First Trip to India

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Alf 101
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First Trip to India

Post by Alf 101 »

This fall my wife and I will be making our first trip to India, flying into Delhi, meeting up with our guide, and trekking in the Himalayas. This should be a fine trip, though is our first one to the country. Though we have gone places in the general vicinity (e.g., Nepal, China, Thailand, Vietnam), I know going in that India is different (the analog I'm starting with is Kathmandu multiplied by some large number). So I have a few questions where I would much appreciate any insight that could be shared:

1. India is somewhat legendary for bureaucracy, and we are just starting the visa process. For those who've been through this, how difficult did this prove, and what was the turnaround for you? What we're after is a simple tourist visa -- neither of us are journalists or in the military, and are both of northern European ancestry. I also have read accounts of visa fraud and overcharging, so want to be aware of any best approaches.

2. Did you like it? And what helped you like it more? We are currently studying what we can about history and culture. Naturally we'll dress with appropriate conservatism, stay streetwise, but otherwise jump into the crowds and soak it in. Any other thoughts on how to avoid a faux pas are most welcome.

Most expenses will be covered through the guiding fee, which is almost all of our trip. We will have a day and a night in Delhi at the end -- predictably we'd like to see the Red Fort, look around the Old City, barter both good-naturedly and ferociously for something, eat good Indian food, and stay somewhere decent. Any thoughts people may have on this subject would be also welcome news.

I've been impressed by the number of well-traveled individuals on this forum, and interested what impressions you can share. Thanks much, in advance...
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kramer
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by kramer »

India is in the process of extending a Visa on Arrival privilege to most nations (including the USA) and it is estimated that it will be implemented by October (at 9 major airports, including Dehli). You will be able to apply from home and receive an online confirmation within 5 working days.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/indi ... 919007.cms

You almost certainly can't risk that being in effect before your trip, unfortunately. But it is something to keep an eye on.
newboggler
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by newboggler »

No idea about visa process as I never needed one :)

My advice-
Never pay full payment upfront... wait till end! This includes guide and stay fees and everything else
Don't carry expensive stuff.. Cellphones and cameras are ok
Dress conservatively especially women
Try to use reputed travel agent and hotel rather than the cheapest one for obvious reasons
Keep your documents / passport etc securely and if possible have cloud copy and photo copies handy
Not to scare anyone but just stay cautious
A lot of nice genuine people will be around but unfortunately there may be few scammers too
Btw if you are around New Delhi u might want to visit Taj Mahal

Of course this all points go without saying but still jus sayin!

Welcome
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nhrdls
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by nhrdls »

Alf 101 wrote:
Most expenses will be covered through the guiding fee, which is almost all of our trip. We will have a day and a night in Delhi at the end -- predictably we'd like to see the Red Fort, look around the Old City, barter both good-naturedly and ferociously for something, eat good Indian food, and stay somewhere decent. Any thoughts people may have on this subject would be also welcome news.
Fully cooked food, even street food should ok provided you can handle test/spicyness as heat will kill most of the germs. Be careful when drinking water from restaurants or other sources.Boiled liquids such tea/coffee (both are distinctly indian test) and bottled soft drinks equivalent coke or sprite will help you to quench the thirst. Bottled water also can be problematic unless its from trusted place.

Check/inform your bank that you might be using your ATM/credit cards in India. If you need cash, I find it easier to use any bank ATM, even though its slightly expensive to use. Cash is still king in India, especially if you are going to haggle on the streets.

Visa can take anywhere between 2 weeks to 3 months. I got mine in 1 month, actually earlier than the day they said it will be available. If you submit all the papers they requested, its usually a smooth process.
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rwcox123
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by rwcox123 »

We (wife and self) were in India for 3 weeks in Jan 2013, along with 2 friends. We enjoyed the trip a lot, and thought that our previous trip to Nepal was a good warm up. In general, we found Indians not as likely to be as open and friendly as Nepalis, but more so than Chinese. You do have to be careful -- there is a good chance that anyone coming up to you and speaking English is out to scam you (not a 100% chance, but the probability isn't negligible either).

As said earlier, keeping your passport and other papers in your physical possession at all times is important -- a money belt under pants worked for us, and wallet in a zipped pocket. In a crowd, money in an unzipped pocket is very likely to go missing -- I lost about $10 in Varanasi that way -- I usually kept "small" money to buy bottled water and the like easily accessible, and it vanished one day. Annoying, but a very small loss -- just a few bills loose in my unzipped pocket.

