India is huge, diverse, and contradictory, so it isn’t a complete surprise that the advice one hears about India is also diverse and contradictory. Be patient. Everything seems to work out eventually. Also, don’t worry too much about what you bring. Everything is available, usually at prices much better than home.
November-February: Winter. Can be very cold during December and January without central heat, so expect to need warm clothing.
March: Indian spring, brief
April-July: Summer. Mid-April it is suddenly Very hot.
July-Sept: Monsoon season, humid
Sept, Oct: Indian Autumn
Check with your doctor about vaccinations: tetanus, hepatitis, typhoid, etc.
Your doctor is also likely to recommend you bring various medications with you and not trust foreign medications. If you forget any, you are likely to find them once you arrive, and at very low prices….. India is manufacturing many of these medications for the rest of the world.
Bottled water is readily available elsewhere, and restaurants are increasingly filtering water. Tap water may be boiled to make potable. Note that water in Dehradun has a high calcium carbonate content, so boiling also serves to precipitate out the calcium.
Many guidebooks contain dire warnings about getting sick with Delhi belly. We have found the food at school safe and tasty and we adjusted to it very quickly. It’s handy to have a little bottle of hand sanitizer to clean your hands because local custom encourages using your fingers. A prescription of Cipro is helpful if loose motions (diarrhea) occur. Local tummy remedies include drinking lassi (yogurt drink) and taking a mint capsule (pudin hara, available at pharmacies).
There are many excellent fruit and vegetable vendors all over town. General advice is to eat only what is peeled, but after a while you’ll want some salad or grapes.
Wash your own fruits and vegetables in boiled water, and better yet, add a grain or two of potassium permanganate (“Pinky”) per liter of water, available from pharmacies.
Mosquitoes: There are few mosquitoes in the cold months or during the day in warm months. Dusk and night in the warm months you’ll want to have bug repellant. If you can shut lights and doors at sunset you can avoid getting mosquitoes in your bedroom. Plug-in mosquito balm/bomb and fast-moving fan are added protection. We came with supplies of anti-malarial drugs Malarone and doxycycline and take them without side effects, but they don’t seem essential. Watch for symptoms such as spiky fever and malaria is generally treatable and not very common at all in Dehradun. At elevations over 6000 ft (Musoorie), malaria is not a concern.
TRAIN. Trains are a great, comfortable option.
Delhi to Dehradun: Book train tickets ahead. Check availability and fare on www.indianrail.gov.in. Dispatch office needs: Name of passenger, gender, age, PNR number of train, date of travel, class of travel, ticket price. Best train is 2018 Shatabdi Express to New Delhi , 5 pm departure, arrives 10:40 pm. Coach class or 1st class both include tea and dinner (545 and 1050 rupees respectively as of 4/08). From Delhi the Shatabdi is train 2017 and leaves at 6:50 am.
Bus: There are frequent buses from the ISBT near Clementown to Delhi but tickets can only be purchased on day of travel, and it is a much less comfortable ride than the train.
Air: Air Deccan (merged with Kingfisher) flies from Jolly Grant to Delhi twice per day, reasonably priced, but note it’s a 40 minute drive to Jolly Grant and the weight allowance is 15 kg for checked luggage. Connecting internal flights are generally excellent and well priced. Spice Jet, Jet Airways. Surprisingly, the booking websites for the airlines as well as for Indian Rail are currently accepting only Indian bank cards so travel agents are necessary unless you open a local bank account.
Auto-rickshaws (“tuk tuks”) are easily found and there are stands including train station, Astley Hall. Rates within Dehradun range 20-60 rupees. You can also find shared Vikram rickshaws for rupees a ride.
Number 1 from Astley Hall will take you to Rajpur village for 7 rupees.
traffic is 3-dimensional and difficult to maneuver. Auto-rickshaws are a fun, open-air way to get around and they don’t go fast enough to feel too dangerous. Their one drawback is that they’re high polluters. In Delhi , many have been converted to natural gas.
Excursions: In Dehradun, Forest Research Institute has a very good, if slightly dusty, large museum, Chakrata Road .
Tibetan settlements in Clementown and toward Rajpur have monasteries (Mind-Rolling Monastery and Satka Centre), stupas, meditation centers (nunnery at Satka Centre), a large library (Songsten), schools, weaving, women’s handicrafts that are interesting to visit, although it takes a bit of detective work to find them.
