Tips for a monthlong business trip to Hyderabad
January 29, 2008 6:02 PM   Subscribe

I am going to be in Hyderabad for a month (February) for work and would welcome any feedback and suggestions. I read this thread but I have some more specific questions: I am staying in Banjara Hills at the Taj Deccan. I will probably be getting home around 9pm on weeknights. Are there restaurants, etc., in walking distance that would be worth checking out, or should I stick to the hotels? Is it an area one can easily walk around in? How safe is a woman alone at night? Are there any quick weekend trips worth doing, say leaving Sat and returning Sunday? What should I see in Hyderabad itself? I don't want to be too skittish about eating/getting sick, what are commonsense rules to follow? What are tipping conventions for hotels, restaurants, cabs, tours? Are there any guidelines I should follow in terms of dress? I would also welcome any and all other tips. Thanks!
posted by jules1651 to Travel & Transportation around Hyderabad, India (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
1. Are you sure there wouldn't be a chauffeur driven car provided for you? That's usually the norm for business trips.
2. I'm not a native of Hyderabad but there are definitely some great eats in the city. You would probably be best served by asking a native Hyderabadi about good places to eat in the city. For general guidelines Hyderabad is famous for its biryani (a rice and meat dish, really scrumptious when prepared well). I remember being taken to a Hotel Paradise for the dish but that place may not be as hygienic as you might like. Other dishes that would be worth trying are Shahi Tukda (also called Double ka Meetha -- a bread pudding made of crispy fried bread slices soaked in sugared cream) and Kubani ka Meetha (an apricot pudding -- the places that make this really well use the almond tasting kernels from inside the apricot stones as a garnish). There is a place in Banjara Hills where I've eaten these dishes (a pretty posh place where you could probably trust the hygiene of the food) but I don't recall the name at the moment. Will google a bit and let you know if I remember.
3. Banjara Hills is the poshest area of Hyderabad. I think you should be fine walking around there.
4. I think Hyderabad is generally a safe city but it's still not very common for women to be alone in the city at night. If you want to go to a nightclub or bar a taxi might be a better option. Again, this is something you should ask a native for their advice about.
5. Quick weekend trips: Not very sure about these.
6. What to see in Hyderabad itself: Hyderabad has an amazing number of tourist attractions. I found no shortage of things to see on several trips to the city. Here are some choices: The Char Minar is probably the most famous landmark. That said, it's a small structure and if open for climbing up the stairs you just climb up and down and that's it. However the streets around the Char Minar are filled with tiny stalls good for great deals on souvenirs. They are especially famous for bangles. You can get these in every conceivable shade and type. It's quite an experience.
Golkonda Fort is a beautiful and historical structure. Try to go there for a Sound and Light show. Bring some mosquito repellent along.
The Salar Jung Museum is the collection of a single man (Salar Jung) who obsessively collected a wide and crazed variety of paintings and artifacts. It's a weird little museum that you may or may not be interested in.
These were the main places that I have visited. But you should be able to find plenty of places that interest you.
7. Commonsense rules to follow: If it's hot and fully cooked you're probably fine. Avoid salads except at really posh restaurants. Be careful about water and ice. If you drink fruit juice apart from at a fine restaurant ask for only juice and no water and no ice. There's some great street food to be had in Hyderabad especially kababs so try these out if possible.
8. Tipping conventions: About 10% at restaurants. The waitstaff expect to get their whole salary from the proprietor so any tips are extra. You don't really need to tip in cabs. You do sometimes get tour guides at these tourist attractions. Depending on the time involved 50-150 rupees should be fine.
9. Guidelines for dress: Don't worry about that too much. Dress on the conservative side but everyone's seen even Indian women in miniskirts and halter tops by now.
Hope that helps!
posted by peacheater at 6:45 PM on January 29, 2008

might want to mefimail hadjiboy - I believe he lives there.
posted by desjardins at 8:08 PM on January 29, 2008

agree with peacheater on everything, esp the chauffeur.

