Advice On Tipping In India

Tipping makes many people feel awkward as there is uncertainty about whether it is appropriate at all and, if it is, how much to tip. Here I provide a few guidelines on the subject for your trip to India.

Tipping is normal in tourist areas in India and is a very important source of income and, when provided, tips are gratefully and discretely accepted. However, tips should only be given when you feel it is merited by good service.

A good guide will reveal the full history of the Taj Mahal.
A good guide will reveal the full history of the Taj Mahal and ensure you get there at the right time of day.

Hotels can be particularly awkward due to the large number of staff that you will encounter during your stay. I have been in the situation where several people have helped load bags into my car and I have provided tips to the main contributors, but as I do this I noticed a host of others, including security staff, gathering around expecting something. It becomes impractical to hold enough small change to sustain this. The other problem is that the tips are only going to the front-line staff.

Thankfully, most hotels now have a central tipping box and you should look for this and use it if it is available. If there is not one, I suggest you complain and suggest one should be provided.  As a rough guide a tip of Rs100 per guest /day is a reasonable midpoint.

India has very high quality hotels with great service so how do you tip appropriately?
India has very high quality hotels with great service so how do you tip appropriately?

Drivers: A tip of between Rs 200/ 400 per day is reasonable. To put it into perspective, a driver in India will earn between Rs10,000 and Rs 15,000 per month so you can see that the tip is a significant salary supplement.

You may be with the same driver for several days and they can be invaluable help in getting the most from your trip, so weigh up how useful they have been and if they have followed your instructions. They can guide you to restaurants etc. On the other hand, they take you to un-requested tourist shops which can cause considerable detours and wasted time.

Guides: Rs 200/500 per day for a personal guide is a reasonable range. Again, judge whether they have been working in your interests or if they have taken you to shops when this has not been requested.

Restaurants: 5% to 10% of the bill if you are happy and also if service is not included on the bill.

Drivers and Guides in National Parks: There is very strong local support for the national parks and tiger reserves as so many locals benefit directly from the tourists that visit. When driving in the parks you will have a driver as well as a park ranger and sometimes a naturalist, supplied by the hotel, as well. This may appear to be overkill but it is providing livelihoods to many local families. Try and get the same driver for the whole time you are in the park and train him to give you what you want. If he provides a good service tip him in the range Rs 100/Rs500 per day.

A good guide and driver can help you spot fantastic wildlife like this Bengal Tiger.
A good guide and driver can help you spot fantastic wildlife like this Bengal Tiger cub.

The ranger will be different for each session so you will only get them for half a day at a time. I would suggest tipping them in the range Rs50/ Rs100 per session. Do not be afraid to give nothing though. We have had some rangers who we have even noticed sleeping rather than game spotting.

 

 

 

For more advice blogs see:

To Visit – Explore India – travel

Bandhavgarh National Park– First wild tiger sighting and 12 Tigers in total

Nothing prepares you for the thrill of your first wild tiger sighting. It is one of the world’s greatest predators, the largest member of the cat family and, in the wild, is both beautiful and awe inspiring. So when, on the morning of our second day in Bandhavharh, our game spotter shouted “tiger!” the level of excitement was palpable.

The tiger was on the move we were told, but despite our best efforts, we could not see it. There was a flurry of activity and the driver repositioned our car, an open top Gypsy, to where he believed the tiger would emerge and, sure enough, a few minutes later we saw the unmistakable stripes of the tiger moving in the long grass. Initially, just fleeting glimpses but it was clear she (as we discovered later) was heading our way!

We saw the unmistakable stripes of the tiger moving in the long grass
We saw the unmistakable stripes of the tiger moving in the long grass

The Gypsy is a small Indian off road vehicle that is completely open at the back, to the sides, and above, so standing in the back just a few yards from the tigress as she emerged from the thick grass gets you about as close as you can be to these wonderful creatures.

The Tigress emerged just behind us
The Tigress emerged just by us
The Tigress just behind our car.
The Tigress just behind our car.

