Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Solo Travel In India – Safety Tips For Foreign Women

Solo travel is my favourite topic to discuss. It’s been a while since I wrote anything on this topic. I have pretty much covered everything on solo travel on my blog. But, I really feel the need to talk about ‘foreign women travelling alone in India’. Indian women travelling solo in India can be largely different from foreign women travelling solo in India. People’s perceptions change with a woman’s colour and her ethnicity. It’s definitely easier for an Indian woman than a foreign woman to deal with certain situations that may or may not take place on her travels in India.     

Image copyright: BreatheDreamGo


My heart aches when people look at India as an ‘unsuitable’ or ‘unsafe’ destination for solo travel. Well, yes, travelling in India can be challenging for a foreign woman. But, it is not as bad as it’s made out to be by some people. I believe the challenges a foreign woman is likely to face are no different from the challenges that an Indian woman may come across while she travels in a foreign land. So, I guess it’s got more to do with our own unfamiliarity of the other culture and the way of life.

Today, I have roped in four awesome women, who belong to different parts of the world, to share their views and tips on travelling solo in India. These women have travelled alone in India, and have travelled extensively. So, their tips on solo travel carry a lot of weight.


Candace Rardon (Blog: A Great Affair) tells us how to be safe while travelling on a train in India –
Image copyright: The Great Affair

"For me, India is one of those places where the journey is just as much fun as the destination -- and chances are, part of your time there will involve a long-distance journey by train. Having spent over 300 hours on Indian trains, I found it was best to always book an upper berth--this will not only give you somewhere to keep your bags safe and secure during the day, but it will also help you feel safer at night as well, kept out of the fray as you sleep."

Read more about her India travel experiences here.

Juno Kim (Blog: Runaway Juno) tells us how she could deal with the fact that people in India have a different understanding of personal space.
Image copyright: RunawayJuno

“Travelling in India requires a different perspective of the world. First, please know that the concept of personal space is different in each culture, India, especially. I had a lot of people leaning on me in the trains, looking at my ATM screen, reading my book with me in public places, which made me uncomfortable at times. Slowly I realized that the behaviour was out of curiosity and the people’s personal space is smaller than mine. I had the best time and worst time in India. I loved and hated travelling the country for two months. Would I go back? In a heartbeat.” 

Read more about her experiences in India here.

Monica Stott (Blog: The Travel Hack) tells us how to be safe on Indian trains.


Image copyright: The Travel Hack

“My tip for solo females travelling in India is to book 3rd class tickets on trains. First and second class tickets might be more luxurious but you'll be placed in a small, private compartment. This is brilliant if you're travelling with friends or if you're lucky enough to share with nice strangers - but you don't know who these strangers will be. Because of this, it's safer to travel in the 3rd class compartments. In 3rd class you'll still have air conditioning and a comfortable bed but you'll also have plenty of people around you to keep you safe.”

Read more about her India travel experiences here.

Last but certainly not the least, I bring you Mariellen Ward (Blog: Breathe Dream Go) who tells us to be instinctive and follow simple rules to stay safe. 

Image copyright: BreatheDreamGo

“I have always maintained that travel safety is more of a mindset than a destination. Personally, I have not found India to be the unsafe place the media portrays. I find the people here warm, generous and helpful. AND I always practise what I call "safe travel strategies" -- such things as arranging for airport pickup, trusting your instincts and carrying a phone with a local SIM card. If you feel called to come to India, you might want to start with an organized group tour and then venture out on your own as you gain confidence. When you are able to open up to the beauty of India, she rewards you with magical moments you will treasure forever.”

Read more about her solo travel safety tips here.

I hope these wonderful ladies have infused the right confidence in those foreign women who desire to travel alone in India, but have fears.

