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Destinations · Asia · india · Tamil Nadu · Worth knowing ·

Worth Knowing

Author: Gunita Kakteniece0 COMMENTS

Worth Knowing

- Many populated areas in India, including cities, still go under two names. You will often see one of them in maps and tourist guidebooks only to find that the other is actually used in real life. The locals are most likely to recognise both names, if asked. Here are some examples:

Mumbai - Bombay
Pondicherry - Puducherry
Thanjavur - Tanjore
Trichy - Tiruchirapalli
Mahabalipuram - Mamallapuram

- If travelling in Tamil Nadu by car, you would be well advised to hire a driver as well. It takes experience to deal with the typically Indian traffic with its countless wandering animals. You will also often have to ask for directions, and English is not always enough to make yourself understood when speaking with the locals. A 90 km drive may take up to 2-2.5 hours (the average speed on Indian roads is 60 km/h). A ten-day tour of Tamil Nadu (car and driving service included) is offered by Sanchari Tours. Expect to pay around INR 36 000 (or USD 905) for your transportation needs; hotel reservations and tour planning will cost you approximately LVL 100 (USD 185).

Sanchari Tours
Chalakuzhy, Kavumbhagom P.O, Tiruvalla, Kerala - 689 102
Phone: +91 469 2602828, 2701311

You can always choose public transportation: trains and buses run regularly and are relatively inexpensive.

- Women would do wise to choose loose rather than tight-fitting clothes that cover their shoulders. An exposed navel is a common sight; bare shoulders, however, will attract unwanted attention from the male population. Skimpy shorts or miniskirts are not a good idea either.

- You will be allowed inside Hindu temples with bare feet only; shoes are left outside the temple in special areas. Foreign visitors are expected to pay for leaving their shoes there; INR 10 for two pairs of shoes should do the trick.
No shoes, as a rule, mean dirty feet, particularly if you have to leave your shoes on the other side of the road instead of in front of the temple. Do wear shoes you won't be sorry to ruin by putting on dirty feet; easy to wash rubber sandals are probably the best option. You can also bring some wet tissues for cleaning your feet or old socks you won't need anymore. As often as not, temple complexes comprise a number of smaller buildings, connected by a rocky dirt path - not quite pleasant under bare feet, to put it mildly.

- Sometimes you will have to pay to enter a temple. If you want to take pictures, it will set you back some more.

- You will often encounter beggars in front of the more touristy temples; for most of them it is a lifestyle, not a necessity. Don't fall for it!

- Non-Hindus are not allowed to approach the temple altars; there are usually warning signs next to the altar area, including English ones.

- Late October and early November is the end of the monsoon season in South India (it tends to last a bit longer these days due to climate change). If you are planning a visit to Tamil Nadu at this time of the year, expect the hotel rooms to be a bit on the damp side. Don't forget sunscreen and some clothing that covers your arms if you intend to spend a lot of time in the sun. The sun becomes quite "aggressive" at 10-11 am.

- Haggling is acceptable at market places and in shops alike.

- At the smaller hotels it is customary to leave tips for the staff in addition to the money you pay for accommodation. Ask for the tip box usually to be found in the reception area. When your trip is over, don't forget to thank your driver with some extra money.

- If you are booking a room at a good hotel, locals advise advance online payment, particularly during the tourist season (around Christmas time) at the so-called value-for-money hotels; otherwise you risk losing your room to someone prepared to pay for it immediately. It is also a good argument in favour of leaving all transactions to a local travel agency.

- When eating outside the hotel in simple eateries favoured by locals, avoid drinking water served in metal receptacles. A bottle of mineral water opened in front of you is a much more reliable source of refreshment. Don't worry about eating anything fried, boiled or otherwise cooked on heat. Oranges and bananas have to be peeled and therefore are OK to eat. Listen to your driver's advice; he should know where it is safe to have a tomato salad with yoghurt and where it is better avoided.

- Indian food is hot. Don't listen to anyone telling you this dish or another "is not really that hot". As likely as not, you will still find it mouth-scorching.

- Blackouts are quite common (with the exception of the largest cities); when going for a late walk, a flashlight will come in handy for safety and finding your way.

- INR 1 ~ USD 0.025

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