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


On The Road - National Highway 9 by Harold Brown

On The Road - National Highway 9

On The Road - National Highway 9

Nikon D90 - ISO 200 - f/6.3 - 1/160

I captured the above picture from the car window on my way to Abdullapurmet, India. Motorcycles are a common sight and often the families main transportation.

The background of the picture captures perfectly the visual appearance of old Hyderabad and the blue gray skies of the area.

On The Road - National Highway 9

The above photo details: Nikon D90 - ISO 200 - f/8 - 1/250 - 18mm Focal Length

On The Road - National Highway 9

Click on the pictures above to see a bigger version and more information about the photo. It's all about the journey.


View from the Char Minar - Hyderabad, India by Harold Brown

Hyderabad, India

Charminar was built in 1591 AD, and is a landmark monument located at the center of old Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. It is considered as the legendary masterpiece of Qutub Shahi's. This picture was taken from the top of Charminar. The top is a much better place to be. Down at ground level the chaos, smell and aggressiveness of the people was quite a shock to the system. There were people grabbing at us wanting money and hundreds of people selling their wares. This was a very busy place long ago.

View from the Char Minar - Hyderabad, India

Today the market around the Charminar is crowded with shops and known as the place to go for bangles.

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Hiking To The Top of Golconda Fort - Part 2 by Harold Brown

Hiking To The Top of Golconda Fort - Part 2

This is a continuation of the Part 1 post where we had just started climbing to the top of the fort and stopped a few times along the way to show you the sights. In part 2 we have made it to the top of the fort, and all we need to do is go to the top of the building on top of the hill! From the top you might certainly think of yourself as king! One of the most important features of the fort is its acoustics. The construction of the fort is such that any sound made at the entrance can be heard throughout the hill on which the fort stands. No sneak attacks! In the first post I mentioned the outer wall and moat. However, after the outer wall it has also a double wall that runs around the foot of the hill where the citadel stands.

Looking at the top most left area of the map above is where we have arrived, Darbar Hall. I took a few videos of the view from the top of Darbar Hall. From here you could also see the entire layout of the fort and where the cannons had been placed for the protection of the fort.

Golconda Fort - At the Top from Bhaga Video on Vimeo.

A few more scenes from the top before we head back down to ground level. Darbar Hall was actually very cool inside compared to outside.

Golconda Fort - Enjoying the View from Bhaga Video on Vimeo.

If you are in Hyderabad then Golconda Fort is definitely a stop you should make. There are a lot of steps to climb-up and then climb-down, so you will need to able to handle that.  You will also want to have some bottled water with you before starting the trip, you can get pretty thirsty climbing all those stairs in the sun. If you go later in the afternoon there is a light show that takes place after dark, you might want to consider that when planning your visit. Look for Part 3 with a few videos and pictures that I took as we headed back down to the grounds below. Get out and see the world!


Hiking To The Top of Golconda Fort - Part 1 by Harold Brown

Hiking To The Top of Golconda Fort - Part 1

My wife and I visited India for the first time in 2010. Our first stop was Hyderabad. On Saturday January 23rd we drove to Golconda Fort (a few miles west of Hyderabad). The city of Golconda was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Golconda. The city at one time was the center of the diamond trade. The fort dates back to the 12th century and was ruled by various kings throughout the centuries. There are actually 4 forts that make up Golconda. The forts are built on a granite hill and is 400 feet high. It was a three tiered fortification, protected by a moat, had eight entrance gates and a water supply system. I spent an 87 degree Saturday afternoon climbing the stairs to the various levels, stopping along the way to admire the architecture and imagine what it must have been like 500 years ago. On the way up to the top of the fort I shot all HD video, and on the way down I used my wife's Kodak Z1485IS to capture some still shots. The Nikon D90 stayed at the hotel for this jaunt. Just too much to carry, considering the climbing I was going to do.

Hiking To The Top of Golconda Fort – Part 1

In this video we have just entered into Golconda Fort through the main gate and we are following the pathway through the courtyard headed for the climb to the top of the fort. My friend and colleague Mohan was our guide for the day, but my wife kept worrying about me, so no matter  how many times I said not to keep looking back for me, she kept doing it. Kind of ruins the effect!

Golkonda Fort - Getting Started from Bhaga Video on Vimeo.

In this next video you can see the long climb we had to do, and we aren't at the top yet! You can also see more of the fort structures and outer walls. I would like to have spent an entire day there. Next time I will have someone drop me off and pick me up after dark, and most important be there by myself.

Golkonda Fort - The Climb from Bhaga Video on Vimeo.

Well, we aren't done yet, but we decided to take a break and enjoy the view from half way up. As you can see the city has crept up right to the fort walls edge. To take the video and pictures at Golconda Fort you have to pay an extra admission fee. Well worth the small price.

Golkonda Fort - Continuing The Climb from Bhaga Video on Vimeo.

We had just started to climb the stairs and trails again when we arrived at the Sri Jagadamba Mahakali Temple. Geeta went into the temple while I took a few videos of the temple and surrounding area. The Hyderabad Bonalu folk festival begins here at the Mahakali Temple inside the fort. On the festival day, women ware silk sarees and jewellery, and some of the women carry pots filled with flowers on their heads. This is done in a procession.

Golkonda Fort - Mahakali Temple from Bhaga Video on Vimeo.

If you found this post enjoyable look for part 2 soon. The view from the top of the fort is spectacular, and as you can see it is a play ground for a photographer. The fort and surrounding area is rich with history. You could do an entire photo shoot on just one section of the fort. If on the other hand pictures really aren't your bag but you love travel, then I highly recommend Hyderabad. Everyday is an adventure with thousands of things to see. You will be in an area of the world where it's people, traditions and religion date back thousands of years.