I have travelled to many African game reserves and absolutely love wild areas and wild life. I have seen, up close, the African big five and am now delighted to say I have seen Tigers in the wild too. It is one of life’s great experiences in my opinion.

The Gypsy is a small Indian off road vehicle that is completely open at the back, to the sides, and above
The Gypsy is a small Indian off road vehicle that is completely open at the back, to the sides, and above

A group of four of us has had arranged, through our tour providers,  a three week trip to India and we wanted to enjoy the wild life as well as historic and contemporary India so as part of our trip we booked four nights at Bandhavgarh National Park.

We travelled down from Agra to Katni by train, where our driver met us, and after a couple of hours we were at our game lodge having a late breakfast. The lodge itself was a wonderful surprise, positioned within a few hundred meters of one of the park gates set in beautiful grounds that are teeming with bird life. Also, we could not have had a warmer welcome from the staff and the service they provided was top class throughout our stay.

The lodge itself was a wonderful surprise set in beautiful grounds that are teeming with bird life.

Included each day was a morning and afternoon game drive. The morning drives leaving the lodge before dawn and returning around 11am. The afternoon drives leaving at about 2.30 pm and returning at sunset. The exact times change through the seasons.

Discussing expectations before the afternoon game drive.
Discussing expectations before the afternoon game drive.

I have written some tips on how to get the most from your game drives.

I must admit to having limited knowledge of Indian birds but I really enjoyed spotting them, and getting to know just a few of the, over thirteen hundred, species. Looking around the grounds of the lodge and even around the gate whilst waiting for entry to the park produced good results.

In the first two days in the park we also saw a very good range of other wildlife and here are a few images of them.

Langurs, whilst common, are very entertaining to watch. It is worth stopping by a troop and just enjoying their antics.

The park is made up of, fairly open, dry deciduous forest with a lot of Sal trees. There are also areas of grassland as the photos below show.

In part two of my write up, I will include, amongst other things, other tiger sightings including some videos of a mother and her four cubs. Also, some photos of  a visit to a 10th Century, thirty-five foot long, statue of Lord Vishnu within Bandhavgarh national park.

I will also post summaries of our visit to Kanha and Tadoba-Andhari National parks.

I highly recommend Bandhavgarh national park. We had a wonderful time there. If you are interested in visiting follow this link. Explore India

IOM TT – Action Packed

The figures are staggering. Motorbikes of 200 brake horse power hitting close to 200mph (320kph) whilst lapping a highly challenging 37 mile course. What can be more exciting than that?

I defy you to watch the video above on full screen without your hair standing on end!

Also read “What Makes it the Greatest Motorcycle Race Ever!” for a broader view of the event.

The IOM is synonymous with the world famous TT races that occur every year in early June.  It is probably the most famous motorcycle race in the world with a history that runs for more than one hundred years. The first TT race was held in 1907 with the only breaks occurring during the two world wars.

The course has changed over the years but the current course is 37.7miles long and very challenging. It is run on what are, normally, public roads and features an apparently never ending series of bumps, jumps, bends, and stone walls. Given all this, it is staggering to think that the best riders have lapped the course at an average of over 130mph. Incidentally, I had the pleasure of meeting the first ever man to complete a lap at an average of over 100mph. Malcolm Uphill was, in later life, a glider pilot at the same club as me in South Wales. Like many great people, he was very unassuming and I would never have known of his achievements if another club member had not pointed it out to me

The huge influx of visitors, the population doubles during the TT, results in a real festival atmosphere that make this a must-do item for all keen motorcyclists and fans. The huge numbers attending means there is also much more going on than the races themselves. There are events on all non race days and a very lively atmosphere at night.

I have put together a brief guide to what happens in the IOM during TT race week by summarising key information and providing links to other good sources.

