HOW TO? Travel Tips and tricks

bleisure

How to get more comfortable airline seats:

  1. Typically “low cost” carriers have some seats with extra legroom. Book those if you want some space.
  2. Look for the good seats in economy. The exit row and bulkhead seats typically have more room than a standard seat, if you can afford them. The worst seats are the ones in the rear of the aircraft, which don’t recline.
  3. “Premium” seats cost extra, however sometimes you can get an upgrade at the gate if you are lucky.

airline seat

How to find quiet when you travel:

  1. Book where there’s less noise. The front of the aircraft is less noisy and tends to have a quieter kind of passenger (read: business travellers). On a train, look for the quiet cars. 2. Block it. Noise cancelling headsets or ear plugs are a good idea to filter out unwanted noise.
  2. Timing is everything. Don’t expect to get much quiet if you’re in New Orleans around Mardi Gras or in London during the summer break, when every attraction has serpentine queues of students and adults alike.

 What you need to know about minimum connection times:

  1. Minimum connection times are initially set by a group of airlines or by an airport operating committee. The times are built into the airline reservation systems, and are specific to airports or flights.
  2. Times can change if a terminal is under construction or an airport train closes for repairs. It’s always a good idea to check your airline’s airport-specific page for any changes.
  3. They are not a guarantee that your connecting flight won’t leave without you. They are only guidelines that are meant to get you to your destination as quickly as possible

How to write an airline consumer complaint:

  1. Be precise. Include details such as your confirmation code, flight number and travel date.
  2. Explain precisely what you want. Don’t leave the airline guessing. Are you asking them to refund your checked bag fee? Or claiming a delayed baggage allowance?

 Three things airlines won’t tell you about vouchers:

  1. Most carriers will not offer cash for a delayed /cancelled flight. Instead it will try to offer to rebook the flight or give you a voucher.
  2. You may be unable to redeem the voucher on the blackout dates. Read the fine print on the voucher before you agree to it. If you don’t like the terms, ask for a better deal, or a refund.

hotel 3

How to book a hotel the smart way:

  1. Start with a thorough search. Check an Online travel agency like Expedia or Booking.com or call your travel agent. Check the rate against the price your preferred hotel would charge if you book direct.
  2. Review the restrictions. Hotels can impose restrictions for booking through their site, like making their rooms non-refundable, so read the conditions closely before deciding where to go. You might be better off working with a big agency that has negotiated better terms.
  3. Check the incentives. Ask yourself if you really need the points or the upgrade.

 How to spot a fake review:

  1. Check the reviewer’s record. Fake reviews are often posted by accounts with little or no additional review history.
  2. Do check out the photos of the property either through the hotel itself or through people who have stayed on the property.
  3. If you see a one-star or a five-star rating or a lot of superlatives in the description, chances are you’re looking at a fake.

 What you need to know about an apartment hotel:

  1. Amenities. Most apartment hotels have kitchenettes, but they may not have an oven, in-room laundry facilities or separate living room area. Check the property descriptions carefully.
  2. Services. While some of them offer room service, many clean their rooms only weekly.
  3. Policies. Most properties generally don’t charge mandatory “resort” fees. But it’s important to pay attention to their cancellation policies, which can vary.

hotel room 2

How to get a hotel room upgrade:

  1. A special event. Honeymoons rank high on the list. Hotels will try to make your special occasion more memorable if you ask.
  2. A special circumstance. If you’re thinking of coming back to the hotel and bringing a big group with you, mention it. If you’re planning to return again in a month or a year, say something. Anything that sets you apart as a more valued customer can sway a hotel to upgrade you.
  3. A special need. Some of the larger rooms are more disability-friendly. If you need extra room to accommodate a wheelchair, or walker, the only room that might fit you is a suite. Don’t be shy about asking.

car rental

Tips for getting a vehicle when they run out of rental cars:

  1. Confirm your reservation: Contact your car rental agency a day before you arrive. Always bring your reservation confirmation to show the rate you paid. Make a printout, just in case the battery on your phone dies.
  2. Arrive on time: Check in as close as possible to the time indicated on your reservation.

How to get a refund from a travel company:

  1. Patience. Give the company at least a week to respond to your refund request and two credit card billing cycles to pay you.
  2. Persistence. Don’t let months pass by without letting the company know that your money is still missing. If necessary, set a calendar reminder so that you don’t forget.
  3. Politeness. Angry demands for a refund and threats to take a company to court almost always backfire. The company may refer your case to its legal department, where it could linger for weeks or months. Be nice!

 How to select the right travel app for your next trip:

  1. Download from a trusted source. That would be iTunes or Google Play. 2. Read the stars – and the reviews. The best travel apps should have at least four stars. Pay attention to the reviews, more so if you need the app for a specific purpose, like translating a particular language.
  2. Test for any flaws, such as consumption of too much data or battery life or even if is accessible anywhere in the world, before you take it on the road.

bag

How to pack select the right kind of clothes:

  1. Does it match your trip? You definitely won’t need that jacket for your beach vacation, but you surely could use a light windcheater in case it rains. Bug repellents, sunscreens, lip balms, should be the staples if you’re going on an African safari. Simplify your choices of clothes, carrying the essentials rather than over packing the suitcase.

 How to avoid getting robbed on vacation:

  1. Don’t leave your valuables, passports, laptops, ipads, cameras, cash etc in your hotel room open to view. Lock them up in the safe or the suitcase in case you are not using them.
  2. Don’t flash your jewelry, cash etc

How to not look like a tourist (even if you are one):

  1. No maps! Don’t walk around with a giant map in your hands. Instead, keep the map on your phone – and stay cool.
  2. Slow down. Tourists try to do everything in a day. If you stop running, you won’t stand out.

tourist

 

 

 

PC:Getty images;Shutterstock

 

 

Don’t let hidden costs ruin your holiday.

flight-booking-reservations-918x516

Holidays are something everyone looks forward to. My family loves to travel and there is always a budget we have in mind before taking the flight out.

