Am I Crazy?

#1 Jun 1st, 2008, 08:06
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#1
Hello all, I am off to India for my first time in October. I will be there for 3-4 months, doing the majority of the trip by myself. Im the kind of person that doesent like to plan too much, im the spur of the moment kind of guy. Im thinking of starting off in Mumbai with no hotel bookings, and seeing what happens from there!

As i've never been to India before I dont know if this is a good idea or not! Is it the kind of country where you can just rock up to with NO idea where you will be sleeping that night or where you will be exploring? It would be great if i could get some advice....it could save my life haha!

I am also on a low budget, ive seen many places for 250R which is very cheap but i noticed they have no pictures of the rooms meaning they must pretty bad, but seeing as im a 20 year old male, my room in Sydney is probobaly worse haha. Are these low bugdget hotel THAT bad?

Thanks all for you time, it would be great if i could get some advice!
#2 Jun 1st, 2008, 08:44
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  • chad is offline
#2
Last time I went, I definitely didn't prebook any hotels, but I had done a lot of research. Well, I only stayed in Delhi, but there are tons of places ranging from Rs100 to Rs1500 and more just in the area by the New Delhi Railway Station. Do some research. As long as there are no major festivals going on where you are staying then I think you should be able to find cheap accomodation without prebooking. Low budget does not mean disgusting, but in the end you get what you pay for. Rs400 does not equal Sheraton or Marriot, but it also isn't usually like some slum. If you plan on going from city to city without planning ahead you won't easily get reserved train accomodation most of the time. But you can always travel 2nd class unreserved. EXPLORE THIS SITE!!! But to answer your question. noooo------------you aren't crazy. you're awesome. welcome to Indiamike.
#3 Jun 1st, 2008, 13:21
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#3
My main advice is to book at least the first night in advance. Unless perhaps flights from Australia usually arrive in the morning? It doesn't seem like it would be particularly fun to schlep around Mumbai, luggage and all, straight from the airport in the middle of the night, looking for a room.

Also, rooms in Mumbai tend to be much more than Rs 250. I think the Salvation Army hostel costs that, except that you can't reserve their dorms in advance, and you have to show up at 9AM on the dot to have any chance at all of a bed (and the time I tried it, there were no vacancies at all that day!). You can't bank on that. A room in one of the many crappy backpacker guest houses in Colaba will run you about 600/night. You can find one pretty easily via the touts that lie in wait around the Salvation Army. I imagine, however, that the price would skyrocket if you were trying to do this at 2 in the morning (if there were even any hotel touts lurking at that hour). Just reserve something for your first night. Believe me, you'll be happy if you do.

Regarding hotels in general, I never had much of an issue just rolling into town and finding a place. The only place it was hard was Lucknow, which I really wasn't expecting. I also lucked out by calling ahead for Darjeeling -- they quoted me the wrong rate on the phone, and then were super nice and actually honored that rate when I arrived! Had I just rolled up, I wouldn't have scored my nicest and cheapest room, at Rs 173/night. Not that you should always pre-book, of course, just a funny anecdote to share.

Also, ditto Chad: for no plans travel, your biggest obstacle is going to be the trains. You can get around this, though, if you're willing to stay in the same place for weeks on end while you try to get your ducks in a row, or if you're willing to pay a premium to a travel agent. It's the usual trade off. There is comfort, money, and time. You can't get the best of all three.
#4 Jun 1st, 2008, 13:47
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  • Roaming Jack is offline
#4
Random advice:

1) At least study up enough to know about the various regions in India, the highlights of each region, etc. Go from region to region and move along after exhausting it. Jumping back and forth isn't fun. The regions should be pretty obvious from any guide book.

2) Book your train tickets to leave as soon as possible after you arrive at your destination. As I've mentioned elsewhere, tourist quota tickets are not difficult to get and are not marked up.

3) Leave money for the occasional splurge, say at a Taj Hotel somewhere.

4) Relax about the money -- yes you're a bit of a golden goose to the locals, but even so, being just a little less tightfisted and calculating and accepting changes the tourist experience completely.

