The gateway to India is its capital city, New Delhi, home of Indira Gandhi International Airport. This aviation hub is the busiest in India and one of the busiest in all of Asia, and is also among the top-15 busiest in the world. Many of the passengers who pass through the gates are foreign tourists flocking to the country to marvel over the Taj Mahal, the famous crescent-shaped Red Fort, the holy City of Varanasi, and more.
Delhi's airport underwent a major upgrade after being leased to a private operator in 2006. The renovations included the addition of a 14,530-foot runway and a massive new integrated international terminal (Terminal 3), which can handle 34 million passengers annually and doubled the airport's original capacity. The next phases of the expansion program is underway to further increase the airport's capacity from 70 million to 100 million passengers per year (the size of Beijing Capital International Airport, the second-largest in the world) by 2022.
A hospitality district called Aerocity has also been built adjacent to the airport.
Indira Gandhi International Airport won numerous awards for its expansion and has received additional praise for its environmental focus. This includes a Wings India Award, as well as a silver medal for sustainable waste management initiatives, in the Airports Council International's Asia-Pacific Green Airports Recognition 2018.
Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information
Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL), named after a former prime minister, is about a 45-minute drive from the center of New Delhi. However, the roads become especially congested during peak hours, so allow plenty of time.
Know Before You Go
Delhi airport has three terminals. Do note that some domestic flights have been moved to Terminal 3 to facilitate the current airport expansion works.
- Terminal 1 (domestic) -- divided into two buildings (1C for arrivals and 1D for departures) within walking distance of each other. Most of the flights of budget carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet can be found here.
- Terminal 2 (domestic) -- GoAir, and IndiGo flights 6E 2000 to 6E 2999.
- Terminal 3 (domestic and international) -- Air India, Alliance Air, Vistara, Air Asia, and all international airlines. Plus, SpiceJet flights SG 8000 to SG 8999 and IndiGo flights 6E 5000 to 6E 5999.
It's possible to walk between Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 in under 5 minutes. Transferring between Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 requires commuting on National Highway 8, so it's necessary to take either the free shuttle bus or a cab. Allow about 45 minutes to an hour for the transfer.
Under the expansion works, Terminal 2 is being revamped to increase its passenger handling capabilities, and Terminals 1C and 1D are being merged. The international transfer area in Terminal 3 is also being upgraded, along with the baggage handling system. Other improvements include the construction of a flyover at Aerocity Metro Station junction to reduce the travel time from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3, and the addition of a fourth runway.
Indira Gandhi International Airport Parking
There's a multi-level carpark across from Terminal 3, plus ground level car parking at terminals 1 and 2. Expect to pay 100 rupees (about $1.40 US) for up to 30 minutes, 150 rupees for an hour, 230 rupees for two hours, 100 rupees for each subsequent hour, and 500 rupees for the whole day. The rate is the same for parking at both domestic terminals. The Terminal 3 parking lot has payment booths in the lift lobby area for a seamless exit, whereas you'll need to pay at the exit at terminals 1 and 2.
In addition, a Park N Fly facility is available for longer-term stays. Booking online can yield discounted rates.
National Highway 8 runs straight past the airport, and Sardar Patel Marg connects it to the city.
Public Transportation and Taxis
- The air-conditioned Airport Metro Express Line (Orange Line) provides a convenient and inexpensive way of reaching the city center. It goes straight from the airport to New Delhi Metro Station (opposite New Delhi Railway Station on the Ajmeri Gate side). There are two station in the vicinity of the airport: Terminal 3 and Aerocity. Terminal 2 has access to the station at Terminal 3 as well.
- The Delhi Metro train is now also connected to domestic Terminal 1 with a station on the Magenta Line. This line is NOT part of the Delhi Metro Airport Express though, and it doesn't have the same facilities. In addition, baggage limits apply. People who are staying in South Delhi may find this train line useful. Key stations are Vasant Vihar, RK Puram, Hauz Khas, Panchsheel Park and Greater Kailash.
