Are cabs in Delhi safe for tourists?

"Autorickshaws"
Auto-rickshaws at Connaught Place, New Delhi. Source: Prolix6x’s photostream

Delhi is a big city. It’s home to more than 18 million people. More than 5.18 million foreign tourists came to India in 2010. (Annual Report 2012-11, Ministry of Tourism) A large proportion of those tourists first land in the capital and from there set off to explore this vast land. According to another report titled ‘Tourism survey in the State of Delhi,’ about 1.8 million foreign tourists and more than 21 million domestic tourists come to see the splendid capital each year. A large number of those tourists hire taxis or cabs to move around the city. Unfortunately, a small proportion of them become victims to impostors pretending as taxi drivers. This makes tourists uneasy and quite soon all taxis are regarded as driven by crooks. While it’s understandable why this happens, it’s not wise to put them all in the same category.

In this article, we will have a balanced look at the current situation and you will also read how you can stay safe while still enjoying your visit to this wonderful city in a taxi.

Read moreAre cabs in Delhi safe for tourists?

On the Way to Jhujhunu

"Travels in India"On the Way to Jhujhunu by Marie McCarthy

In March of 2011, I made my first trip to India. I was not a backpacking, college aged woman. Rather, I was in my last decade of work before retirement. Adventure is not just for the young. Sometimes you’re better able to appreciate things when you have a few more years of life experience under your belt.

As I nearly always travel alone, I had engaged the services of an Indian based travel agency, which had an itinerary of Rajasthan which covered all the places I wanted to visit plus a few I hadn’t heard of. I was traveling in a private car with a driver, which I thought would be prudent for my first visit. I could stop or change the itinerary as I wished, and my driver would not only keep me out of trouble, but he would be my personal ambassador. I could ask him anything and everything I wanted to know about life in India, the people and the culture.

Having been invited by Shalu to share some of my travel stories here on ShaluSharma.com, here is the first one, an excerpt from my recently published book.

* * *

Read moreOn the Way to Jhujhunu

Visiting the capital of India, Delhi

Parathe-wali Gali in Old Delhi

Delhi is a wonderful city with a fascinating history and a promising future. It’s a city of contrasts, where the old and the new exist simultaneously. It is the place where important decisions are made and what direction this nation of a billion people should take is discussed everyday. Despite having only a fraction of the area of Australia, it has a population comparable to that vast continent-size country. In terms of money, it’s one of the richest cities in India. However, unlike many other big cities, it has managed to preserve its heritage while keeping in pace with the rest of the world.

Map of Delhi

History of Delhi

There is archaeological evidence to suggest people were inhabiting in Delhi as long ago as third millennium BC. There are signs of urban dwellings going back to 6th century BC. From 12th century to until the arrival of the British in 17th century, it was one of the most powerful cities in the world. The English moved the capital to Calcutta (Kolkata). They later changed the capital to Delhi and since then it’s remained the seat of most powerful men and women in South Asia.

Read moreVisiting the capital of India, Delhi

How to wear a saree

"rani mukherjee saree"If you ever wondered what the women of India wear, then the answer is the traditional sari (saree). Majority of the Indian women wear it. Sari or Saree is worn in many different styles in India. The styles are either culture specific or region specific. A few styles are –

Nivi style and Kaccha nivi style– It is commonly worn in Andrapradesh where the pallu hangs on the left shoulder. There is slightly different form of Nivi called Kaccha Nivi where the pleats are passed through the legs and tucked back in the waist.

Read moreHow to wear a saree

Places to visit in Delhi

How can anyone describe Delhi, the 5000 year old capital city of the world’s largest democracy? Some call it the city of extremes; extreme weathers, from clean areas to congested ones, to open roads to chocking traffic, posh areas to poverty stricken. Whatever it may be, Delhi is best known as ‘Dillee Dilwalo ki’ which means ‘Delhi belongs to large hearted people’. Delhi, the capital India is the largest metropolis by area in India. It is also the eighth largest metropolis in the world by population. The city is also the one of the most historical capitals in the world and has a rich and numerous tourist sites.

The city can be divided into Old Delhi and New Delhi. Old Delhi represents the history of India with mosques, forts and other monuments. New Delhi is the seat of government and houses the government buildings and embassies.

