Trip Tips to India
India cannot move without three things- Indian Railways, Potato and Tea. These three were legacy of British Raj. English people brought Tea from China and made India its home. Tea is the safest brew that you can consume anywhere in India. Indians and Tibetans boil tea and took it to the next level-soup. Tibetans add salt, butter, milk and baking soda for heaven sake! Indians add ginger, masala, cardamom, creamy milk and sugar. Original tea flavor is gone and dead. Tea-Soup is new reincarnate and ready to serve.
Potato is native to Peru. British gave it to India. Without potato Indians cannot live. It is everywhere - Samosa, Tikka, Papper, Allo Gobi.
Indian Railway network, the largest in the world, was built by the British. eTicket is ever present now in India. eTicket is the next best thing Indian did it to its million commuters. Agents charge 50 rupees extra over and above the ticket cost. There is a special train tickets kept aside only for the Tourists. Special Air Conditioned Railway Ticket Counters are available for tourist in many places in India. One thing to remember with eTickets is that it can be cancelled only at the agency bought it from. Indian Railway Ticket Counter will not refund money unless it is bought from them. Full amount refund is possible only if ticket is cancelled before 24 hours.
Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express Train ticket includes food, snack and bottle water.
Safe Drinking Water
Safe Drinking water and safe food for a tourist is vital. Day or two in bed or hospital is waste of money and your limited holiday time. Drink only boiled water, if possible. When water is boiled, it kills virus, bacteria and other microbes. Next best choice is buy bottled water from restaurants or hotel and never from street. I saw few, at railway station, fill up empty bottles with tap water and sell it. Railway booth vendors also sell fake bottles. If seal of the bottled water is broken, it is not safe!
Hiring a Taxi
If you are unaccompanied, or family of 3 or less, do not hire a taxi. It is not safe. There are incidents where taxi driver is involved in kidnap or murder for money. However, it is safe to hire taxi through “brick and house” agency or hotel or lodge. If that is not workable then book a taxi and take it to the nearest police station. Give police your destination, taxi number, driver’s name and your passport number.
Never leave sight of your luggage unless train is in speed. Use toilet when the train is in speed. Keep your luggage within your eye sight. Luggage that is behind or above your head is as good as lost when train is at station and crowd aboard or leave.
Do not eat any food offered by a fellow passenger
Do not accept any food items offered by fellow passengers in a train or a bus. Refuse it politely. They mix plant extract or sleeping pill in food that “knock out” nervous system, immobilize and vanish with your belongings.
Ask the price before you order your meal
This is a common trick. Unless there is a menu, ask price before eating. Most of these Road-side restaurant or Dhabba or eatery will demand huge price once meal is consumed. You are left with no option but pay!
Cloak Room: Most Railway platform has one
Bring along a metal chain and extra locks and keys. In case luggage needs to be chained to a non-movable object. All Cloak rooms demand your luggage be locked and ask for a copy of passport too. Valuable are not safe in cloak rooms! I had my luggage zip ripped at Gauhati cloak room.
Waiting Room: AC Waiting rooms for ticket holders
Waiting Rooms for 1st and 2nd Class with AC or non AC are available in almost every station. These Waiting Rooms have toilet facility too. These facilities are for ticket holders only.
Over the counter Drugs
Bring along Anti Diarrhea, Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Gravol, Hot-Water-Bottle and a thermometer. E-coli is ever present in Indian water system specially during rainy season. Water borne disease such as Travelers’ Diarrhea, Typhoid and Jaundice are common experience and as a tourist such disease will shorten your hoiiday.
India is a land of heat and dust. Nasal Irrigation is very helpful for dust and other allergies. Take a warm water in a jug-almost all hotels have running hot water. Add enough common salt to taste like sea-water. Pour it down the right nostril with neck bend left so that water will run down the other left nostril. It is alright if bit of salty water runs down your throat too. During my trip for almost three months I never experienced any cold- I toured Delhi, BodhGaya, Sikkim, Darleeling, Kalimpong, Varanasi, Sarvasti, Lumbini, Haridwar, Rishikash, DehraDun and Mussoorie.
Electric Gadgets and Voltage: 230 Volt vs 110 Volt
India, China, Australia, UK, and all of Middle East countries use 230 Volt instead of 120Volt in Canada and USA. Therefore do not bring any electrical Gadgets such as hair dryer, electric shaver, electric tooth brush, iron, kettle, radio, tape recorders and audio players unless it say dual-power or there is a print that says 240/120 V on your gadget. For detail list of countries with different Voltage and Frequency please visit this website: http://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plug-voltage-by-country/
Most electric gadget sold in North America are 120V. Laptops, camcorders, cameras and iPhones have built-in voltage converter. DVD Players and most Radios/cd audio Players do not work in India. Anyway, everyone needs a special outlet socket converter or plug converter(Indian electric outlet sockets are round instead of flat like in North America). These socket adaptors are sold in dollar or 99cent stores for ONE dollar.
Indian electrical wall outlet is round as shown above.
Plug Adapter that is needed in India for North American travelers: Make sure that male side of the adapter is round, not flat.
Voltage Converters – convert electrical power from 240V to 120V- are sold at Sears, CCA and Walmart. They cost more than $30. These items may carry with it few or universal plug coverts too. If it does not then you will have to buy plug converters separately. Sensitive instruments require other conformity such as Frequency and Current ratings. For example if your instrument works at 60Hz then Indian 50Hz will toast it no matter what Voltage you use.
