Traveling to USA can be exciting or exhausting depending on the amount of homework you do before you actually board the plane. Here are some useful travel tips.


Travel Guide for Flying to USA



Watch this video to understand the complete process of flying to USA, including the US immigration process at the time of arrival in USA.

Sample immigration and customs forms
Pre-filled customs form
What to do at the port of entry

Download a printable travel guide to USA.

Tips prior to traveling

  • Choose the flight best suited to you.
  • Try to get the best deal on your tickets. Find out the rates offered by other airlines.
  • Booking tickets through a travel agent is always better. Agents may give you some discount.
  • When you book your ticket, mention your food preference whether you want vegetarian or non-vegetarian food.
  • Make sure the date and time of travel on your ticket is correct. Call up the local airlines office to confirm. Flight timings may confuse you (e.g. Boarding on 5/1/2000 at 00:45 means 4th night 12:45 PM and not 5th night, as many airlines start with 00:00 after midnight.)
  • You should also confirm about the luggage limit that you can carry (the weight and number of bags for both cabin and check in luggage).
  • Make sure that you have reached to the right terminal, for your airlines departure.
  • Try to reach the airport at least 3 hours before departure. This way you can get your seat preferences. Different airlines have different seating arrangements e.g.3-3-3, 3-4-3, 2-2-2 etc.
  • Each piece of luggage should have your name and address tag so your luggage can be identified at the destination airport, esp. if it gets lost.
  • Get currency of the destination country. You can exchange currency from the authorized banks e.g. State Bank Of India, etc. or from organizations like Thomas cook etc. Normally they have counters at the airport too. They also make an entry on your passport.


Manage your luggage

  • Hand or cabin luggage: This is what you can carry with you in the plane. Keep it small and handy, so that you can keep it in the overhead luggage space in the cabin. Trolley bags are always advisable. Many airlines allow one cabin bag, but ladies can carry their purse or handbag along with their cabin bag.

    Since the allowed luggage size and weight is restricted, it is recommended to keep only important and handy items in the hand baggage, like important documents, one pair of clothes, woollen sweater, medicines, etc.
  • Check in luggage: These are the big luggage items that you will have to hand over at the airlines check in counter. Most of the airlines allow 2 big pieces of baggage as the check-in luggage.

* This is only generalized information, it may differ from airline to airline, check with your airline.



While you are at the departure airport

You have to go through few formalities before boarding the plane.

Step 1: You need to scan your luggage in the X-ray machine close to your airlines check in counter. Here the person in charge will put a safety-checked sticker on the luggage. (No need to X-ray the hand luggage here.)
Step 2: Keep your passport, ticket and a pen handy.
Step 3: At the check-in counter, hand over your luggage for check in. Take the boarding pass, ask for your seat preference, ask for transit details (if you have any flight change in between), and take a receipt of your checked-in luggage.

(**Make sure that destination stamped on it is correct, otherwise you will lose it). You will get a India Departure Embarkation form here, fill it carefully in all capital letters clearly. If you have any confusion, ask the airline staff.

Now, you may proceed to the immigration counter.

Step 4: Immigration check. Here the immigration officer will ask for your passport, ticket, boarding pass and the Embarkation form. He might ask few questions about your journey, visa, purpose of travel etc. Answer clearly. He will take the Embarkation form, and will return every thing else after stamping your passport. Now proceed to the custom counter.
Step 5: If you have lots of jewellery or any other expensive items with you, you can declare it at the customs counter, and get it endorsed on your passport. So when you come back, you will not have to face customs hassles. Here the custom officer will stamp your boarding pass.

Now proceed to the security check.

Step 6: Here you have to X-ray your cabin luggage, purse, or anything that you are carrying in your hand. Then you have to pass through a metal detector, where a personal security check will be done. The officer in charge will put a "security checked" stamp on your boarding pass. Collect back all your stuff.

Now you are all set to board the plane.

