jolly Buoy, Red Skin, North and South Cinque, Ross (north), Narcondam and Rutland Islands, as well as the Brothers and the Sisters. For most day permits, it’s not the hassle that proves a barrier, but the cost; for areas such as Wandoor's Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park or Ross and Smith Islands near Diglipur, for example, permits cost ₹1000 for foreigners (₹75 for Indians).
The Nicobar Islands have long been off limits to all except Indian nationals engaged in approved research, government business or trade. With RAPs no longer required for Great Nicobar, Little Nicobar and Kamorta, what, if any, tourism impact will follow has yet to be seen.