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Thread: Sharing a friend's write-up.... for India.

  1. #1
    Senior Member zoossh's Avatar
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    Nov 2005

    Default Sharing a friend's write-up.... for India.

    I'm very fortunate to get some last min advice from asterixsg.... and got his permission to share with the rest who may benefit for your incoming trip or future trip....

    extracted.... and for the ease of reading, i'm adding headings or sub-headings.... on top of his write-up

    and although sounding a bit contrary to the spirit of sharing this thread, please avoid burdening too much on asterixsg although he knows so much there. try to read through a copy of lonely planet first, do some homework, and only ask further of what lonely planet does not cover or did not cover adequately. i'm very grateful though, when i got his pm unexpectedly, and that is very nice of him. however i'm just afraid that he will be swarmed with too much pm that may be, in some cases, unwarranted if they are easily resourced or read.

    1. Mapping
    First of all, you got to decide on the route you are gonna take while travelling to all these places.

    Jaipur is in the north-west. Agra, Varanasi, Allahabad, Delhi are in the north and Mumbai in the west. Unless you fly to Mumbai, you will waste a lot of time travelling by train.

    2. Flights to India
    SQ, Indian Airlines, Air India, Sahara are some of the airlines that come to my mind. Best thing is to go to Mustafa travel (avoid Sunday evenings - I guess you know that of fairly obvious reasons) and get the best offer that they have. Its only a 5-1/2 hour flight, so don't expect too much service in any airline other than SQ.
    If you fly back and forth from the same city i.e. to Delhi and back to Singapore from Delhi, the ticket price will be cheaper.
    Since you are probably going to Delhi for the first time, see if you can get a flight that lands in the day there. Most flights leave in the evening from Singapore, reach India around 10 something. This will be like 1230 in Singapore (Singapore is ahead of India by 2-1/2 hours), you will feel a bit disoriented looking at the maddening crowds, long queues at the immigration, waiting for your bags and you will get cranky soon.

    When I travel to a city for the first time, i try to land there during the day. it just seems a lot safer to me.

    3. Travel options within India
    You can travel by train/road/air.

    Indian Railways website
    You can book your tickets online and even print your own tickets. Keep your passports/IC as proof of identification. Unless you have a firm route in mind, you can't go around booking your tickets. So, plan your route, book the air/train tickets etc. and then book accomodation.

    Avoid travel by Road unless absolutely necessary.

    Domestic airlines
    Indian Airlines
    Air Sahara
    Jet Airways
    Kingfisher airlines

    If you fly Singapore - India by Indian Airlines, you can get 50% off one domestic leg of your trip. You might want to make a note of that.

    4. Travel across cities
    Delhi to Agra is a 3 hour train ride. I will try to look for the best option and let you know. There used to be a train which left Delhi at 7 in the morning, reaches Agra by 10. Similarly, there is a train that leaves Agra at 6 PM in the evening, reaches Delhi by 9 PM.
    If you are travelling longer distances by train, get the best class. The various classes are
    First Class
    A/C 3 Tier
    A/C 2 Tier

    Get the A/C 2 Tier one. This will be like 4 people to a coupe.

    I guess by now train tickets to Allahabad would've been fully booked considering the Kumbh mela. Not sure, but in that case you might have to travel either by air or by road from Delhi to Allahabad. Get a private taxi - since you are 4-5, the cost won't be that high.

    5. Websites
    UP Tourism

    Agra, Varanasi, Allahabad are in the state called Uttar Pradesh. You will get lots of info in this website. Try to stay in the UPSTDC guesthouses/hotels/bunglows.
    UPSTDC ===> Uttar Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation.
    Start calling these places and book your accomodation. When you call - ignore the 0 in front. eg. you will need to call
    Country code + Area Code + Phone number
    91 532 2601440 if you want to book
    Hotel Illawart, UPSTDC Tourist Bungalow, 35, M.G. Marg, Civil Lines, Allahabad. Phones: (0532)2601440 & 2604377

    I don't remember where we stayed in Allahabad and Varanasi - that trip was like a quarter of a century back. But get the best room that they can offer. Not sure if will need an a/c room since its winter, but hot water is a must.