Step 7: Check for the departure gate number written on your boarding pass, and go to that gate. Now wait till the boarding is announced.
Step 8: Once you are in the flight, look for the seat number mentioned on your boarding pass. If there's any problem, contact the cabin crew. They will also help you place the baggage in the overhead bins. Read the safety instruction booklet. In the plane you will be served food, snacks, drinks etc., from time to time. You will be given a blanket and a pillow.

** Important: In case of any problem or query during your flight, don't hesitate to ask the staff.



At the Intermediate/Transit Airport

If you have to change the flight at the intermediate airport then:

Step 1: As soon as you reach the intermediate/transit airport, first thing you must do is to look for the terminal and Gate number of your next flight.
Step 2: All airports normally have a very good map and direction instructions. But in case of any problems, ask the airport staff.
Step 3: Once you find the gate, then depending on the time you have, you can relax or shop at the airport. Plan to be at your gate 40 minutes prior to the flight time, as they require some time to check your tickets etc.
Step 4: You won't have to do any other formalities here, apart from passing through the metal detector, and X-ray of your hand baggage.

** In case you have to change the terminal, then first find out information about the connecting airport shuttle to the respective terminal. It is always advisable to find out such information beforehand, as in some countries, you may need a Transit Visa to leave one airport, to go to the other one.


Before you reach destination

In Flight Few hours before arrival, the flight attendants will give you the US customs form. Fill the form very carefully.
Sample : this is how USA Custom Form look like.

If you have questions, dont hesitate to ask any co-passenger and ask for the help to fill the forms correctly.



When you reach your Destination Airport in USA.

- Finger print and picture taken at immigration counter

** Remember: If you are questioned by the airport officers, answer them properly without any fear. But be careful, there should not be any discrepancy in the information stated in your documents and what you answer. It has happened in few cases, that due to the unsatisfactory answers about the stay, status, etc. people have been deported immediately. For instance, don't ever say, you will work here, if you hold H4, L2, B1 or visitor visa.

US Custom related questions:

Checkout the frequently asked question and answers about US customs.


Making a call from the Airport.

You can make a call anywhere in the world from most of the airport public booths using visa/master cards. You will find dial-in instructions be on the phone.
Most phone system has options to use your credit card.
A international calling card can also be purchased at most intermediate airport. You can enquire about it at the information counter at the airport.
Collect call - Search on the internet for more details about how to make a collect call to USA from any where in the world.



Useful Tips during the travel

Here is some useful english differences / terminology you may find very useful during your flight or at the airport. Specially if your destination is USA and traveling by a USA airlines.

Indian English

American English

Luggage Baggage
Air Hostess Flight Attendant
Soft drink / Cold drink Soda / Drink
Film Movie
Dollar Note Dollar Bill
Bathroom Restroom
Tea Hot Tea
Milk for Tea or Coffee Creamer
Plain water Water with no Ice

You can find more : More commonly used english words and differences



Frequently Asked Questions

What if at the last moment, they ask you to give your cabin bag as check in luggage?

Sometimes, it happens that at the last minute you may be asked to check in your cabin bag. You may have some important documents and jewelry in it. So don't panic, in such case insist that you want to keep them with you. Remember you are doing a favor to them by traveling by their airlines and not vice versa, so politely try to talk them about your problem.

What if you lose your luggage?

Normally, this doesn't happen. In case you do not find your check in luggage, inform the airlines authorities. If it is misplaced during transit or in the airlines, then it will be delivered to your address in a few days. If it is delayed for more then 2 days or so, You may ask for the compensation to buy daily necessary stuff, till you get your luggage back.
If it is missing for ever, they will compensate according to their nominal rules.

What if your flight is delayed or canceled?

In case your flight is delayed because of bad weather, or any other reason, airlines might offer you food, and make arrangements for your stay.

What if you miss your flight?

Talk to the airlines staff or authorities at the airport, they should be able to send you on the next available flight, or make some other other alternative arrangements.

What if nobody comes to receive you at the airport?

Find out information from the Information Counter, about the taxi stand or the airport shuttle schedules. It's always better to have a complete address of your stay. Try to get driving directions from the web sites like yahoo etc. These directions can be useful for the driver to take you to the right place.

Bon Voyage!

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