Hotels in India – 10 Tips To Have The Best Experience As a Tourist

Updated on July 4, 2016 by Asher Fergusson

Get my FREE Step-By-Step Guide to India Travel HERE.

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. varanasi hotelNaturally 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.

12 Tips for Eating in India as a Tourist Who Avoids Sickness (2018)

Updated on September 14, 2018 by Asher Fergusson

How do I avoid “Delhi Belly” aka dysentery?

After traveling in India for sometime it becomes apparent that life there (for 100s of millions of people) seems to revolve around three things: eating delicious food, worshiping God and doing these two activities with one’s extended family. Below is a list of tips I’ve learned to help you stay healthy while still enjoying the absolute delight of eating cuisine in India.

Travel on Indian Trains, Planes, Buses, Cars, Auto & Bike Rickshaws

Updated on March 15, 2016 by Asher Fergusson

Get my FREE Step-By-Step Guide to India Travel HERE.

1) Trains

I think traveling on trains through India is a must for everyone at least once. Often the tickets sellout early so I recommend booking ahead of time on When you’re actually on the train and cruising through the countryside it can be an exhilarating experience. It is definitely my favorite way to go apart from flying. I recommend only going on 2AC or First Class because otherwise it will be too cramped and potentially too hot. I find that sleeping on trains is very easy but it’s important to keep an eye on your bags or lock them. The train staff often come through with water, chai, snacks and fried foods. It is best to avoid everything unless it’s packaged like bottled water and packaged snacks. Trains mostly only stop at a station for about a minute so it’s important to know where your stop is and be ready to get all your bags off before you get to the desired station.

Handling, Exchanging & Sending Money to India – A Tourists Perspective

Updated on December 11, 2016 by Asher Fergusson

**November 2016 Update**: Read about the recent demonetization of 500rs and 1000rs notes in India HERE

1) Airport currency exchange

Avoid airport currency exchanges unless you have to get a couple of thousand rupees to start out. They give the worst exchange rates out of practically anywhere in India. The general exchange rate (as of January 2014) to keep in mind is Rs 60 for US $1.

Using Cell Phones & SIM cards in India – A Tourists Perspective

Updated on February 27, 2018 by Asher Fergusson

Step-by-Step Guide to Using Cell Phones in India + How to Get a Local SIM Card

Quick facts:

a) India has recently surpassed 1 BILLION cell phones in use which is 40x the number of their landlines!

b) The cell phone coverage and reception is pretty darn good across most of the country (except for some remote rural areas) and the rates per minute are among the cheapest in the world.

Here’s the deal:

Follow these tips below to learn how to get a SIM card (without getting scammed), what the going rates are, how to recharge your plan and which phone you should use.

1) Firstly, why do you need a cell phone for India?

friends-traveling-in-indiaSome people say, “I don’t know anyone in India, so why do I need a cell phone?”

There are several good reasons, such as to:

  • Make a reservation at your next hotel in another state.
  • Communicate with a fellow traveler.
  • Call the authorities or an ambulance in an emergency.
  • Cross check something that a scamming taxi driver says.
  • Look up a Google Map or Wikipedia entry.
  • Call your new Indian friend or your family at home.
  • Send an email or text to anyone in the world.
  • Make a calculation at a shop to verify you’re not being ripped off!

There are of course a million other reasons that you could need a cell phone but you get the idea.

2) Make sure your phone is compatible with the GSM band

indian-man-using-cell-phoneThe GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) frequency band for India is the same as Europe and most parts of the world at GSM 900 and GSM 1800. The US and Americas GSM is different so your US mobile cell phone might not work in India (check to be sure).

Also, it is best to get a local SIM card so you will require an unlocked phone that can take new SIM cards. I’ve listed a few of my suggested phones below.

How to Stay Healthy in India as a Western Tourist

Updated on November 3, 2016 by Asher Fergusson

Get my FREE Step-By-Step Guide to India Travel HERE.

1) Getting enough rest

I strongly believe the number one way to remain in good health in India is to stay well rested. This means not over doing it by traveling too much in one day, exerting yourself too much (in the sun) and staying up too late at night. In Ayurveda they recommend going to bed by 10pm and getting up by 6am and I find that this is really true in India.

Indian Temple Etiquette – 11 Tips to Enjoy Your Spiritual Journey

Updated on January 22, 2016 by Asher Fergusson

The Indian temples are truly holy. For me they embody pure spirituality, the coexistence of silence and dynamism, point and infinity and divinity. To get the most out of your visit it is very wise to have a guide or a least follow the tips I have below.

