My last post for 2015 and first post for 2016 is about travel to India. This post is more about what to look out for so the trip you plan goes better. You can find a lot of travel tips about India on the internet, make sure that you take a look at a few of them. There are so many things to watch for that no one can really describe them all. If you know someone in India they may be able to help you have a better experience. If you don't know Hindi you won't hear the dealing or things said about you and it may appear as normal conversation. If you can find a good tour guide that is paid well you will have better success.
Lets get on with the tips, comments and observations.
- Begging - The children knocking on your car window holding a baby are most likely not poor and/or will not see any of the money you hand them. Begging is a chosen profession and you will see the beggars in tourist areas. They will be any place where there is a higher chance of a foreigner feeling sorry for them or wanting to save the world one person at a time. Begging is a good paying job and doesn't require hard work, just perseverance and some dirty clothes.
- Government Shops - You will hear this a lot, basically a fixed price market where there is no need for dealing. Everyone pays the same price. The Taxi driver may tell you this is the place to go. He may also use the words wholesale, don't believe that. Our experience was that we saw items that the asking price was higher than the asking price at a non government shop. The word "saw" implies a written price, but you will seldom see a written price, it is always verbal. How these workers manage to remember the prices of hundreds and hundreds of items is beyond me and most likely changed based on who walks in the door. The taxi driver will make sure he walks with you into the shop, that means he gets money if you buy. This isn't to say that you cannot get a fair deal there, it just seems very suspicious to me. If you are good at bargaining you might do better elsewhere, we certainly did.
- Taxi Drivers - Make sure you arrange a taxi through the hotel or a responsible/safe source and that will solve the bigger problems you could run into. That won't stop the trickery, lies or foolishness, for that you have to take control. Don't talk much to the driver other than specific things you need from him like what is that building, take me to a specific address, take me back to the hotel. It is good to have pictures and written addresses. Anyplace the taxi driver suggests outside of main tourist attractions is somewhere he has the chance to make commission and it does not matter to him whether the place is good or bad. Most likely it is varying degrees of bad. Don't let the driver do any dealing for you to get you a better price, a guide, etc. They have contacts at all of the tourist sites that they can work with to get some of your cash. Many of the taxi drivers will tell you the traffic is too bad to go someplace, but they have an alternate place to go. Don't listen to that stuff. Stick to your plan.
- Take medicine with you on your trip. If you eat anywhere outside your hotel the chances of your getting diarrhea or food poisoning are very high. You need to be careful, and by the way see my rule about never going anyplace the taxi driver recommends, especially a restaurant. Go to your doctor and get a couple of doses of an antibiotic for each person traveling. The doctor will be able to recommend something for you. You will be thankful you did. Also important are antacids, aspirin, NyQuil, DayQuil (tablets), etc.
- You are not at home - Be aware of your environment and don't do foolish things like flashing money, talking openly in front of the taxi driver about money, politics or other personal matters. I really have a thing about the taxi drivers don't I. If you are female be careful about traveling extremely late by yourself.
- Public Toilets - Not even an option unless you are in a more upscale shop, hotel, office building
- Water - Never ever, ever drink anything other than bottled or canned drinks and no ice. Regardless of what hotel you stay in. Always be sure the water bottle has not been opened and refilled. A friend traveling to Mexico a few years back saw the water bottles being filled when he took a walk that landed him in the back of the hotel. Waiters that present the bottle with their hands covering the cap are up to no good.
India has a tremendous history, great places to see and I really like visiting and taking pictures (I have over 7,000 pictures of India), but it is is also surrounded in poverty. The very poor living in tents live outside the houses of the very rich. I have never seen the poorest of the poor on the streets begging, they are poor but still manage to survive on the smallest amounts of money. Don't litter which was started in the US over 40 years ago basically doesn't exist in India. There is an effort and plan in place and some people really care and many do not. As in the US it will take time but it certainly isn't going to happen anytime soon. In some areas of India it can be described as somewhere between "The Best Marigold Hotel" and "Slumdog Millionaire". A great experience surround with some harsh doses of reality. There is a lot more than can be said but I prefer to show India more than talk about it.
Feel free to leave a comment and share your experiences or travel tips. Get out and see the world and how about starting with a stay in one of the palaces in Jaipur. We enjoyed our stay in the Raj Palace.