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  The Chatter Box : Travel
Looking for something a bit more hardcore (In travel terms) by bendonnachie on 6 January 2005 11:53pm
Hello budding travellers, I recently worked over in the USA and really enjoyed my self, but to tell you the truth Iím looking for something similar to the Himalaya trip that Michael did, but I want to do it on a tight a budget as possible, if anyone can give me rough prices for such a trip please let me know. And if by any chance you do read this Mr Palin, I would like to thank you as you are a huge inspiration to me and Iím sure many other people. (P.S. sorry if my spelling is atrocious) ha ha and if you could personally answer this it would be great.

Thanks Ben
Re: Looking for something a bit more hardcore (In travel terms) by Godfather on 7 January 2005 12:39am


Michael doesn't tend to reply to posts on here. But you may be lucky. In the meantime,here is some info you may find usefull. Most of the regions that Michael went to in Himalaya (Bhutan aside,which requires you to spend $200 a day minimum) are pretty damn cheap anyway if you're a westerner.

So you're in luck. India is absurdly cheap at times. You can have the time of your life there on hardly anything. I've managed to spent months travelling in all regions of India and always been stunned at how little i've spent at the end. Same with Nepal and Pakistan. Very cheap for still fairly good conditions, and gorgeous food.

China ups the budget a little bit more (mostly in the more developed eastern regions). But Northwest and Southwest China are closer to South East Asian prices. Much more manageable.

Tibet is fairly cheap. You can do it cheaply once you're in there. But it takes patience on your part. If you dont just chuck in the towel and take state owned agency trips to places, you can hitch or take public transport cheaply. One year i got back from Lhasa all the way to the Nepal border for about $13,through public transport and hitching (paying the pickup people a little something). But the rules in Tibet change all the time. One year you can go in with an individual Chinese Visa and roam around on your own once you've initially gone up to Lhasa with a landcruiser (always the requirement). But the next year it will revert back to "group visa" (which means you go in as a group, go everywhere as a group where they want you to eat, sleep and visit, and return as a group at a time of their choosing). Expensive,and must be incredibly frustrating that way.

The later scenario is currently in place. But on the whole,the Himalayan region really is good news if you're on a budget (i'm always on a budget because i make little money). There is always Afghanistan aswell. Very rewarding indeed. Little visited, and fairly cheap (about same as China). But the safety situation changes frequently. You also have to plan ahead a little bit more for there. And prices are rising each year it seems.

As for general prices. Well you can get cheapest rooms to stay in India (cities like Mumbai aside) for as low as IRs50 (about £0.70 UK). Meals can be as low as IRs15 (i dont know what that is...probably about 20p). In Nepal, the UK£ is usually about NRs170 rate. That means,you can have the time of your life there very very cheaply indeed (if you eat local food that is...not the western fare you find in places like Kathmandu and Pokhara). Nepal is so rewarding in two ways. Glorious mountain scenery,and it wont cost you dearly to enjoy it all.

Food in Nepal is a tiny bit more than in India,sometimes. But similar prices. In China,it depends where you are in China. You can get dorm rooms in the North West (places like Xinjiang) for about £2 a night. When you're in some obscure cities like Chengdu,just a dorm bed can be £4+. So it really does depend on the city really. Beijing can be quite cheap. Yu can find "triples" rooms for a cheap price there. Good way to meet people too. Tibet is cheap once you're in. If you dont mind hideous Chinese toilets and water not working occasionally, you can get £1-2 rooms (festival times aside). Food is very cheap. Chinese food even more so. Pakistan,about the same as India. Food is about Nepalese prices. Afghanistan,hotels are £3-5 rock bottom (unless you stay in Chaikhanas) and food is cheap.

The best thing about these countries is the transport costs. Shockingly low compared to our ripoffs in the west. You can be on an Indian train for 2 days and nights,and pay peanuts (not literally). Local nepalese buses are so cheap,it's silly. But be prepared for veeeeeeeeery slow and cramped rides on them. Indian buses are the opposite. Still cheap and crammed beyond belief. But speed along at the speed of light overtaking on mountain corners and other cases of lunacy. Hair raising,but exciting. China buses are usually comfortable. So you can see so much more of this region of Asia,without being stung big time on the transport costs.

Hope some of that helps.

