Sunday, 6 January 2013

Chit chats at Chhatrapati

Dear readers,
We are back home in Mumbai, and as always we arrived at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport - an airport that anticipates your every need - as promised on the webpage. Coming here for the first time last year was for me quite overwhelming - only to be compared to arrival in Havana in 1988; the loud sounds, crowds of people, the heat and the paperwork. So as we are - oh joy:-) - excpecting visitors from both Greece and Norway this spring: here is a small step-by-step-arriving-at-Chhatrapati-guide:
  • On the airplane you will get the arrival card. This is an advanced version of the arrival card I remember we had to fill out going on charter holiday to Greece in the early eightees. Be sure to fill it all in and do not forget the custom declaration part on the bottom of the page. 
  • When arrived at the airport: follow the crowd. The first stop will be the passport control. Here you will also give your arrival card. As per now they have some lines for International Visitors and some for Indian Nationals. There are people who tell you which line to go to, and if you are lucky you will not - like us yesterday- end up behind a family of 7 returning to India after some years abroad. Not sure why we were in the same line in the first place, but be prepared: things take time! You may chit chat with other travellers while waiting, that works fine.
  • Now, an important point! The passport officer has now kept the major part of your arrival card and you have a nice stamp in your passport. But be aware that the small custom declaration part of your arrival card is now inside your passport. Guard it - I will get back to this one.
  • Next stop is when you leave the passport control entering the luggage pick up hall. There you have to show your passport once again at a checkpoint.
  • Now you can go and pick up your luggage. This time it took almost an hour before our luggage came and the belt stopped a number of times. A good time to chit chat with fellow passengers if you feel up to it. 
  • Next stop is the custom. There are red gates if you have goods to declare. If you like us, have nothing to declare, head for the green gates. But be aware that you have to line up again, to put all your luggage on a belt to have them scanned. This time the female custom officer found a particular interest in one of our suitcases. "You have many bags in there?", she asked me, pointing at the suitcase. "What?" I said. "You have many bags in there" she said, "brand bags? How much did they cost" Ahh, dear readers, I admit that while in KL we visited Chinatown - which means Wanna-Be-Prada-hand-bags... "Ah, yes", I  laughed, trying out my woman-to-woman-charming-chit-chat: "You know us women, needs a hand-bag for every occation" Didnt work: "Your passport mam". After she had looked through my passport for a loong time she returned to me with a prompt "Ok". So off we went.
  • Well, hang on. One more stop to go. Leaving the custom hall there is one last checkpoint coming up. Remember the small custom declaration part of the arrival card? Still have it I hope?! This is where you give that one in!
  • Now you are ready to leave the building. If you bump into more lines now before you are outdoors, check what the line is for before you join in. It could be for pre-paid taxis, bank or the toilet.
  • Outside! Here you get the first feeling of Mumbai, the scent, the people, the heat, the noises. Home sweet home! Mumbai we are back! Stay tuned for more expat-in-India tales!
Our suitcases with the-wanna-be-Pradas inside:-)

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