Friday, December 9, 2016

Namashkar India (Part 1 - Preparation)

Okay, so now I would like to share with everyone my latest travel experience. Well, honestly, I rarely write (almost never) about my travel journey because...MALAS.

But, this one, it's an exception. I feel like, I really need to share my experience because it was truly an eye opening journey that I think everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

As the title suggest, yes, I have traveled to a land far, far, away. To one of the most underrated but beautiful country called...INDIA. The land of colors, that are so very RICH with culture and amazing people.

Before I start writing about my journey, here's what you need to know about what to prepare for India:


1. Visa

Yes, you have to first apply for visa. Honestly, visa for India is so easy to apply, not much hassle at all (kahkah sembang macam pernah buat visa nak pergi negara lain). You will have two options if you want to apply for visa:

  • E-TV (E-Tourist Visa)
  • Manual Visa Application

My friend and I, we opt for ETV because we both are so busy with work *cough*sembang*cough* and we both don't have much leave to sacrifice anyways, so ETV is the easiest one. 

How to apply for ETV? You can go to this link (click!) and follow the instructions. Anyways, ETV only applies to certain airport and only offers limited time of travelling. Please check carefully which airport you are going to land and make sure that it was listed in the ETV website, or else you will have to do it manually.

Also, if you are planning to travel India for more than 30 days, then ETV does not apply to you. ETV is valid only for 30 days the moment you step foot in Indian airport. It's also cannot be extended, so you will have to re-apply if you want to extend your stay there. So if you are planning to travel for more than 30 days, I'd suggest for you to go for the manual one, which means you will have to go to the assigned office. You can check that in the Indian Embassy website for Malaysian. But some of the offices are in JB, KL, KK, and Kuching. Go to the website to get their full addresses.

Regarding ETV, I would suggest you to only apply after you have bought your flight tickets, and don't apply too early. Tak payah la semangat sangat okay nak apply setahun awal ke, tiga bulan awal pun jangan. Kalau tak nanti you all menangis. Haha. Why? Because ETV only valid for one month before your journey. Faham tak? Okay I bagi contoh:

My flight is on 25th November 2016. I applied for the visa on 3rd November and got it approved by 4th November (you will receive an email). In the email, it was mentioned, for that particular visa, you can enter India (travel date) starting from 4th November to 4th December. Meaning, your flight to India should be around that time, and your visa would only valid for a month after you have arrived India.

So it means, I arrived India on 25th Nov (still within the travel date given) and my visa would only be valid up to 25th December. Understood? Kalau tak faham, tinggal komen or drop me an email okay.

Extra info on how to fill in the form, as for Malaysian, especially Muslim kan, you only need to write your name in the column Given Name. So, if your name is Ali Ahmad bin Abu Bakar, put everything into that column and left family name blank. Also, you will need an address and reference number (phone) of anyone who lives in India for the visa application. Like us, we only put one of the hotel's number and address in the application. So that's that.

The price for ETV is USD 49 (after service charge) and when converted to MYR, it was around (RM202), you can pay using your credit card so no worry, chicken curry. 

After your ETV has been granted, you need to go to the aforementioned website and print your approved visa. Then upon your arrival to the airport, you will have to present it to the immigration officer and answer few questions regarding your identity and places you want to visit. 

If you do the visa manually, the biometric system will be done in the office (Malaysia) but for ETV users, the biometric will be done in the airport and it does not take long anyways, around 5 minutes dah settle. So no worries okay.

Done for visa part. I think I've settled for it. Kalau ada problem, leave it in the comment or email me okay?



2. Plan Your Journey

So, now you plan your journey carefully. How many days you have, where to go, where to stay. Also, I would like to give an advice, please include around 2 days for buffer days, especially if you are taking trains because train could delay up to 10-12 hours so you may have to sacrifice a day or two,or worse, God forbids, miss your flight. So, buffer days is important. Example for buffer days, like us, we planned for 10 days journey, the first 7 days were a bit tight with us travelling to each places as planned, but the last 3 days we plan for relaxing activities and turned out it was one of the best decision ever because....I'll save it for later. Heheh.