So if ever we are suddenly burdened with additional expenses and unforeseen costs, it irks us. Which is why it’s best to do some research, and read the fine print to build some extra padding in our travel budgets, so we can tide over those pesky hidden costs without ruining our holiday?

  • Reservation

Booking a reservation for your flight or hotel online is so common place now. But whenever you may need to speak to an agent for some clarity on your booking or finding out other details such as booking attractions/car rentals they may often charge you. Much of the times this gets included in your billing as other expenses /taxes and often goes unnoticed. Make sure you know this beforehand.

Tip: Call for clarification or to ask any questions, but book online either directly with the airline or through a third-party site like Expedia or Booking.com. Just check the total price to make sure there’s no booking fee.

  • Refund

Man proposes and God disposes. So many times we have had to cancel plans last minute due to other obligations. And then you either re book or cancel the trip completely and that’s when you end up paying hefty cancellation charges which could be almost close to the actual price of your ticket.

Tip: Some OTA’s offer a 24-hour flexible booking period, during which you can get a refund or change your flight/ hotel without penalty or incurring cancellation charges.

  • Miles

Frequent flyer programs seem to offer great deals, but they’re not so great if you have to pay extra fees for your “free flight”. In addition to fuel charges and airport fees, some airlines will charge you just to use the miles.

Tip: Avoid the fee by booking early or using miles from an airline that doesn’t have time constraints.

  • Extra baggage

Often we get carried away when shopping abroad. Make sure you are within the permissible limits of weight for you checked and cabin baggage lest you end up paying a huge amount of excess baggage charges. Some carriers in the US also charge a rate of $25 upwards per piece of baggage checked in the economy class.

 Tip: Buy yourself a luggage scale to save the hassle by checking if your luggage is overweight in advance. If your luggage is already overweight then you can adjust some things in your carry on baggage before you get to the airport or take out the extra stuff you don’t need at home instead of having to deal with it at the airport.

  •  Currency exchange

Will you exchange money before you travel or use your card to get money out of the ATM when you arrive? Do your research beforehand to ensure you get the best exchange rate. Using ATM’s abroad generally always incurs extra transaction fees each time you withdraw cash. Although some credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee, its better you check with the bank beforehand.

Tip: It’s best to travel with a credit card or cash card when travelling abroad as most establishments accept credit/debit cards.

eur-usd-hero

  • Getting to and from the airport

Check if the hotel you are staying at provides pick up and drop service from /to the airport. Make sure to check if its chargeable or part of the package.

Most cities also have public transportation such as bus or train that offer a 2 or 3 or 7 day pass which can be used both for bus and train for easy accessibility.

 

off peak

Tip: Downloading the Uber or a similar app for taxis on your smartphone is the best way to getting around in a new place.

  • Departure Fees

Most departure fees are included in your plane ticket, but not all!  There are quite a few countries that charge a departure fees even if it is not your final destination. These fees may add up quickly, especially if you are travelling to a number of places.  Find out from the airline that you are travelling with if there is any departure fees associated with your flights.

Tip: Keep some currency aside to pay for Departure tax

  • Water

Airport security is too tight to let you bring your water into the boarding area, so if you get thirsty at the gate, you can end up spending $4 or more for a bottle of water.

Have you ever noticed that vending machine prices go up after you go through security? The airport vendors know that you have limited options, and they’ll charge you accordingly. Although you can always get a complimentary beverage on the plane, but sometimes you are either too thirsty or too embaraased to ask for water often served in the small cups again and aigan

Tip: You can’t bring the water in, but an empty bottle is just fine. Pack a reusable water bottle in your carry-on bag, and fill it at a water fountain near your gate.

  • International Roaming Charges

You may or may not plan to make calls back home to family using international roaming. Ever since Whatsapp has included calling through its app it’s become very convenient to use data to make those calls . But you never know when you might need to make local calls so it’s best to take precautions.  You can save yourself a lot of time and effort and money if you contact your service provider and select a plan that allows you international roaming for calls and data use. That way you can ensure if you need to use your phone you won’t be hit with a bill that costs more than your entire holiday.

Tip: Check with your telecom service provider for rates/ plans on international roaming and buy/activate it before you leave your home country.

  • Room Service and Mini Bars

Room service and minibars are an expensive way of having the luxury of food and drink in your hotel room, some hotels have sensors in the fridge so if you even move anything you will be charged for it.  Make sure you always have a few snacks and a bottle of water (bought from the local store) in your room so you don’t get a massive mini bar bill after your stay!

Tip: Find a supermarket nearby to stock up on bottles of water/ snacks .

Hotel-minibar

  • Resort Fee

Believe it or not, many hotels will charge what is known as a “hotel resort fee” upon checkout. Often, this fee will be an extra 10% per night. Thus, even if you have already prepaid through a site like Expedia or TripAdvisor, you will have to pay an extra 10% when you checkout. It’s essentially a higher nightly rate, hidden in the fine print.

Tip: Read the fine print, and remember that all hotels must disclose this fee upon booking. Make sure to consider the fee when you decide if this hotel indeed offers a reasonable rate.

  • Tipping

Eating out at any restaurant could be extra costly depending on what country you are in, the rules relating to tipping are different and before you know it you could have spent a small fortune on service charges.

Tip: Usually anywhere between 15-20% of the bill is followed in most countries.

