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Thursday, 3 December 2009

Basic travel tips for India & Nepal

India

 
Don't book more than one night's accomodation for the start of your trip.  Just in case you don't like it there.  You may find somewhere cheaper and cleaner elsewhere.

 
Change your currency at the aiport.  You won't lose out by much at all and it's safer. 

 
Make sure you have a pen for entrance/landing forms.

 
Don't keep more than 500 rupees handy.  Hide the rest about your person in a body wallet or some other way that isn't visible.  Get small notes: 5s, 10's 20s and 50s. 

 
A rickshaw's cheaper than a taxi.  Always haggle.  If you look like a tourist, they'll rip you off.  Take the price they give you and haggle from just under 50% less.  Don't go over that amount much at all if you can help it. 

 
You will need to haggle for EVERYTHING!  Apart from things that have the price on the container in certain shops or restaurants with menus.  Watch yourself at restaurants though as some of them will add things like bogus taxes or items on your bill that you haven't had.  Be prepared to walk away and come back much later if the haggling isn't going well.  The proportion of sellers to buyers is in favour of the savvy buyer.

 
Make sure you never leave crucial documents like your passport anywhere.  Keep it in your body wallet.

 
Take a face mask with a built in filter if you are asthmatic.  The pollution in Delhi (and Kathmandu) is terrible and will definitely affect you in a bad way.

 
Use water purification tablets on the bottled water and don't use anything but bottled water; especially when brushing your teeth.  Never have ice in any drink, the chances are it's tap water and it'll have something in it that can harm you if you're not careful.

 
Check fruit carefully before buying it.  Don't buy anything which has broken skin and fruit exposed.  Wash the fruit with bottled water.  If you end up with food poisoning etc, rely on fruit and bottled water until you body can hack your normal diet again.

 
If you want to use the internet, only use the hotel you're staying at.  If you're a foreigner they will want a copy of your passport at any internet cafe.  It's the policy in Delhi.  I don't like handing my passport over anywhere unless absolutely necesssary (immigration and my hotel).  If someone does want your passport - get it back straight away.

 
Check the room and ALL facilities BEFORE agreeing to stay in it.  Especially check the bedding for human fluids and other stains.  Every hotel that I visited except one needed to change all their bedding for me.

 
Take basic medicines with you (cold and flu stuff, pain relief etc).

 
Take rehydration sachets and immodium.  If you sweat a lot everyday, you'll need the rehydration sachets anyway, so take a few packs.  Drinking bottled water alone won't help the situation.  Monitor your body well.  If you start getting cramps etc in your limbs or other areas it could be because your body's been sweating out too many minerals and electrolytes.  Look into this before you travel and take appropriate stuff with you.  Take a basic first aid kit too.

 
Batteries are cheaper there if you use AA or AAA etc.  If you use any sort of rechargeable battery - take spares if possible (eg canon camera batteries).

 
Don't eat food from street vendors.  Only eat from restaurants - preferably the one in your hotel if you're away in the boonies.  If you're in a city or town and fancy a restaurant - see if it's empty first?  Go eat where the local's eat.

 
Places change in the hours of darkness.  A less friendly element emerges in most cities around the world.  Don't wander out alone and be careful where you go.

 
If you're travelling alone or with young children, hire a driver.  Better to be safe than sorry.  Mine cost 2000 Rupees per day but he was excellent and looked after me well.  He put himself out for me and was available to me at any hour.  Fuel and road taxes were extra.  I've lost my guy's details.  I'll post them up here if I find them.

 
Recomendations:

 
The only hotel that gave me a very clean room, clean bedding, air conditioning as advertised, warm water and good, clean food was the 'Hotel Amer view', http://www.hotelamerview.co.in/   Don't forget to haggle.  Don't pay more than 1000 Rupees per night. 

 

 

 
Nepal

 
All the above plus the following (though Nepal is cleaner and quieter):

 
You can get your Visa when you land at the airport.  You will need US dollars to pay for your Visa.  Check http://www.nepembassy.org.uk/visa_information.html  - it's cheaper to get it when you land if you're a british citizen.  Make sure you have 2 spare passport sized photos for your visa application.  It takes a while to get through the process.  You'll be filling in a couple of forms too in addition to the landing card.  So that's 3 forms!

 
If you're going trekking anywhere search around the various operators and haggle.  If you're used to altitude etc and can manage your own pack, you'll be fine, otherwise just hire a porter.  The routes tend to be fairly well marked.

