India – Luxury, Culture, Adventure… You Name It

India is not for the faint of heart. Besides, you are not visiting the sub-continent because you want to experience everything as cool and comfy, and exactly as you have it at home.
If it’s adventure that you crave, we give you the mighty, majestic Himalaya from kashmir and Ladakh to Bhutan and onwards, to the wild and remote, pristine beauty of Arunachal Pradesh. It’s in the rugged wilderness of the himalaya that the men get separated from the boys.
If it’s mind-boggling culture and colour you’re looking for: discover Hinduism in all its glory. Hinduism is not so much a religion, as a way of life. It is more of an all-encompassing system of governance that gives the seemingly chaotic confusion of everyday life in the sub-continent a semblance of balance and sophisticated poise that keeps the nation moving ever onwards despite the play of conflicting forces.
Hinduism permeates the life of the average Indian at every level. It is a close-knit society, but it is never about the individual. It is always about how the individual is guided to immerse himself in the greater identity of society.
 Taj Mahal - The Stuff of Legend
Taj Mahal – The Stuff of Legend

Unlike in western society, the individual in India is focused more towards his fundamental duty towards society in the various roles he plays as father, son, brother, husband and citizen, than his individuality.

If it’s historical and architectural grandeur you’re looking for, why then, India is a living repository of recorded history that goes back 5,000 years and more. There are historical monuments to be discovered at every step along your visit here.
And the Taj Mahal? Of course you’ve heard of it. It’s the stuff that legends are made of. If you’re visiting here for the first time, you just have to visit Agra… and Jaipur!
We can give you world-class luxury. We’ve spent centuries in finely honing the concept of fine living and unimaginable luxury in the courts of Mughal Emperors and royal families that ruled kingdoms and civilizations in former princely India, such as Mysore, Hyderabad, Travancore, Rajasthan and more.
And don’t forget the vibrant colors of the festivals.  It’s a rich diversity of events that celebrate every imaginable aspect of life on the sub-continent from the festival of colors to the festival of lights.
If you are game for an experience that will absolutely change the way that you look at the world, we invite you to build an India holiday for yourself with our expert advice.
They say that travel is the mother of all learning experiences!
I say come, bask in the unique experience that is India…

Travel Smart, Travel Safe in India

Traveling in India can be a most exciting experience. It doesn’t offer fantastic luxury or superior comfort. But it never fails to attract record numbers of tourists from all walks of life from around the world. The reason for this is that travel in India is like a journey into the ancient mists of time.
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Peace Pipe Bonhomie – It’s a Guy Thing

India is like a living museum; home to colourful arts, crafts, timeless traditions and beliefs, and a way of life that has more or less died out in the more developed countries of the world. The quaint cultures and lifestyles that have flourished for centuries in the rural heart of India seem blissfully unperturbed and impervious to the ravages of western ideas and culture brought in with the advent of satellite TV in the cities.

While the quaint and idyllic settings can seem romantic from far, it is necessary for you, the traveller to be sensitive to the customs and traditions of the local communities. Understanding the finer nuances of social mores and customs that have been developed over centuries can be a little tricky.
A little advance preparation and a genuine, healthy respect for the differences you will witness here, could well be the tipping point between having a happy holiday or a frightful experience. Ignorance would be no excuse for a holiday gone haywire.
This short article will try to give a few common-sense tips, primarily for women, to keep you safe while traveling in India. So, let us take a peep below the surface into the mysterious thought processes that shape life and tradition in India.
Women Traveling in India
India has seen an unusual spate in recent incidents of rape and attacks on women travellers in various parts of the country.
It is essential to realize that, culturally speaking, around 70 per cent of India is just belatedly waking up to the awareness of their arrival in the 21stcentury.  They may look and behave like your average, peace-loving citizen. But inside their heads they could be living way back in the deep, dark recesses of primordial time, with survival being the only consideration. Weakness then, in any form, is an opportunity that must be exploited. 
How far the individual will go in his efforts to exploit will depend on his threat perception from the situation and his fear of getting caught.
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Brilliant Colors – Village Scene

Traditionally, persons perceived as soft targets in any country in the world have always been children, women and foreigners or travellers/tourists. As a woman traveller, this puts you at twice the risk of being targeted. You do have a definite need to be alert at all times.

