Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Airport
Delhi's main domestic and international airport, originally called Palam Airport, is now named after Indira Gandhi, former prime minister and a major figure of Indian politics, assassinated in 1984. It is located just over 20 kms from New Delhi’s railway station.
It is composed of two main terminals, a two-building domestic (T1C for arrivals and T1D for departures) for low-cost carriers, and a mixed domestic/international (T3). The recently opened Terminal 3 serves most major and international airlines.
A regular shuttle service connects the terminals T1 and T3 at 20 minute intervals. It runs through a tunnel under the runway, and the journey lasts less than 5 minutes. There is a pedestrian path inside the tunnel. The buildings of T1 are a short distance from each other, which is easily covered by walking; but there is a complimentary golf-cart transfer service. There are a few other terminals not in use, some being refurbished, and one dedicated to the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca: the Hajj Terminal.
Both buildings at T1 offer food and drink outlets as well as a number of shops, currency exchange and ATMs. T1D also has a bank, a cinema, and an Internet area with a laptop station.
Terminal 3 is a large 9-storey terminal, currently being used for both domestic and international flights. Arrivals are at Level 0; Departures at Level 1; shopping, catering facilities, and some lounges at Level 2; Levels 3 and 4 have more lounges; while Level 5 has a transit hotel.
There is a Post Office in the departures level, which opens during the day, seven days a week.
Arrivals and departures
Arrival and departure cards, as well as Customs declarations must be completed before passing through the respective airport authorities. Bear in mind that there are restrictions on the import of gold and silver, including that worn by passengers. Women are allowed slightly more personal gold jewellery than men, but still not more than 35g in weight.
The amount of duty free tobacco allowed in India has been recently reduced to 100 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or 125g of tobacco products. Alcohol remains at 2 litres and perfume at 60ml. You may also bring the usual travelling items including one personal computer.
City check-in is available at the New Delhi Metro station for Air India passengers on domestic and some international flights. You will receive the boarding card there and the baggage is safely taken care of until you reach your destination.
You should plan to arrive at the airport 2 hours before departure. Check-in counters at the airport close 40 minutes prior to scheduled departure of flight.
Terminal 3 has accommodation within its own space. On Level 5 you can find the Eaton Smart transit hotel, which is in fact divided in two: one side for international passengers in transit without a visa to land in India; the other side for domestic passengers, or international ones in transit that have a visa. Assistance may be provided on both arrival and departure, guiding you through the maze of official and security check points. It is a good idea to request it at the time of booking. Rooms are functional, and there is a restaurant. Smoking is not allowed in the hotel and it is not possible to leave it after you check-in. Free wi-fi is available in the public areas.
Snooze cabins available at Terminal 3, offer a different concept for transit passengers who need a few hours’ rest. They are portable cabins placed within the departure area offering, apart from comfortable full length beds, TV, fridge, table and chair, DVD player, air-conditioning, Internet connectivity, and charging sockets for mobile phones.
They are a practical solution for a short rest and provide a quiet environment for working. They are booked on an hourly rate: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want a hotel that guarantees the lowest Internet rates, if booked in their website, try any of the following in the vicinity of the airport. They offer superior, more traditional service, and provide a shuttle service to/from the airport, although a charge applies.
Dusit Devarana, a luxury 5-star hotel about 3.5 Km from the airport. Transfers to/from the airport are provided in luxury BMW 5 series priced at around £ 25 + taxes per way, per car. Ideally positioned between Delhi and the sought after area of Gurgaon, home to well-known international companies.
Click here to enter the Hotel's own website
Radisson Blue Plaza, a 4-star superior hotel, is a mere 10 minutes (5 Km) from the airport’s international terminal. Airport transfers are charged at approx. £ 10.50 including taxes, each way.
Click here to enter the Hotel's own website
Wi-Fi is available throughout the airport. It is free for the first 20 minutes. Passengers need to register with a mobile phone number, which receives an SMS with the url (or serial number & PIN, if not using the mobile for browsing) that connects to the free but time-limited service.
Continued use after the free allowance costs Rs 99 for 1 hour, or Rs 199 for 3 hours.
