Getting our drone from Indian immigration
In our travels we have had a number of challenging situations; mostly related to food, illness, poor choice of accommodation which resulted in needing to find an alternative. Travelling with kids seems to bring about regular travel challenges that we have to manage. But, I can safely say that getting our drone back from Indian immigration has to be recorded as our most stressful airport experience to date.
Let me add, at this point, thankfully, we did in actual fact get it back, but it was certainly not without stress, angst, choice words under our breath, a whole lot of patience, internal tears and maintaining a positive and calm demeanour to the kids and to the authorities.
Indian Drone Regulations
Indian drone regulations state that you can not take your drone to India. It is as simple as that…at the immigration, but not so clear when researching.
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While I can acknowledge that it was in fact our fault in the first place, I really didn’t want to have to leave our drone in India at immigration, or miss our flight getting it back, or not getting it back.
Our experience with Indian immigration
We arrived very early to Delhi International Airport at the conclusion of our ‘Taste of India‘ tour with Indian Holiday. Our driver was brilliant and ensured we were there early enough to have time to go to the immigration office within at least three hours before our flight (as was requested by immigration at the arrival hall) in the hope that we could get our drone back.
We found our check in counter with Air India and discovered it was too early to in fact check in our bags. Geoff and the boys sat down with all of our luggage and I took my drone receipt from Indian immigration to the customer service counter and asked for assistance in locating immigration. I was sent to M counter which belonged to British Airways. I did my best to remain calm because I could feel myself starting to get a bit more anxious about whether I would in fact get the drone back, or not. Counter M sent me back to the customer service desk where I spoke to a different person and he sent me to the back corner of the check-in counters, before immigration, to a desk which did in fact look like the people I needed to speak to. I walked there quickly anticipating this being a slow and difficult process. They told me to go to the check in counter for our flight and ask them. I had a very icky feeling in my stomach!
Off to collect the family and our luggage, we went to Air India and explained the situation. They fast tracked us to the front of the check-in queue and I explained the situation, again. I could feel myself starting to get upset at this point but knew I had to stay calm because I didn’t want to let onto the boys that I was upset. I also knew that (no surprise) crying wasn’t going to get my drone back!!
The attendant at the Air India desk was helpful. He understood what I needed and called over another person to assist. They held our bags following check-in as they said if we got the drone back, it would need to go into our checked luggage until we were out of India.
Geoff and the boys stayed with our bags while I followed the second Air India attendant through the airport, past immigration, down a small laneway with officials waving and calling out, clearly unhappy with me just walking past without an explanation. Whatever they were told, they seemed to be ok with as they then waved me through with a huff. We made our way into a small office where there was one immigration officer working. He sat at a desk that had a massive book which seemed to be filled with handwritten records and a very messy pile of coloured paper slips. The icky feeling was getting worse.
The attendant and officer exchanged words and then told me to come back at 11am when there was a second officer working so that one of them could escort me to immigration at the arrivals hall. Reluctantly, I returned to Geoff and the boys and we waited anxiously until 11am. Our international flight was at 1pm, our bags were not yet checked through and we didn’t have our drone. At this point, I contemplated just letting it go, but didn’t.
At 11am we returned and our friendly (but next to no-English speaking) Air India attendant waved us forward. This time we all went. Past the gruff officers at immigration and into the office. There was still only one officer. We waited patiently and at 11:15am, a second one slowly strolled through the door.
Next thing, I was being escorted by one immigration officer (who fortunately walked fast) and my Air India friend, through immigration, past security where we had to get clearance, down a lift, through a tunnel and came out at the arrivals hall. I was feeling a little bit better at this point. Until we got into the immigration office at arrivals and remembered the hectic mess that office and stored items was in. Finding our drone in that was going to be like finding a needle in the haystack!
Minutes later, from nowhere, someone came out with our drone. I could have cried with relief, but we weren’t out of trouble yet! I had to pay for the inconvenience of them holding onto the drone. They told me I would need cash, so I took cash. When I got there, they said I needed card payment, which I didn’t have with me. We never keep our money all in the same place when we travel.