It is my experience that danger to life and limb lurks everywhere; even in the safest corners of our homes. But, to live life joyously is a protection in itself. However, a little common-sense preparation and studying up on the culture and customs of the regions you plan to visit, will definitely add a lot of happiness to your trip.
Some of the tips I have for the ladies comes from my own personal experience of wandering around in not-so-safe places. These are by no means exhaustive. But, they are helpful nevertheless.
I won’t say that the men in India are bigoted. It’s just that the poor guys are still trying to come to terms with the shock of the fact that women can now dare to assert their independence; that they can dare to be proud of their sexuality; AND show it off, too.
1.       Single women travellers attract unusual attention in India.  One, or even two more travel companions definitely makes for a fair amount of peace of mind. Stick together at all times, even for a short walk from your hotel to the corner Dominos’ or MacDonald’s. It is not an acceptable situation in any strong, self-respecting woman’s opinion. But then, prevention is always the better part of valour. (Sorry for mixing up two clichés!)
2.       Do not hasten to trust the men you encounter, no matter how distinguished he may look or gentle he may seem. I am not saying the guys you meet would all be untrustworthy. It would be prudent to be cautious at all times. I remember an old saying I grew up with: “Just because a man might look like your father, it does not necessarily mean that he would have fatherly feelings toward you.”
3.       Do not eat or drink anything offered by strangers or fellow travellers. Do not leave your drink unattended while at a bar or disco. And definitely do not go back to a drink that you may have left unattended, even for a brief moment.
4.       Dress sensibly and modestly at all times, but especially if you are visiting a monument or religious place. Most religious places in India would also require women visitors to cover their heads while visiting.
5.       While travelling at night especially, avoid traveling in buses, train-compartments, autos, tuk-tuks and other forms of public transport when you see that there is not a single, other woman passenger on board. The more women you see on board, increases the level of safety you will enjoy.
6.       Traveling like the locals do, will definitely add local flavour to your trip. But do try to get a first-hand account from the locals about the pitfalls and inconveniences associated with the different modes of transport.
7.       Do be polite, definitely.  But do not be afraid to snub that annoying and persistent male attention on the streets or in public places. Do be prudent and alert at all times, though. And definitely do be prepared to fight tooth and nail, single-handedly – if need be, should push come to shove and the persistent booger turns out to be one of those nasty punks with a bad case of the overbearing ‘male chauvinist pig’ syndrome. Do not try to be overly brave. Do your damage. And then run like the wind… as fast and far away as possible. Should such an incident ever occur, do not continue staying in the area. Shift hotels immediately.
8.       Areas around railway stations the world over are usually dens of iniquity. They are crowded, impersonal and packed with migrants, drug addicts, prostitutes, pimps and other colourful characters from the lower levels of society. Try to choose your accommodation in better areas. Safety over savings is the catch-phrase here.
9.       If you need to seek directions, don’t just approach the first set of people you encounter on the street. Avoid individuals that are unkempt, unwashed, un-bathed and dirtily dressed. They could be hobos, vagabonds, beggars or worse still, drug addicts. Definitely people you don’t want to interact with. In any case, avoid approaching random persons on the street. It would be better to walk into a reasonably busy shop or local business. Addresses are always easier to trace than random passers-by.       
For All Travellers in India
And now, we can go on to cover some of the more general situations that could face all travellers.
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The Rich Ochre of The Thar Desert

1.       The touts, the shysters and the street-side carpet-curio salesmen! Do not get swayed by these sweet-talking, suave, pretty boys. They are not as innocent as they look. They are to be found in every down-town city center or in and around historical monuments frequented by tourists. They usually target young, single, women travellers or gullible, elderly women and couples. They are usually pretty-looking, street-smart young men, skilfully skirting the borderline of the law and propriety in order to sell curios, carpets, package tours or even buy or sell black market foreign currency. They usually pay hefty kick-backs to corrupt elements within the local authorities for turning a blind eye to their scams. So don’t expect a sympathetic hearing should you need to report an untoward incident at the hands of any one of these pretty boys.

2.       Those pesky auto and cab drivers that hang out outside almost every hotel and restaurant up and down town… They hassle you with their demands for outrageous fares and persistently try to get you to visit their favorite carpet showroom before you even agree to get into their vehicle. Don’t let them faze you. Check the fare to your destination and fix it in advance. Forget any detours for a shopping stop, no matter how attractive it may sound.
3.       The carpet and curio shops, usually privately owned, will generally sell you traditional handcrafted items at outrageous prices. It happens all around the world. Aside for a hefty margin for the establishment, the prices will also include a cut for your friendly cab driver and guide and of course, your friendly neighbourhood tour operator who has planned all your local travel arrangements. Beware; bargain, for all you are worth. But, at the first suitable opportunity that presents itself… cut and run.
4.       Should you still be interested though, in shopping for local handicraft items and gifts to carry home from your trip, then do check out the local guide books, conveniently placed in your hotel room. But, getting there could be a bit of a challenge trying to avoid the ubiquitous, friendly, overly enthusiastic auto and cab drivers who would be happy to take you to every other shop but the one you wish to go!
5.       Religion is a highly sensitive topic in India. Strict neutrality is the key here. Especially if you are visiting the myriads of temples and religious monuments of different faiths, that make up the religious milieu.
Finally, the real purpose of your travel away from home surroundings is to get an experience that is different. Experiencing difference may sometimes stretch the limits of your tolerance. But it surely does not need to be a dangerous or an unsafe experience.

