The main entry points in India are Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai.
- With plane
The main entry points are Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. The airports in these cities are either new or under construction. Delhi inaugurated its new international Terminal 3 in time for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and Bangalore opened its new airport in 2008. Hyderabad airport is rated as one of the top 5 airports in the 10-15 million category. There are many non-stop, direct and connecting flights to these cities from Europe, North America, the Middle East, Africa and Australia.
Secondary points of entry to India include Goa, Kolkata or the Malabar Coast. There are many connections to the Malabar Coast region to cities like Kochi, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram from the Middle East. Most of the major airlines from the Middle East offer one-stop connections from their Gulf hubs to the coast. Goa is a popular European tourist destination and is therefore served by many European charter airlines such as Condor, Edelweiss, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways. Kolkata is connected with Emirates, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways.
India has domestic international airlines like Air India, Jet Airways, Indigo and SpiceJet There are daily flights to major hubs around the world through these airlines. Note that you need to carry a printed air ticket to take many domestic flights.
From the US, United Airlines offers daily non-stop flights from Newark to Delhi and Mumbai; Air India offers daily non-stop flights from New York JFK and Chicago O'Hare to Delhi and from Newark to Mumbai. American Airlines offers a daily non-stop flight from Chicago to Delhi. Several European airlines offer connecting flights from most major US cities through their European hubs, and several Asian airlines offer connecting flights from West Coast cities through their Asian hubs.
Arrivals from Europe and North America are possible with many European airlines such as Lufthansa, Finnair, British Airways, KLM, Air France and Virgin Atlantic. A good deal is often available for long-term visitors (3-12 months) with Swiss Airlines connecting flights from Switzerland to major European cities and some US cities.
To save on tickets, consider connecting via the Gulf States, with Air Arabia (low-cost airline based in Sharjah with some connections to Europe), Etihad (especially if you need a one-way ticket or are flying back to Europe from another Asian country) via Abu Dhabi, and Emirates via Dubai or Qatar Airways via Doha. Of course, these airlines are also the easiest way to get from the Gulf countries themselves, along with the Indian airlines, Air India, Air India Express, Indigo, Jet Airways and SpiceJet.
From East Asia and Australia, Singapore (served by Air India, its low-cost subsidiary Air India Express, Jet Airways as well as Singapore Airlines, its subsidiary SilkAir and the low-cost subsidiary Tiger Airways) has arguably the best connections with flights to all major cities and many smaller ones. As for cheap ways to or from Southeast Asia, Malaysian budget airline AirAsia is often the best choice (if booked in time, the price of a one-way ticket is usually under US$100, sometimes even under US$50, they have connections from China, Australia and most Southeast Asian countries). They fly from Kuala Lumpur to New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Kochi and Tiruchirapalli. If you are flying to/from Thailand, Air India Express flies from Chennai and Kolkata to Bangkok. Jet Airways, Air India and Thai Airways also fly to a number of Indian cities from there. Silk Air also flies from Singapore to Hyderabad. IndiGo, an Indian low-cost carrier, also offers attractive fares to Singapore and Bangkok and is a pretty good option to consider.
- With boat
India has several international ports on its peninsula. Kochi, Mumbai, Goa and Chennai are the main ones handling passenger traffic, while the others mainly handle cargo. However, due to the abundance of low-cost flights, there seems to be no regular ferry services from India to the Middle East any more. The southern island of Minicoy in the Lakshadweep Islands is now a permitted point of entry.
Some cruise lines that go to India are Indian Oceans Eden II and Grand Voyage Seychelles-Dubai.
- With train
There are two connections from Pakistan. From Lahore, the Samjhauta Express runs to Attari, near Amritsar, Punjab. The Thar Express, which resumed service in February 2006 after 40 years of inactivity, runs from Munabao in the Indian state of Rajasthan to Khokrapar in Pakistan's Sindh province; however, this connection is not accessible to foreign tourists. Neither train is the fastest, safest or most practical way to travel between India and Pakistan, as it takes a long time to clear customs and immigration (although the trains are sights in themselves and make for a fascinating journey). The Samjhauta Express was the victim of a terrorist attack in February 2007, when bombs were detonated, killing many people. Should you want to get from one country to the other as quickly as possible, cross over at Attari/Wagah.
From Nepal, trains run between Khajuri in the Dhanusa district of Nepal and Jaynagar in Bihar, operated by Nepal Railways. Neither place is of much interest to travelers, and there are no connecting flights to Nepal, so most travelers choose buses or planes instead.
