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Airports in India: A Survival Guide

Updated on February 13, 2008

Informative Travel Tips To Keep You Sane

Airports around the world can be challenging places for even the most seasoned traveler. Trying to deal with the ever changing baggage restrictions and security protocols, poor gate designs (that have you running a marathon to catch your connection) and disgruntled airline staff can mean endless hours of frustration and missed flights. This is especially true when visiting foreign countries with foreign rules.


In the remarkably diverse land of India each airport is, not surprisingly, different. In fact the only thing they have in common is the chaos that ensues while weary travelers try to figure out the proper security procedures. Following is a list of tips to help you get to your plane faster and with your sanity in tact.

1. Entering The Airport

For most airports in India you are not allowed within the terminal building until the check-in time for your flight has arrived. This means that if you're traveling with a package tour/driver ensure they do not deposit you at the airport early or you'll be left sitting in the hot sun or crammed into an external building with hundreds of other unlucky souls with no access to food or safe drinking water.

As delays are common double check your departure and check-in times before leaving the comfort of your hotel room.

2. Xray Machines

As you enter the terminal buildings look around for the xray machines. All baggage must be pre-screened before being checked. Usually these machines are located either directly in front of you or just off to the right or left of the doors. Once your bag has gone through a guard will put a security clearance sticker on it. Ensure you do not lose this!

In some airports the checked baggage will then be taken away by helpful staff. In other airports you must carry these bags to the check-in counter yourself. Be sure anyone helping you with your bags is an airport employee. They are all required to carry ID badges.

3. Luggage Tags for Carry-On

One of the more unique security procedures in India is the use of luggage tags for carry-on. You must ensure that you receive luggage tags from the check-in agent for each piece of carry-on baggage otherwise you will not be allowed through to the gate area. These tags are then stamped by the guards after they are screened. Be careful not to lose them in the gate area prior to boarding as another guard will check you have the appropriate stamps before letting you on the plane.

4. Physical Searches

As you arrive at the final security checkpoint for the gate you will notice that men and women are separated and moved to different screening areas. (You will be given directions to the appropriate area if it is unclear.) This is because you must be physically 'pat down' as part of India's security protocols. Female guards check female passengers and male guards check male passengers.

5. Boarding

Even if you have an assigned seat aboard a plane, most boarding calls in India are 'open calls'. That is, everyone boards at the same time. If you wish to be on the plane early to ensure stowage of your carry-on then make sure you are the closest to the gate doors when boarding is announced. Also, if you are walking out onto the tarmac to board your plane note that you can board via the front or rear steps.

6. Keep Your Ticket Stubs

Another interesting quirk with regards to security in India is that your ticket stubs are checked by guards when you exit the plane. Make sure to have your ticket stub ready. Do not leave it in the seat pocket!

7. Amenities and Emergency Supplies

Always ensure when heading to the airport that you have these items with you:

Toilet Paper: While toilet paper and western style toilets are installed on all planes the same cannot be expected at the airport. Have a spare roll with you at all times.

Water: Keep a bottle with you for as long as you can. Sometimes guards allow water through the gate checkpoints if you show them it is drinkable. Always ask at the security checkpoint as some gate lounges do not sell bottled water and delays are frequent.

Food: Stock up before you leave for the airport. 6-8 hour delays are not uncommon for Delhi airport and you never know what food will be available on the premises. Remember the old adage "If you can't cook it, boil it, or peel it" then you shouldn't be eating it in India.

8. Be Polite, Be Patient and Ask for Help

One of the great things about traveling in India is that people are wonderfully helpful. If you are unsure about where to go or what to do just ask the airport staff. They will do their best to get you to your destination.

And, above all, try to keep your sense of humor! Remember, your ten hour delay in Delhi will one day be an amusing anecdote to tell at parties.

(As previously stated every airport in India has slightly different security procedures. This list is by no means exhaustive.)


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      Mita 5 years ago

      Not so easy. A fellow traveller was shocked to find the security empty his tiffin and throw home made porattas in the dustbin saying food was not allowed! Which rules say this? And then the fellow starved for six hours as he couldn't pay 300 bucks for a sandwich!

    • RFox profile image

      RFox 9 years ago

      Quotations: Thanks for commenting. I would recommend India to anyone who wants an adventure. I loved it and can't wait to go back.

    • quotations profile image

      Robert P 9 years ago from Canada

      I have never visited India but I hope to one day. Thanks for the information and advice.

    • RFox profile image

      RFox 9 years ago

      Lissie: Thanks for stopping by! I enjoyed your Hub on India too. Gave it a thumbs up.

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      Excellent advice !