    When in Agra, do take time to go to Fatehpur Sikri. You can either do a day trip, but I will recommend that you stay overnight there. It should be quite nice in the evening and night, once the day tourists get back to Agra. Lots of photo-ops.
    Not sure if you can see the Taj at night. Check the dates when you will be in Agra. Night viewing of Taj is only allowed 5 days a month - 2 days before/after the full moon and on the day of full moon.
    Taj at night is a sight to behold - the single most beautiful monument in the world. When I saw the Taj for the first time, as a 9 year old, tears came into my eyes when the time came to leave the place at night. Its that beautiful.

    Rajasthan Tourism
    Jaipur is in the state of Rajasthan. Its the state capital.

    Delhi Tourism
    Check out these two websites...
    Last edited by zoossh; 26th January 2007 at 11:40 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member zoossh's Avatar
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    Nov 2005

    Default Re: Sharing a friend's write-up.... for India.

    In my humble opinion, you should skip Mumbai. Its out of the way. And its just one MAD place. Trust me, nothing much to see in that city except the maddening crowds. You will find an extreme version of Ren Shan Ren Hai. On another trip, you can probably start from Mumbai and travel southwards towards Goa.

    In this trip, if you continue westward from Jaipur (either by road or train), you would reach a city called Jaisalmer. Its very beautiful. The entire city is built in yellow sandstone. You will get to see forts, palaces, sanddunes and ride camels. Let me know if you need more info on this place. I will try to dig my contacts - I went there quite recently in 1999.

    General tips
    1. Food, water and medicines. General hygiene.
    Please do carry medicines with you to treat an upset stomach. Panadol for those body/head aches.
    Strictly avoid street food, and always drink bottled mineral water. Look for the brands BISLERI or there's one bottled by Coca Cola and Pepsi.
    Just to be extra safe, carry those water purification tablets.
    a girl from my office came back after a 2 week pilgrimage trip - she is a buddhist and travelled to a lot of places - delhi, agra, varanasi, bodh gaya etc. etc. and in 2 weeks itself, she had the 'runs' a few times. and she was always eating in 'good n clean' restaurants as she put it. he he he.
    Varanasi is the worst place for food contamination. I don't know what you guys are gonna eat there.
    Allahabad because of the Kumbh mela will be quite bad too in terms of hygiene. Carry lots of wet tissues and dry tissues too. Carry two rolls of good quality toilet paper too.

    2. Weather
    delhi in jan will be like 3-4 degrees minimum. max in the 20s. Feb should be more pleasant. There will be a chill in the air and its DRY weather (except Mumbai which will be quite like Singapore). Carry lip balm, and stuff like vaseline, body lotions so that your skin doesn't dry up.

    3. Safety
    All these places that you are travelling to, are FULL of crooks. Don't trust people too easily. You will be prime targets for chilli chilli chop chop.
    Try to stick together - especially you LotusFairy. Women aren't treated that well in Delhi and in Uttar Pradesh. Sorry that I am being explicit. There are numerous cases of eve-teasing in Delhi - sometimes its just plain simple staring at you, at times if they see you alone, they will even be bold enough to touch you, feel you from behind. Its simply DISGUSTING. Don't even think of taking public buses. Since you will be 4-5 people, ask your hotel to arrange for a private car. And a local guide, who can speak English. This applies in every city that you go to.

    Since this will also be a photography trip for you guys, I suppose you will be carrying DSLRs ===> expensive equipment. Always keep your cameras with you, don't EVER leave them in the hotel rooms. Always lock your bags even if you are stepping out of your rooms for a short while. I am not saying India is full of thieves, but why do you want to tempt fate.

    4. Clothing
    Carry 3-4 trekking pants and 6-8 drifit TShirts (short and long sleeves). This way you can travel very light and wash your clothes in your room and they will dry in a couple of hours - overnight. Avoid giving clothes for laundry unless its a good hotel. You don't know where they get washed and dried. You might get some skin rashes or whatever.
    One good jacket - 10 degrees one should be good enough.

    Girls. Avoid wearing sleeveless shirts, noodle straps and short skirts/shorts. Try to keep your body covered - to protect you from cold and to keep eyes off. I hope you get what I mean. Carry a shawl for added protection.
    I learnt this from a friend. She carries a very thin sleeping bag with her. She just opens it up and uses it as a bedspread - in some hotels, they don't change bedsheets everyday. yikes.

