In this post I’m gonna talk about gained experience concerning travelling through India, advice and prompts about booking tickets and accomodation.
Famous Qutb Minar placed near from Indira Gandhi International Airport
Relatively simple. We monitored the situation about flights possibilities and their prices using skyscanner and momondo. The round trip price per person cost 430 euros. We were flying with Air Astana along the route: Kyiv (Ukraine) – Almaty (Kazakhstan) – New Delhi (India). Air Astana turned out to be fine airlines, we were fully satisfied.
Also we planned one national flight to the north of India: from Delhi to Leh. In this case price altered considerably depending on the dates. One-way ticket price oscillated from 60 to 90 euros. As a result we booked a cheaper ticket with Jet Airways, having corrected our plans of travelling inside India.
Although upon arrival in India one should be ready for different kinds of force majeures (about which we will tell in the future). So it doesn’t hurt to have a guidebook to help you get oriented in unknown surroundings. Since we didn’t get into a booked hotel due to series of “Indian” circumstances, we had to look for a substitute in action. Good thing our room wasn’t pre-paid.
Right before flying back home we stayed at a five-star Pullman – it went very smoothly there and at the highest level possible.
Buying train tickets in India can be problematic, quite. Tickets have different statuses, different carriage classes.
We bought express tickets from Delhi to Amritsar and from Amritsar to Delhi. Both times we used tatkal quota, which allows to buy tickets one day before departure, they are more expensive, but guarantee boarding.
Express train “New Delhi-Amritsar Shatabdi Express” was fairly comfortable, air-conditioned (it was sheer cold inside – maybe 17°C after 40°C outside) and with 3 meals during the trip, included in price. The price per person was around 15 euros.
IRCTC.co.in is the official Internet-page of the Indian Railways, you can buy tickets online here. First, you have to sign up. You even book the tickets, but the problems came with trying to make a payment. All of our credit cards didn’t work, most likely because of the Indian payment gates, which didn’t allow foreign cards. (translator’s note: it really helped us that I knew two Indian guys, who study at the same university as I do in Prague, I contacted them and they helped us pay, even though being thousands kilometers away) There’s good news also – there supposedly exists ticket-office exclusively for foreigners in the building of the train station. Next time we’ll look for it, for sure
Bus tickets were ordered with makemytrip.com. Everything’s comprehensible and simple. We still couldn’t pay via the Internet, our co-travellers helped us out.
As to the credit cards – a word of advice: check that you have cards of the main paying systems like VISA or Mastercard. Maestro didn’t work and let us down big time. And also it’s good to have cards from different banks.
There’s also “plan B” – you can go to the tourist agent and buy the train or bus tickets, but with some added cost for services. We were offered this way a couple of times, but managed not to use it.
Private Bus Stand, Manali
One also can buy bus tickets at the bus stations – usually, they are uncomfortable lower class buses, going to the nearby villages. Comfortable VOLVO buses sell tickets through the Internet or tour agents.
Taxi (cabs), rickshaws. Delhi – subway (metro).
Delhi subway is very civilized and allows to cover great distances, omitting dreadful Delhi traffic and ubiquitous Indian “vivacity”. But get ready to ponder over complicated scheme of metro’s branches and be searched at every enter and transfer for “prohibited” items. For example, they tried to part us with a bottle of duty-free whiskey and a pocket knife (which we then lost at the airport). But we saved our stuff
There’s busyness and severe competition amongst taxi drivers in India, hence the methods of attracting clients are different, and not always based on honesty. So, if you don’t want tons of unwashed cab-drivers bother you with offers, pay 3-4 times more than you ought to, and get from one place to the other along the shortest route – certainly use these gifts of civilization. Unfortunately, they aren’t available everywhere in the country.
There are offices of prepaid taxi service at the airport and train station – you pay at the office and go to the driver with a check.
You’ve got to be very careful, still, because you’ll be ambushed while exiting the office by at least 10 people trying to get you seated into their car. It remained a secret for us whether we sat in a right car on our way from the airport on the first day.
You can use rickshaw if you’re not going very far, it’s cheap and “lively”. You should bargain, because seeing that you’re foreigners, drivers charge more.
And to be completely sure that you are being taken where you wish to – follow your movements on Google-maps
SIM-card bought in India will be activated only after a day. Before that it’ll be in the activation mode. To buy one you’ll need a copy of passport with valid visa and 2 photos.
When travelling between states roaming turns on, prices of phone calls and the Internet raise. Free Wi-Fi is very rare.
But everything works !!!