Entering India by air or land is relatively straightforward, with standard immigration and customs procedures. A previously frustrating law barring re-entry into India within two months of the previous date of departure has 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

You’re supposed to declare Indian rupees in excess of ₹10,000, any amount of cash over US$5000, or a total amount of currency over US$10,000 on arrival.

You're also prohibited from importing more than one laptop, more than 2L of alcohol, more than 100 cigarettes or equivalent, or gifts and souvenirs worth over ₹8000.

Note also the restrictions on exporting antiques.

Passports

To enter India you need a valid passport and an onward/return ticket, and a visa. Note that your passport needs to be valid for at least 180 days after your entry into India, and should have at least two blank pages. If your passport is lost or stolen, immediately contact your country’s representative. Keep digital photos or photocopies of your airline ticket and the identity and visa pages of your passport in case of emergency.

Visas

Required for most visitors; e-Visa (valid 60 days) available for more than 150 nationalities. Longer trips require a standard six-month tourist visa.

Further Information

Apart from citizens of Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, who don't need visas for India unless they are arriving from mainland China, and citizens of Japan and South Korea, who can obtain a visa on arrival, everyone needs to apply for a visa before arriving in India. However, more than 150 nationalities can obtain the wonderfully hassle-free 60-day e-Visa.

There's also a six-month tourist visa, which is valid from the date of issue, not the date of arrival in India.

E-Visa

  • Citizens from more than 150 countries can apply for an e-Visa (www.indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa).
  • You must apply a minimum of four days and a maximum of 120 days before you are due to arrive in India.
  • The visa will be valid from your date of arrival in India.
  • It's a double-entry visa that lasts for 60 days from your first date of entry.
  • To apply, upload a photograph as well as a copy of your passport; have at least 180 days' validity in your passport and at least two blank pages.
  • If your application is approved, you will receive an attachment to an email within 72 hours (though normally much sooner), which you'll need to print out and take with you to the airport. You'll then have the e-Visa stamped into your passport on arrival in India.
  • Note that the e-Visa is also sometimes referred to as a 'visa on arrival', though you need to apply for it before you arrive.
  • E-Visas are only valid for entry through 26 designated airports (Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bagdogra, Bengaluru, Calicut, Chennai, Chandigarh, Cochin, Coimbatore, Delhi, Gaya, Goa, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Madurai, Mangalore, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Trichy (Tiruchirappalli), Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Varanasi and Visakhapatnam).
  • They are also valid for arrival at five designated seaports (Cochin, Goa, Mangalore, Mumbai and Chennai).
  • E-Visa holders can, however, leave India from any authorised immigration checkpoint.

Entry Requirements

Visas are available at Indian missions worldwide, though in many countries applications are processed by a separate private company.

  • Student and business visas have strict conditions (consult your Indian embassy for details).
  • A standard 180-day tourist visa permits multiple entry for most nationalities.
  • The 60-day e-Visa is usually a double-entry visa.
  • 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 digital photographs with your visa application (format jpeg 10-300kb), though only one for the e-Visa.
  • An onward-travel ticket is a requirement for some visas, but this isn’t always enforced (check in advance).
  • Visas are priced in the local currency and may have an added service fee.
  • Extended visas are possible for those of Indian origin (excluding those in Pakistan and Bangladesh) who hold a non-Indian passport and live abroad.
  • If you need to register your visa (for stays of more than 180 days), or need a visa extension (only granted in exceptional cases) or a replacement for a lost passport (required before you can leave the country), then you should apply online at https://indianfrro.gov.in/eservices/home.jsp.
  • If you need to see someone in person about your visa issue, then you should do so at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office in Delhi.
  • Check with the Indian embassy in your home country for any special conditions that may exist for your nationality.

Re-entry Requirements

The previous rule of no re-entry on the same visa for two months after leaving India no longer applies to foreign nationals (except nationals of Afghanistan, China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and Bangladesh, foreigners of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, and stateless persons). E-Visas can now be used for double entry into India.

Visa Extensions

India is extremely stringent with visa extensions. At the time of writing, the government was granting extensions only in circumstances such as medical emergencies or theft of passport just before the applicant planned to leave the country (at the end of their visa).

If you do need to extend your visa due to any such exigency, you should first apply online at e-FRRO (https://indianfrro.gov.in/eservices/home.jsp), which also deals with replacements for lost/stolen passports (required before you can leave the country). If you need to see someone in person, or are called in for an interview, the place to go is the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Delhi. There are also some regional FRROs, but these 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 one passport photo (take more, just in case), your passport (or emergency travel document, if your passport is missing), and a letter from the hospital where you're having treatment if it's a medical emergency. 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 and leisure.

Travel Permits

Access to certain parts of India – particularly disputed border areas – is controlled by a system of permits that applies mostly to foreigners but also to Indian citizens in some areas.

Permits are required to visit Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and certain parts of Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Uttarakhand that lie close to the disputed border with China/Tibet. A permit is also necessary for travel to the Lakshadweep Islands and to some parts of the Andaman Islands.

In Odisha, permission is no longer required to visit tribal regions, and there’s nothing to stop tourists from taking a bus or taxi to visit regional markets, but some villages are off limits to visitors (due to potential Maoist activity), so seek local advice before setting out.

Obtaining a permit is usually a formality, but travel agents must apply on your behalf for certain areas, including many trekking routes passing close to national borders.