Bhojpur Temple India

1) Temple offerings

I recommend buying offerings at the temple grounds whenever you go to temple. This could simply be a 50rs garland (mala) of flowers or could more extravagant with a coconut, milk and of course rupees. These should be offered at the main idol or lingam. There will many “pandits” looking for money and so this is another place where 10rs notes become very useful. At the main inner sanctum you could give 50rs or more depending how you feel but at the little side shrines I give nothing or a maximum 10rs.

2) Remove your sandals or shoes

At all temples you will have to leave your sandals or shoes outside. I have found the best place to leave them is at the mala shop where you bought the flowers. Because you are a customer the shop owner will make sure to look after your sandals, just gesture to them so that they know you are leaving them there. Another tactic if you haven’t bought any flowers is to separate your shoes so that they are not a pair. Kind of like separating skis when you’re on the ski slopes.

3) Ear plugs

The best thing I ever figured out at a temple was that it is very wise to wear ear plugs. Believe it or not the temples can be some of the most chaotic places in India with loud bells, people screaming, babies crying and guards shoving you through the lines. If you have ear plugs in then the noise is dampened and it is easier to be inward and connect more with the subtle but powerful realms of spirituality.

Meditating in Indian Temple

4) Meditation at temples

I find that practicing my Transcendental Meditation at the temples can be an extremely pleasurable experience like no where else on Earth. It is important to find a comfortable corner or quiet spot away from the chaos where you think disturbance will be minimal. Again ear plugs are a Godsend. If someone asks me to move because I’ve been there too long or something I simply don’t respond and then I seem to become invisible. Being a white boy meditating for extended periods at temples I often become a spectacle with young children grabbing their mother’s sari and pointing. This is kind of hilarious but I just keep my eyes closed and go on with my exploration of the spiritual realms. In fact I have had some of my best glimpses into enlightenment at temples and this is certainly a major draw card for me to go to India.

5) Be Inward

As I have alluded to above. I highly recommend that you make the temple experience as inward as possible. You may be shocked by the chaos with people pushing and people asking for money etc. I keep my eyes closed as much as possible even when waiting in lines and just be quiet with myself.

Asher Fergusson in Indian Temple

6) Wear Nice Clothes

Whether you really believe in the spirituality or not I recommend wearing traditional nice clean clothes. This means kurta/ dhoti or pajama for men and a saree or punjabi dress for ladies. In my opinion, going to a temple is like meeting someone very special and so it pays to “dress for success”. Also I’ve found that if I’m wearing traditional clothing I am treated with more respect by the temple priests or even given special treatment. Also no leather is permitted in any temple including wallets and belts so beware.

7) Special Darshan – Abhishek

Darshan is crudely translated as “sight” but on a deeper level and in the context of visiting a temple it means “receiving blessings from the divine”. Abhishek is a basic pooja (prayer) that temple priests perform at the statue or lingam. It usually involves offering milk and flowers. If you want the full experience of a temple I recommend going to the “temple office” and purchasing an “abhishek”. This will mean you will get some kind of special darshan and you may even be lucky enough to do the offerings yourself! It also means you get to skip lines which can be great when the wait is hours long.

8 ) Dakshina or Baksheesh

Is the offering or donation of money at a holy place or to a holy person. It is expected that you give something any temple you visit but the amount is really up to you. 10rs would be the minimum and you could give anything more than that if you feel the desire. I like getting the special darshan which usually costs somewhere between 500rs – 1000rs because that way you are making a substantial donation but getting something tangible in return. I have had many wonderful experiences by giving a dakshina for the special darshan.

Meditation Ujjain Mahakaleshwar Temple

9) Temple Guide

It may be a good idea to get a temple guide especially if it is your first time. This will help you skip some chaotic lines and understand the history and special features of that particular temple. Be sure to agree on a price before the tour begins because it can be astronomical if they try to scam you.

10) Different kinds of Temples

As you may be able to imagine there are endless different kinds of temples in India. There is literally some kind of shrine or temple on every street corner. Some temples have a lingam (small rounded stone pillar) at the center and these are for worshiping the Vedic God – Shiva. Others have a statue of the Vedic God like in a Durga temple. While others are cave like with some natural rock formation that has become a place of worship. Depending where you are there may be some different customs observed such as in South India all the temples require the men to take off their shirts.

Kanyakumari temple South India

11) Accommodation

I choose my hotels based on their closeness to the temple. I figure that the closer you are the better. My experience is that if you get a hotel right outside the temple you will be in that spiritual aura 24/7 while you’re there and so the experience will be deeper and more long lasting. It also means you may be able to leave your valuables and shoes etc in your room which can be very convenient.