Again, another enormous book got pulled out and I had to sign off to say that I was paying cash, along with all the other people who didn’t pay by card. There seemed to be some sort of formula as to how much it cost but I don’t really understand what it was and I certainly wasn’t asking for an explanation, nor did I have time to. It was about 1200 rupee which is hardly anything, really – approximately $25AUD. I was originally told it would be about 5000 rupee and that I should take everything I had…I honestly just thought they’d tell me to give them everything I had; fortunately they didn’t! I paid the money, got the drone and we were out of there and back to the immigration office to sign another book to say it had been released and we were away. By this stage it was 11:50am and we still had to get the drone back to our luggage, through immigration and to the gate for our flight that was boarding at 12:20pm.
You can check out the drone package we bought, here! We love it but we would re-think taking a drone to India!
How we almost missed our flight at Delhi International Airport
The Air India attendant had been with me the whole way and the immigration officer had been very helpful as well (I will be eternally grateful to both of them). We trusted them to put through our bags at check in and kept moving. They fast tracked us through immigration and said we could take the drone in our hand luggage, that it would be ok, as we were running late for our flight. We got through immigration and were about to go through security and we heard our Air India friend was yelling out, “Australia! Australia!” behind us. Turned out, we weren’t able to take the drone on hand luggage after all!
It was Geoff’s turn to go for a run! He was off with our friend who grabbed the drone from Geoff and assured him he would put it in our bag, so fast that Geoff couldn’t explain to him that the bag was locked. Because he was already through immigration, he couldn’t chase after him.
No surprise, but he returned quickly saying our bag was locked and took Geoff back through to the check in counter. The drone was put in the bag, relocked and pushed through check-in right on midday when the check-in closed. Our bags (with the drone) had made it, we hoped!
Geoff got back through immigration and into security. The boys and I had already progressed in the line and kept moving. The boys and I got separated at security. We had put all of our hand luggage through the security screening and all of a sudden they said I couldn’t go through because I was female and it was a male scanner. Geoff wasn’t with us so I had to leave the boys to keep an eye on and collect all of our possessions – passports included! Stressed much!
I found a female security gate to go through. It was very frustrating as they were very inconsistent. Some women were going through male security and others not. I’m not sure why that was but I didn’t have time to worry about it. The clock was ticking!
I made it back to the boys and our possessions as Geoff got to the front of the line, his bag had come through but then had to be checked further. Turns out he hadn’t taken all electrical items out of the bag and it messed with the ability to scan. When they said “all electrical” items, they meant all chargers and adapters as well. We pulled everything out, threw it in a box for them to check and they slowly put his bag through the security scanner again.
I love India and we’d had a brilliant experience there and I’d go again in a heartbeat, so what I’m about to say, I say with full respect. But, often in our experience, we felt as though they were in no hurry whatsoever. In this moment, we needed them to care about us, be in the hurry that we were in. They weren’t and the more impatient and stressed we were (it was 12:20pm at this point – boarding time), the longer it took. Geoff’s bag sat on the desk for what felt like an eternity before they brought it back to us. When they finally did, we grabbed everything and ran!
If you’ve ever been to Delhi Airport, you’ll know how big it is so we really had no idea how far away our gate was. We literally ran the entire way through the airport to our gate. We were all holding things in our hands that we didn’t have time to put into Geoff’s bag at security, we were sweating, puffing, exhausted and running!!!
If there was ever a time for our flight to be delayed, this would be it! Next thing, we saw our gate and were able to slow down a little. We arrived at 12:35pm and fortunately for us, they were actually delayed in opening up for boarding.
We breathed a sigh of relief, stripped our jumpers off, wiped the sweat off our faces and drank some water! With just a few minutes to spare we attempted to get ourselves some food for lunch for the flight as with the time difference it was actually 3:30pm when we were due to take off.
There was one person working at the café nearby and a long queue waiting for food. Lunch wasn’t going to happen for us but to be honest, none of us really cared, we were all just relieved to be getting on our flight, with the drone.
Our only concern then was whether our luggage got on the flight to Singapore!