Train services from Bangladesh were suspended for 42 years, but since April 2008, the Moitree Express has been running again between Dhaka and Kolkata. The service runs fortnightly: A Bangladeshi train leaves Dhaka every Saturday and returns on Sunday, while an Indian train leaves Kolkata on Saturdays and returns the next day.
You can see which trains are available between the stations on the following pages: http://www.indiarail.gov.in. However, for booking train tickets through the internet, you should use the Government of India's website http://www.irctc.co.in. For booking through this website, you need to register (which is free) and you need a credit/debit card. You can also use the services of many travel agents who charge a small service fee for booking rail tickets.
- With car
From Pakistan, the only land route from Lahore to Amritsar is via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. See Istanbul to New Delhi by land. You will need a Carnet de Passage if you are entering with your own vehicle. The process is not particularly lengthy – crossing with your own vehicle to/from Pakistan should take a maximum of 3 hours to cross both borders for you and your vehicle. There are also border crossings with Bangladesh and Nepal.
There is only one open border crossing between India and China through the Nathu La Pass in Sikkim, which borders Tibet in China. At the moment, however, only traders are allowed to cross the border and it is not yet open to tourists. Special permits are required to visit the pass from both sides.
- With bus
Bus travel is possible from the neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
From Nepal, buses cross the border daily, mostly with connections to New Delhi, Lucknow, Patna and Varanasi. However, it is cheaper and more reliable to take one bus to the border crossing and another on from there. The border crossings are (on the Indian/Nepalese side) Sunauli/Bhairawa from Varanasi, Raxaul/Birganj from Patna, Kolkata, Kakarbhitta from Darjeeling and Mahendrenagar-Banbassa from Delhi.
The Royal Bhutanese Government provides a service to/from Phuentsholing. These buses depart from the Esplanade Bus Station in Kolkata at 7pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and from the Bhutan Post Office in Phuentsholing at 3pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The journey takes about 18 hours and costs ₹300. The buses are comfortable, but as much of the highway to Kolkata resembles the surface of the moon, don't expect to get much sleep en route.
There is a regular connection between Siliguri and Phuentsholing.
From Pakistan, the only land route from Lahore to Amritsar is via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. Despite tensions between the two countries, there is a steady trickle of travellers passing through this route. Entry procedures are fairly straightforward, but note that neither Pakistan nor India issue visas at the border. Expect to spend much of the day travelling between Lahore and Amritsar on local buses. It is usually possible to take a direct bus from Amritsar to the border, walk to the other side and take a direct bus to Lahore, although you may need to change buses at some point along the way. Amritsar and Lahore are both quite close to the border (about 30-40 minutes drive), so taxis are a quicker and easier option.
The direct service from Delhi to Lahore has been reinstated, but it is much more expensive than the local buses/trains, not faster and would mean you cannot see Amritsar. You will also be stuck at the border for much longer while the bus is searched and all passengers go through immigration.
There is now a bus connection across the Line of Control between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir; however, it is not open to foreign tourists.
From Bangladesh, there are a number of points of entry into India by land. The most common route is the regular air-conditioned and comfortable bus services from Dhaka to Kolkata via the Haridaspur (India)/Benapole (Bangladesh) border post. Bus companies “Shyamoli”, “Shohag”, “Green Line” and others operate daily bus services under the label of the state-owned West Bengal Surface Transport Service Corporation (WBSTSC) and Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC). There are 2 buses from Kolkata every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, while from Dhaka they run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The journey usually takes about 12 hours and costs ₹400-450 or BDT600-800 one-way, about US$8-10.
Another daily bus service by “Shyamoli” and others under the BRTC label from Dhaka connects Siliguri, but the buses on this route do not cross the Changrabanda/Burimari or Burungamari border posts. Rather, passengers reaching the border have to clear customs, walk a few hundred metres to cross the border and board the waiting connecting buses to their final destination at the other end. A ticket for the Dhaka-Siliguri-Dhaka route costs 1,600 BDT, which is about 20-25 US dollars depending on the conversion rate. Tickets are bought either in Dhaka or in Siliguri.
There is also a regular bus service between Dhaka and Agartala, the capital of Tripura. There are two BRTC buses daily from Dhaka and the Tripura Road Transport Corporation, who operate their vehicles 6 days a week and charging a $10 round trip fare, connect the two cities. There is only one stop on the journey in Ashuganj, Bangladesh.
Other entry points from Bangladesh are Hili, Chilahati/Haldibari, Banglaband border posts for entry into West Bengal; Tamabil border post for a route to Shillong in Meghalaya and a few others with lesser known routes to northeast Indian regions.