This picture on the right is from my hotel room outside the incredible Kanyakumari temple at the Southern tip of India.

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“Adventures in India” – Travel Photography Show

At the April 6th, 2012 Fairfield Artwalk I did my first ever photography show at the Jamuna Craft Collections store on Main St. The title of the show was “Adventures in India” and was a selection of ten photos taken in 2009 and 2010. I absolutely love India and have lived there for almost 1 year over the past 4 years. It was really fulfilling to finally show some of my work to the hundreds of viewers who stopped by on that night.

Click any photo below to ENLARGE.


“What’s News?”

In 2009 I spent around 10 days in Allahabad for the anniversary of Maharishi’s Mahasamadhi. I traveled throughout the town in taxis and took many pictures from the window. This shot was achieved by panning the camera to be fixated on the man reading the newspaper at the same speed as the car. I love the green color and the swirling motion.

Camera Settings:

Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: f22
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 18mm
Tripod: No
Year: 2009


“River of Roses”

In 2009 I was in Allahabad for the 1 year anniversary ceremony for Maharishi’s Mahasamadhi. Early in the morning I bargained for 3 pounds of rose petals and carried them around in a large box all day. There were some dramas where the box disappeared but then miraculously reappeared 2 hours later. That evening we were on the Sangam (confluence of 3 holy rivers) and the time came for offering the flowers. These roses were thrown in the Ganges by Dr. Tony Nader (Rajaraam) from the large yellow boat on right side of this pic. I love the color and the three dimensional feeling created in this photograph.

Camera Settings:

Shutter: 1 second
Aperture: f4
ISO: 400
Focal Length: 18mm
Tripod: No
Year: 2009


“Rowing through the mist”

Early in the morning we set out through the mist to have an auspicious bath at the Sangam (confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers in Allahabad). These boys were really excited to be rowing for us Westerners and it was quite magical to go out through the mist not knowing where we were going. I later found out that on this day there were almost 10 million people who took a bath at Allahabad!

Camera Settings:

Shutter: 1/180
Aperture: f6.7
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 18mm
Tripod: No
Year: 2009


“Mahalakshmi Temple, Vindhyachal”

This photo was taken at a Mahalakshmi temple in Vindhyachal, half way between Allahabad and Varanasi. I noticed this shaft of light streaming in after I finished my lunch. The saintly Maharishi Pandit pictured at the front left was one of our guides and just happened to be standing in the perfect spot for my picture. I love the rich, red colors of this scene which is the color of Lakshmi. Also Maharishi wants there to be 50,000 pandits at this town performing a daily yagya called Lakshchandi to secure limitless wealth for the world.

Camera Settings:

Shutter: 1/20
Aperture: f4.0
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 30mm
Tripod: No
Year: 2009


“Gandalf the Pink”

This picture was taken from a moving jeep near the Brahmasthan (Central point) of India. I saw the scene approaching in the distance, grabbed my camera, quickly wound down the jeep window and snapped away without much time to adjust my camera settings. I love the light and the timelessness of this transcendental moment. The pink shirt is priceless! Also I recently posted this photo on and received over 200,000 hits and this is what inspired me to do the show.

Camera Settings:

Shutter: 1/250
Aperture: f4.0
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 18mm
Tripod: No
Year: 2009


“Blue Sky School”

In 2010 I lived and worked from the Maharishi School campus in Bhopal, India with two friends/colleagues – Joey Del Re and Eric Carter. The campus has seven gigantic Vastu buildings and we were treated like kings. One night around dusk (my favorite time to take photos) I set up my camera on a tripod and exposed this photo for over 2 minutes while we chatted with the locals. I feel there is some mystery in this scene and I love the blue and purple colors.

Camera Settings:

Shutter: 135 seconds
Aperture: f22
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 18mm
Tripod: Yes
Year: 2010


“Morning Motorbike Adventures”

Early one morning I was on the back of a motorbike riding back home from staying the night at a friend’s house. I got to see the town of Bhopal at a magical time where everything is waking up and preparing for the bustling day. I snapped many pictures that morning but I particularly like this one because of the long shadow of my friend and I as we cruise through town on his bike. I also like the rustic colors of this scene.

Camera Settings:

Shutter: 1/750
Aperture: f3.5
ISO: 400
Focal Length: 18mm
Tripod: No
Year: 2010


“Midday Play”

Here is an example of my habit of taking photos out the window of a moving car. I really like the candidness of this moment where these young girls are playing on a fine winters day. The seeming movement of the trees yet focused light on the girls creates a playful and fun feeling. I was surprised how well this picture turned out considering it was taken around midday which is usually not a good time for photography.

