GUIDE TO INDIA
GETTING THERE & AWAY
Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai are India’s main gateways for international flights. Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Amritsar have more limited international services.
In addition to the gateways mentioned above, Varanasi and Patna have some services to Nepal, while Guwahati and Bodhgaya have flights to Bangkok. Siliguri’s Bagdogra airport in West Bengal is planning a service to Kathmandu (check with travel agencies).
In the south, apart from Chennai, the airports at Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram ( Trivandrum ) and Tiruchirappalli (Trichy) operate flights to various Gulf States, with the latter two places also offering flights to Colombo ( Sri Lanka ).
It’s wise to reconfirm international tickets at least 72 hours before departure even though many airlines say this is no longer necessary; a few travelers have reported having their seat cancelled for not doing so.
Airlines recommend that travelers check in three hours prior to international flight departures; allow time for getting stuck in India’s often congested traffic, especially during peak hours. Most Indian airports have free luggage trolleys, but you may find yourself accosted by porters eagerly offering to lug your load for a tip (Rs 10; more if you wish).
Once inside the airport, you must have your check-in baggage screened and sealed by security tape before proceeding to check-in. When checking in make sure you get baggage tags for your hand luggage (as these need to be stamped while clearing customs). Don’t forget to fill out an embarkation card before heading for the customs gate.
Departure Tax The departure tax of Rs 500 (Rs 250 for neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka ) is now included in the price of 99% of airline tickets – check with your travel agent.
As travelers aren’t generally issued a tourist visa to India unless they have an onward ticket, few travelers buy international tickets in India itself. If you do want details about international flights operating from India, consult a travel agent for current schedules and fares.
India’s national carrier is Air India ( www.airindia.com ), which also carries passengers on some domestic sectors of international routes (see also Air in the Getting Around chapter). Indian Airlines (www.indian-airlines.nic.in), India’s major domestic carrier, also flies to 16 neighboring countries.
Discount travel agents in the USA are known as consolidators (although you won’t see a sign on the door saying Consolidator). In America, San Francisco is the ticket-consolidator capital, although some good deals can be found in Los Angeles. New York and other bit, cities.
STA Travel (Tel: 800-781-4040) has offices throughout the USA.
For online ticket bookingswww.cheaptickets.com, www.expedia.com.www.lowestfare.com and www.orbitz.com are recommended sites.
From the US east coast, the most convenient, and shortest, route to India is via Europe. Low-season return fares from New York to Mumbai or Delhi are similarly priced, starting at around US$ 1450 with Air India via London. Swiss Airlines via Zurich or Alitalia via Milan. Flights from New York to Chennai, via Europe, start at around US$ 1540 in the low season.
From the US west coast to Mumbai or Delhi, Aeroflot has the best bargain fares. Expect to pay around US$1000 for a low season fare via Moscow. Another good deal to Delhi is with Asiania Airlines via Seoul ; flights start at around US$ 1250. Northwest Airlines and KLM have flights to Delhi via Amsterdam starting at about US$ 1470.
To Chennai, low-season return fares start at around US$1450 with Korean Air or Asiana Airlines via Seoul.