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India Travel Tips

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Insider advice for your India vacation


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Alpinist1979
Chai on the train 4 stars
First words, that you hear in the morning in every Indian train are "Chai, Chai, Chai", and that- every five minutes, starting from 5am or so. Then you wake up and while still half asleep you give 5 Rupees to tea-wallah and get a cup of hot milk tee, so delicious, that you don't regret anymore, that someone woke you up so early. After that, you can get some hot samosas with your tea, if you wish.

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aventuras
India - Unlimited Flights Airpass 4 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
On a first trip to India I wanted a taste of the different regions and decided on flying as the quickest and easiest way to get around. I bought a 15 Day Discover India Airpass - allowing unlimited flights - through travel-in-india.com (or try your local travel agent).

Currently the 15 Day pass costs US $600 (about 217 Euros/ 169 Pounds). There is also 7 days pass (one region only) for US $300 and a 21 days one (unlimited flights) for US $850. Airpasses are available on both Indian Airlines and Jet Airways – there´s really not much between them – and only Foreign Nationals and Non Resident Indians are eligible.

An important restriction of the Airpass is that "no back tracking is permitted and that travel must be in a continuous geographic direction", so I took flights in a clockwise direction from Delhi-Bagadora-Kolkata-Cochin-Goa-Mumbai and then used taxi/train/bus to discover areas nearby, e.g. from Delhi I travelled to Agra and Jaipur, from Bagadora airport I travelled to Darjeeling and Mirik, from Cochin I travelled to the backwaters of Alleppey.

Recently the likes of spicejet.com and flykingfisher.com are offering very cheap prices on individual flights, which depending on your itinerary might make better economic sense than the Airpass.


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soulchaser
India – Lighting a Bidi with an Indian Match 5 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This might seem pointless, but Indian matches are rubbish, and you’ll need to know it. Why not use a lighter, you say? Well, if you can do this, you’ll be an instant hit with the locals.
1. Hold the match at the tip (the end that doesn’t light) between your thumb and middle finger of your right hand, so that when your palm is face up the match is horizontal with the lighting end pointing left
2. Hold the matchbox between the thumb and the first crease of your index finger of your left hand, so that when your hand is side-up (ie, forefinger and thumb at the top) the abrasive side of the box is facing right.
3. Strike the match against the abrasive strip down and away from your body, now immediately bring the match under the match box, bringing the sides of your two hands together (if you weren’t holding anything else you’d have made a bowl shape with your hands by doing this)
4. Use the match box to cover the hole between the thumb and middle finger of your right hand
5. You now have a totally protected flame that you can use to light your bidi!
Warning! Practice this in private to avoid looking stupid!


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soulchaser
India – Caste 5 stars
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
The caste system in India is an ancient and rigid class system that dates back to the days of the Aryan people and the belief in Gods that needed appeasing. It started when those people who worked with the dead or with faeces were banned from attending ceremonies for hygiene reasons, and spread into what it is today. There are for main castes, the teachers (Brahmans, normally priests and such), ....., farmers and ...... If you are born into a caste, you marry someone from that caste, and you are restricted (not by law any longer, but certainly in practice) in the work you can do. This may have a had a place in maintaining the peace in a country of many invasions of different peoples and races, but nowadays is redundant, and is a hateful and cruel system that almost amounts to enslavement of those at its bottom.

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soulchaser
India – Smoking 5 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
In India you can buy individual cigarettes from shops and the little stands on the side of the street. Being a travelling smoker, I love this fact. But if you want to get really down and dirty with the Indian vibe, try the Bidis (pronounced Beedees, with the emphasis on the first syllable). A pack of 20 costs next to nothing, and they are wonderfully dirty little things. A bidi is a little bit if tobacco wrapped up in a tobacco leaf that is ten dried out. They’re really great to smoke, because they go out so often they’ll occupy for ages while you wait for a bus, and everyone will love you for smoking their cigarettes. If you’re a smoker, this is a sure fire way into the heart of India! There’s a trick to lighting them with the local matches that I’ll cover in a separate post.

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soulchaser
India – Trains 5 stars
OK, travel by train in India is bloody brilliant. You should definitely not miss out on the experience while you’re there. Not only do you see the country at a snail pace that lets you enjoy it, but you also meet the people up close and watch them interact with each other. A few things to know are that the waiting list for tickets is enormous, but if you go to the bigger stations with your passport will be jumped ahead. There is a tourist quota – a number of seat on each train journey that are held for tourists, if these are not taken then they are offered to everyone else. That doesn’t mean you get stuck in a tourist carriage, so don’t worry about that.
There are lots of different carriage classes, and you can get a good idea of them here: www.seat61.com. I’d recommend the second cheapest as the best way to meet people and get a feeling for how the majority of Indians travel. The cheapest carriages don’t have reserved seats, and it’s basically a free for all. A good experience and once worth trying at a busy station, but once is probably enough!
Also, there’s a website where you can book tickets (horribly complicated), and you should probably be aware that there are usually lots of different stations in any major city, so make sure you’re going to the right one.


