What do I need to know about Bangalore?
January 29, 2007 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Going to Bangalore on business. What do I need to know?

So it looks like I'm enroute to Bangalore in late Feb / early March. This is my first trip to India. What do I need to know? Cultural, safety, and food tips greatly appreciated from those who've been. (I'm from the US, in the event it matters - and cannot pass for non-Caucasian.)

Also, it looks like I might have a couple days to travel on the tail end of the trip. Any recommendations?
posted by aberrant to Travel & Transportation around Bangalore, India (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've reviewed the US State Dept and CDC sites, so I know about general safety, avian flu, etc. - but any specific tips would still be appreciated.
posted by aberrant at 11:10 AM on January 29, 2007

The best advice I've found is compiled in the forums at IndiaMike.com. Much of that is for backpackers and travellers rather than for business types, but you'll find a wealth of detailed help there. If you're in the tech biz, you'll find the offices are sufficiently modernized, clean, and full of all kinds of familiar things like happy hours, fast internet, and lots of American or Americanized business types. That said, I've listed a few big tips for interacting with Bangalore outside the business sector. India is a complicated and amazing place that can cause a lot of frustration in its seeming backwardness, but just read up as much as you can and at all times keep a pleasant, patient disposition, realizing the beauty is in the discord.

Auto Rickshaws -- Know the minimum and cost per mile prices before you get in and establish them with the driver. (Usually painted inside the cab on the back of the driver's seat.) Also confirm that the meter is in working condition if you plan to go by the metered price as it's not uncommon for the drivers to disable them. Outside of Bangalore, it's even preferable to establish a fixed price before agreeing to the ride as some rickshaws do not display prices (particularly true in Mysore I found) and some meters are conveniently inoperable.

Water -- Okay this is obvious, don't drink it. Bottled water is everywhere, but just make sure the seal is intact. Also be careful when doing things like showering or brushing your teeth that you don't ingest the microbes! And be wary of vegetables and fruits as these are likely washed in water and carry the same dangers as a glass of the stuff. Fresh juice may sound nice, but it's often mixed with water or blended from fruit washed with water -- so exercise caution.

Shopping -- Anyone shoving items for sale at you or pleading with you to buy something is absolutely gouging you on the price and sometimes the quality. 200-1000% markups will seem inconsequential and almost charitable to your American pocketbook, but they are actually insulting and underhanded if you're aware of the relative value of goods and prices. If you're in the market for purchasing something, seek it out yourself from a shop or stall and you're more likely to find yourself a better deal (after much friendly bargaining of course).

Language -- You'll find most businessmen will speak excellent English and the rickshaw drivers and restaurant staffs will also speak to you in English. The language native to the region, though, is Kannada as it is the state language of the state of Karnataka. Lots of signs and things will be shown in Hindi as well.

Tourism -- Any site you read about in the guidebook will be expecting tourists. You should know that guide scams, price markups (often higher marked prices for "foreign" tickets), and tip schemes (particularly at temples and shoe/camera keeping stations) are common. Though Bangalore luckily seems to have fewer of these scams than more touristed cities.

Gender -- You do not mention your gender, but for females, traveling in India is quite a different experience than it is for men. They will be stared at when they don't want to be and then confusingly denied eye contact when trying to speak or bargain with men. It was absurdly awkward for me when traveling with a male companion to feel like a sore thumb at times and like a subservient female cardboard cutout at others. Fortunately, Bangalore seems to be more liberal in its attitudes toward women than other Indian cities.

Foreignness / Staring -- That said about gender, any non-Indian is a glaring foreign oddity (obviously due to skin tone but there are other quick differences judged in dress, accent, facial hair, shoes, mannerisms, etc). So this of course invites much staring. Luckily, Bangalore seemed to be better about this than every other city I travelled, so this is good news for you.

Sites -- Things I enjoyed seeing in Bangalore were the Lal Bagh Gardens, Vidhana Soudha government building (can't miss that), the science museum downtown (mostly for kids, but charming in its retro-ness), going to see a Bollywood film, taking rickshaws everywhere, buying stainless steel pots at the Bangalore city market, and particularly seeing the city with those native to the area.

Bengaluru -- Bangalore recently changed its name from the Anglicized version to its official Kannada name of Bengaluru.

As for traveling after your work, try Mysore and the surrounding sights for a short jaunt or consider going over to Kerala for a truly relaxing several days on the backwaters.

Feel free to contact me at this Mefi screenname at gmail if you've got more questions.
posted by superfem at 1:36 PM on January 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

(None of this is Bangalore-specific. And some of it is very basic to India and/or third-world travel. Don’t be offended – I don’t know how much you know.):

India is a wonderful and fascinating place. It is also known as "I'll Never Do It Again." Try to be open-minded, flexible, respectful, and have a sense of humor. Don't beat yourself up if you hate it. But don't be surprised if you're dying to come back either.