Sim cards can be purchased directly from service providers that have kiosks at the airport. They are located in the public Arrivals area as you leave Customs. However, be aware that the cards will take 24 to 48 hours (or even longer...) to be activated, because by law a number of identity checks need to be done before you can use the service. You need to provide photocopies of passport and Indian Visa, colour photographs, proof of residence in your home country with any government issued document (e.g. driver's license if it shows an address) and written confirmation of your temporary address in India. Verification is made via a telephone call to your existing mobile number...
There are many operators. If you intend travelling to various parts of India make sure that roaming is activated. The most popular service providers that have extensive cover of India are Vodafone and Airtel.
If you want to avoid the complications described above, and you have a contact in Delhi (e.g. a friend or the local travel agent who meets you at the airport) you can email all the documnetation ahead so that when you arrive the card is already activated.
The Left Luggage facility is in the Airport Connect at the Skywalk Level of Terminal 3. Luggage can be stored from a minimum charge of 2 hours to a maximum of 30 days. The 24 hour tariff is currently around £2 to £5 (180Rs to 520Rs) depending on weight
Thomas Cook/Forex and the Central Bank of India have counters throughout T3 (in the Departures Main Hall, as well as airside International Departures Concourse, International Arrivals, before and after Customs). Besides, there are ATMs located in all levels.
ATMs are available in both buildings of Terminal 1 (Arrivals and Departures)
A word of advice: change just enough for your immediate needs and exchange larger quantities later on in the city. You will be losing around 5% in the airport exchange rates. The currency dealers explain the unfavourable rates on the high rent of their airport booths.
To get to the city there are basically three alternatives:
The fastest way to get to or from the city is the modern Metro system. The airport line (known as the Orange Line)starts at New Delhi station and stops at Shivaji Stadium, Dhaula Kuan, and Dheli Aerocity. On leaving the airport it continues to Dwarka Sector 21 station.
The journey from the airport to the city, and vice-versa takes around 18 minutes and costs Rs. 100 (Rs. 190 return). Tickets can be bought at vending machines or at station ticket offices. The first service from Delhi Station leaves at 5,45 am and the last at 11,30 pm, with similar times for the trains leaving the airport. During the day, the trains run every 10 to 20 minutes.
You have choices as to the type of taxi that you can take:
pre-paid taxis run by Easy Cabs, Mega Cabs and Meru Cabs, organized by the airport authorities, with set fares to various locations. These are based on Rs 23 per km (plus 25% during the night:11pm to 5am, and around 5% tax). The distance from the International Terminal to the centre of Delhi (railway station) is about 20 kms, so the fare should be around Rs 500.
With regular taxis and auto-rickshaws (the latter not a bad option, if you are adventurous) waiting outside you have choice of either accepting the metered fare or negotiate a price. The latter will usually be higher, but the first may lead to a much longer route. Use your GPS if you carry one.
Touts operate outside the terminal. Often, if not usually(!), it leads to arguments with the drivers over fare and route. Cheating is prevalent and scams widespread (even with pre-paid taxis).
pre-booked transfers These will be more expensive, but should provide an English-speaking driver and a more comfortable vehicle.
hotel transfers The safest option, especially if arriving at night the hotel will arrange for a vehicle to wait for you outside Customs and take you directly to the hotel. Payment is often put on the hotel bill; so you don’t have to worry about paying the driver (other than an expected tip).
There are buses every 20 to 30 minutes leaving the airport for central Delhi, including Connaught Place and Kashmere Gate for the Interstate Bus Terminal. Unfortunately, you must take the free shuttle run by DIAL, operating every 15 minutes, to get to the bus station about 1 km from Terminal 3. On the plus side, this is the cheapest form of getting to the city, especially if your destination is not the railway station, for which you should consider the Metro. It costs Rs 50 (Rs 25 for children and each piece of heavy luggage). There are two companies running the service and some of the buses are air-conditioned.
The departure tax for most international flights is set at Rs 500 (Rs 150 to neighbouring countries). The taxes are changed frequently, and you should confirm them when you purchase the ticket, as they may be included in the price.
At Delhi’s IGI Airport, there is a User Development Fee (UDF): Rs 1,131 for international departures, and Rs 933 for arrivals. For domestic passengers transiting through Delhi, the UDF was Rs 490 for departures, and Rs 415 for arrivals. Infants, and transit passengers (up to 6 hours), are exempt.