If you want to take a taxi from an Indian airport you will have plenty of choices but they can be confusing. If it’s your very first time in India, I would recommend to splash out a bit and ask your hotel to send a car. You may even find that so long as you’ve a booking for a couple of nights, your hotel might throw in the pick up for free. That can seem like a generous thing to do, but if they send a driver, they do at least know they’re going to get you to the hotel and get your money.
If you really want to take a risk, you can walk out of the airport and hop into a car with the first person who comes along and trust to luck and the good favour of the gods that you’ll actually get to where you want to without being told your hotel has burned down and being taken to totally the wrong place.
Most local travellers use either the pre-booked or fleet car services. We’ve had experience of both and on our recent trip used both types in Mumbai. The desks for the car services are inside the airport building, usually quite close to the exits.
With a pre-paid service you pay the person at the counter the full fee up-front. They then call the driver round to the bays outside the arrivals hall, you show your paperwork, keeping one copy for yourself and giving the other to the driver, and then he takes you to your destination. Tip if you want to, but it’s not expected.
With the fleet cars you pay the driver for the journey, but also a small charge to the company arranging your ride. We used a company called Meru Cabs who have some fantastic systems in place to ensure your security, such as mobile phone notifications and tracking. We paid 50 cents to Meru and got a slip of paper with the car registration and the name of the driver. They told us the journey should cost around 250 rupees. Sadly what they didn’t tell us and probably didn’t know was that the driver didn’t know the hotel, couldn’t read the address and had a cold so shocking that I thought his brain might explode with the force of his snorting and honking. It actually cost us 400 rupees, much of the fee for the time he spent driving in totally the wrong direction. Had I been a local or more grumpy, I could have rung Meru and complained about him but the journey was still very inexpensive and well worth writing about.
If you are unsure what to go for, and find yourself confronted by a range of different counters, and surrounded by lots of other travellers, my advice would be to not pick the one with no queue at all because they probably don’t have any cars or are so expensive that the locals won’t use them. And don’t pick the one with the longest queue or you’ll be waiting all night. Like Goldilocks, there’s a lot to be said for picking the one in the middle – it might well be ‘just right’.