Hello everyone, let me start by announcing that I have never in my life written a travel blog. Ever. I have read anything and everything online about how to make it simple, yet funny. Short and memorable. I guess it depends on the reader itself to make the decision itself whether they enjoy it or not!
Written By: Alexandra Clifford
So Here We Go…
I booked a many trips back in February this year after what you may call “an early mid life crisis” (or the result of a breakup from an ex boyfriend and selling the house we had, to leaving a long term job that had excellent pay and holidays all before I turn thirty this year). I was not a happy bunny. I had worn dark shady sunglasses, blocking out all types of positive door openings that were available at that time.
So one Monday morning at 8.30am after offering my resignation letter to my manager at the time giving notice, I thought about where I wanted to go and visit. Not to “find myself” as one often thinks about a fellow traveller but to certainly break habit of a lifetime and create change where it was very much overdue. I was effectively running away from all stress and routine that I had learnt the past three years with a relationship, and six years in a job where there was zero job satisfaction.
By Wednesday afternoon, I had researched various trips to Asia using google. I had travelled with G-Adventures, but felt I needed a little more of a cultural trip than New Zealand the previous year.
India was on my mind and anything else that came up in that category and area fitted my ideal holiday plan. So, I called Intrepid Travel and on the spot gave dates I was available in April. The advisor found me a great trip straight away and I booked it there and then.
The trip was to Delhi (India) and to Kathmandu (Nepal) for fifteen days and was over £1,000. I booked for an extra three days post trip to have some tranquil solo time and readjust before I flew home. No age restrictions, cultural, exotic and most of all India with the bonus of another country.
Was I scared? Absolutely. Was I kicking myself that I had given up everything that I knew for a new venture? Certainly, but I was so open to change that my whole mentality was just accepting that everything is possible.
Before I travelled, a work colleague of mine had given me this wonderful book to read whilst on my travels- Monisha Rajesh- Around India in 80 Trains. I howled and howled with laughter from start to finish. People thought I was a psychopath, laughing alone reading. Often tears just ran down my face, people thought I was off my rocker. At least my travel buddies on the India/Nepal trip understood my reasoning. Everything we did and saw in India, occurred in this book. Trust me, anyone who has travelled to India will certainly see the link between the two. The funniest read ever. BUY IT AND READ IT!
Moving Swiftly On, I’ll Only Provide Top Tips To Travel In India For Now
Some Advice on Travelling in India:
1. Always wear trousers that can be shorts when rolled up, and a t-shirt that does not reveal your flesh/chest area. Arms uncovered are fine, but take long sleeves if you can for more appropriate places.
2. Make sure you have a scarf or pashmina of some kind to cover your hair if required when visiting certain temples/places of worship.
Cover up and although you will be harassed by many people by stares, it comes off better for you!
3. Drink bottled water and ask if the ice is mineral water and not from the tap.
4. Wear a money belt. You just can’t be too sure what may happen to you.
5. Take your own fabric bags to buy stuff at the local markets/food areas. They are big on recycling there and the plastic bags are just terrible for the environment. Sadly you can’t even recycle your bottles you have used easily, so be aware of your own waste that you collect when travelling.
6. On auto-rickshaws (Tuk tuks) or rickshaws (bicycle tuk tuks) make sure that you have your bag over at least one shoulder so if someone came to take it (believe me it happens…) whilst you were travelling and it was loose and readily available, goodbye bag.
7. Take ear plugs if you are sensitive to noise. Also to sleep in the evening, well worth the investment. Generally India is noisy, lots of cars/rickshaws beep their horns throughout the night and day.
8. Don’t give money to the children that beg. It is awful and a damn shame that children and people have to live like this, but it is the mafia related crimes that cause the children to beg. Even if you give food, it will and has been thrown away in front of you (from experience it is true). It is really money they want. Don’t buy milk for mothers that carry the babies in the street. Try not to encourage this sort of behaviour (it sounds quite awful to say that) but it does not help to encourage them to look for work and better their situation.
9. The local toilets do not leave much for the imagination, be prepared with alcohol hand gel and toilet roll. Some are squat and go, others more conventional western toileting systems. Alcohol hand gel is a must. Buy some in the UK, not easily found in India.
10. Advice for women travelling- cover up, try and walk in well lit areas, try and remain with at least one person. Both men and women will be harassed who are clearly not Indian and intentions of selfies with or without permission is another bugbear of others. Just be aware of your surroundings at all costs. There is lots of advice online for female travellers, but just common sense to maintain safety at all times!
Enough Of The Negative For Now…
1. Buy some floating Asian elephant pants that everyone owns for about 250 rupees (about £2!). Items of clothing and scarves can be bought at the local markets everywhere for practically no money (even if you backpack!). Men and women own them, so you won’t look out of place as a traveller/tourist.
2. Do taste the Chai Tea. It is quite fabulous and smells amazing! The spices really kick your senses into action whilst providing some proper insight to their wonderful drinks.
3. Do visit the local Sikh temples if you can. Often you can eat there (wonderful fresh food) and give a donation. They can feed up to 10,000 people a day in these places, so if you don’t want to eat, do pop in and see what they cook and how they cook. It is quite a vision!
4. Visit the local markets and try the local cuisine on the streets if it has been cooked in front of you. Cooked veg is fine to eat, be aware of the fruits unless you have peeled and washed it.
5. Food can average £3-6 per meal approximately, sometimes cheaper in other places. Either way, the food is absolutely magnificent. By the way, quick tip for those that are not into spicy food- its not spicy as in chilli, but more the spices that are used in cooking. They pile it in the food, so what you think you know, remove all knowledge of it.
6. Visit the local tailor shops, they can make you fabulous shirts etc for no money. However, on the negative side, some rickshaws will take you out and straight to the tailors. If you do not want this, tell them you don’t.
7. Hire a rickshaw for the day, make it worth your while. If you tip well enough, they will be back the next day and looking after you all over again.
8. Attend a cooking class if you can! A fantastic insight into how this incredible food is prepared from start to finish. Rajni Cooking Class, Orchha is the place I went to. I also enjoyed eating it… haha
9. Try the overnight sleeper train in India. Well worth it, mingle with the locals whilst working out how to sort out you’re sleeping arrangements… Best night sleep ever in my opinion. Oh by the way, don’t expect the train to be on time or arrive at the destination on time. Indian time is a different kind of time system.
10. Use the public transportation available for a real experience of India and learn how to say thank you and goodbye, maybe hello etc in their language.
I hope you found this article to be somewhat interesting and valuable for when you visit India.
Don’t be put off with the negatives, sometimes a little risk adds to the very nature of the country.
I hope in the future there will be more to follow.
Author / Writer: Alexandra Clifford
Have you travelled to India?
Have you got any tips or suggestions to share?
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