notes on visiting india

  • Smog. So much of it. Everywhere.
  • Cars and motorcycles. Everywhere.
  • Use the hotel car service. Not public transit or a cab.
  • Traffic wasn't as bad as I had imagined. Delhi is a huge city so it took time to get across town, but the traffic was not as gridlocked as I imagined.
  • A lot of people. A lot of poor people. Some of the conditions are as bad as one would imagine (e.g., in old Delhi, and Agra), but it was not overall as bad as I had imagined.
  • Not as many beggars on the streets (kids) add I had expected. 
  • Things aren't cheaper. In some cases they're more expensive. 
  • Restaurants and hotels were not cheaper than the US. Even the mom-and-pop side of the road restaurant was $10 for a small sandwich and a coke.
  • Cars invite drivers to honk at them to warn (they literally have bumper stickers that say "Honk at me if you're behind me"). There is a lot of honking.
  • Traffic rules are based around the person in front having the right of way, even if they cut in line to get there. To some degree it simplifies driving rules, but traffic is a mess.  The cows in the middle of the road have priority. 
  • It was really easy to obtain a SIM card at the airport. $25 for 3G of data (I didn't opt for a voice plan). The Airtel booth is in the lobby right before exiting the airport. Just show them your passport (they make a copy) and the take your picture, and pay the equivalent of approx $25 (for data only). They did accept USD. Activation required a phone call to customer service after the purchase. 
  • Not many American brands (hardly any Starbucks, McDonald's).  No beef. 
  • Everything is against US code ... driving laws, wiring, everything.
  • Third world junk (trinkets). Overpriced.
  • Must be a lot of corruption to have people that poor yet their tax rates (including VAT) aren't that low. 
  • Makes one realize the entitlement people in the US have. 
  • Not as many tourists as I expected. Very few Americans, Europeans, and Asians. Mostly Indians from other parts of India.
  • Racism - white people have privilege.  Non-whites are treated a bit differently (it was not blatant, but was perceptible).  Hotel staff was fine. Drivers, guides, waiters seemed to have some issues. 
  • "Why don't foreigner's talk to locals?" someone asked. Because every time we do, there's a scam involved.
  • Everyone has a scam, everyone has a motive. It usually involves setting overpriced junk. 
  • Lots of men on the streets, not many women.  10:1 ratio?
  • Insect repellant is a good idea although I didn't see too many mosquito's.
  • Hand sanitizer is very important. A couple small 1oz bottles will last a week. 
  • "5 star hotel" is a relative term in each city.  Stick with known chains. 
  • Fewer people speak English than I had expected. Most speak some English. Fluency was rarer than I had expected. In the service sector apart from hotel staff, English was rare. 
  • The only people men show affection to is other men by holding hands. They aren't gay.
  • Don't bother getting to the airport super early for departure. You can't check in until the 4 hour mark (at least on United). You have to show passport and boarding pass (electronic fine) to get into the airport. If you have airline status the check in person will give you a pass to a lounge. The lounge B that I was sent to was very nice with full dinner and drinks and showers. Security is tight - multiple screenings. 
  • Hotels provide bottled water, which is safe to drink. Use bottled water, or boil water in the hotel room teapot, for brushing teeth. Ice cubes in hotels/good restaurants seemed to not cause problems.
  • Go to the Dr. and get a prescription for Azithromycin (antibiotic for traveller's diarrhea). Take it if you feel really bad cramping combined with ... other issues.

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