Cash-strapped at the New Delhi airport
When I got off the taxi at the Terminal 2 of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi a few weeks back, I already exchanged all the Indian rupees I had in stash to Thailand Baht and was left with nothing else but 50 rupee bill for souvenir.
That turned out to be the biggest mistake I committed. The Air Asia counter was in Section C and when I inquired about international departures, the counter staff said they will only open it at the G section when all domestic flights are closed.
At 6 p.m. the counters opened and the lines became long so quick. When I got to the counter, my troubles began. The airline allows up to two pieces of luggage with a total combined weight of 14 kgs.
I had one small backpack and a bigger backpack which weighed a total of 24 kgs. I wore a shirt, sweatshirt and two jackets and tied my scarves all over me but still I was overweight.
I could have thrown away my makeup kits, dresses, jewelry and shoes if I had any but my luggage contains the most basic clothing and travel essentials. No girly stuff but it’s all cameras, tripods, batteries, lenses, charges and more charges.
The airline staff gave me a slip of paper and told me to pay my excess luggage amounting to 2,952 rupees or about US$44 at another counter then come back for my boarding pass.
I handed the luggage payment counter my credit card but they said their credit card is not working. I gave them a $50 bill but said they only accept rupees and told me to go to the exchange counter. I ran to the currency exchange and was told they don’t accept US dollars. They pointed me to gate number 2, far away from where I was. Stressed and pressured, I reached the said currency counter and found they were already closed. I tried all the ATMs I could find in the check in counter areas and all my cards got the same message— transaction failed. It wasn’t my cards because I used them in ATMs in the city the previous days and they spitted out money.
Frantic now, I ran back to the luggage counter and asked them what other options I have. I was already pressed for time. One guy said they can try calling their main office if I will trust them with my credit card number and details. What other options do I have but to say yes. Minutes ticked by and counter staff said they are still trying to make it work.
I tried all the ATMs near the counter again and still got the same transaction failure.
They said when it rains it pours but I felt my luck was drowned in a flood. Just when I was about to cry from frustration, an Indian guy came to pay for his excess luggage and without meaning to, I told him all about my frustration in finding cash. He asked how much I needed and I said just change for $50. He fished out 3,000 rupees from his wallet and asked me if it was okay. It was 150 rupees short I know but it was the nicest thing that happened to me. I blabbed about how thankful I am and how he just saved my life when the guy at the counter said “Ma’am your credit card finally went through. He then handed me a receipt.
I was speechless. I was holding the 3,000 rupees in one hand and the receipt in the other. What was I to do with the rupees now? The Indian guy looked at me and shook his head and laughed at my predicament, then took back his rupees and gave me my $50 back. He said “No harm done” then disappeared into the crowd.
It took almost two hours to clear immigration and TSA as the lines were so long and slow moving but finally, I was at the departure gate. As a final blow, our flight was delayed for 45 minutes. I was just so thankful to finally get strapped in my aisle seat (yes, I chose an aisle seat this time).
A woman was at the window seat and I hoped the middle would be vacant for the five-hour flight. Just before the doors closed, in rushed the occupant of the middle seat, and you guessed right—the Indian guy who saved and then have to ‘unsave’ me with his cash. Small world.
Wait until after you’ve checked in before you dispose of all your local currency bills at the airport. You might not be so lucky as me.
Weigh your luggage to meet the airline requirements if you’re not willing to pay or throw away stuff.