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Leaving Wednesday - last minute India tips?

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Nov 27th, 2010, 02:13 PM
  #1
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Leaving Wednesday - last minute India tips?

Hi, everyone, I fly out Wednesday evening for India. As some of you already know, I'm joining an Intrepid tour with stops in Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Orchha, Khajuraho, and Varanasi.

So... I'm looking for last-minute tips on:

- What to pack? It looks like the weather will be perfect, mid-70s and sunny during the day, dipping to the 50s at night. I think I'll go with three pairs of lightweight pants, a few short-sleeved tops, a sweater, and a jacket. Does that sound about right? I think for shoes I'll take my Keen clogs, and maybe a pair of sport sandals. Would a skirt or capris be something I should add to the mix?

- Good places to eat? I believe with Intrepid we're on our own for many of the meals, so I'd appreciate any thoughts on places to try in the locations above. I like moderately priced places with good food and a local vibe - am less interested in hotel restaurants that cater primarily to tourists.

- Souvenirs and where to get them? I tend to prefer local crafts and costume jewelry. With Christmas coming, I'd love to find some gifts for friends/family. Do you have recommendations on good souvenirs?

- Tips on fun activities? We have a fair amount of free time - any suggestions for fun activities or not-to-be missed sites, especially those off the beaten path that I might not otherwise be aware of?

Thanks for any advice! I'll be sure to do a trip report. (I can't believe it's almost here!)
Karen
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Nov 27th, 2010, 03:19 PM
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About clothes, it depends on where you plan to dine out. Light-weight slacks were fine everywhere we went. We didn't hit the plush places.

One thing about shoes is the frequency with which you have to take them on and off to go into various temples. Slip-ons or slides work best. You'll see most people in India wearing thongs of flip-flop sorts of shoes.

Have a wonderful time!
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Nov 27th, 2010, 04:48 PM
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good point about easy on easy off shoes..

K likes a light weight polar fleece

you will not want for shopping of every kind... it will find you

fab india and especially anoki (sp) are two great venues---the mother store of anoki being in jaipur...

santucci shopping center in delhi is well worth a trip.... basil and thyme rest. there is quite good for lunch... it is all located in a military base...

buy a skirt in india
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Nov 27th, 2010, 04:49 PM
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i forgot: bon voyage

karen also take a look at my thread: "why india"
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Nov 27th, 2010, 05:08 PM
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We loved Moti Mahal restaurant near the diplomatic area of New Delhi in Malcha Marg. Not sure worth an extra trip, but if your hotel is nearby, try it! It's across street from New Delhi Taj Hotel.
Qutub Minar in New Delhi--if not already covered by Intrepid Tour.
Agra-If the Agra Fort is not on the Intrepid Tour, work an extra trip to see it. Most say it is much more interesting than the Red Fort in Delhi, which will probably be on your tour).

Your packing sounds fine. I agree--buy the skirt in India, if you need it. I never wore mine.

Hotels will do laundry for excellent prices.Mine has come back neat, beautifully pressed, and sweet smelling ('cept in one place, in a smaller town, it was clean, but smelled a bit muddy--as if it had been washed in the river!! ) Check the times to hand it in. Best do to in place you'll be two nights.

At Taj Mahal,re "salespeaople" outside and just inside front gate: you will have a few guys asking if you want photos. At first, we said "no" but yeah, the guy was sweetly persuasive, you can chose the ones you want, they'll be put in a little plastic 6 x 9 (I think) album, and the price was great (I tihk what we woulod pay here for some enlargements) They'll take poses of you jumping in the air by the Taj, etc etc. OK, so you could take the same photo, but this was a really fun memento, not just of Taj, but of the whole fun and painless negotiation process. Also, you'll find kids selling magnets, and some are really nice--stone with inlaid flowers for a lot less than you'd pay elsewhere. Easy way to get all your cheap and small souvenir shopping done. And remember, as we did, what our driver said..."At least they are doing something to earn money, instead of begging."

Have a most wonderful trip Karen! I am sooo envious!!
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Nov 27th, 2010, 05:38 PM
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Ah, great idea on buying a skirt there! I did that in Thailand and it worked perfectly - so inexpensive, too. I have a pair of wide-legged knee-length black cotton pants I bought for $7 in Bangkok. They might actually be good... but yes, maybe just get whatever I need there.

And the idea of slip-on, slip-off shoes makes perfect sense. Maybe in addition to my clogs, I'll add my comfortable Teva flip-flops, although I think I'll probably want socks if I have to take my shoes off to go inside temples.

Someone earlier mentioned I should include a light pair of gloves for sunrise on the Varanasi, so I'll do that, too. I get cold easily.

I forgot to mention that I'll wear a lightweight zip-up fleece under my jacket on the plane, so that will give me an extra layer for cool evenings.