The basic guarantee of a happy travel experience boils down to a simple formula: Be informed; be alert; be safe.

Shopping in India: Paradise or Trap?

India has always had the reputation of being a wonderland for shopping. The craftsmanship was always legendary. Early travelers from Europe and China such as Marco Polo, Fa-Hien and Hiun-Tsang have given us awe-inspiring stories of the times. Fa-Hien was a Buddhist monk, one of the first and perhaps one of the earliest Chinese travelers to India. It is reported in his memoirs that in those days no one traveled for fun, like we do today. Most of the travel carried on in those times was for trade and commerce.  Fa-Hien himself, would have hitch-hiked with merchant caravans in order to get from one place to another.

Equisitely-designed Gold Jewelry

Marco Polo’s fantastic accounts of his travels from Asia to Beijing along the great Silk Road that took him through parts of India, speak of the wondrous sights he witnessed enroute. So, we see that India’s skilled artisans had already carved a well-deserved image for themselves in the trading world of ancient times.

Today, when you see gorgeous fabrics woven from silks and brocades, it’s easy to imagine that such beauty and perfection comes from generations of artistry being perfected across centuries in time. Around the time when Turkish and Persian carpets were creating history with the likes of Marco Polo and his contemporaries, richly woven silk and woolen carpets from Kashmir, in incredibly intricate designs and motifs were already competing for world recognition of India’s rich heritage and cultural traditions.

India seems not to have lost any of its magic and charm, even today. The traditional handicrafts and wares displayed in the bustling markets of cities like Agra and Jaipur and the capital: New Delhi, will take one’s breath away. There are special centers in Delhi like the ‘Dilli Haat’ that are devoted to getting the Indian artist and his wares up front and personal, directly in touch with the actual buyer. This usually turns out a win-win situation for the buyer, who gets a good deal and the artisan, who gets a fair price. However, since infra-structure is limited, not every gifted artisan from the distant corners of the country gets the chance to display his wares here.

The Tree of Life in Silk

There are also the more modern, professionally-managed retail outlets that source some rare gems of artistry and craftsmanship from some of the remotest corners of India. Usually, these are already well-established outlets that have been in the business for more than a few generations. Hence, the relationship between the seller and the artisan is likely to have been cemented over a couple of generations already. It is usually a sacred relationship that has helped keep alive precious artistic expertise that has been handed down in families for generations.

In the face of rapidly expanding commercialization and an increasing demand for standardization through automation, some of these old, traditional crafts are losing out to machine-made wares that are available at a fraction of the cost. The quality and the finish though, may not be as beautiful and memorable as those that are lovingly fashioned by hand.

In some places such as Varanasi, once a thriving center for the production of exquisite, handmade silk fabrics, craftsmen who once exulted in their age-old expertise and finesse are now having to work as laborers and boatmen on the mighty Ganges, just to make ends meet.

Do not let this dismal scenario take away any of the sheen and excitement from an exciting holiday in India, though. Efforts are being made on a wider social scale in India to keep alive as many of the traditional crafts, as possible. While, at the same time, efforts are also underway to rehabilitate those with livelihoods at stake, into other occupations and preserve their dignity and that of their families.

It is also important for you to know that while you may wish to buy local hand-crafted wares when on holiday in India, that you need not allow yourself to be pushed into buying sub-standard or outrageously priced articles of poor quality from street vendors or outlets of dubious intent. Usually, if you are being given the hard-sell to patronize a particular shop or outlet – either by your friendly cab-driver, your exceptionally knowledgeable guide or a friendly, helpful passerby or even the nice, respectful, mild-mannered young guy
from your travel agency – you may be sure that the interested person or the organization he represents is most likely being given a commission or referral fee for getting you there.

Sadly, this is the ugly under-belly of tourism that you may come face-to-face with, not only in India but in many other glamorous and glitzy tourist destinations around the world. It could involve individuals or even entire organizations.