Senang cakap, jangan pack sangat schedule korang tu. Tak payah tamak okay, enjoy je India nanti. Absorb everything that you can. Enjoy the moment. Go to the places that you really wanna go, others considered as bonus je and don't be too uptight. India is too beautiful for you to be too uptight. Don't be boring okay, India is FUN!

Also, I'd advise for you to travel with smallest group as you can. Travel in pair like we did would be highly recommended because it would be easier for you to take auto, trains, and other forms of transportation. But that's purely from my experience lah.



3. Train Tickets!

Okay, unless you are planning to only spend your days in a city, you don't have to bother about train tickets. Unlike us, we have planned for six places to visit, so we need to be careful with our planning and we need to opt for the cheapest and most reliable choice of transportation, and the most famous in India, which is...the TRAINS!

As for train tickets, I would suggest you to actually buy this early. Earlier than your visa applications. But not too early because trains are prone to cancellation too. Like us, we bought the tickets one month earlier so it gave us ample time to wait if our names got into the waiting list.

How to buy train tickets?

First, you have to register yourself in the IRCTC website given. Okay, I can't give you much details regarding this because my friend did it and I basically bayar je. Haha okay, anyhow here's what I know about the train tickets, once you register to IRCTC, you will need to email them because you can't receive the number given to your mobile because not valid (the phone numbers are only for Indian number) and they will reply to you at least one week after your email. So, be patient while waiting, or just spam them until you managed to register yourself in the IRCTC website.

As for IRCTC register, do this early. if you want to travel in March, by December make sure you already have the IRCTC account. Just to be safe okay.

After you already have the account, now you can log in and check the train schedule for your convenience. 

I would suggest for you to travel using Second Class (Upper) AC 2 Tier. Especially if you want comfort and privacy. Some of the people I know prefer Sleeper class which is waayyyy cheaper than our choice. Anyhow, Sleeper class is the seating arrangement, meaning you have to share with others and most people (especially local) prefer to travel in the Sleeper class. Sleeper class also are the ones that you mainly saw in movies.

As for AC two tier, compared to 3 tier, two tier comes with more privacy as in they have curtains. I'm not sure if it was only our train, but we once took the 3 tier when travelling from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer and the coach did not come with curtains, so it was quite scary when you were the only girls and you're surrounded by men in the coach. I'll elaborate this in the next post.

The toilet in the train (for our coach) I can confirm was not as bad as what was told but other travelers that I've met. It was okay, if not the cleanest that I've seen in my life. You can poop and pee comfortably. (Or maybe, it's just me that I have high tolerance...I don't know). Also, in 2 tier coach, you have electric socket so you can charge your electrical devices, so yeay!

The 2 tier coach comes with bedsheet, blanket, and pillow. So, you can sleep comfortably. The bed is not bed either because it was leather and it was not as hard but don't expect it to be so fluffy like your mattress back at home lah. That would be too much okay.

As for the price, for 6 trains, we have spend around RM 450 per person (this does not include emergency tickets that we bought later during our trip) so the train price is around RM 70 per trip. It was really worth it considering the train journey took time around 9 to 12 hours per trip.

But you can opt for buses too, if you like. Their buses offered sleeper seat (you will have your own bed) and it is waaayyyy cheaper. For 5 hours journey, you only need to pay Rs. 200 or RM 14. 

As for emergency tickets, say you missed your train, or you suddenly have change of plans, you can buy Tatkal tickets. Tatkal is more expensive and only available after 10 am, a day before your travel date. And tatkal quota is very limited. So you have to be very fast when buying the tickets.

