- Uber is generally available, but the main issue is phone data service which can be sketchy for international travellers. Simplest workaround is to organize a hotel car from the airport to the hotel. That way there’ll be a driver waiting for you just outside the airport with a nice big sign, which is useful because airports are always extremely busy, especially in the arrivals section.
- When booking your flights, be aware of airport=>hotel transit times. Depending on when you arrive, it can be a long time. For example, Bangalore you’re looking at anywhere between 1.5 to 3 hours to get from airport <=> hotel, so take that into account when booking flights (especially departing ones).
- Have hardcopy printouts of your travel details. When you leave India, to even enter the airport you have to produce proof of your flight (with your name on it). Relying on your phone is potentially risky because if you drop out of data service, you can be stuck.
- Traffic in India is alarming for the new visitor, and the rule is simple – any available space on the road is there to be taken advantage of 🙂 Which pretty much means you need to just laugh off the fact that every corner seems to be an constant supply of near-misses. The chaos seems to just “work”.
- When arriving, most airports will again X-ray your hand luggage and potentially suitcase(s) as well.
- When departing India, standard practice is that all passengers are patted down after security.
You’ve got the option of a business visa or an e-visa.
- With the business Visa, you get a 6 month, 1 year or 5 years etc. Typically I go with 6 month or 1 year, because you don’t need a lot of background material. The longer the visa, the more stuff you need to get. But it does involve sending off your passport, and it takes about a week to get it back. https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/Registration
- You can (and many Oracle people have done so) get a e-tourist visa on entry at the airport or online below – basically its valid for a week or so. https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html
In either case – on entry, if asked for the purpose of your trip, the word “Conference” can be interpreted as “meeting with government officials” which carries a much larger risk profile and hence a lot more questions. “Business meetings” is the better option.
- If you are planning on tourist time either side of the conference, it would be good to reach out to Sai from AIOUG – he can probably give you a list of things to do, and best advise on how to organize a guide. Booking a driver for a day to take you wherever you want to go is typically very cheap. The driver remains available to you all day – they’ll park somewhere you simply phone them when you want to move on to the next destination.
- I’ve never felt unsafe in India, but if you’re out and about, you will likely attract interest if you are a westerner. Beggars and hawkers are common, but I’ve never found anyone overly aggressive.
- You’ll definitely need local currency if you are planning on tourist activities. If you’re staying within the confines of the hotel, you can get away with just a credit card.
- Electronics do not seem a great deal cheaper in India.
- Vaccinations are not mandatory but are recommended. There’s a fairly extensive list of potential ones for India, most of which are concerned with if you were planning to visit rural India. The cholera vaccination is said to give additional protection against general stomach bugs. I have no idea if there is truth to this, but I got it for that reason.
- Check with your GP early on vaccinations, because if memory serves, one of them was an initial treatment, then a follow-up a couple of months later to get full protection.
- Needless to say – bottled water only. There will be bottled water everywhere. Some people take this to extremes – eg brushing teeth with bottled water etc, but I’ve never gone that far. Similarly, I’ve had no drama with ice at hotels, but I’d be hesitant on ice from anywhere else. If you end up doing some touristing, street food is possibly a higher risk proposition.
- Hotels will X-ray your belongings on entry, and may search/examine the car as well… standard practice. User group events are typically held at a hotel, so booking the hotel where the conference is being run just makes thing more convenient.
- Hotels have a surplus of staff who are always keen to assist, so get used to not being overly protective of your belongings. Every time you take a few steps, someone will rush out and want to carry your bag etc.
- I’ve never had a hotel that does not take Amex.
At the Conference
- It varies from year to year, but typically sessions have minimal transit time, so having your laptop all ready to go and only needing just the screen cable to be plugged in is a plus. Similarly, as a result, things can run late.
- Expect selfie requests… lots of them. It’s a big deal in India so I do my best never to decline.
- Be prepared that in some rooms, the screen is actually a giant LCD screen – which means fonts need to be larger for readability and laser pointers typically will not work.
- I’ve just used international roam on my phone when in India. Most of the time in the conference venue, wifi is available. Out and about, the networks seems to be scattery at best, so I’ve always been dubious about getting a local SIM. From what I’ve seen on the phones of the locals, Airtel, Idea and Vodafone seem to be the popular choices.
- India has its own power adapter so you’ll need one obviously for presenting. Adding to this is that there are 2 kinds of india power adapter – one large, one small. The small one is close enough to Europe so that a european adapter/plug will do, but the large one is a different size altogether. Although most of the hotels have multi-country power points in the room.