General Tips for Travelling in India ALONE for Foreigners

#1 Sep 8th, 2012, 09:44
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  • khaichern is offline
#1
Hi everyone,

I travelled in India around Ladakh and northern region for a month from mid June to mid July and I thought that India is really an awesome place for backpackers, however several tips may be quite useful for first timers, and some of the tips don't really come into mind intuitively. Thus I wrote this post, hoping to assist people planning to travel in this beautiful land.

I would write the article in a few parts and hopefully it would look at least organized for the readers.

1) Transportation:
Transportation is quite a serious issue in India, however I am not saying that India has no available transport to anywhere at all, you just have to get it right

In Ladakh area: Transportation is tricky here. Everywhere you plan to go is far away from each other, expect at least 2 hours ride from point to point. In the capital of Ladakh, Leh, there is no need to worry about not able to go around, all you need is spare time and cash. There are a tons of travel agencies in the small town, providing private or shared jeep to get to popular and not so popular destinations.

If you are a lone traveller, you may find yourself restrained to a few choices of destination, such as Pangong Tso, Nubra Valley and Lamayuru, if you decide to share a jeep with others. Do not think of hiring a jeep and bearing the cost yourself, it would be a huge waste of money.

The reason to have spare time and cash is that in Ladakh everything is unpredictable. I was once caught in a bad weather (not really bad, just raining) and the car can't go pass the heavy layer of mists at higher altitude. Do not think that it is alright if you are just looking at the condition on lower ground, head up to see the mountain peaks around you, those are the places you are very likely to travel in a short time. Sharing jeep is a tricky part as well, as I was told one day before the trip that a couple in my jeep was ill severely and the trip has to be cancelled. That affected my schedule for the next few days as everything onwards was planned 'nicely'. SPARE SOME TIME FOR THE TRIP, DO NOT PLAN TOO TIGHTLY.

An interesting part that a lot of travellers would not experience is the public transportation in Ladakh. Yes it fits every impression you have had for Indian transportation, super crowded, dirty, people sitting on rooftop. But other than that, it was all fun and laughter and a small nice society in the few hours ride. The keypoint is to hop on the bus at the right time and right place. The piece of advice goes the same for every place in India. After you arrive in a new place, find the main bus stop, and note down the timing. Indian buses are notoriously terrible in every sense, but they are at least punctual. In Ladakh often there is only one bus to a place everyday. In the bus stop, don't expect organized structure and someone would guide you to ride on, you are on your own to find out > <

For long distance travel, there are often several options to take on, most options would be private transportation, and I strongly advice you to choose that every single time. For instance, from Leh to Manali, a very popular route, a private shared jeep would take 17 hours cannonball rush in one go, meanwhile a public bus would take 2 days to reach, and seat not guaranteed. For long distance public bus just isn't a viable option. Even for private transportations the options available may be very different as well. Try to take a look at the carrier first before you place your money. For example, I've saved around 200 Rupees by taking a slightly terrible bus, but the experience is a nightmare, 10 hours ride without proper sitting position, I would rather pay 200 more to get a more pleasant trip.

I think the post gets longer than I expect, thus other parts would appear in new posts One highlight to expect: How to save money in India even though everything is already so cheap.

Cheers,
Khai

Hi everyone,

This post is part 2 of my general tips for travelling in India. Part 1 link is here: http://www.indiamike.com/india/india...4/#post1468500

I forgot to include a very important transportation mode in India: its famous train. If you are travelling from cities to cities in most part of India, you could not miss the train at all. Getting ticket is not straightforward, but it can still be done online. My favourite website to book tickets is www.cleartrip.com. Registering in this website requires some effort too, but once you registered everything is easy then. The registration procedure can be found in www.seat61.com/india.htm under the section of 'How to buy train tickets'.

For some tourists arriving in Delhi may see a tourist centre in the Delhi Railway Station, and it seems like foreigners have to book tickets from that place. Well yes you can buy tickets from there, but the queue is very terrible and filling up all the forms is a painful process. So, don't even bother to visit that place, cleartrip is all you need to get a ticket. Often people will receive 'waitlisted' status after they bought tickets. Check your email in at least every two days to get updated, you will receive 'Confirmed' status at least one day before the day of departure.

