Most of the large car hire firms are represented at airports and hotels. Some local firms also operate car hire services. Rates can vary so it is best to shop around. The services of the larger reputable firms can be very useful in case of emergency, but the smaller local firms also give good deals. Telephone numbers for local agencies can be found in the Golden Pages.
Most international flights arrive in Delhi or Mumbai. There are also international airports in Chennai, Kolkata (Calcutta), Thiruvananthapuram, Tiruchirappalli, and Goa. Some airlines allow travelers to fly into one airport and out from another.
Airfare to India
It is usually best to purchase your ticket through a travel agency, as the discounts will usually be greater than if you purchase a ticket directly from the airlines. Airlines may quote a price double the price offered by a travel agency. Sometimes, the least expensive tickets must be booked months in advance.
If you are taking a connecting flight, it is usually best to purchase the ticket for the connecting flight when purchasing the ticket to India. For example, if you are flying Houston-New York–India, the Houston–New York ticket should be purchased along with the New York–India ticket. Sometimes, such tickets are half price, or even free.
The airfare from New York to India costs between $950 and $1500, depending on the airline, the time of the year, and how long the ticket is valid. You can be quoted double these prices. The price of a flight to India has for the most part remained the same for the last ten years.
To find the least expensive airline ticket to India, pick up the travel section in the Sunday newspaper. They will usually have ads for cheap tickets to India. If your local newspaper does not have any prices advertised, get a paper from the nearest major city. In this way, you can get an idea of what you should be paying. If you have a friend from India, there is a good chance he or she will know a good Indian travel agency from whom you can purchase a ticket. Travel agencies run by Indians usually have the best prices for tickets to India. They are also the most likely to cheat.
A good place to buy a cheap ticket is from a “Bucket Shop” travel agency. These are special agents who are given cheap tickets by the airlines so they can fill their planes. You have to look in your local newspaper to find such agencies. The best way to find a good travel agency is to get a recommendation from someone who has been dealing with them.
You should be careful to buy your ticket from a reputable ticket seller. A group of friends of mine once purchased tickets from someone who had by far the best price. When it came time to board the plane, however, they were told that their seats were not reserved because the person who had sold them the tickets had never paid the airlines. For the same reason, be careful of ads that offer prices too good to be true. After you purchase a ticket, it is a good idea to call the airlines to see if you are actually confirmed on the flight. Do not pay for your ticket until you have it in your hand.
If you are flying into Delhi and plan to fly from Delhi to Kolkata (Calcutta) and back, it is usually cheaper and easier to arrange these tickets when you purchase your international ticket. Inquire from your travel agent when you purchase your ticket.
Depending on the time of the year, flight prices change. During the Christmas holidays and during the summer (June to August) airfares are usually more expensive as more people travel to India at these times. Often flying on a weekend can increase the price of a ticket by $100.
British Airways, Air India, and Thai Air all have direct flights from London. Aeroflot or one of the other former Soviet state airlines, usually have the cheapest tickets. I did not have a good experience with Aeroflot, and I know other people who have also had problems with them. I would not recommend them, but if cost is your most important consideration, they are not unbearable. One of the reasons their prices are so cheap is that their service is not good.
A major problem with taking an inexpensive airline may come if you want to change the date of your return flight. It may be almost impossible to get a flight out of India. It may be difficult to arrange a return flight even two months before you wish to depart. Because of the low price, such airlines are usually heavily booked. Also these airlines usually have a long stopover, sometimes 12 hours or more, at the Moscow airport or some other enjoyable place. You can also expect service on their flights to be bad. They might not even have drinking water on the plane.
The Middle East airlines are a little more expensive than former Soviet Bloc airlines, but they tend to be better. I have personally flown Gulf Air and found them to be good. Gulf Air costs about $1050 for a four-month ticket and $1280 for a one-year ticket (from New York). The problem with Gulf Air, as well as most of the other Middle-Eastern airlines, is that you must change planes in London if you are coming from America. There is also a stopover in the Gulf area, for a couple of hours before the plane arrives in Delhi.
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