Another tips, if you wanted to buy the tickets for the train, I'd very much suggest for you to buy for the side berths especially if you are travelling in a small group or a pair like my friend and I. High chances that you both will get to be on the same side berths so nanti takpayah lah gelut kalau terpisah ke apa ke kan. 

As for food, you don't have to worry, because there are a lot of chaiwalla selling chais (it was hot chai and delicious), mineral water (Bisleri mostly - one of the best and most recommended mineral water in India aside from Aquafina but Rail Neer pun okay. Basically we bantai je minum all claimed mineral water kat India tu sebab confident lol taktau lah confident ke, berani ke, bodoh hahaha), and food (buy vegetarian food if you are muslim and worry about the halal status. The food is delicious and the papadom tak masuk angin pun okay!) so you won't be hungry in the train.

So, that's that I think for the train parts. 



4. Get Vaccinated

Go get your shots. Please don't think that you are invisible. Get your shots at any clinic. Just tell at the counter that you want to get vaccinated for India. 

Why you need to get vaccinated is because India is still struggling with clean water, so if you are travelling to the rural area where clean water is scarce, you really need to get shots. The vaccines for India are typhoid and Hep A (if I'm not mistaken), both are waterborne disease.

But I only get my typhoid that cost RM100 in a private clinic.



5. Hygiene - Bring A LOT of Tissues (Dry and Wet)

As for tissues, I won't recommend bringing tissue rolls with you. I'd suggest for you to bring travel tissue. 

Sample of Travel Tissue that I brought with me during my travel


This would be helpful for you to use in the toilet (along with your wet tissues) and when eating in the restaurant. Not all restaurant provide tissues and you'll need it to wipe your water bottle especially if you ordered soda in their restaurants.

Don't forget about hand sanitizer! Always bring it with you, anywhere and everywhere you go. Also, bawak lah segala ubat yang you rasa necessary. I did bring with me all the charcoals, panadols, ubat sakit perut, chi kit teck aun, but alhamdulillah, I don't need any of those pon while I was in India. But, bawak je lah as precautions kan.



6. SIM Card

Okay, once you arrived to Indian airport, the first thing you have to do is to buy a SIM card for your phone. I'd suggest you to use Airtel. India internet plan is so freaking cheap and despite it only offers maximum 695MB of data for 9 days, tapi percaya lah, tak habis guna pon okay. Malu je Malaysia because our internet plan sucks big time lol.

Why I suggest you to buy the SIM kad dekat airport is because, kalau you beli dekat kedai tepi jalan, most of them taknak jual. I pon tak tahu kenapa susah sangat these people nak jual SIM kad to tourist, or better kalau you ada expat from India working in your office, pinjam lah their SIM like I did. Thanks Manoj!



7. Money Exchange

My trip to India can be considered as bad timing lah kot because India was doing major demonetization during our trip. So, cash is very hard to get. The new Rs 2000 notes pulak tak disukai oleh local because too big. So, what you can do is, you boleh tukar duit dekat Malaysia (which only KLIA and KLIA2 je yang ada as for the time this blog is written lah) or, you boleh je tukar dekat Indian airport but the rate is so expensive even USD pon takboleh dapat banyak after exchange.

So, plan your money wisely okay. Asingkan duit shopping and duit accommodations siap siap especially for girls. Nanti nampak saree murah terus rambang mata macam I! LOL



Okay, I guess these are what you need for India as for preparations. I'll update the post if I missed anything. See you in the next post! The journey started!

Namashkar India (Part 2: Kolkata Here We Come!)
Namashkar India (Part 3: Mystical Varanasi)
Namashkar India (Part 4: Magical Varanasi)
Namashkar India (Part 5: Agra, The City of Love)
Namashkar India (Part 6: A Night Under The Sky, Jaisalmer)
Namashkar India (Part 7: A Night Under The Stars, Jaisalmer)
Namashkar India (Part 8: Starry Starry Night)
Namashkar India (Part 9: Majestic Fort)
Namashkar India (Part 10: Delhi, You Crazy!)

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