Camera Settings:

Shutter: 1/180
Aperture: f9.5
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 18mm
Tripod: No
Year: 2010


“Dhuandhar Falls at Dusk”

Near Jabalpur, Central India there is the holy Narmada river. It is a beautiful, silent river with amazing, white marble rocks. At a certain part there is this huge waterfall called Dhuandhar Falls. We arrived at dusk and luckily I had my tripod. My favorite type of photography is long exposures and I have had quite a lot of experience taking photos in this style. The man who was standing next to me at the time said, “It’s too dark to take pictures now.” I said, “No it isn’t.” At that moment my shutter closed and this image came on the screen! So I turned to the guy and said, “See.”

Camera Settings:

Shutter: 20 seconds
Aperture: f8.0
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 18mm
Tripod: Yes
Year: 2010


“Stopped by the train”

On our way back from a visit to Ujjain we were stopped for about 10 minutes because of an approaching passenger train speeding on its way. In my opinion the Indian train system is definitely the best thing left behind by the British Raj. The vibrant hand painted boom gate, train and other objects in the scene somehow just bring a smile to my face. I love traveling on Indian trains – I sleep like a baby!

Camera Settings:

Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: f22
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 18mm
Tripod: No
Year: 2010

Want to order some prints?

If you would like any of these prints in any size I would be happy to have them printed and shipped to you where ever you may be in the world… To order simply go to my Contact Page and write me a note.

If you are in Fairfield the artwork will be on display until the end of May 2012 and you can still purchase any remaining work. The gallery is located at “Jamuna Crafts Collection” 108 N Main St, Fairfield, IA, 52556.

Special Thanks

Jamuna Crafts Collection – Saraswati and Biba Dangol, Christine Mosse, Elea Cohen, Fran & Ian Fergusson and Tegan Perry.



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A Camping Surfing Safari to Seal Rocks, Australia

Last weekend I went with my family to our favourite beach in Australia known as “Treachery“. As the map below shows it is about 3 hours North of Sydney and is located just past Seal Rocks. We first started coming here around 1997 and have come almost every year since for 2 to 3 weeks in the Summer. It is really an untouched wilderness nestled in the middle of Myall Lake National Park where there is a camp ground just behind the Northern end of the beach. Treachery is known for it’s laid back atmosphere, impressive wildlife and year-round excellent surfing conditions which at times can be rather treacherous. Check out my article: 17 Top Camping Packing List Items + What NOT to Bring

Click any image to ENLARGE.
Here is a quick map I made to show you were Treachery is in relation to Sydney. The beach faces South East which explains why it always has good surf because it picks up the South swells.

Here is a view of the headland at the Northern end of the beach.

And this is the view looking South from the Northern end of the 1 mile long beach.

The waves were quite good but a little too small.

This was my first surf in a year. I am very thankful for muscle memory!

It felt really good to be back in the water again. There’s nothing like the feeling of surfing.

When we go camping we always have a nice setup complete with a kitchen, dining room, lounge room and bedrooms (individual tents).

Here is my tent.

And this is the view from inside.

As I mentioned, Treachery is known for it’s fantastic wildlife. Here is a Goanna outside one of our tents.

Goanna‘s are large lizards found throughout Australia. They can easily grow bigger than 2 metres (6 feet) and eat all kinds of other smaller animals. Thankfully they are quite shy around humans and I’ve never heard of any serious incidents except for scratched arms. Notice it’s huge claws and long tongue.

Photo Credit: Utopia Images Online (My Dad)
Treachery is filled with a wide array of bird life. In the morning I counted at least 15 different songs that created a deafening symphony. The above picture is of the famous Laughing Kookaburra (from the kingfisher family) which is known for its song that sounds like laughter. They are often seen eating snakes so they’re a good bird to have around.

One night we made a fruit salad for desert and this mother and baby Possum came down from the trees hoping for a piece of the action. In a previous year I fed one and it bit me! so that wasn’t happening again…

My sister-in-law was about to flick this little insect off a chair when she realized that it was a scorpion! It posed nicely for the camera before I moved it to into the bushes.

Photo Credit: Ogwen
The Seal Rocks area and in particular the Treachery camp ground has always had a small dingo population. They are ancient dogs brought by the Aborigine’s and have lived in Australia for thousands of years. They never bark only howl.

Photo Credit: Richard Fabiszewski
On this trip I didn’t see any snakes but every time before I’ve encountered them including the red-bellied black snake pictured above.

I love making fire using only natural means except for a match stick. There is something very primordial and mesmerizing about fire that has always fascinated me.

