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1) Cheap vs Expensive Hotels
I am lucky (or unlucky?) to have stayed in all types of accommodation in India from $2/night hotels to deluxe $350/night 5 star palaces and everything in between. Of course the 5 star hotels are amazing and make you feel like royalty but most people don’t have that kind of budget. Additionally, it kind of feels like you leave India when you go back to the 5 star hotel after a day of adventure (which can be a good thing depending on how you look at it.) I personally enjoy going for the $2/night hotels because it means I live very well with $10/day budget. Naturally you’ve gotta watch out at these hotels because of security, mosquitoes and bed bugs etc. If you are on a budget but don’t want to totally “rough it” then there are plenty of mid range options from Rs 500 ($10) to Rs 2000 ($40) per night.
2) Location, location, location!
I believe location is everything with real estate and hotels are no exception. If I’ve traveled thousands of miles to visit a special temple I want my hotel to be next door not 2 miles away. So the location is often a criterion when I’m selecting hotels. How do you know where it is? The Lonely Planet books have little maps for all the major towns. CLICK HERE to view the latest one on Amazon.
3) Locking your room
Obviously you’ll want to lock your room when you’re out and about. I try not to leave any super valuables like passport and credit cards in my room but sometimes it’s simply unavoidable. In that case make sure you hide your valuables cleverly within your suitcase or somewhere that is not visible upon entering. Some people carry their own padlock around so that they feel more secure (I don’t do this). Also you’ll obviously want to bring your lock inside when you’re in the room (so that no one can lock you in!) and also it’s wise to lock the door (from the inside) with a bolt lock when sleeping at night.
4) Shower flip flops
I recommend having a cheap pair of flip flops or crocs for the showers. Even in the classy hotels the shower floor can be a bit nasty and who knows what’s living there? You can pick up flip flops everywhere in India but if you’re like me and have large feet you may have difficulty finding your size. They carry plenty of choices up to men’s size 10.
5) Mosquito nets
A personal bed mosquito net is a must for most hotels. Even the more expensive ones often don’t have net’s over the windows or beds. Malaria is still a problem in India and I’ve been with people who got a mild form of it. It can be challenging to set up the mosquito net in the $2 hotels but I always figure it out with an elaborate setup of strings going across the room. You can find these nets in most bazaars across the sub-continent. Also if you like using mosquito repellent then bring your favorite kind. Additionally they have this little wall plug repellent called “All Out” from Johnson&Johnson which seems to be fairly effective but kind of toxic and I don’t enjoy breathing those fumes all night so I don’t use it.
The cheaper hotels definitely will not provide you with a towel. So I advise you to bring a small travel towel for drying yourself after showering etc. You can also pick up these towels in India but watch out for colors leaching out into your other clothes.
7) Flash light
A flash light or headlamp is a must bring item. The power supply in India is very dubious and can fluctuate from 50 V to 300 V or turn off completely without warning. In this case you will have no lights and could cause problems especially if it’s an emergency. Candles can also be good if you are staying in one location for a while.
8) Squat toilets
It is changing fairly quickly but many cheap hotels they still only have squat toilets. And you will almost never be provided with toilet paper even when they have Western style toilets. So what to do? Some people bring their own. Alternatively you can learn to use water to clean yourself. I personally like squat toilets because it is more natural for the body to eliminate in that position. If you want to avoid them you’ll have to ask the hotel what type of toilet they have before agreeing to stay the night.
9 ) Tipping
It is common to tip in the hotels for tasks the staff do. For example when the bell boys bring up your bags I would give them each Rs 10 (more at 5 star hotels) when they have finished the job. This is where the wad of 10 rupee notes comes in really useful. Other occasions when tipping is recommended is your taxi driver after a decent length journey or when a waiter brings up your breakfast at the hotel etc.
10) Hotel reservations
You can make reservations if you want and it is wise to do so in the peak season which is usually November to February. One thing I have learned which is very good to know is that if you pay cash upfront when you arrive you can get a room at a hotel that is already fully booked. People often don’t show up for their reservation so don’t worry about taking someone’s room.
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