But all is not lost! You can still have the best holiday in the world and even enjoy the best shopping experience every time, if you would ensure to follow one simple rule: do not allow anyone to coerce you, cajole you or even make you feel sorry for saying “No” when you feel it is the right thing to do.

Tapestry

And if you do decide to give in to your shopping desires, by all means, do so! You might be pleasantly surprised by some of the happiness you experience in the process. You may even pick up a gem of an item that would make you happy for years to come.

Watch out though, for bargains and the urge to bargain. These are usually good for the ‘other party’ and rarely for you.

It always makes good sense to do your shopping at an establishment of repute. It should be clearly and properly licensed by the local authorities. It should have iron-clad client-protection policies and guarantees in place that fully respect your rights as the consumer and your right to the best quality.

For the rest, I can only say: “Have a lovely holiday and go home with golden memories that will always light up your days with happiness.”

A Glimpse into Another Age in The History of India – “Ways of a Quaint World”

Courtesy: The Telegraph, Kolkata
Foxtrot and grape wine, Housie and Jhalfrezi, Engelbert and gobstopper — those were the days for the Anglo-Indians

FROM THE ALBUMS:(From top) A New Year’s Eve party at Calcutta Rangers Club; yellow rice and ball curry; and an Anglo-Indian wedding ceremony in the city.

The Anglo-Indian Absconder Soldier Daddy penned by Norman Ivan Marshall and released last week brought back memories of the Anglo-Indians of the 1960 and ’70s in Calcutta. Metro revisits some Anglo-Indian ways of life — some of them mere memories, a few still soldiering along.

The dress: Till the 1970s, it was only western wear for the women — dresses, skirts and pant-suits. “In the 1920s and ’30s, we wore dresses — organza and taffeta — and fluffy skirts that came to the knees or below. Sleeves were always full, and we did elaborate hair-dos, with ringlets and little ribbons,” recalls Joan Fleming, 81, at her Elliot Road home.
Now Anglo-Indian women generally adopt the attire of the region they live in. “At a New Year Eve party, you can still see many ladies dressed in gowns,” says Barry O’Brien, who represents the community in the Bengal Assembly. The men are mostly in westerns, the more formal, the better.
The party: The laid-back Anglo-Indian loved his peg and his party. And since a large percentage of the railway employees were Anglo-Indians (the men even had job reservations in the railways), Railway Institute gatherings would often turn into Anglo-Indian dos.

They would dance the waltz, the jive and the foxtrot. “Anglo-Indians danced well and took pride in their twinkle toes. The music was completely English…. That is losing out to the freestyle, Bollywood-inspired moves today,” rues Ian Myers, the principal of Frank Anthony Public School.

Boxing Day: Boxing was a favourite sport and the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, (boxes at churches and homes would be removed and the collections given to the poor) became a day of boxing. Literally.

Boxing matches were organised at the institutes and challengers would troop in to take on the champion. Others would gather to cheer.

Hockey, football, basketball and athletics were also very Anglo-Indian games. Not any more. “Perhaps because our children are so busy with academics,” Myers reasons.

The other Boxing Day favourite was a trip to the zoo, armed with “boxes” of leftover goodies from Christmas.

Yellow rice and ball curry: A must at Sunday lunch. “It is still popular but it’s not confined to Sundays. The “bhaat-dal-bharta” is also very Anglo-Indian. Only it’s called rice-doll-mashed potato and had with fried kofta,” laughs Brian Sweeney, in his 60s.

Then there is Jhalfrezi, Pork Vindaloo (a Goan-Portuguese dish that Anglo-Indians made their own) and Pepper Water (a kind of sambar with lots of black pepper). And Salt Meat (huge chunk of meat salted and kept for days and weeks; holes gouged in it and slices of lime put in).

The Anglo-Indian loves his breakfast. In central Calcutta, it would often consist of dal puris or halwa puris or barkakhanis (puris made with beef flour). Today it is often crumb chops, cutlets or pantras (mince in a flour pancake). A sweet at the end is still a must; a Bengali sweet will do if there’s no caramel custard!

Table manners: “I was once ticked off for bending down to retrieve a napkin. You were supposed to ring for a fresh one. There was no getting the cutlery wrong, you couldn’t talk at the table and you had to wait for everyone to finish each course before moving on,” says Fleming. Now, one member of a family may eat with his fingers, while others might prefer the spoon and fork, points out O’Brien. 

