Arriving at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport

Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi will perhaps be the entry point for most foreign travellers to India. I have always wondered why this airport was not named after Mahatma Gandhi since he is considered as the father of the nation. Anyway, from a personal point of view, this is the worst International airport I have seen and rightly so, it was once considered as the worst airport in the world by an international consortium (can’t remember which one). The reason why I say this is because I have found the toilets semi unusable, absence of decent restaurants (good coffee by the way), unsupportive staff, long and slow queues, no decent baby changing facilities, overcrowding and so no; you get the drift. But anyway, you can’t judge a country by its airports!

Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport

Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport

What to expect and what to do at the Indira Gandhi International Airport

Customs

As soon as your plane lands and is parked you will make a short walk and down the escalators to the customs. If you are Indian, then there is a counter where you can walk straight up and present your passport and walk out. But if you are foreigner i.e. a tourist then be prepared to wait for at least 30 to 60 minutes depending where you’re coming from and the number of passengers on the plane. But this can be at any international airport but in India everything moves in slow motion so expect long delays. In addition, when you make it to the customs counter, don’t expect any greetings such as Hello, Namaste or welcome to India or even a friendly smile. You job is to get your passport stamped and walk away.

Baggage collection

Now you’re free to collect your bags from the conveyer belt. Take a trolley and wait for it to arrive. You might even be approached by a porter offering their services of pushing your trolley around for you. This might be useful if you have children. Interestingly these porters prefer payment in dollars. Last time I enquired, the porter wanted $50. If it was 50 Rupees yes, but I’m wasn’t paying $50. Further reading: Beware of child abduction in India.

Currency exchange

Once you have collected your luggage. You must exchange your foreign currency or travellers cheques to Indian Rupees if haven’t already done so. There are 2 main travel exchanges here; State Bank of India and Thomas Cook. Both are fine. Make sure you take a receipt and count your money.

Walking out

Now you can walk out of the airport to your destination. If you have nothing to declare then you can walk though the green channel. You will find armed security personnel. Indian airports are heavily guarded as India is on the list of most hated of nations by Islamic terrorists presumably after United States and Israel.

Book your taxi

Unless you have someone waiting for you or have arranged transport then you must book a prepaid-taxi here to take you to your destination. This is the most secure transport provided by the Delhi Transport Department and Delhi Police. The idea is simple; you pay at the counter and you give the receipt to the driver when you reach your destination. Do not give the receipt till you reach your destination even if the driver requests it. Also ignore any advice by the diver to take you to a better hotel or demand of further payment. The word for NO in Hindi is “Nahi”. You can learn some more Hindi from me here. Also, as soon as you start leaving the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi Police will record your name, destination and driver number. This is for your protection. There have been some incidences of tourists being mugged so a record of the driver is important. Further reading: Are taxis safe in Delhi?

Hot Tip: If the police is on the driver’s side and you hand the receipt to the driver for them to note the number; make sure that you take the receipt back from the driver. If you don’t do this, the driver may not drop you to your exact location or the doorstep of your hotel since he already has the receipt.

Arriving at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport, India

Arriving at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, India

Book your hotel or train tickets

Just before you leave the terminal and go the meeting area, you can book hotels. Some trains tickets are reserved trains for tourists. If you have not booked your train tickets, then it’s a good idea to do it before you leave. Remember India can seem chaotic hence planning your trip to India is very important. Here’s how to book your train tickets. Further reading: Traffic in India and what to expect.

Leaving for the domestic airport (called Palam Airport)

If you have a flight to another city the same day then you can take the coach to the local domestic airport. Both the national and international airports are situated within the compounds of the Indira Gandhi International Airport; hence there is no need to leave the airport. Just before you go out to meeting area, you will see a sign saying transport to domestic airport. There is no need to take a taxi, have a seat and a free coach will pick you up and take you there. Here’s a list of popular domestic airlines in India.

Coming out in the meeting area

Just like any other airport, you will see an ocean of faces looking at you. Don’t be intimated. If you have your taxi booked, you will see a row of black and yellow Delhi cabs and you can walk over there. Some taxi drivers will ask you the plate number of the taxi. Just tell them the number and your taxi will be called and you can go to your chosen destination.

Don’t let the Indira Gandhi International Airport shock you. Welcome to India…

The official website of Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi

Further reading

More about India
Hindi for foreign travellers (audio) – Listen to me speaking basic Hindi
101 travel tips for India
How to use an Indian toilet

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51 Responses to “Arriving at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport”

  1. Viyoma says:

    Interesting Blog. Liked the straight forward way of writing and honesty of the post.
    But the tone is a bit scary. International travelers visiting IG Terminal for the 1st time – will be more worried than relaxed – with so many heads up that you have given in the post.
    Esp the last line- ” Dont let IG shock you”!!!

