Recently Greg, Friendly Planet’s Marketing Manager, traveled to India and picked up a few travel tricks of the trade along the way. Below he offers ten tips to consider before you book your own adventure to the subcontinent.
I’m in love with India, and I don’t care who knows it! My infatuation with the country started a few years ago when my wife and I backpacked from South to North. Recently I got another unexpected but entirely welcomed opportunity to head back for two weeks, and along the way, I picked up a few tidbits of hard-earned travel knowledge that might be worth imparting. Some of these tips are very practical. Some of them are slightly more facetious. But whether it’s seeing you through a common misunderstanding or propelling you into a deeper dive of the culture, all of them will be helpful on your next trip to India.
1. Embrace change
You might be expecting something about how spectacularly different India’s culture is from our own. Or some time ruminating on how this very traditional society is evolving on the cutting edge of the world’s urban, technological and entertainment landscapes. But no. What I really mean is…save your change! Small bills and rupee coins are at a premium in India, and it’s no fun paying 100 rupees for a glass of lassi that only costs ten just because the vendor doesn’t have any change. If you exchange your dollars for rupees before you leave, you’re likely heading to India stocked with ₹500, ₹1000 and ₹2000 notes. The ATMs over there offer the same denominations. But everyday necessities and small souvenirs won’t usually cost this much. So when you have the opportunity, get some change, and consider it one of your hottest travel commodities.
With a population of over 1.3 billion, and about 90% of the world’s Hindus, it’s no wonder India’s festivals are so engaging and larger than life. And every year, countless travelers flock to India to be a part of these culturally immersive celebrations. Below are three of the most iconic of India’s festivals, which you can actually visit on a Friendly Planet Tour.
Known as the “festival of lights” in Hinduism, Diwali literally translates to “a series of lights”… and what an appropriate name given the ancient tradition of lighting lanterns, candles, and prayer! This annual holiday takes place on the night of the darkest new moon of the Hindu Lunisolar month. To brighten this seemingly hopeless darkness, millions of twinkling lights shine outside homes, windows, temples, and other community buildings; a shining beacon designed to be seen by all, and a confirmation that light has won over darkness, hope over despair, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil. You can visit India during Diwali on our Taj Mahal Express & Diwali, Festival of Light small group tour.
We initially posted this story in January 2014, but it still perfectly represents the exhilaration of traveling in India. It is written by Cherie Thiessen, a traveler on one of our Taj Mahal Express tours, and ran in an issue of Senior Living Magazine.
We’re swerving and bumping our way along one of the world’s oldest roads: the historic Silk Route, one of a network of connecting trade routes linking East, South, and Western Asia with Europe and North Africa. We’re only taking this impossibly congested road from Delhi as far as Agra, a mere 240 kilometres, but that will nevertheless take us all day. Here’s what will slow us down:
- Cows lying in the middle of the road, nonchalantly munching on garbage. The drivers all manage to veer around them without altering their speed.
- Two truckloads full of students, standing cheek-to-jowl in the back as they jerk and jostle to the music spilling out of the front. Every time the vehicles slow, some of the agile youths rappel out of the trucks and swap places, nonchalantly flicking in and out of traffic. Our driver brakes.
- Women in rainbow saris balancing bales of chaff the size of smart cars on their heads, the edges of which scratch against our windows.
- Vehicles ahead of us abruptly stopping in the middle of the road to enable occupants to pray alongside three-storey Hindu statues whose large eyes eerily track our every move.
- A school bus crammed with tidy, uniformed children, barreling down on us on the wrong side of the freeway, forcing our two lanes of traffic to further divide into a very emaciated three. An overloaded fruit truck inching past the school bus so closely that a young arm is able to reach out and grab a banana from the teetering pile.
We wave and the children wave back exuberantly. (more…)
Not everyone is sold on group travel. For some, sticking to an itinerary can seem restricting. I, on the other hand, think group travel is the perfect way to experience a country you’re unfamiliar with.
For those of you on the fence, a recent article in Redbook gives you “6 Tips to Surviving Group-Tour Travel.” I was excited to see that Friendly Planet customer Monique Valeris was the writer.
The article centers on the trip she took with Friendly Planet to India. She was hesitant at first, being that she never toured with a group before. But she goes on to say that it was “completely worth the money, and honestly, a lot more than I could’ve asked for.”
Well Maria, I’m glad you enjoyed your time with us. We were delighted to have you! The article doesn’t specify which tour she took. But based on the description, it’s safe to say she took the Taj Mahal Express.
Read the full article and get Maria’s tips on making the most out of group travel. I couldn’t have said it better than her. Thanks Maria!