SARATHA VILAS HOTEL - CHETTINAD
Travel Tips in South India
Hello, here are some practical tips that complement those you will find in the guides, which have been given to you by your travel agent, doctor, etc.
These tips are for people traveling for the first time to Tamil Nadu (South India) who are looking for a certain level of comfort in transportation and hotels.
India is a developing country, so it is much easier now to travel in good conditions; a trip to India is always an unforgettable experience so the images, the scents, the tastes, the sounds and the feelings are exacerbated. A change of scenery is guaranteed, especially if you take the time to think outside the box, to explore, to observe.
The routes depend on the time you have. Don’t be overly ambitious when it comes to distances traveled. Anyway, even by living like us most of the time in India, you will only know a very small plot, so this culture is so vast. It is not by collecting visits to monuments that you will have the greatest joy, but it is by strolling peacefully that you will have the most beautiful of journeys.
Tamil Nadu is known for its millennial culture; the cradle of Dravidian civilization is located along the Kaveri valley around Thanjavur. The grandiose temples are testimony to its greatness, they have been classified as World Heritage by UNESCO. But the manifestations of this fascinating culture are also in intangible things, ephemeral gestures, sacred places surrounded by nature, in immense fervor.
When to leave?
The best season to plan a trip to Tamil Nadu is from December to March. If you plan to come around Christmas and January 1, book several months in advance because the accommodation offer is quite limited. July, August, September, and October are also pleasant but warmer and there can be rains. In fact the rain is very pleasant, especially in the late afternoon; these are sudden and powerful tropical showers, which means that many travelers also come in November, although it is the wettest month. Protected by the Ghats mountain range, Tamil Nadu does not receive heavy rain during the summer monsoon.
For tourists, formalities can be done online. You can apply for your visa at most 30 days and at least 4 days before your arrival in India. Attention, check on the list if your arrival point is in the list of equipped airports, this is generally the case.
This visa allows you to go to India for holidays, visit monuments, meet friends, attend a wedding …
You must have a passport valid for at least 6 months and having at least 3 blank pages (including 2 face to face) and a scan of your identity photograph.
You got your visa brilliantly, what to put in your suitcase?
South India is a tropical country, so choose cotton summer clothes. Attention in the evening it is better long sleeves to protect yourself from mosquitoes. You will surely spend a few nights in the mountains where it can be frankly cool. In December and January, even in the plains, we support a little wool in the evening. It can also be cold in taxis or in some restaurants.
We recommend that you have a one-size-fits-all outfit during tours and especially temple tours. Ladies, avoid showing your shoulders. You can wear a light scarf that will hide a neckline. People are happy when we respect their dress codes.
In temples, houses, most buildings, you will have to take your shoes off at the entrance. So no shoes requiring an effort to be taken off, no shoes too fragile or precious, you never know in what condition you will recover them. You can do elegance in hotels.
Many medicines are available in India, but often under another trade name. Pharmacists are often not equipped to find the equivalent from the formulation, it is best to speak to a doctor. Beware also of counterfeits, it is better to leave with a small kit of medicines, knowing that you can find something to treat you on the spot.
Take mosquito repellents and possibly an insecticide diffuser to plug into the outlets. The current is in 220 as in France.
it no longer makes too much sense to take packs of pens and give them to the kids on the street. If you have original ideas, you can take 2 or 3 small gifts that you can give to people you meet during your trip. Do not be surprised, in Tamil Nadu, we do not open a gift in the presence of the person who offered it, we wait until he is gone to unpack.
With the crisis helping there are fewer and fewer thefts to India. Most travelers arrive or leave via Chennai (MAA), the capital of Tamil Nadu, located in the northeast of the state. There are intercontinental flights arriving in Chennai, but Air France no longer serves this destination. You can also arrive / leave in Tiruchirapally (TRZ) via Chennai or Colombo, you will immediately be in the heart of Dravidian India. You can also arrive / depart from Madurai via Chennai as there are a lot of flights between Chennai and Madurai, which is useful for connecting flights.
If you do not have a taxi waiting for you at the airport, you can take a prepaid taxi (a taxi that you pay in advance at the airport) from the agencies located near the exit. You need to pay for it, see next section.
If you have arranged your taxi or hotel pick-up in advance, the driver will meet you at the exit with a sign with your name on it.
