The trials and tribulations of travelling around India
Travelling around India is not for the faint hearted!
Queuing and the art of the elbow:
People in India do not queue. Full stop. in fact I am convinced that queue barging and elbowing your way to the front of the queue must be on the school curriculum here. It's every man for himself here, so barge or be barged!
I really wouldn't be surpised if half the Indian population had hearing difficulties as a direct result of honking. They honk for any and every reason possible: I'm here "HONK"; my car's bigger/faster than yours, so I'm overtaking "HONK"; get out of my way! "HONK". I can see you and I know you can see me but I am accelerating towards you, so dive quick! "HONK!!!!!!"
We actually met a guy who promised to pay his auto rickshaw driver double if he could take him the fifteen minute journey without honking. The guy made it but only just.
Brace yourself. This may be one of the most traumatic experiences of your life.
Sure, if you take a well travelled route and chance upon an AC Volvo coach, it'll be a breeze but we had some truly horrible experiences on buses. From travelling in excess of 60 miles an hour on windy Himalayan roads at night, to being ripped of and deposited on a local 16 hour bus journey to Agra, only to reach the final destination of - well, not Agra - we had some shockers. The bus stations are always full of touts and are pretty grim to say the least.
If you have to travel by bus, plan carefully and try and get on a good one.
When people kept telling me that trains were by far the best way to travel around India, I had images of private cabins with romantic views straight out of Pineapple Express. Silly, silly girl.
Whilst by far the best and cheapest way to travel around India, there are some essential rules to remember when travelling by train:
Book well in advance or you won't get a seat!
If going on an overnight train, book 1st class AC or at the very least standard sleeper. You really don't want to spend 15 hours in a cramped carriage or with your legs hanging out the door
If your train gets cancelled and you really have to be at your next destination, get on the next one and be prepared to bribe the ticket collectors. You might get a seat, you might not.
Look for the foriegn tourist queue in the station (or if you'rea woman, the ladies only queue) - there might not always be one but if there is, it'll make life a lot easier
No complaints here unless you're trying to fly back to the UK over a giant Icelandic volcanic cloud!
Air travel in India is generally speaking cheap, and well worth the saving in journey times. We flew with Jetlite and Kingfisher is another popular choice. Book at any travel agent or online.
If you have cash to burn, taking a taxi or hiring a driver may be the way forward. We didn't but having heard first hand accounts, I will definitely do so if I return to India to tour Rajastan. From £20 a day, it sounds like a bargain too.