Indians travelling to US and Canada have been looking for different transit points, especially since North America tightened restrictions in light of the devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
With Serbia imposing new regulations and Mexico being too far away, Indians are now turning towards the Middle East for a smooth transit.
Fifty percent of the flight was occupied by Indians going to Canada. And since the last 10 days 99 percent of the people coming into the hotel are Canada-bound Indians – that is what the receptionist at the hotel I am staying in said.Mahir Shaikh to The Quint
Less Volatile than Europe
While being closer and similar to home is one of the reasons why Indians are choosing Doha, Shaurya Seth, 22, an incoming masters student at UCLA says it is "less volatile than Europe with respect to the Delta variant".
Another reason he stated was the Qatar Airways' Student offer which he heard about from his seniors. "It gives a ten percent discount and allows you to carry a little extra luggage," said Seth, who is planning to travel to California next month, to The Quint.
With Serbia imposing the seven-day quarantine rule and the Ethiopia route being closed, Qatar and Mexico are the two options available to travellers. Mexico does not require a visa if you possess one for US or Canada whereas Qatar gives you one on arrival.
"Maldives has its own restrictions where it asks for a return ticket. Doha did too until it reversed the rule a couple of days ago," shared Mumbai's Mahir Shaikh who is waiting in a hotel in Doha for his "third country" PCR Report before he can board his flight to Canada. "Albania does not have that many flights," the 26-year-old told The Quint.
The Protocol in Doha
Mahir Shaikh, a software engineer who is permanently moving to Canada, told The Quint about his experience on his journey so far. He was required to show three documents on his arrival at the Hamid International Airport – an approval letter to enter Qatar which took 16 hours to obtain before leaving India, vaccination certificate without which he would have had to spend 14 days in quarantine, and the negative RT PCR test report.
Next comes the work to be done while in Doha – get a third country COVID negative report, as Canada requires one. "There are long queues at the airport," Shaikh told us. He explained how he needs to wait for 24 hours before he gets back the result which he still does not know where to collect from, "but to wait in Doha, they require you to download an app – an Aarogya Setu equivalent for Qatar or you're fined heavily".
"They provide local sim-cards at the airport," he added.
While the Hamad International Airport sent The Quint a list of the facilities it provides for it to be the transit point for most travellers around the world including multi-cuisine cafes and free Wi-Fi, they said that all the COVID-19 regulations for travel are managed by the Ministry of Public Heath of Qatar.
What's difficult is that you have to keep up with all the rules and regulations.Mahir Shaikh
Even though all things are provided at the airport, it takes some time and money. Expenses increase when you have to stay in a hotel and even for the sim-card. "It's super expensive," Shaikh says.