Many (most?) Westerners who go to India get stomach sickness. We didn't, whether by luck or by grace of our "rituals" is hard to say. Our "rituals" were: (a) no meat, including chicken, at all, (b) use alcohol wipes on hands and utensils before eating, (c) don't eat the dish if it comes out of the kitchen just lukewarm, and of course (d) don't let the local water into your mouth -- don't even rinse your toothbrush in it.

Sounds to me like you have a good attitude. I vividly remember plunging through the crowd outside the Red Fort in Old Delhi in the evening, and going down the main street from there. There were a lot of people (wall to wall humanity for a mile), and we never felt unsafe. The main problem was to avoid getting separated.
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Globalviewer58
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by Globalviewer58 »

The government of India outsources the processing of visas. For example, an Indian tourist visa for a party in the Chicago area would start with a visit to the website http://www.visa.blsindia-usa.com/touristVisa.php. The instructions are thorough and need to be followed to the letter before submitting your application.

Complete the form, attach your photos electronically or physically and send via trackable service (FedEx, UPS) along with your passport. In October 2013 my application took 2 weeks. My wife had to re-submit due to errors and required 4 weeks total.

I enjoy some travels in India but New Delhi offers little of interest to me. The government sponsored crafts hall for jewelry was of interest to my wife and me. The art museum is worth a visit. Otherwise, not much to see. The Indian tourist professionals say the same.

FYI, if you want to visit the Taj Mahal, take the express train from New Delhi to Agra or fly. It takes 6 hours by car each way.
niceguy7376
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by niceguy7376 »

What months make up the "Fall" trip? Indian weather varies a lot sometimes from one month to next. Depending on your current location in US (FL or NH), Oct to Dec might be a bit chilly. That might be very good for some people that cannot withstand the indian summer heat.

Anyone can go to India now and still not miss a beat with respect to food since most of western food chains are plenty there. But that will not give the true indian food experience. So, now and then, try out the indian food with caution. I would give more importance to usage of bottled water from a reputable brand like Coke/Pepsi than cautious with indian food.
four7s
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by four7s »

Here's to wishing you and yours a fabulous and safe trip. Remember the words of the Moody Blues song........

"The memories of an old man are the deeds of a man in his prime."
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steve50
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by steve50 »

T-Mobile has free unlimited data & text as part of their International plan
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Mrxyz
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by Mrxyz »

Take OTC meds with you - motrin, tylenol,imodium - for diarrhea esp ETEC.
Drink only bottled water
I would be pretty cautious about eating street foods unless you are sure its cooked AND stored properly
Don't forget typhoid vaccination and malaria prophylaxis
keep copies of passport in multiple locations/bags
get appropriate CC with no foreign exchange fees
Take cash with you for lots of small shopping, paying for food etc etc.
Haggle on items you buy non stop - start at 50% or lower and learn to walk away!!
Trekking - you can rent much of the equipment once you get there- provided you have some time. Don't forget sunscreen. I am sure you have searched out information on the web about where you are going trekking etc. Plenty of blogs, pics etc online.

Have fun!!
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by TomatoTomahto »

nhrdls wrote:Fully cooked food, even street food should ok provided you can handle test/spicyness as heat will kill most of the germs. Be careful when drinking water from restaurants or other sources.Boiled liquids such tea/coffee (both are distinctly indian test) and bottled soft drinks equivalent coke or sprite will help you to quench the thirst. Bottled water also can be problematic unless its from trusted place.
My wife has been to India on business many times. She eats the meals at high-end restaurants and hotels, but declines whatever vendors provide at their site (she stirs it up on her plate, excuses herself, and eats a granola bar). Co-travelers frequently mock her and eat heartily. Pardon my "I told you so," but two of them became sufficiently ill to require medical attention. My wife ordinarily drinks a lot of water (she's a distance runner), and never drinks soda, EXCEPT in India where "bottled water" might have been refilled from the tap and re-closed. Beer seems to be okay, also, she reports. :sharebeer

Having seen some of the people who got sick, she tells me it is not a normal case of "traveler's stomach," but something worth avoiding at all costs.
I get the FI part but not the RE part of FIRE.
jane1
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by jane1 »

