India - tips
|In short||Probably the most interesting
country on earth, and certainly my own favourite in terms of traveling.
Depending on who you ask, you may get the impression that India is either the jewel in the crown of the empire or the arse-hole of the world. It's a very "oppressive" country which doesn't allow you to watch the world from the side-line. You're in the boxing ring yourself and being a passive spectator is an absolute impossibility.
India is a country clearly dividing the travelers in two distinctly different groups: You love it or you hate it. There is no middle way and the number of travelers darting out of India after spending less than a week among the crows is quite amazing. Nobody ever travels India and remain untouched.
There is nowhere like India.
|Highlights||Lots - more than anywhere else I can
For religious stuff, Varanasi easily rivals Jerusalem and Lhasa, however, don't forget the other holy cities such as Haridwar, Kanchupuram, Allahabad and so. Also the holy abodes are worth going to, among which Badrinath in the Himalaya is probably the most interesting.
For nature, go to Ladakh og Garhwal Himal (UP). Otherwise, the NE hill states, Rajahstan or the far south are definitely worth a visit.
For cities, avoid Bombay (Mumbai) and Delhi, whereas Madras (Chennai) and Calcutta are much better than their dubious reputation. Jaipur, Guwahati and Amritsar ar even more pleasant. For village life, just get away from the big cities, and, for the perfect experience, try to break out of the Lonely Planet defined "tourist cirquit".
|Places to avoid||In Agra, be prepared for a major
hazzle fighting the most stupid and dumbest rickshaw wallahs on earth. No matter where you
want to go, you end up in the "brothers" jewellry shop or the "uncles"
carpet factory, and shouting doesn't help at all. Very frustrating, but kind of
manhood test like dodging the camel drivers at the Giza Pyramids.
As above, Bombay is not exactly my favourite, while others seem to hate Calcutta (which I love!). Traveling in India is very much a matter of personal taste.
|Seasons||In most of India, go in the dry and "cold" winter period. The exception is the Tibetan Ladakh which is much better in the summer.|
|Do's and don'ts||Not that bad. Do as the locals, and everything will be fine - except in the traffic where chaos rules.|
|Visa||Six month multiple-entry visas are easy to get.|
|Value for money||Superb, especially outside the main tourist cirquit. Probably only rivaled by Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.|
|Others||Be patient. You can't change India
or the crowds of manically staring people, so better accept it and try to enjoy it. India
is not a country for "beginners.
Beggars: "Soft-hearted" travelers are in for a hard time in India. There are beggars everywhere, and if you have to give them something, resist the temptation to give away high-value dollar notes. The average Indian worker makes between 1 and 5 dollars a day, and giving anything more than a couple of cents actually makes it a much better business begging than working. If in doubt, have a look at the flood of beggars at the roadside of Calcuttas Sudder Street. As a local merchant put it: "They are not beggars, they are business men!".
Watch the Indians and never give away more than a few paise to each beggar. By giving away a fortune, you twist the local economy and make life very hard for your fellow travelers, so please don't!