5) Read Shantaram.
#5 Jun 1st, 2008, 20:57
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#5
You won't need reservations unless you'll be someplace where theres a major festival or maybe around New Years-Christmas time. The Salvation Army in Mumbai costs like 170 rupees for the dorm with breakfast and around 600 for a room with 3 meals included. They will let you check in at 7 am. Close by the Salvation is the Carlton Hotel which has room from around 350-600 with t.v. but the cheaper rooms are very small and not really a good place to stay.
250 will get you a decent room in most of India.
And I would just show up and once there see where your spirit takes you. I always travel like that also, never making concrete plans or reservations and never had a problem finding a room or going somewhere that was interesting. Once in Mumbai you'll meet other travelers and they can give you the scoop on where are cool places to go to.
#6 Jun 2nd, 2008, 00:18
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#6
Seriously, DO NOT bank on staying in the Salvation Army straight from the airport from your home country.

Not.

Going.

To.

Happen.

I don't give this advice because I'm mean and bitter and don't want anybody to have any fun. I give it because it's the truth. In the same vein, you should budget to spend at least 600/night in Mumbai. It might be possible to find cheaper, but I certainly never did. And that 600 will NOT get you a TV, or attached bathroom, or AC. Mumbai is like a whole other country, in terms of lodgings...
#7 Jun 2nd, 2008, 01:43
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#7
If your responding to me Opo, then my advice wasn't not to make reservations for the Salvation per se, but reservations in general are not really required. You'll find something w/o them for sure. Might take some time though. But I've stayed at the Salvation on numerous occcasions and never made a reservation and always got something. Maybe I was lucky. And the Carlton will get you a T.V. for around 350 but no bath. For 500-600 you will get T.V. and frig and nice french doors that open to a view of the Taj Mahal hotel across the street. But no bathroom.
And agree, Mumbai is the most expensive city in India for a room.
#8 Jun 2nd, 2008, 01:54
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#8
I was mainly just clarifiying. All the conflicting advice can be confusing when you're trying to figure out what to do, especially when you first arrive.

To clarify a little more, you cannot reserve ahead at the Salvation Army. You can only show up and hope there is a bed.

In general, though, I agree with your assessment that you shouldn't need to make reservations while traveling around the country. It's really only for that first landing sleep -- anyone who just decides to roll on up to Colaba Causeway at 2 in the morning and just find something is in for a bumpy night...
#9 Jun 2nd, 2008, 02:00
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#9
Agreed!
#10 Jun 2nd, 2008, 10:04
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#10
I think the one thing that's been omitted here is that you're starting out in Mumbai. This city has prices which are equivalent to Sydney CBD rates.

It's when you get out of the city centres (and touristy areas), that the prices start to drop significantly.

Low cost rooms (rp250) are almost non-existent here - but it depends on what you are looking for (only a room, no bathroom/toilet (and in some cases a shared room)).

The Salvation Army does have a place but it's often booked up.

You could have a look at the YWCA, I think they have dorm. rooms for low prices that may suit your requirements.

Cheers
Zoltan
#11 Jun 2nd, 2008, 10:15
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#11
to the OP: First trip to India, you also don't say if you have travelled much on low budgets outside Australia...

I would book at Mumbai for sure.

How bad can low budget hotels be? Pretty bad in a big city. 250 rupee rooms in Mumbai will probably come with rats and cockroaches and assorted smells, besides some interesting company.

My suggestion(s)

-Browse this forum for what areas of India interest you.
-have a very rough idea of what you want to do, and how you want to travel. trains may require advance booking, most likely.
-book a hotel in Mumbai, or at least the first night. Forget the 250 for Mumbai.

Keep in mind that, all things being equal, a low budget needs more planning than a higher one. So some research is neccessary. It's a big country. Landing up in Mumbai and thinking what next on your first trip may drive you crazy.
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#12 Jun 2nd, 2008, 21:23
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#12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roaming Jack View Post Random advice:


5) Read Shantaram.
By all means, read Shantaram. But not with the expectation you are going to gain an insight into the ways of India.

For that, read IndiaMike!
#13 Jun 3rd, 2008, 04:17
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#13
400 is about bottom for Mumbai - elsewhere esp in the north 250 is possible at base level - 10 years ago was 150. Advise getting out of Mumbai as soon as possible if on a budget.

The south (Karnataka and Kerala) tends to be more expensive, but low season 250 OK if you bargain hard
#14 Jun 4th, 2008, 08:35
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#14
Maybe I should have clarified: Read Shantaram -- if only to get excited, jazzed, and fortified to deal with Mumbai. And, anyway, I guess I disagree, one does get several insights about Mumbai from the book, if not about the "ways of India."

And, insights aside, it has become required reading for having a conversation with any fellow travelers passing through India. Every single person I came across (without exception) in a just-completed India trip had read it or was reading it. Funny, one person I met suggested that the Shantaram yarn is a darn good econ devp scheme.

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