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Ncstate:Traveling to the US

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Airline Travel

If you've never flown abroad before here's a few things you should remember before you depart for the airport.

Travel Documents

The most important things you need to keep you with all times are :

  • Air Ticket
  • Passport with valid visa
  • Valid I-20
  • SEVIS payment receipt
  • Money (currency notes and quarters - for phone calls)
    • Keep three dollars in change ready because you have to rent a trolley at your port of entry
    • Keep a number of quarters to make phone calls and buy small stuff
    • Use your Indian credit card only in an emergency. Large fees are levied on foreign transactions
  • Travel Insurance papers
  • Passport sized photographs
  • List of numbers to call - both in India and in the US.

It's also a good idea to keep a copy of your I-20 in each of your check-in as well as hand-baggage pieces.

Getting to the Airport

A week before your journey call the airline to confirm your reservation.

Get to the airport well in time (approx. 3 hours before your flight departs). You may carry one piece of hand luggage (strolly) and one personal item (coat, laptop, book, purse). Make sure that your hand luggage does not have any sharp objects, perishable items etc. What it should have is any emergency medication you need and all your original documents. Do not pack these originals in the check-in baggage for obvious reasons. You may keep copies of your originals in each of the checked-in bags.

Once you enter the passenger only area of the airport, you typically cannot come out again to see your family. However, in some airports (e.g Mumbai) you can often come out after checking in your bags and spend some time with your family before going back through immigration, security check and the departure lounge. It is recommended that you go back an hour and a half before your flight departs.

At check-in your bags will be weighed and checked-in. You will be entered into the system and issued boarding passes for your sequence of flights (e.g Bombay-Paris, Paris-New York, New York- Raleigh). Be sure to mention that you want the luggage to be checked in right till Raleigh. Keep these carefully with your other travel documents.

Before the security check you have to go through Immigration. Here they will check your visa and papers and stamp your passport as having departed from the country.

After Immigration there is a Customs desk. Here you should declare any electronics items like digital cameras and gadgets that you you bought in India and may want to bring back with you when you return to India. Recording it at this desk gets you a receipt and proves that you bought it in India itself and hence no customs duty is levied on that item when you return.

Keep your travel documents with you at all times. They will often be asked for at your origin and destination airports. It is useful to buy a leather pouch to house your passport, tickets, boarding pass, travel insurance card, money etc. Your I-20 and the other documents should go into a thin plastic docket.

Often Airtel has a desk in the departure lounge selling long distance calling cards for Rs. 300 and Rs. 500. You may want to avail of this.

A note of caution : At many Indian airports is has been noted that unscrupulous officials often harass students for dollars and tips knowing that they are carrying a lot of money with them. Please be aware of this and do not fall into this trap.

In the plane

  • Don't drink alcohol even though it is often offered - it merely dehydrates you and makes it much more difficult to adjust to the time difference. Prefer to drink fresh juices or water instead of downing can after can of soft drinks.
  • Take your shoes off ( I'm assuming you have clean socks and non-smelly feet) and keep moving your feet around. Your feet swell in the long flights because of reduced cabin pressure.
  • Keep drinking water - the air is dry and you need to over compensate.
  • Try and avoid jet lag by following these tips

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This page was last modified on 12 February 2008, at 21:19.
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