- ONLY drink bottled (check seal) or boiled/treated water including for rinsing mouth "good"
- avoid all uncooked food (salad, cut fruit). peeling you own fruit is ok. Wash fruits with "good" water.
- keep OTC medicine (stomach, flu, pain) with you at all times - you can buy most at a fraction of price in India
- dress conservatively, although on treks it does not matter
- don't get distracted, keep an eye on your valuables at all times
- don't be scared of talking to strangers in public places, but don't agree to going places with them or giving any money
- download your photos occasionally in case you lose your camera.
My handbag was stolen in a train at the end of our nth trip. I don't know who, when but I am guessing when I got briefly distracted because someone else had occupied our allotted seats - lost cash, CCs, ATM cards, camera, etc. But I most regret having NO photos of the trip to the spiritual sites in the Himalayas. The rest was money, hassle but photos were irreplaceable.
Be mentally prepared for the crowds, noise, dirt but enjoy the "assault" on all senses (sights, smell, sounds, taste). Most importantly don't get frustrated by the minor hassles - some amount of cheating, delays, unkept promises. Not everything will go as planned. This will happen and will add minorly to the cost and you will miss some sights. But if you are prepared for it, you will enjoy the overall experience.

Follow the visa process on the official website and it should be straight-forward.
Last edited by jane1 on Wed Apr 09, 2014 1:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
phantom
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by phantom »

Alf 101 wrote:This fall my wife and I will be making our first trip to India, flying into Delhi, meeting up with our guide, and trekking in the Himalayas.
In India, I mostly found the unexpected to be the most interesting, and the expected to be disappointing -- so don't study up too much on where you're going. For example, the Akshardham in Delhi (http://www.akshardham.com/) was incredibly beautiful and I had never heard of it. Also the city of Udaipur, which I had no real expectations for, ended up being one of the most beautiful and unique cities I've ever seen. On the other hand, I was not that impressed by the Taj Mahal (although the post-apocalyptic ugliness of Agra was pretty impressive :? ).
madpunster
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by madpunster »

India is bar none my favorite-est place in the whole wide world.

Since you've been to China, Vietnam and Thailand, it's similar, but different. Visual delights, smells, foods, culture but cranked up to 11 on a scale of 1-10.

It is crowded. It is smelly. It is beautiful. It is total madness. And where it all comes together it is sublime.

I brought prescription antibiotics, a handheld water purifier and a mosquito net. I get taken for a ride for 2 hours @ 3AM from Delhi airport to my accommodations which I am told don't exist.

Days later, I'm eating a tray of food slopped out of a pot on a train; it was awesome (our Indian friends were recoiling in horror). Amidst the awesome crush of humanity @ the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a local sees my futile progress in the scrum, grabs me, yells something to the crowd, it melts away like I'm Moses. I go up to a man who gives me a sweet offering, a Prasad. I am bathed in it's wonderful sweetness as the world resumes the technicolor madness.

I see burnt out buses on the way to Agra as I ride on a similar bus. I see bullocks on roads and on highways, alive and dead. I see people get hit by motorcycles. I see Sikh motorcyclists and wonder if their turbans really help in case of an accident. We are in a car at a crossing with the mass of humanity and all their animals going nowhere. An army truck loaded with men and lathi sticks underneath, and once again the mass of humanity and animals parts effortlessly. The truck never slows down and once past, the world picks up where it left off.

I never sleep past 3AM because of morning prayers on a speaker next to my room. We go to Macleod Ganj to see the Dalai Lama. He's there but you can't see him this week because Richard Gere just flew in. Indian Chinese food is not Indian and it is not Chinese; there's a dish called American Chop Suey which is neither American nor Chop Suey but it is wonderful.

Taking your time, dipping your teabag, taking your time, adding the milk, taking your time, adding the sugar, seeing the swirl, smelling the tea, looking out over the crazy, the wondrous, the madness, the beautiful.

I hate going to the DMV, but I love India.
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Bammerman
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by Bammerman »

You're about to have a wonderful experience! India is a fabulous, huge, fascinating, exhausting place. I worked twice in India: at the American consulate in Bombay in the early 80s and later, in the early 90s, at the American Embassy in New Delhi. Before you go, check in at travel.state.gov! To register your travel, and to check out the latest advisory information about India. If you have some trouble while you're there, don't forget you can call the American Embassy.

You received lots of information here about staying healthy. I would add one or two things myself. When I traveled within India, I only ate vegetarian. First, vegetarian food in India is exquisitely delicious! And, it's less likely to be "dangerous" in terms of germs than meat. If you stick with (cooked) vegetarian food, I think you can eat almost anything when you're out traveling. (but not salads!). As far as beverages: it might be best to avoid bottled water. In the 1990s, the American Embassy's medical unit did laboratory tests of many brands of bottled water in India, and found all of them contaminated with fecal matter. But you can always order hot tea! Made, of course, from boiling water, and very tasty and refreshing. And available everywhere. Remember: ice cubes are made from tap water! The first time we really got sick from eating in India was when we forgot and bought dried fruits and nuts from a street vendor. Very dumb!

