Work trip to Bangalore
March 22, 2004 10:42 AM   Subscribe

My company has just decided to ship me off to Bangalore for two weeks, starting FRIDAY. Please, inform me about what I need to know about travelling to India.

I am specifically interested in stuff like currency exchange (can you just use ATMs?), power conversion (just an adapter?), useful info about customs to adhere to, what to eat/not to eat, what shots to get, what to wear, etc. I have 5 days to iron this crap out, and I am totally unprepaired for it all. Thanks.
posted by Hackworth to Travel & Transportation around Bengaluru, India (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hope you've had your vaccinations. Three guys at the company where I work have been to India recently, and man, the doctors just pumped them full of stuff before they left.

If you haven't had them yet, it may be too late, as I think some of them take a couple of weeks to kick in.
posted by kindall at 10:55 AM on March 22, 2004

My first visit was 3 weeks ago, so I guess I can tell you all the stuff friends told me.
- Don't drink tap water. Always bottled.
- Don't risk eating food off the street (I did, and was OK, but apparently it was a risk. It's yummy though).
- It's HOT! I didn't go to Bangalore (Mumbai, Gujerat and Goa only) but linen and cotton clothing is ideal. Open shoes/sandals are also good.
- I took travellers checks and MC and Visa were accepted at loads of places. I didn't try the ATMs. TC's were changable practically everywhere though.
- If you can, make time to visit bazaars/street fairs/craft markets. And make sure you can bring stuff back with you, as you will almost certainly be tempted to buy...
posted by darsh at 10:58 AM on March 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

what darsh said (excellent suggestions, sir)

and also remember that when Indians say a certain food is "spicy" or God forbid "hot", it means it's basically unedible by the average Westerner

watch out. spicy Mexican food is nothing compared to Indian. nothing.
posted by matteo at 11:07 AM on March 22, 2004

Eat with your right hand only. Its considered really gross to use both hands, but I'll spare you all the reason why.

And please say hello to my former job.
posted by Fupped Duck at 11:25 AM on March 22, 2004

Don't risk eating food off the street ...

Just realised that sounded like I picked a sandwich up which was lying on the sidewalk. Just to be clear, I meant food sold by street vendors - which all looks delicious
posted by darsh at 11:29 AM on March 22, 2004

I live in the wonderful city of Bangalore. I'm an Indian to boot. ;)

You can mail me at madman AT madmanweb DOT com if you want answers to specific questions or help while you're here.

(My profession: I own a South East Asian food restaurant here.)
posted by madman at 11:29 AM on March 22, 2004

  • The local currency is the Indian Rupee, 100 paise make 1 Rupee. A bottle of Coke is Rs. 10.
  • India uses the 240V power system, so be sure to carry a transformer.
  • Don't drink tap water, always bottled. Stick to brands like Bisleri (made by Coke)
  • Be sure to visit the beautiful gardens in Bangalore, and if possible Manglore too!
  • Go have breakfast/lunch/dinner at MTR, they make the best idlis, dosas, and uttapams in all of India.
  • Since you are going to Karnataka, you should be able to talk to most of the locals, including rickshaw drivers in at least broken English. It's harder to talk to them in Hindi :)
  • Always pay taxi and rickshaw fare by rate card. Don't overpay, you can tip if you want to, it's not really a must.
  • Tip at most 10% if you really want to, otherwise Re. 1 - Rs. 5 on a Rs. 15 - Rs. 50 lunch is fine.
  • It's going to be blistering hot for you, remember to drink water regularly.
  • Try out the Indian soft drinks, especially Thums Up, it's *the* king of colas. Frooti is a mango based drink, you might like it. Limca is a lime-lemony soda.
  • Karnatka is very popular for it's sandalwood products, so be sure to check out the numerous shops selling sandalwood trinkets. You can get excellent Eucalyptus oil there too, it's great to sniff for colds (don't drink or eat it).

posted by riffola at 11:38 AM on March 22, 2004

Actually, take a look at this site which should help. There's also a city manual that you'd do well to read and heed.

The weather at the moment is quite balmy and summer is drawing closer. It's about 34 degrees Celsius (about 93 deg F) in the day. You wimps (j/k) will find it hard to take. ;) Bring cotton clothes.

Yes, definitely stay away from the street food and water. Ask for mineral water, which is available pretty much everywhere.

Fupped Duck says:
Eat with your right hand only.

Assuming you're eating with your fingers as Indians do, of course. If you're using a knife and fork, please do use both hands, or else it will take a while longer to finish your meal. :)
posted by madman at 11:38 AM on March 22, 2004

Oh also call random strangers "Boss" as in "Boss, what's the time?" or "Boss, how do I go to IIM-B?" or "Boss, where can I find a good place to eat?" It's fun, and it works! :)
posted by riffola at 11:43 AM on March 22, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks a lot everyone, this looks like it's going to be a doozy of a trip, so I appreciate it all.
posted by Hackworth at 11:55 AM on March 22, 2004

"Boss, how do I go to IIM-B?" or "Boss, where can I find a good place to eat?"

arrey, pagal hai kya? aadmi ko chootiya mat banao ;)

I'm just imagining a Westerner saying "boss" and ROFLMAO. It definitely needs the local accent to go along with it.
posted by madman at 11:56 AM on March 22, 2004

Oh all right, maybe saying "boss" is not a good idea with an American accent, but it sure is fun!
posted by riffola at 12:11 PM on March 22, 2004

Don't drink the water. Make sure you buy bottles of water before you go to bed as you'll be thirsty in the morning. Eat street food if it doesn't have meat in it. Relax. India is a great country (continent?) and apart from the Amritsar, Bangalore is easiest on the psyche of an urban Westerner.

