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Old 12-30-2013, 11:22 AM
 
Location: Somerville, MA
8,118 posts, read 16,183,257 times
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I spent a significant amount of time in India over the last decade. Never as a backpacker, though. I've typically had a driver or guide with me and was almost always in a small group ranging from 2-5 people (family/friends). I'm a white male in my 20s.

To put it mildly, you'll be "hassled." To be fair, I've never felt any racism towards me in India. Sure, I got stared at. A lot (more so outside major cities and tourist spots). But I never interpreted that as racism or even hassling. I chalked it up to curiosity and cultural differences (though I could be wrong). When I say "hassled" I mean as a tourist and foreigner, you'll be targeted by people begging and selling you things. This will happen everywhere. At times, it'll feel almost suffocating. I remember in Agra being absolutely surrounded by 20+ beggars/hawkers trying to get me to give them money or buy junk. Even though I repeatedly said "no" and waved them away, they followed to the point where they were almost blocking my way. It was aggravating and annoying (and a touch nerve wracking). That was the most extreme I experienced it, even though it did happen everywhere.

My advice would be to get used to it and get used to it quick. You don't want to let it ruin your experience in a beautiful country with fascinating culture. Walking out of the airport (I was alone), I remember being in complete culture shock at the sea of people shouting. I've traveled to other countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America and have never experienced "culture shock" like I did in India. That said, I got used to it. It gets easier and easier to brush off salesmen and beggars. Your tour group should take some steps to reduce the impact too. I actually paid a salesman in a market a small amount to keep other hawkers away. It worked pretty well.

In spite of the "harassment," I love India. The pushiness of the hawkers (not so much the beggars) is endearing in hindsight. It also put me in a position to try food I would have otherwise walked by (I ignored the tales of horror about street vendors and am glad I did). To be honest, the touts are part of the culture and one of the things that will impact your memories of the trip most (positively, for the most part).

To touch on some of your other points, traffic is a nightmare. Another poster mentioned "luxury" trains and flying whenever possible. I agree. Infrastructure has been improving in India, but traffic is still chaotic. You never know what you're going to be at the mercy of in India on the roadways. Train Stations, especially large ones, can be hectic, but reserved trains make it fairly easy to travel. I found flying domestically in India to be a breeze. India restricts access to the interior of the airport to ticketed passengers only so it's pretty easy (my country, the U.S., could take some pointers on airport efficiency).

I don't like group tours, but for a first time to India, I'm not opposed. It's a large country and getting around can be difficult. A group tour will be a decent introduction. I do agree that the price is steep for that particular tour.

Again, as a white male, I never felt like I should be concerned about violence. However, I do know that people with other Asian ancestry can be targets of some aggression.

Enjoy India.

 
Old 12-30-2013, 09:29 PM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
9,781 posts, read 16,371,096 times
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Thanks for sharing your experience/advice. Yeah I expect a big cultural shock, even if I've been to Sri Lanka, Vietnam, China.etc. I've heard about the staring, my cousin said he experienced it a lot in Kolkata because well, any non-Indians really stand out. Things like that make me prefer to stay in a group, where we have some sort of 'protection' in numbers and won't be ganged up on as badly. You're also less likely to be a target for thieves.etc. Their attention will be sort of spread over 10 or so people. It's a small group tour, not like 40 people in a bus, which I've been on and always enjoyed. Intrepid seem like a very reputable company, so I don't mind paying a bit more for a bit less stress. $50 per day (I know they'll be extra costs but not much) sounds really cheap to me, although I know it's expensive for India.... I know that's part of the experience, but I feel I've experienced it enough and don't find it 'endearing.' A tour also organises your transport.etc. After bad experiences trying to buy train tickets in Saigon railway station I'll be glad for it.
 
Old 12-31-2013, 12:23 AM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
3,080 posts, read 9,974,249 times
Reputation: 2983
[quote=The Postman;32794990]So you've been to Vietnam too? [quote] Yes. By land from Cambodia and out through China.
Quote:
So touts in India are more aggressive?
More persistent but nicer than the Vietnamese, who can be real d**kheads when they don't get their way.
Quote:
Would you say the traffic is even more chaotic/dangerous?
Yes. More than Hanoi for sure. More than HCMC? Couldn't say.