    Each Airport has some positives and negatives – just like IG.
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  2. When I arrived in Delhi, I took the Delhi Airport Metro Express train from the airport to the New Delhi Metro Station, which is next to the New Delhi Railway Station and just across the tracks from Paharganj (where most of Delhi’s budget accommodation is located). It costs 80 Rupees and takes about 20 minutes, making it a great alternative for those who prefer to avoid taxis whenever possible (like me). It was also very clean and not at all crowded, although I arrived pretty late in the evening.
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  3. Michael Belk says:

    It sounds like a traveler might encounter some expected problems, but overseas travel probably needs to checked seriously.

    I would not want to be confronted with all these issues. I have to admit many travelers may get the wrong impression of the country from the first thing they see.
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  4. Jay says:

    Hi Shalu ji,

    Yes, a very sorry state of affairs in our capital city. Delhi is continuously dropping in the trust parameters.

    I think one of the main highlight points should be the delays which you should mention as a separate point. Delays can be of various durations, types and pertain to different sections of the airport. There’s baggage collection delay, sometimes the bags have not even been transported from the connecting airport. Then there’s customs delay, flight departure delays and so on. Delays can really eat into a traveler’s nerves, especially if they value their time.

    Regards

    Jay
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  5. Sapna says:

    Hi Shalu Jee

    Great information as always!

    You have very well highlighted the point of booking a prepaid taxi, you mentioned the hot tip which is really handy, I was not aware of that.

    I liked your statement “ocean of faces” and you are perfectly right on that, at times it appears that they would run away with all our baggage.

    Thanks for this great info.

    Sapna
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  6. Well explained post Shalu!

    I am glad you took up this important topic because many people face issues when they arrive in our country and feel stranded.

    I especially like the area mentioned about getting the taxi’s or cabs as even we face problems when we want to commute from one place to another. I guess all of this makes things very clear. :)

    Thanks for sharing. :)
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  7. Good blog Shalu ji and informative one of the visitors who enters in India through IG Airport. Management really lacks here its my personal experience. Good and informative post for the strangers who travel India. Sorry….incredible India !!!!!!!!1:) :)

  8. sanchit says:

    Hello Shalu,
    Sanchit Johari is here, first of all i want to say that i really impress with as you give your description, b’coz in The India very less housewives do such things.
    Now, your blog is really impressive and explanation about each and all thing is very exact and simple it is helpful for every body either he is Indian or foreign.
    Thanks!
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  9. Ankit says:

    Still, I would say that IGI airport is best out of all in India.
    Ankit recently posted..HTC Desire U : Android Budget Phone Features, Specifications and ReviewMy Profile

    • avenugop says:

      Have you ever gone to the bangalore airport? World class, it’s managed privately, is clean and efficient.
      – the IGI airport is a shame to our country !

  10. Zain Masood says:

    nice your site thanks for sharing love you all teme good work keep it up
    Free Download Full Version
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  11. Joy from cable ties says:

    I have been so in love with India but I never had the guts to actually fly there after all the horror stories I have been hearing, for now I’d have to keep myself happy with your remarkable articles. Than you for sharing.

  12. Veronica from 24 hour emergency vet says:

    You have never failed to show us the wonders of India with simple posts like this. Sure helps us travel though our imaginations. Thanks for sharing this piece.

  13. Emilia from portable buildings says:

    Thank you for these details. I’m definitely looking forward to visit your majestic country soon.

  14. Calra from executive search says:

    I have forever admired the culture of india and I am definitely planning to go there soon. With your site I’m able to plan my trip ahead of time. Thank you for all the tips!

  15. gurjeet says:

    thanks for the tips mam your tips help me a lot when i was new in delhi thanks mam
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  16. Thanks Ma’am for this clean and valuable tips.. I am from Gaya, Bihar and i m very glad that you are providing such a nice and valuable information which ll help foreigners as well as Indians.

    Ma’am please explore some lights on Bodhgaya as it is very famous tourist place among all in India.

    I appreciate your hard work.

  17. Informative post Shalud Ji. I still remember my first visit to Indira Gandhi International Airport. Visiting such a places makes me to feel that my country is going ahead….
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  18. Preety says:

    Hello everyone.. i am flying alone from London to Delhi next week with my 11 month old baby… i just wanted to know can i get any paid aasistance with my luggage at Delhi airport? If yes…then for how much can i get this porter service? Looking forward to a prompt reply…
    Thanks..
    Preety….

    • Shalu Sharma says:

      Preety, if you are flying to Delhi, you should be able to get help from porters to help you with you luggage but you will have to go and ask at the help desk to get it. It will depend when you are getting there. Last time, one of the porters said 200 USD to me but you can say something like 200 Rupees and take it from there.
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      • Prashant says:

        Thanks Shalu for your response. Any idea how much these porters end up charging, and are they in official uniforms or carry other identification badge etc with them?

        Thanks in advance. My wife is travelling with my two very young sons and I am very nervous how she will be able to manage on her own, between collecting the baggage and exiting out of the airport.

