India has four primary international air terminals at Mumbai (Bombay), Delhi, Kolkata (Calcutta) and Chennai (Madras). Most fly into and out of Delhi or Mumbai, however, as these are the cheapest places to buy air tickets in the country. The country’s national carrier is Air India which operate a large share of flights to and from India as well as some domestic flights between Mumbai and Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta, Delhi an Calcutta and Mumbai and Madras. The main domestic carrier, however, is Indian Airlines which operates an extensive network throughout India as well as connections to almost twenty neighbouring countries.
Many visitors to the country also make their arrival overland. The most popular border crossings are between Lahore in India and Amristar in Pakistan, India and Nepal taking place between Biranj and Raxaul, Sunauli and Gorakhpur and Kakarbhitta and Siliguri. Between India and Sri Lanka they take place between Tiruchirappalli and Colombo. And a more recent addition to this list is the crossing between Kolkata in India and Dhaka in Bangladesh which opened in 1999. The crossing between Lahore and Amristar can be done by either road or rail but all other crossings can only be made by road.
India has an excellent domestic air service with over seventy airports in sixty destinations. The majority of flights are operated by Indian Airlines and its subsidiary – Alliance Air. While air travel is more expensive than the other alternatives, there are special fares available for visitors to the country. These reduced fares can be purchased from outside or inside the country but must be paid for in either local currency, US Dollars or Sterling.
The two most popular forms of discounts available are Discover India and Youth Fare India. The former has two types: a 21-day pass and a 15-day pass. These passes offer unlimited travel on all domestic flights but you may visit each stop only once unless you are transferring. The Youth Fare is valid for three months and offers a 25% discount on normal fares. This offer is available for those aged between 12 and 30.
Those of you on a shoestring, however, will probably be more interested in travel by rail or by bus and the good news is that both will get you around the country – eventually. The Indian rail system is the largest on the continent and the second largest in the world carrying over fifteen million passengers daily. Covering most of the country through its 7,000 stations the bus service operates connections with the trains to take passengers to the more remote parts of India which are not served by India Railways. Rail passes are not extremely expensive when you consider that they allow you to travel in first class but if you wish to travel in an air conditioned first class carriage, the cost can reach twice as much.
Finally, travel by bus is the best way to get to every corner of the country. As already mentioned, it serves the areas not reached by train, particularly in the more mountainous regions of the country. The main disadvantage with this form of transport, however, is that local services in particular can become quite crowded and air conditioning is limited.