Likewise, there are many interesting NGOs and village community service projects. Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization has model farm headquarters in Dehradun.
Travel: About 1200 rupees for a full day. GMVN government travel office across from Madubhan Hotel might be useful for trekking providers.
Travel ideas: Outlook Traveller is a very good Indian travel magazine and website http://www.outlooktraveller.com/. www.IndiaMike.com is helpful.
Dhenaulti is 1 ½ hours away.
Mussoorie: 4000 feet up from Dehradun makes it a great place to beat the heat. Expect 1 hour to get there. From the “Library”, walk up Camelback Road to Happy Valley and Buddhist temple, Community Garden, Everest House.
Walk up from Woodstock School to Char Dukan (“4 stores”) cafes, Sisters Bazaar (very good food shop and handicrafts shop), pizza at the deodar hotel.
Haridwar: Train to Delhi stops in Haridwar, city of the Ganges ( Ganga ). Haveli Hariganga Philib, spa, astrologer, Rajaji.
Rishikesh: yoga ashrams, whitewater rafting, temples, evening aarti ceremony. Where the Beatles went.
Further afield: tropical paradise Kerala in the winter. Kalypso Adventures is highly recommended.
Recreation: There is a 3.8 km path in the military cantonment, that is excellent for walking or running. For long-term visitors, Yog-Ganga yoga center is internationally renowned.
Banking: ATMs are readily available. If your bank doesn’t have a reciprocal relationship, expect to spend USD 8-9 per ATM withdrawal. You can take out up to 15,000 rupees at a time. Cashing travelers checks is not convenient, fees are high, and a photocopy of your passport is required with each transaction.
Internet/communication: Bring your laptop and power chord (these are generally universal and will accept the 220V electricity source). With a small 3-pin outlet adaptor you can connect to the internet in campus houses. Having your own laptop makes it very convenient to use Skype as a phone to call home.
Many find it very cheap and convenient to buy a Reliance mobile phone when they arrive. These also work for international calls, at less than 10 cents per minute.
All over India you see STD-IST booths for making phone calls (these have nothing to do with diseases.)
Country code for India : 91. Dehradun city code: 0135 (internally) or 135 (internationally). Thus, you will dial 12 digits international and 7, or 11 digits internally for within Dehradun, and within India , respectively.
Mobile numbers are “all India ,” 10 digits starting with “9”.
Books: English Book Depot, Penguin Books. Around the corner from each other and near FabIndia, Barista coffee shop, Rajpur Road .
Starter list on India :
Fiction: Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake
Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance
Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram
Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy
Non-fiction: In Spite of the Gods, Edward Luce
Once Upon a Time in the Doon , ed. Ruskin Bond (2007, essays about local area)
Holy Cow! Sarah MacDonald
India in Mind, ed. Pankaj Mishra
The Last Mughals, William Dalrymple
In the West, Passage to India , Jewel in the Crown, Namesake, Water, Lagaan are available and recommended.
In India , be sure to see some Bollywood, even if it’s in Hindi there’s usually some English interspersed.
Also look for old B+W Hindi movies.
Hindi movies with English subtitles often need to be bought. Music World (across from Hotel Madubhan) has good, inexpensive collection to buy. Besto has the best collection to rent, but subtitles often don’t work, about a mile out Chakrata Road . VCDs are cheap but don’t have subtitles and are lower quality than DVDs.
Restaurants: There are many good restaurants, and prices are reasonable.
My Wife’s Place, Rajpur Road , upstairs in a mini-mall, past Domino’s. Excellent, creative tandoori. Perhaps the most expensive restaurant in town, at about $10 per head.
Prez: Astley Hall, Rajpur Road . Doon School discount. Tandoori and Continental. The Doon boys’ favorite for butter chicken and naan.
Kumar’s Vegetarian: Rajpur Road , next to FabIndia. South Indian. Sagar Retna is also good south Indian, farther along Rajpur Road .
Orchard: Rajpur, about 8 km away, right turn off Rajpur Road just before it ascends uphill. Excellent outdoor restaurant for Tibetan food.
Llasa: Rajpur Road in Rajpur, just before Orchard. Tibetan momos are delicious chicken dumplings.
