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TRAVEL TUESDAY: Indian Airport Basics


A series of observations and tips from my recent trips to India.  Feel free to add your thoughts and experiences in the comments, as well as make suggestions for future TRAVEL TUESDAY topics.

Yes, we are still talking about the airport.   

  • Entering the airport.  Warning– if you are on a departing flight, you MUST have some kind of printed travel itinerary or ticket to ENTER the airport.  If you are an obnoxious Western traveler who is used to walking directly in and going to the check-in counter, think again.  Fortunately, if you don’t have a printed itinerary, the airline counters are usually open nearby, so that you can have them check your name and print a paper for you to enter, but the wait is unpredictable so if you don’t have a paper with you, ARRIVE EARLY.  These external counters also sell tickets for those last minute trips, although you might want to check online for space before you get there. 
  • Luggage carts.  Luggage carts were FREE in all the airports I went to, and some airlines (like Kingfisher) have their own porters to help with luggage, who are not supposed to accept cash (but you sneak them a 10 note anyway).  FREE luggage carts– awesome!  Warning to all travelers to the United States– luggage carts cost money at most aiports, and you have to have American bills to pay.  As of two months ago, JFK charges FIVE dollars.  Ridiculous!
  • Language.  Most of the security that are guarding the external entrances are actual Indian military, who prefer to speak in Hindi.  Since I don’t speak Hindi, I found English to be far more effective than Malayalam, which they completely ignored (even when I suspected that the guard was actually Malayalee).
  • Family at the airport.  I didn’t really understand the system, but for the most part, you say goodbye to your family outside the airport doors, and get picked up outside the doors as well.  I heard rumors that if you park your car and get some kind of token, you are allowed to wait inside, but I couldn’t get that confirmed.  In the Delhi airport, taxi drivers are allowed inside near the gate area.  In Cochin, they also don’t allow passengers who have checked in (not security gates, but just checked in) to go back outside.  Of course Ididn’t know this and almost got arrested by the Indian military who are standing at the door, because I insisted on going out and saying goodbye to my family had patiently been waiting for 50 minutes.
  • Check-in Luggage.  In most airports in the US, you first weigh your luggage at the check-in counter and then bring it to the security area where they run it through the machine and then send it on its way.  In India, when you walk in, you walk directly to the scanning machine, where a few men hoist your luggage on the conveyer, wait for it to come out on the other side, and secure a band around each piece.  This is fine if your luggage is all under the maximum weight and you don’t have to shuffle things around.  But if you are like me (see last week’s post), you might end up losing time going back and forth between the check-in counter and security machine, because you are trying to switch things around to stay under weight.
  • Pre-paid taxis.  In the Delhi and Chennai airports, Arathi taught me how to use the pre-paid taxi counter, where you tell the person where you’re going and how much luggage you have, and he writes you a slip to take to a taxi stand outside, with a pre-set amount that you have to pay.  If you tried your luck on the outside, you might possibly find someone cheaper, but this was much safer, since the info was logged and legit and there was a less likely chance of being cheated.  I didn’t notice if they had these counters in the smaller airports, but next time I travel, I will keep my eyes open for them.

I’m sure I’m missing some things I’ll think about, but look out for next week’s post on “Airport Security Lines.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mallory permalink
    2009-07-28 7:28 PM

    Haha! You use Luggage carts? Haha!!
    You are SO NOT an Indian.

  2. 2009-07-29 11:00 AM

    Don’t laugh until you’ve traveled alone with extra luggage that are ALL overweight.

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