  • WiFi

Nobody can do without WiFi anymore. Make sure to check out the WiFi rates at your hotel while checking in. Is WiFi included in your hotel for free or is there a daily charge?  If WiFi isn’t included it might be more economical to get a data plan before hand rather than hunting around for  a free internet café or paying hefty bills on your return.

Tip: Free WiFi ranks #1 in the list of desired hotel amenities. Check out the list of amenities before you book the room. I suggest you ask your telecom service provider to suggest a plan for data roaming.

A dollar or two here may not seem like a big deal, and even a twenty dollar fee there might just sound like something you have to tolerate. But guess what? You don’t.

In the end, you can’t get out of all of these expenses, but you can adjust your planning accordingly.

hidden

-Madhavi

 

PC: Citypress;Matador;FairFX;Tripadvisor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A train ride on a loop and a curve

toy-trains-of-india

The crispness of the cool mountain air, traversing through the slow moving train, tranquility amidst the lap of nature with green valley’s surrounding you, the veil of clouds falling on your face kissing your cheeks and filling you with its heady intoxicating mist.

Nothing quite beats the romance of travelling on a steam train or shunting through mountains. It’s no wonder, that the whistles and sounds of a steam engine featuring the humble ‘toy train’ is a staple in many a Bollywood song, even today.

We have to acknowledge the British who not only established their cantonments into the various parts of the Indian subcontinent, but they also developed many hill resorts where they could go for breaks to beat the excruciating heat in the plains.

The rail routes that they laid to reach these hill stations still exist and function with the very same engines and carriages. The Mountain Railways of India are the best example of bold, ingenious engineering solutions for the problem of establishing an effective rail link through a rugged, mountainous terrain. A trip to the hills by rail is a real treat to the eyes, with these 5 amazing mountain rail routes showcasing India’s spectacular landscapes.

1.Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

darjeeling

Inaugurated in 1881 over the beautiful hills of Darjeeling, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, popularly known as the ‘toy train’ is an engineering marvel.

It covers a distance of 88 km in West Bengal from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling in seven-and-a-half hours. The station Ghum is India’s highest railway station having an altitude of 2,257 metres. The route has 8 major bridges, 542 minor bridges and 177 unmanned level crossings. This train has the narrowest of the regular narrow gauge rail tracks and use diesel electric or steam engines.

The Railway received the World Heritage Site status on Dec. 2, 1999.

2. Nilgiri Mountain Railway.

Nilgiri-Mountain

The first leg of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway from Mettupalayam to Coonoor was opened to traffic in June 1899 and was extended up to Ooty only by 1908. The Nilgiri toy train travels all over the Nilgiri hills aka ‘The Blue Mountains’.

The main features of this meter gauge line are the unique rack rail system, and the equally unique and complicated steam locomotives.

The delightful little train covers a distance of 46 km from Mettupalayam to Ooty in four-and-a-half hours. The real thrill of this train ride is the engine which is at the back pushing the carriages up the hills its twists and turns around the hills, passing through many tunnels, bridges, traversing forests and tea plantations.

On July 15, 2005, UNESCO recognized Nilgiri Mountain Railway as a World Heritage Site.

3. Kalka-Shimla Railway.

kalka

Shimla is a very popular destination with Indians as it was to the British. The Kalka-Shimla Railway line which opened to traffic on Nov. 9, 1903, connects the residents of the plains to the summer capital of British India.

The six-hour-long, 96 km journey, crossing with 101 tunnels, is an engineering masterpiece on narrow gauge and covers many arched bridges and several picturesque stations. The slow movement of this train enables many travellers to sit on the doorway or stick their heads out of the windows to smell the fresh mountain air and enjoy the breathtaking visual of the Himalayas.

On July 7, 2008 the Kalka-Shimla Railway was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

4. Matheran Light Railway.

matheran

The Matheran Light Railway, which connects Neral to Matheran , was opened to traffic in March 1907. The floods in 2005 forced its shut down but it was re-opened in 2007 much to the people’s delight.

This narrow gauge line takes the sharpest curves when compared to any Indian hill railway line. The view along the journey is indeed breathtaking, and the 21 km ride is covered in two hours. The unique feature of the train ride is the One Kiss Tunnel (the only tunnel on the route, which earned its nickname because the tunnel is just long enough to exchange a kiss with one’s partner).

All stations on the route have solar power and wind energy plants,and energy-efficient LED lights and fans. the train travels over forests and mountains to reveal the astounding beauty of Nature.

5. Kangra Valley Railway.

kangra

Commissioned in April 1929, the Kangra Valley Railway line starts at Pathankot (Punjab) and ends at Joginder Nagar(Himachal Pradesh), travelling on a narrow gauge for 9 hours and 20 minutes, covering 164 km.

Apart from the Kalka-Shimla railway it is the second railway that runs through the beautiful hills of Himachal Pradesh. There are only two tunnels on this stretch, which give tourists an opportunity to enjoy the mountains and valleys without any distraction. This railway line, which is famous for its 993 bridges, connects the state with its hydroelectric power house.

darjeeling-06

All the five mountain railways of India are around a hundred years old. These train trips epitomize the old saying about the journey being as memorable as the destination. There are intriguing stops along each of these lines, leaving it up to the traveller to have nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the scenery.

 

 

 

 

PC: Better India; Tripadvisor; Wikimedia; Travel Leisure India;Discover My Travel

 

 

Sustainable Tourism

queens necklace

Mumbai’s Marine Drive has a curvy, 3.6 km long boulevard and is perhaps, one of the most famous landmarks in the city.