Okay, so you'll probably get sick at some point. So what! It won't kill you! And the alternative? Stay at home, in your bedroom, lock the door.

A few other suggestions: don't ever drive at night! You won't be able to see all of the various things that usually encumber Indian highways in the darkness of night! Carts, bullocks, pedestrians, potholes. Drive only during daylight hours. And when possible take the train, or fly.

If I could jump in a Star Trek teleporter to get back to India and be a tourist, I''d do it in a minute. If I only could avoid taking that long airplane ride! That's something I don't ever plan to do again.
katnok
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by katnok »

If you have any Indian friends here in the US, their friends or family back home might be able to assist you with getting around without much hassle.
LeeMKE
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by LeeMKE »

We also made our first trip there last year.

Visas: https://www.indian-visa.com/consular-fees
Follow the instructions carefully and you'll have your passports back promptly. Don't pay the extra for the fancier visas. You just need the tourist visa.

Ladies dress: BEST ADVICE! I got was to go first to an Indian store and buy a few outfits called: Salwar Kameez. These are loose pants and a tunic top with a scarf. They are inexpensive ($35 - $70) and vary in warmth by the season. You can wash them out in the sink and drip dry. I was welcome EVERYWHERE, and were waved past all kinds of tourists dressed inappropriately for the mosques/temples/palaces we visited. Our guides thanked me often for dressing to accommodate the customs. And I only took two western outfits to arrive and depart. Otherwise I wore the Indian outfits everyday and was very comfortable.

We took the Palace on Wheels and got to see a huge part of northern India in comfort. I recommend this excursion. We ate indian food everyday, carried all kinds of meds in case of illness, but never needed a thing. We love indian food, and the food was better there than in the US. The Palace on Wheels kept us from having to spend time traveling by coach as the train moved while we slept.

If you want a good place to stay in Delhi, I recommend a place I found on AirBNB: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/491208
This is in a neighborhood that is safe to walk around, and packed with a wide variety of restaurants and small shops. It overlooks a lovely park. We stayed in a western hotel our first night to get rested and cover our jet lag, and then toured Delhi for a day before getting on the train. On our return to Dehli, we stayed in this pretty place, and loved it.

Have a wonderful trip!
The mightiest Oak is just a nut who stayed the course.
Jeff Albertson
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by Jeff Albertson »

You might enjoy this BBC road trip documentary, "India on Four Wheels".
First half is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLShvk4disk
The last half is out there, I watched it only a few weeks ago. I can't find it now.

One of the presenters is Justin Rowlatt. He also presents on the BBC World Service's Business Daily. He and his co-presenter, Anita Rani, did similar "Four Wheels" shows on China and Russia.
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sunnywindy
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by sunnywindy »

I always used a visa service (Zierier Visa Service out of San Fran, but that was 12 years ago!) as they worked well and aren't that expensive. Went trekking in the Ladakh-Zanskar area (sparsely populated like Tibet) and it was beautiful. Had an AMAZING meal in Delhi. Probably never go back to India, but I'm glad I was there. Don't take any chances with food/water before your trek as you could ruin the trek.
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harrychan
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by harrychan »

I was just there in Dec for a business trip. If you go to the India embassy website it will direct you to http://www.visa.blsindia-usa.com/touristVisa.php as someone else has indicated earlier. If you follow all the instructions (and they are confusing), you should get your visa within a month. I got it in about 3 weeks.

Despite my experience, I still got sick this past trip. Do not use tap water for anything to consume. My boss used tap water to make coffee and got extremely ill. Do not eat anything uncooked like salad or dessert that hasn't been cooked thoroughly. There are some yogurt like dessert that is very tempting after a spicy meal but that got me one time. Also keep in mind that you can ask for non spicy food but it will still be spicy lol. when you get money exchange, ask for a lot of loose change / bills for tips. You will find yourself tipping a lot.

