A few basic questions
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Aug 1, 2013 8:28 AM Last Post By: bzmot
Jul 27, 2013 10:25 AM
A few basic questionsHi,
We're going to India for the first time in a few days. We'll be spending a month there - precious little time unfortunately. I have some simple questions that to a person who travelled there might seem silly or trivial but are important to me. So please bear with me. I'm a fairly experienced tourist and been out and about but India they say is something else. So here goes:
1. Can you get mineral / bottled water anywhere and is it safe to drink? I mean, I have a Steripen. Assuming we'll be mostly on the tourist trail (main sights in Karnataka/Kerala, Delhi plus the Leh area for some trekking), should I bring it to be on the safe side?
2. The main trails around Manali or Leh in August - how cold can it get? We' re planning to camp. I have a choice of two sleeping bags - one offers comfortable conditions down to 0C, the other - down to -18C (tested both in the field and it checks out mostly :) ). Naturally for less bulk and weight I would prefer the smaller one. Will it be enough?
3. Does India have nationwide GSM providers or do I need to swap the SIM card depending on region and local coverage? If the former, can you recommend some good, cheap service, something with a large and inexpensive data plan preferably?
4. Are Indian ATMs generally ok with European (or generally western) issued Visa cards? Should I bring cash? You understand I would really hate to tote a bag of cash with me for obvious reasons. So are ATMs fussy in India? Any particular banks you might recommend?
I would really appreciate your answers! Helpful comments will be rewarded with beers/wine/lassi (whichever you prefer) if you happen to be around Mumbai early August :)
Jul 27, 2013 10:39 AM
11. You can get packaged and bottled mineral water anywhere and everywhere in India, and it is safe to drink. Some reliable brands of the top off my head are: Bisleri (haven't seen much of this brand around lately for some reason though), Aquafina, Kinley and scores of others.
2. As it happens, I just returned from Leh yesterday. :) Leh is warmish in the day and a bit chilly at night, it can get a bit cold once you go higher up but definitely not below zero or anything like that. I stayed the night up at Panggong Tso (Lake) which is at about 14000 ft and a warm blanket was enough. It's a bit chilly at night but not too bad. I think Delhi winters are colder. ;)
3. Don't know.
4. Visa and Mastercard should work at ATMs anywhere and everywhere.
Edited by: insouciantguru
Jul 27, 2013 10:42 AM
21. Yes with variable reliability.
2. Warm days, jacket or layers in the evening.
3. Whole detailed topic that changes every time I check. So no & yes. on balance respectively.
4. I use banks as I don't trust the ATMs. The banks are like time machines back to the 1700's or modern day Greece. I prefer some cash as machines and electricty are relative in India..
Jul 27, 2013 10:42 AM
31) Sorry, no idea what Steripen is. But of course, as you would expect, bottled water is available. Look for major brands such as Auqafina, Kinley, Evian and Bisleri. (Other good brands, such as Himalaya) are not likely to be found at supermarkets. Look for major supermarkets; big cities will have them, and even smaller ones should have. However, sometimes you might be forced to buy them from smaller shops: typically hasn't been a problem with us but be more careful with them.
Jul 27, 2013 12:25 PM
4Yes bottled water is widely available...in rermote, high, mountain areas maybe not...Cold is not the main concern trekking around Manali in August but rain is...a bad time of year to trek there...
Jul 27, 2013 12:36 PM
51) You get mineral everywhere in India. But then you also get scammed everywhere in India- much more than any other of the 15 countries I have been to. I bought two bottles at a train station. We moved on from that station. I start drinking the water and it tastes weird to me. I look at the bottle and it is the official India Railway bottle. I look at the other bottle...and what do I see? The cap has been broken previously. In other words, I got scammed again for the umpteenth time here. When you buy the bottle, make sure the cap is not broken. You will read this now. But in the battlefield that is India when purchasing, in a moment of rush, you will forget and you will get scammed.
So beware when buying mineral water in India. Make sure the cap is sealed and not broken.
