About two weeks, ago I pushed off from Aurangabad to Hyderabad taking a 12 hour overnight train. For my first experience, I choose the 2 tier AC carriage. The cost is considerably more than the dreadful non-AC sleeper class, yet the price contrast is a slim difference from the 3 tier AC carriage. For the most part, when I take a train more than 10 hours I will spend the extra for the 2 tier, and train rides under 8 hours I will choose the 3 tier. The sleeper class will only be a last resort if needed.
The contrast between the different class carriages is that the 2 tier has breakfast and dinner service, the bed sheets are pre-packaged, the berths have curtains, and there are only 4 people in each birth. The 3 tier class there are no curtains, the bed sheets are not pre-packaged, but are clean, yet much lower quality, and there are 6 people in each birth. The sleeper class, there are no bed sheets supplied and no air conditioning. In the sleeper class, you might experience people asking you for money. All the trains have two bunks on the side opposite of the berth.
The prices for a 12 hour trip can average 1000 rupees for 2 tier, 700 for 3 tier and around 250 for sleeper class. You get an overnight hostel style accommodation that rocks you to sleep plus your transportation. $20 for the 2 tier is totally worth it for a 12 hour trip.
While I was in Bratislava at the Backpackers Hostel I met an Indian woman named Mona at breakfast; when two friendly people exist an excellent conversation follows. Since I bought my $400 plane ticket from Munich through London to Bombay in Sarajevo, I was excited to mentioned I will be traveling India. So following a positive conversation, Mona left me her email and said if I could make it down to Hyderabad her family would love to have me as a guest. I made my way down to Hyderabad and stayed with the family in their lovely home that is within a high rise complex on the outskirts of Hyderabad. From all the excellent home cooking my digestive system is now customized to spicy Indian food.
If you are traveling and not open to meeting other people you are making a mistake within your style of travel. An honest friendly disposition travels far, selfish seeking tourists do not travel—they’re just trying to see the sites through the fog.
From the different home-stays I have experienced staying with Mona’s family was the best of the best and I will be visiting them for a weekend in April before I leave India. I stayed five nights, and during I viewed two housewarming parities and a baby shower Hindi style. Also, we went to the iMax theater to watch a movie on the largest screen in Hyderabad.
Families can be very busy within the economic world so it was decided that it would be best if I purchased the Hyderabad city tour. Now for all long term readers you know that I am not a big fan of tours. Within the last three years I went only on two tours, one in Egypt and one in Turkey; however in India, the government organized tours are excellent for several reasons. First, getting around yourself with a taxi will cost triple the amount than purchasing the tour. The tours are at a low cost and you see all the major sites in one day, and the lunch during the tour is at 4-5 star resorts buffet style with good Indian food.
The family said I could stay with their friends in Visakhapatnam so I took another 12 hour overnight train and the families house was a beachfront. During this home-stay we went to a pre-wedding party. Visakhapatnam is more of a local tourist location because of the eastern beachside of India. Many people visit from Calcutta for the relaxing beach. During my stay I purchased two tours, the city tour and the excellent Araku valley tour that consisted of the beautiful Borra Caves.
An honest friendly disposition travels far, selfish seeking tourists do not travel—they’re just trying to see the sites through the fog.
Each state has their own government run tour company. Within the state of Andhra Pradesh, the tour company is APTCD – Andhra Pradesh Tour Development Cooperation. In Hyderabad, the cost of the city tour was only 270 Rupees. Unfortunately, here in India the foreigners have to pay extra for certain sites. The extras topped off around 350 rupees, yet for a combination of 620 rupees the tour is well worth it. There were all Indian tourists and one couple from France.
The Visakhapatnam city tour is priced at 300 rupees without any extras including the lunch. The Araku Valley tour was 650 Rupees that included the fun and beautiful train ride to the valley, breakfast, lunch, tea, and all the sites plus the bus-ride through the valley. I really want to return to this location and stay in the Araku valley; the area is very relaxing and beautiful. The Valley is surrounded my mountains and is a tribal region. Both tours there were all Indian tourists, many people from Calcutta.
Accomplishing a tour independently will not only cost much more, but also many headaches just dealing with the taxis and getting around. Throughout my travels here in India I will be seeking out more tours from the government run agencies for several reasons—the low cost, seeing everything within one day, and the opportunity to meet Indian tourists from other parts of India makes these tours well worth the money. Also, the tour guide never brought us to any shops—the tour guides do not work on commission; they are all certified through the government of tourism.
Today I am Puri and staying at an excellent hotel, I think I will stay put for a week then I will be heading to Calcutta. I will most likely go on the Golden Triangle Tour here in Puri.
I will be posting more individual pictures this week.