I have one extra day in Delhi at the end of the trip. It seemed like our time there was short, so I decided to stay one more day. I figure by then I'll be reasonably comfortable on my own and can negotiate some shopping or last-minute sight-seeing. If we don't see the Qutub Minar, I'll check it out!

Thanks for the tips so far! I am sooo excited! I think my daughter is getting a little jealous she's not going. (I offered but she now has a serious boyfriend and didn't want to take the time off work... I think the boyfriend was the more influential factor. I told her I was taking "Blip" -- a silly little stuffed animal, a sheep, we got in England several years ago. Blip will love India, and hey, sheep fly free. He'll be my little Travelocity gnome and I'll take his picture at the Taj Mahal. And yes, maybe I'll get one of the souvenir photos there, too!)

Karen
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Nov 27th, 2010, 05:39 PM
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Bob - thanks for the reminder on your why India posting. I'll go check it out.
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Nov 27th, 2010, 06:56 PM
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This might be a stupid question, but will the hotels have hair dryers? The places we're staying are probably somewhat on the budget end, but most likely fairly large hotels.
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Nov 28th, 2010, 12:07 AM
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Please post a pic of Blip on your trip report.
I have a friend who is so camera shy, all her photos have a teddy as her stand-in.
Hairdryers: we stayed in a wide range of hotels on last two trips (FIrst was backpacker style--no hairdryers)
In most hotels, there was a hairdryer in the bathroom, mounted on wall or in a drawer, or available at front desk. Wish i could be more specific--maybe 2/3 had them?
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Nov 28th, 2010, 06:40 AM
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Heeeres Blip!

http://kbutler1122.zenfolio.com/p101...5973c#h555973c

(Click on the thumbnail in the upper right corner to see all four poses!)

And Cali, thanks for the response on the hair dryer. I like to pack really light (carry-on only), so I think I'll risk going without one. I can skip a day here and there washing my hair if necessary.

Bob, loved your trip report - I'd read it before, but it had been awhile and I'd forgotten the details. Sounds like you found a lot of great shopping places. I'm going to try checking out that cotton place in Delhi.
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Nov 28th, 2010, 06:55 AM
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(A few more than four. He was excited about the publicity and wanted to do a few extra poses.)
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Nov 28th, 2010, 07:11 AM
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As you know we just got back from India. Delhi was in the low 90's actuallyand though we did not go to Jaipur we weren't too far from it while in the same sate in a city named Ajmer where the weather was a bit warmer though dry so dress accordingly. The hotels we stayed at did not have hair dryers unfortunatley. 5* hotels probably would. There is a small but very nice shopping area called Delhi Haat.
http://delhi.clickindia.com/travel/delhihaat.html
This has some nice handicrafts inc. silk scarves for a reasonable price.
Do be aware that the air quality in delhi is no doubt worse than what you are used to. I began coughing literally minutes after exiting the new and very nice terminal 3 so if you are prone to resp. issues be prepared. You can buy OTC inhalers in Delhi if you need them.
As for eating use common sense. The normal intestinal flora there is much different from what we are used to so I advise to to eat yogurt every dayas this really helps to keep your flora in balance, avoid meat if you can as its not handled as well as it is here, avoid cheese, drink bottled water only and don't eat fruits or vegetables that you can't peel. We did this carefully and for the 1st time in our 6 trips to India we fared well health wise. You may want to get a prescription such as cipro for gi upset from your MD B4 you go. Cheers, Larry
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Nov 28th, 2010, 07:18 AM
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We stayed in heritage properties, most medium priced, and they all had hairdryers. In part, I think it's because they don't want their guests' hairdryers blowing out the power!
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Nov 28th, 2010, 07:20 AM
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Larry - thanks for the great advice! I'm not vegetarian, but I do love vegetarian dishes so maybe I'll stick mostly to vegetarian food. I also love yogurt, so will be sure to have it every day.
Wow, I'm surprised it was so hot in Delhi still. I have a prescription for... something like Cipro. It starts with a z, I think. Did you take malaria meds?
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Nov 28th, 2010, 07:26 AM
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Zithromycin? Yes we did take malaria pils as they are recommended by the CDC. We took Lariam and this reminds me that today we are due. Its once per week for 1 week B4 you start, while you are there and for 3 weeks after you return. Hopefully by now the weather will have cooled off a bit. I mean it really wasn't that bad at all but it was warmer than we anticipated. I followed the temps B4 we went and it was in the mod 80's in mid Sept. but then hit the 90's again. You should be fine. Bring good sunglasses BTW.
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Nov 28th, 2010, 07:40 AM
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Yes, zithromycin! I have malarone for malaria. I'll need to start taking it Tuesday.