Enjoy!
This is not legal or certified financial advice but you know that already.
ChiefIllini
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by ChiefIllini »

phantom wrote:
Alf 101 wrote:This fall my wife and I will be making our first trip to India, flying into Delhi, meeting up with our guide, and trekking in the Himalayas.
In India, I mostly found the unexpected to be the most interesting, and the expected to be disappointing -- so don't study up too much on where you're going. For example, the Akshardham in Delhi (http://www.akshardham.com/) was incredibly beautiful and I had never heard of it. Also the city of Udaipur, which I had no real expectations for, ended up being one of the most beautiful and unique cities I've ever seen. On the other hand, I was not that impressed by the Taj Mahal (although the post-apocalyptic ugliness of Agra was pretty impressive :? ).
Totally agree. Akshardham is amazing. I understand that the Taj Mahal was from a different era but Akshardham is simply breathtaking. If you so anything in Delhi, go visit this temple.
cheapskate
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by cheapskate »

You'll have a great time, there is no other place like India. As you already mentioned, you take your experience in Kathmandu and multiply is several fold. For starters, KTM's population is 4M (IIRC), and the largest Metros in India clock in at around 20M.

The only thing I wanted to mention is to take sensible precautions against crime (especially in North India). I am talking about violent crime, not petty thievery (which exists everywhere in India and which you can easily protect yourself against). Delhi and other Northern Indian cities have a reputation for not being very safe in recent years. In general, the cities in Southern India (Gujarat/Maharashtra and on down including Mumbai) are a lot safer. Take the usual precautions, don't venture out later at night by yourselves, avoid unsavory parts of the cities and so on.
pkempfur
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by pkempfur »

Possibly provocative but http://markmanson.net/a-dust-over-india might be interesting reading.
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fandango
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by fandango »

I have been there many times for two week business trips. Flew into Mumbai, then by train then SUV into the boonies.

A real land of extremes. Some very beautiful people and scenery and some very disturbing things (for, example, children begging who were mutilated by the begging caste to reap more money). Definitely not a place for
the squeamish. Biggest "thrill" was flying in a Russian helicopter where you could see light between the rivets and the airframe.

Also, remember, that Americans are not necessarily loved in India. The government of India has done a good job of playing Russia and America to get what they want from both countries.

My rules of travel worked for me, and I was never sick while there:

- Only eat food that is cooked (no salads or uncooked veggies, meat, etc.)
- No insects
- Make sure the cap on you water bottle is sealed. Common cost -saving practice to refill these bottles from the tap which will cause an intestinal volcano if you drink it.

Sanitation in the boonies is not great. For example, the restroom in the trains has a hole cut in the floor that leads directly to the railroad tracks. So, you can imagine the disease problems in those areas near the rail roads. So make sure you wash your hands frequently, etc.

You really must have a guide. The larger cities have plenty of English speaking folks, but this is not true in all areas of the country.

All in all, a true travel adventure. I will never forget my trips there. I would love to go there again, but my wife has told me that she will not go with me!
Jfet
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by Jfet »

Why not pack a couple of those reverse osmosis camping straws?

$22 and then if you are in a situation where you are unsure of the water, just use the straw.

http://www.amazon.com/Travelers-Mission ... =lifestraw
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stickman731
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by stickman731 »

I travel 2-3X per year to India (Mumbai, Hyderabad, Ciombiotte, Pune, Bangalore, Gao). Many of the other have already described most of the precautions and OTC medicine you should bring.

I recommend you get all your shots and boosters if required. Carry your vaccination records if possible. When outside the "western" hotels only drink carbonated water (you hear the pop when opening to insure it has not been tampered). I also carry Cipro (you need an antibiotic to kill the stomach bugs - Imodium only works to plug you up), Malaria Medicine (Atovaquone and Proguanil tablets), mosquito repellant (I like the wipes), hand sanitizer and do not open your mouth in the shower.

I also bring multiple toothbrushes since I always inadvertently place them under the tap water - remember to think and be smart and you will have a wonderful eye-opening trip.
Material Guy
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by Material Guy »

I am originally from India and grew up there but have been in the US for more than 2 decades. Still go back for visits.

OP: Good advice here, and some additional notes.
- Visas are fairly efficiently processed at US based Indian embassies and consulates. Make sure your paperwork is complete and use overnight delivery.
- Register (online) with the US embassy in New Delhi before you go.
- If you have an unlocked GSM phone, you can get a SIM card in India and use it inexpensively.
- In addition to water, also avoid ice, salads. Hot tea (made with milk and sugar) is a good alternative if you like it.
- Going vegetarian is an excellent idea. You have lots of options.
- Your guide (and driver) will be your best friend and adviser. I hope you get a good one.
- People are friendly but you might get stared at in many places particularly outside urban areas. Don't worry about it.
- Certainly if you have Indian friends here, they may be able to provide names and contact information of their friends and relatives there.