Popularly known as the Queen’s Necklace,  when the coastline gets lit up in the evenings, is an essential on every tourist’s itinerary or for that matter even the locals as they love taking a casual stroll around the periphery of the Marine Drive or simply sitting by the Arabian sea watching the sunset.

However, the same Marine Drive is now in the news, albeit for the wrong reasons. Recently the Arabian Sea washed up more than two lakh kilograms of garbage on the shoreline after the recent high tide.

mumbai

Needless to say, it was the same litter that people tossed in the sea and other water bodies.

However, Mumbai is not the only city that has been grappling with the issue of sea pollution. In 2018, the Great Pacific Garbage, a long stretch of area in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California, created waves on the internet for the shocking amount of garbage it contains that is choking all the marine life.

pacific

All this reiterates that it is high time both tourists as well as local citizens and government bodies , take the responsibility  to maintain the sanctity of the destinations specially those that are abundant in natural resources and find ways and means to reduce the impact of ecological degradation.

The NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) is the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India, providing both directional and policy inputs. The Aayog supports a cooperative federal structure where the Center and the States prepare development policies together.

Under its vision documents for 2017-2024, one of the focuses is on the impacts of mass tourism in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) in particular.

NMSHE

IHR is significant for India. Stretching for about 2,400 kilometres, the IHR extends from the Indus River in the west to the Brahmaputra River in the east. It covers 10 mountain states and four hill districts of India that make up the country’s north and north-eastern borders.

Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh , Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya , Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttarakhand and West Bengal are the part of the IHR.

IHR also shares borders with six neighbouring countries (China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Bangladesh)

Springs

With its towering snow-laden peaks, majestic landscapes, rich biodiversity and cultural heritage, the Indian Himalayan Region has regularly drawn visitors and pilgrims from the Indian sub-continent and across the world. Every year an average of about 100 million tourists visit the ecologically sensitive area which is home to about 50 million people.  This number will soon be touching the 240 million mark in seven years, putting a huge pressure on the state’s natural resources.

himalayas

Some of the proposals of NITI aayog in promotion of Sustainable Tourism in IHR are:-

  • Disaster management and Pollution control (including Climate Change)
  • Visitor Control Mechanism to track the number of visitors every year.
  • Tourist Traffic Management Mechanism to forecast and manage vehicular traffic in the destination.
  • Recommended introduction of a “green cess” from consumers to increase tax revenue and assist in maintaining critical services
  • A zero waste policy to reduce, reuse, and recycle solid waste.
  • Mapping and revival of springs across the Himalayas
  • Ensuring that infrastructure such as hotels, restaurants, and road and rail networks in forest areas are ecologically friendly.
  • Controlling decibel levels (No loud talking or music in protected areas).
  • Resource and Ecology management mechanism, to conserve biology as well as, restore ecology for better management of natural resources and biodiversity.

himalayan-glacier

Tourism is a very complex industry involving numerous stakeholders and requiring significant amount of resources. As more regions and countries develop their tourism industry, it produces significant impacts on natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution and social systems.

The need for sustainable planning and management is imperative for the industry to survive as a whole.

 

 

 

 

 

Source Credits : NITI Aayog
PC;NDTV;Reddit;wwf.org.au;Countercurrents.org;NMSHE; Downtoearth.org;

Mumbai- My heartbeat!

gateway

Mumbai is an incredible city. And I do not say this because I was born and brought up there.

But the fact of the matter is that the city holds a very very special place in my heart. For me it’s like a love affair that will always continue even though I don’t live there anymore. (how I wish I was)

The city though is a ‘dream city’ and its not just because of being home to the biggest film industry of the country. The city has an electric, energetic, and throbbing vibe that you just can’t miss. The city is life itself. And no other city in India can hold a candle to the vibrancy that Mumbai has.

You can sense the little hearts around my eyes don’t you?

And the best part about the city is the people living there. They go about their business very seriously yet having loads of fun at the same time. The people make this city what it is. Their spirit is undeniably perhaps the one thing that other people find most unbelievable about Mumbai.

They have survived bad infrastructure, floods and repeated terrorist attacks, only to go back to work the very next day. Not something you’d see in a lot of other countries, and something that continues to startle other people to this day.

Here are a few gems of the ‘maximum city’ that you probably didn’t know about.

It Was An Island!

mumbai-final

Yes! Mumbai was a name denoted by 7 closely located islands which were Portuguese territories until the 16th century. In 1961, Portuguese gave England these 7 islands as dowry in Catherine of Braganza & Charles II marriage. Around 60 years (1784-1845) were taken to combine these 7 islands into a coastal city.

First Train in India!

train

On 16 April 1853, Bombay (now Mumbai) witnessed first train movement in India. With 14 carriages & 400 passengers left Bori Bunder (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal- CST ) for Thane in Maharashtra. Bombay (now Mumbai) also witnessed India’s 1st rail bridge. 

Sprawling slums and the rich-poor divide!

mumbai slum

I know, I know, what could I say about Mumbai’s slums that hasn’t already been spoken, written or sung about in articles, films or music videos? The slums have been analyzed, studied, investigated, dissected, condemned, saved, conserved, exploited and celebrated — but there’s no denying their place on this list. Dharavi, once Asia’s largest slum and housing nearly 300,000 people, and the slums in other areas of Kurla-Ghatkopar, Mankhurd-Govandi and Bhandup-Mulund — all larger than Dharavi — account for more than half of Mumbai’s population of close to 13 million people. Another Mumbai cliché that never fails to amaze visitors is the rich-poor juxtaposition. Where else in the country, or the world, can you find slums or shanties, next to multi-million (and now multi-billion) dollar homes and hotels?

National park in the middle of the city!