To organize your trips, it is better to plan a car for the duration of the stay if you are very itinerant. Prefer a big car to a more economical and ecological small car, but the drivers of big cars (like Innova) are much better and often speak English. Plan to only average 50 km in an hour, except on the 4-lane highway that crosses the state, where the speed is a bit higher. Driving in India (left) is extremely scary for westerners, we haven’t figured out the rules yet. Avoid driving at night, that is to say after 6 hours. Your driver will probably be careful, especially if you went through a travel agency, but the other drivers take insane risks and there are all kinds of vehicles and animals on the road!
You can also get around by train, but the schedules are not very practical for tourists, as the trains run especially at night.
There are of course hordes of buses, mostly truck chassis on which cabs are placed. There are also nice air-conditioned buses, but they only connect big cities.
If you do not have a driver waiting for you, you will have to withdraw Rupees or change Euros at the airport. There are a lot of ATMs in India, they are ATMs, they don’t accept all foreign cards, but there is no problem to withdraw Rupees almost everywhere. Each time you withdraw Rupees your bank charges you a fairly high flat fee. Know before you go, and don’t withdraw small amounts. You can usually withdraw up to 10,000 Rupees at one time (around € 150) and up to 18,000 Rupees, in two installments.
Exchange offices are less common, plan your operations in major cities.
Language & Politeness
India is a federal state, the interstate borders to the south of India correspond to the predominance of a language. Tamil Nadu means the countries of the Tamils, Tamil is therefore spoken there most often; it is a very rich official language with a large literature. It is by no means a dialect. Unfortunately for travelers, English is not widely spoken, except in hotels; even less French, even in Pondicherry. It is therefore not easy to communicate.
Tamil moms don’t spend their time saying to their kids, “Say thank you to the lady, say hello to the gentleman.” No one will be shocked if you don’t say hello when entering a store and thank you for receiving your change. However, everyone will be delighted if you know a few words of Tamil. Hello says “vanakam”. If someone says “vanga vanga” it is an invitation to return to a temple or a house.
Salvation is done with hands clasped in front of the chest as in many countries in Asia. Men shake hands in cities, but never shake a lady’s hand unless she holds out her hand to you.
Tap water is not potable.
If you eat out of your hotel, go to crowded places; prefer the vegetarian food which is the most widespread in South India. In India, you eat with your hands, you can try if you have previously washed your hands. It is not always easy to find soap, take with you the small hotel soaps, and a handkerchief to wipe your hands. There is also no guarantee that popular restaurants will have cutlery. In general you can find a spoon.
At breakfast you will no doubt have idlys. These are steamed “buns”. They are 6 or 7 cm in diameter, they are very white and light. It is a mixture of rice and lentils that have been ground for long hours into a very fine paste. This dough ferments like bread overnight before being placed in molds and then steamed. This fermented rice / lentil mixture is very rich in vegetable proteins. Idlys are eaten with different kinds of vegetable soups, sambar and rasam. Idlys are not spicy at all, but they often have a sour, sour taste. The sambar and rasam are often spicy.
The traditional lunch is called meals, a survival of English. In popular restaurants, you will be brought a tray with lots of different sauces in cups. It is necessary to make a little room so that the waiters deposit white rice in the center of the tray which you will season with sauces. Rice is at will. Many sauces contain chili. In families, parties, or in some hotel restaurants, a banana leaf is placed on the table, the waiters come to arrange different preparations in small heaps. Initially a small pile of salt, then alternately a dish in sauce, a dish without sauce…
You will no doubt take your dinners at the hotel where you can also taste specialties from North India such as the Tandori grills.
Chettinad is very well known in India due to the diversity of its gastronomy, especially the spice combinations of non-vegetarian cuisine.
The temples are closed between noon and 4 p.m. It’s quite restrictive when planning a trip.
As in many buildings, you have to take off your shoes at the entrance to the temples. There is often a small deposit which allows you to find your shoes at the end of the visit. These instructions are free but you can give a few coins or a small ticket. You will have a hard time avoiding a guide in some holy places. Bring coins to give to beggars; begging is not humiliating, it can be the ultimate stage of detachment sought by Hindu spirituality.
Be careful the stones of the ground can be very hot.
People love to be photographed, so don’t hesitate. You will also probably be photographed. Travelers are coming back from India with hundreds of photos so photogenic.
A trip to India is an opportunity to discover traditional medicine, Ayurveda, the science of long life. The easiest and most enjoyable and try a massage. Many hotels offer this service; there are also Ayurvedic centers in major cities. It is a very gentle massage, the practitioner uses a lot of oil which has been prepared by macerating medicinal herbs. The massage can be followed by a steam bath. In general, men massage men and women massage women.