Finally, enjoy the experience and be open-minded!
gurujji
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by gurujji »

Alf 101 wrote:This fall my wife and I will be making our first trip to India, ...
Wish you all the best for a wonderful trip. Here are some forums, that will keep you busy for next few days

India for beginners - http://www.indiamike.com/india/india-fo ... ners-f122/

India Visa for foreigners - http://www.indiamike.com/india/for-citi ... stions-f9/

Himalayas Trekking - http://www.indiamike.com/india-search?q ... =relevance

Safety - http://www.indiamike.com/india/scams-an ... -india-f8/

More reasons to go - http://www.indiamike.com/india-images

-G
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stickman731
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by stickman731 »

I forgot to add one thing - I personally do not eat the food on the return flight from India back to the US. It is package in India, and I have had a few colleagues get sick on their return home. I eat a couple of protein bars to hold me over until I touch down in Newark.
Imdeng
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by Imdeng »

I understand the "being cautious" part - but this might be overdoing it. A piece of food does not automatically become contaminated just because it existed in India for some time.

In my opinion, cooked food in India is safe. You need to be careful with uncooked food and water. The whole point of travel is to enjoy new experiences, cultures - that includes food. India has an amazing variety of food to offer - it would be tragic to miss out on that because of being over-cautious.
stickman731 wrote:I forgot to add one thing - I personally do not eat the food on the return flight from India back to the US. It is package in India, and I have had a few colleagues get sick on their return home. I eat a couple of protein bars to hold me over until I touch down in Newark.
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busdriver
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by busdriver »

stickman731 wrote:I recommend you get all your shots and boosters if required. Carry your vaccination records if possible. When outside the "western" hotels only drink carbonated water (you hear the pop when opening to insure it has not been tampered). I also carry Cipro (you need an antibiotic to kill the stomach bugs - Imodium only works to plug you up), Malaria Medicine (Atovaquone and Proguanil tablets), mosquito repellant (I like the wipes), hand sanitizer and do not open your mouth in the shower.
To add to the above theme, it would be in anyone's best interest traveling to a third world country to visit a travel clinic and discuss recommended inoculations and medications to take before and during travel.

Here is the CDC's site for Health Information for Travelers to India: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destination ... none/india

As an occasional traveler to Mumbai, I always start taking Malarone, (generic now available), two days prior to arriving and 7 days after leaving. Take a look at the CDC's malaria map and notice that the whole country of India is red: http://cdc-malaria.ncsa.uiuc.edu

Since the treatment for malaria usually entails a mega dose of malarone, prevention would be best, imo.

Have a safe and pleasant journey. :happy
anakinskywalker
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by anakinskywalker »

newboggler wrote:No idea about visa process as I never needed one :)

My advice-
Never pay full payment upfront... wait till end! This includes guide and stay fees and everything else
Don't carry expensive stuff.. Cellphones and cameras are ok
Dress conservatively especially women
Try to use reputed travel agent and hotel rather than the cheapest one for obvious reasons
Keep your documents / passport etc securely and if possible have cloud copy and photo copies handy
Not to scare anyone but just stay cautious
A lot of nice genuine people will be around but unfortunately there may be few scammers too
Btw if you are around New Delhi u might want to visit Taj Mahal

Of course this all points go without saying but still jus sayin!

Welcome
Proud Indian
I would add:
be careful about pick-pockets. keep cash cards etc in a couple of different places. preferably a belt pouch.

be careful about crime. don't walk about in dark alleys at night. avoid night travel (ok to travel in major express train or airline etc.any time)

don't trust police constables. many of them are criminals or thugs. however it is unlikely that they will target you (they generally prey on the weak illiterate people unfortunately).

buy chlorine tablets. put a tablet in water and drink it after a few hours. carry water with you. never drink anything (water/tea/coffee) from roadside eateries or small-time restaurants. ok to drink stuff at restaurants at major hotels.

don't keep valuables (jewellery, electronics, etc) in hotel room unattended. they will get stolen.

don't be paranoid. most people will be very nice and are honest. it's just very hard to keep the bad apples away.

many people are rude and surly. however I generally find that they are very polite to me once they see I am being very polite to them.

many places charge higher prices for foreigners. don't let that upset you and spoil the experience. even after the mark-ups for foreigners things are still ridiculously inexpensive. mark-ups for foreigners makes sense from an economic perspective (adjusting for the purchasing power parity advantage one gets coming from a high-cost country). you can think of it as being similar to non-resident tuition US state universities charge to people from out of state. you can also think of it this way: the locals are spending money they earned in a low-cost country (where a lot more labor is needed to earn each dollar/rupee).

