As we started to descend into New Delhi I looked out the window expecting to see lights as far as the eye could see. When I have landed in Chicago that’s been my experience and I know Delhi is a hell of a lot bigger. But as we came in I was surprised by how spotty the lighting was. We had already broken through the clouds so it wasn’t that. Were there neighborhoods that didn’t have power? Were there that many neighborhoods that didn’t have power?
A real gate connected the plane to the terminal and we were plunked down into a steamy room full of exhausted people. The design and the chairs looked new but were still in the style of the 1970s. There was no real thoroughfare for the 500 people coming off of the plane. We were just dumped into a gate and wiggled through seats and queues of passengers waiting to board until we got to a tiled walkway.
Eventually we found our way to immigration. At 1:30 am we found a room close to the size of a football field filled with people. We were ushered to the very last line where we waited behind a group of very tall French people.
A handsome and tall airline employee that looked like Sanjay Dutt in the 90’s (think tall and handsome) waved us over to another line. Which was great except everyone who was behind me was now in front of me. Then as my newer line grew and grew, he took half of those people and formed a completely new line. So people who showed up 30/45 minutes after me made it through the immigration process before I did.
Eventually I stepped up to the podium and the deadpan immigration officer looked at me. “Reason for your visit” he demanded. “Tourist” I replied. “Spies” he said and raised his eyes to look at me closely. I nodded and tried to look transparent and earnest. It’s a cool last name until you are standing at a desk asking for entry into a country. I once had a paranoid professor accuse me of being a ‘black ops’ person who was “hiding in plain sight”. After sizing me up he went ahead and inked up the stamp and slammed it down on my passport. I breathed a short sigh of relief. I had made it.
We walked out into a large space- like a bus station with booths and benches, but we were not yet formally in India. We compared the rates of the different currency exchange booths and went to the Bank of India to change our cash. At 67.3r our $130 came out to be close to 8,000 rupees.
We brought very little cash because we had been informed that ATMs were everywhere. That was accurate information. In most areas they were in small shop fronts – in a market area there were as many as 3 in one block.
India tip – ATM’s
Don’t go to the currency exchange. There are ATM’s LITERALLY everywhere. Definitely check your banks fees for using them (if you have a bank that does that sort of thing, then open an account somewhere just for your travel and put some money in there). It was SO helpful to not have large amounts of cash on us. If someone had robbed us, the most they ever would have walked away with was the equivalent of $50 in cash.