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soulchaser
India - ‘Face’ 5 stars
‘Face’ is hugely important in India. You might be familiar with the expression ‘to lose face’, and this is a good rough translation of what I’m going to talk about here. You might find that if you ask for directions in India, you are sent in completely the wrong direction. There might be two reasons for this. Firstly, the person who told you where to go didn’t actually know, and secondly he did know but sent you in the wrong direction anyway! Why?! You will ask. Well, it is greatly embarrassing for someone to appear ignorant of their own city, especially to a foreigner, and so to avoid losing face, the person will simply lie.
Or, if you asked “is the train station over there”, and the person you ask knows that it’s in the opposite direction, he will rarely correct you so as to prevent you from losing face! He doesn’t want to embarrass you, so lets you wander off in the wrong direction, probably making you miss your train!
You can only laugh at this beguiling and frustrating habit that will pop up in various forms all over the place. Just remember, it’s not because they are rude or stupid, so just accept it. And also remember never to make someone lose face, by correcting them in or embarrassing them in public (or even in private). It’s a big deal over there, so respect it.


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soulchaser
India – Chai 5 stars
The British introduced tea drinking to India, but the Indians perfected it. This is tea the way the gods would drink it, and it costs next to nothing. You’ll be able to spot your local chair wallah (tea seller) by his cart that has a crowd of people around it drinking a light brown liquid out of little glasses. He’ll have a big metal pot and occasionally he’ll throw things into it and give it a stir. You’re probably going to pay around 2rupees for a cup of chai, and it will probably become your greatest expense as you keep going back for more.
It’s made with black tea boiled in buffalo milk with loads of sugar and crushed ginger. Occasionally you’ll find it without ginger, so just hand it back as ask for ‘massala chai’ (spiced tea). Lovely.


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soulchaser
India – The Head Waggle 5 stars
24. India – The Head Waggle
The head waggle is brilliant. If you’ve never been to India the chances are you’ll never have seen it, and if you’re going to India you will definitely see it. It means a hundred things and nothing at all. It’s utterly confusing and wonderfully endearing. It can mean that’s right, I agree with you, it’s nice to see you, welcome, I’m harmless, don’t worry, or simply I don’t know, as well as countless other things. You will never know if a waggle means that you’re right or that the person doesn’t k now. Never. So good luck!

The good thing is, if you fight your way into a crowded train carriage and everyone stats eyeing you suspiciously, you can convert the whole carriage into a room full of friends by simply wagging your head. It’s a subtle movement and will take a while to perfect, but simply relax your shoulders, smile, and waggle! You’ll get it eventually!


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emotionalgal
Beautiful Places 1 stars
What exactly you for when you travel India?

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johngreek
I love Indian food!! 1 stars
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
One of the many reasons that I would love to visit India, is because I am very keen on their cuisine!! I adore all their spicy food!!One of the best Indian restaurants I ate was at Zante island in Tsilivi town! No one believes how spicy I prefer to eat my meals..! Anyhow, in a few words I would say that India is a country of the extremes!It is a fascinating land. The breadth of experiences it offers remain unparalleled anywhere in the world – from soaking up the sun at Goa to jiving at hip nightclubs in Mumbai, from marveling at architectural wonders in Agra and Rajasthan to getting spoiled with Ayurvedic massages in Kerala – I think it's one of the places I will surely want to travel to!!

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vincemcc79
Train tips for a quiet journey in India 5 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Due to the 1.3 billion people living in India, Indian trains are inevitably full and lively. Although that is the attraction of any journey in the subcontinent here are some tips to make the trip less colourful if you want to sleep or catch some alone time. Alternativly If you want to have an incredibly friendly trip with some wonderful Indian people do the opposite to all of these tips.

1. Pre book a sleeping bunk. You probably won’t even manage to get a seat during the scrum for normal seats.
2. Get the top bunk if you can so that you can retreat above the conversations if you want to.
3. Don’t listen to an Ipod or play with anything electronic while teenage men are around you because they’ll inevitably want to see it or show you there similar devices.


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vincemcc79
Drinking water in India 3 stars
It’s as part of India as Gandhi or the Ganges. Unfortunately I’m talking about the effects of drinking the local water which our weak little western stomachs can’t handle.

Here is a very quick walkthrough on how to ensure safe drinking in India:

(The obvious stuff)
1. Drink bottled water
2. Purify local tap water before drinking it. This is probably more environmentally conscious than contributing to local rubbish with old plastic bottles.

(The not so obvious stuff)
3. Brush your teeth with purified water
4. Don’t eat fruit from stalls that looks too clean (its probably been washed before display)
5. Don’t eat ice creams or drink icy drinks in restaurants (ice is probably from same local water)
6. In Kerela if you’re eating off a Banana leaf, local waiters tend to dip their hand in water and then wipe your leaf before they dole out the food. Try to mime that this is a bad thing for your stomach before they do so. This is the only thing as regards drinking bad water that caught me in a year on the road and I had a sweaty fortnight in bed afterwards!!


