Take a cheap unlocked phone and buy a pay as you go sim card forthe journey – This will set you back around 300 ruppees for a month , but most hostels will have free pickup from station airport and this is the only way to get in touch with the driver
Take Passport Photos -You cannot get a simcard above without a passport photo!
Book trains in advance – Trains get very busy in India , it seems to be on of the best ways to travel so book at least 3 days in advance or as early as possible – You can use this site : http://www.cleartrip.com/
Don’t get ripped off by taxi’s / rickshaws – When you get off a bus / train / plane in India there are always taxi’s/rickshaws lurking for tourists. The best way it to ignore these as you get off the bus and start walking in a direction away from them , when you get a few minutes away , pull over a tuk tuk / taxi and get a proper rate! If possible ( but I only found I could in Mumbai ) get them to go on the meter! Also when getting in make sure they know where you are going , there was many a time when I got into one and the guy had no idea where it was and proceeded to drive around on the meter asking everyone where the place was, if you have the contact details of your place you are staying , call them up and pass the phone to the drive
Find active accommodation – Hostelworld.com has not let me down yet , search for the city and view by ratings , you can read the reviews. This means you can arrive in a hostel and find people doing the same route or pass invaluable advice on!
Carry change or small notes– This seemed to be a classic trick for street vendors , spending time bartering for something for you to produce a 100 ruppee note and they don’t have any change. They then try to sell you more to get the full 50 or taxi’s ask for the whole thing. Any established place you visit like restaurants or fast food chains , change up the 500/1000 notes there!
Local Guides at the sites – When you go to any of the famous sites such as the Taj you will be approached by various local guides, they will only take payment after the tour has finished , but most of these sites do already have English translations around so I recommend this only if you are very keen and a good listener as the Indian accent is hard to hear over a crowd
Visa – Getting the Indian visa was probably the hard visa I’ve ever had to get. I used the post method through their website in.vfsglobal.co.uk . I filled out all the forms signed them and sent my passport off special delivery with a return envelope. I get my passport back a week later asking not for 1 photo but 2 and they are not the standard passport size they are 2 inch x 2 inchs. Turns out no where does these , the only place I could find locally was a professional photograher and he would do 4 for £35! As I’d already lost £10 getting the forms sent back in, I thought I would head into london to a visa center to make sure everything was fine and also get the 2inch photos in their photo booth in Victoria. This was a 2 hour wait to drop off , then another 45 minutes to collect
No Visa Runs ! – Usually most countries you can pop out then pop back in the next day to get an extended visa. On the Indian visa it clearly states then if you exit you have to wait 60 days before you can re-enter. I met alot of people hoping to pop to Nepal and back but this will be a one way journey!
Food – Some dishes I would highly recommend trying –
Tali , its like India Tapas , you get a whole dish of different curries , breads and sauces
Pav Bhaji – Popular in Mumbai is a potato based curry with bread
lassi – Yogurt based refreshing drink
Chai Tea – Masala based tea , the workings that go into making this is incredible, I was amazed it was a milk based tea!
A Paneer Dish ( There are many! ) – Panneer is white cheese , but its cooked into a dish like tofu
Bombay Mix – We walked past a shop just selling bombay mix , what started out as watching it being made , turned into trying 20 different types of deep fried snacks sweet/sour/hot/spicy !