some of my friends have reported disgust at how hierarchical the society is: how nasty some people are towards less fortunate people who work for them (like waiters, housemaids, etc). don't be too quick to judge the entire society based on initial impressions. there are unfortunately a ton of nasty rude people. but not everyone is like that. the nice people are silent and difficult to see when the nasty rude loud ones are all hogging the limelight wherever you look.

stay safe, avoid being ticked off by the higher level of rudeness some people there exhibit towards each other, and have fun!

Anakin
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by anakinskywalker »

stickman731 wrote:I forgot to add one thing - I personally do not eat the food on the return flight from India back to the US. It is package in India, and I have had a few colleagues get sick on their return home. I eat a couple of protein bars to hold me over until I touch down in Newark.
What do you eat while you are in India?

Anakin
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by LadyGeek »

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stickman731
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by stickman731 »

I eat a large variety of curry dishes. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. As long as it is cooked, I have no issues. My in-country colleagues have taken me to numerous places to experience different cuisines for they know I will try anything once. I have even eaten at their homes. I particularly like the breads at breakfast - nothing like them in the US.

On the return flight, I just have had too many colleagues get sick on their return. It may not be the airline food, but I do not take the chance. I have been lucky in ~ 15 trips only sick once and the Cipro fixed it.
halfnine
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by halfnine »

Eat vegetarian (I've been quite ill on two occasions in India by not doing this)

Bring some Imodium (can literally save your *rse on a long bus ride)

Bring some antibiotics for when all else fails

Enjoy. Live a little.
anakinskywalker
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by anakinskywalker »

If you go to a popular tourist destination, you may encounter street vendor types who hard-sell you into buying overpriced junk. But some vendors might have nice stuff you actually want to buy. In either case, they can be very persistent if you seem hesitant or indecisive. To save your own time (as well as theirs) make a decision and don't seem indecisive.

I think i said this already, but once again: Beware of pickpockets.

Make arrangements (for things like car, etc.) in advance.

If you feel someone you hired (as guide or driver etc) is cheating you or taking advantage of you it's good to be aware of alternatives. Don't depend on one person totally; unless that person has been recommended personally by someone you know and trust.

Second the opinion that don't pay in full upfront for services that are yet to be delivered.

Popular greetings: Hi, Hello for informal occasions; Namaste (pronounced na-ma-stay) for formal occasions (say if you meet someone's grandma etc).

Anakin
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by anakinskywalker »

LadyGeek wrote:I removed several off-topic posts and their responses, some continuity is lost. See: Forum Policy
UNACCEPTABLE TOPICS

Politics and Religion

In order to avoid the inevitable frictions that arise from these topics, political or religious posts and comments are prohibited. The only exceptions to this rule are:
  • Common religious expressions such as sending your prayers to an ailing member.
  • Usage of factual and non-derogatory political labels when necessary to the discussion at hand.
  • Discussions about enacted laws or regulations that affect the individual investor. Note that discussions of proposed legislation are prohibited.
  • Proposed regulations that are directly related to investing may be discussed if and when they are published for public comments.
Reporting the post (the "!" in the top right corner) will get our attention sooner.
Many thanks LadyGeek for the wonderful cleanup job. :-)

Anakin
anakinskywalker
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by anakinskywalker »

Apart from the Taj Mahal and Akshardham Temple, I would also recommend "Palace on Wheels". http://www.palaceonwheels.net/

Enjoy,
Anakin
halfnine
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by halfnine »

One other thing I forgot...practice your squatting
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by amitb00 »

Alf 101: It will be a great trip. Have you decided about the cities you plan to visit and days you will spend? Let us know and we can help you refine the trip with in those many days.
Agra (TajMahal), Jaipur, Varanasi (Sarnath for Buddhism related monuments is 10 miles and is Famous for Ganges and Lord Shiva city) are some of the non metro areas which tourists like to visit. Of course Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, are big cities where folks visit depending on where they are landing.
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by an_asker »

amitb00 wrote:Alf 101: It will be a great trip. Have you decided about the cities you plan to visit and days you will spend? Let us know and we can help you refine the trip with in those many days.
Agra (TajMahal), Jaipur, Varanasi (Sarnath for Buddhism related monuments is 10 miles and is Famous for Ganges and Lord Shiva city) are some of the non metro areas which tourists like to visit. Of course Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, are big cities where folks visit depending on where they are landing.
Just a small correction - we call the river "Ganga" not "Ganges" :-)
amitb00
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by amitb00 »