In my opinion, no place in the world is safe or unsafe. As a rule, you have to be careful everywhere you go. In the end, I’d also like to give a few helpful safety tips for foreign women solo travellers

. Do a lot of research before coming to India. Read about its culture.
. Dress according to the atmosphere and people around you. For example, in places like Goa and Hampi, it’s okay to dress skimpily, but there are places where people are used to seeing women dress in a certain way (like Uttar Pradesh). So refrain from wearing anything that might draw attention.  
. Never wander alone in a deserted place. Always be aware of your surroundings.
. Take help from official tourism board of the state that you are travelling in.
. Stay in a recognised home stay instead of a hotel. Never choose a stay just because it’s cheap. Safety comes first.
. Keep your people back home informed about your stay and whereabouts.
. Always trust your instinct and stay away from anyone who seems weird.
. Be confident, nice and polite, but avoid being too friendly with taxi guys or anybody of that sort.

What would YOU say? Do you have a safety tip for foreign women desiring to travel alone in India?

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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Venice – The City Of Love (In 30 Photos)

Love, if it could be personified, it has to be Venice and only Venice. The cliched idea that it’s one of the most romantic cities in the world is absolutely true. Yes, Venice is soaked in romance – every nook and cranny of it. I’m fortunate to have experienced it with my husband. I’m happy that I didn’t care for what the naysayers have got to say about it. No, the canals don’t smell bad (not anymore, if they ever did). I think Venice is a must-visit place for the sheer poetry it exudes.

It rains 'romance' in Venice.
If you are someone who appreciates art, architecture and history, Venice is a treasure for your inquisitive soul. It is, indeed, an open-air museum. But, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for your eyes beyond the historic sites. While the rundown walls of the old buildings whisper sweet nothings of the past, Venice is very much urbane and trendy. So, take in the romance!
Now that gondola ride is true to its hype - slow and romantic. Who doesn't want time to cease when romance is in the air?
The hues of time.
The unfading beauty of the canals.
Hot tip: The best time to visit Venice is during February to March when it's relatively less crowded.  
Choose to dine at a ristorante by the canal.
This is one of the most photographed sites in Venice. 
St Mark's Basilica at Piazza San Marco.
Two's company.
Even the water taxis are a good way to see around.
That's how the city looks - serene, quiet and poetic.
Roaming around is the best thing to do in Venice.
Venice is a secret conversation of the old buildings, the canals and the gondolas.
Grand canal - the main site from where you can catch an overview of the city.
That's how time ceases in Venice.
The vintage nuances of Venice wait to greet you in every alleyway. 
The city has so much of character, so much of magic and charm that it's hard to soak all up in one visit. 
There are so many interesting bridges along the way that make you stop and wonder...
Even the birds squeak love in Venice.
The balconies from the dream era.
A hint of spring - now who wouldn't want to walk those streets?
A square in Venice.
San Giorgio Maggiore - one of the islands of Venice.
Santa Maria della Salute
Leonardo da vinci museum
The Island of San Giorgio Maggiore.
A cute florist shop in Venice.
Shopping on gondola? Not a bad idea!
The Venice Certosa Hotel, located on Certosa Island, is one of the best places to stay in Venice if you are looking for a romantic, 'away from the crowd' time with your sweetheart.  
That's me looking at the Grand Canal, while 'my love' takes the picture. :-)

Did you enjoy Venice through my eyes? What's YOUR favorite romantic city in the world?
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Friday, 10 February 2017

Pali – A Peaceful Jewel Of Rajasthan

The first thing that I reminisce about Pali is the quality of peace it has. Of course, it’s rustic, colourful and interesting just like the rest of Rajasthan, but there’s definitely a scent of serenity in the air. Although there’s a lot to do and see in Pali, the better idea would be to not do anything at all. Places like Pali are meant to be explored by just being.


So yes, be spontaneous when you are in Pali. Choose a comfy and experiential accommodation, and stay long. To begin with, Pali is mostly rural. I don’t know if there is any bustling, noisy market, or city-like posh restaurants. The air is clean, the life is slow-paced and the people are unruffled (as far as I know).

