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Claire Bear and PenGwen's Guide to Traveling in India

INDIA | Wednesday, 13 December 2006 | Views [1853]

Claire Bear and PenGwen's Guide to Traveling in India:

How to Keep Going When Your Cash has Stopped Flowing!

This guide was born after finding ourselves in a foreign (and craaaazy!) country without a cent... Although this is purely comical and was written to help keep spirits up in a difficult time, all the pointers included in the guide arose from our actual experiences!

Warning: Not to be read by any persons lacking a sense of humour!

Ok... Lonely Planet - Give us a break! This is a guide for those of you poor sods with nothing but an overdrawn credit card in your wallets!

The following points can only apply if you have spent all your money on your first day in India at a dodgy Delhi travel agent. If this hasn’t happened you won't be in the right frame of mind let alone desperate enough to go to these measures. On our arrival in Delhi, after jumping in a 'tuk-tuk' to get to the government tourism office, we somehow ended up in a travel agency where we were sweet talked into booking a tour. Only after parting with our money did we realize that we were almost broke with no money for the little things along the way... Like eating...


Tip # 1. Get people to invite you for dinner or make friends with the owner of your hotel so that they invite you to eat with them (that way you save on the $2-3 it costs you to have a meal in India. One night during our stay in Dharamsala, we were passing by the kitchen on our way out to get our fix of diarrheoa inducing street vendor food (couldn't afford anything else!),  when the hotel owners felt sorry for us and invited us to share their delicious Kashmiri meal. This opened whole new doors for us in being able to fill our stomachs on an empty wallet! 

Tip # 2. If you start to feel guilty about all this ‘scamming’ –  ie taking advatage of dinner invitations etc – offer to make a scrumpcious dessert for your host such as chocolate pudding. It will only cost you the amount of money it would take for one meal but as your host has been feeding you for days it's ok. Another bonus is that you get double the food as you’re having dessert, plus you get that warm gooey feeling for being a nice and generous person. And to top it off, keep the ingredients for the next host – that way you’ll make 10 desserts for the price for the price of one! Because our Dharamsala friends kept feeding us, we promised to make them a nice chocolate pudding as it seems that sweets are not a common thing in their culture (plus we were missing home a bit and needed the sugar fix!)... To be honest, we only ended up buying the cocoa powder and cream, and used their flour, eggs, butter and sugar and contrary to our own advice, we forgot the cocoa on their kitchen shelf... 

Tip # 3. If you get free breakfast at the hotel make sure you order enough for two people and keep some for lunch. This works well if you order something nice like pancakes to eat straight away then keep the toast or fruit for later. 

Tip # 4. Buy local snacks (or ‘snakes’ as some some mis-spelt menus suggest), instead of eating global brands such as Cadbury chocolate or lays chips. That way you’ll not only support the local community but also save a few dollars.

Tip # 5. Don’t take taxis. For one, you cant afford it and two, a friendly person might see you walking down the street and invite you to come in for a ‘cup of tea’ (famous expression and pastime in India). In this way you’ll not only meet interesting people, have good conversations but also save $1-2 it would’ve cost for the taxi. In addition you’ll get good exercise so you’ll also save on gym fees when you get home, leaving you free to pay back your travel debt! When we were in Dharamsala and wanted to walk the 3kms downhill to the library, we ummed and ahhed for a long time on whether or not to take a taxi back up (lazy us!). After a long debate, we decided that we couldn't afford it so we started the long haul up the hill. We had barely began when a voice calls out, "Cup of chai?". So off we went to have a cup of tea with a sweet Tibetan refugee called Sobu who told his life story including how he walked 21 days from Tibet to get to India, fleeing the Chinese regime. Exercising can be interesting after all!

Tip # 6. In countries like India where people don’t use toilet paper – scam some off classy hotels (you know the ones your dodgy Delhi travel agent sent you to without telling you and that’s why you’ve blown your budget). Not only will you save $1 but you will also get your money’s worth in toilet paper. If the hotel staff get suspicious as to why you are using 10 rolls a day – tell them you’ve got explosive diarrhoea! Well what can you expect when you have been eating street food because the travel agent took all your money and you cant afford Cadbury or Lays!

Note: In this case you can also scam bottled water from your hotel or houseboat if you’re in Kashmir. After all your dodgy Delhi travel agent sent you to his other dodgy business partner so that they can scam you too! (and harass you)

Tip # 7. Get free accommodation by making friends (Not "special friends"!) with hotel owners as he will invite you to stay for free, assuming that he can get lots of money out of your friends and family when they come to India based on your wonderful recommendations. In Dharamsala, our friends at the hotel told us that the hotel was now "our home" in India and we were welcome back anytime, free of charge. We actually haven't been able to make use of this offer yet as we haven't been able to rearrange our overbooked tour. We are however still researching this tip as especially when Indian males are involved, it is very important to sus out their intentions! My friend Ibe (still working on his english skills!) told me when he offered us the invitation " and you know, no need to worry about money. You stay here free of charge. I know that I will be able to get money from your family and friends later anyways". (Maybe he needs to work a little bit on the tact/phrasing there?). Another example occured in Kashmir. The owner of our houseboat not only lied to us about a trek we were supposed to be undertaking, but at the end of our stay, took me aside and told me that if I wanted to stay longer, "it would be no problem" because he had "special feelings" for me and he was looking forwards to having "some fun" (give me a bucket!) together. Don't worry. We are not that desperate for free accomodation. 

Tip # 8. About laundry. Ask to borrow your hosts clothes with the excuse of wanting to wear the local dress. That way you’ll get their clothes dirty and not your own, meaning you spend less on laundry costs. In addition you can steal hotel soap and shampoo so that you don’t smell as dirty as you might look! In Kashmir, we spent a couple of nights in a small village called Gagangir where we were unable to wash for a few days. We were also sick of getting funny looks from the locals who are not used to seeing westerners in the area. Borrowing ponchos from the guys was the perfect way to blend in with the locals, keep warm in the sub-zero conditions and avoid washing our clothes for a few extra days!

Tip # 9. Tell everyone about your experience with your ‘dodgy Delhi travel agent’, especially hotel owners (without telling them the name). That way they’ll feel sorry for you and feel a responsibility to make your stay a more pleasant one. They may offer to help you for free if you manage to cancel your tour.


Tip # 10.With international phone calls. If you’re with a travel partner and you call home, not only get your parents to call you back at your hotel but tell them to call your friend’s parents so that they can call your friend at the hotel too. Gwen was trying to call her mum and as a joke I said 'can you get her to call mine too and tell them to call us back'. Out of a simple joke, blossomed a brilliant money saving idea. PS - Don't tell our parents ;)


Tags: Budgets & money

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