India Travel Tips by Harold Brown

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.

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Public Toilets - Not even an option unless you are in a more upscale shop, hotel, office building
  7. 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.


India has a problem with excessive amounts of litter everywhere you go

Woman with a piece of wood

Jaipur is a very popular tourist location

 

Hawa Mahal, is a palace in Jaipur, India, it was essentially a high screen wall built so the women of the royal household could observe street festivals while unseen from the outside.


Marine Drive Mumbai

Mumbai Taxi - Make sure your taxi has a working meter and remember the taxi plate number


Westin Hotel Mindspace by Harold Brown

We have stayed twice at the Westin Hotel Mindspace in Hi-Tech City, Hyderabad. The Westin is a 5 star hotel and a great place to stay while visiting Hyderabad. The hotel was only open for one month when we first stayed there in January 2010. India film stars stay at the hotel, there are 4 restaurants, spa, lounge, and the internet access is great. Here are a few pictures of the Westin Mindspace that I have taken during our visits. 

The Westin Mindspace
The Westin Mindspace

Looking east toward the Westin and the outdoor pool

Westin Hotel Pool
Executive Chef Rakesh Singh
Chef Mukesh
Seasonal Tastes Restaurant

Westin Mindspace Room 1714

Chef Srikanth

 

Time to Capture More of India by Harold Brown

It was almost 6 years since we had last traveled to India and although we have enough pictures from the original trip to still last the next couple of years I wanted to get out onto the streets more this time around. This time we spent all our time in Hyderabad and saw more of the city and surrounding area. 

First stop on the way was Washington Dulles and Emirates Airlines. The gate was right next to South African Airways and my wife was tempted to trade-in her ticket to head home and visit her family in Joburg. 

Geeta stands under the South African Flag in Dulles Airport

Dulles A Gates

Flying Emirates Boeing 777-300 to Dubai and then onto Hyderabad

I watched "Mission Impossible Rogue Nation" and "Spy" on the way to India

Just like last time we were flying during warnings of terrorist attacks, this time we left just after the attacks on Paris. 

14 minutes away from the Dubai International Airport

Geeta at Dubai International Airport

Geeta at Dubai International Airport


Washington Dulles

 

Dubai

 

1967 Ford Mustang Fastback by Harold Brown

A few pictures I took in 2011 of a 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback at the Brunswick Car Show

1967 Ford Mustang
1967 Ford Mustang
1967 Ford Mustang
1967 Ford Mustang

I enjoy going to a few car shows every year and taking in the views of the old pony cars and remembering a time when they were new on the road.

 


Old Stone Joe on R539 in Mpumalanga, South Africa by Harold Brown

On our way to Kruger National Park from Johannesburg we came across "Old Joe" on R539. I have blogged about this before but I thought it was worth talking about again. Old Joe is actually a giant rock dug up by a road crew in the 1920s. It is named after Joe Barbas who was the supervisor of the road crew that built the road. The road crew recognized that the rock looked like a man and it was placed as a mile marker along the road. Over the years the tradition of painting the rock started and now tourists stop and checkout Old Joe when driving to Sabie and/or Kruger Park. In 2009 it was a safe place to stop by to take pictures, if you are headed on safari and near the area stop by and see how Old Joe is painted today.

"Old Joe" Painted Rock Statue

Old Joe is one of those rare finds while traveling that many people will drive by without realizing what they are missing. Old Joe has decades of tradition, don't miss it.

Joe Barbas "Old Joe"
"Old Joe" Painted Rock Statue

Cartoonists/painters are sent to repaint Old Joe from time to time so his appearance is ever changing. These pictures were taken in March of 2009 while on our way to Kruger Park.

Near Old Joe on R539