I have been reading Daniel McBane’s travel blog and I have found it very entertaining and funny. He is one of those great travellers who has been travelling all over the world and supporting himself along the way. He’s also a hobbyist photographer, an English teacher and a blogger.
He has been kind enough to provide answers to some questions of his travels in India.
The interview with Daniel McBane
When did you visit India?
From Dec. 2011 to March 2012
Which parts of India did you see?
I made a loop from Delhi through Rajasthan, Mumbai, Goa, Varanasi, Agra and back to Delhi
What was your first impression of India?
I came to India from Nepal, so it was pretty much what I was expecting–a more hectic and more crowded version of Nepal. That said, I spent the first few nights, as many others do, in Paharganj in Delhi. This is one of the worst parts of India that travelers see and it is unfortunate that many begin their trip there.
What would you advice someone travelling to India?
Never use travel agents and book all your tickets online. There are very few honest travel agents and I met so many travelers who were talked into hiring private cars (at very inflated rates) by agents who convinced them the trains and buses are unsafe for travelers. They are not unsafe.
What souvenirs did you buy?
I’ve been traveling for a long time, so I don’t buy souvenirs, since I have to carry everything. My souvenirs are my photographs and a few Rupees I kept.
Which items would you never travel without to India?
A camera. The country is very photogenic. Actually, you’ll want to bring any electronics you might use with you–India has a very high import tax on electronic items, making it one of the worst places to buy these.
Did you try Indian food and what did you think of it?
Indian food is great. I couldn’t get enough tandoori chicken–it’s actually my favorite way to prepare a chicken. When I was in Goa I also ate a lot of fish prepared in the same way.
Did you find India hot?
I though India would be hot, so I planned my trip for the winter. That was a brilliant move as I had great weather the whole time.
What did you think of the Indian people; honest answer please?
Every one who’s been to India knows the reason for this question. Indians are the most pushy, annoying people ever–or so it seems. As you’re being hounded by one vendor or scammer after another, you have to keep reminding yourself that, as a tourist, you attract these types of people, so it can seem like every one in India is like this. But they’re not; it’s just that all the people you’d want to meet are busy with their lives or their jobs and don’t have the time to talk to the foreign tourists traveling through town. Once you get away from the touristy areas (and on local buses and lower class train cars, especially) you’ll meet plenty of wonderful people and you’ll realize the Indians are just like everyone else. The annoying people are just more annoying and more visible than in many other countries.
What was your worst experience of India?
I had a standing-room only ticket from Goa to Varanasi. That was an extremely long and uncomfortable train ride.
What was your best experience of India?
In Agra, we got tired of all the vendors and walked away from the touristy area for a bit. Eventually, we found a bunch of kids playing and joined them for some jump rope and a little cricket until we got tired (which took two minutes, in my case). Then some of the parents invited us into their home for some tea and snacks and we talked for a bit. Even though they only knew a little English and we knew none of their language, it was a great experience. I actually ended up going back a few days later to give them a bunch of photos I’d taken of us and them.
Did you see beggars and how did you deal with them?
I saw a lot of beggars and just ignored them. I know that sounds cold, but there’s not much else you can do really.
What modes of transport did you use in India? What are thoughts on them?
I used mainly buses and trains. The buses were generally fine, but I had a lot of trouble with the trains–long delays, lost reservations, one racist conductor, difficulty in buying tickets, and a few other annoyances. Indian Railway left me unimpressed and I definitely preferred the buses in India.
Please give your best tips for travelling to India?
As I said before, don’t use travel agents. Also, try to find out the prices for things beforehand, so you know what you should be paying; it’s difficult to negotiate if you don’t know what something should cost. And you should be negotiating–no one will ever quote you the actual price!
And go to Goa if you get a chance. It sometimes get a bad rep, but it’s undeserved. I loved Goa and ended up staying much longer than I had planned. You’ll find so many different beaches, that there’s one for everyone and many of them still get very few tourists.
Finally, would you visit India again?
Definitely. How else am I going to get some good Tandoori Chicken?
Thank you Daniel for answering these questions.
You can stalk Daniel McBane’s on his travel blog at DanielMcBane.com. He’s got a lovely collection of funny travel stories and observations from travelling and working abroad over the last nine years.