3) God! SIM cards in India are soo annoying. You need a SIM card for every single state you go to. Otherwise, you get scammed officially, when you accept calls in a different state. One person I came across had more than five SIMs for five different states. Getting a SIM card is a pain in India. If you get something cheap as a plan, you get what you pay for. There are some things in life which we should not be stingy about. That includes a good phone/internet service. Get the most expensive one if you want something reliable. Don't get Aircel. I have it but it sucks. I also have Airtel for internet which is quite good.
4) I would advise that you bring US Dollars if possible. $1 USD goes a long way in India. You find money exchangers in India everywhere so you can exchange money as you need it. If you are going to use an ATM, try to maybe use the State Bank of India ATM's or walk into a SBI and see if you can withdraw money inside.
Enjoy your trip to India but don't be surprised if you get scammed. Wishing the best for you :)
You can send my Lassi to Gujarat. : )
Jul 27, 2013 6:04 PM
Jul 27, 2013 6:56 PM
7@5: When you buy the bottle, make sure the cap is not broken.
I am in the habit of checking bottled water caps and dates. I stick with brands I know, like those already mentioned; some others are Royal Blue, Oxyrich, Rohtang, Yes, Railneer - there are other good companies as well. First I look at the date on the bottle, if the year is 13 (2013) then it looks ok to me (as 2013 gets older, you may want to look at the month in the date as well). If the date is acceptable, I then twist the bottle cap and see if I can break the cap seal to my satisfaction. If the cap seal breaks to my satisfaction, it means I just bought the bottle. I hold the bottle up and do this right in front of the merchant (where applicable). If the cap comes off without breaking the seal, then I ask for another bottle. Occasionally, the cap will unscrew from the bottle along with the ring that the cap is supposed to seperate from when the seal breaks. Though this can just be a manufacturing defect and happen to good bottles of water, these bottles are unacceptable to me - I screw the cap and ring assembly back onto the bottle and ask for another.
Jul 27, 2013 7:58 PM
Jul 27, 2013 10:29 PM
9After many years of travel in SEA and South Asia, I decided that cafes/restaurants with lots of people, high turnover, locals eating there, in particular mothers with their children, are safest for eating. Always drink bottled water(yes, check the cap) and brush teeth with bottled water. There is no better substitute for frequent, vigorous handwashing with friction and soap for as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday", twice. Be aware of your hands and their proximity to your face, especially mouth. If you eat meat, get it cooked well done. Muslim Halal places may be preferable in India for meat. Check expiration dates on Meds you buy and before you go with the intent to self medicate if you get sick, talk to your doctor to find out what to look for so you can distinguish between travellers diarrhea, Bali Belly, Delhi Belly, etc. and what drugs are best for treatment, dose and regime, versus more serious GI illness that requires a trip to the hospital.
Jul 28, 2013 12:17 PM
10It is usually much safer to buy botlled water from shops (even small ones) than from street vendors or in hotels. The only times I got fake bottled water in India was when ordered to my hotel room. By following advice given above on checking bottle seal and production date on the bottle you should be perfectly safe.
When in Leh, you can also buy treated water from a cooperative called Dzomsa for 7 Rs per litre. It will reduce the amount of plastic litter you produce and it's cheaper than bottled water. It is also a good idea to use water purification tablets for at least part of water you need. I use Micropur Forte on my trips. Even in cities I use it to purify tap water for brushing teeth. In some smaller or remote places in Ladakh bottled water can be unavailable or prohibitively expensive, so you can use it also for drinking water. It doesn't taste well but it's acceptable.
Remember to wait for 2 hrs after putting the Micropur tablet into the water before you drink it. The instruction says it's 15 minutes only, but it takes 2 hrs to kill amoeba.
Re sleeping bag - take the smaller one. Unless you go on a mountaineering expedition, you won't experience sub-zero temperatures in Ladakh in summer. It will get down to ca. 10 degrees in the night.
As regards GSM - take note that SIM cards from outside Jammu & Kashmir do not work in Ladakh. Getting a Ladakhi SIM card is not so easy - you would need at least an address in Leh and an endorsement by a local person. That was the situation in summer 2011 but I don't think it has changed.
Aug 1, 2013 8:28 AM
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