As countries all over the world begin to open their borders for travel post-pandemic, Canada has done the same for Indian tourists. On September 7, Canada threw open the borders to all vaccinated EU citizens for all travel, including non-essential travel.
Indians can now travel to Canada, but there's only catch. You will need to stop at a third country.
What do you need to fly to Canada?
When traveling from India, passengers need to arrive via a third country (from the list of exemptions) and take a Covid molecular test. If negative, they can proceed with travel to Canada. A Covid RT-PCR test conducted in India is not accepted. All travellers above the age of five need to produce a COVID negative report. Additionally, most third countries where Indians might stop over demand an RT-PCR negative report.
So far, travel to Canada is open to those who have been vaccinated with Covishield and have completed 14 days thereafter.
The announcement has caused confusion for students who are looking to start their courses at Canadian universities in September. It has also resulted in an additional hurdle for those who hold Canadian work permits and are looking to return. "We get as many as five to six queries about travel to Canada every day and four of them are students," says Sukesh Devadiga, international travel consultant at Mumbai-based Skyline travels.
Kolkata resident Tannistha Ganguly who arrived in India with her daughter pre-pandemic has not been able to return home to her husband in Canada until earlier this month. Travel across borders was shut, following which she tested positive for Covid herself. Once flights began, she was confronted with the arduous task of a third country stopover with a toddler. "There was a lot of confusion in terms of where we could get the test done," she told BOOM.
"We planned to fly via Maldives earlier and ultimately spent two days in Mexico for our Covid molecular test. There are fewer flight options between Maldives and Toronto," Ganguly said. But before setting up her complex travel plan, she consulted two travel agents, one in Toronto and one in Kolkata.
Besides the two days spent in Mexico, her 22-hour journey turned into a 33- hour one with a layover in Paris.
"I was not asked for a negative Covid report during my transit through France even though I was carrying one. Though not mandatory, I got my three-year-old daughter tested, both in Kolkata and in Mexico. I didn't want to take any chances," says Ganguly. Her flight to Toronto, she says, was filled with students, and a few Canadian PR (permanent residency) holders.
Travelling to Canada? More cost, more time
A one-way trip to the Canadian cities of Toronto and Vancouver, which would cost Rs 50-60,000, now costs a minimum of Rs 1.5 lakh, according to Mumbai-based travel consultant Sukesh Devadiga.
"The cost goes up based on the travel route you are taking and can go up to Rs 2.2 lakh when transiting through Cairo, Egypt. Flights are limited too and often students need to adhere to a fixed schedule," he says.
Rohit Prashant, an 18-year-old Delhi-based student, who is scheduled to travel to the University of Waterloo for an undergraduate programme in mathematics, has had his plans in disarray for the past month. "I was to leave in August end, and then September 4, I am finally flying out on September 19 via Dubai and with a two-day stopover in Cairo, for the Covid test," he told BOOM.
"Besides the additional Rs 25,000 spent on flights, I will now be paying for a stay in a hotel in Cairo," he adds. Prashant chose Cairo for the transit since his parents know people in the city. "A few of my friends have already reached the university and travelled through Maldives," he says.
Which stopover country to pick?
Talking about the criteria of choosing a third country to eventually enter Canada, Devadiga says, "The options are limited since they are countries where Indians can get a visa easily, or on arrival. Cost is also a big factor."
To keep the cost in check, he has recently started offering Sri Lanka as a third country option, to keep both the flight and lodging costs in check. "There are some people opting to travel via Dubai, since you can travel within the city during transit and live with a relative or friend there, to save on cost," he says.
When Ganguly arrived in Mexico, she chose to stay in a hotel within the airport premises. She had booked it in advance to avoid travelling within the country.
"There was a Covid test centre right at the exit (at the airport). I gave my sample and received my report the next day, before my flight," she says.
Prashant, who has planned his trip through a travel agent, has his test pre-booked in Cairo. Devadiga informs us that Indian travel agents have tie-ups with destination management agencies in these locations to help facilitate Covid tests, accommodation and transport. "In most countries, you are allowed to travel from the airport to the accommodation and back. You can't really step outside," he says.
Planning to travel? Read our travel explainers and guidelines here.
Updated On: 2021-09-13T11:00:35+05:30