Read morePlaces to visit in Delhi

Top 10 foods to try when in India

Indian food is feast for the taste buds. The variety of food you can find in India is countless. The Indian cuisine is as diverse as India itself. Here in India the food can be categorized mainly as North Indian and South Indian food. It can be further divided into region sub-groups such as Punjabi, Rajasthani, Sindhi, Guajarati, Chettinad, Bengali, Mughali, Kashmiri and Hyderabadi. I will not be surprised if you add a few more regional cuisines to the list!

India is a land of festivals and every festival has its own special menu; every occasion also has a special menu and these are vary from region to region. Now, are you getting the idea of how many other varieties of cuisines you can expect in one cuisine called the Indian cuisine?

Most Indian dishes are full of spices hence the flavour and the colour. The most common spices and ingredients used in Indian cuisine include mustard, cumin, curry leaves, green coriander, garam masala (a masala made of select range of spices), tomatoes, onions, garlic, and ginger, along with the main ingredients such as the vegetables or lentils that go into it.

Do you know why did I am giving you this insight about the diversity and variety of Indian food? Because I find it very difficult to come up with the just top 10 amazing dishes which I can recommend to you on your visit to India. Yet here I am with my list of top 10 foods you cannot miss when in India.

Read moreTop 10 foods to try when in India

How to use the Indian squat toilet

Tourists coming to India will have their first culture shock when they come out of the airport. First thing they will notice that India is one crowded country, too many people walking around, people wanting to talk to you or staring at you, some even offering you to take you to hotels and so on.

"Indian toilet"The second shock comes in quite unexpected. As soon as you walk in a public toilet you will notice that toilets are different to what they are used to. You may not notice this at the hotel as most hotels will have western style toilets. Depending what part of the world you are coming from, you will notice that the Indian toilets are like a hole in the ground. It’s not exactly the same as the pit latrines or the makeshift squat-holes you will find in sub-Saharan Africa but close. But there you have it, these are the traditional latrines used in all over India. You will find these types of squat toilets in many places in India including trains. Unless you are travelling on the Maharaja express you are bound to encounter squat toilets.

You will be forgiven to think, how on earth people take their dump. First things first, don’t panic, it’s quite simple. Also known as the squat toilets, they are pretty simple to use. It’s used in many countries around the world including Japan.

Read moreHow to use the Indian squat toilet

The swimming elephant of the Andaman Islands, India

Can elephants swim?

Can elephants swim? Yes they can. They are known to be good swimmers. New evidence suggests that elephants may have evolved from sea creatures. The discovery of “nephrostome” in elephant foetuses similar to what is found in freshwater fish, frogs and egg laying reptiles suggests that they have common ancestry. The ancestors of the modern elephant went through a variety of harsh environments and were able to evolve to environmental changes quite fast. This gave them remarkable physical and mental agility.

"Havelock Beach"
Havelock Beach. Source: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Read moreThe swimming elephant of the Andaman Islands, India

Indian Street Food

Street food in India: what to eat and how to be careful when trying out the Indian street food? 2BCTVSY27ZW5

India is a country of diverse cultures and traditions. It has rightly been called as a ‘Subcontinent’. Most states of India are different from each other in terms of culture, ethnicity, language and the food they eat.

Foods are tempting and if you aren’t a foodie then you will miss a lot on your trip to India. Apart from the region specific menu in India, there is one particular menu that is not only mouth-watering but available in almost the entire country. It is the menu of the Indian ‘street food’.

"Indian street food"

Read moreIndian Street Food

Best destinations in South India

South India has the best destinations India has to offer. If you visit South India, here are the top destinations you should not miss.

Destination Karnataka

"South India"
Bangalore Palace was built to look like a smaller replica of the Windsor Castle. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Karnataka has the second highest number of protected historical monuments and is ranked as fifth best tourist’s destination in India.

Bangalore (Bengaluru) is the capital city of Karnataka also known as Silicon Valley of India. The tourist attractions list is exhaustive and the major ones include Bangalore Palace, Vidhana Soudha,  ISKON temple, Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, Lal-Bagh a botanical garden, Cuban Park, the large Shiva Idol/statue, Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum, St. Mary’s Basilica and Infant Jesus Church, UB city to hang-out, Wonderla amusement park, huge sophisticated malls and various other temples and more.