I built the fire up quickly in order to produce coals that would be used for cooking our dinner – vegetarian lasagne!

Here you can see the lasagne in the camp ovens waiting for the coals.

We placed the cast-iron pots on a bed of red hot coals and then covered them as well. After about 45 minutes we could smell the delicious scent of fresh, wood-fired, vegetarian lasagne. My Dad swept the coals off with a brush to see if our noses were correct – they were.

Here is another view of the campsite and my family preparing the lasagne for serving.



Everyone silently enjoying the delicious meal.

My parents are avid campers going to the remotest parts of Australia in there Landcruiser. Here you can get a glimpse of how well setup they are with a fridge, storage drawers and fold down kitchen bench.

They even have whipping cream capabilities – heaven!

We had a mouth watering fruit salad with jelly topped with whipped cream for dessert.

The next day we went for picnic at Lighthouse beach where you’re allowed to drive on the beach.

My brother Ehren was testing his Jeep for the first time on the sand – he had a blast.

Here you can see where the beach gets it’s name with the lighthouse perched on the top of the cliff.

Beach driving is fun – the trick is to lower your tire pressure so that the wheel has more surface area and to not stop because that’s when you sink. Also it’s helpful to drive in the tracks of others because the sand is more compressed there.

Another example of how well my parents are setup to go to the “outback”. They have vital shade whenever they stop and it only takes seconds to setup.

After I’d had a surf and we’d eaten lunch we went for a stroll to the headland at the North end of Lighthouse Beach.

A shoreline wave.

An amazing view.

Quite a mixture of rocks compose this headland which is slowing washing into the sea.

More interesting rocks and pebbles.

This is the next beach around from Lighthouse called Boat Beach. And I think the rocks out there are the Seal Rocks.

This picture is of the South Celestial Pole. It is a 15 minute exposure that captures the star trails due to the Earths rotation on it’s axis. The circle at the bottom is me shining a torch light at the camera in big arches. I did an earlier blog post with a series of these type of images called “Self Portraits – Painting With Light.

On the day we were leaving the back door of the Landcruiser wouldn’t unlock so we had to unscrew a metal cargo barrier that blocked access so that I could crawl through the tiny space unlock it from the inside with my long arms.

My Dad then tried to fix it by taking it apart but it didn’t work.

So I came up with a way to unlock it with a series of ropes that lead to the middle section of the car – ghetto rig!

Lastly my Mum snapped this photo of me taking pictures so you can see what I look like when I’m photo blogging…

The trip was very nostalgic and fun was had by all. I really love the Australian wilderness and feel lucky to be from this beautiful country.

All the best,


P.S Comments and questions are more than welcome. 🙂

Organic Farmers Market – Sydney, Australia


On Tuesday last week I arrived back home to Sydney, Australia for a 1 month long visit to attend my brother’s wedding and for a general family reunion. I am very happy to be back enjoying the early Summer in Sydney after missing it for 7 years! Today, Sunday, I went with my Mum to the local Organic Farmers Market right near where we live on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. It was great to see the thousands of people flocking for the fresh food picked ripe for our enjoyment and nourishment.

Click any photo below to ENLARGE.
As the sign says this market is open every Sunday morning ’til they sellout by around 2pm. It has been going ever since I can remember and was a nice novelty for me to return to after a long fast.

They basically sell every “in season” fruit and vegetable under the sun. A vegetarian’s delight!

All kinds of apples and oranges are beautifully laid out as eye candy for us to eat with our mouths as well…

We went for the “marked” apples that had nothing wrong with them except they were bigger or smaller than usual and maybe a few little marks. $2 a kilogram is rather cheap, eh?

I came across some veggies that I’d never heard of such as broccolini. It’s obviously related to broccoli but with smaller florets and longer stalks.

Any takers for a tray of tree-ripe Australian mangoes for 12 bucks?

They have basically anything you would need but it is wise to get there early, like 7am.

They had nice flowers.

I was looking at these 2012 Australian calendars for gifts and for my room back in the US when this man came over and told me he was the photographer! So I asked if I could take a pic of him for my blog.

More of the same.

At many of the stalls there were different families running them descending from all over the world. This group were Italian.

Tropical plants were available including orchids and frangipani’s (plumera) – my favourite.

A lot of the food we bought was organic but not certified. This stand had exclusively 100% certified organic produce which was a bit more expensive.

In the foreground of this pic are endless varieties of seedling herbs and veggies for people to replant at home. We bought basil and mint.

This is to prove to you that we do drive on the left in Australia.

And this one shows how much natural bushland there is surrounding my home.

More photos from Sydney to come shortly.