Tag Archives: Indian Railways

Bangalore, New Years Eve.

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Where do I begin? After our brilliant time in Hampi it was time to move on to Bangalore. It was just for a couple of nights to break up the trip to Madurai. It started off badly as our train which was due to leave 21:10, but as always on Indian rail, it was delayed by an hour. The journey to Bangalore takes nine hours, and I did not get a wink of sleep. It wasn’t because the carriage was noisy, but the fact that the beds in the sleeper carriages on Indian rail are like sleeping an a bed of bricks. Also the fact I was not feeling very well at all. Hot one minute, cold the next and with frequent visits to the toilet, it was a total nightmare. When we arrived I was feeling, let’s just say well under the weather. So I could not wait to get to the hotel and have a shower and a nice rest. This wasn’t to be. On arrival at the Homestay we had booked we were very disappointed, it was nothing like the images on the website, not very nice at all, and when we were shown our room, the bed looked no different than the one on the train. We tried to contact the owners to explain our predicament, but with no success. So we just told the two guys who were looking after the place (who could not understand a word of English) that we were leaving and called a taxi, and found another hotel.

Our next hotel thankfully was much nicer, but unfortunately for me, I had to spend the whole day in bed, and being New Years Eve it was some what disappointing. The next day I felt a little better and was able to get out and around, but I still wasn’t hundred percent. We were due to be on another overnight train journey the next day. I really couldn’t endure this the way I felt. So we cancelled our train and booked a flight with Indigo Airlines for £22 each, this being a one hour journey instead of nine hours on a rattly uncomfortable train, it sounded like heaven.

What to see in Bangalore

There really isn’t a great deal of sights in the city except the Palace, which is worth a visit, and Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. This you could quite easily miss. The pictures on the website and Google images make it out to be a little piece of calm and serenity in the heart of the big city. Pretty flowers, nicely mowed lawns and a large picturesque lake. It’s nothing of the sort. It’s an overcrowded, litter strewn piece of waste land in my opinion. Very disappointing. Our day wasn’t all bad, as we met a very interesting French guy in a coffee shop , who lives in Bangalore and was studying Sanskrit. We had a great chat about Indian politics and the Indian culture in general. I have to mention our Hotel the Royal Senate Racecourse, apart from being a very nice hotel, it as a very good restaurant on the ground floor call the “London Curry House” I managed a meal here on our last day and it was amazing. A great selection of dishes and some Indian fusion food “the chef must have been an Indian Heston Blumenthal. Serving some brilliant creations. Like the Pani Puri, which is a selection of puri balls with a hole in the top, served with a selection of fillings. After you fill your small ball, you then pour a spicy sauce and a sweet sauce from the little pots below the puri balls and then pop it in you mouth. The taste is amazing.

As I haven’t much to write about Bangalore, I thought I would share some things I have picked up along the way.

Getting Around

Public transport There are plenty of buses in India, which are extremely cheap, but trying to decipher which one is going where is quite frankly impossible. Unless you are a local. Getting on one also looks an art form. “We didn’t use them we just watched in amazement from a distance”. For longer distances, there is a good selection of quite modern “I use the term loosely” buses for longer distances. A good App for this is called RedBus which looks very useful “or so we thought”, where you can pick your type of bus, A/C, non A/C, choose your seat and choose the time you want to travel. You need a Indian mobile number to register (which I will come on to). Where it all falls down is you have to pay for your tickets with an Indian Bank Card as they will not accept foreign ones. Great, but I suppose it’s useful for bus timings and bus types?

Taxis & Auto Rickshaw (Tuk-Tuk’s)

Tuk-Tuk’s are great for short distances, and to get to the main tourist attractions. Don’t rely on them to know anything other than that though. Like the whereabouts of hotels or restaurants. As we have learnt on more than one occasion. You either end up a few hundred metres down the road outside a coffee shop which had been closed for three months. “We wanted to go to a hotel for dinner”. “See last post” Or the complete opposite direction of where you want to be. The alternative is taxis, but the only way to get these is to use Mobile Apps, like Über, Meru Cabs or Olacabs. I have all three on my phone as some work in some states but not in others. These will give you the exact fare and the drivers use google maps to navigate, so you have a pretty good chance to get where you want to be.

