Thursday, 16 October 2014

5 Useful Travel Tips for the Budget Conscious

I have a love-hate relationship with my city, Calcutta. No, I do not like calling it Kolkata even though it has been officially changed thanks to the whimsies of the ruling political party leaders. I don't know if that is neocolonialism deeply embedded in my psyche that makes me think this way or just my preference with the more familiar, but it is the way it is. When I was growing up, I couldn't wait till I left this city forever to settle somewhere abroad. When I started weighing the pros and cons (aka when I was old enough to understand how much money matters) I realised the dream to live in some fancy destination is not really a true dream of mine, it is the dream of travelling the world then returning home that is truly mine. This city is known as the City of Joy. But, to me it does not represent this single emotion. How can it? I have lived in this city my whole life and every lane I have been to represents something different to me. More than anything else, it feels familiar. Not safe and secure, but even the presumed dangers here are familiar to me.

North Sikkim
North Sikkim
I am not a seasoned traveller. But, I would love to travel the world on my own someday, one destination at a time, strictly on a budget. This year I took 3 short trips within India with my friends. The first one was a college trip to Lava and Lolegaon, the 2nd to Shantiniketan and the 3rd to Gangtok. These are a few things I think everyone needs to know about travelling alone, especially if you are on a budget. Do keep in mind there are a lot of other things you need to carry along, like medicines, lots of clean underwear and all your chargers(for your cameras, phones and other gadgets).
  • Carry a small tube of toothpaste that can be stowed away in a small pocket in your handbag and can be accessed easily every morning. Do not throw away old containers of these small tubes. Just refill them from a bigger tube you keep at home before every trip. Hold the mouths of the tubes firmly together and squeeze it out of the bigger tube into the smaller one. You can always share a tube with your friends.
  • Do not carry huge shampoo and conditioner bottles that you use at home. They will take up a lot of space and might come out of the bottle under pressure and ruin your clothes and other things. You do not want to spend on laundry which is usually expensive at any hotel. Carry sachets instead. They are easier to carry, cheaper and are disposable after use. Every hotel may not give shampoo bottles. 
  • Carry disposable paper soaps to save space and for easy access. Every hotel usually provides a small soap, or you can buy them at your destination. But, while you are travelling on a train or a bus these will come in handy. I forgot them this time and had to make do with hand sanitizer, which is also a pretty useful thing to carry around while travelling.
  • Trolley bags, if not rucksacks are the way to go if you want to run around between hotels, trains and buses. The 1st 2 trips I ignored the need because I travelled light. This time, between missed trains and running around the railway station for about 5 hours I realised how badly I needed to buy a trolley bag pronto. A rucksack might be too big for short trips. I had helpful travel-mates who shared the burden halfway through every time, but you may not always be so lucky. You don't want to hire a porter on a budget trip. And my bag felt heavier after each hour which made me desperately want to hire one this time.
  • If you have bought e-tickets from the online website of IRCTC and are wait listed then do yourself a favour and either buy the tickets on tatkal or buy them from the ticket counter in person. This is a valuable lesson we learnt this time. Many of you may know that wait listed e-tickets get dropped on final charting. Of course I am writing this for the non-smartasses who do not  know this information. At least IRCTC will refund the money because we were on wait list. If you missed the train you would end up losing the money entirely. So, reach the station on time if you have reservation. We came back in an AC sleeper bus (which cost us a little more than the train would have) which was full of families who had met with a similar misfortune like us. The bus journey wasn't as bad as we had expected and would have in fact been a better experience if the bus reached Calcutta a little earlier. Do use the washrooms at every bus stop and try charging your phone at every stop if it is feasible.
Misty Mountains Cold-(yes I just referenced LOTR. I had thought of it while taking the photo only.)
Over all I have loved all my trips so far. India isn't safe enough for solo vacations for girls yet(although someday I would love to take a solo trip, but it might get lonely). It is always better to have someone watch your back. I learnt from my travel-mate, Anu how to be in zen mode when situations are completely out of control. I learnt I am a semi-good mimic and provide good enough entertainment even in such out-of-control situations. Here's hoping I get to travel more, to more beautiful places and to learn something new everywhere I go. Don't get discouraged by what others have to say. You don't need a lot of money for travelling, you don't need to have lived on your own to be independent enough to know your mind and you don't need to travel with a guy every time to watch over you for safety. Truth be told, I did not feel unsafe anywhere I went with these girls. We did get quizzical looks and some assumed we must be related.
Make your own memories and be unafraid to experience new things (unless it's something gag-worthy enough to make you super sick. After all, you do not want to spend your vacation in the bathroom or the local hospital).