Christmas cake: Always, always baked at home. And everyone pitched in — some beat the eggs, some mixed the batter, some shelled the nuts. “An Anglo-Indian family buying its Christmas cake was unheard of till ’70s,” says Myers. The tradition continues among some.

Wine: Grape wines were also made at home. Rose-a-cookies and kul-kuls were two other Christmas favourites made at home. The tradition is dying. 

Music at home: Walking down the Ripon Street-Elliot Road area, one couldn’t miss the loud English music wafting out of Anglo-Indian houses as the women went about their chores. It would be Engelbert Humperdinck, Jim Reeves, Tom Jones or Elvis Presley.

“On weekends, 60 to 70 per cent of the requests for Musical Band Box and Lunchtime Variety would be from Anglo-Indians,” says O’Brien.   

New Market: Shopping meant New Market. You would meet all the “upcountry” people there, picking up barley-sugar, gobstoppers (round sweets so big they would shut you up), Bandel cheese (so dry that it needed to be soaked overnight before use), Guava Cheese, Guava jelly (sold in cigarette tins). Now, a pre-Christmas visit to New Market remains a must do.

Rolls: O’Brien demands credit to the Anglo-Indians for making rolls popular. “Nizam’s was the place to go for rolls, only they pronounced it ‘Ny-Zam’s’. And rolls were called Kati-rolls or simply Katis (mainly beef). 

Housie: Whist and Housie (now called Scratch, but never Tambola by an Anglo-Indian) remains a big draw. Numbers were never just called out, it was “Kiss me and run — Number One” or “What babies do — Number Two”. 

House parties: Join in for Rs 5! “One of the mothers would make sandwiches and soup. There would be soft drinks and music and we would dance,” remembers Sweeney.

Kissing: As a form of greeting. All young people were made to kiss the older ones — aunts and uncles and everyone in the community. “I still kiss my mother and even my father when I meet them,” says O’Brien.

Last word: “The Anglo-Indian community is perhaps not as laid-back and easy-going as it used to be. That’s maybe because life has become more competitive. When we get the time to relax, we still let our hair down. But it is not as often as it used to be,” says O’Brien.

In what other ways has the community changed? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com

Gob Glossary

The Waltz
The Mrs: Instead of ‘Your wife’ (used sometimes)
Sir, Ma’am: For addressing parents (not in use)
Atsees: Eight annas, or 50 paise. Likewise, dosees, charsees (not in use)
Upcountry: People in railway colonies like Kharagpur or Chakradharpur (rarely used)
Chutney Mary: A woman dressed gaudily to look elite (not used)
Molly with the Dolly: Comes from ‘mali with the dali’, the dali being a Christmas hamper the mali would carry in (not in use)
Sunday is longer than Monday: The edge of the petticoat showing from under the dress or skirt (not in use)
Wallflower: A girl without a part ner at a dance (rarely used)
Chhukka: A pansy man (in use)
Papa, Nana: Grandfather, grand mother (in use)
‘Girl’, ‘boy’ after a name: An affectionate way of addressing the young, like Buddi girl or Budda boy. Also Son-a-boy (not in use)
Bra: Short for brother, like the modern ‘bro’ (in use)
Bum-freezer: A coat that ends at the hips (rarely used)
Missibaba: The domestic staff would address the young daughter of the house thus (not in use)
Babalog: Used by the staff to refer to the boys (rarely used)
Chhota Hazri: A light early-morning snack (rarely used)
Dekchi: A large utensil. Even Anglo-Indians who migrated to Canada or Australia in the ’40s call a dekchi a dekchi. Also Hawaii chappals for bathroom slippers (in use)
Chokra boy: A small, dirty fellow (in use)
Gunda: Affectionate term for a naughty fellow (in use)
Pataka: Attractive woman, but someone not quite simple (in use)
Mama-ko-pucho: Mama’s boy (not used)
Ting-tong wala: Door-to-door vendor (not used)
Suit-Boot-and-Gramophone: Suddenly very dressed up (not used)
On tick: To buy on credit (not used)
Phutani: Putting on airs (in use)
Going to the guava gardens or turning your toes up to the daisies: To die (rarely used).
Toe Jam: Smelly toes (in use)
BO: Body odour(in use)
Gob gas: Bad breath (in use)
Bending the elbow: Having a drink (in use)
Run-away Jack: Indian-style toilet (used sometimes)
Can you add to the list? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com
Compiled by Poulomi Banerjee

Hidden Holiday Locations

We all look forward to holidays and with a whole host of destinations on offer both near and far, deciding where to go can be difficult. If you are planning for your next break, why not choose somewhere off the beaten track. Break away from traditional locations and ditch the crowds in favour of something different, somewhere luxurious or some place with cultural and historical significance.
Party in Ibiza

Some of the world`s most exclusive resorts and hotels are hidden away on secluded tropical islands spread throughout the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. Nowhere else on earth compares to the picture postcard images of crystal clear azure waters lapping onto the shore of unspoilt beaches set against a backdrop of tropical, lush vegetation. Close to the Caribbean and in an enviable isolated position in the North Atlantic, Bermuda is a great example of an island which so far has resisted the throng of tourists who flock to that part of the world and combines rich history in a tropical setting.