Quote:
Do you think I'd really save that much? $1000 for 21 days is about $50 a day, which includes some meals, transport, some entry fees.etc. Sure I could do it cheaper, but how hard is it to organise?
Easy as pie. I flew into Delhi with a vague idea of seeing the Taj Mahal and Mumbai at some point. I had a few weeks to make my way to Bangalore to catch my flight onward. Ended up going the wrong way to see Jaipur, and then visiting a few other weird "unscheduled" places as well.
Quote:
How much planning is required, or can I just wing it and plan as I go?
0 and yes. Well, maybe don't start in Delhi, and pre-book your first night or two to get acclimated.

Quote:
I find it hard to believe you can do a similar trip for $250 - I mean that's $12 a day, not even including food! Of course entry fees etc, while not much, will add up.
Yes, foreigner prices are steep. Some places you can get the locals to sneak you in the back way, but not the obvious ones like the Red Fort, etc.

Quote:
Can you give me an idea of where you stayed/how you travelled/places you visited/where you ate.etc? Would be a great help, thanks.
Stayed: Cheapest hotel[s] with indoor plumbing and electricity at least part of the day.
Traveled: Bus--cheap ass bus, usually, not "Volvo"--and 3rd a/c class sleeper train (the lowest air-conditioned sleeper class) about at the level of middle-class Indian students.
On hired autoricks, on the back of motorcycles, occasionally on bicycle ricks, and a whole lotta walking.
Visited: Just the big touristy sights listed in my pirated guidebook and places locals I met on trains and buses (not touts) told me I should see. Sometimes touts too.
Ate: Everything. Especially roadside stuff. Better to see them cook it out in the open in front of you than in the back of some eating place. No salad, milk (except lassi) or any stupid stuff like that. Cooked with an electric spoon (heating element) in a tin cup too, when food or water was too questionable. Popped a few immodium a day while traveling, when I found a good toilet, I stopped the otc meds to "download". Was also on a course of doxy that I picked up from a Taiwanese doctor as an anti-malarial, but I think it helped against other bugs.
Drank: Bottled beer and water.
 
Old 01-01-2014, 04:39 PM
 
Location: World
3,712 posts, read 3,557,268 times
Reputation: 2519
Quote:
Originally Posted by arctic_gardener View Post
If this is your first trip to India, I strongly advise avoiding North India. Go to the southern half of the country instead.
Pull out a map and draw an imaginary line running from just north of Mumbai eastwards to Cuttack on the east coast. Stay south of this line and you'll be fine.
Once you've acquainted yourself with the country, you can think about exploring the northern half the next time around.

Touts are aggressive, although not physically dangerous.
Traffic is very, very chaotic, but again worse in the north.
Fly everywhere if you can, and if that isn't possible, take "luxury" trains or at least air conditioned carriages on regular trains. Never take road transportation if you can help it, or any unreserved train travel.

Aren't you of East Asian ethnicity? That's another reason to avoid north India, specifically New Delhi, as there is some racism against people with an East Asian appearance. Southerners don't care.
Wrong Advice. Most of the tourist spots are in North India. Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Varanasi to name a few. Racism against people with East Asian appearance in North India???? Recently there was a gang rape of Nepal student in Bangalore as well as attacks on Bihar students in Mumbai so I can say South India is more racist and dangerous!!!! avoid southern India state of Andhra Pradesh as there is a violent struggle going on for separate Telangana State. Attacks on Foreigners in Goa are too common.
 
Old 01-01-2014, 07:17 PM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
9,781 posts, read 16,371,096 times
Reputation: 2833
Quote:
Originally Posted by munna21977 View Post
Wrong Advice. Most of the tourist spots are in North India. Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Varanasi to name a few. Racism against people with East Asian appearance in North India???? Recently there was a gang rape of Nepal student in Bangalore as well as attacks on Bihar students in Mumbai so I can say South India is more racist and dangerous!!!! avoid southern India state of Andhra Pradesh as there is a violent struggle going on for separate Telangana State. Attacks on Foreigners in Goa are too common.
Yeah I haven't heard of widespread or common racism in India against foreigners. Tons of tourists including East Asians visit those cities you mentioned without incident.
 
