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Tips For Travellers

Touts

Touts are omnipresent in most of the developing countries. Anyone 'proactively' trying to assist you can be doubted, as they mostly conspire to part you from your money. On your trip to India, you will be surrounded with innumerable touts trying to get you to buy something or may offer you some deals. There are a myriad of general frauds, which range from telling you false directions to a government rail ticket booking office which will lead you to their friend's tour office, telling you your hotel has gone bankrupt and offering you another hotel with vacancies(of course, they'll have some commission there), trying to sell you diamonds which are only worthless crystal, to 'poor students' giving you a sightseeing for hours and then with pity they will ask you to buy school books for them (hugely overpriced from a bookstore with whom they are affiliated). In addition to this more obvious touts will also be found who "know a very nice place for dinner" or will make you buy a chess set on the street.

Generally, Indians are very friendly, and people will be forthcoming in their questioning and offer suggestions, which may be of big help, at the moment, may not be warranted. Indians are likely to be helpful to the visitors and most of them will be happy to assist you.

When encountered with such an assault, it's very simple to get harassed with a though where the whole country is against you and ready to beat you till death. Needless to say, such a thought is injurious to any true appreciation of the country. It is quite easy to deal with the touts: first, consider that anyone offering or doing something for you without being asked is a tout. Second, consider anyone sharing astonishing information (Example: "your hotel is out of business") is a tout. Donít be feared to get answers to your questions for the second or third time. To get rid of a tout:

  • Try avoiding him completely as if you have nothing to do with his business until he goes away. This may take a couple of minutes but you need to be patience enough to deal with India.
  • Rigidly tell him "NO", if needed say ĎNOí repeatedly.

If you need some information on your way, do not ask to someone who is very eager to help and approaches on his own (he is likely to be a tout), go to a person yourself and he or she will help you with great honor. India is a country where guests are treated just like gods and the same treatment you will get across the whole India provided the person you encountered with is not a tout.

Shopping

In India if buying street hawkers you are need to negotiate with the price, but in department stores it is not to be done. If not bargained, sometimes you may end up overpaying - which may seem alright if you think "well, it's cheaper than our country". Retail chain stores are growing in number in many of the big cities and even smaller towns. At these retail stores you will have the same shopping experience as in the West. Government-running stores can also be found like the Cottage Emporium in New Delhi, where in an air-conditioned comfort you can get the sample goods from all across the country. However you may pay a bit more at these stores, but you can be sure that what you buy is not a duplicate stuff. If bargained hard you will save a lot of money. A few times of bargain will make you feel itís not less than a fun.

Usually, if more time spent at a store you can get better deals. It is good to spend time to ask questions, know the owner and getting him to show you other products (if you have an interest). If the owner feels that he is making a good profit from you, he can give you some more additional goods at a cheaper rate, rather than the common "foreigner rate". You can get worth prices and service by buying several goods at a single store than bargaining and getting from multiple stores individually. If local people are seen buying at a store, probably you will get the real Indian prices. You can ask someone there ó preferably so that the shopkeeper can't hear you! ó For that item how much they will pay. Also, usually you will meet a "friend" in the street inviting you to have a look to their family's shop. In most of such cases it only means that you will pay twice as much as when you would have paid at a shop without your newly found friend.

Baksheesh -- a very common trend in India which means giving small bribes. Though it is a big problem in India, yet indulging in it can solve many problems and can get you rid of some obstacles. Baksheesh is also the term used by beggars if they want money from you, and also the term is used for the tip given to someone for a service provided. Baksheesh term comes from ancient part of Middle Eastern and Asian culture as anything else. It basically comes from Arabic which means a small present. It refers as much to charity as to bribes.

The Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of a packaged good is marked on the packet. This includes taxes. Retailers are not allowed to charge more than the MRP. Though some places may not abide to the same rule, like at tourist destinations or remote areas, more can be charged. Mainly this is true for cold drinks like coke or pepsi, where a bottle (300ml) is charged around 11 to 12 Rs when actually it costs 10. Also, a lot number of things do not come in packaged form. Do enquire about the price, as sometimes it may happen that the shopkeeper charges you more by putting a sticker of his own.

Restaurants

Restaurants of India are a range of roadside shacks called dhabas to posh five-star hotels where the experience is not less than any place in the world. Apart from the tourist spots and big cities, mid-level restaurants are scarce, and food options will be confined to the regional cuisine like, Punjabi/Mughlai, "Chinese" and often South Indian.

The dhabas along the India's highways play an important role in popularizing Punjabi cuisine. The truckers, who are usually Punjabi, are particularly their patrons. The authentic dhaba make the diners sit on cots instead of chairs and serve simple and tasty seasonal dishes along with roti and dhal, with onions. In many dhabas, hygiene can be a problem, so if you donít find it up to your standards try another. Dhabas are generally the only option in rural area.

"Hotel" means a local restaurant in Southern India, serving south Indian food which is generally a thali -- a full plate of food that usually consists of a kind of bread and a variety of meat or vegetarian dishes -- and prepared meals. They may hand you an extensive menu but, only during particular hours all the items are served.

Itís unusual to pay tip outside of fancier restaurants, however in bigger restaurants it is appropriate to pay a tip of about 10%.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can either be frowned upon or openly accepted, depending on the region and religion of the area within which you are drinking. For example, Goa and Pondicherry tend to be more free-wheeling (and has low taxes on alcohol), while few southern areas like Chennai are less kind to alcohol, and may even charge excessive taxes on it. Some states such as Gujarat are legally "dry" and alcohol cannot be bought openly there, although there is a substantial bootlegging industry.

Favorite Indian tipples include beer, notably the ubiquitous Kingfisher (a decent lager), and rum, particularly Old Monk. Prices vary by state, especially for hard liquor, but you can expect to pay Rs 50-100 for a large bottle of beer and anywhere between Rs 170-250 for a 750mL bottle of Old Monk.

Indian wines, long a bit of a joke, have improved remarkably in recent years and there's a booming wine industry in the hills of Maharashtra. The good stuff is not particularly cheap (expect to pay around Rs 500 a bottle) and selections are mostly limited to white wines, but look out for labels by Chateau Indage or Sula.

Illegal moonshine, called tharra when made from sugar cane and toddy when made from coconuts, is widely available in some states. It's cheap and strong, but very dangerous as quality control is nonexistent, and best avoided entirely. In the former Portugese colony of Goa you can obtain an extremely pungent liquor called fenny or feni, typically made from cashew fruits or coconuts.