A Cruising Couple | November 26, 2015 9:00 PM ET
Everything You Need To Know About Transportation In India
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
India is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating countries on the face of this earth. Home to nearly 1/7th of the world's population and with a long, rich culture, there are countless things to see and discover as you make your way across Mother India.
Photo via Flickr/sandeepachetan
Of course, with a visit to India also comes potential chaos. It can be overwhelming to navigate such a unique and bustling country, especially when you don’t know the language or the customs. But with a bit of planning, transportation in India doesn’t have to be as complicated as you might think. Let's get started with the basics of navigating the beauty and disarray of this land:
Step One: Tips for Surviving the Airports
Photo via Flickr/eustaquio
1. Print out your ticket
Indian airports won't even let you inside the building unless you show them a paper copy of your flight, and your passport (of course!).
2. Don't show up too early
While this differs from city to city, some airports won't even grant you admission until around 5 to 8 hours before your flight leaves. If you have a long layover, it might be worth it to book a hotel.
3. Look for the baggage scanner before checking in
Before checking in, you'll have to put your checked bags through the scanner and let them seal it up with a plastic tie.
4. Get a stamped tag for your carry-ons
When you check-in, you'll receive a stamped tag for all of your carry-ons, even tiny purses. Make sure you get one for each bag since you'll need to show these before entering the plane.
5. Men to one side, women to another
When headed through security, make sure you get in line according to your gender. The line for men will often be out in the open while the line for women will lead to a room or curtain with a sign saying, "Ladies' Frisking Booth."
6. Get on the bus for your plane
From your gate, a bus will pick you up to take you to the plane. Most buses will have the city you're coming from, and the city you're going to, listed on the front; but sometimes they don't. Listen carefully and don't be afraid to ask the attendant.
7. Keep your boarding pass until you exit
When your flight lands, you'll have to show your boarding pass once again before you're allowed to exit.
8. Don't let people take your bags
Upon exiting the airport, several people will approach you to help you with your bags. Many times, they won't even ask, but rather just start carrying your luggage. They will want a tip, and while many of them may be honest, there's no guarantee where they will take your bags. Even when walking alongside them, if you don't know the airport, they may lead you in the wrong direction. Be firm — you will probably need to say no several times.
Step Two: Tips for Rickshaws/Autos
Photo via Flickr/diametrik
Here a few pointers if you decide to get a rickshaw on your own:
1. Prepaid Autos/Rickshaws are the safer way to go
Around the airport's exit, you can find an option to prepay for an auto/rickshaw. It will be slightly more expensive than flagging down a rickshaw for yourself, but the chances of being ripped off by drivers as a first-timer (or even with experience) will make up for the difference. Plus, this is a much safer route, especially if traveling solo.
2. Don't approach a large group of drivers
This will 100 percent result in lots of loud voices, arguing and too many people getting involved. It will also most likely result in the drivers banding together to "prove" to you that the higher price is the normal one.
3. Decide on a price before entering the rickshaw
Make sure you agree on this before you enter, or the driver will easily charge you more than necessary. A good rule of thumb is to plan on about 10 to 20 Rs Per kilometer, but this will vary from place to place and driver to driver.
4. Don't pay until you exit the rickshaw
Don't pay until you have left the vehicle at your final destination. If you pay beforehand, the driver will have more of an incentive to cheat on his part.
5. Be firm, but polite, and always act like you know what you're doing
If you're hesitant or confused, you will be more easily taken advantage of. Stand your ground, be firm, but never get aggressive. Confidence is key when traveling in this country.
6. Consider Hiring A Driver For The Duration Of Your Trip
While rickshaws and public transportation are all part of the adventure, it’s always possible to find a reputable driver through your hotel or tour agency who can safely take you where you need to go.
Photo via Flickr/wormtongue
1. Book your tickets early
Trains are a central part of traveling in India — hence, they fill up very quickly. Book your ticket as early as you can and make sure you get a confirmed seat. If you happen to wait too long, check with the train station about their tourist quotas. You may be able to end up with a seat if they have some reserved for tourists.
2. What is waitlisting all about? Given the high volume of people needing to take the train, waiting until even just a few weeks before your travel day could mean not getting a ticket.
WL: Wait List — This essentially means no ticket at all. Don't get on the train with a waitlisted ticket — the TC (Ticket Collector) will most likely ask you to get off if you try it. Even bribing doesn't always work in this situation.
RAC: (Reservation Against Cancellation) — This ticket will allow you on the train, but you will only be given half of a bench — so you won't be able to lay down. It's possible that there will be more cancellations later in your travels, and you will be given a full bench.
CNF: Confirmed ticket!
Your PNR (passenger name record) is a ten-digit number that you can use to track your ticket's status. Type the number in online, use an app, or check in at a kiosk at the train station to find out about your ticket's status.
3. Pay up, and choose a higher quality cabin
Choosing an AC cabin is recommended. Pay up for the higher quality cabins, as these are usually much safer and cleaner.
4. Avoid traveling at night
Try to avoid traveling at night, especially if traveling solo. It's much safer during the day, as well as a little easier to avoid getting lost.
The best rule of traveling to India: embrace everything. The more you try to pull away from the customs, culture and surroundings, the harder it will be to enjoy your time. Relinquish control, be patient and embrace all that Mother India has to offer you!
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