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Travelling to India is always a memorable experience for everyone. To make this experience a very positive one we have some tips for the foreigners travelling to India. These are completely our views/ experiences on this subject and have nothing to do with the official system. Since we live there, belong to the same travel industry and have seen it deeply, we believe that our views can be of a help to the travelers coming to India.
We will start with the general warning like be aware about the political and regional situations of the places of visit. Some places have political unrest most of the time like Kashmir (Parts bordering with Pakistan) and some Eastern parts of India. So please read about the safety situations of places you want to visit or ask your travel agent about this. You can even read and follow the travel advisories issued by your country from time to time.
Now comes some special tips when you are in India. Let’s start from the Airport itself. We consider Delhi (the capital city) as your arrival point and the tips are almost same for other international airports too. If you have a taxi booked already through a travel agent then it is advised to keep handy the contact numbers of the travel agent & the driver. It is important to know that at which gate the driver is waiting for you and make sure that you exit from that gate only. Please ask your travel agent to send you a copy of the paging board which the driver will be carrying at the airport.
Please note that generally the International airports have many exit gates. Please note that sometimes when you don’t find the driver at the airport (may be because of rush time or simple over sightedness) then you might find someone offering you a free help or ride. Don’t trust any other person. They can even pretend to be from the company you booked from and take you to some other hotels where they get commissions. Sometimes this is common that they call their friends and these friends act as your travel agent or hotel manager. Be careful and dial the number yourself if needed. Here the copy of paging board helps. You can trust only the person having the same copy. It’s easy.
If you don’t have a booking for airport pickup, then please book a pre-paid taxi from the official booth only, in the airport (before you come out of the airport customs). This booth is generally owned and operated by the local traffic police. They ask you the hotel name or place of visit so that you are dropped at the right place. Don’t reveal your travel plans or how many days you stay in India etc. to the cab driver or anyone else. Simply and politely ask him to drop at your destination and don’t start discussions about your travel. If you do discuss the plans, you will notice that the offers will start pouring in. Please make sure that you don’t give the pre-paid taxi advice slip to the driver till you are at your destination. Generally the pre-paid drivers ask for the slip as soon as you board the car.
For any problem at the airport, you will find a police complaint booth and a well-appointed tourist police jeep. The tourist police generally have police men and women who speak English and are helpful and prepared to help tourists.
When you are there (in the city), you will be followed by many people for different reasons. The most common of them are the Touts (the commission agents who try to take you for shopping or to the travel offices etc.). Other form is pick pockets and of course the beggars.
Beggars- You will find that there will be poor small kids, old people begging on the streets or especially at the traffic signals. The Government campaigns against giving them monetary help at the signals as the monetary help is actually not reaching to them. This is also common that if you give help to one beggar, you’ll attract many more. So better stay away and keep walking. If you give money to kids it generally taken away from them and is like a business. If you really want to help the kids, then donate clothes, candies, food etc. to them. But again I will warn you to do this when you are very sure that you will not be mobbed by huge number of beggars.
Pick pockets- When you walk in the markets, tourist places or crowded places, please make sure that you don’t have your important stuff & money (passports, cash or credit cards) in a carry bag. It should always be in a pouch which is kept safely with you underneath your clothes or in inner pockets or in money pouch next to your skin. It’s not that all the places you will find pickpockets but this is for your own safety. And as always said Prevention is better than cure. It is also advisable to carry a copy of your passport with you instead of the original. Just in case you lose the original, then it’s a big hassle. Generally you are not asked for your passport except while checking in the hotel or booking a train or flight ticket.
Touts- This is a very common sight and experience in India. To be followed by touts and people who try to be friendly and pretend to help you even without you asking them for help. Most commonly you will be followed by touts when you come out of train stations, airports, while walking in the market etc. The first thing is keep walking and with confidence. If you don’t know the directions then stop and ask someone (people in India are generally very friendly and asking a direction is very common there). Once you know the direction you can continue but don’t follow someone if they offer to take you there. Think- why would anyone leave his work and take you to your destination without any motive?
Sometimes the touts take you to travel offices which are generally not approved by the Government of India tourism department, simply for commissions. These travel agents pretend to be the official government tourist office. But actually they are not and more over, most of them are not even approved by the Government of India to be the travel agents/ tour operators. If you land up in such situation, ask for their visiting card and the picture will be clear to you.
Never buy a train ticket or any travel ticket from a tout. Some people claim to get you confirmed tickets even though the trains are full. Be little wise and choose your own way. At times when you are completely on your own, these touts can be helpful. If you are directed to a travel office or a market where there are many agents, you know the way... simple. Just visit many offices, take offers and bargain. But decide wisely (as nothing comes for free in this world).
Now this is interesting. The rickshaw and taxi drivers will stop for you and will tell you very less price. These prices are much below the actual rates. They do this so that once you sit in their cab/ rickshaw and then they start digging. Digging as how many days you have? Where you travel? If you need a cheap hotel or taxi or train tickets etc. And now you know why they ask all this……….
Touts can be in form of small vendors like selling post cards or small wooden chess games etc. Generally they lure the tourists with offering free city or country maps. They are generally in groups of 4-5 people working together. One leaves and other comes and so on. On the whole we see all this as a big scam and a money making machine without any proper motive of customer profit. The only people who profits are the fake travel agents, touts and the taxi/ rickshaw drivers.
Please note that sometimes the touts misguide you like this is the wrong ticket or you paid more for the travel or go to police as you have been cheated etc. This is all on purpose to make you cancel the tour and then depend on them for the services. Never reveal or discuss your travel plans with anyone to avoid hassles. The best tip is to tell them that MY HOLIDAY IS FINISHED AND I GO HOME TONIGHT. Easy and simple.
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