Tips for Travelling in India
In this article, I would like to share some very specific tips and techniques for people who are seeking an adventure and backpacking for India. There are a few things to keep in mind regarding culture and people. If you follow these basic rules, I assure you will have the most memorable time of your life.
Calamari beach, Goa
No booking, no problem
During high season, you will find that most of the budget hotels are sold out or not available online. It gets really difficult on the various online websites to get a hotel which is within your budget. You either end up paying more for a high end hotel and if you pay less, you are taken to an unhygienic hotel at a shady place. So first, I must tell you that approximately 20-25% of the hotels in India are not registered on online selling platforms. By online selling platforms I mean hotels.com, agoda, booking.com etc. These hotels do not want to deal with a third party vendor or a moderator. They usually have good contacts or have their own reservation websites. Another fact is that all hotels do not advertise their complete itinerary on the third party websites as they have to entertain walk-in guests and other immediate reservations.
How to get a reservation?
Now that being said, you will wonder how will you still get a reservation in a good hotel in high season. Well you will have to make some effort. First, you can get a listing of all the hotels in that particular city or search them on google maps and look for their personal websites. You will certainly not get the same deal but at times you get a better deal than on third party websites.
Secondly, If you don't want to go through the online research part you can try another option. When you arrive at the airport or railway station and call for a cab, ask your cab driver to take you to a hotel and specify your budget to him. Almost all of these taxi drivers know hotels which are available within your budget. Do not worry he won't charge you anything because they work on commission basis with the hotels. This is common practice in most metropolitan and tourist cities. If your cab driver takes you to a hotel in a shady place, just ask him to take you to a better one.
This kind of arrangement usually works for backpackers, who just want to pack their bags and go out somewhere, this is for those instantaneous travelers who book the cheapest flight to anywhere and love uncertainty in life.
The taxi driver
India is very unique and vividly diverse country. It means it has all the hustle bustle and fast moving pace of any city and at the same time you will find places which freeze you in time and give you the feeling of "moksha". I would suggest that you plan your trip according to your inclination. Cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Jaipur and kolkata are metropolitan cities and are business hubs, great for shopping and nightlife but are very crowded and polluted. However if you are looking to find peace, tranquility and beauty then you should head to more secluded places like leh, ladakh, andaman islands and parts of north east and kerela.
There is something for everyone in India, you just have to explore.
Things to carry along
There are a few things which you should carry with you when you come to India.
- Identification - passport, driving license etc
- Cash - Carry both India rupees and dollars
- Mosquito repellent
- Water bottle
- Covered clothing
- Basic medicines
Not all are important here depending on where you are visiting, but two most important will be ID and cash.
Travel and tour
When you are in a particular city or town and you want to explore the place, do not look for travel and tour operators. Instead contact your hotel and they will arrange it for you. If you are on a budget, just walk up to any tuk-tuk or taxi and negotiate with them.
Most of the tour operators try to lure more money out of your pocket, once they are in knowledge that you are an outsider. This also happens to Indians who are visiting from another state. You just have to be a little bit smart.
Health and hygiene
When you travel to a hot country, you would want to drink lots of water and other fluids. I would suggest you to always have bottled mineral water and other packaged juices. Do not try street side sugar-cane juice. I have recently seen a lot of travelers and foreigners trying sugar-cane juice. If its not coming out of a clean and hygienic place, its a direct invitation to jaundice. Always look for a clean and hygienic place. Also you can try places where there is crowd.
Due to huge diversification, you will find excellent restaurants and food joints serving exquisite dishes to street vendors with all kinds of junk. You will be tempted but do not try anything from outside, unless you are with an Indian or a guide or a local person who knows what it is. These days many famous street side joints get certifications from famous Indian food review authorities like zomato, foodpanda and burrp etc. If you see a certificate of authenticity hanging from the wall or food truck, it is a thumbs up.
Water is life
Just like cultural Diversity, India also has a diverse range of climates available at any given time of the year. Regions of the North Indian subcontinent, which touch the Himalayan mountain range are colder throught the year such as the states of Himachal pradesh, Kashmir and Uttarakhand. Whereas the south Indian coastal regions of Kerala, Karnataka, Orrisa and Maharashtra remain hot and humid for most part of the year.
India is a country rich with spices and extraordinary flavors. So expect nothing less than that. I would suggest you have as less spicy food as possible and carry some digestive pills along.
The food in India is at times cooked with whole spices like cinnamon, cardamon, cloves and black pepper. Sometimes these are ground together to make spice powder also known as "garam masala". If you start feeling uneasy or your stomach starts burning, drink lots of water and have fruits. Try to avoid food with lots of red chilly powder and "garam masala".