Many said that third class seats are terrible. But that is where the fun part of Indian trains is. Throughout the ride endless ridiculous things would happen, people squeezing you even though your seat is 'reserved', mobile stalls to keep your stomach filled and beggars whenever the train stops. The two most ridiculous things I've seen is a woman praying for passengers by touching their heads (well she earned the most in that journey) and small kids cleaning up the floors and then asked for tips. Nevertheless it is an eye opener to most people. Beware of the heat inside the cabin (the only thing annoys me especially there are 30 people squeezing in a space designe for 8 people..), there is not much way to dissipate the heat other than sitting beside the window.

2) Weather: I experienced three types of weather in 4 weeks. First is the cool desert climate in Ladakh, secondly the freaking hot Delhi type and at last the hill climate at Dharamsala and Valley of Flowers.

My main trouble would be the climate in Ladakh, as I didn't expect it to be so cold at night. The temperature difference of a day is very huge, thus thick clothes and sunscreen are a must there. Whereas in Delhi the hotness wasn't as bad as I thought. It has to do with the degree of your endurance and where you go. Avoid places without shelter or crowded points, you should be fine. Of course the best is to stay in your room within 12pm to 4pm. Meanwhile Dharamsala and Valley of Flowers have the best weather in the world, with rain clothes on.

3) Hygiene: Well, there isn't any hygiene in the whole India, in any sense. Even beautiful cities like Leh cow shits and rubbish are still everywhere. Get used to the smell and turn it into part of your life, simple as that. As for the cleanliness of tap water, I was surprised to survive the water served by the restaurants (they fill up the jar on table), they are not as dangerous as I thought (Indians drink them with no hesitation, we can do it!). Only exception is the water in Delhi which caused me a bit of diarrhea. There is no need to be too cautious about water issue, like using bottled water to brush teeth.

4) Culture shock: Tons. For example, guys love holding hands with their best friends, which is kinda cool to me. And Indians care about friends and family more than anyone else, thus you can see people having family or friends trip in a huge group everywhere. Indians love to make noise too, don't feel too offended if they can't keep their voice down, especially when they get excited or agitated. From the points mentioned above, you can see that India is full of friendly chaps. I find it very helpful every time I have troubles to seek help from strangers, as you will always receive positive response. Just be open to anything you have not experienced before, India is really one of a kind.

Part three, the final part, to come: How to save money in India even though everything is cheap here.

Cheers,
Khai

Hi everyone,

This is the third part, also the final part, of what general tips I can give about traveling in India. Here is the second part: http://www.indiamike.com/india/india...8/#post1468666

This part focuses on how to save money even in place darn cheap like India.

First and foremost, one has to know the price index in India before spending any money. Here is a list of price you would expect in the places I've visited before:

Food:
Delhi (or other cities except Agra) Ladakh or Valley of Flowers
Rice: 30 Rupees 40 Rupees
Roti: 10-15 Rupees 20-30 Rupees
Vegetarian dishes: 40-80 Rupees 60-100 Rupees
Non-vege dishes: 60-150 Rupees 100-200 Rupees
Drinks (Chai-Fruit juice): 10-50 Rupees 15-60 Rupees
Snacks: As printed on package Sometimes as printed on package, sometimes even double the price

As you can see, places which are quite hard to reach are more expensive.

