International flights use the Indira Gandhi International Airport (tel. 11/329-5434), about 38 kilometers (23 miles) southwest of Connaught Place, the city center. Domestic flights use Palam Airport (also called the national or domestic airport), which is near the international airport. Palam has two terminals: the Airbus terminal for Indian Airlines airbuses serving Bangalore, Bombay, Calcutta, Hyderabad, and Madras, and the Boeing terminal for other Indian Airlines flights and private-sector domestic carriers. When you purchase or reconfirm any domestic-departure ticket, find out which terminal you should use. For the private-sector domestic carriers, use the extreme right entrance at the Boeing terminal. If you take a taxi to the airport, most drivers are clueless about the appropriate departure terminals. Flying times: 16 hours from New York, 18 hours from Chicago, and 20 hours from Los Angeles.
It is vital to reconfirm your flights at least 72 hours before departure. Since there are rigid security procedures, check in no later than 60 minutes before flight time for domestic flights and 3 hours before international flights, and expect tight security at all airports. Do not pack a pocket knife in your hand luggage. Even golf clubs are not allowed as hand luggage. Also remove the batteries from your camera or any electronics (except your computer) and pack them into your checked luggage. If you hand carry a computer, you will usually be asked to turn it on during the security check. For many flights, checked luggage must be identified on the tarmac before boarding.
Touts at the airport and even individuals at certain hotel booking counters inside the airport will try to trick you into booking hotel rooms. They may even insist that any prior booking is invalid. Ignore them. If you do need a room, go to the Government of India Tourist Office counter.
Major international carriers that use Indira Gandhi International Airport include
Indian Airlines is the national domestic carrier. The entry of privately owned domestic carriers into the market has forced Indian Airlines to improve its service, but Indian Airlines flights are still subject to delays, and some scheduled departures are cancelled without explanation. Many of the new carriers are struggling to survive. Check with your travel agent, tour operator, or the Government of India Tourist Office for the latest information on private carriers and flight schedules. Currently, fares for all carriers, including Indian Airlines, are about 40%-50% higher than air-conditioned first-class tickets on trains to the same destinations, but travel by air is much more comfortable.
For domestic flights, get your tickets when you purchase your international ticket to the subcontinent if possible. Some carriers are not allowed to sell their tickets outside India. Be certain tickets and not just reservations are confirmed. Indian Airlines is notorious for overbooking to important destinations, and you can be stranded with no recourse. Never schedule back-to-back flights; plan enough time for unexpected delays.
BETWEEN THE AIRPORT AND TOWN
The trip between Delhi's airports and the city should take about 30 minutes if you arrive before 9 AM or after 8 PM. At other times, traffic near the city center can increase the time to an hour. Most hotels provide complimentary airport transfers if you are staying in a suite or on an executive floor. All hotels, however, will provide airport transfers for about Rs. 500 to Rs. 1000, depending on their location.
No Western-style limousines are available in India. If you want a Mercedes Benz to transfer you to and from the airport, make arrangements with your hotel or travel agency. It will cost about Rs. 3000-Rs. 4000 each way.
This is the most convenient way to get to your hotel. Taxi drivers are famous for overcharging and rigging their meters, so use the prepaid taxi service offered at each airport. This service is available at a designated counter outside the baggage-claim area and inside the arrival terminal. Unfortunately, hucksters have also set up similar services. Make certain that you go to the counter operated by the police. Your destination and amount of luggage determine the rate, which you pay in advance at this counter. Your receipt includes your taxi's license-plate number. When you leave the terminal, drivers and touts will converge on you and offer "assistance." Avoid them and wheel your own baggage cart if you have one to the line of taxis outside the terminal. Taxis are black with yellow tops. If you have trouble, head to the police-assistance booth, which is also near the terminal exit. Once you get into the taxi, don't give the driver the payment slip until you reach your destination. If the driver demands more rupees, complain to the hotel doorman. A taxi from the international airport to the city center should cost about Rs. 200; from the domestic airport, about Rs. 150.
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