Entering India by air or land is relatively straightforward, with standard immigration and customs procedures. A frustrating law barring re-entry into India within two months of the previous date of departure has now been done away with (except for citizens of some Asian countries), thus allowing most travellers to combine their India tour with side trips to neighbouring countries.

Customs Regulations

  • Technically, you’re supposed to declare any amount of cash over US$5000 or total amount of currency over US$10,000 on arrival. Indian rupees shouldn’t be taken out of India.
  • Officials very occasionally ask tourists to enter expensive items such as video cameras and laptop computers on a ‘Tourist Baggage Re-export’ form to ensure they’re taken out of India at the time of departure.
  • Exporting antiques (defined as objects of historical interest not less than 100 years old) from India is explicitly prohibited. Reputable antique dealers know the laws and can make arrangements for an export-clearance certificate for old items that are OK to export, but it's best to look for quality reproductions instead.

Visas

Apart from citizens of Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, everyone needs to apply for a visa before arriving in India.

Visa on Arrival

Citizens from over 100 countries, from Albania to Zimbabwe, can apply for a 30-day e-Tourist visa online at indianvisaonline.gov.in a minimum of four and a maximum of 30 days before they are due to travel.The fee is US$60 and it's necessary to upload a photograph as well as a copy of your passport, have at least six month's validity in your passport and at least two pages blank. The facility is available at 16 airports, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru (Bangalore), Chennai (Madras), Kochi (Cochin), Goa, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Thiruvanathapuram (Trivandrum) airports, though you can exit through any airport. You should also have a return or onward ticket, though proof of this is not usually requested. If your application is approved, you will receive an attachment to an email, which you'll need to print out and take with you to the airport. You'll then have the e-Tourist visa stamped into your passport at the airport, hence the term 'Visa on Arrival', though you need to apply for it beforehand. It is valid from the date of arrival.

Travellers have reported being asked for documentation showing their hotel confirmation at the airport, though this is not specified on the VOA website.

Other Visas

If you want to stay longer than 30 days, or are not covered by the VOA scheme, you must get a visa before arriving in India (apart from Nepali or Bhutanese citizens, but with the exception of Nepali citizens who are entering via China). Visas are available at Indian missions worldwide, though in many countries, applications are processed by a separate private company. In some countries, including the UK, you must apply in person at the designated office as well as file an application online.

Note that your passport needs to be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in India, with at least two blank pages. Most people are issued a standard six-month tourist visa, which for most nationalities permits multiple entries.

  • Student, business and journalist visas have strict conditions (consult the Indian embassy for details).
  • Tourist visas are valid from the date of issue, not the date you arrive in India.
  • Five- and 10-year tourist visas are available to US citizens only under a bilateral arrangement; however, you can still only stay in the country for up to 180 days continuously.
  • Currently, you are required to submit two passport photographs with your visa application; these must be in colour and must be 5.08cm by 5.08cm (2in by 2in; larger than regular passport photos).
  • An onward travel ticket is a requirement for some visas, but this isn’t always enforced (check in advance).
  • Additional restrictions apply to travellers from Bangladesh and Pakistan, as well as certain Eastern European, African and Central Asian countries. Check any special conditions for your nationality with the Indian embassy in your country.
  • Visas are priced in the local currency and may have an added service fee.
  • Extended visas are possible for people of Indian origin (excluding those in Pakistan and Bangladesh) who hold a non-Indian passport and live abroad.
  • For visas lasting more than six months, you’re supposed to register at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office in Delhi within 14 days of arriving in India; enquire about these special conditions when you apply for your visa.

Visa Extensions

India is extremely stringent with visa extensions. At the time of writing, the only circumstances where this might conceivably happen are in extreme medical emergencies or if you were robbed of your passport just before you planned to leave the country (at the end of your visa).

In such cases, you should contact the FRRO in Delhi. This is also the place to come for a replacement visa if you need your lost/stolen passport replaced (required before you can leave the country). Note that regional FRROs are even less likely to grant an extension.

Assuming you meet the stringent criteria, the FRRO is permitted to issue an extension of 14 days (free for nationals of most countries; enquire on application). You must bring your confirmed air ticket, one passport photo (take two, just in case) and a photocopy of your passport identity and visa pages. Note that this system is designed to get you out of the country promptly with the correct official stamps, not to give you two extra weeks of travel.

Passports

To enter India you need a valid passport and an onward/return ticket. You’ll also need a visa. Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in India, with at least two blank pages. If your passport is lost or stolen, immediately contact your country’s representative. Keep photocopies of your airline ticket and the identity and visa pages of your passport in case of emergency. Better yet, scan and email copies to yourself. Check with the Indian embassy in your home country for any special conditions that may exist for your nationality.