Admission price:
Taj Mahal: 750 rupees
Valley of Flowers: 500 rupees for three days(?!)
Elsewhere: 100-250 rupees

Transport fee (private transport):
Ladakh: everywhere has fixed price, make sure they quote you from the taxi union guidebook.
Ladakh-Manali: 1400-1700 Rupees, try to bargain more here
Manali-Dharamsala: 550 Rupees
Dharamsala-Delhi: 600-800 Rupees. (600 one is quite ok to me)
Haridwar-Valley of Flowers (Govindghat): 400-600 Rupees (price varies here, ask for more agencies)

Accommodation:
Ladakh: Generally expensive. From 500 to 1X00 for a double room.
Dharamsala: Cheap hostels everywhere, from 150-350 for a single room and 300-700 double room.
Agra: Cheap hostels are gathered at Taj South Gate, from 400- a double room
Manali: Cheap hostels at Old Manali, from 300 a single room or 500 a double room
Delhi: Not really cheap. from 700 a double room
Valley of Flowers: Avoid June when crazy price like 2000 for a double room may incur. Otherwise from 500 a double room.
Haridwar: no budget hostel at all, from 450 a double room
Rishikesh: from 300 a double room

My general advice to save money is: travel in a group of TWO. As you can see in India most hotel rooms have double beds. They don't give discount just because you are alone. And for daily meal the most economical way is to order a shared dish and few pieces of roti or naan which provides you carbohydrates, the way Indian families eat as well. Drink water served by restaurants if you think the hygiene is acceptable.

Transportation is a significant expense as well. Take as much of third class train as you can, it is not bad at all after a few tries. For private agencies ask every agencies that you can find for lowest price. However, saving money with the sacrifice of quality of ride may not be worthy. Taking turtuk instead of cab saves quite a lot too when you are travelling light. Sharing turtuk with strangers can even cut down your cost further!

For everything, try to bargain if you think it is possible, bargaining is part of Indian lifestyle.

Spending as little money as you can in India can be something fun or even satisfying, at least I felt good about it

Cheers,
Khai
Last edited by aarosh; Sep 8th, 2012 at 22:17.. Reason: Merged posts
#2 Sep 8th, 2012, 21:51
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  • Dave W is offline
#2
khaichern

I am sorry to have to say this but some of the information that you have posted about train tickets is wrong.

Quote:
Originally Posted by khaichern View Post
For some tourists arriving in Delhi may see a tourist centre in the Delhi Railway Station, and it seems like foreigners have to book tickets from that place. Well yes you can buy tickets from there, but the queue is very terrible and filling up all the forms is a painful process. So, don't even bother to visit that place, cleartrip is all you need to get a ticket. Often people will receive 'waitlisted' status after they bought tickets. Check your email in at least every two days to get updated, you will receive 'Confirmed' status at least one day before the day of departure.
The correct facts are that a waitlist ticket might confirm but equally it might not confirm. It may also progress to RAC status which means that you get a seat but not a sleeping berth - not a good thing for a long overnight journey.

What you don't tell people about the tourist booking centre is that there is a reserved quota of tickets on some trains that can only be booked by non-Indian passport holders. This is known as FTQ and means that a non-Indian might be able to get a confirmed berth on a train that is otherwise fully booked.

There is a lot about booking train tickets on India Mike and the facts would have been easy to check.
#3 Sep 10th, 2012, 01:02
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  • ashwinnaagar is offline
#3
That's a great post, however I feel accom. was quite cheap in Ladakh,300-600 seemed to be the average.
And quite often you need to pay fr bottled water too,which is around 15Rs a litre, anything more than that and you are being overcharged.
And I would say beware of posh looking restaurants in tourist places, they're pretty much overpriced and may not really be that good hygiene wise.
#4 Sep 11th, 2012, 21:49
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  • khaichern is offline
#4
@Dave W: Thanks for correcting me about that, I forgot about the quota thing. I wasn't too cautious of not getting a RAC ticket because it didn't happen to me but it may not be that lucky for other travelers.

@ashwinnaagar: Accom in Ladakh very much depends on the season. The season I went was probably peak season. And I heard GH there has adjusted their price in recent years due to increasing tourist inflow. And that's why I mentioned the safety of drinking water in restaurant, I did that often to save that Rs15
#5 Sep 12th, 2012, 00:58
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  • ashwinnaagar is offline
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khaichern, you seem to be from malaysia, that's a tropical country,probably that's why you did not face any issues with water. And most restaurants should have safe water,but then you never know if your immune system is strong enough.
And so many GH's have come up in ladakh that it's not a hard job to get a good bargain.

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