That shopping area looks great; I'll try to check it out.
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Nov 28th, 2010, 01:41 PM
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Take a hat, too. Quite bright in India.
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Nov 28th, 2010, 04:23 PM
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Blip is adorable!! But he may need to get to a salon pre-trip, and have that wool cut off, before the heat gets to him. That said, you're right: he's gonna love India!
Seriously, i have a dog that looks just like that!

I
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Nov 28th, 2010, 05:11 PM
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Glad you like Blip. He's a little obnoxious, er, enthusiastic.



Another question: electrical outlets. Are they mostly the round three-pronged ones?
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Nov 28th, 2010, 07:33 PM
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My thoughts and suggestions are as follows:

1. Bring ear plugs. For hotels, for trains, for bus rides. You never know if your hotel will be next to a mosque or temple or have street noise or barking dogs.

2. When you change money or at a hotel, ask for small bills, Rs 10 and 20 notes for tipping, esp. the people who will “guard” your shoes.

3. Bring clothes to layer as the weather will be changeable. December is colder than November. A shawl would be very useful, IMO, but I would perhaps wait and buy a shawl in India, there are so many to choose from at good prices. (These make good gifts as well, IMO. Something like Ahujasons in Delhi has an enormous selection, see http://www.ahujasons.com/home.html, but you will find shawls everywhere esp in winter.) I agree on gloves for sunrise in Agra and perhaps Varanasi, easy to pack and something that makes a big difference on a cold morning, IMO. You may want closed shoes just because street are dirty and dusty. Open sport sandals or clogs without socks may lead to black feet by the end of the day. I also find the little lanes of Varanasi to be wet, so again open shoes may not be ideal. If it is cooler at night, you may want closed shoes as well. In north India in December local people will be dressed for winter, wrapped up in sweaters and shawls, and you may feel odd walking around in capris, but if it does not bother you, then go ahead.

4. Electrical outlets are generally three round pins in a configuration that is limited basically to India and parts of Africa and the middle-east. See http://www.voltagevalet.com/. Most of the “universal” adaptors or adaptor packs that I have come across don’t seem to include this configuration. So I would try to find an Indian one, or buy one when you get there. Your hotel may offer them as well. Those small “shavers only” plugs in bathrooms generally will accept US 2- pin plugs and can charge cell phones or Ipods. Newer hotels (even budget brands like Lemon Tree) usually have a universal wall plug near the desk which will take US 2- pin plugs, UK 3- pin, etc. The hairdryer will be hit or miss I hint. Some hotels may be able to loan you a hairdryer if available, some will have them, some won’t. If you have time before you leave, you should think about buying a dual-voltage hairdryer. You could also consider having your hair done at a local salon assuming you have time in the itin. Prices are good for a shampoo and blow dry and generally include a nice head massage.

5. I am not sure you will find a lot of good quality costume jewelry, but you can look around. There is a lot of poor quality costume, but I don’t know that I would waste my money on it. You can find Tibetan silver type jewelry, not sure if it is real silver or not, but gift potential is there as long as the quality is good. Real jewelry is a good buy in India, esp in Jaipur and you may want to look. (See Gem Palace http://www.gempalacejaipur.com which is worth it just to see the place). As for other souvenirs, really the list is kind of endless. Once you get there, you will see what I mean. But fabric s are certainly one idea, either sari fabric or in terms of napkins, placemats, pillowcases, etc. For really good quality but expensive fabrics try Anohki, the main shop is in Jaipur but there are shops elsewhere, see http://www.anokhi.com/. I like the copper and brassware in Varanasi, you can get plates and cups and serving pieces (these can pit a bit, at least mine have, but I live in 90% humidity for 8 months of the year.) The Crafts Museum in Delhi has a nice selection of local crafts. A place like FabIndia you could spend days in, there are outlets all over India, see http://www.fabindia.com/. I always make a trek to Good Earth when possible in Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore, this is perhaps more furniture and housewares than you may need, but they do have a good selection of local bath products and also have Indian soap nuts which you can use in the laundry, see http://www.goodearthindia.com. If you go someplace like the Khan Market in Delhi you can find a Good Earth (very good café there too), an Anoki, a FabIndia and many other shops, including bookshops. Dili Haat is a huge market area in Delhi with all sorts of souvenir items. And then there is a place like Central Cottages Industry Emporium on Janpath that has virtually everything, of pretty good quality, and at very good (fixed) prices.

I would say not to do ANY shopping in Agra. It is too geared to tourists and too overpriced. Other than the marble (and who wants to bring that home?) there are no unique handicrafts that you can’t find elsewhere of better quality and cheaper.

