Happy New Year: India – Saudi Arabia Travel Bubble Launches Tomorrow

While regular international flights to India remain suspended in an attempt to keep Omicron at bay, from January 1st, 2022, select passengers will be able to travel between the South Asian country and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. A couple of days ago, the two parties signed an agreement to create a travel bubble, making Saudi Arabia number 34 on India’s air corridor list.

Saudia Boeing 777
Starting tomorrow, travel will again be allowed on selected flights between Saudi Arabia and India with the launch of a travel bubble between the two countries. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Reciprocal arrangements with growing numbers

Airlines from both nations will now be allowed to carry passengers in both directions on flights included in the agreement. Travelers to India must originate in Saudi Arabia and be destined for India only and vice versa. The bubble will also be open to nationals of Nepal and Bhutan that hold a visa for Saudi Arabia.

The agreement makes Saudi Arabia the 36th country to launch a travel bubble with India. The other 35 are Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Canada, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Switzerland, Tanzania, Ukraine, UAE, Australia, Ethiopia, Finland, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritius, France, Germany, Iraq, Nigeria, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, USA, Japan, Nepal, Netherlands, and Uzbekistan.

Air India Boeing 787
Carriers from both countries will be allowed to transport passengers in both directions. Photo: Getty Images

List remain fluid even as more countries added

Earlier in December, the Indian government informed Parliament that it intended to sign travel bubble agreements with ten countries. Of these, Australia, Kazakhstan, and Saudi Arabia have already been added to the list.

It is expected that New Zealand and Thailand will also soon join the fray. However, the air bubbles are not set in stone. Just today, the state of West Bengal suspended all flights linking London to Kolkata, citing the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in the UK.

Regardless of vaccination status, all international travelers arriving in India must upload a self-declaration with a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours prior to departure to the Air Suvidha portal.

Saudia A330
Travelers arriving in India face different entry requirements in place to halt the spread of the Omicron variant. Photo: Getty Images

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Entry requirements for high-risk countries

Passengers arriving in India from ‘countries at risk’, at the moment including Europe with the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, Ghana, China, Mauritius, Tanzania, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, and Israel, must pre-book a PCR test on arrival. They are not allowed to leave the airport or take a connecting flight until receiving a negative test result.

They must then self-quarantine for seven days and take another test on day eight. Following release from isolation, travelers must continue to monitor their health for another week. In India, fines are still in place for failing to wear a face mask in public places, although the amount varies from state to state.

Have you traveled to or from India using any of the recently instated air bubbles? What was your experience of the journey and the arrival? Leave a comment below and share your story.