I’m returning to India, but for the first time I will be arriving in the middle of the night at an airport I’m not super familiar with. In my search to find out information about Delhi airport arrivals, I found an absence of what I wanted to know. So I’ve been writing this post in real time as I experience the airport, in the hopes that it will help others navigate through too.The Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi has undergone a major overall since my last visit, making it much more user friendly and on par with other international airports. This is especially great news for foreign travelers who have never visited India before and arrive to New Delhi as their first stop. In addition to being more user friendly, the new look has also won numerous awards which you will notice promoted throughout the airport.
Upon arrival you will be directed to immigration/baggage claim and exit. Follow the hordes of people in front of you. Once you get to immigration, you will need to select your line based on your passport and visa. If you have arrived on an e-visa do not get fooled into thinking you can go to the foreign passport line. Instead, continue walking all the way down the corridor to find the e-visa area.
If you are getting a visa on arrival, you will continue even further to the windows saying visa on arrival.
Once you are at the window you will be asked for your e-visa print out, passport, entry form given to you on the plane and your boarding pass. Have all of this handy to speed up the process.
The immigration officer will check all your documents and the ask for your biometrics. They take your photo and ask you to put your right hand, left hand and both thumbs on a fingerprint scanner. Foreigners who go to the United States often will know the routine.
Don’t put your documents away just yet. You will need to show your visa stamp in your passport before getting to baggage claim. Now you are finished with them, so you can put them up.
Baggage Claim. If you have never experienced baggage claim in India, I will warn you now to let go of some of your politeness! I had totally forgotten this aspect of arriving in India. People will be camped out in front of the baggage claim, sitting on their luggage carts so tightly squeezed next to one another it’s virtually impossible to squeeze your way through to get your bags. But that’s what you must do! Recognize that in India sometimes push comes to shove to get your what you need.
The last step is customs. There is no rhyme or reason about how this works. Occasionally officials are there to scan your bags, other times no one is manning the booth. I was lucky to breeze right through. If they are scanning, you will put all of your bags on their large scanners and collect on the other side. It’s no big deal unless you are bringing in something you shouldn’t, i.e. drones.
There are several options for getting cash at the airport. If you have arrived empty handed (as most tourist will), you will want to make sure to get some rupees before you leave as cash is still king in India. Before you exit through the Customs lane there are a couple of money changer options if you have only brought cash to change into rupees. I cannot say if the rates here are better than outside of the airport, but it will work in a pinch.
Otherwise, as soon as you head out, go to the left towards the Dominos Pizza. There is a Citibank atm right in front of it. Additionally, there are ATMs (SBI and Induslnd) directly in front of where you exited the Customs channel.
[box]Remember to call your bank AND your credit card to let them know you will be in India. Otherwise immediate fraud alerts will be set, making your cards useless until you can phone your bank.[/box]
At the time of my visit, only one of the machines was working for some people but none worked for me! Luckily I had a pre-paid driver picking me up, otherwise I’d have no money to get a taxi. Please do come to India with a decent amount of your home currency to change if this happens during your arrival.
Also make sure to notify your bank before you leave for your trip. Check your ATM daily withdrawal limit as well. My limit in the US is $500 a day, but only $50 abroad. (This is about 3000 rupees). Once you phone your bank to let them know you will be abroad, you can also increase this daily limit.
Getting a Phone/SIM Chip
India loves bureaucracy and getting a phone and/or SIM chip is no exception to this. You can get a phone and/or SIM chip in many places in India so this is not a necessity that you must do at the airport. It is sometimes easier to just get everything sorted in one place and to know that the employees will speak English.
There is an Airtel shop in the arrivals lobby area as soon as you walk out. It is not cheap, however. I was quoted 1250 rupees for a SIM chip and a friend got one for 1000 rupees. Note that SIMs usually take a minimum of 2 hours to be activated and up to 8 hours depending on your arrival in India.
You will also need a passport photo (x2), a copy of your passport and a copy of your visa. Make sure to ask about the various data plans as that will likely be what you use mostly.
Alternatively, you can wait until you get sorted in your hotel and find a shop to do this at your leisure.
Getting a taxi
If you have not organized a driver to pick you up, either through your hotel or an agency, this is the next best option. However, I do recommend paying a bit extra to have a driver from your hotel pick you up, especially if you arrive in the middle of the night as a solo female traveler as I was. Even though I know India, it made me feel a bit more secure knowing I had this aspect already sorted. It also helped tremendously since I was unable to get any cash!
Otherwise, in the arrival area at the airport, you will find pre-paid taxi counters where you can get a Government of India approved taxi You will be given two receipts with the number of the taxi on it. Head out to find your taxi. Keep your receipt until your driver has dropped you off at your destination, just in case you need any leverage as this is what he needs to get paid back at the airport.
In addition to the government approved taxi’s there are also several private metered taxi options operating here. Private companies such as Meru Cabs, Mega Cabs and Easy Cabs have counters in the terminals. Expect to pay a night surcharge and somewhat higher rates than the government taxis.
That’s it! That was my experience getting through the New Delhi airport. Overall, expect about 1 hour to get through immigration and get out of the airport.
The airport experience here in Delhi has definitely improved quite a bit since my last visit and feels much more user friendly for first timers, however it can still be overwhelming coming out of the airport after a 20+ hour flight to a sea of people holding signs with names on them! As long as you know what your plan is, you will be totally fine!
Need a place to stay in New Delhi? We love the ITC Maurya and the JW Marriott but there are tons of other options too!
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