Sun-kissed Beaches – Goa

Islands provide a great theme for exploring some secret hideaways. Many tourists frequent popular destinations such as the Balearic Islands, the Canary Isles and the Greek islands. You may be surprised to know that even these well known island groups are home to smaller and undiscovered locations. Formentera, off the coast of Ibiza and La Palma and La Gomera, both part of the Canary Island formation, are perfect examples of relatively hidden holiday destinations. They retain all the charm of traditional Spanish resorts, are easily accessible and affordable yet have not succumbed to the mass influx of tourists.

Far flung destinations across the globe are simply waiting to be explored by the discerning traveller. Some previously inaccessible areas are now opening up and gearing more towards the tourist market, but whilst visitor numbers remain low, now is the perfect time to retreat to a hidden holiday location. From the small ski resort of Andorra to the tumbling scenery of the Canadian Rockies, the rainforest paradise of Madagascar to the wildlife sanctuary of Borneo, all are true gems.

Some of the most wonderful places to visit can be found within the British Isles. The Jurassic Coast in Dorset and the counties of Somerset and Cornwall are attractive destinations to British tourists with Devon cottage rentals a popular choice each year. A trip to the Scilly Isles, off the south west coast and the Channel Islands are a great way to explore some of the best kept secrets that this area has to offer.

Car Hire Tips

Hiring a car can sometimes turn into a nightmare, the thing that really sends the stress balance of a trip abroad tipping towards the danger zone. However, it need not be stressful or difficult and following a few simple steps can help keep any car hire process simple and straightforward.
Hire The Best Cars

One issue which often leads to confusion is when a provider offers a car type “or similar.” Many customers ignore the “or similar” phrase and feel angry when the car that they thought they would be driving does not materialise. Someone hiring a car needs to be aware that any vehicles used in promotional materials are there to illustrate a point and the specific type of vehicle shown may not be the one which is actually delivered to the customer.

A customer should check the exact terms of the service agreement in order to establish precisely what they are paying for in terms of fuel. The car may not have a full tank of fuel on collection and this needs to be established as soon as possible. Keeping the hire company`s contact details to hand all the time during the period when the car is being used is also a good idea. If things do go wrong, it pays to be able to speak to people who can put them right as quickly as a possible.
India Car Rental

Insurance also needs to be checked and its precise terms established. There should also be a discussion with the provider about what the terms of the excess are. Even if a customer has paid extra and reduced the excess to zero, they may still be liable for damage to some parts of the car, like window wipers. If the car is going to be travelling off road at all this is particularly important.

Before driving the car away, the person hiring it should also check for any damage which is already in place. No one wants to be held liable for damage which was not due to them and listing any features which are damaged while still with the service provider should eliminate doubt and dispute later on.
Checking where the car needs to be returned to when finished with is also crucial. It does not necessarily follow that the car will be returned to the same place that it was picked up from. Checking this, along with other factors such as the precise deadlines for return, will lessen the chances of extra charges and other complications.
Travelers need to find car hire providers who are reliable and above board in their dealings. A well-known company with an easily checked reputation is best; a local company may offer cheap deals but rectifying issues may be more difficult. Planning and preparing carefully will eliminate much of the stress that can be involved.

Top European Resorts

When choosing a holiday there are a few important things you need to consider. For example, what budget you have for the holiday, how far you want to go, how hot you want it to be and when you can travel. The list can be a long one! To help you on your way here are a few recommendations for an enjoyable and memorable trip away.
Sunny Beach and Cove

If you have a limited budget you might consider staying in the UK but you won`t be able to guarantee hours of sunshine day after day. A holiday to parts of Europe may well solve this problem with many European destinations boasting sunnier climates. However don`t forget the children! If you don`t mind a few days that may be a little overcast a sure winner for a family holiday in Europe is a trip to Disneyland Paris. A popular destination, you`ll find something for everyone here, with indoor and outdoor activities to suit all ages.

