What should I bring on my trip to India?
August 2, 2006 7:46 AM   Subscribe

An American in India: What do I need to bring with me on a 6 week trip to Bangalore, India? What should I see and do while there?

Next week I'll be leaving for a business trip to Bangalore, India. I'll be there for about 6 weeks, and want to make sure that I don't forget anything vital. What would you bring if you were me? What can I absolutely not forget? Also, what do people bring on long term business trips like this?

While I'm there, what should I do? Any restaurant recommendations? Day trips? Weekend trips? Other ideas?
posted by josh.ev9 to Travel & Transportation around India (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Books, an ipod, camera with lots of film or large CF card. Make sure your chargers work in India.

Check with your local international travel medicine office to see what vaccinations you need and get your malaria medication.

Bring a journal.

I've never been to Bangalore, so no quick trip recommendations, but ifyou have time Jaipur and the Taj Mahal are well worth visiting.

Drink bottled or boiled water and/or bring your own water filter.
posted by beowulf573 at 8:11 AM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

You don't need to bring much to survive in India. Almost everything is available on the street! A few recommendations:
A neck wallet/pouch for passport & money. Essential!
Hand sanitizer
A good backpack
Shoes you don't mind getting covered in cow sh*t
The little kids on the street would love it if you brought a Polaroid camera and gave them pictures you took of them

Southern Indian food is very different that Northern Indian food, which is what they usually serve in the US, so throw out any concepts you have of Indian food. Don't eat on the streets, but try everything in restaurants.
Weekend trips: Highly recommended are Bombay & Varanasi. Both can be reached by fairly cheap flights. There are always ceremonies and temples to visit in Varanasi, and you should go see a Bollywood film in Bombay. Don't try to go on Sunday though, because you won't be able to get tickets!

Not to scare you, but this is honestly a very good reference site.
posted by Maia at 8:27 AM on August 2, 2006

For a weekend trip, I really enjoyed visiting Mysore and the Chamundi Hills.
posted by Staggering Jack at 9:01 AM on August 2, 2006

I was in Bangalore a couple of years ago, but only for a few days. We spent an afternoon at the Hare Krishna temple, which was an interesting albeit touristy experience.

I also recall having an exceptional meal at MTR (Mavali Tiffin Room), which I is one of the city's better-known restaurants. It also has the virtue of being dirt cheap (less than $10 US for two of us).

FabIndia is a popular merchant that sells all sorts of cool and colorful fabric products -- shirts, saris, tablecloths, napkins, you name it. A good shopping destination if you're into that sort of thing.

If you're into spa-type experiences, a family member on our trip took a train a couple hours outside the city to spend a day or two at some lavish spa/resort. Unfortunately I can't remember the name of it. It may have been Mysore (also reportedly a nice day-trip destination). In any event, she raved about the level of care, pampering, and beauty at the spa, and it was quite cheap. There are probably numerous options like this that would make for a good weekend trip.

Finally, be sure to take some auto-rickshaw rides even if you have other means of transport. It's a wild experience that will make Western cab drivers seem conservative and slow forevermore.
posted by brain_drain at 9:04 AM on August 2, 2006

You don't need to bring many essentials with you, because Bangalore, as one of India's most Westernized and prosperous cities, can set you up with damn near everything you need. This is particularly true of clothes - the availability, low cost and quality of clothes well-suited to the Indian climate means you're better off traveling light. Also, I found India's Odomos brand mosquito repellent (available at most pharmacies) worked fine and had a more pleasant in scent and texture than North American brands.

That said, you may want to bring:

- plug adapters (available at most travel/backpacker stores)

- medications, rehydration salts, sunscreen (easier to get and better quality guaranteed at home; also, if you get a little traveler's tummy, DO NOT STOP EATING, it'll just weaken your system and make it worse; go to Pizza Hut or something if you need familiar food, but keep your strength up)

- flashlight (blackouts are quite common in India, particularly during peak A/C season)

As for what to do, Bangalore itself is not one of India's most scenic spots, though many Westerners find it one of the best places to acclimatize because it's so heavy with modcons (especially in the MG Road area).