What’s On:

The 2016 Race Schedule provides an example of what to expect:

Latest Schedule from here

Saturday 4th June
11.00                           – RST Superbike TT Race (6 laps)
14.00                           – Sure Sidecar TT Race 1 (3 laps)
15.30                           – Superstock/ Supersport/ Lightweight practice (2 laps)
Monday 6th June
10.45                           – Monster Energy Supersport TT Race 1 (4 laps)
12.25                           – Sidecar qualifying (2 laps)
14.15                           – RL360 Superstock TT Race (4 laps)
16.05                           – Lightweight qualifying (1 lap)
16.25                           – TT Zero qualifying (l lap)
Wednesday 8th June
10.45                           – Monster Energy Supersport TT Race 2 (4 laps)
12.25                           – Sidecar qualifying (1 lap)
14.00                           – Bennetts Lightweight TT Race (4 laps)
15.45                           – Senior TT qualifying (1 lap)
16.20                           – TT Zero Race (1 lap)
Friday 10th June
10.15                           – Sure Sidecar TT Race 2 (3 laps)
12.30                           – PokerStars Senior TT Race (6 laps)

Non Race days:

Sunday 5th June: “Mad Sunday” – Members of the public do laps of the famous course (hence the name). Normal traffic is on the roads so bikers are supposed to keep to speed limits but clearly many do not. Care is needed around the roads on this day.

Tuesday 7th June: Ramsay sprints – a day of sprint races along the promenade in Ramsey, here you can see some wacky and crazy machines! The Ramsey Sprint is a drag sprint over an 1/8th mile strip. Anyone who is willing to pay the entry fee can compete. Motorcycles from all over the world enter and some bikes have special modifications, which makes things very interesting.  This is an all day event with food, exhibits and entertainment.

Thursday 9th June: Laxey Bike Show – a chance for a wide range of exhibitors to show off their bikes. It is essentially a motorcycle show run by bikers, for bikers, and of course those interested in the diverse nature of motorcycling on the Isle of Man. The organisers have gone to great lengths to ensure that the show is not just a pass through event and have organised a ‘live music’ event on the green, and this has been complimented by a local Laxey Heritage Trust display.

Other Activities:

The 2016 entertainment calendar has not been published yet but to give you an idea of what to expect look at the 2015 Entertainment Schedule . I will republish this write up with a link to the new guide when it is available.

Entertainment includes such things as Bushy’s beer tent and a funfair both in Loch Promenade Douglas, numerous motorcycle related exhibits and further action in the form of Stock Car racing in Onchan and, usually, the TT mayhem touring stunt show. There is live music on most evenings and air displays on several days. Your best bet is to review the entertainment calendar to get the full picture.

There are also various tours available here during TT fortnight and these range from a VIP package which includes a closed road lap of the course, in a course car, through to a coach tour with a previous champion. It is worth booking ahead if you want to do any of these.

Where to Watch:

There is no charge for watching the TT races as you are free to watch from any safe location, however, to get the best views, in safety,  it is best to view from a paid for location.  These vary from residents and charities providing spectator spots through to the official viewing points. Here is a guide on where to watch. iomttbreaks Guide

Grandstand courtesy of IOMTTbreaks.com
Grandstand courtesy of IOMTTbreaks.com

There are a number of fanzones which have to be paid for but provide grandstand seating and have toilet facilities.

Creg ny Baa Courtesy of IOMTTbreaks.com
Creg ny Baa Courtesy of IOMTTbreaks.com

Course Map Of IOM TT

Getting around:

There is a very good public transport network on the IOM with, both, train and bus services.

Buses: The Isle of Man has an extensive bus network – Bus Vannin – which serves the whole of the Island on a regular basis including Ronaldsway Airport and the Sea Terminal in Douglas.

Useful TT Information – The bus service goes around the TT course from Douglas to Ramsey when the road are open, there is no access once roads are closed. No bus service travels on the mountain section from Ramsey to Douglas, but this can be accessed via the mountain railway.

Detailed Information On Public Transport can be found here:

Want to go the IOM TT

The tour above includes a 4 day tour of Scotland on hired bikes. We can reduce the tour to just include the IOM TT if you wish.

Go to the IOM in 2018 – book now. Scotlandonwheels.com

Staying Connected in India

India Internet and mobile Phones

Staying connected whilst you are on your India holiday is very high on most people’s priorities. It allows you to stay in touch with friends and family, but also, to get support should you need it. Here are a few tips on how to achieve this in India.

