Arrival

Airport arrivals sign

If you don't live in South Asia, your trip to the Indian Himalaya will probably begin at Delhi airport. Watch out!

The first time I flew to Delhi, I arrived in the middle of the night. You always do. I found a quiet corner inside the terminal and dozed until it was almost dawn. Then I went outside and caught the ex-servicemen's bus (run by the Ex-Servicemen Air-link Transport Service - is it still operating?). It was almost empty and cost almost nothing. Somewhere in the suburbs we passed a troupe of monkeys. We arrived at New Delhi railway station in the mellow light of early morning. The day's heat was just beginning to press down on the city. I walked through the awakening bustle of rickshaws, scooters, ox-carts and people until I found a hotel. Beginners luck!

On my next visit I caught a taxi from the airport. The driver practised his threadbare English on me, and I practised by threadbare Hindi on him. I began to feel at home. The driver complained about the pot-holed road and corruption. "Everyone is cheater," he said.

I told him the name of the hotel I wanted to go to.

"Closed," he said. "Sealed by police. Murder inquiry."

I was sure he was wrong. But in the confusion of the night we ended up at a hotel he chose for me. It wasn't bad, but it was a little dearer than I would have liked. In the morning I walked round to my chosen hotel. No police. No murder inquiry.

Another year, another driver.

"Paharganj closed," he said. "Hindu-Muslim riots. Very dangerous."

I didn't believe a word of it. So we drove around in the dark, arguing, until I was confused and tired enough to settle for a hotel that would give my driver commission. I walked to Paharganj in the morning. No sign of any riots.

Taxi-drivers' lies are like politicians' lies. They don't have to fool you to make a fool of you.

If you happened to arrive in Delhi between 23 February 2011and the beginning of July 2012, you could have caught the Delhi Airport Express metro, provided you were willing to wait until morning (it ran from 5am to 11pm). But at the moment, the metro is closed due to "technical defects."

Reliance, the company that runs the service as part of a Public Private Partnership, has recently slashed its equity holdings in the venture. So it may be some time before the service is restored.

Maybe you should take a taxi.

Before you do that, check the Delhi Airport thread on the India Mike forum for the latest travellers' tips, and have a look at the Delhi airport website (though no one seems to have told their webmaster that the airport express is no longer running).

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