I've traveled extensively in third world countries, and I think India is especially dangerous when it comes to food & water, so although you've read CDC, I'm including these tips:

-Be vigilant about food and water sanitation. Don't trust any place to protect you. This means, no salads/fresh condiments. No matter how nice your hotel is, don't eat there. Be careful about western restaurant chains like Pizza Hut and Friday's - the food seems more likely to be reheated and generally messed with. I wouldn't eat the super-super cheap food (40 cents per meal, e.g.) - doesn't seem as safe to me. You have to decide whether to gamble on street food - it's so delicious, but it can be unsafe. I eat the stuff that is very hot, clearly just being prepared.
-Obviously, cow is generally off limits. A lot of Indian food is vegetarian, and delicious.
-No ice, anywhere, even if they tell you the water is treated. Treat your bottled water - I add iodine tablets - there are too many bottled water scams.
-You can eat fruit, if you peel it. E.g. bananas, grapefruit, oranges, mangoes, etc. But don't eat it if someone else peels it for you - their hands may be dirty.
-Hepatitis is somewhat common in India. My friend recently got "E." And I'm sure there are other nasty things you can catch. So don't get the cowboy attitude that a food/water-borne illness is just something to tough out.
-Nan and other food cooked in a tandoori might be surprisingly hard to get. For one thing, it's a Punjabi north-Indian cooking technique, for another thing it seems to be for tourists more than you'd think judging by Indian restaurants in the US. But there's still tons of delicious Indian food to be had. Chicken Tikka Masala is delicious - also similar to Murg Makhani (butter chicken). Also good dishes: baigan bartha (eggplant dish); dal makhani (butter lentils - practically cheapest food in India); chana masala (chickpeas); palaak paneer (spinach and cheese); raita (but be careful - bc it's cool and has herbs and isn't always pasteurized, can get TB and/or GI problems); samosas; aloo gobi (cauliflower and potato too I think); vindaloos (spicier); dosai; uttapam.
-If you get sick of Indian food - imagine! - there will probably be a few Thai restaurants around.

-You'll probably need an anti-malarial. Malarone is the best these days, IMO. Lots of doctors are not up-to-date on anti-malarials and might try to proscribe doxycycline or mephloquine (larium). Doxy is bad because it's an antibiotic, so you'd be compromising your immune system by killing your good bacteria. It's also bad because it often causes throat ulcers, and it makes you sun-sensitive. (Its one plus is that people don't seem to get water&food-borne illnesses as much when they're on it. Larium is bad because it can cause pretty intense anxiety and/or hallucinations. Malarone is probably the most expensive.
-Dengue fever (reputedly getting very serious again) & other mosquito-borne illnesses are also very dangerous, so the best approach (in addition to malarone) is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. I believe the malaria mosquitoes bite at night and the dengue mosquitoes bite during the day - whether that's useful to you or not, I don't know.

-Rickshaws scare the hell out of me, after some friends have gotten into bad accidents. Your call. I'd stick with cabs. Transportation is very dangerous in India, as the rest of the third world. I found trains fairly safe....
-Of course, be aware of your surroundings and how you interact with people.

You'd be close to both Goa and Kerala - gorgeous, fascinating places. You could also go to Bombay, and/or the amazing Buddhist caves at Ellora and Ajanta, near Aurangabad.

-You know about Turkish toilets, right? They're okay, you can do this. They're not everywhere either.
-Be careful if you use internet cafes - software is sometimes used that allows the owner to track your keystrokes.
-Scams are fairly common in India. Your guidebook will probably include them in some detail.
-AIDS - More prevalent than in the US. Be careful.
-You know you need to use a converter for electrical equipment, right?
-Check out some Bollywood movies. Crazy, different stuff.
-Inter-Indian air travel is relatively pleasant/seems comparatively safe.
-WOBBLE-HEAD GESTURE: Much dispute about what this means. Some says 'yes' some say 'no,' some say 'maybe,' some say 'F-you!" I think it means whatever the person means at that time, and you'll never really be sure.

-Read Shantaram! It'll get you in the mood, I promise. It's really long, but flies by. A (very unusual) western perspective in India.
-Guidebook - People's opinions vary about this stuff, but I like Lonely Planet for India. I like the Rough Guide too.

A lot of this advice is dire, but India is a great place, so enjoy!
posted by Amizu at 2:08 PM on January 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

-Also, check out tripadvisor's Bangalore forum.
-And part of the bottled water scam is re-sealing the water bottles, so just use iodine. Not perfect, but it helps.
-By 'rickshaw,' I mean auto-rickshaw.
-haggling is a good thing.
posted by Amizu at 2:20 PM on January 29, 2007

Here's an article about food in Bangalore, recommended to me by someone who really knows the city.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:52 PM on January 29, 2007

I live in Bangalore. Mail me if you need any pointers. Meanwhile, take a look here, especially this.
posted by madman at 11:44 PM on January 29, 2007

I have been to delhi twice on business as I work for a tech consulting firm. If you've traveled a bit there is not much extra that you need to know, but here are a few things I learned:

- People walk on the left hand side in offices, like cars on the road.
- Don't eat meat outside of a 5 star hotel, even then, don't eat meat.
- Bottled water for everything. Toothbrushing, drinking, etc. No exceptions.
- Shaking head side to side (our NO gesture) means yes.
- If you go shopping bring an Indian to argue, otherwise you will pay the very expensive whitey tax.
posted by cmicali at 8:35 AM on January 30, 2007

All excellent pointers - thank you. As it turns out, Bangalore's been cancelled, to be replaced by Delhi and Hyderabad. Too bad I used up my one question... :(
posted by aberrant at 7:11 PM on February 1, 2007

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