Tag Archives: Rohit Agarwal

Why India is Not Expensive For Tourists

By Rohit Agarwal

Visitors have been visiting India for thousands of years. They have left a variety of comments on their observations. Some reported on the advanced level of civilization. Some reported on the wealth and majesty of the ancient kingdoms. Some reported on the variety in the terrain. And even more reported on the variety in the people. From human-eating Aghoris to God-like Kings, there are reports on the beauty of the women. Always accompanied by more reports of the beauty and lustre of their ornamentation. There is, however, not a single comment on India being an expensive place to visit or live in.

Jama Masjid - Photo by Dennis Jarvis, CC BY-SA 2.0
Jama Masjid – Photo by Dennis Jarvis, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://www.flickr.com/photos/archer10/2215082618

This has in fact led to a new trend today. Many expatriates, especially pensioners, have decided to not just visit India, but to in fact spend their lives here. This phenomenon is also seen in many other countries in South East Asia. The availability of all necessities at a reasonable rate is the primary factor. In many of the popular places where you can find expatriates living in India, such as Goa, Jaipur, Agra, Lucknow and many of the hill stations in India, such as Darjeeling, Ooty, Mussoorie, Manali and Naniatal, the cost of living is much lower than in any developed country.

Accommodation

First of all, everyone needs a place to stay or spend the night. The availability of economic accommodation is, in fact, on the rise in India. Although the rents and prices are quite high in the big cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, this has led to smaller cities, which very earlier not so confident, offering much better alternatives. For those on a very short visit of less than a month and wanting to cover as much territory as possible, there are even sites where locals host guests in their own houses for free. Such sites include couchsurfing.com and globalfreeloaders.com. These are very popular in India, with Indians wanting to host guests to learn more about the world through their guest’s experiences.

Asians are very hospitable by nature and Indians are no exceptions. If you are able to strike a real rapport with the locals, they will usually offer you some food and drinks. And if you actually like it and let them know, you will get enough to fill you up and more.

Some useful economical accommodation options:

Salvation Army’s Guesthouse at Colaba, Mumbai. This is a stone’s throw behind the famous Taj Mahal Hotel, which fronts the Gateway of India. YMCA & YWCA have an extensive network in India. Youth hostels are a great option. The added advantage here is that you will get a chance to mingle with locals, as youth hostels are popular with the locals too. You might even end up making a friend or more for life.

Travel

Thanks to the British, and then India’s social politics, travelling in India is easy. Travelling by train is the best and most economical way to transit between one city/town and another. There is a special quota reserved for foreign visitors, so it is usually not a headache to get a seat. But do try to always book your tickets at the earliest, as the trains in India are always full.

The canteens at railway stations are an economical refreshment option. The hygiene is better than in most other small outlets in India. You would usually get some simple western-type food, such as sandwiches or cutlets, and drinks as well as the staple Indian cuisine.

Other common modes of travel include the airlines, buses and taxis. Rickshaws operate in most big cities for travel within the city.

Food & Beverage

India offers some of the spiciest and some of the sweetest food in the world. As anybody who has eaten at any Indian restaurant will know. The Samosa has become our mascot for cultural exports.

The cuisine in India varies with its people. As you move from one social group to another, you will find a different cuisine. And the variety in India beats any other country, hands down.

The variety in the beverages is also just as splendid. From the thick Lassi of Punjab to the refreshing Chaach of Gujarat to the invigorating Nariyal Pani (Coconut Water) of the coastal belts, your thirst will be quenched in India.

Shopping

Almost everybody who visits India wants to take back a souvenir. There are so many monuments in India and all of them would be replicated in small souvenirs that you can buy. India is also famous for its handicrafts. As it has a huge tribal population.

India was also the only source of diamonds in the entire world till about only a century ago. It has again become the largest diamond cutting and polishing centre in the world. Gems and jewellery is a very popular shopping item in India. Many tourists buy things in India which they can sell in other countries for a profit. This is a smart way to reduce or even totally compensate the cost of your trip to India.

