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.
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.
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.
Required for most visitors; e-Visa (valid 60 days) available for more than 150 nationalities. Longer trips require a standard six-month tourist visa.
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.
Visas are available at Indian missions worldwide, though in many countries applications are processed by a separate private company.
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.
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.
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.