 
If you're not used to going to high altitude locations you must hire a guide/porter.  He will be responsible for your safety.   Learn about the symptoms of  High Altitude Sickness (HAS).  If you're going with someone, make sure everyone in the group can recognise the symptoms and watch out for eachother.  The earlier the condition is spotted, the better.  Details of HAS are further down this blog entry.  Check the certification of your guide.

 
Take hand warmers.  You know the little bags in plastic that warm up when you rip the plastic open?  If you're using batteries for anything , they'll drain power very quickly in cold weather.  Keep the batteries close to your body in the pockets of inner clothing and put a hand warmer pouch in each pocket.  It'll hhelp your batteries last longer.  Don't put them into your camera or other equipment until you need to.

 
If you're used to sorting yourself out on trekking trips get a cheap flight from Kathmandu to Lukla for treks to the Everest region.  Don't hire a guide until you get there or you'll have to pay his airfare too.  Pay for digs as you go.  The Himalayan Lodge in Namche Bazaar charges 200 rupees per night.  That's less than £2.  The food is reasonable too. 

 
The higher you go the more expensive everything gets.  In Kathmandu, a bottle of water can be 15-20 rupees.  In the Everest region it goes up to 200 rupees.

 
Namche Bazaar is the last decent re-supply area to get your cold weather equipment from.  They have a pharmacy too.  They sorted out my HAS symptoms to a degree.  There was no way I was coming back without shots of Mount Everest though.  You can hire mountaineering equipment here too.  Make sure you have appropriate clothing, layers etc.  You can buy stuff here if you're stuck but it'll cost you more than if you bought/hired it in Kathmandu.

 
If you're asian and can speak hindi, you'll get away with paying tourist rates on lots of stuff.

 
Recomendations:

 
The best food was in the Ambassador Garden Home, Thamel, Next to Pub Maya.  http://www.aghhotel.com/  - they also had the lovliest rooms but were too close to noisy pubs etc.  Prices were relatively high too but the photos are accurate, the place is as beautiful as it is on their web page.  It has a lovely, tranquil atmosphere when the pub next door isn't going mad with loud music.

 
Hotel Encounter Nepal had the quietest rooms and wasn't far from the action in terms of nightlife. http://www.encounternepal.com/  - Make sure you get receipts as you go as the hotel reception mamanger tried to make me pay twice for the room.  He's a bit of a dishonest twat.  Same things with the room - check the linen etc.  The hot water doesn't start running until the season begins in earnest - Late October - November!  Negotiate the rates as to your budget.  People in the same sorts of rooms were paying anything from 500 - 1500 rupees a night - HAGGLE!  By the way, the cheap rooms look nothing like the photos on their website but they're not too bad.  The bogs etc are clean and you can tell them to bring clean linen.

 

 

 
High-Altitude Sickness

  
What is high-altitude or mountain sickness?

  
Sometimes people get sick at high altitudes, such as in the mountains. This is called mountain sickness or high-altitude sickness.

  

 
What causes this problem?

  
Lack of oxygen causes high-altitude sickness. As altitude increases, the air becomes "thinner," which means less oxygen is in the atmosphere. You get less oxygen in your lungs with each breath, so the amount of oxygen in your blood declines. (This is called hypoxia) (hi-POKS'e-ah). All people can experience mountain sickness, but it may be more severe in people who have heart or lung problems.

 

 
What are the symptoms?

  
Symptoms usually begin within 48 hours of arriving at high altitude. The higher the altitude, the greater the effects. People can notice effects when they go to an altitude of 7,000 to 8,000 feet. If you have heart disease (such as heart failure) or lung disease (such as emphysema), you may have symptoms at lower altitudes. Symptoms include

 
  • headaches, breathlessness, fatigue 
  • nausea or vomiting
  • inability to sleep
  • swelling of the face, hands and feet

 

 
Both heart rate and breathing rate increase as the body tries to send more oxygen to its tissues. At very high altitudes, body fluid can leak into the brain (called brain or cerebral edema) or into the lungs (pulmonary edema). Both these conditions can be serious or even life-threatening.

  
AHA Recommendation

The best way to avoid or lessen the effects of mountain sickness is to increase altitude slowly. Climbers and hikers can take two days to reach 8,000 feet, and then another day for each 1,000 to 2,000 higher feet. This may not be an option for people who travel to a destination at high altitude. Most people can adjust or "acclimatize" to the high altitude within a few days. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid strenuous activity for the first day or two.
  • Drink extra fluid. Be careful of drinking alcohol.
  • Its effect is magnified at high altitude.
  • Your doctor may prescribe medication to help prevent or treat altitude sickness.

  
If you have a heart or lung condition, consult your physician before going to high altitude. He or she can tell you whether your condition will let your body adjust to the lower oxygen in the atmosphere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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