Of course the further south you go the warmer it tends to get. For budget sunshine you might look at Croatia with the Dalmatian coast particularly pleasant in summer. Greece and Turkey are also popular countries for family get aways, providing reasonably priced holidays with both self catering and full board options.
For a more extravagant break from routine holidays, Corsica or Sicily offer the perfect spot. These Islands to the left of Italy are states of France and Italy respectively and boast excellent in land and coastal accommodation combined with historic and cultural sites of interest.
French Riviera

Providing a large holiday market for those looking for fun and relaxation is Spain, offering both the Balearic and Canary islands and a number of excellent locations for sun bathing. The Balearics are green with sandy beaches and come with a mix of energetic night clubs and bars and sleepy resorts to choose from. Whether you prefer the party island of Ibiza or the more sedate Menorca you can find something to suit every taste.

The Canaries are further south off the west coast of Africa and are a chain of volcanic islands. The Canary Islands are famous for their volcanoes, warm winds and beaches with black sands. However there are four islands which are most visited by holiday makers; Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Tenerife. Perhaps the best thing about a holiday in the Canaries is that whether you travel there in winter or summer it will be warm, with the temperature in the Canary Islands never falling below an average temperature of 20 degrees centigrade. By the summer visitors can see temperatures rise to around 30 degrees.
Gran Canaria
Of the Canary Islands, Tenerife is the largest and most populated and has many resorts you can choose from. Some of these are purpose built to have everything you need to make your holiday perfect. The biggest of these resorts is located on the south of the island and is called Playa de las Americas. Here you`ll find a range of attractions for all ages and enough waterfront to keep the whole family happy. With so many board options and different types of accommodation within the Playa de las Americas hotels range you won`t find it hard to pick the perfect holiday.

Finding the Best Cruise Package

A cruise is often considered the height of holiday luxury, a floating hotel with entertainment and activities laid on and many locations visited without unpacking and repacking your suitcase over and over again. You can cruise all over the world. The Caribbean, the Mediterranean, even Alaska are offered as cruise routes. When choosing your cruise you need to set out a few things first such as your budget, what kind of places you want to see, how hot you want it to be and how far you want to travel before you get on-board ship.

Cinque Terre National Park

You can take a cruise from a UK port or fly to another country to board you cruise-liner. For those who don`t like flying, a UK departure might be appealing, others may like to see more of the world and enjoy the flight as part of the holiday. You can do a cruise that has only one flight, either flying to a start point for the cruise and cruising home or vice versa. It is worth mentioning that if you choose a cruise that starts from the UK and has a flight to get home you may need to leave time to recover from any jet lag you may experience.

There are many benefits to cruising; firstly you can spend your time just relaxing if you want. You don`t need to worry about where you`ll be eating or what currency to use and you don`t need to take a taxi to get there; it`s just a question of going to the right deck. Secondly you can see several different places on one holiday, for instance a Mediterranean (or Med) cruise may take in the Greek Island and Athens, Venice and Croatia. Whereas travelling by plane would mean at least five flights, security checks, baggage carousels and endless waiting around. Not so with a cruise, all the time you`re travelling you`re relaxing.

Captivating Dubrovnik

First time cruisers often choose to start with a Med cruise as there are a number of benefits, the destination ports on the cruise route will mostly use the Euro as currency, so spending money is easy during any excursions. The climate is warm but not oppressively hot or humid and you can have a holiday which lasts as little as seven days.

Prices for cruises vary depending on length of holiday, distance being travelled, type of cabin and rating of the ship. Although they sometimes seem expensive, when you factor in the food, entertainment and additional travel/transfer costs a normal package holiday doesn`t include, but are often essential, they are as good, if not better, value for money. One of the best things about Med cruises is that, because they are relatively close to the UK, the travel costs are lower, meaning you can afford to take a longer holiday or book upgraded on-board accommodation for your trip.

London’s Tourist-friendly Transport System

London rates high as a visitor-friendly city with most international tourists. Helping to keep it at the top of the tourism charts is the city’s highly-efficient and expertly managed transportation network.
The Mayor of London`s “Transport for London” agency, also known as TfL, oversees most of London`s metropolitan transport system, including the well-known “London Buses”, the Underground, Tramlink, Docklands Light Railway, London Overground and the major roads of the city.
Spoiled for Transport Choices
London Underground (or the Tube,) is the world`s oldest metro rail transit system, dating back to 1863. A staggering 3 million people use the Tube every day, ranging from tourists to business users. The Tube is made up of 11 inter-connected lines which link the suburbs to the city centre and connect up to London`s major rail terminals.
The London Underground

The “Docklands Light Railway” is an automated train service in the Docklands area of the city. It shares its fares system with the Underground and the two services are connected by numerous interchanges. The system connects the Royal Docks and Isle of Dogs to each other and also serves London City Airport and Woolwich station.