Sanjay-Gandhi-National-Park

Leopards, deer and monkeys right in the heart of Mumbai. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is a unique 104-square-kilometer park within a metropolitan area, -a protected forested area that houses around 5,000 insect species, 1,000 plants species, 250 bird species, 40 mammal species, 38 reptile species, nine amphibian species and ancient Buddhist caves going back to the first century. In fact, Mumbai may be the only city in the world to have a fully functioning national park with freely roaming large carnivores, within city limits.

A Geological Wonder in the Heart of the City!

gilbert

Located in the Andheri West, the unique Gilbert Hill is a 200 ft single column of black basalt rock. Also referred to as Gilbert’s Toe, the hills is more like a sudden protrusion from the ground with a sheer vertical face around it. It was formed a little over 65 million years ago when molten lava was gushed out of the crust and cooled, during the Mesozoic Era.

Secret Tunnels and Escape Routes!

20-GPO-Mumbai

South Mumbai still retains its old world charm, filled with beautiful colonial-era buildings and other monuments. Not surprisingly, it has also clung on to some secrets. An underground passage speculated to be dating back to 200 years was built by the British who were worried about a possible French invasion. The entrance to the tunnel and its existence only came to light a few years back , when it was discovered below, what is today, Mumbai’s General Post Office (GPO).

Colaba Railway Station!

colaba-station

Ask any youngster in Mumbai and it’s likely that he /she hasn’t even heard about Colaba station.  Although long forgotten, Colaba once had its own railway terminus, and began operations in 1893 .It was housed in an imposing stone building with high towers, just adjacent to Wodehouse Road and next to Sassoon Docks. As the city kept expanding and reclamation efforts accelerated, the rail line between Colaba and Churchgate had to be severed, to make way for the creation of Backbay Reclamation.

Best Food Suppliers in the World!

Dabbawala

If you ever travel to Mumbai and notice a person wearing a white cap and holding too many lunchboxes or tiffins as they are known by, you might wonder what will he do with these many lunch boxes? Known as Dabbawalas these people are a part of the giant organization. They collect the tiffins of food from homes to reach the customers office and return back with empty tiffins back to the homes, efficiently without any flaw. Every day they transfer 260,000 dabbas only in 6 hours. They work 52 weeks of a year and more impressively have got a six sigma compliant. Usually transporting these dabbas by the local train they get only 40 seconds to load and unload these boxes. They have been doing it since 1890 every day at a very steady rate. But what is even more surprising is that even after their average literacy being of 8th grade, they are chosen for various management case studies and their management skills are discussed in colleges like Harvard and Stanford.

Many places of Worship!

pagoda-mumbai

Mumbaiites are very proud of their cosmopolitan culture and their embrace of religious diversity. This is one of Mumbai’s proud traditions, with temples, mosques, gurudwaras, and churches to be found in almost every corner of the city. In the older areas you will also find fire temples and synagogues. What most of the city’s inhabitants do not realize is that Mumbai is also home to Chinese and Japanese temples that date back to the colonial era. At the time, Mumbai was an international trade hub, attracting merchants from across the world. Many lived and worshipped in the city. In the Mazgaon area, you will find Kwan Tai Shek, a Chinese temple, while at Worli Naka, you will find Nipponzan Myohoji, a Japanese Buddhist Temple.

mumbai bandra

So the next time you are traveling through Mumbai, look around and soak in the rich history. These interesting facts should enrich your experience and help you appreciate the amazing city.

 

Madhavi

 

PC:Tripadvisor;Dezeen;IseeIndia;IndiaTimes;Midday;TimesofIndia

Baby on Board !

kid2

I love kids. The quiet, cute and cuddly kinds.

They make me all mooony when I see them throw an unintended smile at me. I wish I could lip-bite into their chubby cheeks or just tickle them on their tummy.

However travelling with them ….well that’s a completely different story!!

baby1

I did travel a lot with my young ones. And although travelling with 2 little boys was quite a handful, I was mostly lucky when they would sleep through most of the flight. But you can’t be lucky always now can you?

There were always instances when everything would go topsy turvy, with either one of them being absolutely crabby, and then I would be spending most of the flight carrying them around the aisle so that the rogue would keep quiet!

Seriously, I would be a reck myself hoping that the fellow passengers do not throw me off the plane as well!!! And back in those days we didn’t have the luxury of travelling with mini screens full of entertainment to keep the tots occupied till they got tired and fell asleep.

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Travelling with a ‘hangry’ cry baby can be a nerve racking experience especially on a long haul flight. After all, tots can be messy, tantrum throwing, and easily bored little creatures when confined to a cramped aircraft seat.

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Some of the tips that I am about to share have helped me survive on what otherwise would have been every flyers worst nightmare!

  • Carry their favourite toy or their ‘security blankie’ always. It keeps them secure and comfy.
  • Monitor their eating even on a plane. If it means having to carry some of their favourite snacks, it will be well worth the trouble. Remember if they are fed they will be less cranky. Keep an empty bottle handy which you can refill with water every now and then to keep them hydrated.
  • Carry their activity books, some Flash cards or sticker books or you can even use that in-flight magazine to play I Spy, or even let the child interact with other flyers as long as they are both enjoying it.
  • Pack a few items which are multiple purposes. Baby wipes, for example, can be used to clean messy hands or tray tables or get food off of clothes. A fleece jacket can also be doubled up as a blanket, pillow or even help you cover up if you are a nursing mother.
  • In this digital age don’t be too strict with ‘screen time’ while travelling with kids. Download their favourite content before you set out. That way they will be quiet and comfortable, and so will you.

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Plan your trip the best you can — and then just roll with it. Booking red-eye flights, for example, or flights that coincide with nap times, can help reduce the need for a lot of in-flight entertainment.

