In this post, I will explain quickly some details on traveling in India, starting with Delhi. The post will be in English. As usual, if you need a Russian translation — let me know.
1. Traveling around India.
This is one of the first things a traveler wants to know. And the best option is airplanes. You can book any flights using low-costers like IndiGo. They are quite flexible and answer questions pretty quickly. But. You need to book a ticket on their website. In this case, you can get refunds if there is any need. For Russians, this option is mainly closed unless they have a VISA or MASTERCARD from any country except Russia.
If you want to exchange money, you can do it anywhere in the banks. However, during festivals and close to the festival dates, it is hard to find a working bank. You may find counters that change USD to rupees. They have a reasonable exchange rate. The only problem — is sometimes they are too picky with the bills: no stamps, writing; if you have an old version of dollar bills, they may refuse to serve you.
3. Tourist agencies.
You will deal with them anyways. Numerous agencies are working as «state approved» or «official Indian tourist agencies.» Some of them are ok — you can even sign a contract and have a nice trip like me. I signed because I can’t travel around by train. I don’t have time to find a bus. So, it is better to pay more and have a personal driver.
Pros.: they will include hotels, breakfasts, and tourist attraction fees. Cons.: the list should be strictly stipulated in the contract; the agency will always provide a guide for the main attraction — you MUST tip the guide; you will always go to some shitty production facility to «purchase» local product for the galaxy price; any tips are not included.
In my case, the pros. Were simple — awesome driver, nice experience, everything was quick and very informative. Cons.: I had to suffer those shitty production facilities, deny any purchases, rude behavior when sellers see you don’t want to buy their stuff; tips for the average guidance; VERY expensive lunch stops.
Scam is everywhere. Literally EVERYWHERE. You go out — someone comes to you, starts a talk, distracts you. You go to buy some beer — people want to drag you away to show a «better» beer place. You walk — some driver follows you to get you into his tuk-tuk. You sit and listen to the lousy story of local loom making — the guy says the price for a shirt is 2500 rupees, but you see the cost of production is less than 50. They drop to 500 rupees later when you walk away. This never-ending scam looks like everybody thinks you’re just a touristic dumbass who knows nothing of this world and traveling.
For guys, scam is kind of tolerable and average. But for women, it may be even more dangerous because local guys will be interested in having something more than money. Some women use this to their advantage (I know these stories even from locals), but some get into trouble.
5. Buses? Trains?
Now, you may book online tickets for the train. But you MUST ensure where the station is. However, during the holidays, like the 15th of August, people travel around. Locals buy tickets in advance. Sometimes, three months in advance. So, be prepared. You may use local buses but be ready for traffic jams and lack of comfort.
It’s horrible. Literally horrible. Nothing to add.
If you stick around for a while in slums, with drivers, with poor people, or with someone who struggles daily — you may have good connections. In this case, the book Shantaram was correct.
Always be ready that the cost of your trip is x1.5 or x2 more than you expected. India is not that cheap unless you have locals who help unless you spend enough to know stuff. Compared to Cambodia or Laos — it’s very expensive.
9. Shock content?
First, garbage. I didn’t expect to see THAT much garbage. I was always against calling India one of the record countries on garbage. But when I came to Delhi, while traveling, I realized it was true. Garbage is everywhere. Good thing — it doesn’t smell. Yeah, sometimes you may feel some smell of a dump — it could be worse though. Second, it is hard to find a convenient store. You can find things to buy in small stores: cigarettes, some snacks, etc. But you won’t see 7/11 on every corner like in Thailand. As a result, if you want to buy some beers — try to find liquor stores. But in alleyways where life goes separately from the bigger streets, you will definitely smell substances. If you don’t like it — reconsider your trip to India or book luxury places.
In the next post, I will explain my trip from Delhi to Agra and then to Jaipur, and back to Delhi.