Send photos to your family of the Taj Mahal
Send photos to your family of your visit to the Taj Mahal

The India mobile phone network is very good, I suspect, that like many developing countries, it is jumping straight to the new technologies. In my experience, the key to staying well connected for all your needs is your mobile phone. By setting up tethering, creating a Wi-Fi hotspot from your phone, all your devices can access the internet. I will explain what you need to do below in detail but, in short, you will need to install an India SIM card.

Calls to home will be a lot cheaper with an Indian SIM as well as calls to other members of your group, these may even be free if you buy cards from the same provider. But also, crucially, this will be a very economical way of accessing the internet. If other members of your party are close by, in the next hotel room for example, they can share your connection.

Our excellent tour providers used email via the mobile network to keep us informed on our itinerary. This included such things as the name and phone number of the driver for the next leg as well as any changes to flight times etc.

Upload your Wildlife Photos to Facebook
Upload your Wildlife Photos to Facebook
Tiger
Transfer your first Tiger Pictures

On my travels I have found that almost everywhere I have been in India I have had mobile data connection, and this includes the lodges at the Tiger reserves. Sometimes that connection has been slow “G” but often it has been “H+” or even “4G”. I am referring here to the little letter that comes up next to your mobile signal strength and this indicates the speed of your data connection. However, even “G” is enough to send and receive simple emails.

For an explanation of these letters read this or search the web. Mobile data speed explained

Most, but not all, hotels will offer Wi-Fi but the majority charge for it, typically Rs600/day, and it is often very slow. If it is free you should use it if you can, but if they are charging at the sort of rates indicated here it is usually much better to use your phone. The exception is if it is a fast connection and you are using a huge amount of data.

Even in the remote areas, where the hotel was not able to offer Wi-Fi, I was usually able to get a basic connection through my mobile phone.

Rajasthan Puppets
Rajasthan Puppets

What you Need:

  1. An Unlocked phone of the correct specification. If you have a phone on contract you will need to contact your phone provider and get it unlocked. You will probably have to pay but it will be useful to have it unlocked for all your travels. I prefer to buy a phone outright, with no contract as it is unlocked from the start.

A modern Android smart phone will normally be fine but if you are in doubt you may need to do a bit more research here.

  1. An India SIM card. Your tour provider can advise and help you get one shortly after your arrival in the country. You will need the following documentation
  • 2 colour passport photographs of yourself
  • A photocopy of the personal details page of your passport. You will also have to produce your passport for verification.
  • A photocopy of your Indian visa. Once again, you will have to show the original.
  • A photocopy of the proof of your home address in your country of residence. This could be your passport, driver’s license. Remember to carry the original document along for verification.
  • Proof of where you will be staying in India. A letter from your hotel confirming that you are a guest for example.

The Cost:

At the time of writing it is possible to get a package, from Vodafone India, with 2GB of data and a good talk time allowance, valid for 28 days, for Rs1100. This includes India wide roaming.  On a recent trip of four weeks, and heavy usage, I used just over 2GB of data. So this is excellent value and, as I say, it is very often faster than the paid hotel connection and only costs the equivalent of a couple of days paid hotel connection. Vodafone India

Wi-Fi Tethering from Your Phone:

It surprises me how many people don’t know about the ability of their Smartphone to create a Wi-Fi connection for other devices as this is an incredibly useful feature. You are able to create a wireless link to the internet as if you are connecting to a normal router.

Your phone will allow you to set up a password and even decide if the network is visible so you can ensure that no one else uses your data.

Setting up tethering will differ slightly by phone type but here is how you would do it for my android phone.

Settings – Tethering & mobile hotspot –Set up Wi-Fi hotspot.

From here you can use the network name suggested, or change it to one you prefer. You will also be asked to set up a password.

Then: Settings – Tethering & mobile hotspot – mobile Wi-Fi hotspot (turn it on)

Now simply go to your laptop or other Wi-Fi connected device and look for the network and log-on as you would for any other wireless connection.

