Feeling refreshed we meet the rest of our travelers in the lobby at noon for our transfer to the airport for our flight to Dubai leaving at 4:10 PM.
The airport was only 12 mile away, but we gave ourselves an hour to get there because you can never predict what may happen with traffic in any large city, especially New Delhi. After we got our bags loaded and situated we were on our way at 12:15.
The first 6 miles went smoothly taking about 15 minutes, but then we came to a complete stop and didn’t move at all for 10 minutes. Our driver was a little surprised that we were going so slow since this was a holiday weekend and in the middle of the day. After inching along for another mile we discovered the reason for our delays. Protesters were attempting to block the main onramp leading to the airport freeway and the police were pushing them back to try and keep the road clear. Around 1 pm we were reached the protestors, all peaceful, and realized they had successfully closed 2 of the 3 lanes of the airport on ramp. The protesters were holding signs criticizing Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who was scheduled to visit Australia to encourage more Australian investment in India. Apparently not all Indians are in favor of this but we don’t know much more about the details of the situation.
Once we merged onto the single lane, we resumed the speed limit and arrived at the international departure terminal around 1:15 pm.
We were required to show our passports and flight itinerary’s before we were allowed into the terminal. I was glad I had printed out hard copies of our flight confirmation as the guard wanted to look at this before he would allow us to pass. When flying in the USA I rarely carry a hard copy of my flights since everything is now on your phone, but for International it is still a good idea to have a hard copy for circumstances like this. I probably could have pulled up a copy of the flight on my phone and gained entry, but it is always simpler when you can give them what they are looking for.
Large signs showed our flight information and directed us to lane H where we would find the appropriate airline check in counters. Often times at international airports, the airline counters may change and there may be a sign guiding you to the correct check in gates. We would be flying on an Emirates Airlines Boeing 777-300.
We had already checked in online and that proved to be a timesaver as there were 2 agents dedicated to processing people who had already checked in. This line was much shorter than the normal line. Our travelling companions in front of us were forced to weight their carry-on bags and since they were over the 7.5 KG limit they were required to check their bags. The agent that helped us was the next agent over and she didn’t ask us to weigh our bags, which were every bit as heavy as theirs, and we were allowed to carry them on. After we got on the plane, there were numerous bags well over the 7.5kg limit in carry on so enforcement of this is spotty, but you should be ready to check any carry-on and have a plan to remove medicine and other non-checkable items quickly.
In addition to our boarding passes we were given a small tag, marked with the Emirates Airlines logo with space for our name and address. We were given one for every carry on, including Judy’s purse and we learned that these tags would be stamped as we went thru security to certify that our bags have been screened. If we didn’t have these tags prior to entering security it wasn’t clear if we would be given stamped tags on the spot or if we would be forced to return to the check in counter to get tags.
Now that we had our boarding passes we headed to immigration which was fast and we were processed without being asked any questions. Right past immigration was a familiar USA style security screening setup. Similar rules regarding electronics, but they didn’t care about liquids. Have a bottle of water – no problem – leave it in your bags or carry it thru the metal detector.
It was now 2 PM and we were thru all the check-in hoops and in the terminal with the boarding gates. Total time from curb to gate area was 45 minutes. Our flight starting boarding at 3:25 so we had almost 90 minutes to shop and get some food. There were dozens of shops in the terminal along with a sizeable food court. If you want to buy Indian tourist souvenirs you won’t go wrong by waiting until you get to the airport. We did get a chuckle when we saw a large sign above one of the shops that announced that yes – they did accept Indian Rupees, which I assumed went without saying since we were still in India after all. All the shops will take USD and any other major currency.
We stopped by McDonalds for a familiar snack where were learned that they didn’t sell any beef or pork products but had converted every familiar menu item e.g. a “Big Mac” to a chicken or vegetarian equivalent. I had a chicken Big Mac and it was pretty good.
The boarding area was quite large and they tore off the large part of our boarding pass as we entered this waiting area. They started to board on time, by zones. To get into the jetway, we needed to show our boarding pass stub and passport. Right before we entered the plane every passenger was frisked with the men frisked in public while there was a separate area for the women to be frisked behind a screen.
The B777-300 interior was in great condition and the seatbacks all had a very modern LCD display to select movies and other entertainment features. Everything onboard was complimentary: hot meals. beer, wine, spirits and the first 10MB of internet access. An additional 500 MB of data could be purchased for $1 USD. Champagne was extra at $15 USD a glass. They had a feature on the entertainment screen called “Airshow” which allowed you to access either a camera facing forward to watch the takeoff and landing live or another camera facing the ground so you could see the terrain below.
Our 3 hour flight was uneventful, but I did notice that we flew around Iran, rather than taking the direct route. Inflight service was outstanding.
Once inside the Dubai airport, which was very, very modern, it was a 20 minute walk to get to immigration where we entered a line that turned out to be 15 minutes. The lines each queue up for a specific immigration officer unlike the usual arrangement where you enter a long snaking queue where you are directed to the next open immigration officer once you get to the front. There didn’t appear to be different lines for different passports, but we didn’t have an opportunity to fully analyze the situation. There were a few immigration officials with no lines for a while and we incorrectly concluded that they were for somebody else or there would be a line. It turned out we could have gotten into those empty lines had we known better. So future traveler note, head for the shortest or empty line when entering Dubai, if you get into wrong line, I am sure you will be directed to the correct line at that point.
Judy and I approached the immigration official together and he asked us if we were tourists – Yes, and then how long would we be in Dubai. He then quickly found some space for his stamps and we were on our way. We didn’t fill out any forms for immigration or customs anywhere. After we cleared immigration there was an X-ray machine to screen our carryon luggage. It wasn’t clear what they were looking for – drugs maybe?
There are money changers inside the baggage claim area and before customs, so I changed some money for cab fare, but as it turned out, the cabs gladly accepted USD making the conversion on the spot. There is an ATM located right outside customs.
Customs was the same as in most international airports where you walk thru a green lane if you have nothing to declare and a red lane if you have something to declare. There was a guard in the area, but he didn’t seem too interested in anybody in particular and we didn’t see him speak to anyone while we were in the area.
After customs we followed the signs to the taxi loading area, there wasn’t any line. We were directed to a large black Lexus, walking past the normal looking well marked taxis. We protested that we wanted a cab, not a Lexus, but the driver assured us that his car was metered and cost the same as the other cabs. It turned out that he was correct and we had a nice ride to our hotel – The Hyatt Regency Dubai, with the fare being 65 AED or about $18. The hotel estimated taxi fare would be 90 AED so I don’t think we paid any extra for the Lexus cab.
Dubai is not an inexpensive city, or at least Hyatt Regency Room Service. A soft drink from the mini bar would cost $7.35 USD. I was surprised to find a small grocery store in the mall next door where I found a ½ liter Diet Coke for 50 cents.
There wasn’t any inexpensive restaurants in the immediate area, so we ordered a very nice $27.50 USD hamburger from room service (fries included at no extra charge).
Our room was facing the Arabian Gulf with a nice view of the Cruise Terminal. We would be able to watch the Amsterdam as she arrived the next morning.
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