Dual-Voltage Tea-Kettle is sold in North America. Such Tea-Kettle will works in India(240 Voltage) and here in North America(110 Voltage) too. Small is better for travel. Boiled water is the safest drinking water anywhere in the world. PersonalEdge, Eton Center, Toronto, carries such appliance for $32. It is 360ml capacity, it has manual switch and 2 extra cups.
Neck-worn passport wallets: Mountain Equipment
Passport is the most important document . No matter where you stay, relatives, friends or hotels, it must be on your body, literally. Wallet that is thin, flat and big enough to fit your passport must be worn inside your shirt hanging down your belly 24/7.
Flashlight: a must in India
Flashlight is very handy. India is not bright but dark and out of power every day. Indians call Flashlight torch instead.
Some part of India is cold. Keep Hot Water-Bottle filled with hot water under your feet while sleeping. It will keep you warm through the night. There are no heating system for hotel or house in India.
Disposable Dust Mask/face mask- a must for all
Dust is everywhere in India. Face Mask or Dust Mask is very important part of your trip. It must be with you all the time. You will never know when it is needed.
Beach Mat/ emergency blanket/A thin plastic sheet
Shinny Silver mat is water proof and very small when folded. Weight and size of items matter lot for travelers. Unlike North America, Indian love to sit in lawn and parks. Any waterproof material underneath is useful.
Wet-towel/ Cleansing/baby Wipes: Dollar store
Buy few boxes of wet baby wipe or facial cleansing from Dollar store. Indian heat, dust, and sweat can harm your skin and face. Finding clean water is another hurdle. Wet towel will do the trick.
This light material shoe cover is found in medical stores. Doctors use such shoe covers while performing surgery. I saw fancy ones made from cloth. Many temples and archeological places such as Agra Taj mahal, BodhGaya temple etc. will not allow street-shoes within these compounds. But sometimes they will allow street shoes with shoe-cover on. Put shoe-cover over your shoe and walk right in. Explain how it works to the Gate or watch man. I saw few in Taj Mahal wearing them on their shoes. It saves time and worry of losing shoes too.
Hand sanitizer: liquid
This is something personal. It was very helpful for me-before and after a meal.
Mosquito repellent: spray and after bite
Mosquito is ever present in India. There is no escape from it. Walmart has a insect repellent spray for $7. There are mosquito nets sold at Mountain Equipment or Canadian stores. Since there are different types of mosquitos in the world, above repellent may not work in India. Mosquito net is the safest.
Ziploc is very handy. You can put liquid, bottle, solid food items and many more. It is air tight, transparent and clean.
Keep a pen and an address handy. You have to fill up forms in the Airplane and at the airport. Address of where you are staying with or the hotel is required.
Extra photo and photocopy of passport, visa etc.
Take few extra passport size photo and photocopy of passport and visa handy. These are required if you intend to use different SIM card for mobile and USB stick for internet in India. Also do not forget to ask the network’s minimum recharge value if you intend to move around in India. For instance, if you purchase Airtel SIM from Delhi, you must know Delhi’s minimum recharge amount. Minimum recharge/top amount is valid anywhere in India.
Do not forget to recharge mobile before it is zero amount or else Mobile behaves like a dead. It will neither receive calls nor make connections. It will not tell you either that there is no money in the account. Some network has #123# dial to check amount left in your account. Recharge booth sare common place in India.
I found TataPhoton internet USB stick much faster. With such internet stick, you can access internet from anywhere- hotel, bus or train. It cost about 1000 rupees.
Note: At Manjnutilak a Tibetan shop offers mobile SIM and internet stick. Next to Tibet Tour and Travels.
Hotels too will ask for photocopy of your passport and visa. It is the rule. Visitors to Sikkim requires special permit over and above your visa.
If you are fussy about dusty shoe, India will test your endurance. White sneaker might not show dirt. It depends on color of dust or soil though. Color of soil in Goa is red. Rest of India is chalk-color.
Camera, Laptop, Camcorder
Memories need not be always eventful or beautiful or breathtaking. They can be just a funny face or plain proof of you being there. Unlike film rolls, Digital camera can store hundreds of pictures. So do not bring back camera with lots of free space left. Click as much as you can-Good, bad, rain or shine. You can delete unwanted photos later, but the sites you have toured cannot be reached until your next trip!
Buy extra memory card, extra battery and do not forget to bring chargers and adaptors- India has circular sockets, in case you forget.
Photo size 6 by 4inch(regular) is big enough for email. Do not use huge megapixel when all you want is regular size photo. More photos can be taken if photo size is small.
Delhi Airport Express Metro
From New Delhi there is a special Airport Metro line that goes direct to Indra Ganghi International Airport. It hardly takes 30 minutes to get there. No traffic jam and no delay. At new Delhi Metro station there are two Metros’ ; one is Delhi Metro and the other is Airport Express Metro. Do not get mixed up. Airport Express Metro has plenty of seats and luggage racks too unlike Delhi Metro.
Most Airlines leave India in the Wee hours. So be at the airport day before the departure date. If departure is at 1:05am, 12 Jan. 2012, you should be at the airport by 9pm, 11 Jan. Many have missed their airlines by reading the day wrongly including me!.
Left over Drugs
Give away any leftover drugs, used pants, shirts etc. to your friends. Do not bring them back. Just a jean and a shirt will get you back home.
If you have stayed for more than 7 days outside Canada, you have the right to bring in un-prohibited total goods worth of C$ 750 per person.
Hope you will have a happy and safe holiday.