Thursday, May 10, 2012

Holiday horror stories - Wrong airport in India

Myself on the right and room-mate on the left
I went to India at a time in my life when I needed to make big changes. It was a time to reflect and reassess. I booked a three week package tour with Imaginative Traveller - read here for more - Imaginative Traveller - India - which covered the Golden Triangle. An area that includes famous cities such as Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur, etc . .


Indian sweets on sale for Diwali - highly addictive and sublime
I arrived in India, did the usual immigration routine on disembarking and went to collect my luggage. The conveyor belt went round and people collected their luggage. 


One quirk about Indians is they wrap their possessions in a blanket and tie it with rope. Plenty of those went past, but not my luggage. Eventually there was no-one left in the hall but me. The conveyor belt was going round and round with the last few bags, but my bag wasn’t on it.

Imaginative Traveler had arranged a collection for me at the airport. So much time had lapsed I was worried the shuttle bus would go without me. I made enquiries about my bag and the next thing my bag appeared. I remain suspicious about why my bag took so long to come out - especially after what happened on my last day in India.



Beautiful old buildings
When I finally got out the airport, of course, there was no shuttle bus. Fortunately most people in the cities in India speak English. I went back into the airport to the information desk. They arranged with Imaginative Traveller that a taxi would collect me. I missed the welcome and briefing but at least I was with the tour group.

Someone told me to be prepared for great beauty and harsh poverty in India. They were right. I always thought we had poverty in South Africa but India was truly shocking. However, the rich culture and history make India an absolutely fascinating and enchanting destination.
The Indians are friendly to fault and will follow you


One couple in the tour group had real rubbish luck. They were robbed and she broke her foot on a walkabout. Yip, $#!t happens even on holiday. I managed to avoid the dreaded Delhi Belly for all but the last three days of the tour. I got brave and ate away from the recommended places one night. Big mistake. It’s one way to lose weight.

When the time came to go home, my room-mate and I agreed to share a trip to the airport. She arranged the deal and was I happy to pay half. A really young boy collected us. He asked if I was flying Indian Air and it sounded about right so I said yes. I was flying to South Africa and my room-mate was flying to Australia. Turned out we were going to different airports. Did I question why we were taking international flights from different airports? No, I didn’t.

Colonial legacy - hunting trophies on the wall.
I should have taken out my ticket and had a look. My ticket was actually for Air India. Indian Air. Air India. They sound similar but as I was to find out, they are very different. I thought this guy knew what he was doing.

It soon became apparent this guy wasn’t authorised to drive us. I have no idea how my room-mate found him. At the very first check point there was a hellava argument between our driver and the authorities. I suspect our driver bribed the officer. At every check point after that we went through the same palaver.



Exquisite historic buildings were our accommodation 
After he dropped my room-mate this boy was anxious to get rid of me. He disposed of me at the “airport” and was gone for dust. 


I quickly discovered this “airport” was closed. There was no-one there except for a guard. Much later I realised that it must be an air force base. What was this kid thinking dropping me there? I don’t think he thought anything and I doubt he was old enough to drive. Who knows if it was even his vehicle? He saw a gap to make money off me. And the officers at the check points were making money off him.



Tourist travel option
Meanwhile I was alone in the middle of nowhere with a flight to catch. I approached the guard to help me. He saw a lost foreign woman alone and a chance to make money. He would only help me if I paid him. Then I saw a tuk-tuk coming along the road and raced toward it with my bags. I asked the driver to take me to the airport. This guy wanted some outrageous sum of money. I opened my purse and showed him what money I had. All of a sudden that amount was fine.

A welcome flower necklace at one of the castles
While we putted along in this tuk-tuk I was having a major panic. I feared we would be late and I feared this tuk-tuk would never even get there. I had no idea where I was or where I was going.

I got to the airport with the minimum time in hand. At check-in they demanded airport taxes. This had not been mentioned by Imaginative Traveller or the travel agent. Both had given me detailed information about India and the trip. I don’t believe that airport tax was actually due. But these guys were adamant they wanted money and if I wanted to go home I had to pay up. It’s not like I had a lot of time to argue. They knew I had no more money and pointed me to forex to change money so I could pay them off. So much for the country that invented karma?

Once on the plane I was relieved to be going home. One other quirk about Indians soon emerged. Apparently it's not necessary to use the toilet bowl to relieve oneself. The entire room is good enough. Half way through the flight, the toilets were un-usable. No food or drink for me.

Sacred cows roaming the streets
India was a special place where I did a lot of thinking and decision making. Many positive changes in my life came from my time there. But my memories are tainted by the last people I had dealings with, who so blatantly ripped me off. Those dashing, chivalrous, Indian heroes that we read about? Some villainous Indians too I'm afraid. 


My advice is only travel India with a well known tour operator. I was fine the entire time I was with the group. Its was my trips at the start and finish where I encountered problems.


For more Holiday Horror Stories you can read - (Not) Welcome to the UKCanal boating on the Rochdale Nine and Taxi in Zanzibar.

On the Travel Archive page you can find more holidays and stories. Click here to find it - Travel Archive Page.