Indian railways

Train travel in India is very cheap, and getting tickets on the day if you are going relatively short distances is easy. If travelling long distances, it advisable to book in advance, especially for overnight trains. You can do this at the station or via a ticket agent. Be warned though, travelling on the trains can be a very crowded and stressful experience at times, but on the whole they are ok, and you do meet some very interesting and friendly people.

Mobile phone SIM cards.

You can pick up a SIM card at the airport when you arrive “providing your phone is unlocked from you network”, but this is not always the cheapest option as they try to sell you an expensive package. It’s better to wait and get one in town. Remember when getting a SIM card you will need your passport and a passport size photograph “I always carry a few on our trips” I got a SIM card from the mobile carrier Ideal. For 600 INR around £7.00. This gave me unlimited calls within india unlimited texts and 1gb of data daily for two months. A bargain don’t you think. Wish I could get a package as cheap as that in the UK. One thing worth mentioning is if you are travelling to different states within India sometimes the phone settings need to be changed, as you may loose your data ability “well my iPhone did”. If this happens just pop into a friendly mobile shop, there’s plenty of them, and they will sort you out without any fuss or cost “providing they can speak English that is”.

Oh well that’s all for now. Next stop Madurai and the Meenakshi Amman Temple

The planning of our trip to India

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The planning of our trip to India

Like I said on my previous post it all started way back in January 2014 when we all decided on going back to India, first stop was looking into flight prices. Now I have no real advice on when to book your flights, as if you leave them to the last-minute prices do go up especially short haul, but long haul is always a bit of a lottery, you see we booked flights to Thailand last year well in advance and discovered that we paid much more than leaving it to last
minute, but this year we booked well in advance and paid much less that last-minute so from the flight point of view it’s always a gamble. You can use certain flight price tracking tools such as Tripadvisor, Skyscanner, Kayak etc which can be useful, but we found that this year we got a price we were happy with it and so booked them, it’s all a case of personal preference.
Domestic Flights
There are a couple of airlines we used these being SpiceJet and Indigo, we have used Indigo before on a previous trip to India and they were very good indeed, SpiceJet I will post my opinion when we have flown with them, both offer a good selection of destinations throughout India and both are very good value, booking via their website is very easy and straight forward.
Indian Railways
During our trip we will embark on four train journeys, these being from Jaipur to Sawali Madhopur (Ranthanbhore National Park), Sawali Madhopur to Agra, Agra to Delhi and an overnight journey from Mysore to Hospet (Hampi temple complex, these were all booked via the website Cleartrip, the booking process is quite painless but you have to look up the rail stations nearest your destination as there are 1000’s of rail stations throughout India as you can imagine, looking up the stations sounds obvious but the station names don’t necessarily match the place you want to go for example the station for Ranthambhor National Park is Sawali Madhopur, but the fix for this is to use good old Google to search for the station nearest rail station to where you want to be. The next problem is getting your head around the different classes of tickets, so after some trawling on the net I found a couple of really useful sights which are far more informative than I can ever do justice on here. First I would like to mention the really useful website Indian Mike this is where I found a great post on the Indian railways booking system (click here) Now I found the Indian Mike website a very useful and informative especially for the independent traveller also a very good source of information on all things India in general. Another useful site to mention whilst on the subject of transportation is the Red bus company who have a good network of luxury coaches to various locations around India, but unfortunately they take card payments from outside India so they need to resolve this issue, but once in the country I’m sure it would be easy enough to find an agent to do the booking for you
Accommodation
Finally the accommodation, all our hotels were found on booking.com I have used them for a number of years now, and had excellent service from them, that is not to say that there are not many other hotel search engines out there that are just as good, it’s a matter of personal preference. One thing I will say is once you find a hotel you like on a hotel search engine it’s always worth seeing if booking direct with your chosen hotel is offering a better deal we have found this on more than one occasion.
Well that’s about it for now but I will post some more tips after our trip as I’m sure there will be a few more. So stay safe keep well and most importantly keep following.