    Don't keep all your money in the wallet. Wear a money belt or put your money in different pockets. When travelling as a group, make sure that only one person forks out the money and then do your accounts later. So, those petty thieves won't know how much money you folks are carrying. Watch out for your wallets. I don't know about you guys, but I don't wear expensive watches during my travels. My trusted GShock is good enough. LotusFairy, avoid jewellery. Gold chains etc. are easy targets for those snatch thieves.

    5. Transport within each city
    I know you can't plan everything, but this one will do you good. When you land in Delhi, get your hotel to pick you up from the airport. OR get a pre-paid taxi at the airport. You will be a sitting duck if you walk out of the airport and hail a cab.
    Singapore does spoil all of us.
    Similarly, when you reach other cities, either get some transport pre-arranged or bargain like crazy. It might be quite cheap for you when you convert to S$, but you will be fleeced otherwise.
    Last edited by zoossh; 26th January 2007 at 11:52 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member zoossh's Avatar
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    Nov 2005

    Default Re: Sharing a friend's write-up.... for India.

    6. Currency
    Do check with the Indian embassy on the rules for bringing in Indian Rupees into India. Whatever may be the case, go to Mustafa and exchange some Indian Rupees. Get mostly Rs 500 notes and some Rs 100 notes. Don't exchange currency at hotels/airports. You will get a lousy rate.
    In almost all the cities that you are planning to go, you will find ATMs. Citibank has a presence in almost all these places and so is ICICI bank. Try not to use your credit cards in restaurants unless its in a 5 star hotel - just a precaution. Cash is best.
    And yeah, if you are a seasoned traveller, you will know that you shouldn't keep all your money in one place.
    And, oh, tipping. Don't overtip and spoil the market.
    Bellboys, porters at your hotel - Rs 10-15. Max 20. This is less than S$1.
    Restaurants : Approx 5-7% of the bill is a very good amount already.
    Tip only if you've got good service and you think you will go there again, otherwise just leave small change like Rs 5 or Rs 10.
    If you engage a guide (and I recommend that you do) in every place that you visit, pre-agree on the amount you are gonna pay him/her. If you like his/her services, pay Rs50 (S$2) and tell "this is for your family". Don't pay more than that. Some rascals will ask you for more. just ignore.

    7. Acclimatize yourself
    A trip to India is like no other. You will find McDonalds, Pizza Hut etc. in Delhi. Not sure about the other cities as I haven't been there recently. Its better that you start feeding your tummy some Indian food, so that its better prepared when you are in India.
    Start with Komalas - eat their snacks like Dosai, Idli, Poori (the last one will be a bit oily). You will get these in almost every restaurant in India. Komalas is customized to the Singapore palate.
    Then go to Raj Restaurant in Syed Alwi Road (walk past Mustafa till you find this restaurant on the right hand side). The best vegetarian restaurant in Singapore. Eat their nans and other dishes like paneer makhanwala etc. Try their Biryani etc. You will find that its quite different from the nasi briyani that you get in most Indian hawker stalls. The food in Raj, my friends, is AUTHENTIC Indian food. What you've been eating (if at all you've been eating Indian food) is Malaysian/Singaporean Indian food. he he he.
    Then go to Jaggies in Race Course Road. Try their kebabs, butter chicken and nans.
    If this doesn't prepare you for your India trip, then I don't know what will :-)
    You are not gonna get Fish head curry in India. Fish head curry is a Malaysian/Singaporean invention. So, don't go to those Gayatris and Muthu's curry etc.

    I don't know where to slot this in. But don't give money to beggars, sweets to children. You will live to regret. Just remember that you can't eradicate poverty from India. Moreover, that's not the purpose of your trip, is it ?

    Don't worry, you will do just fine. You are not the first ones going to India. You will survive :-) Whatever happens, keep an open mind and SMILE. The world is not a bad place afterall.

    Try not to pack too many places in this short trip. Cover a few places and enjoy them thoroughly. And all of you, PLEASE stick together even if you all have different personalities. This is the most important thing I have learnt in all my travels.

    Wish you the very best - for this trip and in life.
    Last edited by zoossh; 26th January 2007 at 11:53 PM.


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