Hyderabad is a popular place to buy pearls, should you be so inclined. note that your chauffeur probably has a relationship with a fancy showroom that he'll try to take you to. try to get a recommendation from a local co-worker of a good place to go. you can get he same quality jewelery from a small hole-in-the-wall store as you can from a fancy showroom for a much better price. also, do your research on pearls before you go, the in-store training isn't quite accurate :-)

should you get homesick, there are a few western styles malls complete with McDonalds and Pizza Hut. if you do end up at a pizza hut, notice how their cheese and toppings are made from super-fresh ingredients and taste a lot better.

this may not apply to you, but if you try to hit up the night life, they enforce a 1:1 ratio by only allowing in guys if they have girl with them.
posted by maulik at 8:48 PM on January 29, 2008

Cipro would be my advice - although I was adventurous in eating, this is a good safety net.
posted by ngn01 at 11:00 PM on January 29, 2008

It's two years since I was there and I was driven everywhere in the manner discussed above, so I don't know where anything is, exactly. However: there's a restaurant called 'Our Place' which is very good, though not traditional Indian food (and it's a confusing name when you're arranging where to meet). Another in the confusing meet-up bracket is 'Mainland China' - best Chinese food I've ever eaten, though I've never actually been to China. I'm not a huge fan of traditional Indian food, but some of the other expats dragged me to Peshawari quite a lot, notable for it's giant naan bread (seriously giant - about the footprint of two laptops end to end, enough for a large table of people) and silver plates. All of these places are very expensive by HYD standards, and at the top of the market; there are probably loads of cheaper ones if you're paying your own way.

Hyderabad is not the kind of city you walk around in - if you've never been out of the west before, this can take a little getting used to. Most of the time there are no footpaths, and it's _very_ difficult to cross the road (check out some Indian traffic videos on YouTube to get a sense of it - quite insane, but with a certain internal logic). My impression is that it would not be safe for a western woman to walk alone at night, but it depends on your ethnicity and how well you could blend in, as well as where you are. If you're looking for an easy answer though: don't do it.

Water: it can just make you glad that your toilet is near your sink, or it can make you properly, really sick. (I heard lots of anecdotal stories about westerners dieing from it, though I never managed to confirm one). Avoid it. Avoid icecubes also unless you know they're made from bottled water, and also salads washed in non-pure water. I think you should tip plentifully - your money will go far, and be appreciated.

Despite the advice above, I would skip the sound and light show; tourist central. Visit Charminar briefly, and wander in the surrounding streets (where it is in fact possible to walk relatively easily), but you will be _hounded_ by beggars of the sort that make your heart bleed and question the callousness of global capitalism. They say there are 400 shops selling bangles in that area. My hidden secret of Hyderabad is Chowmahalla Palace; it's serene and decorative and peaceful and beautiful. Please don't tell too many people about it :-) Visit 'the tombs' also (everyone in Hyderabad will know what you mean), turn your back on the most popular and best preserved, and seek out the ones which are crumbling. It made me feel like Indiana Jones (they are visible in the distance, incidentally, from Golconda Fort at the edge of town, home of the sound and light show, should you visit there; the fort itself is worth a look, but involves a lot of travel for a limited payoff). At the tombs, sometimes people will come in and sing for you, a mournful sound which reverberates in the domed rooves. It's not free; you need to tip them after or they will get upset.

Weekend trips: many parts of India are accessible by air if you're ready to travel on Friday to lengthen the weekend a bit, and Hyderabad airport is pretty good. Alternatively, the Ajanta caves are a UNESCO site and can be reached by an overnight train, which is a charming adventure. Spring for the first-class ticket unless you want to get to know some of the natives _really_ well (in seriousness, though, as a woman travelling alone you need the security of the first-class carriage. Bad things have happened further down the train). The caves are carved out of living rock. If they were in Europe or the US the would be a massive, endlessly-promoted tourist attraction, but in India they're not such a big deal. It's an interesting place.

Final tip: travel with toilet paper.

That's all I can think of for now, though I may have missed some of your questions. I wrote a blog while I was there, will MeFi mail you the link. I envy you going there for the first time. Good luck!
posted by StephenF at 11:42 PM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

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