India's list of international airports is constantly expanding: Mumbai (BOM), Delhi (DEL), Hyderabad (HYD), Goa (GOI), Kolkata (Calcutta, CCU), Chennai (MAA), Trivandrum (TRV), Ahmedabad (AMD), Bengaluru (aka Bangalore, BLR), Amritsar (ATQ), and Kochi (aka Cochin, COK) all receive traffic from abroad, and a number of hitherto tiny airports -- particularly in Rajasthan -- have been expanded to accommodate international arrivals. Modernization at all these facilities, particularly in Delhi and Mumbai, is a priority, but there are many problems -- not least of which is that the rate of expansion simply cannot keep up with the exponential increase in traffic. Consequently, the first-time traveler to India may easily be unnerved by the sheer apparent chaos and disorganization of it all. Mumbai receives the greatest amount of international traffic and is the best point of arrival for onward travel to Goa and South India. Be warned, however, that in spite of a recent overhaul, Mumbai airport facilities are poor, and there are plans to shift terminals while new ones are under construction. Most flights arrive in India late at night, in order to leave their Western destinations during daylight hours, so booking an "immediate" onward domestic flight invariably requires some wait at the airport. Delhi's international airport -- the principal starting point for journeys throughout North India, including the Himalayan regions and Rajasthan as well as east India -- is substantially better. Only fly in to Kolkata (Calcutta) if you plan to explore east India exclusively. If you want to avoid spending too much time at the airport, note that Kingfisher, Jet Airways, British Airways, Virgin, and Air India all have flights with daytime arrival into India.
Most major airline carriers have flights to India; the country's top airlines are Kingfisher, Jet Airways, and state-owned Air India. All three have direct, nonstop flights from London, but you can fly in from just about anywhere in the world. The majority of flights originating in Europe or the U.S. will touch down either in Mumbai or in Delhi; it is possible to fly direct to many other cities around the country, although that may entail a routing through the Middle East. Both Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (www.csia.in) and Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (www.delhiairport.com) are busy and increasingly so, with dramatic changes to infrastructure in recent years. Delhi's airport has been gearing up for when the city hosts the Commonwealth Games in 2010, while Mumbai's status as the subcontinent's economic capital means that inbound business is always booming. Mumbai, in particular, is geared up for transit passengers, with some of the biggest and glitziest hotels in the city in the immediate vicinity of both the domestic and the international terminals. Delhi's airport terminals have expanded and modernized considerably recently, and most people touching down here spend at least a day or two exploring the historic sights before heading off to see the Taj Mahal in Agra. From Mumbai or Delhi, you can fly to just about any corner of the country.
It's a good idea to shop around for fares on the Internet, through online travel agencies like Travelocity.com, Expedia.com, Mobissimo.com, and Orbitz.com, or through airline websites. Or make use of a consolidator, which hunts for the cheapest available seats on your travel dates.
From North America -- Count on spending between 13 and 22 hours traveling and most flights require you to touch down at least once in Europe, the Gulf, or an Asian destination. However, your best (from a traveling and a comfort and an environmental point of view) is with either Air India or Continental Airlines, which both have 13 1/2- to 15-hour nonstop flights from New York's JFK or Newark airports to both Mumbai and Delhi. Jet Airways has flights from Newark to Mumbai via Brussels.
From the U.K. -- Many reasonably priced direct flights are available, or you can take a connecting flight in continental Europe or the Middle East; the latter option hardly seems worth considering since the excellent Indian-owned Kingfisher Airlines began it's daily services to Mumbai (with connections to Delhi), and Air India offers such affordable fares on this sector and on its nonstop flights between London and Delhi. Of course, you can also fly in with a host of other (pricier) airlines. Jet Airways has two daily nonstop flights between London and Mumbai and one a day to Delhi. Jet and Air India are both a lot more affordable than the other two airlines with nonstop flights: British Airways has two daily direct flights to both Delhi and Mumbai, daily flights to Bangalore, and occasional direct flights to Kolkata and Chennai; Virgin Atlantic operates nonstop flights to Mumbai and Delhi; and there are many more airlines that get you there with a change of planes in their respective hubs.
From Australia & New Zealand -- You can fly directly to India from Australia. From New Zealand you will more than likely be offered a flight package that incorporates more than one airline. The majority of touchdowns and changeovers are in Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
From South Africa -- South African Airways flies nonstop to Mumbai several times a week from Johannesburg. Or you can fly via Dubai to Delhi/Mumbai/Cochin on Emirates.
Note: Before you leave home, know what you can carry on and what you can't. For the latest updates on items you are prohibited to bring in carry-on luggage, go to www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.