India travel advice for beginners

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#1 Jan 18th, 2008, 00:27
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  • niumongs is offline
#1
Hey guys

India mike really helped us on our tour of India and we are so greatful but here are some things which we found to be helpful just to help other first timers to india like ourselves and I know its been said perhaps before but re-iteration and helpful experince hints never hurts...

1. Use Auto rickshaws as much as you can where possible as this saves heaps of cash...
2. Do not fall for travel agent tricks to hire a car, have the confidence to plan and organise your own itenary, it is possible and so much cheaper, trust me!!!
3. Be aware of people that approach you on train platforms offering cheap taxi rides as they are part of a network of people who work under the commision of other hotels etc.
4. Video fees for major monuments can at times be outrageous so be aware and innovative (if you know what i mean)
5. If staying in Jaipur we found a gem of a place to stay which was cheap and great value for money "The landmark Residency" dificult to find but located in a quiet area and very efficient.
6. This is a biggy - You will encounter things like public urination etc, beggers using babies, deformed people approaching you, vendors ripping you off, people bathing in other people's sewrage, food that is out of date, overcrowding, pesty drivers, pollution, communication problems and money hungry people...

but remember this is India, we as tourists are here to experience indian lifestyles not to change it. There is an uncanny indivdualism in its somewhat awkward day to day life but we leave here like we are about to, forever having the words, "it was an experience", etched in our minds when india is concerned. the diversity in this country is something to be recognised....

God Speed
#2 Jan 18th, 2008, 00:58
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  • dhans is offline
#2
Thanks niumong!

Could you put The landmark residency in the Hotel section?

Hans

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#3 Jan 18th, 2008, 01:23
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#3
Good point!

And do feel free to tell us more about your trip, niumong
~
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#4 Jan 18th, 2008, 02:17
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#4
Nice thread. If we get some more points from members, this could be a candidate for the Beginner's Forum.
It's always darkest before it goes completely black.
Last edited by machadinha; Jan 22nd, 2008 at 14:15.. Reason: moved thread to beginner's forum :)
#5 Jan 22nd, 2008, 13:55
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#5
well said friend...

your observations are bang on target...
"The hands that work are better than the hands that pray - Zarathustra
#6 Feb 29th, 2008, 23:36
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#6

Wink Reassurance, or why London is good training for India - an India newbie reports back

Having been rather apprehensive about the hassles and stresses of India before my first visit (only ever having visited Europe, North America and South Africa before), I was pleasantly surprised when I got there. Talking to a Swiss couple in my Ranthambhore hotel, who had found the noise, pollution and congestion of Jaipur particularly tough, I wondered (perhaps a little tongue in cheek) whether it had bothered me less because I was used to London!

I also think travellers can blow out of proportion fears of problems in mysterious foreign parts, while being blase about the dangers at home. So below is my rather facetious comparison between London and India (which the British tourist bodies won't like, but which might reassure a few nervous British "India-virgins" and encourage them to go for it and visit India!)

If you've become accustomed in London to declining free newspapers and the Big Issue, or trying to avoid "chuggers" (paid to get you to sign up to regular charity direct debit donations) ignoring or rejecting touts', hawkers' and rickshaw and taxi wallahs' calls of "Allo", "Madam", "Postcards" etc. will be second nature. I just need to remember in London to say "no thanks" instead of the "Nahiye + raised hand + smile" approach which generally did the trick in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. (In the few cases where "Nahiye + raised hand + smile" didn't work first time, a further "no thank you" or just ignoring them generally led to them giving up). There are even a few rickshaws in the touristiest bits of London (near Covent Garden).

Apart from the odd kid at railway stations, and those knocking on car windows at road junctions, the beggars in India seemed no more persistent than in London (even if, sadly, more numerous). One of my old evening commuter trains from Waterloo had a regular working his way along the carriages before it departed, with a story about needing a few quid to get in a homeless hostel for the night - no on-train beggars on my 3 train journeys in India (although to be fair, I was probably insulated by being in EC, AC1 and AC3 classes): just a few kids at stations.

London is litter strewn, although perhaps quite not on the same scale as Indian cities and villages.

The smell of urine, from men going in the absence of the proper facilities, especially after a few beers, is rather more prevalent in London than one would hope, and rather less prevalent in India than I expected.

Even in nice bits of Westminster (near my old office off Victoria Street), you get a smell of drains.

Crowds - nothing in the bazaars of Old Delhi was worse than Charing Cross Road or Leicester Square in the evening, or as bad as Trafalgar Square at Chinese New Year!

