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Friday, July 20, 2007

Catching a Taxi in Delhi & Travel in India

Have you ever had to hail a cab in New Delhi, India? Let's just say that it is quite an experience -- something that you want to avoid if at all possible. I had my first chance to do this today, and I would prefer to avoid it on future trips. Here's why.....

Today was my last day in Bangalore, India and I was very much looking forward to the trip to New Delhi today for two reasons. The first reason is that tomorrow, I will be going to see the Taj Mahal in Agra. Although the drive promises to be long (4-hours each way), I am sure it will be worth it. The second reason is that I am close to going home. Shortly after the trip to Agra, I will jump on a flight back to the United States -- and that means Steak and Beef.

Our offices were pretty close to the airport, so there was no real problem getting there. The wait to get our tickets and boarding passes from Jet Airways was nothing to complain about either. We cleared security in about 15 minutes and had 40 minutes to wait until boarding time.

In some comedy relief, the seat that Jonathan and I selected happened to be right in front of this water fountain where people could come and get cups and get *purified* water for a drink. The only problem? It was out of order. I cannot tell you how many times people came up to the machine and played around with it trying to get it to work. I thought about posting an out-of-order sign on it, but I had no tape with me.

After boarding the airplane, a new phenomena occurred. We were informed by the pilots that we were being delayed by 40 minutes due to "terminal" and "security" congestion. I read that code for a few people did not plan ahead, were late, and the rest of us were waiting for them. Had this been LAX, we would have been out of there.

So, now to the subject of the story -- we arrived into Delhi in all a little over an hour late after a short runway delay. After picking up the bag and heading out the door -- Jonathan and I could not locate our driver ANYWHERE. There was supposed to be a placard with our names on it so our driver could take us to our hotel. Nothing. We searched through the crowd a few times before starting to get nervous.

Remembering a couple of bad stories from friends, as well as the fact that there was a prepaid taxi window in the airport, I was able to negotiate our way back into the terminal past the machine-gun carrying guard. After several minutes in line we placed our order for a taxi ride to Gurgaon -- to the Hilton Trident there. Then the fun began.

Getting into a cab was like a bad game of Frogger. Dodging departing taxis and negotiating with each of the drivers. All the while some locals are trying to "find" a taxi for you in order to collect a "finders" fee. Enough of that, Jonathan and I ran towards a cab with no one in it or near it and jumped in. The taxi was like a VW bus, but smaller and every metal part must have been thinner.

When checking in with the pre-paid taxi person the driver was not happy -- maybe because of our hotel's location and the proximity to the airport. After a minute of arguing about something, the pre-paid administrator person took his taxi license, wrote it down, and gave him a look like -- you're taking them there. Great, just what we need, a disgruntled driver.

However, the trip was quick and we were at the hotel within 10 minutes. I gave the driver a couple hundred rupees to hopefully easy his pain. From the outside at night -- the Hilton Trident Gurgaon was beautiful -- especially for the price on $225 USD a night when compared to where we were staying in Bangalore. Trip Advisor had shown some reports of folks feeling like it was over priced -- not sure what they paid or who booked them. However, at $225 USD a night, it is a bargain.

Unfortuantely, it looks like there will not be much time to enjoy it -- we head out to Agra and the Taj Mahal in just over 90 minutes!