Hyderabad Rajiv Gandhi International: a pearl of an airport ….
Hyderabad’s new Rajiv Gandhi International may not be one of India’s largest airports, but if industry awards are anything to go by, it is certainly one of the best run. The privately operated airport was named as India’s second best airport after Bangalore International in this year’s influential Skytrax World Airport Awards.In the equally prestigious Airport Council International Airport Service Quality Awards Rajiv Ghandi International airport (RGIA) went one better, being ranked as the top airport worldwide in the 5-15m passengers per annum category.For an airport still in its infancy (RGIA only opened in 2008), that is a first-rate effort. Passenger numbers at RGIA are admittedly still on the low side (7.6 million in 2010), but they are growing fast as Hyderabad’s economic boom continues unabated. In fact, the airport’s owners have published a master plan, which envisages the airport growing capacity to 40 million, and that’s not an unrealistic target, especially as Hyderabad’s geographic position makes it a natural aviation hub (all the country’s major airports are within two hours’ flying time).
Hyderabad is well away from India’s well-trodden backpacker circuit and has relatively few tourist draws. Perhaps it is no surprise then domestic travellers dominate RGIA’s passenger mix, accounting for around 85% of the total traffic. This preponderance of Indian travellers is reflected in the selection of shops in the airport’s one integrated passenger terminal. Well-known Indian domestic travellers abound, and the focus on luxury, high-ticket items is a reflection of Hyderabad’s thriving IT sector. The city is not jokingly called ‘Cyderabad’ for nothing!
‘Let’s get to the shopping,’ I hear you cry. Well, okay let’s start with the fashion. Business travellers, who need to look the part for that crucial meeting, should head to Raymonds, a well-established Indian menswear retailer with stores all over the Indian subcontinent. If you want to browse their range ahead of your trip, click on http://www.raymond.in/trs/index.html.For a wider range of both men’s fashion, which includes sportswear, fashion wear, as well as the usual business shirts, cufflinks and ties, another Indian retailer with stores countrywide, Stanza Pokarna, might be well worth a browse. To get a better flavour of the brand and their most recent collections, see http://www.stanzaworld.com/index.html.Penning a handwritten letter has become something of a lost art in the age of the email, text message and smartphone. Nonetheless, a decent pen can still mark you out over the gnarled-biro chewing masses, especially in the more formal business world. So if you need an upgrade in the writing instrument department, why not stop off at the William Penn store, which as the name suggests, sells pens from over 20 different top-notch brands such as Montblanc, Cartier, S.T. Dupont and Waterman (see www.wiliampenn.net)?
Hyderabad has long been famous for its pearl jewellery, an association dating back to the days w
hen the city was ruled by the bling-loving Nizam dynasty. At RGIA Krishna Pearls, a local firm with outlets at top hotels all over the city, honours that tradition with an attractive, classic-style selection of pearl bangles, chokers, necklaces and earrings (www.krishnapearls.com). Be warned that prices in the downtown bazaars are likely to be cheaper, but if you are in need of an impressive, last minute gift, and have cash to spare, this could be the shop you are looking for.
For jewellery, ceramics, porcelain and handicrafts with a more Indian flavour, head to Bhavika Collections (www.bhavikacollections.com). Similarly, The Bombay Store at RGIA does an excellent job of celebrating India’s rich culture with beautifully designed home décor items such as silver-plated accessories, woven fabrics, sculptures, candles and furnishings, as well as clothing and personal care lines. The retailer has a fascinating backstory dating to 1906, which you can discover along with more product line details at www.thebombaystore.com.
Duty-free is a always a top-card draw at Indian airports and at RGIA the stores are spacious the selection wide. Moreover, the retailer claims to benchmark its prices against other Indian and Middle Eastern airports, offering savings of up to 15%. The airport also offers a handy pre-order service in departures whereby returning passengers can pick up their purchases in arrivals, saving themselves an extra 5% on the ticket price.
Not bad, eh? We also like the fact that Hyderabad Duty Free Retail Ltd. has taken the trouble to let its customers know what it is selling online and for how much at http://www.hyderabad.aero/hial-duty-free.aspx. If only other airport retailers at much larger airports would follow suit.
Liquor, or more specifically Scotch whisky, is the top-selling product category in this neck of the woods. The duty-free selection is broad, selling everything from the iconic Johnnie Walker Black Label ($35/£21.60) to some rather tasty single-malts such as Highland Park 1973 at $1,000 (£617) and The Dalmore 40yo at a whopping £2,400 ($3,890). Johnnie Walker devotees looking for something a bit different should try the limited edition Johnnie Walker XR 21yo, which can’t be found outside of Indian duty-free.
Tobacco is another big sector, but the range of cigarettes here is rather limited with Marlboro and L&M the only brands listed online. Prices are cheap though by Western standards: a box of 200 Marlboro Red King Size is priced at just $18 (£11). Confectionery is also popular, but don’t expect refined pralines and Belgian truffles; bumper 400-gram bars of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk are more the order of the day.
Like other major Indian airports RGIA does boast an arrivals shop and given the high domestic price of booze downtown, it is well used by returning ex-pat workers. The duty-free allowance for international visitors is a modest 200 cigarettes (or 50 cigars), and two litres of spirits (or two litres of wine). Travellers may also bring in three bottles of perfume.
When it comes to grabbing a bite to eat at RGIA, international fast food chains are scarce, which if you are a fan of Indian food, is definitely a good thing. The Idly Factory kiosk, for instance, serves delicious of savoury pancakes called idly, which are served with spicy chutneys to make a great snack on the go. Chalo Chowpatty also serves Indian snacks, but famished European travellers wanting something more familiar can always make a beeline to good old Pizza Hut.
RGIA official airport shopping site:
Tax Free Travel Guide to ……
- Bangaluru International Airport
- Cochin Airport
- Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport
- Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport
Remember to check your duty free allowances: India Duty Free Allowances