India Travel Tips

Travel Tips for India

Do you need some tips for travel in India? Check these bad boys out:

  1. Drink lots of chai: Seriously this shit is amazing, and tastes nothing like the chai back home. I lived of chai tea while I was in India. Love, love, love!
  2. Don’t freak out after hearing your can’t bring Rupees into India and then change all your converted money back into dollars before flying to India: I did this when we visited in 2009 even after being told it wasn’t really enforced by an Indian friend. I had already changed some money into rupees but freaked out after being told by the travel agent that I wasn’t allowed to bring the currency into the country. A costly annoyance. You should be fine to take a bit of money over with you, but its up to you, I have since been told by a large amount of people that it is indeed not enforced but if your worried just don’t change your money over until you arrive in the country.
  3. Turn Vegetarian: Three words – paneer butter masala, the most freaking amazing vegetarian dish I have ever eaten. It’s like butter chicken without the chicken, instead with paneer cheese which soaks up the flavours of whatever yummy sauce its placed in. Anyway my point is that Indian food is so full of flavour that you can go vegertarian without missing out on feeling satisfied.
  4. Keep your cool: It can feel like your a walking dollar sign especially in the north of India. Try to keep your temper in check and resist snapping at the people who are trying to sell you items. Just say no, or ignore them and keep on walking.
  5. Find Ranch Pringles (a must for Australians – they aren’t sold there): Oh my fucking god, have you tried ranch pringles? We found them on our first trip to India and I fell in love! We have since found an overpriced packet every now and then in specialty stores back home in Australia but they never seem to taste as good as they did in India. Okay so this isn’t Indian food (it may be American?) but it was great when I wanted a break from all the paneer butter masala I’ve been eating.
  6. Eat in small, hidden cafes: We found the most amazing small restaurant looking over the lake in Udaipur (atleast I think it was Udaipur, I really wish I had taken more notes from my trip) and it was romantic and peaceful and perfect. Seek out smaller establishments, not only will they be cheaper, you get the chance to actually interact with the staff and other customers in these places. We found we would get approached more by locals (not trying to sell us things)  while eating in smaller places simply because they didn’t get a lot of tourists there and we must have been some sort of novelty.
  7. Don’t assume you have to wear hippy pants: I thought everyone would be rocking the hippy pants or comfy fisherman pants but boy was I wrong. Although in saying this we spent time only in the north, so I can’t speak for everywhere in the country. I was surprised by the amount of people wearing jeans… in March (read: extreme heat)! I don’t think I saw a pair of hippy pants (although I must admit I wasn’t looking out for them), even on tourists. So stick to jeans and long skirts/ dresses if you are visiting the cities, you’ll stand out a bit otherwise (more so than you already will). Of course in the wise words of Chris from Skins you could always just say “Fuck it” and wear them anyway if you find them comfortable.
  8. Keep small change: Always.
  9. Pick a place with a good toilet: Chances are you’ll get the, uh,  ’erge to purge’ at some point during your trip so make sure your hotel has a toilet you wouldn’t mind spending a bit of time on. Oh and pack re-hydration powder,
  10. Do a cooking class: We turned this down because it sounded a bit expensive when we were there and we both totally regretted it. Turns out sometimes they will quote you a higher price when others in the class have come from a pricier tour so you won’t accidentally let it slip that you paid less than the others; the people from our tour group who did do the class got a price nearly half the price of the one mentioned originally.
  11. Visit a wildlife sanctuary: India has animals? Yes, it sure does. I wasn’t too keen on this part of the trip in the beginning but it ended up being one of the highlights of my trip even though we only saw the tiniest bit of a tiger. Oh and the sunset at Ranthambore after a day of animal stalking is simply AMAZING, I have never seen the sun so large and it has been my favourite sunset to date. There aren’t too many animals to see though, but I still loved it.
  12. Talk Cricket: As soon as we mentioned we were Australians every single person that we met started talking about cricket, and those who were trying to sell us things even told us they knew Ricki Ponting (this happened in like four stores – he must be popular with the Indian crowd…). Now I have no idea who Ricki Ponting is (or even if he spells his name in that way) but my boyfriend did, and he found it to be a great way to connect with new people while we were over there even if they were just talking shit.
  13. Join a family or group of friends for a game of Holi: Even though I had some apprehension about going into a stranger’s house it was a lovely way to get smashed over the head with water and paint. Oh and the colour doesn’t come out too easy, I had pink in my hair for like a month, and on my skin for the next few days. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t wash it out.
  14. Stay in a castle: Not for your whole stay since it´s a little touristy but try it atleast once. Where else can you stay in an stunning castle for a low price? Not in Australia, that’s for sure.
  15. Get your haggle on: Oh I was fab at haggling, well at the ‘being a hard arse’ part not so much at getting a deal as good as the locals. Even if you don’t want to drive the price down haggling is expected and is a fun little game. Of course you have to remember that this is the shopkeepers livelihood so don’t take it too far but do give it a fair go.