While you plan hotel accommodations, don’t forget to stay somewhere with space to explore. Kids hate being cooped up in small spaces. So to avoid meltdowns, try to stay near places that they can run around and explore.

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TOP TIP: Put empty water bottles in hand luggage and refill them after security.

TOP TIP: Psychologists say young, nervous flyers like to feel in control of their situation and that toy planes they can pretend to fly may help

TOP TIP: Be ready with distractions if your children don’t like seat belts and have sweets at take-off and landing to avoid blocked ears.

TOP TIP: Cabin crew say one toddler is sick on almost every long flight, which is why children need top-to-toe changes of clothes and parents need spare T-shirts. It’s why wet-wipes and plastic bags for smelly clothes are ‘must-carry’ items.

TOP TIP: Try to catch a few winks when your baby is asleep. It will renew your energy too.

TOP TIP: It’s a good idea to let the child roam around and stretch their legs at airports in between inter connecting flights.

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To be clear, these tips aren’t meant for everyone. Every kid — not to mention every trip — is going to be different. What you plan to do and where you plan to go may mean that some of these suggestions just aren’t feasible. And that’s completely OK.

And lastly keep your composure. There’s not much you can do to tone down that passenger who complains the moment your child sneezes or giggles. Here’s what you need to remember: As long as you’re trying (and what parent isn’t?), you’ve got almost everyone on your side.

 

Safe travels

Madhavi

 

 

Overtourism – Coping with the Crowds.

mt everest

Come to think of it, we are more than responsible in bringing about a lot of damage on the planet by travelling.

In this age of everybody wanting to travel someplace, overcrowding is inevitable. And it hits you the moment you reach the airport which seems packed to the brim. Mass tourism affects popular cities that are being overrun with short-term visitors, or  beautiful sites that are becoming polluted, or when the pristine landscape of a hill station is being cleared of its natural fauna to find land for hotels, or even when ancient ruins are being pounded by never ending footfalls. You realize then that somewhere we need to stand up and say NO!

What shocked me more than all of these reasons was the fact that even the Mt Everest was not spared.  When you imagine the summit of Mount Everest, you picture a quiet, snowy peak far from civilisation. But a striking photo, taken by mountaineer Nirmal Purja, in May’19 shows how the reality is a lot more crowded.

Experts say crowds at Everest have also increased in recent years because expeditions have become more popular. Many “traffic jams” are caused by unprepared climbers who “do not have the physical condition” for the journey which risks not only their lives, but the lives of the Sherpa’s taking them up the mountain.

But regardless of how often we tell ourselves that we’re “travellers” and not tourists, good intentions don’t change the fact, that we’re all just a part of the huge number. And we are destroying the world by loving it to death.

The question is though: what can you do? I mean I love to travel I gain too much from seeing the world, as I’m sure so many other travellers do. So how do we find a balance of loving the world without destroying it?

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The crowded beach of Maya Bay,Thailand

The government is doing its fair share in controlling overcrowding by  implementing entry and exit timings with managing  footfalls around the world heritage sites and some more listed below;

  • In Italy’s hugely popular Cinque Terre, a phone app is being trialed that shows visitors real time congestion on the trails, and points them in the direction of alternatives.
  • For some places though, like Maya Bay in Thailand, and Boracay Island in the Philippines, the strain of overwhelming visitation has led to the extreme measure of closing the destinations to tourist’s altogether: an enforced time out for clean-up and recovery.
  • In one of the world’s most remote destinations, Easter Island, has recently changed the length of stay for tourist visas from 90 days to 30; an effort to curb the impacts of rising tourism on the tiny Pacific isle.
  • Even though there’s stringent management that includes a pollution-free perimeter zone, and capping the number of tourists visiting the Taj Mahal, there’s no improvement outside the tourist attraction itself. With an enormous number of tourists visiting the monument on a daily basis it is slowly falling to the victim of pollution.

taj-mahal

However as an individual, the choices you make about where you go and what you do as a responsible traveller, can actually go a long way to helping ease the pressures of over tourism.

1. Search out Regional Alternatives

How about getting off the tourist trail and visiting destinations with lesser known sights and experiences?

Take the island of Bali. With attracting close to 6 million tourists in 2018, visitors tend to congregate around the island’s south, in heaving tourist centers like Seminyak and Kuta. But outside of Bali’s places such as Munduk, Padang Padang, Amed with some eco lodges in Munduk and Amed is where you can still find paradise, mingle with locals, and experience Bali’s distinctive island culture.

munduk

2. Visit during Off-Peak Periods

When you visit a popular place outside of peak times, you’ll be contending with fewer tourists, and you’ll often be able to take advantage of cheaper flights, accommodation and experiences. For instance, in Croatia, Dubrovnik’s Old Town turns into a tourist crush during the hot daylight hours of the cruise ship season. But a morning stroll along the city walls before the crowds arrive, or an evening wander through its lantern-lit streets after they’ve shipped out? Magic.

off peak

3. Support the Local Community with Your Time and Money

While tourism can bring a much-needed boost to a local community, by staying longer, sleeping in locally owned accommodations, eating at smaller, locally owned restaurants, and joining tours or experiences run by responsible local operators, you can feel more confident that your valuable dollar is going directly into that community.

Safareya local

4. Explore Beyond the Hotspots with a Local Guide

For many of our over-loved destinations, crowds are often concentrated around a handful of hotspots. Exploring a destination with a responsible local guide who will often take you to places most tourists never get to see, can reveal an entirely different side to the place you’re visiting, and get you away from the over-touristed mainstream.

guides

5. Be an Eco-friendly, Responsible Traveller

‘Leave no trace’ that’s all there is to it!