Old 01-01-2014, 07:19 PM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
9,781 posts, read 16,371,096 times
Reputation: 2833
^ thanks for the advice, sponger. I'm thinking I might fly into Bangalore via TigerAir, take a domestic flight to Delhi (actually works out cheaper than a direct flight to Delhi from S'pore) and then fly back from Kolkata via Air Asia. I think I might do the tour anyway just cos it's less hassle, but I'll spend some time for independent travel in Karnataka and from Delhi. Is it easy to do a trip from Delhi to Nepal for about 5 days?
 
Old 01-01-2014, 07:44 PM
 
Location: World
3,712 posts, read 3,557,268 times
Reputation: 2519
for cheap fares, go for Air India. I agree that reviews are not good but then cheap airlines are not good either. Private airlines like AirAsia or IndiGo fleece passengers on baggage, reservation charges. Air India has reasonable fares with lenient baggage allowance as well as change of schedule is allowed. Always avoid Jet Airways. Jet Airways cancel the flight at the last moment citing technical reasons whenever flight occupancy is less then 60%. In AirAsia or IndiGo, passenger will sleep on floor at airports if there is bad weather. Air India-run by government-will not cancel the flight and provide you with hotel/food in such situation.

Welcome to Air India
 
Old 01-01-2014, 07:58 PM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
9,781 posts, read 16,371,096 times
Reputation: 2833
Quote:
Originally Posted by munna21977 View Post
for cheap fares, go for Air India. I agree that reviews are not good but then cheap airlines are not good either. Private airlines like AirAsia or IndiGo fleece passengers on baggage, reservation charges. Air India has reasonable fares with lenient baggage allowance as well as change of schedule is allowed. Always avoid Jet Airways. Jet Airways cancel the flight at the last moment citing technical reasons whenever flight occupancy is less then 60%. In AirAsia or IndiGo, passenger will sleep on floor at airports if there is bad weather. Air India-run by government-will not cancel the flight and provide you with hotel/food in such situation.

Welcome to Air India
Yes I suppose $365 one way from Singapore to Delhi isn't too bad. Yes I might take Air India when I go there.
 
Old 01-01-2014, 11:39 PM
 
Location: India
3 posts, read 3,179 times
Reputation: 15
Hi,
I am from India.
Well I know foreigners face many challenges when they visit India. But still you may get people who can help you in all the situations. Only problem with outsiders is that they are very innocent and cant be rude to anybody, and people in Indians take advantage of the same. Sorry to say but if you are in India you need to be Rude sometimes and you NEED to say NO to stuffs that you dont want. I stay in Pune. A metro city and see many outsiders here and if they are facing problems i try to help them but I cant be available everywhere everytime. So it is a request to all the visitors, PLEASE be rude when required. This will help you to move on and make safe journey.

Hope this helps and if you require any help of any of your friends are stuck in problem in Pune, please let me know I am available to help people 24/7.
 
Old 01-01-2014, 11:58 PM
 
Location: Melbourne, Australia
9,781 posts, read 16,371,096 times
Reputation: 2833
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunlikestar View Post
Hi,
I am from India.
Well I know foreigners face many challenges when they visit India. But still you may get people who can help you in all the situations. Only problem with outsiders is that they are very innocent and cant be rude to anybody, and people in Indians take advantage of the same. Sorry to say but if you are in India you need to be Rude sometimes and you NEED to say NO to stuffs that you dont want. I stay in Pune. A metro city and see many outsiders here and if they are facing problems i try to help them but I cant be available everywhere everytime. So it is a request to all the visitors, PLEASE be rude when required. This will help you to move on and make safe journey.

Hope this helps and if you require any help of any of your friends are stuck in problem in Pune, please let me know I am available to help people 24/7.
Yes, I think one soon learns and puts up a 'barrier'. When everyone else is pushing and shoving, you learn that you have to do the same to get by, so I don't blame them too much. I guess it's hard to be the one to set the example. And in super crowded countries like India lining up isn't always really possible or practical.
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