Swimming With Whale Sharks In Cancun: Amazeballs.

Swimming with Whale Sharks is one of the most incredible underwater encounters you can have around the world, however it can only be done in certain locations at certain times. These locations include the Philippines, Australia, Honduras and Mexico among a few other select destinations worldwide.

I personally recommend doing your whale shark swim in Cancun or Isla Holbox in Mexico (especially if it will be your first encounter) since here you are offered a guarantee of swimming with the creatures at most shops. So you know you´ll get your money´s worth unlike in other destinations where while the price might be a little cheaper (such as in the Utila Bay Island, Honduras) but comes with no guarantee and a much lower probability of seeing and swimming with the gentle giants.

When you go whale shark swimming in Cancun not only do you get great visibility and the aforementioned guarantee you also get a price much cheaper than you would swimming with the same attraction in the western world (such as in my lovely home in Australia). Prices in Cancun start from $125 with the median price around $150 – $160. Be aware when choosing tours based on the cheapest price (aka those under $150) as you get what you pay for and there may be no guarantees with these tours so always check beforehand.

The beauty of these tours are that they are out in the open ocean and the whale sharks are free to come and go as they pleased and it is a much better option than doing something similar at a water park. There are strict regulations governing human interaction with the whale sharks such as strict rules against the amount of swimmers in the water at once and that the giant fish must not be touched in any way, shape or form.

The tour begins with an early pick up from your hotel and a drive out to the wharf. My tour guide even stopped for some of us to get sea sickness pills on the way so if you suffer from sea sickness and you can´t speak Spanish ask your guide to help you out on the way (I went with Eco Color Whale Sharks Tours).

Once arrived at the wharf you will, depending on your tour, get a small breakfast to eat before the ride and the option to hire a wetsuit. You´ll also have the chance to use the bathrooms before hopping on your speed boat and jetting off to whale shark central.

It takes a little while to get out to the spot but if you’re as lucky as we were you’ll begin to see the whale sharks gliding through the water on arrival.

If there was any doubt before hand of us actually seeing the sharks, let alone swimming with them it was shaken away as soon as we arrived at the swim spot. Multiple whalesharks darting around freely and gracefully got our group rather excited before even jumping into the water.

Once you’ve arrived you’ll jump in at pairs of two at a time to swim with the whale sharks. Remember to jump in as soon as th guide says so and you’ll have to swim fast to keep up with them otherwise you might miss them. The experience itself is amazing, if not short, and being able to swim so near to these giant, peaceful beings seems like such a privilege.

You’ll get a couple of turns each pair, have some lunch (often provided) and then often the tours will whisk you off to either a snorkelling spot or a pretty beach such as Isla Mujeres (which is hands down one of the best beaches in the Yucatan). After that you’ll head back to the wharf and (depending on your tours description) get dropped off back at your hotel.

The tour takes a full day and while being a strong swimmer isn’t a neccessity, it definately helps when trying to catch up with the Whale Sharks. Just remember that you are out in the open ocean so you should be able to swim moderately well and you may see other creatures while in the water. We saw a manta ray on one of our swims which I quickly swan away from as I am terrified of them.

He’s motioning for me to come closer but I of course am run-swimming in the opposite direction!

Snorkelling with Whale Sharks is a tour you can’t miss if you are visiting the Yucatan during the season and could very possibly be the highlight of your trip. Please see the video below for a short, bumpy look into one of my swims with these graceful creatures.

Your Checklist For Booking A Whale Shark Swim

  •  Does the company offer a whale shark guarantee?
  • Do they comply with environmental and set guidelines (aka not touching the whale sharks, within the correct period)?
  • Is the tour between July and September?
  • Is wetsuit hire include in the price ? Since wetsuits are optional most tours wont include this extra, if you want one and its not offered make sure you bring currency with you to hire the suit at the docks. If I remember correctly this was between 12 & 13 US dollars, and was payable in Pesos or US currency (however I would confirm if US currency is accepted before solely bringing it).