In my previous post, I said I would share a few things that made life easier while travelling through Nepal and India, a few examples that made life more difficult, and a few things to note if you're considering moving to London.
Besides the usual handy “Lonely Planet” pointers like having a universal plug adaptor or bringing some packing cells, the following are a few things that made life easier for Boy and I while travelling through Nepal and India:
Having the Hostelworld app downloaded on my phone: Many thanks to my friend Megan for telling me about this app before we left. We booked our accommodation as we went, rather than planning each leg before we left NZ. Having Hostelworld made life so much easier because you could book reasonably priced accommodation on the bus or train before you arrived. In addition, if it's feasible, book a hostel that includes breakfast. The slight difference in cost is worth it: breakfast included means you can sit around with your fellow travellers and have a chat, and – more importantly – it gets you out of bed at a reasonable hour. It becomes too easy to sleep in every day because you don’t have a routine, but that isn’t making the most of your time!
Carry a napkin/handkerchief/rag with you: In India, lots of the food you eat is with your hands (thali, dosa, samosa…) and there are usually taps or sinks for you to wash your hands, but there’s never anything to dry your hands with. Having a little towel or cloth makes life a bit easier.
Carrying extra passport photos: to get a SIM card in Nepal and India, you have to provide your passport (which they take a photocopy of) and a passport photo, which they attach to an application and send off to the government (apparently). They link the SIM card to your visa and deactivate it after you leave the country. It’s such a hassle, but you can’t get a SIM card without it (and you need a SIM card to book accommodation!)
Examples that made life more difficult for Boy and I while travelling through Nepal and India
Packing too much stuff: Boy and I took too much stuff. Too much clothing, too much medicine, too many extra things. Before you leave, pack your bag, and then halve it. You won't need all of that stuff. We gave away most of our hiking clothes to our friend Janga (to give to his guides and porters) after we completed the Annapurna because there was no point in carrying thermals and poly-props to India, and we sent a massive parcel of additional stuff to Vicky in England because we still had too much!
Trying to book train tickets ourselves: We tried to book train tickets in the same way we booked bus tickets - leaving it until the night before. That doesn't really work for trains because they are, quite often, booked out months in advance. Our one experience of booking a train directly at the station was terrible because we had no idea what to do, and we didn't have the Indian know-how to muscle our way to the front of any queue. To get train tickets within three days of departure, you have to book a 'Tatkal' ticket which requires filling in a special form and waiting at a particular window for a very specific teller that doesn't understand what you want. The additional cost of going to an agent is worth it - save yourself the stress.
Not having a working knowledge of basic Hindi: You don't have to learn a new language, and you'll be fine with english because it's the second national language, but Boy and I should have made more of an effort. There were times out of the main centres where people (quite reasonably) don't speak english. A few basic phrases like 'Where is the train station?' or 'How much for a room?' would have been so helpful.
And, finally, things that I would recommend if you're considering moving to London.
Opening a Monzo or Revolut bank account: Many thanks to our friend Claire for letting us know about these banks. It's true that it's difficult to open a bank account in London; there are many frustrated posts on Kiwis in London saying so. Monzo and Revolut don't require proof of address, and they can be sorted out entirely on your phone. Don't bother going to a standard bank in the first few months.
Have CityMapper and AirBnb downloaded on your phone before you arrive: CityMapper is the best transport app and makes life just a bit easier when you're still trying to figure out the Underground. AirBnb costs are fairly similar to the cost of hostels (heartbreaking, I know) so they are good for sorting out your first few nights after you land. In addition, get a SIM card as soon as you arrive! Get the first one you see - not having data in London is difficult. It's much easier to book accommodation when you don't have to constantly search for wifi.
If you find a flat you like, make an offer there and then: Housing in London is incredibly competitive so if you find a place you like, get it. We were pipped to the post on several flats because people had brought their deposit along with them, ready to pay for it on the spot. I'm not suggesting you go that far, because there are lots of dodgy letting agents in London, but be ready to move into a place immediately. You can always move out later.
Above all (in the wise words of Boy) don't stress when things go wrong, because things will go wrong - it's the nature of travelling and moving. Things will be fine, as long as you keep a cool head. Easier said than done, but try your best to stay calm whenever you hit a little bump in the road.
Back on the India train; after Kerala, Boy and I headed to Bangalore (my favourite city in India) which is where I'll pick up the next post.
Bye for now,