  19. Cybergirl says:

    IG airport is a world class facility, and is often compared with paris internation airport which is what I’ve heard. I’m sorry but I do not agree to your views as myself along with everybody I know who has visited delhi by air and have been at IGI airport are all full of praise. I always found the toilets super clean, and staff more than helpful. Even the airport is wonderfully clean. I am not sure if you have been to Mumbai airport, but if you go there you will find that it stinks. When I was there 2 years back to go to US, I was shocked and the only words came out of my mouth were “Is this the Mumbai airport our great bollywood stars use to get abroad”?
    I got a free ride within the IGI airport by one of those small vehicles driven by their staff which is only for physically disabled people, I was getting late for my flight and the guy offered to give me a lift till the departure gate. Even food court is a lot better than some other known airports such as mumbai airport and bangalore airport. I have been at goa airport in past, and even though goa gets the maximum no of tourist alone as compared to any other state in India, still their airport sucks. And the airport metro express facility in Delhi is really outstanding, the express metro itself is beautifully done and quite plush. I dump the cab now a days whenever I go to Delhi and take metro to reach home. It takes almost same time anyway as going by cab also takes time if you are travelling in peak hours. So this way I reach home in 100-120 bucks where taking a cab costs INR 500+

    • Shalu Sharma says:

      Hello Cybergirl
      Its true that not all airports can be categorised in the same way. I have been to the airports in Mumbai and I agree that they are terrible. There was a particular time when IGI airport suffered tremendously. But I have seen some good improvements in the way this airport has been run. Thank you for your comment and have a nice day.
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  20. BNRAO says:

    Hello Shaluji thaks for the useful information. I
    have one question i.e we are landing in intl airport at 1.00 am and have to wait upto 5.30 am at the air port to catch our train at 7.30 am from nizamuddhin is there any free waiting place available in the intl airport arrivals? pl advise me madam. Than Q.

    • Shalu Sharma says:

      You can always go to the departure section where they have a paid waiting area and stay there for a while. You can always go to the railway station and wait over there. Nizaamudin station has waiting area but I cannot confirm if they have a left luggage.
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  21. Filmari Evenimente says:

    I like the airport it feels overall clean and safe, and this is what you want these days, security!

  22. suhail says:

    hi
    everyone
    if anybody have problem in collecting baggage from cargo then we will help them from customs . and delivered their consignments .

    regards suhail

    united cargo services

  23. Saumil says:

    On my recent trip to delhi , i had a nice experience at delhi airport , i had forgot my I-pad on customs check up, and on reaching my hotel i realised it. I had no hope of getting it, but to my surprise on me inquiring there they just handed me with a smile :). Indians have changed a lot, or was my lucky day :)
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  24. Helpful article. It is always good to have an idea of what to expect in other country’s airport activities and what not. Saves time and potential misunderstanding among the two parties.

  25. Ashi says:

    You are really straight forwards in your talking, Well I don’t think that Airport is really that bad. People are nice there.
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  26. I love your experiences, thanks for sharing them with us Shalu!

  27. Thanks a lot for this really informative post. I am travelling to India next year and these pointers will really help. I am planning to visit Dharmashala and was told it would be best to travel there from Chandigarh, is that true?

  28. vaibhav says:

    WORST AIRPORT ? what are u talking about ? Indra gandhi airport was rated the 2nd best airport in a recent survey. I live in the US and IGI is better than many american airports. Don;t u have anything else to say except criticizing India ? Omg.

  29. Prasad says:

    Hi,
    i am ariving to IGI at 1:30 in morning from KLM flight and want to leave iarport at 4 am as i do nt feel delhi is safe in night. Could u please tell me wether going out at 4 amis safe in delhi.

  30. Suman says:

    Great information for people who are traveling to India for first time. Love to travel to India once. Goa is my favorite place.
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  31. seleena says:

    I think you did the right factor. Paharganj is a great position for resorts. Which ones did you remain in?
    i like this post also…

  32. MOUMITA DASGUPTA says:

    I will be travelling alone with my 1 yr daughter from dubai to delhi. Where should i contact for availing the service of porter in delhi airport? Can you plz inform where is the child care room in delhi airport? I will be waiting for ur reply….

  33. Sheeza Malik says:

    Shalu, you are no less than a professional tour guide just loved your piece of article. My Mom is looking to travel to Delhi, she’ll be new to India and this guide is going to help her a lot!

    Thanks and Regards.

    Sheeza.
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  34. Portal Terpercaya says:

    wow this is one of the most luxurious airport I’ve ever seen.
    everything is laid out very neatly. if I have a lot of money, I want to go there for a visit.

  35. David B says:

    I am really impressed by India’s improvements to it aviation sector, a truly world class airport. I am based at Heathrow and we have the pleasure of welcoming many Indian’s to our country. With the introduction of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to AI’s fleet, the future of India is very bright!

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