Monday, November 30, 2015

India: 10 Tips for Traveling in India

India was definitely a land of beauty. But certainly it was not easy traveling in India. I heard someone once says 'If you can travel and survive in India, you can travel and survive anywhere else.'

With these words carved in my heart, my husband and I decided it is the right time to travel India. So, we did travel in India for 2 weeks and it was experience like none other. It was not luxurious trip nor an easy trip like we used to do in Korea, Singapore, and Bali. We thoroughly enjoy our experience in India despite the ups and downs. Everything happens for a reason and it gives us a chance to learn and be wiser.
Taj Mahal, Agra
But if I could share my/our wisdom and experience with you guys, I hope this 10 tips will help you for your upcoming adventure in India.

1. Triposo India

I am truly grateful for this app. Not only you can use map and gps when it is offline. You can also check recommended places to see, foods to eat, things to do while offline. But of course if you are on online mode, you will get more of it; like you would be able to see pictures of places to see, booked hotel and see the reviews first, etc. This app helped us booked 4 hotels on our journey, one in each cities; Jaipur, Agra, Delhi, and Goa. Our favorite hotel were the one in Jaipur (H.R Palace) and the ultimate one in Delhi (Hotel Holiday Inn, Airport City). Also it helps to navigate offline with the offline gps and map every time you need to walk around the area or looking to find the hotel's address.  *Hotel Review on the next post
Front side of Hawa Mahal 

2. Learn the basic Language

Sure, there are a lot of people that speak English in Mumbai and Delhi. So did in Jaipur too. But it is always nice to be able to say thank you, hi, etc in local language. On our case, I can speak a little bit of Hindi since I have been watching Bollywood movies since I was small. I picked up some words that I used a lot on the trip. I find it a lot easier to haggle and people tend to be nicer and more willing to help when I speak the local language.

3. Polite but Firm

There will be plenty and believe me when I said plenty..because it will be plenty of scams and people trying to offer you things to sell. They always act super nice and tend to be helpful. But then they will ask you to visit their store and buy something. I bought 2 overly expensive pashminas for 1000 rupees when I can get it for even cheaper price. I also bought several clothes and other fabrics for quite expensive price when I can always get it cheaper somewhere else. Sigh. It will happen more often in Jaipur and Agra. Not so much in Mumbai. Lesson learned, be polite yet firm when it comes to say NO.

4. Dress Modestly and Comfortably

Whether you are a man or a woman, dress modestly in India is always more appreciated. Don't forget to pack a scarf or you can buy some in India as they have so many of those beautiful scarfs. Jaipur offers a satin/sutra made scarf, I bought mine for 500 rupees. But I think you can still get it cheaper. It won't hurt to bring your own scarf too. In case you won't have any time for shopping. On hot humid India, we prefer to wear sandals. As it is a lot easier to take it off if you want to visit temples.

5. Best Season

Best season to go to India especially North India is October-November. As it will be lest hot. Train journey will also be faster before December for a trip from Agra to Delhi or Jaipur to Agra as there might be sand storm on December which we will make the train goes super slow and the journey will be longer twice than usual.
Akbar's Tomb in Agra

6. Careful with Auto rickshaw or Tuk-tuk Driver

I was really upset when I first dealing with Tuk-tuk driver in Jaipur and then Agra. They appeared to be nice. The one in Jaipur offer a cheap trip of 200 rupees to 4 different places that was currently free of charge. He said there is some event for the elephant. He would take us to Elephant house, water temple, Maharani's pool, etc and we don't have to pay a dime for the ticket. Turned out those places were Elephant's cage where they will guilty trip you to get an elephant ride for the benefit of the elephant (yeah damn right it is for the elephant!?), Jal Mahal and a small pool which cannot be entered to begin with..obviously there won't be any ticket selling there. The worse, he said he will take us to Mughal's village to see local people's home business; like printing and stuff. But he took us to a store where the owner explained how the printing was made from a handmade block print. I had to bought 2 overly pricey pashminas there. Fortunately I can give it to my mom who loves pashmina. The driver's name is Ali and he is a tuk-tuk driver in Jaipur. He drives like a mad guy in small alleys or cramped road. Make sure if you get a tuk-tuk driver, said No if he offers all the think like I mentioned above. Stick to your plan and to do list.
beautiful Jal Mahal or Water Palace

7. Pack Lightly

India is hot and humid. It won't be fun to walk around with suitcases every time you move city to city. It is always better to pack lightly in India as it will be easier for you to pay attention to all your stuffs and less chance of it getting stolen. Don't forget to pack sunblock and lotion too. Sunblock is the best protection against the sun. And despite of its humidity, it is always best to put on lotion right before sleeping to keep the moisture inside. Because it is also very dusty in some parts of India. Scarf will also help you breath when it is really dusty. Bring sling bag too, it is easier to walk around with sling bag instead of backpack since we won't be able to see if pickpocket try to steal something on the crowd.

8. List to Do and Places to Go

It is better to have a list to do and places to go before going to India. It will give us brief information on our plan and will help you to navigate from places to places avoiding wasting time in between places thinking where else to go. However, let live decide the next plan. Don't get too upset if it is not exactly as you plan it. Because you will never know what will you encounter there. You might like a certain place a lot more and decided to stay there longer. That could works too. But having a list to do and places to go/see definitely help the decision making. My advice, no need to stay longer in Agra and Jaipur as you might finished all the sightseeing in the major tour destinations within 2 days. You can even do one day trip to Agra and coming back to Jaipur. We regret not spending more time in other part of Rajasthan like Jaisalmer which I heard even more beautiful.
Our list

9. Be Alarmed but Don't be Paranoid

Yes, there are a lot of bad publications about India. You are entitled to be more cautious but no need to be paranoid. I found Mumbai pretty save even at night. Jaipur especially, we would just randomly sitting some where at night while waiting for the night entertainment to start. Just use your common sense. Don't go out too late at night and better if you have company.

10. Have sense of Humor and Enjoy the Ride

Yes, India is super beautiful. They have rich culture and beautiful palaces. But there are also parts where people peeing on the street, lousy traffic, scammer tuk-tuk driver, etc. I let myself becoming to engross in the feeling of being upset and mad that it almost ruin our journey. I almost cried in Fatehpur Sikri, a palace outside of Agra, because people keep swarming us and offering to sell things or to guide us. I have said No to this one but the next one coming. I could not event count it. They are super persistent. I yelled and cried. All they did was amused and confused. But after I look very upset. They stop bothering us. However, it almost ruin the experience. Actually it is pretty ruined. Because of all the things that happened to us in India including getting stolen in Mumbai, Fatehpur Sikri was really awful experience. I almost think it was not worth it to go 1 hour tuk-tuk drive from Agra. Lesson learned. Enjoy the ride and the rest is history or exciting story for the future.