Traffic - need I say more. In London, cyclists add that random "riding the wrong way up the one way street/on the pavement/on the wrong side of the road" factor that starts to prepare you for Indian driving, although admittedly, there are no cows wandering along the Strand. (One of my colleagues did, however, see a riderles runaway horse near St James' Park a few weeks ago).

Noise - OK, so the "horn please" driving style isn't as prevalent in London as in Delhi, but when you add in the higher proportion of car radios in London, plus more police car, fire engine and ambulance sirens, the overall sound levels can't be that different.

Pollution - I've had one or two days walking round London when fumes made it hard to breathe. I didn't have any such days in Delhi, Agra or Jaipur! If you've ever looked at the colour of a cotton wool pad after using cleanser, or a paper tissue after blowing your nose, when you've had a day in London, and you'll know what I mean.

Stares and comments - I probably stared at more Indians (e.g. female building workers with pretty saris, jewellery, and bowls of cement on their heads) in India, than stared at me. The few glances I got from men in India were curious rather than hostile. But in London (in my younger goth days) I remember an "it's not halloween, it's easter" rude comment while wandering through a tube station. And nowhere in India did I see men nearly crashing their moped into a telegraph pole due to turning round to stare at the girls, the way they did near Pompeii in Italy.

Pickpockets etc - have you seen the number of posters on buses, tube stations and bus stops in London, warning of pickpockets lately? I felt no more at threat of street crime in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur than in London - if anything, less so.

Oh, and the Delhi metro is infinitely cleaner, cooler and more pleasant than 95% of the London tube. Only the new bits of the Jubilee line approach Delhi standards.

I may simply have been lucky on my trip: after all, I was only there for 10 days. I was also perhaps insulated from some of the hassles by staying in Delhi with ex-pat friends and pre-booking all my other accommodation and cars & drivers to meet me at Agra and Jaipur stations, and not being on a desperately tight budget. Maybe if I'd been backpacking on 15 a day, and trying to find accommodation and transport in each new town on arrival, my experiences would have been more negative.

But, my worst fears not having been realised, I'm now keen to return. The moment on the train back to Delhi when I contemplated staying on the train all the way to its final destination of Amritsar, rather than getting off at H Nizamuddin to catch my flight home the next day, I realised I'd been well and truly bitten by the India bug!
#7 Feb 29th, 2008, 23:51
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#7
Nice

And yes, I'd agree: London is good practice. That way that we have of walking past another person, within inches, whilst denying their very existence mentally and emotionally, is just the thing for unwanted attention! It comes naturally to me, after thirty years of living in London.

I do remember being taken out, on an early visit to India, by an Indian friend. As I was staring at the shops, the buildings, the people, he asked me (he had, at that time, never left India), "What's different to London?". I could only gasp, "Everything!".

Yes, it is very, very different still, ten years later --- but London is, in the ways that you say, a good preparation.

As for the driving: I've reached the point where I'd rather drive in Chennai than London. London's local-authority-engineered congestion and restrictions are just awful. But we'll probably get bus lanes one day
#8 Feb 29th, 2008, 23:59
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#8
Bus lanes are coming to Delhi - I was reading only a few days ago that they'd lead to 10-15 minute waits for lights to change for cars at some of the major junctions.
#9 Mar 1st, 2008, 00:29
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#9
Oh dear, just like London .

I don't think Chennai traffic would stand for it.
#10 Mar 1st, 2008, 01:32
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#10
Mrs C... do we live in the same London? I hardly recognise it from your description.

Fumes? Pickpockets? Drains? The smell of urine?

Maybe I just live in a nicer bit...
#11 Mar 1st, 2008, 01:51
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#11
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrsC_772 View Post Talking to a Swiss couple in my Ranthambhore hotel, who had found the noise, pollution and congestion of Jaipur particularly tough, I wondered (perhaps a little tongue in cheek) whether it had bothered me less because I was used to London!
Mrs C- love your comparison! A nice way to 'benchmark'.
Though, I must say, I have different expectations of London when I visit the city in December. My childhood memories of London are very different from what you have described.
#12 Mar 1st, 2008, 02:23
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#12
Perhaps Mrs C means another london, i know there is another one in canada, never been there, though.Pollution worse in london(uk) than in delhi?Sure you have been in delhi?Crowded streets in london?yes, maybe leceister sq, oxford street, in india practically everywhere, even in the mountains.Traffic in london is ok, if not a bit slow, you can cross quite safely the road everywhere,try that in big indian towns, urine smell,you cannot compare delhi with london, in delhi sometimes it really stinks, surely the heat helps,i agree with the tube, but then it's new in delhi, and only a small percentage of locals use it, at least i think so, never seen many people on the platform as in london.Having said that, i love india, have been there 10 times in the last 25 years, and never less than 3 months, and will continue to go there, but i am realistic.I could compare delhi with napoli(italy), maybe,but surely not london.
Cheers
#13 Mar 1st, 2008, 02:50
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#13
I've worked in central London for 10 years.