Drink a bottle of beer for me - preferably "Rosy Pelican", a brand I liked so much i wanted to name my daughter after it.
posted by Pericles at 12:46 PM on March 22, 2004

preferably "Rosy Pelican", a brand I liked so much i wanted to name my daughter after it

Are you talking about Kingfisher? I've never heard of Rosy Pelican.

Brucey, is that you? Heck, how are ya' mate? Did you know is back online?
posted by madman at 2:12 PM on March 22, 2004

Be sure the bottled water is new. I encountered many refilled bottles. Don't let the waiter open it for you.

Bisleri is both a brand name of bottled water, and a generic term for bottled water of any brand.

Go to nice restaurant and try dosa, idly, and uttapam--all fantastic south indian foods.

I gave Rs20 (40 cent) tips to everybody, always, and they always seemed happy.

Bring some toilet paper with, or learn to use running water and your hand instead (this may not be necessary, but it was where I went, in Tamil Nadu--depends on how "hi-fi" your lodgings are, to use a Hinglish-ism).
posted by goethean at 2:48 PM on March 22, 2004

VISA. No-one has mentioned this but almost certainly you're going to need one to get into the country, wherever you're from. I got one two weeks ago and it took a day to get and cost £30, but best to go early in the day. Make this a priority.

In the UK, an NHS practice nurse could tell you what shots you need, not sure how this will work in the US. I'm loathe to recommend things but you will already be past the useful dates on Hep B and Rabies. There are others you should consider and your tetanus should be up to date.
You should be on Malaria pills NOW though, the NHS recommended ones are pretty strong for India, and you start taking them one week before travel, throughout the period in India and for 4 weeks afterwards. Professional guidance as to malaria pills is always a good idea as some pills can really fuck you up mentally.

Get travel insurance.

Go and buy a guide book. Lonely Planet should be fine. This will let you know most of the planning you need to do as well as being useful when you're out there.

It will be hot, I got back from Delhi on saturday, typical temp was 35-40C (95-104F) throughout the afternoon, and stayed above 30 well into the evening (though I was told this is warmer than normal for mid-March).

Most of the food I had was pretty spicy, even where it wasn't advertised as being so, and where it wasn't even Indian cuisine.

You're going to pay more for lots of things as a non-indian, some of this may be as a result of government policies on tourist sites, mostly it will be jacking up prices, get used to it and remember - you're still not paying very much.

Your hotel will likely be happy to change notes for you, carry some small denominations around with you for tips.

Agree prices with taxi drivers before you go places.

Enjoy yourself.
posted by biffa at 4:54 PM on March 22, 2004

i was talking to an indian guy last week about visiting there and the thing he felt would most disturb me was the continual begging, yet no-one here has mentioned it. was he exaggerating? i think he's from bombay, so maybe that's different?
posted by andrew cooke at 6:10 PM on March 22, 2004

There is some begging, but also fellows who follow you around and who want to "help you" somehow, especially at tourist sites like the Taj Mahal. I have never found blowing them off to work very well, so I now hire one to "assist me," or I speak French to them and pretend I don't know what is going on.

I haven't been to Bangalore, but I would never try to drive in Delhi. I have seen travel stories talking about renting a car and they make me laugh. Get a driver to take you around.

Don't drink the water. Don't rinse your toothbrush with tap water. I got a skin infection from taking a bath at a Delhi hotel last year. Expect to get diarrhea at some point: take some medicine for it with you and deal with it.

There are ATMs around, but not very many. It's a good idea to have someone local take you there and hang around while you get your cash, but get some before you go, small bills. It's also better to get someone local to help you buy things to avoid the "skin tax."

You need a visa and you need malaria pills; avoid Larium.
posted by tranquileye at 6:31 PM on March 22, 2004 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, taking application to Indian consulate on Wednesday, getting shots tomorrow (I hope). So, travellers checks, eh? I suppose I can handle that. And I hope our offices there are air-conditioned.

I had a thought, about buying goods. There are some cool cell phones that are currently out in Europe and Asia, but not in the US. Anyone know if you can buy a tri-mode phone there and bring it back to the US easily? I know, not a typical tourist question, but it's what geeks think of on vacation.
posted by Hackworth at 9:26 PM on March 22, 2004

Be careful, or you'll be assigned a MeFi shopping trip!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:44 PM on March 22, 2004

Somewhat related question: I've only traveled outside of the U.S. once, to Buenos Aires for a week (not counting a day trip to the lovely Juarez, Mexico). I didn't need, or wasn't told, to make any medical preparations for my trip, and/or precautions for when I got there. Now I understand why it is often advisable for people not to "drink the water" in certain foreign countries. But I'm curious if people outside of the U.S. have to take similar precautions when visiting the United States. Is there anything in the States that is inherently problematic, medically speaking {ehem}, for my foreign guests? Curious.
posted by Witty at 11:14 PM on March 22, 2004

Witty, when I came to the US to study in '98, I was advised to take shots for Hep B and a few other boosters to my vaccines. It wasn't to protect the US from my germ carrying body, it was to protect me from the different germs in the US.
posted by riffola at 8:08 AM on March 23, 2004

Your answer sounds like you might have been a bit offended by my question. I hope that isn't the case. I was simply curious as to what things, viruses and the like, a visitor to the U.S. might have to consider before coming. I guess it's just a matter of different strains being equally as dangerous as possible exposure to completely new viruses. I wonder what kind of risk I was taking by not medically preparing for my trip to Argentina? Oh well.
posted by Witty at 1:29 PM on March 23, 2004

Don't forget your sunscreen, shades and a hat.
posted by biffa at 2:39 AM on March 25, 2004 [1 favorite]

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