Travelling to India

Warning: This is a pretty long post.

Many a times, I read in the paper about untoward incidents that happen towards foreign tourists in India and I always find one thing common – Absolute lack of information. For example: A few days back I read about a couple that were cycling from one city to another and pitching tents for the night in the middle of nowhere. Anybody in their right minds in India will tell you to never ever do that but sadly, they didn’t have proper guidance.

I’m not saying India is a 100% safe country. Like any other country, you need to know your list of do’s and don’ts and places to go and places to miss. Sadly, when I researched about travelling to India, most of these important points seem to be missing. So I thought I’d do a post on that today, in hope that anyone who is travelling to India will be better prepared and therefore will have an awesome and safe trip!

Now India is a big country.. with mainly 4 zones. Very distinct North, South, East, West.

See below the major tourist destinations in India:

Delhi (North) : Capital of India. Lots of beautiful historical monuments. Old markets. Shopping. Lots of nice places to eat and drink. Tends to be a little unsafe for women at night so do not venture out into deserted areas or think of taking a walk at night. In the afternoon, public transport can be used. There is a Metro and there are autos(three wheelers with who you do need to bargain). But if you’re going to head out for the night, book a cab in advance. This city is beautiful and definitely worth a visit. Trusted cabs: Meru and Ola.

Agra (Uttar Pradesh, North/Central India): Very close to Delhi, this is the home of the famous Taj Mahal. A one day trip can easily be made here from Delhi. Your hotel can probably help you out with a car or tell you about some cab service that do this.

Jaipur and Udaipur (Rajasthan, West): Full of historical forts and palaces. They are not metro cities per say, but very high on tourism.

Mumbai (Maharashtra, South West): aka Business Capital of India. Advance warning, this city can be hot and overcrowded. But once you overlook that fact, there is plenty to do here. Great places to eat. Nice nightlife. Lots of shopping. And on the plus side, it’s much more safe than Delhi. Autos, taxis and local trains are the local mode of transportation. Though I suggest stay away from locals if you do not like crowds. And autos and taxis don’t go everywhere. There are certain areas where only autos ply and certain areas where only taxis. You could check with your hotel once you land. Not as many historical monuments to see as Delhi though. Trusted cabs: Meru and Ola.

Goa state (South West) : A small state, you can party here or absolutely sit back, have a couple of beers and relax. Famous for it’s shacks and seafood and of course the beach. Major areas: Calangute and Baga which are very close to each other and Anjuna.

Kolkata (West Bengal, East): This city runs at it’s own pace. Filled with a rich history and lots of influence from British era, this city is relatively cheaper than the others. Good shopping and a couple of places to see. The Bengalis (the natives of the state) are knows for their sweets and fish.

The State of Kerala (South): Famous for it’s backwaters, houseboats and ayurveda. I remember doing a trip here where we took a house from Alleppey aka Alappuzha, stayed overnight and reached Kumarakom Lake Rest, Kumarakom, next morning and spend some time there.

Apart from this there are many other places to travel to:

North: Amritsar, Shimla, Manali, Dehradun, Leh & Ladakh. to name a few.

West: Ajmer.

South: Coorg, Kodaikanal, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pondicherry, Humpi

East: Darjeeling, Gangtok.

These are just a few. There are many many more.

Image

Image via: http://www.mapsofindia.com. Pretty good website. Check it out.

Other Info:

-We Indians, when travelling, many a times use our instinct to judge a place. If you do not have a trusted guide, do NOT wander off or think of going to a place you do not know much about.

-Try and only stay at good hotels. Say, Rs.4000 ($74) and above. I’m not saying that all hotels below this price range are bad and not trustworthy. Just that you might not be able to judge how good or bad a hotel is. If you have someone who would know, or know for sure that a particular hotel is good, then cool.

– The most popular mode of inter city and state transportation in India are trains. However, not all of them will be a pleasant experience for you. Shatabdi and Rajdhani are the good ones. No matter what, book an AC coach. If you are talking about overnight travel on train, think again. Many a times, the bathrooms of these trains are not that good. Also, train tickets get booked out month in advance.

– There are tonnes of buses that run between cities. The AC Volvos are good for an overnight journey. You get on at night and reach destination in the morning. Problem? Most of these buses do not have bathrooms and usually stop once or twice in the night. If that’s not a problem for you, these buses are pretty decent. A trusted website to book bus tickets : www.redbus.in

-You could also book a cab to go from one place to another if it’s within 7-8 hours journey one way. You could contact your hotel for more info.

– And of course, flights! Jet Airways is the best in general flights and GoIndigo is the best for low cost airlines. Others are good too though.

– Some websites where you can book: www.makemytrip.com, www.yatra.com , www.goibibo.com, and http://www.expedia.com.

– Buy bottled water. If you’re going to go to a good restaurant, you may not need to worry about this, but otherwise, stick to bottled water. Example: Bisleri.

– While the cheap street food is absolutely delicious, think twice before eating it. What may be perfectly healthy for us, may not be the same for you. Why? Our bodies are used to and immune to it.

– While wearing shorts or dresses or is not a big deal, do not go overboard. Wearing something with a crazy cleavage will only attract unwanted attention if you’re out on the road.

– When heading out at night, always book a cab in advance.

– If confused about where to head out to eat, you can look at www.zomato.com. They give a comprehensive listings of the restaurants in the city along with photos, menus and reviews.

– At any point, if you need a number for anything, JustDial to the rescue. www.justdial.com . They also have numbers you can call on.

Well this is about it. I don’t know if this will help anyone right now or not, but I just thought why not? Locals are the best people to give advice on how to travel in their land. And what better platform than this.

If there is any more information that any of you may need, feel free to shoot a question.  🙂 I’ll be happy to help.

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