Ever been to an Indian airport? Hints & Tips

India: 2 months, 23 days and… 4h10min car ride to cover 130kms from Mysore to Bangalore airport, 3h waiting for take off and…

Ever been in an Indian airport?

You get to the check-in counter and get your luggage checked. You give in your 20kg suitcase with the usual 2/3 kg overweight that in India easily go thru without much pain or impacts on your wallet J You also have 4 additional pieces of luggage that, overall, weigh the double compared to the suitcase you gave in but in the end you manage not to be fined…

–          “excuse me, what do you have in that luggage?” – says the check-in employee staring at my huge yoga mat bag;

–         “ oh, just my yoga mat” – I innocently say by passing on the fact that there are additional 10kilos stored in on top to my yoga mat

–          “ah, ok… you can go” – says the check-in employee rather perplexed while scrolling the head in the typical Indian way

And now, what’s next? The immigration check-point!

You get there and somebody makes you understand that there is a module to be filled in…

–         “but where do I find the template?”

–         “you should have got it at the check-in desk!”

–         “and why I didn’t get it?”

–         ….

Ok, so you meet somebody that gives you a template pre-stamped by British Aurways (very efficient those English people!!); luckily the stamp is not visible enough (ahi ahi, not that efficient on the whole!) and what do you do? You change it writing in pen your Turkish Airlines flight number (do you understand now why I didn’t get the template at the very beginning?), you line up in queue and start praying… the queue is veeeeery long and if anything goes wrong, than at least one hour will be wasted. Nonetheless, there are still 4hours to go before take off, so plenty of time to give it a try instead of wandering through the airport with so much weight on your shoulders…

Finally it’s time for you to go thru passport control, you get your smile ready and a ‘namaste’ while you’re crossing your foot fingers. You don’t know how it comes, but it works! It’s now time to move on to luggage security control.

Useless to say, again the queue is veeeery long. After about 30 minutes going thru the line much faster than you hoped, a security controller address you to the lady counter. Useless to say that there is only one lady counter versus 10 for men… and this makes sense when you see that on overage there is a female traveller for every 10 male travellers. Nonetheless, this also means you have to line up again to wait for your turn.

After more than 1 hours where you fight with your hand luggage, it’s now your turn to go thru security… but not before you allow a full crew of Jet Airways hostesses to go thru as they have priority (what a luck!). All this in a range of 5meters x 2: rather crowded! And while you wait for them to be cleared, the passenger just waiting behind you – while looking at your yoga mat bag – declares excitedly: ‘how beautiful! You’ve been camping!!’… come on, are we in the South of India or in Tuscany?

Well, don’t let me go in details about the procedure to board… or well, maybe I should…

In order to board, India is the only country – out of 33 countries I’ve been to – that requires every single piece of hand luggage to be tagged. Once all of them have been cleared at the security check, a stamp is put on each tag meaning security check is passed.

When time comes to board the aircraft, controls become even stricter and un-rational:

–         An employee removes part of your boarding pass

–         You move on a few meters and another employee checks your passport

–         Again a few meters and another employee checks the stamps on you hand luggage tags… one by one…

At this point, you get on the shuttle that will bring you to the aircraft… and here the special treatment! Another employee is waiting for you when getting off the bus to re-check the passport… you never know, identity changes may occur while riding on the bus for a couple of minutes!!!

And finally, you put your feet aboard!! In the meantime, 4hours have gone since you first arrived at the airport. Now you believe you can relax… but only for the time you are up in the sky!

Well, are you extremely happy because when landing in Mumbai you can use the finger instead of the bus? Are you extremely happy to find out that the luggage belt is only 10meters from the finger so you don’t have to carry your 30kilos all over the airport?

Very good… but you haven’t considered that you only are at the domestic airport and you need to move to the international one!!

Ok, let’s collect the suitcase! It gets in rather quickly J and than you move to the information desk to enquire about the transfer to the international airport as it is separate from the domestic one:

–          “show me ticket” – says the employee in a poor English.

Naively you give him the Bangalore-Mumbai ticket.

–          “no, no, international ticket”

Ahhh, does he believe that with 5 pieces of luggage and 50 kilos I just want to get to the other terminal for fun? But discussion does not help much against Indian bureaucracy, so… you show the ticket to Istanbul, you get a pass that nobody will check, you are shown a door a few meters away where you are told to go and queue to get access to the shuttle that in 10/15 minutes time will take you to the other terminal.

And here another special treatment!! To get on the shuttle, every single piece of luggage needs to be checked again, also the one you just took off the belt!! Plus, of course, the personal inspection! Wow, all these should get the Nobel Prize to Security!

After 10/15 minutes from shuttle departure, you get to Mumbai international airport and start again… Finally you board and after 6 hour flight you land in Istanbul.

Nobody will check your luggage while disembarking and you start questioning: ‘uhmmm, what’s wrong here? Why do they trust you? Uhmmmm, better to be careful, you never know…’  🙂

In 5 minutes you get to the transfer desk, in other 5 minutes you re-check your hand luggage to get access to the departure area where… ohhh, there are the trolleys!! Sturbacks! The wi-fi! Ohhhh, what is that? Civilization? Progress?

Of course you cannot refrain yourself from half a kilo berry yogurt with added muesli… slurp, sooooo goooood! But you’re still hungry… you get a second one although it does not taste as good as the first one…uhmmm, you know what? After all you are already fed up with Starbucks so you move to the gate and… there is only one employee who does everything, extremely effective. So you questioned yourself: ‘how come there is only one employee? Is this due to the economic crisis?’ and nobody provides you with tags, nobody checks you and you feel lonely and abandoned…

And – voilà – in a moment you are aboard, at 3 hour flight from your Beloved…

Of course, all the above to say:

  1. if you’re in India and you have bought half Indian sub-continent (or like myself more than 20 books!), than ship it!! It will cost about 15 Euros to ship 15 kilos that will be delivered at your home in about 1 month. I know many people who have done it and nobody experienced issues with delivery.
  2. if you have light hand-luggage, you won’t have problems to bring up to 3 pieces. They will start questioning when you get to the 4th piece (to consider that the rule is still 1 piece of hand-luggage)
  3. all air companies, including the low cost ones such as Indigo, will accept without charge up to 2/3 kilos more than the requested 20 kilos for check-in luggage. Use them and save your shoulders!
  4. smile! Even when you believe you can’t any longer! This will help with employees to make every step faster… of course faster versus Indian standards ;) But even more, smile to render this highly bureaucratic procedure lighter so to avoid a nervous crash, especially if you have more than 1 stop over in India.

PS: women, don’t expect to be helped with your luggage if you’re travelling on your own. Male and female are still rather separate in India, so you won’t have men coming along as gentlemen offering to bring stuff for you. So, if you’re travelling on your own, take it into consideration while deciding how much to have with you.

PSS: I was rather touched while waiting at Bangalore airport to see that the average traveller was quite young (both male and female) and employed in a multinational company. How did I guess? All wearing a back-pack branded Accenture, Yahoo, Deloitte, HP, Dell, etc… 🙂   It brought me back memories of another life, not much faraway in time 🙂

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