I got back a week ago from an amazing 3 week holiday in India. A group of friends spent two weeks travelling around Goa during the Christmas/New Year period and then caught a train down to Kerala, where we did a lot of beach hopping, a lot of eating, saw some baby elephants, and a lot of bugs! India was intense, immense, and extraordinary, yet we only saw such a small part of the country. Nothing can really prepare you for what you will experience on your journey, but here are a few things I learnt from my trip that I thought it would be worth sharing with those who are thinking of travelling to this amazing country.
- Visa – It took us three attempts to get our tourist visa, but only though our stupidity because we didn’t read the website properly. The whole process takes about a week: you have to fill in an online application prior to heading to the office to formally apply in person and hand in your passport. You don’t need to book an appointment, but the earlier you can get to the office the quicker the process will take, we arrived when the office opened at 8.30, and were out in an hour. About three days later you should return to pick up your passports and visas. If you want to do the process by post it will take a lot longer. And a word of cation, if you work in media (e.g: journalist, photographer) hesitate before listing it as your profession, if you do you may need to get a different and more complicated media visa.
- Accommodation – Depending on the kind of holiday you looking for will depend on how you will look for your accommodation. Budget accommodation is plentiful so look for it on arrival in a new town, you can barter for a good deal. 3 star accommodation (with air con) is less plentiful, and you should try to ring a few days ahead wherever possible. Always check the rooms, particularly shower and the mattress for thickness and cleanliness. For the first night, it is worth booking some comfortable accommodation in advance so help you acclimatise to the country, expedia was pretty good.. It is worth spending that bit extra when you can, the same goes for travelling around too.
- From Delhi belly to Diarrhea, sooner or you are going to get sick. Deal with it. I was sick for an entire week and I was determined not to let it spoil my holiday! If you get ill, try and take it easy the following day, eat plain bread and rice and avoid spicy, fried and acidic food. First Aid kit essentials include re-hydration sachets (which are also great for hangovers) pepto-bismol to re-line your stomach, and pro-biotic tablets to help get your digestion get back to normal, all of which are also available over the counter in India at a much cheaper price.
- Should you buy Malaria tablets? We did, we were offered the most expensive prescription with supposedly the least side effects, and were flabergasted upon discovering that a 30-day course of Malerone set us back 90 per person!. However, the side effects were still very severe, and mid way through the holiday we decided to stop taking them as we thought the continuous nausea and psychotic dreams couldn’t be worse than actually catching Malaria. It was a tough call, because I got bitten continuously (mosquitoes apparently love certain blood types), but the area we were travelling in was a low risk area. My advice? Do your research before you travel, but ultimately it’s your call.
- I had my first experience of bartering for goods, and you do it pretty much everywhere and for everything, excluding fuel and food. For souvenirs, some say the inital price offered is double or three times what you should pay, while some shops have low prices to discourage bartering, but ultimately it’s down to how much you think something is worth. Start low and you will meet somewhere in the middle, but never let a price pass your lips that you are not prepared to pay. Having the exact money in your hand can work well for closing the deal, as does suggesting an offer for multiple items, but don’t be afraid of walking away from the deal if the price is not satisfactory for you. It’s all a bit of fun, but don’t begrudge someone a few rupees if they deserve them.
Here’s some of my Kodak moments on Flickr, but the opportunity also arose for my to make my first animated gif… Ross rising from the sand after being buried – like the incredible Hulk!