Bijapur in South India is famous for Gol-Gumbaz and other historical monuments, Hampi is the ruins of Vijayanagar Empire and is famous for Virupaksha temple, Murudeshwara is famous for the world’s second largest Shiva-statue and has a beautiful beach, in and around Mysore for bird sanctuaries, wild-life sanctuaries and many more temples, Udupi Krishna temple, and Mangalore Malpe beach.

"Gol Gumbaz"
The Gol-Gumbaz of Bijapur in South India

Read moreBest destinations in South India

Maharaja Express

Is there any other way to explore the marvels and the rich cultural heritage of India than in style, this is exactly what the Maharaja Express has to offer.

"Maharaja Express"

The maharaja express is one is one of the most luxurious trains on offer by the Indian Railways and the Indian Tourism Department. It happens to be the most expensive as well. Think of it as the “Orient Express of Europe”. As a matter of fact, it was voted in the top 25 trains of the world by the “Society of International Railway Travellers”. Indeed, it has the best onboard accommodation and dining facilities, off-train excursion programs fit for a king hence the name “Maharaja”.

Read moreMaharaja Express

Try tradition Indian food at the Dhaba

Are you on a trip to India? Then you just cannot afford to overlook the Dhaba!

What is a Dhaba?

The Dhaba is form of restaurant traditionally found on highways famous for catering authentic Punjabi cuisine typically for Punjabi truck drivers. Dhabas are prominently located near or next to petrol pumps or the gas stations.

Some special features of a typical Dhaba that make it different from restaurants:

• Roadside eating place usually found on highways.
• Tasty and nourishing food yet very economical.
• Traditionally the ambience here is very different. Fresh air, big earthen oven called ‘tandoor’, the smell of tandoor, the Punjabi music, traditional bamboo cots called ‘chaarpai’ to sit and a wooden plank placed perpendicularly in the centre of the chaarpai that serves as the purpose of the table.

"dhaba"
Source: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Read moreTry tradition Indian food at the Dhaba

Travelling India Alone

Freya Stark says ‘To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.’ One cannot possibly ignore the romance associated with travelling alone, exploring new and wonderful places and experiencing the unknown. But when you are in a foreign land or town; it is always better to know certain dos and don’ts to ensure a safe and secure travel.

Tips on travelling India alone

"Travelling India Alone"
Source: Eric.Parker's on flickr

While travelling to India alone especially for a female, the key is to dress modestly and avoid travelling at nights in taxis, auto rickshaws unless in cities. In that too certain cities like Delhi are not the safest in the world at night especially for Women, hence avoid any sojourn at night alone. While travelling always opt for pre-paid services wherever available like cabs or autos; that way you could be sure of your safety to a certain extent. When travelling alone in India be sure to stay in reputed hotels.

The reviews on various travel sites could be of help to ascertain that you pick the right hotel. Hiking alone is a strict no-no especially for women. It goes without saying do not trust strangers, which in your case would be everybody and never accept food from an unknown person; a polite no is always better than taking the risk of being dazed and looted.

Read moreTravelling India Alone

Wildlife of India

India is a land of splendours and has a bit of everything on offer-from the colossal Himalayas to the stunning beaches of God’s own country; from the amazing tribes of the north east to the beautiful desert forts of the west.

For a connoisseur of wildlife, there is a lot on the platter too. There are innumerable attractions that are world renowned and a must on the list of the wildlife aficionados. An approximate figure would be 80 national parks, 23 Tiger Reserves and 441 Wildlife Sanctuaries. It is also home to about 1250 different species of birds. Quite a number of rare and endangered species can be found in the country. The marine life is equally fascinating too. But there is not only a diversity of species but terrain too and that is what makes the experience more intriguing.

The wildlife of India

"Wildlife of India"
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Bengal tigers, one horned rhinoceros, elephants, black bucks, Asiatic lions, cobras and peacocks are among the prime wildlife attractions in India. A wildlife escape to India will let you have an experience worth cherishing for the rest of your lives. Seated on a jeep or the back of an elephant or on a boat you could see these animals moving around safely in their natural habitat. You could come face to face with the Asiatic Lions in the Gir National Park or the one horned rhinoceros at the Kaziranga National Park.

Bird watching, Tiger Tours and special Wildlife packages are on the offer online and you could choose from a variety of options. You could go for Bird watching in Sikkim, Uttarakhand or Andamans; Tiger watching in the Golden Triangle or the Sunderbans; spend exclusive weekends in Ranthambore or Corbett National Parks. The options are varied and one better than the other.

Read moreWildlife of India