As you can see, coming to India is never a question of money. It is only a question for the heart. India beckons; will you answer the call?

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First Time in India? How to Get a Prepaid SIM Card as a Foreigner?

This post from our travel writer based in India, Rohit Agarwal, is very useful for travellers needing to get a SIM card in India. We found the process a bit daunting when we were there in November, so these hints are very useful. Thanks Rohit!

All set for a holiday to India!
Of course you like to stay in contact with your family and friends back home, so while planning your trip do not forget to pack a handset that does not restrict you to one service provider. Certain makes and models of handsets are restricted to use SIM cards of particular service providers or are locked. This could be a strong barrier to cheap communications during your trip, so it is a good idea to pack an unlocked handset which is either dual, tri band or quad band so it can work in India.

Image by Ramesh Lalwani, CC BY 2.0
Image by Ramesh Lalwani, CC BY 2.0

There are certain things to note while you hunt for a prepaid SIM card in India.
1. Documentation
To purchase a prepaid SIM card, you will need to provide the following documents:

  • 2-3 coloured passport size photographs,
  • A photocopy of your passport, specifically the page containing your personal details,
  • A copy of your Indian Visa,
  • Proof of your stay in India – a letter from the Hotel or guest house confirming your stay as a guest, and
  • A photocopy of the proof of address for your place of residence back home.

On providing the above set of documents you should be able to access a prepaid mobile service in India.

2. Which service provider should you choose?
There are a range of mobile prepaid service providers available in India such as Airtel, Idea, Vodafone, Reliance, BSNL & MTNL. Apart from the ease of availability, also consider good network coverage and data connectivity. Though all the service providers boast of good network coverage, the challenge is to provide uninterrupted 3G and 4G connectivity. The larger carriers here are Airtel, Idea, Vodafone and Reliance. If you travel  to rural areas or inland regions, then MTNL or BSNL would be the best option as they have better coverage in these areas.

3. SIM cost and running expenses
Buying a SIM will cost you somewhere between 150 to 250 Indian Rupees, and you may need to pay extra to recharge it. Recharge options are customised for different parameters like local calls, STD calls, ISD packages, data packages, SMS packages, etc. When you choose the recharge option consider convenience and optimal usage that suits your needs. Recharge choices also come with validity options. Packages are available for day, month and even annual use. You should be very cautious while selecting these packages. On average, an international call is charged at approx. Rs. 7 per minute and an international SMS might cost you Rs. 5 per SMS. On the other hand, calls or SMS within India would cost you around 1 rupee per minute or 1 rupee per SMS. Also, many coffee shops, bus stands, museums and hospitals provide free Wi-Fi access.

4. Calling from an Indian prepaid SIM
To make outgoing calls from your Indian prepaid mobile service to any city within India, you need to dial the STD code of the city when dialing a fixed line number. If you intend to make a call to a mobile number within India, you need to dial +91 (country code for India) prefixed to the 10 digit mobile number. Similarly while making an international fixed line call, dial the country code + area code + phone number, and for an international mobile number call dial the country code followed by the mobile number.

Many airports in India have kiosks or desks that provide you with prepaid SIM cards. If you have all the required documents handy, using this facility at airports would be a viable option for all foreign travellers looking for a means to connect back home.

Edited by Martin Drury

Some Tips To Deal With Touts In India

Contributed by Rohit Agarwal

Introduction by Tracey Benson, Editor: Rohit’s article about avoiding touts in India is extremely useful for travellers not just to India but to many parts of the world. The article underlines that just by following some simple guidelines you will be more aware and able to enjoy your journey, with an understanding of how to manage some tricky situations. We welcome Rohit to Geokult Travel and hope that we will be able to share some more of his insights in the future.

