India has a number of protected areas. These include some regions in the northeast of the country, the Andaman Islands and the Nicobar Islands. Foreigners who want to travel to these regions require a special permit. Here you can read about what you need to arrange before travelling to these special areas in India.
Restricted Areas: Andamans, Nicobars and Sikkim
A number of areas in India have the “Restricted Area” status. These include the Andaman Islands, the Nicobar Islands and part of Sikkim. A “Restricted Area Permit” (RAP) used to be required to visit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but since 2018 this is no longer required. Since then, travellers may visit 29 inhabited and 11 uninhabited islands without requiring a permit. A valid India visa is sufficient. However, a RAP is still required for travel to part of Sikkim. Tourist areas of interest covered by this regulation are Gangtok, Rumtek, Phodang and Remayangtse. Travellers can apply for this permit at the embassy in their home country. Furthermore they can apply for this permit at various offices in India, for example, a Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) or the police station in Gangtok, Sikkim. Do you want to travel to another part of Sikkim? Then you will need a Protected Area Permit (PAP).
Travel to Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland
For travel to Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland, there is no requirement to apply for a RAP or a PAP since 2011. This arrangement is provisionally valid until December 31, 2022. International travellers may travel to these areas if they are in possession of a valid India visa. However, the trip must be registered with the Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) of the region visited within 24 hours of arrival. Travellers with the nationality of Afghanistan, China, or Pakistan need a permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs in India to travel to these regions.
Protected Areas in Northeast India
India has a number of “Protected Areas” in the Northeast of the country. These areas along the border with Bhutan, China, and Myanmar are protected to prevent conflicts between the different ethnic groups in these border areas. In addition to a vast cultural wealth, these areas also have a very attractive landscape, with pristine nature and beautiful mountain ranges. The Indian government wants to promote tourism in these regions without threatening the safety of the indigenous people. To visit the areas, visitors with Indian passports must apply for an Inner Line Permit, and foreign visitors need a Protected Area Permit (PAP).
Travelling to the North East of India
The following regions in Northeast India require international travellers to obtain a Protected Area Permit:
- Parts of Arunachal Pradesh
- Parts of Himachal Pradesh
- Parts of Jammu and Kashmir
- Parts of Rajasthan
- Whole area of Sikkim (partly Protected Area and partly Restricted Area)
- Parts of Uttarakhand
Do you want to travel to these areas? In principle, tourist travel is allowed, but it requires some preparation. You must arrive in the area by aeroplane. The largest international airport in the region is Guwahati (Dispur) Airport. Generally, it is recommended to book the trip through a registered tour company, as it is very difficult for individual travellers to obtain a permit. If you book the trip through a travel organization, the organization has the responsibility of obtaining the proper permits.
Do you still want to travel individually and/or have a travel purpose that is not touristy? Then you can apply for a PAP at the Indian Embassy or Consulate in your home country. You are advised to do this well in advance of your departure, preferably immediately after you have submitted your visa application for India. The exact rules vary by state. In general, only travel groups of at least 2 or 4 people are allowed that already have a clear travel plan. You must also specify an arrival and departure location. These plans may not be changed at a later date.