Of course the picture I've painted of London is not the only one.

I could have gone on about the joy of seeing the first spring bulbs come up in St James's Park, or picnicking there in summer; the interesting little shops you discover while walking down odd side streets (e.g. around Covent Garden, or Lambs Conduit Street in Bloomsbury, Camden Passage in Islington); the fantastic architecture, whether modern (the so-weird-it's-almost-sexy Lloyd's Building) or older (Pugin's Gothic masterpiece of the Houses of Parliament, the oases that are the Inns of Court); the parks and palaces that while in London, don't feel like it (Richmond Park, Hampton Court, Kew Gardens) the fantastic view from Waterloo Bridge (which on a wet and windy day, with horizontal rain blasting your legs, is also the bleakest place in central London); or the great museums (the Nat Hist, V&A and of course the British Museum), but I wanted to focus on those less pleasant aspects of urban life which put off potential visitors to India, by reminding them that even familiar London has them too.

As I said in my earlier post - it's easy to exaggerate the dangers of the foreign, while overlooking them at home. Western visitors to India may be shocked at the way that (some) locals appear oblivious to poverty and squalor. But if you're used to London, you may sometimes become oblivious to its less savoury characteristics as well, or fail to notice the parallels.
#14 Mar 1st, 2008, 04:25
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#14

London smells

(Oh boy, this is getting more and more off topic ...) Has anyone else noticed that London smells worse now than it seemed to 20-30 years ago? (or is it just me?)

I take Mrs C's points - but for me, the only London experience I was reminded of in my brief stay in India was the insanity of Millenium Eve: unbelievable crowds, the incredible atmosphere, litter ankle deep, the noise of the "mexican cheers" drifting up and down Waterloo station, impossibly packed trains, men - and women - p***ing in doorways at 1am ...


re Niumongs' original point about hiring a car ...
Well, I think it depends. In 11 days, I spent time
- travelling alone
- with Indian friends at a Hindu wedding
- travelling with UK friends

In fact, I packed a lot into a short period of time (like many others, by the sounds of it!), and I chose to spend more money (and hire a car and driver, for example, a couple of times) in order to fit more in. Although I certainly travelled by autorickshaw, and by cyclerickshaw, a few times, in Varanasi and Delhi, I could never have seen as many sights in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur if I'd had to spend time figuring out how to make my own way around to all the places I wanted to get to.

When travelling with my friends, they had booked, through a tour company, a car, driver, and guides - and I was able to tag along, without having to cover the full cost. I can only say the driver was fantastic (Delhi to Agra, Agra to Fatehpur Sikri, FS to Jaipur), and most of the guides were too (although sometimes a bit of patience was necessary in figuring out what was meant). Most of the guides were knowledgeable, patient with us, good-humoured, entertaining, interesting, gave excellent advice when asked, and were definitely deserving of the tips we added to the fees paid. The only guide who offended was one who looked at my breasts before he could look me in the eyes ... (mind you, at 50, I find that, too, entertaining rather than truly offensive!)

Hotel staff
A further point - I also got some useful and fair advice from the staff at most of the hotels I stayed at, whenever I asked (eg, about the practicalities of my planned schedule). There was a slight tendancy to try and slow me down, or keep me safe - it took me a little time to suss that this was more because of their perceptions of me as a solo woman probably the same age as their mothers/wives, than because of any serious local risks.

I generally followed the hotels' advice about using their driver, or their staff finding me an autorickshaw - yes, I certainly paid more this way. On the other hand, in 11 days, I didn't have a hope of learning all the local safety rules, and this was my way of keeping safer.

So I guess it's a case of what suits the individual and their circumstances.
#15 Mar 2nd, 2008, 17:31
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#15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kingstonian View Post I generally followed the hotels' advice about using their driver, or their staff finding me an autorickshaw - yes, I certainly paid more this way. On the other hand, in 11 days, I didn't have a hope of learning all the local safety rules, and this was my way of keeping safer.

So I guess it's a case of what suits the individual and their circumstances.
Sensible advice, don't let running around for (maby) better bargains spoil a short tome in India.

Hans
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