I'd highly recommend a weekend trip to Mysore, which is a short train ride away. Mysore's a fascinating, atmospheric old royal city with the grand maharaja palaces and teeming bazaars of Indian lore. (Mysore's Devaraya Market is surely one of the subcontinent's finest produce-and-spice markets.) I highly recommend the Green Hotel for your stay - a funky old palace turned into one of India's most eco-friendly and just plain friendly mid-range hotels.

As for short weekend flights, if it was me I'd skip the longer hauls to Jaipur or Varanasi or something like that and head straight for nearby, gorgeous, laid-back Kerala. Take a rice-barge tour of the backwaters - among the most relaxing ways to spend 24 hours the planet has to offer.

Enjoy it all - you're headed for one of the most endlessly fascinating places on earth. I'm envious.
posted by gompa at 10:29 AM on August 2, 2006

You are within driving distance of Mysore (if you like palaces or want to buy silk) and Bandipur (if you like wildlife parks).

Be careful when driving - especially at night! There are no lights once you leave the city and the speed bumps* as you enter and leave a town will destroy your car and/or kill you if you hit them at full speed.

*Speed barriers would be more appropriate than speed bumps. Some of them are so big you have to drive over them very slowly and at an angle to keep them from scraping the bottom of the car!

Be prepared for the most challenging driving experience on the planet (a good thing - you will become a better driver) and be prepared to use your horn!

As for safety, I have had no problems in Karnataka. The people throughout the area were all wonderful, beautiful people.

Some rickshaw drivers will try to take the 'scenic route' to a destination (not a bad thing if you have time - money is not really an issue in India).

Unfortunately, others will intentionally hit a large rock with the back tire in an area devoid of transportation and claim they can go no further. Have none of it - it's a ruse. The rickshaw drivers you see waiting nearby are cohorts ready to accept outrageous fares to take you the rest of the way. (While money is not an issue in India, principles are - if you let them take advantage of you the next visitor will get the same treatment!)

Again, Bangalore is very safe and, besides the odd rickshaw driver who will try to con you, the people there were friendly and more than accommodating.

You will have to decide early on how you intend to deal with panhandlers. The gap between the very rich and the very poor is huge in Bangalore. Whatever you decide, please be friendly.

Also, books are dirt cheap and you have an amazing selection ranging from software guides to classical literature. (Karnataka classic folk tales are fun, too.)

India is a treat.

posted by cup at 10:31 AM on August 2, 2006

Indian here. I wrote this extensive India travel tip earlier. You will find some general inputs in there.

Since you say a biz trip for 6 weeks, I assume you'll get free time to roam around mostly during weekends. So here are my 2 paise(gotta start with the currency!) :)

- Hyderabad and Pondicherry are both overnight trips by bus or train (I'd prefer bus, since tickets and buses are available almost instantly from almost everywhere in the city). Hydbad is not a real 'touristy' place but it has its old-world charms. It boasts of Charminar but I haven't seen it, and probably you'd be disappointed with too much crowd, chaos and dirtiness. But then again, if you really want to enjoy India, get over your fear of crowds and chaos. As you'll observe quickly nothing really 'breaks down' though everywhere you see, to the new untrained western tourist eye it'll look like 'things falling apart', but trust me, it 'just works'. Hydbad also has the Ramojirao Film City (a la Hollywood studios). Chk out the Birla temple there. I liked it.
Pondicherry was a french settlement, and still retains much of that colour and vibrance. You have beaches (and all the assorted touristy stuff - yoga, massages)..and beautiful churches etc to check out there. Both these cities easily doable over a weekend each.

-- In and around Bangalore there are lot of nature/hiking places. But due to monsoon season, can't say much about how practical they would be. Check out Nandi Hills lying on the outskirts of Bglore. one day trip. And Hoggenakkal falls which shd be awesome in monsoon (but chk with local folks before going).