Some Tips To Deal With Touts In India
Vacation in a country like India has its own pros and cons. The advantageous aspect of it is, being a spectator to the natural world of beauty and serenity and on the contrary being a prey to the wrongdoings of the touts that target the tourists from outside India. One of the major “tout-abused destinations” in India is Agra – which manifests the Taj Mahal.

A lot of wrong practices being followed by the natives of this country have created a horrifying image for foreign tourists. But these practices are not only phenomena in India, but have been evident at many other tourist destination countries. So, should one stop travelling? No! The better answer is to be alert and aware of these practises and prevent yourself from falling prey. Below are some tips that you should keep in mind while travelling to India:

Street Vendor in India Trying to Sell Product - Photo credit Rosipaw, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Street Vendor in India Trying to Sell Product – Photo credit Rosipaw, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

1. Do not rely on ticketing agents
India is a developed country with equipped cybernetics! One should thus not fall prey to some touts who ensure confirmed reservation tickets for travelling through flights, trains or buses in India. It is always a better option to either book your travel tickets online or manually receive tickets from ticket windows available at every airport, railway station and bus stand in India. Generally, tourists avoid the long waiting queues outside these windows and fall an easy trap to these touts who ensure confirmed tickets at some nominal extra charges. These touts are mostly fake and one can be easily duped during peak tourist seasons.

2. Beware of being guided to a cloak room
Wherever you travel, the Indian railway stations provide with cloak rooms for your luggage to be deposited. These cloak rooms are also available at some major bus stands and places of tourist attractions like monuments, temples, etc. One should thus avoid being guided by a tout to a separate cloak room which seems abandoned or is at a faraway place from the tourist attraction. It is always safe to lock your luggage properly before depositing it at any of the cloak rooms. These public cloak rooms take a minimal amount for luggage deposit and give you tokens or slips in return.

3. Be cautious while appointing a tour guide
As a tourist, we all go inquisitive about the history of a tourist place and would love to know the ins and outs of the place we visit. For this we usually hire tour guides, who enable us with a lot of information about the place. As a foreigner, we need to be alert and aware that there are some fake tourist guides in India, who may mislead you and rob you of your money and luggage. It is always a good practise to hire a tourist guide through the ticket window and also ensure to check and take a mobile-picture of the identity card of the tour guide.

4. Stay away from touts ensuring hotel reservations

Tout Warning Signboard at Mamallapuram, near Chennai – Photo by Ashley Bristowe, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Tout Warning Signboard at Mamallapuram, near Chennai – Photo by Ashley Bristowe, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If travelling to India during peak tourist season or during festivals and vacation time, you might face the challenge of getting a hotel check in. It is always a better idea to do your hotel bookings prior to your travel during these days and if you miss to do so, please do not (NEVER, EVER!!!) trust the touts who ensure room availability in a hotel, guest house or a lodge nearby. It would be worth to move on a self-hunt (or online-hunt) for room availability rather than being trapped by these vaunts who either charge extravagant or deceive you of your belongings.

Let your travel to the scenic beauty of this country be a memorable one, rather than being frightful. ‘Prevention is better than cure’, remember this and always plan ahead and be alert during your travel and do not be fooled by touts, who could ruin your beautiful journey. Always be aware in visiting major tourist destinations in India like Delhi, Jaipur, Chennai and Goa where one can encounter touts of different varieties – from a child to an old man/woman trying to make some extra bucks by misguiding/misleading information. Always be smart and enjoy your travel while being alert!

Author Bio
Rohit is an architect by profession and travel blogger by desire; who loves his country and believes that the tourists coming to visit India should only carry the tender feelings of contentment, eyeing the beauty and serenity of this country and not the overwhelming feeling of fear of being duped by touts. He thus shares, through his articles, some basic tips to make your journey worth recalling.

Images attributions
Street Vendor in India Trying to Sell Product – Photo credit Rosipaw, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Tout Warning Signboard at Mamallapuram, near Chennai – Photo by Ashley Bristowe, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0