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India south Kerala

BEFORE YOU GO TO SOUTH INDIA - TIPS FOR TRAVEL

 

When to go to India

Tourist season starts at the start of November and lasts till the end of March. The weather is nice with decent temperatures in this period. From the start of April, daily temperatures go up as high as 40 degrees in the shade. It is exhaustingly warm in the cities, so there are not many tourists in India and resorts on the Goa beach are closing. Horrible heat is followed by rain from June to September when monsoon season starts. For those who want to see mountains near the border with Nepal, the ideal season for travel is during spring and autumn months.

  

 

Where to go and what to see in India

India hampi

There is a huge number of routes to travel due to the size of India. My goal was to travel along the north road from Delhi to Jaipur and visit Taj Mahal in Agra, Hindu holy city Varanasi and tea plantations in Darjeeling. I took a plane from Kolkata to the south so I could relax on beaches of Goa and ended my journey in Mumbai where I planned to visit Dharavi slum.

Another popular route goes through the state of Rajasthan. It's common to visit the Golden triangle – Delhi – Agra – Jaipur and continue to Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur and the whole route ends in Jaisalmer.

A lot of tourists choose the route through north states to Sikkim or Ladakh with the intention to spend a week of walking tours in the mountains.

South route goes from Mumbai to Goa and continues to state of Kerala through Hampi, Mangalore, Mysore, Kochi, tea plantations in Munnar, Madurai, national park Periyar, backwaters Allepey, beaches Varkala and ends in the city Trivandrum.

 

 

Travelling in India on your own

India backwater kerala

India is a beautiful and diverse country, tourists should be prepared for all the chaos, noise, traffic, extreme mess and huge crowds of people, especially in cities. Even when I was in China I didn't feel the pressure of crowds as much as in India. Compared to other Asian countries, India brought 'mess' to a completely different level. There is a mixture of pedestrians, rikshaws, cars, cows, bikes on the streets and roads and whoever has a horn makes sure to use it as often as possible. This, combined with the heat makes journey in India a bit more difficult than in other Asian countries. However, it is compensated by the diversity and colorful beauty of this country and its people. (But I have to admit there is difference between travelling in the north and south of India, see more in the blog). 

I brought my electronic version of Lonely planet for this journey and had it downloaded in my phone. After years of travel experience I packed all my belongings in a small cycle backpack – see 'What to bring on your journey', which weighed under 7 kilos. Once again, I had all my personal hygiene in bottles under 100 ml so I was able to take my backpack with me onboard of a plane. Before I left I considered taking pair of long trousers. Indians perceive shorts as a sign of a lower caste, however they tolerate them on tourists (males only, not on females). On the other hand, they will not let you in any Muslim landmark in shorts.

I managed to cover the whole journey of 6700 kilometers by taking 5 trains and 3 national flights. Online booking of plane tickets is as easy as it gets and works exactly the same as with our airlines, for example www.jetairways.com or www.airindia.com or you can simply use kiwi.com. It is advisable to check your bookings before departure, in my case all the national departure times changed. I got my train tickets through Indian agency www.cleartrip.com where I also got some flight tickets as they were cheaper there than on official airline sites. Firstly, you need to set up an account with indian railways www.irctc.co.in and after that register with agency Cleartrip, which will then connect these two accounts. To get the indian railways account registered, you need to fill in your email address and phone number, where they will send you confirmation message with a code (email OTP – one-time password). Instead of Indian phone number I just typed in my own number with 9 in the front and after getting the OTP email I sent a photocopy of my password to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with a plea for an account registration. It was done straight away and I was able to proceed with my bookings the same day. Indian railways have very detailed booking system. If you get your ticket booked in time (often even few weeks ahead as tickets are available for booking 120 days before departure) then the booking is confirmed [CNF]. If the train is booked already there is a 'Reservation against cancelation' [RAC] which lets you board the train. If these tickets are gone as well then you can get on a 'Waiting list' [WL] and wait if you'll get to RAC list. Certain amount of tickets is left for 'Taktal' quota, in other words for passengers that don't plan journey ahead and can get their tickets on the train station one day before departure. Tourists can get their tickets the same way from 'Foreign tourist quota' and can stand in a designated tourist line instead of the line with locals. Train coupes are divided to AC and Sleeper. AC have windows, air condition and are available as 1st class with 2/4 beds where the coupe doors can be closed, 2nd class with 4+2 beds without doors and 3rd class with 6+3 beds without doors. Sleeper coupes are not air conditioned, have bars in the windows and there are 6+3 beds. These coupes are a bit dismal, however they are cheaper. Most tourists travel in AC2 or AC3, the journey is quite comfortable and for example, 14-hour overnight journey costs 1200 INR. However, there are not many coupes with AC, there are only 3 or 4 wagons with AC in a 25-wagon train. All about Indian railways can be found on www.seat61.com/India.

Tuktuk costs approx. 20 INR per kilometr and bus approx. 1 INR per kilometr.

Because I had my train and plane tickets booked beforehand and there were no foreseeable changes in my route I decided to book my accommodation ahead as well. I thoroughly checked all reviews from Tripadvisor so I was sure I would get a decent place to stay. There is no problem in booking your accommodation on the spot and as cheap as 300 INR per night, however for those who like better rooms or better locations you might get inspired in my travel book. I chose the middle way and apart from my accommodation in Mumbai I paid around 1500 INR per night with breakfast included.

Indian cuisine is something amazing so I was really looking forward to it. As Hinduists don't eat beef and Muslims don't eat pork, there was a big range of vegetarian food available. And thanks to all the Indian spices it was something so good, that I wouldn't even mind becoming a vegetarian. Although if I did become a vegetarian I wouldn't want to eat anything else than Indian food. Because I know about some tourists that had long lasting problems after visiting India, especially thanks to contaminated water or food, I was very careful when choosing a restaurant and didn't bother to eat on the streets. Eventually I got to try Mughali, Bengali, Nepali and Kerali cuisine. I really enjoyed Indian bread, especially butter naan or chapati. Tourists always get cutlery with their meals however locals eat with their hands. It was fun sometimes just to sit and observe how they handle rice with sauce, or other meals containing a lot of sauce. Locals eat their food with their right hand and often scoop it with a piece of bread. The cost of meal in a restaurant was usually from 100 – 250 INR depending on the restaurant quality, street food was available from 30 INR. Beer was quite expensive, around 70-150 INR and bottled water costs 15 INR. I always checked that the bottle cap is sealed before buying one.

India uses the same electrical plugs as we do so there is no need to get an adapter (or check your type of plug here). Traffic is on the other side than in Europe. I withdrew money from local ATMs or exchanged American dollars. There is a fee for cash withdrawal – 180 INR. You can check exchange rates in exchange bureaus and it is advisable to keep the receipts from money exchange.

While I was travelling, a lot of locals tend to interrogate me about my job, marital status, religion and why I'm travelling alone. I think it was a way for them to place me in one of their castes. Indian population is separated in caste system. The highest caste includes brahmana, the next one includes office workers, warriors and politicians. Then there is a caste including businessmen, agriculture workers and tradesmen and the lowest caste includes manual workers and servants. There is a caste outside of this system, which is formed by untouchables, who are doing the 'dirty' jobs and live under the poverty line. Castes define the way of life and livelihood and marriages can only be arranged inside particular caste. Thanks to this system the poor will always stay poor and indeed the poverty in India can be seen on every corner. There are more homeless people and people sleeping on the streets than I've ever seen anywhere else before.

 

 

VISITED COUNTRIES

zeme 100

37

DAYS ON THE ROADS

dny 100

397

KM ON THE ROADS

km 100

48 560