Re: Looking for something a bit more hardcore (In travel terms) by bendonnachie on 7 January 2005 11:20am
Thanks godfather! sounds like you have been about a bit, i'm from the u.k to, sounds like you are aswell, i find it very hard to find flights to certain parts of asia from the U.K. Sometimes I wonder if it is better for me to fly to china and the start there or fly to India somewhere. I dunno, just wanna do some random crazy trip. LOL

Thanks for your help

Re: Looking for something a bit more hardcore (In travel terms) by Godfather on 7 January 2005 4:49pm

Hi Ben,

Yes i'm from UK. The cheapest way to get to Asia from UK is certainly India, Pakistani,or Thailand. Due to so many Indians and Pakistanis living here,there is plenty of traffic which keeps the prices down (apart from over the November-Jan period). Thailand is very popular, and one of the cheap hubs of Asia flight travel. So it's cheap to get there and cheap to get to other destinations from there too.

India really is great for spontaneous travel,because they are so liberal. You can arrive on a One way ticket (no matter what a travel agent will try and tell you) from UK, with an Indian visa of 6 months multiple entry (which is fantastically generous) and make it up as you go along from there.

India fully creates the atmosphere for you to travel on a whim due to this. China is quite expensive to fly direct to from UK really. So i would not suggest that if you're trying to keep the prices down. I would suggest that you start by trying to get a flight to either Delhi,Mumbai (Bombay), Chennai (Madras) or Kolkatta (Calcutta) or perhaps Islamabad in Pakistan if you wanted to start from there.

I've started so many trips in India,even if i'm not visiting on that particular occasion. It's just a great place to start and settle in before moving on. You can get visas for most ongoing destinations, in these cities.

And flights onwards can be cheap if you wish to fly onward. For example. From Calcutta (offically Kolkatta now) you can get very cheap one way flights to Thailand on the cheap airlines like Biman (Bangladeshi) or Druk(Bhutanese).

Calcutta itself is not so far from Nepal either. So you can do it all overland. I did a trip one year which was India,Nepal,back to India,Pakistan,China,Laos,Thailand,Cambodia. I was away for nearly a year. But hand on my heart i spent very very little in that year because it was all overland. Crossing borders.

That's what is so great about this region. You can do a lot of it overland, which keeps prices down in a big way. So yes it's the perfect area to do your random crazy trip :)

The only real stings are Visas. That's the only drawback of Asia travel. Unlike Latin America with it's free 30 day passes that you can keep renewing. Nearly every country in Asia requires you get a visa. When it all totals up it can be quite a wack out of your wallet at times. It's the penalty.

India isn't too bad. For what they give you (6 months multiple entry) it's about £30. Nepal is $25 and you can get it at the border when you arrive (or at the airport when you arrive). But that's only 30 days, which is stupidly short. But you can play it by going out and returning (certainily with that Indian multiple entry visa which means you can do this).

Pakistani Visa is fairly pricey. It's about £40 for 90 days. But that's quite a generous time,and you can extend it a little in Islamabad. The Pakistani London consulate is a pain though because they rarely give out multiple entry visas (which means it limits how spontaneous you can be).

The other thing to be aware of if you choose to get a Pakistani visa in India or elsewhere instead of getting it in London, is that our British Embassies have got one hell of a money earner around the world. The other embassys you go to for your visas, insist on a "Letter of Recommendation" from your Embassy before giving you a visa. This means,we have to pay our own embassy (which pisses me off) about £35 for a stupid bit of paper saying "Yes,it's him. He's British. He's not Hannibal Lecter. Please give him a visa". It's a monumental ripoff and all the embassys are in league together about this.

For example. If you try to go to Iran from Pakistan,you'll get the same bullshit all over again. So if you can,try and get your visas in London to avoid this (it's not an issue with the Nepalese or Chinese visas though). Just thought i'd warn you of it. The other thing is that sometimes the Delhi consulate suddenly decides to stop issuing tourist visas for Pakistan. They are totally unpredictable people. So if you can,get your Pakistani visa in London before you go to avoid all this.

China is pretty easy to get into. Although the cost of the visa escapes me at the moment. Maybe about £15. Usually 60 days permitted initially. Again, you can play this by going out into Hong Kong (considered an "special administrative" region, so Brits get something silly like 6 months free pass on arrival) and reapply there for a much longer Chinese visa,to return.


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