London`s Tram System dates back to Victorian times and boasts an extensive network, mostly serving the employment region in Croydon. Tramlink connects Croydon to surrounding suburbs and to the centre of Wimbledon town.
Open-top Tour Bus
London is also home to an exciting city tour for visitors by “Open-top Tour Bus” with an entertaining commentary in a variety of languages and over 90 stops across the city.
With a one day pass purchased from ‘The Original Tour’ company, tourists can use the ‘Hop-on-Hop-off’` service to board any of the brightly-colored sightseeing buses according to convenience and fancy.
The services run daily with tours departing every 20 minutes and provide a cost-effective and fun means to explore the city`s attractions. The day pass also includes free walking tours and a river cruise ticket.
London Buses and Hackney Cab
London has an extensive bus network with over 700 routes. It caters mainly for local journeys and runs day and night, providing a 24-hour service. Many of these routes still ply the iconic red double-deckers, made famous in many period movies.
Nearly all of these distinctive buses are now modernized to better cater to disabled passengers. The bus system has been subject to recent improvements on a number of routes, making it a more frequent and reliable service.
The Hackney Carriage

London transport is synonymous with the hackney carriage, or the ubiquitous black cab. The black cabs are a common sight and only the most experienced of London drivers are privileged enough to drive them. Fares are set by TfL and calculated using a Taximeter in the car. Taxis can be hired from ranks, found at train stations and busy areas, or even hailed on the street.

London’s Green Transport
An increasingly popular form of transportation in London is the humble bicycle. Since the year 2000, the city has seen a rise in the number of cyclists, who enjoy the cost savings, the heady feeling of independence and health benefits that accrue from cycling. Many Londoners own their own bicycles. But also in operation since 2010, is the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme, which aims to supply upto 6,000 bicycles for hire at docking stations across the city.
Passenger transport along the River Thames has seen a revival in recent years following the introduction of the London River Services in 1999. A network of river bus services is now available for commuters and leisure cruise boats are in operation, making use of London`s 22 piers. A water bus service also operates along Regent`s Canal during the summer.
Tourists and visitors to the UK have much holiday happiness to look forward to. Wherever you may be based in England`s capital city, be it in a hotel, an apartment or at Secret Rooms London you will be readily served by London’s vast and efficient transport network that makes it near impossible to miss out on any exciting tourist attraction and fun location that may strike your fancy.

Mañana-land, Feni & More …

Goa is a fun place to be. When you visit Goa, chances are that you may not be able to find enough time to actually enjoy to the hilt. There are so many exciting activities and entertainment options in Goa that one tends to get confused as to which one to try first. Tourists visit Goa with just one priority in mind – enjoying to the fullest. It is a heaven for relaxation, enjoyment and living life to the full.

Goa spoils all visitors for the sheer variety of fun things to do. There is

something to suit every imaginable taste and personality.
If you are the laid back type who believes firmly in mañana, then the beaches bathed in glorious sunshine throughout the day are for you. You can acquire a fantastic suntan, collect a lovely variety of shells or just spend time sampling the exotic fare that is available at the numerous, local beach shacks.

If you like adventure, there are various water sports that are much in vogue in Goa. In case you connect with nature and wish to explore, then you must head for the various wildlife sanctuaries spread over Goa such as Bhagvan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary and more. Some of the old ruins of historical forts will speak to you of Goa’s past.

Of course, your main pleasure would come from enjoying the sheer beauty of the beaches of Goa. Enjoy the softness of the golden sands underfoot, take a dip in the warm, gentle, soothing sea or just let the water lap at your feet on the edge of the beach, build sand castles, buy knick-knacks and small souvenirs at the local shacks. Goa is the original lotus-eaters’ paradise.

Then there are the glittering casinos, pubs that throb to a variety of musical entertainment and restro-bars that add to the scintillating glamour of an evening out in Goa. These watering holes cater to the entertainment needs of a variety of international tourists from around the world.

And then there are the famous trance parties. They are full of life and cater unashamedly to unadulterated pleasure.
Goa is synonymous with shopping. Not the glitzy, glamourous high-street shopping; but definitely ethnic, chic and very typically Goan: curios, clothes and more.