A funny day – Delhi customs

As I mentioned yesterday, today was dedicated to customs clearance at Delhi airport. What a hilarious morning.

When Kristjan, whom we did our Dubai customs exercise and are crossing Myanmar with next month, didn’t show up at our hotel as planned, we called him 15′ later: he hadn’t received my sms with our hotel address (no wonder as I’d sent it to his UAE mobile number silly me) so decided to make his own way to the airport. So we asked our hotel if they could call a taxi for us: can’t do that, has to be done by a travel agent. We were done with our “travel agent” so we had to find our own way to the airport. As we start walking away, someone from the hotel calls us : he has a taxi for us – at 4 times the rate we paid on the way over from the hotel. Not being ripped off by them again so off we go. Too far for a tuk-tuk and there were no taxis around so the metro it is. Oh what a delight it is for me!!! Pushy little hands and arms everywhere!!! And we have to make 2 metro changes!! But I don’t care too much as I know I am about to leave Delhi, so all’s good. Just need to keep a tight grip of our bags and mobiles in these jammed packed carriages.

We arrive at the airport and need to find our way to the cargo building. Someone points us to the old and slightly mangled purple workers’ bus across the road. We wave to them as they start driving off as we approached. I think they too incredulous that we might want to board but open the doors anyway, and wave us in when we tell them where we want to go. We seem to be driving in the right direction but the driver’s mate calls someone and asks where the cargo place is. Oh ho… That’s not sounding good. And now we seem to be heading out on the freeway… Rats… Then the bus pulls over to the side of the 4 lane road and says ‘there’. There?! This is where we had to walk through!

This way to Delhi airport cargo terminal

This way to Delhi airport cargo terminal

And they were quite right, that path did eventually lead us to a customs gate with a guard and his machine gun. (We haven’t mentioned this before, but there are machine guns everywhere, and often carried or resting in dubious ways.) We need an entry pass so up to a little office we go. The queue suddenly grows behind us as we have given our Australian passports which they are not familiar with. As we leave with our entry pass, a sikh who has just arrived goes straight to the counter, pushing past everybody. A small shouting match erupts, which brings the machine gun toting guard to the office, away from his post. And so we walk straight through the unmanned post into the secure customs area!!

After completing step 1 of a very long process, and with our duly stamped and paid for Delivery Order form, we need to find the next office. This where we meet up with Kristjan. The officer will be there in 5′ he’s been told for the past half hour. When we are told this, Anthony and I both burst out laughing. We just know it won’t be 5′. Eventually, an official arrives and calls us into another office. Carnets. We hand over our carnets. You want some tea? Oh yes, that would be lovely. We wait. Not sure what for, 2 more men are asked to make us tea which never arrived. Then our official calmly tells us we first need to go to the new customs house to sort out the bond. But we have carnets. Yes you need carnets but also bond. Maybe the bond man is the one who stamps the carnet we think. So we set off. It is now hot. And the new customs building is not next door. More like a kilometer away!!…

A lovely Nepalese man at the new building wants our passports for another entry form. He tells us that the bond officer will be back Tuesday so we should come back Tuesday. We don’t want to believe him as today is not a holiday at this facility which claims to operate 24/7. So we go to his office. There is a massive padlock on his door. The guy is definitely not there… So our lovely
Nepalese was right, we have to come back Tuesday, 11am. He won’t be there earlier because it is just after holidays we are told.

So that is it. End of customs clearance for the next 2.5 days!!!!!

A customer kindly gives us a lift to our airport hotel, the 3 of us check in and decide to have lunch together. “We should go and do something during these 2 days we now have to kill”, I suggest, to which Anthony says “why don’t we hire a car and drive to Agra”. Brilliant idea. Kristjan suggests getting a driver. Even better.

So, we leave tomorrow morning at 6am for a trip to Agra with driver and guide and get back Monday afternoon/evening, in time to continue with our customs clearance exercise Tuesday morning. So civilised!!

Next news from us after Agra and Delhi customs clearance attempt # 2!!!

– Anne

10 comments on “A funny day – Delhi customs

  1. I admire your patience with all this form filling…not a lot you can do but go with the flow! Enjoy Agra…look forward to your next blog XX


    • It’s funny but we are handling this long process fine because as you say, we just have to get on with it. So now it’s an opportunity to have a different experience by being driven to Agra!! Xx


  2. You will have a great time at Agra find a hotel close by. I also recommend going to see Fatehpur Sikri on the same trip. Would be a big day to do two in one hit, if you spread over two days would be a nice trip. One of the lessons I learnt in India is to have a local fixer, may be try to find one before tackling the customs chaos again, the frustration takes off years as you lose the will to live in the face of Indian paperwork!


    • Exactly what we are doing John – all day in Agra today and returning via Sikri tomorrow. Not much our fixer could do when the customs officer in charge of stamping our carnets had gone away for 4 days, and the office was padlocked closed. No problem as we used our time for some sight seeing.


  3. You have not lost your sense of humour and are able to make the very best out of a bad situation!! Enjoy your stay in Agra which I am sure will be much more civilised!


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