Chhaya Bakery: In Rajpur village, with stunning views to Musoorie and excellent baked breads and homemade preserves.
McDonald’s, Dominoes, Pizza Hut are all on Rajpur Road . Indianized menus include Maharajah burger (no beef).
Sweepers and laundry men tend to show up when you need them. Pay once per month. Rates are very low by western expectations, one of the perks.
Newspapers cost 5 cents and can be delivered daily. The Times of India. The Hindu and Indian Express are also good and provide a different point of view. Other services that can be delivered to your door are massages, facials, physiotherapy, yoga classes, sitar or tabla lessons, Hindi tutors, tailor-made clothing….ask around and enjoy. Even if you don’t have time to master Hindi, it’s useful and stimulating to study.Shopping:
Tourist souvenirs: are better found in Musoorie and Rishikesh than in Dehradun. Some interesting items can be found in the Nepali handicrafts and Tribal handicrafts stores, on Rajpur Road , between Domino’s and Hotel Madhuban. Tibetan rugs and weavings at Women’s Handicraft Centre, Rajpur Road just past the Satka temple. Tibetan batik in Rajpur village.
Household items: Kumar’s Department Store on Nashvilla Road (around the corner from Barista’s) is the closest to one-stop shopping. Household goods upstairs. Foods and toiletries downstairs. Lots of imported items. Can deliver if needed.
There are many sweets shops. Ellora’s Melting Moments has Western goodies including brownies. Rajpur Road .
Venus Bakery and a few others are on Chakrata Road , closer by, for pizza bread, rusks. Further in Rajpur, Chhaya bakery has excellent baked breads, homemade jams and a perfect cup of espresso.
Alcohol is available, but not readily, and it’s usually imported and expensive. Not all restaurants serve beer. There are several nice bar/lounges in town.
Bring a bottle of good scotch from duty-free if you’re inclined to a nightcap. Himalayan apple wine, Cobra beer are recommended but hard to find.
Medicines: The hospital can order most medicines for you. There are homeopathic and aryuvedic shops closeby in town, on “suicide alley” and just beyond.
Hospital can make an appointment with a good local inexpensive dentist. Opticians are also relatively inexpensive.
Bazaars: Paltan bazaar is a side street off the clock tower.
Indra bazaar is a side street a few blocks past the clock tower. Very good for soccer jerseys.
Tibetan bazaar: beyond Indra bazaar, along one side of the parade ground, for cheap Western knockoffs.
Clothing: FabIndia, Rajpur Road
Khadi Shop is Chakrata Road , near juice bar. Government shop (sign is in Hindi only) sells fabric and clothes of handloom from villages.
There are many shops selling western clothing, including Adidas, Levis . Good one is next to Kumar’s.
Shoemakers: on Chakrata Road near bridge, for repairs and hand-made sandals.
On Beggars: Beggars tend to congregate around Barista, Astley Hall area, but there aren’t a huge number in Dehradun. You will be asked for money from ragged children who pull at your heartstrings. Resist the temptation to support a begging lifestyle. There are excellent, hard-working NGOs with projects to help poor people become educated and self-supporting, and your money is much better spent going to such projects.
On Tipping: When you are provided a service, a tip is appreciated but never required. 10% on a restaurant bill. At a hotel, ask about leaving a tip with a manager rather than handing over money directly, discourage a culture of asking for money. Also, a bit of money here goes a long way and over-tipping can disrupt the economy…if tourist services are wildly over-paid then the traditional village occupations risk total abandonment.
On Theft: Usual pre-cautions should be taken with personal property, but generally safe.
On Being Stared At: Interest in Westerners is generally friendly. Children love to practice their English with you. Enjoy being an ambassador and exchanging pleasantries (but not money/“baksheesh”, which demeans the exchange). There’s a very small minority of Indian men who “eve-tease” western women and consider them easy targets. These men are usually easily ignored.
On Dress: Indian women dress modestly. Shorts, tight t-shirts, and skirts above the shin are seldom seen. Pants and western clothes are common. The khadi shop clothes are very well suited to hot weather. For entering temples, long pants are sometimes required and shoes are always removed.
On Haggling: If you know the local price, insist on not being over-charged. Many visitors have success bargaining for low prices in the small shops. “fixed price” shops are common.