Air Travel Tips for Visitors to India

In recent years the domestic air transport infrastructure of India has undergone something of a revolution. Where Indians used to travel in their country almost exclusively by road and rail, the emergence of a more wealthy generation has allowed many Indians to travel by air.

This swift and widespread development has come as a great boon to tourists, as the new airports, terminals and vastly increased number of internal flights allows visitors to enjoy the beauty and culture of the country without the need to rely on the slow, uncomfortable and antiquated public transport system.

Of course, this swift growth has not come without its problems, and visitors to India may find that domestic air travel isn't quite as reliable as that of the rest of the world. It's important to know the ins and out of Indian air travel before flying to reduce the risk of hitting problems.

Here are a few tips...

    * Book a budget airline

The large, established Indian domestic airlines typically offer tickets at two price points. Indians are charged a reduced fare in rupees, while foreigners are charged a premium in US dollars. Most of the new budget airlines, however, offer a single low price in rupees, regardless of the nationality of the passenger.

While it may be tempting to book with a well-known airline, it often makes sense to opt for a budget airline. The standard of service is excellent across the board, but the price can often be much, much lower.

    * Be careful with certain destinations

While India is a relatively safe destination there are certain areas of the country that are subject to heightened security. On flights to Kashmir and Ladakh, carry on baggage is often forbidden, and batteries must be removed from electrical items and stowed in the hold. These restrictions are enforced seemingly randomly, so if you plan to fly to either destination you should make sure to be prepared.

    * Confirm your flight

While not completely necessary, it makes sense to reconfirm the status of your ticket a few days before travel if you booked from outside of India. Online booking for Indian air travel has really exploded in recent years, but the booking systems aren't foolproof. Make a quick call to your airline to set your mind at rest.

    * Be careful with smaller airlines

While budget airlines often offer the best prices, you should be careful when booking with very small airlines that offer only one or two routes. Some small airlines will cancel their flights if there aren't enough passengers to cover costs, and you may find yourself stuck at the airport with no option other than to book a last-minute flight on a larger carrier at an inflated price.

While this is a judgement call, I'd advise you to be wary of airlines with a limited number of routes.

With the explosive expansion of Indian air travel there has never been a better time to take a domestic flight in the country. Prices are low, flights are plentiful and each airline is desperate to gain your repeat custom. Many budget airlines are actually running at a significant loss at present, hoping only to outlast the other start-ups in order to swoop in and take their routes in the future. It's a little messy, perhaps, but as a visitor to the country you should take advantage of the low prices and sterling service while it lasts.