Get smitten by the landscapes
The enchanting Aravalli hills add a lot of depth to the landscapes of Rajasthan. I just love waking up early to watch the sun rise and also set in the evenings. I remember one of the best sunrises on my travels has been in Jodhpur, and one of the best sunsets in Jaisalmer and Udaipur. The landscapes of Pali just get more beautiful towards dusk.  

   
Soak in the bucolic air
The rusticity of Rajasthan is magical, and Pali is fabulously pastoral. There are vast farm lands and also arid fields, where nomads live in tents. You can amble as much as you like. The discoveries are endless.


Admire the simple way of life
I had a chance to stroll through a local market in Haripur (Pali), which introduced me to the subtle facets of the everyday living there. Everything from the sweet shops to the blue and green doors in the narrow alleys looked charming. Both men and women seemed unaffected by being photographed, which I liked.


Dig into a bit of history
As you walk towards the end of the Haripur market, there’s a fort with white walls. Most of the fort is in a rundown state with some interesting old stuff, such as olden style fans. The last lineage of the royal family still resides in a portion of the palace. You can perhaps have a small chat with them.


Relish the fresh, farm-produced food
I can say it with confidence that the food that I had in Pali was one of the best. Make sure to eat what the locals eat – the variety of chapattis, chutneys, fresh veggies and fruits. It’s simply awesome!


Visit the villages
To have a brush with the real rural Rajasthan, visit the villages of Pali. I had a chance to watch the rural women cook. Their faces hid behind their veils make me wonder if they are really shy or they feel obligated to act so. Anyway, I love what they serve on your platter.


The best part about exploring rural India is that it’s devoid of traffic, chaos and noise. Plus, you can have unique experiences, memories of which last a lifetime.

I anticipate venturing into the rural Rajasthan soon again.

Have you been to Pali, or any other rural part of Rajasthan? What’s your favourite memory about your trip?
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Saturday, 21 January 2017

Where Should YOU Travel In 2017?

I often get asked where I am going next. Well, I have answered that in my last post. If you are wondering where YOU should be going next, this post is for you. I keep receiving emails asking where to go for solo travel, couple travel and all sorts of travels. So, here I am with cool destinations for you to explore in 2017.


While it’s fun to travel, it can be challenging and exasperating at times. In order to avoid the challenges on the road, you must be well-researched and well-planned about each and every aspect of your trip – accommodation, food, transport, sightseeing and insurance. You should also lookup travel insurance with medical conditions before setting out on a long vacation.

Where should you go solo?

My top 5 recommendations in India – Kutch, Hampi, Mechuka, Kashmir and offbeat places of Rajasthan

Kutch (Gujarat) is my top favourite when it comes to solo travel. It is so huge and so unique. And yes, it’s safe and comfy in terms of commuting.

Kutch

Hampi (Karnataka) is an absolute stunner. Go there for carefree afternoons, charming rural atmosphere, lots of heritage, beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Hampi is a place where you wouldn’t miss anybody’s company.

Hampi

Mechuka is a dream portion of Arunachal Pradesh. Though I haven’t been there, it’s one place I’d want to go on my next Northeast expedition.

Kashmir is a solo traveller’s paradise. The people welcome you with open arms. Take the aggressiveness of tourist touts in your stride, connect more with the locals and you will love your solo sojourn in Kashmir, ‘the heaven on earth’.

Kashmir

Rajasthan is, any day, a perfect destination for solo explorers. But, skip the beaten path and head to the lesser-known regions to be rewarded with some rare experiences.

My top 5 recommendations abroad – Southern Italy, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Croatia and Tasmania

If you are contemplating on travelling alone overseas, Southern Italy is the first destination that I’d like to mention. It’s scenic, peaceful and charismatic. Plus, it’s not so touristic.