By taking steps to minimise the waste you produce on your travels, and encouraging others to do the same, you can do your bit in helping to ease the pressures on this front. A cloth shopping bag, or a reusable water bottle, will immediately reduce your environmental footprint as you travel.

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What we need to do is to develop the idea of conscious travel and start to imagine a better alternative. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand or silver bullet; change will need to occur at the grassroots level, one destination at a time.

 What about you? Have you ever attempted to give back to the places you visit? Post a comment below.

Madhavi

 

 

 

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Satisfying my wanderlust -one step at a time

Whenever I travel to any new city, first thing I do after checking in is to frantically figure out my way around town, the use of public transport if any, and  how do I buy and use the oyster/subway cards or on what side of the street do I catch the bus on. But I am always utterly delighted when I discover that I just need my own two feet.

Google-Maps-Subway-App

So, I just want to say a big thank you to some of the world’s walkable cities -I am pleased to meet you, and appreciate you for the fact that you allow me to explore your beauty all on my own.  I love getting lost on your cobblestone streets and quaint bazaars. I love watching the street performers and stop by to listen to them singing or playing funky music on the guitar. I appreciate the quiet privacy I get even when sitting on a busy street bench, enjoying my Gelato and people watching (Something I can never do in Delhi).

Walkable towns and cities offer so much more in terms of sightseeing, something a bus or train ride can never lay claim to. But I have to warn you that not all cities are well suited to pedestrians (I’m looking at you, Los Angeles), and offering my utmost respect for those people that prefer to get around on foot (I’m looking at you New Yorkers).

I’m amazed at just how many miles I walk by the end of my trip (always forget to turn on the app on my phone) and the excitement of exploring a new city always trumps the exhaustion of a long day on my feet.

 While I may not do enough justice by listing out all those cities here, there are some of the few here I have had the opportunity to explore on foot and are just fantastic to walk around.

brooklyn

New York

This one literally takes the cake. I am amazed at how much walking I can do in NYC even if I do not want to do all of the touristy things. I always look at Google maps and the subway app before I venture out and work out exactly where my must-sees are, in relation to each other. I feel grouping things geographically is by far the best way to maximize my time and minimise unnecessary walking. Using the subway does get you pretty close to most of the sights, such as Highline and Brooklyn Bridge, but exploring all of New York City takes more than a subway ride. Around Central Park, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center it is much easier to walk the blocks exploring this frantic city as you go by.

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Philadelphia

Consistently ranked as one of the country’s most walkable cities, Philadelphia is ripe with colorful neighborhoods, great buildings, and cultural sites to explore. Seemingly a world away from Philadelphia’s colonial sites, the South Philly section has a rich history of its own. Cheese, chocolate, spice, and olive oil stands are plentiful at the famous outdoor market, which is open daily and is America’s largest.

duck

Boston

Smaller when compared to New York City, Boston has its own charm coupled with  elegant neighbourhoods, historic streets, and American landmarks from the Back Bay to Beacon Hill and  the Freedom Trail. Newbury Street known for its trendy shopping, Copley Square for its beautiful open square and the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church give a cool vibe to this city. The Boston Public Garden one of the loveliest green spaces in the city also has one of the most photographed statues — the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture. The North End is a captivating, lively quarter, with its many Italian restaurants and picturesque streets that transport you back in time.

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Washington, DC

One of the best features of Washington, D.C., is its walkability. Not only are many of its major sites and attractions grouped together on the National Mall, but the city is a series of true neighborhoods knitted together, easily traversed by foot. Whether it’s historic or cultural, food- or monument-centric, watching the cherry blossoms in full bloom or taking a tour of the memorials by moonlight, DC has many things to offer its tourists.

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Vancouver

Vancouver is popularly known as the ‘walker’s paradise’, all thanks to the pedestrian way finding maps that encourage a person to walk through the city. Among the most famous walks, False Creek to Granville Island takes the front position where we would stop by and shop at the Public Market for locally grown fresh produce. Downtown Vancouver, Gastown, Stanley Park and the Buchart Gardens which is an easily reachable place from the downtown Vancouver adds to the list.

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Venice, Italy

Probably the originator of the “getting lost” in Europe mentality, (which I have yet to feel) Venice is the ideal place to explore on foot.   Of course, a gondola ride along the canals is a wonderful treat; however, the true magic can be found in the streets along the canals.  Walking on the Rialto square and around St Mark’s square, you will experience the locals going about their daily business shadowed by the city’s historic structures.

lon 

London, UK

London is one of the most foot-friendly cities in the world and one of my favourite too. Its bridges and the London Eye (on a clear sunny day) provide some of the best views in London. Central London has most of the landmark locations which are closer to each other. The City Visitor Trail also known as “the Square Mile” a guided walk maps a route through the heart of the City, taking you past a range of famous attractions on a stroll through the historic heart of the capital to see St Paul’s Cathedral, Guildhall, the Bank of England, Mansion House, the Monument, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge – along with a host of City churches, like the famous St Mary-le-Bow.

canals_of_amsterdam

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Amsterdam’s flat, compact, and lively streets make the city an ideal place to explore on foot. In fact, walking may be the best way to appreciate gorgeous 17th-century canals, leafy parks, and former industrial docklands.

yu-gardens

Shanghai, China

With clean, wide sidewalks, and interesting sights along the way, Shanghai has lots to offer for a fun walk. The Yu Garden is the number one tourist attraction in Shanghai, and the only example of a Classic Chinese garden left in the city from the dynastic period of Chinese history. The added advantage is that it borders the Yuyuan Tourist Mart, where one can browse through a wide selection of touristy trinkets and test out bargaining skills. There are two parts of Shanghai, worth visiting –one a scenic/cultural part of Shanghai in the French Concession, and the second covers a famous temple and Shanghai’s art district through a more local route.

