While India has a lot to offer with endless things to see and experience there are a few tips for the recurrent traveller to this continent as narrated to me by my mum.....it goes like this...she experienced it a few times in the last trip......
1.AT THE MONUMENT (any/generic)..entrance
YOU: Can I take the camera?
GUARD: You can take the camera in for $$$ fee..
2.AT THE MONUMENT..inside..
GUARD: You cant take the camera inside.....must pay a fee for storage there..
YOU:..But I just paid.....
GUARD: You must pay retriving fee..from storage....ect...
YOU: ..BUt..I..just...Paid entrance and storage.....
Of course we are all very sorry for all this unwanted episode in this wonderful Continent but.....you have been warned!
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel
- Adventure Travel
Marble factory : Trick or treat ?
Our sly tourist guide wanted to reduce our time at Taj mahal ,one of the gratest monuments of all time to a mere 2 hours but thanks to the heavy down pour and fellow travelers who have the tendency to wander away ,we had almost 4 hours to enjoy this breath taking monument after a heavy afternoon shower.
So why the rush by our sly guide? Cos the next stop is....Marble factory. Our group was practically cornered to visit this factory/store where a few supposedly descendents of the ancient Persian craftsmen who originally decorated the Taj Mahal, were now currently working on marble slabs. Problem was , the chap was using a rusty iron rod to try to cut patterns on the marble slab which was not making much progress except for some serious grating sounds and the finished product were .....machine cut .....there are no more master artisans of yesteryear sad to say.....I certainly would have been honored to meet them but I am a few hundred years too late.
Unique Suggestions: If you are forced to visit as part of a group tour then enjoy the free drinks and admire the beautiful machine cut marble tables.
Some are made with inlaid blue/green material others are multicolored. The price for a regular dinning table was in the region of US 1000 and above.
Some serious negotiation will be required as the starting sums are pretty high but then again the vendors seem hopeful as some tourist seem to buying without barganing.
Guess it depends very much on our financial status , backpacker or businessman. As my friend used to say don't despise tourist who benefit the locals , it is their karma!
At all major heritage sites or attraction in India, where there is an admission charge, non-Indian citizens must pay around 10 times more than locals! It is basically 'officially' ripping-off tourists. It does not get more arrogant than that. So ridiculous. It is like lining up all the unsuspecting, hapless, happy tourists and then asking for their milk money.
Unique Suggestions: There is not much you can do about this (unless you can pretend to be a local). Just to let you know before.
By the way, I myself never paid extra, so I am not angry for any personal reasons.
Local Custom shops
Watch out for tours that go to local custom shops. Informative travels sent me to a local marble, jeweller and rug shop. Polite but very pushy in sales and they can cost alot. They must get commissions because they seem to be looked after while you are being given a tour.
Unique Suggestions: If you dont want to go, just be insistent
- Arts and Culture
The hawkers outside Taj Mahal
There are many hawkers standing outside Taj Mahal. They make a sport of fooling tourists, and they brag about it to eachother afterwards. I got this tip from my guide. But at the end I was tempted. Right before I left the place a boy came to me with Taj Mahal T-shirts. The price was 500 rupies for one T-shirt, and of the best quality, I thought. I started to bargain and the price stopped at 100 rupies. Sold! There I went away in the taxi with the T-shirt. But the 100% cotton XL label was just a fake label pasted over the real one Basic quality S (small). And the T-shirt smelled so bad that I have to throw it away. I was fooled, too. (Stupid tourist).
Unique Suggestions: Don't buy anything of hawkers outside Taj Mahal. Never!
Fun Alternatives: Buy your T-shirt or souvenir at a stall in the city. They don't fool you because they know you can come back for a complaint.
Only drinking water is allowed inside Taj Mahal
Only drinking water is allowed to bring inside Taj Mahal because of possible garbage. They are also afraid of corrosion on the marble from the softdrinks, etc. The guards check each one by one before you enter the place.
Unique Suggestions: Don't buy any softdrinks or food on your way to Taj Mahal if you don't consume it before you enter the place.
Fun Alternatives: It is very hot at the Taj Mahal, so you need to bring water to deaden your thirst.
The great Taj queue
The queues to get into the Taj Mahal complex can be long and because each person has to go through security and have bags checked etc... the queue does not necessarily move at a speed that suits most people standing in it but, as I say, it is for security and with the Taj being a wonder of the world... it is worthy of stric security!
There are lots of men and a handful of children who, for a fee "can get you into the Taj immediately". There are two supposéd methods. The first is to simply queue jump which may not win you many friends. The second way is to take you to "slip you in through a different gateway". I saw people being led away from the main entrance towards the shops - whether they got in this way... who can say. Thing is, queueing is a bore but paying to get in via another method is forming bad habbits.
Tiresome Touts at the Taj
DO NOT make eye contact- that may help. These fellows, and there seemed to be at least 3 for every tourist at the Taj Mahal, catch the visitor at the entrance gates. The gates are about a 5 minute walk from the actual entrance to the Taj. There are cycle-rickshaws available, but we decided to walk. Bad choice. Not only were they offering services as "guides"-they were selling postcards, the usual touristy rubbish (like snow-domes of the Taj Mahal) and Agra Tourist Booklets. This happens throughout India- but these guys DO NOT GIVE UP!!