Southern Italy

Slovenia is a not-so-popular country of Europe. It is absolutely beautiful and not as expensive as other more popular European countries. It would be a great option for solo travel.

Sri Lanka is beautiful and interesting with friendly locals.

Croatia is another lesser-known, yet beautiful country of Europe.

Image sources: Tasmania, Slovenia & Croatia

You should also consider Tasmania, one of the most beautiful regions of Australia, as your solo travel destination. It is so full of character and wild beauty.

Where should you go as a couple?

My top 5 recommendations in India – Hampi, Lakshadweep Islands, Coastal Karnataka, Shillong and Thar Desert

I’d pick Hampi for a romantic holiday, too. It’s a place to just be. You don’t have to have an agenda on mind. Just succumb to the magic of Hampi, and each other.

Lakshadweep Islands, I believe, is the perfect gift of time that you can give to your partner. So, think about it this year.

Coastal Karnataka

Coastal Karnataka is one of the most picturesque places in South India. You will love being with your ‘love’ in the solitude of unspoiled beaches and bucolic beauty.

Shillong (Meghalaya) is an ideal blend of hilly beauty and the metropolitan buzz.

Thar Desert is your blissful romantic escape with just the desert and the sky for company.

Thar Desert

My top 5 recommendations abroad – Morocco, Scotland, Countryside of France, Istanbul and Krabi Island

I think Morocco is so appealing – the desert, the souks, the alleyways and the people. There’s definitely a romantic quotient to it.

I associate Scotland with mature romance. Perhaps there’s some whisky connection in my mind. I think Scotland is a great destination to celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary. What do you say?

Paris is known to strike love in the hearts, but I’d recommend the hidden villages of France for a romantic getaway. That would be something different.

Istanbul would be romance with a hint of mystery. Besides there are so many things that you can do together – wandering the streets and markets, soaking in the history, watching the sunsets and noshing through the bars and restaurants.

Krabi Island (Thailand) is just so gorgeous. It’s a perfect escape for honeymooners.

Images sources: France, Istanbul, Morocco & Scotland

Where should you go as a family?  

My top 5 recommendations in India – Goa, Kerala, Kodaikanal, Himachal Pradesh and Dandeli

Well Goa is an obvious choice, but it is always fresh and exciting. Take your family on a jungle safari or a secluded island tour.

Goa

Kerala has so much for your family to enjoy together – backwaters, beaches, tea gardens, heritage and food.

Kodaikanal (Tamil Nadu) has many beautiful hotels/resorts for a relaxed stay in the midst of picturesque surroundings. Besides you can go for hiking and other nature trails together. 
   
Skip the hackneyed destinations like Shimla and Manali to explore the hidden places of Himachal Pradesh (North India). Your family would thank you for taking them on an offbeat ‘Himachal’ adventure – Tirthan valley, Gushaini and the Great Himalayan National Park.

Dandeli

Dandeli (North Karnataka) is a destination for those who crave nature and some free-spirited adventure.

My top 5 recommendations abroad – Australia, Florida, the UK, Denmark and New Zealand

In my opinion, Australia is the best family holiday destination in the world. Whether it’s the love for the Kangaroos and Koalas or the many water sports, Australia is a haven of wildlife adventure and outdoor fun. 

Florida makes a fun family holiday with Walt Disney World, museums and parks, and a plethora of outdoor activities due to its waterfront.
Image sources: London, Denmark, Florida & New Zealand

London (the UK) is always a great family destination with adventure playgrounds, parks, museums and shopping options.

Denmark is a relaxed, peaceful and a free-spirited ‘explore-it-on-a-bike’ kind of country.

New Zealand is known for adventure and outdoor fun. It has to be on your list if you are considering taking a family holiday.

You can also check out top budget destinations for 2017 recommended by Forbes and Lonely Planet.

Hope you found my recommendations helpful. If you have a destination (or destinations) to recommend, please share it in the comments!
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