Agreed. In Hindi - the most spoken language in India - it is called Ganga. I just thought that Ganges names is more well known outside India.
Jfet
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by Jfet »

halfnine wrote:One other thing I forgot...practice your squatting
I was watching "An Idiot Abroad" on Netflix and was a bit shocked at the toilet situation. I guess putting the lid down is a first world problem.
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by slbnoob »

Apply to the India consulate nearest to your city. The information here is complete and all you need to apply. The process is without hassles if you follow the instructions. As you see, the service is offered through a third party.

Drink bottled water only. Do not drink water from other sources in restaurants, at least initially. Else or even otherwise you may get afflicted with the stomach bug.

Generally people are very friendly and will go out of their way to help if you ask. However stay wary of people who approach you.

Use your common sense regarding security. Crime is much lower than most inner city neighborhoods in the US where you'd obviously use common sense.

Women are suggested to dress conservatively.
harrychan
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by harrychan »

Another tip. Names that end with a vowel are usually women. I manage a team of 120 engineers and it definitely helps!
This is not legal or certified financial advice but you know that already.
an_asker
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by an_asker »

amitb00 wrote:Agreed. In Hindi - the most spoken language in India - it is called Ganga. I just thought that Ganges names is more well known outside India.
I am unaware of any Indian language that calls the river anything but Ganga.

Pop quiz: How many here know the real/official name of Egypt? [No, that is not a trick question]
reggiesimpson
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by reggiesimpson »

Been to India twice and look forward to returning soon. Lots of good advice here but i will add one more caution. Keep the wife nearby but dont get touchy with her. Physical displays of affection/touching with women ( yes including your wife ) are not appreciated.
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Alf 101
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by Alf 101 »

As the OP I want to thank everyone for their contributions. You've certainly given us a great deal to read, and I couldn't be happier about it. All is still on track for our first trip, and I'd like to provide an update.

We have just received our visas back in the mail, in what was far less of a hassle than I anticipated. Fair or not, India has some reputation for bureaucracy. As mentioned earlier in the thread, the government of India outsources their visa applications, and we received our passports back in the mail ten days after we send them.

We're planning on beginning our trip in the last week of September, then returning nearly four weeks later. We'll be heading to Uttarakhand, more specifically to Kumaon, to trek in the Nanda Devi area. This will be dovetailed by a day in Delhi before we head north, then 1.5-2.0 days upon our return. This should be right around the time of Diwali.

This is a guided trip. I worked as a climbing guide for many years for a company leading trips around the world, and continued on good terms when I moved on. Through them I was able to get a personal recommendation from the Program Director. Not only does he coordinate trips in India, he visits every year, and provided us with who he works with and considers a friend. So I feel very confident with this situation, as there is nothing to be gained and much to be lost in cheating us. Also our guide has been in touch, responds quickly to email, and everything is very professional so far.

It was challenging for us to choose between Kumaon and Ladakh. In the end we selected the Nanda Devi area mainly because we had more time, thinking we might return for a good 2-3 week trip to Ladakh later. Also this seemed a more strenuous trip, and if it was a few years before we made it back, and there's a chance we could become less spry over time.

We have a few more steps coming up at this point. First we have to shop for flights. Then we need to visit a travel clinic, as there are recommended immunizations we don't have, and hopefully get prescriptions for antibiotics and GI distress. I carried a variety of meds in Nepal and used none of them -- showcasing an iron gut -- but past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Overall I'm very excited about this trip. Thanks once more for all the advice and links. If anyone has recommendations on other reading to learn more about India -- I'm working my way through everything William Dalrymple wrote at the moment -- I'd be keenly interested.

Thanks again.
an_asker
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Re: First Trip to India

Post by an_asker »

Alf 101 wrote:[...]Overall I'm very excited about this trip. Thanks once more for all the advice and links. If anyone has recommendations on other reading to learn more about India -- I'm working my way through everything William Dalrymple wrote at the moment -- I'd be keenly interested.

Thanks again.
I would absolutely recommend Traveler's Tales - India which is a collection of pieces about India from published books (snippets, if you will). It includes a few pieces by Dalrymple as well, though for some reason, he was not my favorite authors within that book. I've got to confess that I had moist eyes several times while reading the book.

For flight tickets, do check out kayak among others.
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