- Mysore. 3-4 hr drive frm Bangalore (buses avlbl). You have the Mysore palace, gardens, and if you check out with yr folks in Bangalore you'll also get some tours-n-travels guy for packages. The same for Ooty, Kodaikanal which are hillstations and they shd be painted fresh green in the monsoons. Worth it.

-- Goa. Miles and miles of pure pristinge beach, portuguese churches, great people, excellent seafood and more beaches. Awesome!

-- Kerala. beaches, backwaters, lots of touristy things everywhere in that state.

-- then ofcourse if you have enough free time on yr hands you can do a NorthIndia trip (Taj Mahal in Agra, Delhi, Jaipur..maybe even Bombay) etc. chk out this thread.

-Restaurants in Bangalore. Samarkand. Excellent Afghani/NorthIndian food. Try out all local (S.Indian) food.

-- I'll repeat frm my earlier comment. Take any regular medicines, but don't be overly paranoid about it. The best way to ruin yr experience (IMHO any trip experience, not just India, but more so India frm a western tourist perspective since all travel guides will mention it) is to be overly protective and caring about your health and insisting on ultraclean oxygenated vitaminised healthy water and food everywhere you go. It's all healthy. If the food at places you go is good enough for hundreds of others, its good enough for you. And doctors/pharmacy in India are available almost everywhere, inexpensively (~$1), to take care of your regular fever/cold/cough/pain issues. And while you are there, get your teeth cleaned, and your dentures fixed. Your US insurance company will hate you for that.

"and you should go see a Bollywood film in Bombay. Don't try to go on Sunday though, because you won't be able to get tickets!..."
This is like saying visit LA to watch a Hollywood flick. I'd say ignore this bit of advice. You don't go to Bombay to watch a Hollywood film in a cinema hall. You can get the same experience in any city. Now if you mean actually observing a film shooting in a studio then its a diff. thing and then again I'm not sure how easy it is to get hold of a schedule and suit your travel to it, coz movie shootings are notorious for their irregular timings. And you don't want to fly all the way to Bombay just for that.

Have fun!

on preview: gampa and braindrain's advice is also good.
posted by forwebsites at 11:01 AM on August 2, 2006

typo: pristine beaches &
Errata: You don't go to Bombay to watch a Bollywood film

posted by forwebsites at 11:05 AM on August 2, 2006

Just to add a couple more cents to my pile, I'd advise against the suggestions of driving or taking a bus to Mysore (or wherever you choose to go for the weekend). Driving long distance on Indian highways - even with a hired driver - tends to be extremely unnerving (which is to say often heartstoppingly terrifying) for newcomers to the subcontinent, and driving yourself is completely out of the question. Buses are a little better, but still usually a bumpy, lurching ride (and hard for a newcomer to figure out as regards classes, routes etc.).

All of which is just preamble to saying that the train is by far the most relaxing and convival way to travel in India anyway. The Shatabdi/Rajdhani expresses - at least a couple daily from Bangalore to Mysore, Hyderabad or Chennai - are air-conditioned, comfortable, and serve pretty good meals. And for all this, the 2.5-hour Bangalore-to-Mysore run will cost you less than ten bucks American.
posted by gompa at 2:15 PM on August 2, 2006

Pepto-bismol tablets, and take them with every meal. Great (cheap) insurance against Maharaja's Revenge.

I spent 3 weeks in Southern India and never had a problem. Praise the pink!
posted by nancoix at 6:35 PM on August 2, 2006

I stopped over in Bangalore on my way from Hampi to Madurai to see the Madurai Meenakshi Temple. I can highly recommend both places.

I'll also second gompa regarding buses and trains. You do not want to take a bus unless you have no other options. Take the train, unless you're a hardcore backpacker. (I thought I was a hardcore backpacker until I took long distance buses in India.)
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 8:03 PM on August 2, 2006

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