6. Find out what local festival and/or god is being celebrated in whatever town you are visiting, and make a point of seeing the celebrations. Ask your tour agent, bus driver, at your hotel, in shops, consult guidebooks, etc. Regions and towns have devotions to gods and regional celebrations will give you a flavour of the region and introduce you to people (not to mention good food). Ask around.

Delhi has many excellent museums and if your tour does not include these you may want to. The Crafts Museum, the National Museum and the Museum of Modern Art are three good choices. Jaipur’s City Palace Museum has an enormous collection, and even if your tour is going there, there are many parts they won’t go to, so you may want to make a trip yourself. The observatory is esp interesting, IMO.

I would try the different massages and aryuvedic treatments as well. A big part of Indian culture.

If your tour is not including local music and dance, I would seek out outlets for that. In Delhi, you might try the following organizations/venues: the India Habitat Centre at www.indiahabitat.org, the Indian International Centre (http://www.iicdelhi.nic.in), and the Triveni Kala Sangam, which is a training centre for the arts and offers classes and sometimes offers dance programs. (http://education.vsnl.com) You can also try the cultural events page for the British Council at http://www.britishcouncil.org/india-...e-mainpage.htm. Also in Delhi, there is a evening cultural show called ''Dances of India'' at Parsi Anjuman Hall, near Delhi Gate. I have not been, but I believe most hotels will sell you a ticket and probably can arrange transport as well. Finally, you can pick up a copy of the Delhi Diary, available at newsstands, which offers a complete listing of events for Delhi.

Otherwise, just get out and walk. This is IMO the best way to see things and try to get a picture of a culture. And serendipity comes into play when wandering on foot as well. The old town are of Agra, the city wall market area of Jaipur and the Chandi Chowk area of Delhi are esp good for this. And the small lanes of Varanasi can be wandered for hours (but keep an eye on your path, it can be easy to get lost there). Sorry, not a fan of Khajuraho, but if you have extra time there, then get a bicycle and go out into the countryside.

7. You really do not need malaria meds in north India in the winter. (You don’t really need them in summer either.) The Scottish NHS has very useful travel health website at http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/home.aspx (see esp. their Malaria page) I assume you have taken health precautions for Tetanus, Hep A or B. I would have a polio booster for India. As for bringing a supply of anti-biotic, I have never understood this, as whatever you have may be (i) simply a reaction to the difference in the taste of food and water, or spicy food, (ii) a viral infection for which anti-biotic will be useless and may even be harmful, or (iii) bacterial, but unresponsive to the antibiotic you have, as often you need a specific med for a specific infection (e.g. Guardia). But I think the placebo effect of taking a pill goes a long way with some people.

8. I agree on the yoghurt every day (a lassi is a good way to get it) and would agree that meat is generally to be avoided, so if you are a vegetarian, you will be in heaven. Many Hindus are all veg all the time or are veg on certain days of the week, or are veg when they are not eating at home (that is more of a cleanliness thing). That being said, chicken and fish are better meat choices than pork or beef, IMO. In good hotels, meat is handled and treated properly and generally is OK, but I try to stick to veg anyway just because the variety is so great.

The above notwithstanding, if you are generally a good traveler as far as food goes, and if you use sensible precautions which you would use elsewhere in most developing countries, IMO you don’t have to be overly concerned. Wash your hands frequently and before meals. Street food is fine as long as it is freshly cooked and still hot. Only fruits you peel yourself (although at hotel buffets I never observe this rule). Cooked vegetables rather than fresh.

9. Hotel restaurants are in no way directed at tourists; many, many Indians eat in them every day and consider them to be quite a treat. This is esp true in the larger cities where almost all the most popular restaurants (and many of the bars) are in hotels. You absolutely can meet all sorts of local people in hotel restaurants and to skip same of the good ones would be a shame, IMO. It is a US prejudice to avoid hotel restaurants, but that is not the case in Asia. In Khajuraho, Orccha, and Agra, you may really want to stick with hotels. In Jaipur and Delhi you have a larger choice, esp in Delhi. For some ideas see http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...ravaranasi.cfm

My final two tips for Indian travel would be:

-- Always ask permission before photographing someone who is worshipping. A general morning worship scene at Varanasi from a boat is OK I guess, but consider how you would feel if someone took a photo of you in a similar situation. Think hard before photographing a cremation.

--Indians are extremely friendly and conversational, and will ask questions that you may feel are of a personal nature. "Are you married?" and "how many children do you have?" are basically conversational openers much like "what do you do?" is for us. You may also be asked how much you paid for something, like your purse or your house at home, or asked how much money you are paid for your job. This may take some getting use to. People may want to have their picture taken with you, and will strike up conversations with you, not in a harassing way, but out of curiosity. I find Indian women especially prone to this (perhaps because I am a woman too so they feel comfortable approaching me), but then I find it interesting to talk to them and hear their views as well.
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