- The state-owned Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC)—the public bus system—runs a special air-conditioned IGI Airport Bus service between Terminal 3 and central parts of Delhi (Connaught Place, New Delhi Railway Station, and Kashmere Gate Interstate Bus Terminal) every 30 minutes. Fares for this bus depend on the distance traveled, but the minimum is 27 rupees and the maximum is 106. Keep in mind that Terminal 3 buses arrive and depart from a staging area that's opposite Centaur Hotel.
- Taxis provide a more comfortable option but they come at a higher price. You can expect to pay around 400-500 rupees to the city center. App-based cabs such as Uber and Ola are popular, and usually cost less than prepaid taxis.
- Alternatively, most hotels will arrange a car for you. This is the most expensive option and will cost around around 1,000 rupees upwards, depending on the hotel.
Where to Eat and Drink
- Indira Gandhi International Airport has plenty of variety in the culinary sector, ranging from authentic Indian eateries to Western favorites. There's a McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Subway if you're hunting for something familiar. If you're more adventurous, try the Chaat (traditional street food) at Punjab Grill, the kebabs and chutney at Ile Bar, or the curry at Café Delhi Heights, all in Terminal 1 Departures. Buddy Bar is the perfect place to grab a drink at Terminal 1 Arrivals.
- The food court at Terminal 3 International Departures features Bercos (Chinese and Thai), Dilli Street (New Delhi-style street food), Curry Kitchen, and Punjabi Kulfi. Terminal 3 Domestic Departures has Grid Bar (a watering hole and smoking lounge) and Vaango (authentic South Indian to-go).
Where to Shop
- Fashion occupies perhaps a bigger space than food does at the airport. You'll find the likes of Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger, and Swarovski in Terminal 3 Domestic Departures and Hugo Boss, Coach, Armani, Longchamp, Michael Kors, and more in International Departures.
- Terminals 1 and 2, on the other hand, have only standard airport offerings, not much in the way of high-end boutiques.
How to Spend Your Layover
- The Holiday Inn Express New Delhi Airport Transit Hotel is located within Terminal 3. You can also choose from a wide range of hotels in the Aerocity hospitality district near the airport. This district also has some outstanding bars and restaurants.
- For a quick nap away from the public waiting areas, opt for a snooze in one of the in-transit sleeping pods in Terminal 3. These nifty little capsules can be reserved hourly.
- Elevate your layover with a trip to Delhi Airport's very own flight simulator, The Cockpit. Located in Terminal 3 International Departures, this virtual reality video game features more than 24,000 airfields to choose from, so you're guaranteed to never get bored.
- ITC Green Lounge in Terminal 3 International Departures uses eco-friendly materials, energy-efficient equipment, and follows sustainably responsible practices.
- Passengers can pay to use the Plaza Premium Lounges in Terminal 1 and 3.
- There's an American Express Platinum Lounge in Terminal 1 Departures.
- Air India has its own Maharaja Lounge for business class passengers.
WiFi and Charging Stations
Free WiFi is available via the Tata Docomo Wi-Fi network. However, you must have an Indian cell phone number to use it, as it can only be accessed via a serial number and PIN that's sent through SMS text messaging. Mobile charging stations can be found throughout the airport. Some of them, like the ones at the food court in Terminal 3, allow you to lock your phone up with a safe code and come back for it once it's been charged.
Indira Gandhi International Airport Tips and Tidbits
- During winter, the airport is often affected by fog, which is worst in the mornings and evenings. Anyone traveling during this time should be prepared for flight delays and cancellations.
- You can store your luggage at the airport. There's a storage facility in the multi-level carpark across from Terminal 3.
- The airport has two spas for passengers in need of pampering. Heaven on Earth Spa is located at Terminal 1 Departures, and O2 Spa has outlets at Terminal 2 International and Domestic Departures.