India

As a solo female traveller I would like to impart the following advice:

Travel and Transport:

Trains

  • pre-book trains on-line, booking at an agent in a town they will charge you more
  • booking train tickets at the station: females (and possibly foreigners?) should have their own queue.  Occasionally I was pushed to the front of the queue, other times I was pushed to the back.  Sometimes I needed a white piece of paper, sometimes I didn’t.  It made me prefer the buses.
  • sleeper class is the cheapest ticket on offer and the carriages are the most open and overnight they’re cool
  •  sleeper class in the day is HOT
  • get the top bunk and you can hide and either keep your luggage with you or chain it up (guards actually came around  and told us to chain it up and we had to sign a form denouncing responsibility).
  • don’t store anything near an open window, either.
  • I was told to avoid carriages with a lockable door, but also told to get the most expensive ticket … it’s your choice/risk I guess, but I felt safe in the open sleeper class top bunk

Buses

  • buses – don’t always believe the picture they show you of the bus (the joke’s on you).  I travelled overnight on a seat that squashed the people behind me and there was nothing I could do.
  • sleeper buses – if you don’t mind flying while you sleep then they’re great.  You can shut yourself away with a tinted door or curtains.  The quality varies a lot and it’s more of a lucky guess.
  • buses generally leave on time from bus terminals, but if you’re jumping on further down the line don’t expect it to be early or on time.
  • ask the ticket guy to write down the number plate and the service name if it’s not on the ticket – makes it easier to find the bus
  • around Rajasthan red buses offer a good service
  • expect to pay a few rupees if you’re storing your luggage under the bus
  • bus drivers like the sound of their HORN.  A lot.  Sit at the front for the view of the open road and the incessant sound of the HORN.  Sit at the back to rest a little.

Rickshaws

  • you’re better off in one that out of one
  • you will get to the point where you want to punch a few drivers
  • they will hassle you as soon as you get off the bus or train
  • many drivers will greet you at the train/bus station, offer their services, stalk you, pretend they’re deaf, offer ludicrous prices, offer to take you to a hotel
  • bargain for a decent price – have a rough idea of how many kms you’re going and work from there
  • If you’re having a bad day just say yes to the first one that comes along, it will save you a lot of stress
  • ask them to put the metre on.  My friend living in Delhi used to say ‘metre plus twenty’.  It works out cheaper.  The twenty is for being a foreigner 🙂

Hotels:

  • stay in hotels that have decent ratings on Trip Advisor or recommended in guide books
  • bargain if you’re out of season
  • bargain even if they give you a price list (it’s the tourist price not the local price)
  • when you sign in you can often see the rate other guests are paying and think ‘I’ve done well,’ or ‘I’m such a mug’
  • pre-booking hotels can take a lot of stress out of arriving into a new place, even if it’s just for the first night
  • save money and stay in a few shittier places then spend a little more on a decent place
  • opt for places with a rooftop restaurant/balcony.  Great for views and to meet people

To be added to as I think of more – the lists are possibly never-ending however …