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Aditi
Wines and Wine Tasting 4 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sula Vineyards has a beautiful wine tasting room on its premises. Situated on the first floor of the winery, one can sit back with a chilled glass of wine and contemplate on life and its beauty breathing on air heavy with the aroma of sweet grapes. The tasting room also stores Sula memorabilia like “I was here…” T-shirts, wine glasses, champagne buckets, wine bottle openers, used oak vats that can be turned into garden tables (guaranteed to be a conversation piece), caps etc. I had the pleasure of tasting the Sula Red Zinfandel and the Chenin Blanc. The Zinfandel was delightful with its spicy yet sweet flavor and underlying aromas of cinnamon and plum. The Chenin Blanc was light and slightly dry on the palate and would go well with almost all Southeast Asian cuisine.

After the wine tour and tasting it was time to head back home. But the beauty of the vineyard is something that will stay on for many days to come. To visit Sula Vineyards for a sneak peek into wine making and to taste some of the best wines being produced in India you can contact:
Sula Vineyards
Head Office: 9122 5660 6685/86
Winery and Tasting Room: 91253 223 1663/1720


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Aditi
Trip To Sula 4 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I decided to take a trip to the Sula Vineyards to see for myself where the wine on my table came from. Sula Vineyards is located about 180 km from Mumbai on the Gangapur Road. I arrived before dusk and the view was spectacular. Acres upon acres of land, planted with wine vines, the vines heavy under the weight of ripe grapes, the hills rolling gently into the Gangapur Lake in the distance. It was truly magical. The winery buildings are situated on the property which is a major asset for Sula. Sula Vineyards gives a visitor the complete picture, land under cultivation, the winery and a tasting room, all within easy walking distance. The winery buildings are reminiscent of Spanish architecture with sloping red-tiled roofs and clean white walls. We took a tour of the facility from the grape picking, to the crushing, fermentation processes in gigantic vats, to the final bottling, corking and labeling. The white wines from Sula vineyards reach the shelves about four months after crushing while the reds reach the stores anytime between 8 and 18 months. This results in young, fruity wines with pleasant aromas. I was expecting to see grapes being crushed in huge vats by pretty damsels, and was told that all crushing of grapes is done by pneumatic machines. For white wines the skin is discarded but for reds, it goes into fermentation to give the color and body to the wine.

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Aditi
Sula Vineyards, Nashik 4 stars
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
Rajeev Samant a software engineer from Stanford quit a lucrative job as a finance manager with Oracle to head back home and explore the potential of wine manufacture in the Nashik Valley. His winery, Sula Vineyards, has been around for more than ten years and is a definitely a success in the Indian wine industry. Started as a small venture, Sula now has more than 300 acres under cultivation and produces more than a million bottles of wine a year. Sula wines are exported to many countries including France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Ireland, and Canada.

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vincemcc79
Monsoon tips 5 stars
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
The monsoon can be annoying if you‘re a backpacker. Months of floods and wet clothes, damp rooms and snotty noses can be annoying but on the flip side India can look so beautiful in the rain so heres a quick few tips to make the monsoon more bearable.
1. Buy a good raincoat – that‘s an obvious one I know but you can actually buy full length ponchos that will keep you dry from head to feet iver in India.
2. Head to Kerela and see how beautiful the backwaters look in the rain
3. Hang up all your clothes each night so that they don't go damp and mouldy in your rucksack
4. To avoid the Monsoon altogether cross the country to the side that the monsoon isn‘t on yet.
5. Wear sandals to avoid soggy shoes
6. Walk on the centre of the road if possible thus avoiding the inevitable run off from the open and flooding sewers.


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Anita
Vindhya Hills 3 stars
VINDHYAVASINI

We sped on from Allahabad taking easy bends climbing the Vindhya hills that slices through central India.

There was a long queue as we jostled with coconut and scarves to get a view of Mother Vindhyavasini. Carved out of black stone her silver eyes held my attention.

Coming out to pause before a peak I could see steps leading down to the Ganga far below. Hurriedly we visited two other temples forming the triad of temples. Here I could view the river far below. Orderly monkeys and langurs jostled for attention as I crawled to enter an ancient cave. The cave was a different experience all together!


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Anita
Sita 3 stars
SITAMARI

The driver parked and insisted that we drag our tired selves to see this ancient spot hallowed by Sage Valmiki.

He pointed to a stone were the sons of Rama had tied their horses. We climbed up a hill to see astride it a majestic idol of Hunuman, great devotee of Rama. Etched on stone is the monkey god’s agonizing expression witnessing the entering into the bowels of the Earth of Mother Sita.

It is a two-tiered temple with Queen Sita reigning in royal splendour in one and the hermit Sita in the temple below the ground. India is really seeped with mythology and everywhere there is evidence of the epics ‘The Ramayan’ and ‘The Mahabharata’.


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