I find even when travelling in my own country it is usually better to use Wi-Fi tethering than pay for it. You do need to check if your mobile phone provider charges for tethering though!

Viktorianz Destinations

Udaipur Market

Udaipur, City of Lakes

Udaipur, City of Lakes

Udaipur Lake

You will almost certainly recognise images of Udaipur even if you no nothing else about the city. It is the location of spectacular palaces on, or near, the lake making for very beautiful scenes. Udaipur also claims, with good justification to be the cleanest city in India.

Udaipur is the historical capital of the Mewar kingdom and the current Maharaja, the 76th, lives in part of the city palace.

The City Palace:

The exquisite city palace with, its fusion of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture, is beautifully maintained and is considered to be the largest of its type in Rajasthan. Part of the palace is lived in by the current Maharaja, and another portion is a luxury hotel, but that still leaves the majority of the building available to visit. The palace was built in the 1550s when Maharana Udai Singh II moved his capital here.

Our very knowledgeable guide made the tour of the palace a real pleasure. He was able to take us to the best locations and fill us in on the history in as much detail as we wanted.

Images of Udaipur City Palace Below

Boat Trip on Lake Pichola:

DSC_0499
Enjoying some refreshments after our tour of Udaipur City palace

A boat trip of Lake Pichola is a wonderful way to relax after touring the City Palace and there is the chance to enjoy the beauty of the palace from the lake. The boat trip takes you to Jag Mandir, the Lake Garden Palace, where you may alight and enjoy the views before taking your ferry back.

Images of Jag Mandir and the City Palace from Lake Pichola

A Tour of Udaipur Market

After touring the historic sites, another great experience was visiting the town and the fruit and vegetable market. Our guide helped us to find some delicious street food. We enjoyed masala chai and vegetable samosas and, later jalebi (Indian sweets and so many good ones to choose from). We had a big breakfast in the hotel so these snacks made an ideal light lunch.
We all felt Indian sweets were very under rated in the UK and so hard to find. There was plenty of choice here!
The vegetable market was really alive and full of colour and noise. It is the sort of thing that has disappeared from the UK completely.

Images of Udaipur Vegetable market

Cultural Theater

To round off a full day we visited Baghore ki Haveli for some Rajasthani theater. The show lasted about an hour and it was full of colour, drama and humor.  It exceeded my expectations and I would definitely recommend it.

The video below shows just a few of the highlights, including a Rajasthani puppet show.

Video by James Rattray

There were many more sights to see so we could really have done with a bit more time so we left wanting more.

A few images of our excellent hotel.

Viktorianz Visit Udaipur

Attari Wagah Border Post

The Drama of the Attari border Crossing:

I can’t think of anything that I have witnessed that matches the drama and spectacle of the daily ceremony at the Attari border crossing on the Indian Pakistan border.

Every evening there is an elaborate ceremony that culminates in the lowering of the national flags and the closing of the border gate.

Background:

The Attari Wagah gate is on the grand trunk road , approximately 30Km north of Amritsar, and is a major trade route between India and Pakistan. In fact, it was the only road crossing between the two countries until 1999. Typically, over five hundred lorries a day make the crossing.

DSC_0062
The border gate
DSC_0086
Lowering the Flags

 

The Ceremony:

Every evening hundreds of people make there way to the border, particularly from the India side, to take their seats in the grandstands and enjoy the party.

The warm up act above. The cheering from the crowd was intense and really was a great build up to the main event.

 

Some of the pageantry of the ceremony itself in the video above. These soldiers have amazing physical attributes with their ability to lift a leg well above their heads. Try lifting a leg horizontally in front of you! Not many people can do that.

Some have compared the ceremony to a display by birds of paradise!

Getting to the Ceremony:

As a result of the tension that exists between India and Pakistan there is a great deal of security at the border. There are numerous security checks of, both the car, and all the individuals as you make your way to the border crossing. Also, clearance needs to be gained before the visit and details of the car provided.

I would strongly recommend that you work with a local agent that can ensure all the logistics are in order.

Viktorianz travel to Amritsar

http://www.viktorianz.com/destinations