kolkata fashion bloggers
With Anupriya DG and Soumi Paul in Gangtok


  1. And as a kid I always dreamed of living in Calcutta (yes, I too love to say Calcutta) as I was living out but then it was never The City of Joy for me. I have traveled solo on many occasions you just have to alert always...Your tips are really practical and pragmatic...loved them!

    1. Where did you grow up?
      We have all had to travel alone at some point or the other. I meant vacationing it is popular abroad. But, I want to vacation alone at some point too, making friends on the road. That's my kind of fairytale that I would like to live.

  2. what beautiful pictures! The last one is so nice. I love the cardigan you are wearing!
    Useful tips too. I lived in Kolkata for 2 years and always wanted to visit Gangtok but sadly couldn't. I understand why you would still want to cal it Calcutta though :) I feel the same for Mumbai/Bombay thing.

    1. Thank you. That is actually Anupriya's cardi. I loved it too.

  3. 1.The toothpaste doesn't have to be small to fit in your satchel and I've proved it.
    2.Your hand sanitizer saved my life. Period.
    3."Travel-mates", seriously? Not my favourite word. Makes me sound like one of those hippies you met on your way to somewhere and decided to travel with.
    4.The last point is THE most important. I'm NEVER forgetting this in my entire life!
    5. We ARE related. Blood relation isn't all.
    6. You are the most unassumingly fun "travel-mate" I've ever met!

    1. 1. You were carrying a hug bottle of blackhead remover pack and a bowl..which you used in the train. You are weird! I thought I was the worst packer before I travelled with you!
      2. :D
      3. I was talking about all my trips. So, thought travel-mate was a safe choice of words. You are not just a mere travel-mate, come on.
      4. Amen!
      5. :'-)
      6. Thanku Thanku :D :D

    2. Oh! You guys!!
      Of course we are related, you both are me babies & I am your mamma! :D

      Debi, you were a great mimic!
      And yeah, hope you girls can be more zen next time you face such situations! :)

  4. Awesome useful.


  5. niceyyy ! So this is what u girls have been upto. I loved all ur pics on Insta BTW
    Happy Diwali and Have a great week ahead :)

  6. love the idea of refilling smaller tubes w/ bigger ones. can't believe i never thought of that :) beautiful pictures btw.

  7. Great tips specially the one about shampoo sachet and soap papers.. About trolley bags, I kind of find them very heavy. I mean even if they are not full , tao heavy lage, specially over bridge diye platform change korte to khub problem hoi .. Rucksack are a better option for me...

  8. It really pains me to hear you say that India isn't safe enough for a woman to travel alone. But I hope you get to do that somewhere!

    7% Solution

    1. It's not like the women aren't travelling between cities and living alone for work purposes or for pursuing higher studies. But, vacationing alone isn't very popular here for women yet. I hope that changes soon though.

  9. Despite that I travelled on my own to Calcutta many times but I wouldn't do it again if I had to, I felt safe yes, but when I went shopping I had no one to help me with my shopping bags, lol! This post about your trip to Gangkok hits home for me, like anywhere that I've traveled to in India. And how to pack lightly is such a must and you put out a good list. I invested in a trolley bag that the wheels slide sideways and not have to drag behind you (either way is still good) if you had to run to catch a train or bus and then with one heavy lift, hopefully you get on:) girls are so fun!

  10. Hate that I missed all the fun! :(