Arriving in India for the first time and finding your way through can be a struggle even for the most seasoned travelers but is nothing less than a nightmare especially for those of you have not traveled much to the Asian countries. Nightmare can be turned into a sweet dream only if you travel well informed and know what to expect. This post would help you sail through your horrors of arriving in India for the first time.
India is quickly becoming one of the most famous backpacking destinations in the world, more and more people choose to travel independently to India rather than going on a per-arranged tour, this can be quite a fun as you get the first hand experience of India. India is a land of cultural diversity and you must be ready for every and anything. As the famous saying goes “Everything you read about India, the opposite is equally true”.
Indira Gandhi International Airport : The Terminal 3 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi is recently constructed and is rated at 4th best airport in the world, its big and very convenient with excellent signage. The airport would most definitely make you feel comfortable. Your experience upon arrival at the airport would set the foundation for you travel in India. Just take care of the following and your foundation would be the best possible.
1) Carry a Mobile Phone : Before you embark on your journey to India make sure you a carry a GSM Cellphone. GSM meaning a cell phone which works on SIM card rather than a plan. The phone must be unlocked and ready to use with any carrier in any country. If you are unsure then please consult your local vendor and confirm that your phone is a GSM and unlocked. Its best to carry cheap phones (The basic models) unless you are a business traveler. If you carry your own phone name which needs a Micro SIM (Iphone 4 and 4s) then be get ready to test your cutting and chopping skills as Micro SIM cards are not available in India. The local vendors in India can cut the regular SIM and convert it into a Micro SIM for or you can carry and Micro sim card cutter which is easily available in most countries (Not India).
2) Exchanging Currency : As soon as you are done with your custom checks and immigrations look for a Currency exchanger and get some Indian rupees while your luggage gets onto the luggage claim ramp. Its a good to check the currency rates in your home country before leaving your home country. www.xe.com is a popular current conversion site. $100 should be more than enough to take you through the first few nights.
3) Buying a Local number : Upon claiming your baggage look for any of these names : “Airtel”, “Vodafone”, “Idea”. Or ask airport staff “Where can I buy a prepaid number?”. These are some of the best and the most popular cellular carriers in India. There are small vendors and shops inside the airport where you can buy a Cash Card or a Prepaid number of any of these carriers. The cash cards are available for as low as Rs 10 including the SIM card and calling balance. Its best to buy one of the cheapest packs and recharge/fill it up with calling time of about Rs 100. Prepaid numbers in India come with per-activated International calling facility. The number would be activated instantly or would at most take half an hour.
The local vendors are very helpful and would help you to setup you new number which would not take more than 5 mins.
I personally recommend that you buy a prepaid number and then claim your baggage as that way by the time you exit the airport you would have a local India number.
As soon as you get the number, test it by calling your family back home to tell them that you have made it to India safely, I am sure they must be worried ?
Note : Please carry a Passport sized photograph and photocopy of the front page of your passport as they would be required to get your pre-paid number.
4) Getting to the City: The New Delhi international airport is located about 20 Kms from the City center. Depending upon your time of arrival and accommodation in delhi you can choose one of the following to get to the city:
- New Delhi Metro : The easiest and the most convenient way to get the City is the newly constructed Metro also known as the “Airport Express”. If you have booked your Hotel in “Paharganj” which is a very high probability then board the Airport express. As soon as you exit the airport look out the signs for the airport express. The airport express is operational between 5.30 Am and 11 PM. If you are staying at Paharganj then board the train with a ticket to the “Shivaji Stadium” stop. Shavaji Stadium stop is only 2 Kms from Paharganj. After you get down at the Station take a Auto Rickshaw “Three wheeled local transport” to Paharanj. Under no condition pay more than Rs 100. Bargaining would be your virtue if you bargain well you can get it for as low as Rs 50.
- Pre-Paid Cab: The second best option to get to the city is to use the Pre Paid cab. Pre paid cabs are available through Delhi Govt Pre paid Cab service and private companies such as “Meru Cabs”, “Mega Cabs”. Booths of both the services are available inside the Airport, Just look for “Delhi traffic Police Pred Paid taxi” or any one of the following names private prepaid cab service: “ Meru Cabs”, “Mega cabs”. You must carry the address of your accommodation to make sure you pay the right fare. Private cabs service is A/C, cleaner and the drivers can talk in little it in English where as the Govt Service is not air-conditioned. Once you have booked your provided with a confirmation slip with a number on it. If you have booked a Govt Prepaid cab, the number represents the pillar number from where you can take your cab. Once you exit the airport look for the pillar number from where you can board your cab. This can be a bit of struggle so make sure you ask the Airport staff to help you located the pillar.
The Private company cabs are much better in this case as their local staff would assist you to the cab. So if you are not very comfortable with finding your way around then taking the Private prepaid cab would be the best cab but a little expensive.
A prepaid cab would cost about Rs 800 from Airport to Paharganj where as the Govt Cab would cost about Rs 300.
Even if you take care of the above the things might still get tough, the prepaid counters might the closed; the Metro might be under service. Your preparations and expectations need to be accompanied by a positive attitude to accept every and anything.
But above all you need to understand that you are in India for a different experience and everything you get to experience (Good or bad) is a part of an experience and you must learn to enjoy it.
Best of luck with your travels.