I’ve been in India for four months now and so far I’ve visited Agra, Jaipur, Udaipiur and Rieshikesh. Booking reservations and traveling around India is quite different from how we do things in the USA.
First of all, all reservations, even domestically require a copy of your passport. They want a hard copy and copy machines are not readily available, so someone is always taking your passport from you and then heading into the back room with it. The first time that happened I about had a panic attack. I’ve heard stories about travelers getting their passports taken away only to find they have to buy it back. Fortunately that’s not the case here!
Another thing that annoys me is that you can’t call any resort or tourist activity directly to book a reservation. You have to call a tourist service. There are so many middle men, each getting a piece of the pie, that it drives the price way up. Sometimes these middle men are just scammers that take your money and run, so you have to be very careful. Taxes are also very high, 20 to 30 percent in many areas!
I am currently booking a safari trip for my team in hopes of seeing tigers in the wild. I find it fascinating that for most tourist activities there are two rates, one for Indians and another higher rate for foreigners. We would never get away with that in the states! It would be considered discrimination, but it’s standard business policy in India. Rates should be negotiated too. Always, always ask for a discount and then continue to negotiate it down. Don’t be afraid to walk way and go back later. Also, shop around. You will be amazed at the pricing difference from one vendor to the next for the exact same trip.
You have to be very careful in India to research local customs and laws or you could find yourself in hot water. For example, public displays of affection and homosexuality are illegal in most states. There is even an area (Malana) where it is illegal to touch anyone for any reason! You can’t even hand the locals money directly. You have to set it down and then they will pick it up! The same goes for any exchange of goods. So strange!
India is a fascinating country with so many wonderful things to see. It is rich in history and tradition. The cities are full of culture but are very over populated. The villages are charming and abundant with amazing sights and people. It is relatively easy to travel in India because most people speak English, but make sure you are dealing with a reputable company and be on high alert for scams. Expect that there will be a good deal of hassles on your trip. Nothing ever seems to go smoothly in India. They do things at their own pace and in their own ways. Be patient, be tolerant and have fun.