Sometimes trying to work out how to get in or out of a country can be a drag, so I created a guide to Goa Dabolim Airport to help. Apologies in advance if I refer to Dabolim Airport as Diabolic Airport in this post; my spellcheck is way harsh – I didn’t think it was that bad!
Goa Dabolim airport opened in its current form in 2014, and is shared between civilian flights and the Navy. I can’t find an official website for it, but this one is helpful.
Visas and Other Documents
You need a visa before travelling to India. The new eTourist Visa system is online and relatively simple – you’ll need to enter some personal information and upload a picture, then you get an email back within a few days confirming your visa is approved. Make sure you print this email as you will need to show it before you even board your plane.
On board the plane, you will be given an arrival card and a customs card to fill in. Again, these are simple enough.
On arrival at Dabolim, be prepared to queue. We queued for at least an hour, and we were far from the last passengers to get off the plane. They will check your visa and arrival cards, and you will have your finger prints and a picture taken, before finally being allowed through. The fingerprint machines are temperamental, so you may be delayed further if they can’t get a decent scan off of you.
My step mum was saying that there’s been a lot of controversy locally about the new system and how long it takes to get people processed, and I can see why. When I travelled (February 2016), it was far from slick. People who had traditional visas were taken off to queue separately, and were processed a lot more quickly, which was a bit annoying.
Once you’ve been put into the system, return journeys to Goa should be easier as they only have to take one fingerprint or something. You’ll still have to wait in the huge queue though.
Baggage Reclaim and Customs
Next up, let the man by the escalator check your passport stamp and head down to get your bags – they will probably be off the conveyor belt by the time you reach them, so it’s just a case of finding them.
There will be porters looking to take your bags for you, and honestly, it’s easiest to let them. They will rush you through the customs section, showing you who to give your customs form to, before getting you outside. A tip of 100 rupees, or £1 seemed acceptable (they take sterling and swap it with departing passengers, I assume they would do the same with rubles).
A lot of hotels and guest houses will arrange transport for you, but if you need a taxi, get it from the pre-paid booth. This gives you the security of knowing you’re paying the going rate, which is pretty reasonable.
If you’re on a budget, then buses are extremely cheap, but busy and slow.
If you’re completely mad, then you could hire a car. There are some rules of the road in this post.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to Goa!
Getting into Goa Airport
Give yourself plenty of time to get through the airport, even if it means you have to wait for ages in the departure lounge – we arrived three hours before our 2am flight and had about an hour to kill before boarding. If you’re going to be departing at a busier time of day, then allowing three hours would be sensible.
The porters will jump on you and your bags as soon as you reach the airport, but they’re helpful in guiding you through the next steps of the process, so you might want to let them help. Again, they seemed alright with a tip of £1 or 100 rupees once your bags are on the conveyor belt.
You will find porters hanging around the hall trying to exchange sterling coins for rupees. This can be useful, but you should probably hang onto a bit of Indian currency for the toilets and possibly also for buying a drink as I don’t know if the cafe accepts other currencies. If you’re not travelling to the UK, then you can ignore this paragraph!
In order to enter the terminal, you will need a copy of your booking confirmation, or a boarding pass if you have been able to check in online (this wasn’t possible with Thomas Cook, but might be with other airlines). If you don’t have this, then the security staff will have to run through the flight manifest to tick off your names, which is time consuming.
Your hold bags will be scanned prior to being checked in – this only takes a second, but it isn’t hugely obvious what the process is, so having a porter can be helpful. Once scanned, head to the check in desk and get your boarding pass. I think they also scan your hand luggage at this point, too. I might be wrong.
Now you need to show your boarding pass and passport about 15 times before you can get into the departure lounge! You will also need to go through the usual process of having your hand luggage scanned, while you go through a metal detector. The detectors are separate for men and women, and when I visited, all checks were done manually. Watch out for the toilet ladies who will push in front of you in the queue.
There’s not a great deal to do in the departure lounge, aside from a coffee shop and a few small shops selling souvenirs and duty free. There was an adequate amount of seating for our flight, although there may not be enough if there were multiple large flights leaving.
All gates are in the departure lounge, so there’s no need to factor in extra time to get to your gate.
On the plus side, they’re western style, and relatively clean. The down side is that you have to pay, which really irritates me. There are people working in the loos who will expect to be given money in return for a piece of tissue to dry your hands (they’ve switched the hand dryers off). I gave one 10 rupees, which she wasn’t impressed by, and I don’t think I got a full quota of hand-drying tissues.
I hope this guide has provided some help for the process of navigating Goa Dabolim Airport. Enjoy your trip!