BondiCoogeewalk

Sydney, Australia

The 6km trail from Bondi to Coogee is perhaps the most famous coastal hiking trail in Sydney, New South Wales and perhaps even Australia.  Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach walk treats visitors to some of Australia’s best beaches and most impressive ocean views. Not only tourists but even the local Sydney-siders come to Sydney’s east coast every day to enjoy Australia’s best beaches, stunning ocean views and lots of parks, cafes and restaurants on the way.

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New Delhi, India

If you have ever been to Delhi, you will notice that it is a huge maze, and to manoeuvre it can be a task—especially if you are new to the city. The best way to soak in the rich culture of Old Delhi is to take some guided tours that are a combination of walks and cycle rickshaws rides, as you absorb the street vibe , the historical sites, and bazaars, and experience the various culinary treats and street foods. Although there are many heritage monuments dotted around the city, the Heritage Walk is an excellent way to connect the historical dots, since the guided walks are themed. That way, you learn what one monument has to do with another, as it was intended all those years ago.

Another interesting tour is the Cycle Tour where a group of 8-10 participants is accompanied by a friendly tour guide in bright orange, who will maintain a nice pace as you pedal through Old or New Delhi.

While you will definitely enjoy most of the ‘walking tours’ in some of these places, do note that you need to take heed of the following steps before you do so.

  • Walking tours usually involve long distances with each excursion lasting around two to three hours. While you’re possibly used to walking around your hometown, it is advisable to check out the general terrain of the city where you’re going. I have seen many a person who is part of a group tour getting excruciatingly tired after a few miles of walking that the entire group feels the strain.
  • Condition your body and build adequate stamina so you can enjoy exploring your vacation destination. Wear proper footwear and break in your trekking shoes by wearing them regularly for a few weeks in advance.
  • One of the prerequisites of enjoying a walking tour is keeping up energy levels and hydration. Eat a filling breakfast to fuel your body for the trek and bring bottles of fluids.

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Exploring a city or town on foot is one of the most exciting ways to get a closer view of its inherent charm. Not only do you get an immersive experience of its attractions and people, but you’ll understand it better than any conventional excursions.  Guided walks and city tours are available just about everywhere; to find them, do an Internet search, consult a good guidebook or contact the local tourist office.

Enjoy!

Madhavi

 

 

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Top of Form

Micro Travel-When less is more.

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With time travel trends keep changing almost every year or so. The ever evolving travel market is always on the lookout for extraordinary experiences which can satiate the ever demanding need of the current generation.

Increasingly, most millennials are foregoing see-everything, do-everything vacation junkets for Micro Travel.

Micro travel is focused, have less-frantic itineraries that concentrate on limited locales and activities and offer a deeper, more rewarding appreciation of each destination. You see less but you see more. Seemingly contradictory but true.

bleisure

A trend to be noted is that travellers who are short on time for ex. the “bleisure” trip, where business travellers tack on an extra night or two to have a fun, leisure trip.

For some travellers, that kind of schedule checks all the boxes and allows them to say, “Yep, I’ve seen Croatia” or wherever they find themselves in.

I’m not judging, but just thinking about an itinerary like that makes me stressed. In the end, for me, it would all be a blur.

I’m a devotee of small, personal and concentrated travel. For me – and I am sure increasingly for more and more people – travel shouldn’t be a chore.

Too often, with the fast pace and ever-present “chatter” of modern life, it isn’t surprising that we want our leisure time to be calmer, more meaningful and more digestible.

But if you are enthusiastic and are loaded with short bursts of energy, micro trips are definitely for you. Micro trips have to be well planned, which means you can maximize destination time, minimize wasted time and cut down on expenses with clever flight times and usage of optimal time zones.

Most micro trips generally center on great flight options which allow you to leave after work or land near the same time you take off. Yes, it may sound slightly crazy, but you need to be looking for destinations which involve overnight flights where you Leave after work and land in your destination in the morning.  Or taking flights going west or short destinations you can fly to in the morning and return in the evening.

By taking advantage of any of these options you’re able to maximize time and spend the hours you’d be sleeping let’s say in the air instead of hotel rooms. This way you can also save huge money. By flying overnight you easily avoid one night of hotel and if you can find an evening flight back, you get two full days while booking just one night.

For Example USA to Europe, Or Vice Versa- Thanks to overnight flights from the USA and late departing flights from Europe back to the USA, you can put in a full day’s work whichever direction you go. You could take a 10PM flight from New York to London on a Friday evening, land Saturday morning, buy one night of hotel for Saturday night and spend all day in London Sunday, before heading back to New York on the 8PM flight, which gets into New York around 11PM.  No days of work missed, and you have two full days of exploration ticked off the bucket list. If you’re starting in Europe, you could take an 8PM back from the USA and land in Europe in time to make it to the office on time.

Shot Code C

Depending where you are from your micro travel could be anything such as some indigenous culinary experiences with locals in France teaching you the secrets of baking the perfect baguettes, or learning the art of making the famous blue pottery in Jaipur.

pottery

Maybe it’s a journey to visit the dozen most historic pubs in London. Or even a small-group kayak trip on the Dordogne instead of the usual wine tour of Bordeaux.

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Or experiencing the wonder of living in a real palace turned hotel in Udaipur.

udaipur

Micro trips are for the people who are ready to throw themselves into a destination, make the most of every hour and turn up to work on Monday with a better “how was your weekend?” story than the rest of the office combined.

 

Madhavi

 

 

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