We made it to India after all!
We’ve been quite busy traveling within India too. So far we’ve visited Bangalore (Bengaluru), Goa, and Kerala in the south, and are now in Jaipur in the north. Here are a few random notes about India; some are more obvious observations, others are things we’ve learned along the way:
- Driving in any major Indian city is CRAZY. It’s definitely the top of my list for craziest driving/road situation. Traffic moves on the left side of the road for the most part (we’ve seen many people who drive/scoot/bike on the wrong side). Drivers will ALWAYS try to squeeze by.
- In many places, raised “sidewalks” are scarce. Pedestrians just walk in the streets and things in motion (cars, tuk tuks, scooters, motorcycles, even bicycles) will not stop for you. I guess it’s more of a “walk on the side” suggestion; a suggestion, because there are often people in the middle of the road, crossing or squeezing through traffic themselves.
- It’s loud on the road. Indians use horns on the road like spices in the food, i.e. LIBERALLY. Drivers, tuk tuks, and motorcycles use them to warn others that they’re coming, to tell them to move out the way, to let them know they don’t plan on braking, or even slowing down. Some people use them through entire intersections, when crossing traffic perpendicularly (at not-quite-intersections/breaks in the dividers), or when they are approaching a cluster of moving vehicles, bicycles, or bodies. People even have jingles instead of a regular “beep” horn sound, and/or multiple horns for different situations. It’s like reverse echo-location, announcing to(warning) the world “I AM HEEEEEEEEEEEEERE!!!!!!!!!”
- Trash fires in the street are a common occurrence. We figured this out while on our ride from the airport in Bangalore to our friend’s place. They happen during the day and night, in every city we’ve been to, from the touristy areas in Jaipur to the tiny back roads of Goa to the riversides in Alleppey, Kerala. The world has more trash than we can deal with.
- The air is polluted (in cities). With all the vehicles, trash fires, and people, it’s no surprise the air quality suffers. Luckily we kept our medical masks we bought in Thailand and have been using them here in Jaipur.
- Things are cheap. We had breakfast from a street vendor this morning for 30 rupees (about .50 cents USD). Last night we ate at a local restaurant at a hotel and shared a Tikka Paneer dish with 6 tandoori roti that left the two of us full for about $3 USD. Our scooter rental in Goa costed 250 rupees/day (less than $4 USD).
- COWS! (and also goats!) While I am amazed and amused at every bovine I see, our Indian friends are more amazed at how amazed we are at this typical sight. They are another fixture along the roads, unsupervised, and know their way back home.
- Traveling within India takes time. Not only is the country quite large, transportation can be a little difficult. In our time here with our list of sights we’ve already taken 4 flights! Other modes of transport have included: a houseboat, motorboat, man-powered canoe, taxis/ubers, tuk tuks, and our feet. We’ve seen many cycle rickshaws, but haven’t any (yet?).
- Trains are complicated. If you plan on taking a train in India and organizing your trips yourself, start your planing early. Indian Railways (the government company) moved over 22 million passengers daily, in 2015-16. As a foreigner, you need to register well in advance to be able to use the Indian Railways site to search for and purchase tickets. It took me a full week, including 2 further emails with them following up on my registration status (which, to be honest, I’m not sure did anything). Third-party sites like MakeMyTrip and ClearTrip still require this registration. Seat61, a train expert, has a fantastic guide to trains in India including the super-helpful guide on how to buy train tickets online.
Will keep you posted on how the rest of our journey goes!