In the end- all that worked was a good few words that I cannot mention here.
Take ANY means of transport- avoid that walk. We took the Cycle Rickshaw on exit.
Unique Suggestions: Avoid eye contact. Don't smile at them. Be rude if you really HAVE to- they are persistant beyond belief. OR JUST RUN.
Fun Alternatives: Take the cycle-rickshaw.
- Arts and Culture
pick pockets and vendors
When you walk up to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort you will be bombarded by children and men and women trying to sell you nick nacs of all kids as you go into the site. If you pick up or take anyhing from these people you have to buy it.
Unique Suggestions: You have to go through the swarms of sellers to get to the site, so just say no. Do not pick up anything, to not take anything from anyone! Otherwise you will end up having to buy it. If you get into that situation and he says this price is it. Tell go 75% lower than there price and stick to it. If they say no they will take there goods back and try to sell them to you again. DONT PICK IT BACK UP! Just go. Tell them you are sorry that is your price and go. If they meet your price well you have to buy it. So DONT PICK IT UP!
Fun Alternatives: DONT PICK IT UP!
- Historical Travel
Don't Feed the Monkeys... or take pictures...
Yes -- unfortunately we hadn't read up on VT before our trip, and we got suckered into this tourist trap. My wife saw the monkey and took a picture, not realizing that the monkey wasn't a pet, it was a business partner. Suddenly, our car was surrounded by other peddlers trying to push all sorts of random crap.
Unfortunately, it was really the monkey who did all the tricks, but I don't think he got much of a cut.
If you drive around Delhi enough or walk through the parks in Agra, there are plenty of wild monkeys to take pictures of as well, but they may try to steal your lunch.
Can't escape...the marble shops
You can't escape the tourist traps here, I guess all tour in Agra will include visiting one of the marble emporiums. First you ge a friendly demonstration of how the marble is used to create whatever. But then comes to obvious, they would like you to buy the stuff. And actually, some things, like the marble tables, for ridiculous prices. I wonder that some people actually bought a table for 300 Euros. Anyways, it is a free world :) When you are not interested in buying the big things, they take you to a smaller room and there you can buy smaller things (suddenly the main guy is a lot less interested in you). They are really nice. We bought a candle holder for 5 Euros (bargain!). It looks nice, though we tried it at home and it gets so hot, it is not safe to have it on the table.
This same procedure happens in tapestry shops, etc. It is not that annoying and in a way interesting and you don't need to buy anything. It is just that if you only have a limited time, you don't want to spend 2 hours in the shops when you are in Agra. Make it very clear to your guide (if that helps)
Toots in Fathepur Sikiri
There are a dime a dozen toots who very, very agressively persue you all along in Fathepur Sikiri. They are a menace and do not go away easily. They are so annoying that they do not understand the word.. leave me alone.
Unique Suggestions: One of the way to avoid the million who trouble you would be to hire one guide who will keep the others off from coming after you.
Fun Alternatives: Just ignore, continue to ignore and never speak back to them. They think once you entertain them in conversation they can convince you. Just say NO,NO & NO. do not make any eye contact.
Agra is known for it's hassle. I'm just gonna tell you a story of what happened to us in the Agra streets.
I was walking with Rob through an Agra street. Rob has one big fear and it is snakes. A kid with a basket walks next to rob and keeps on saying sir. We keep walking and say 'no' from time to time.(By that time we allready skipped thanx). Then another kid shows up in front of us with another basket. Opens it and a cobra rises out of the basket. The next thing I see is Rob running across the street (quite dangerous in India). The other kid had a cobra as well. I yelled at the kids that they had to f*** o** with them snakes; They ran off for 10 meters. An indian Guy told them something and then they started chasing us with the snakes all the way to our hostel. They stayed another 15 minutes at the door of our hostel.
It took a few hours before we got out of our room.
Once inside the grounds you will be bombarded with photographers wanting to take your photo with the Taj Mahal as the background for your memories. Even if you say no, they will most likely take your photo anyway and when you leave, they will show you in the hope to entice you to pay for the photo. I didn’t actually want mine but in the end, since the photo is no use to them, they will often give it to you anyway. Just don’t feel pressured in the first place.
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel
Get your postcards and letters stamped
ok, I just love to send (and to get, too!) postcards. I really do spam my friends and family at home with it :-)
But travelling through Asia gave me the experience that became one of my "travel principles", ALWAYS stay with your letters/stamps until they get stamped in front of your eyes.
Having said that, I betrayed my own principles in Kathmandu/Nepal this time and NONE of my postcards have arrived......
You ask where is the difference? Well, taking off 10 to 20 stamps and selling them for your own profit IS some money over there.
Unique Suggestions: ALWAYS stay with your letters/stamps until they get stamped in front of your eyes.
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