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Why I Quit My Job To Travel

Smiling faces

Last week, I took a wee trip to Rishikesh – the land of sadhus and of many people’s spiritual rebirth. I have a personal affection, some attachment to this place. This is where I once spent two months, practising meditation and taking spiritual lessons.

But this time, my arrival was accompanied by a sense of unexpected realization. I wondered, as I grabbed myself walking along its frenzied, confused walkways, that how lucky I am to experience places like Rishikesh again and again. And yet, it is never the climax of my journey. It is always the beginning.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls” Anais Nin

It has been a few years now since I have been travelling full time, or I should perhaps say a few years since I’ve made travelling my life, and my source of income, yet I never shared here why and how it all happened. It would be nice to say that I wanted to understand myself and find my inner consciousness, but frankly speaking, it’s not true.

The only part which is true is that was bored of the monotonous 9 to 5 corporate job and I didn’t want to keep continue doing it until I turn 60, ready to be retired. I wanted something more than that. I wanted to see the world. Meet new people. Learn better ideas. Find out what’s wrong with this system of corporate culture, that it never made anyone happy – no matter what they achieved in their life. Simply put, I wanted to educate myself in a way that no school, no job ever did before. And I wanted to do that by breaking free.

traveller

But one thing is saying that I want to do this and the other thing is realizing I am actually doing it.

Travelling is no less than a pursuit of happiness for me. Yet, throughout this time, I’ve often stumbled upon questions like “Why I quit my job to travel” or “How did I manage to make such a decision” or “What’s next”. And I think with all these questions, what people actually wanted to ask me was why did I not go for a two-week calculated holiday (or a couple of month’s sabbatical, if I am being pretentiously brazen about it) to quench my thirst of travel, as an averagely sane person would otherwise do.

The truth is, there is no fun in that. I have taken enough of those recreational holidays – as people often term them – in my life. When I was working I found myself escaping the boundaries of New Delhi almost every weekend, with a couple of friends, drinking a bunch of beers and returning with an unsatisfied soul. And I remember, the minute I entered the premises of my office, after completing that sweet, sally trip, it always felt as if it actually never happened.

So I realised that I wanted something more than that. Something bigger. Something permanent. I wanted a life of uninterrupted travelling, of permanent movement.

Further Reading: 6 Reasons To Start Travelling Today

Discontentment Is Good

Discontentment is the very first step to a new beginning. My discontentment towards my job forced me to quit my job and start travelling. I had always loved India, but I never loved my life in India. I always loved my profession (of writing), but I never loved my job. It seemed I was just accepting things as they came because everyone around me told me “this is life and you got to learn to deal with it.”

But I think I wasn’t good at it. Though I tried to suppress my unsatisfied soul the traditional way, by changing jobs and running after money, it was just not enough. My audacious, fertile mind – discontented and grumbling – kept pushing me until I shifted focus.

writing

The Journey That Changed It All

I took my first solo trip back in 2014 (you can read about it all here), while I was still working, and it was a life-changing experience. Though there was nothing extraordinarily great about the journey, the freedom in travelling solo was, in fact, most addictive. And that was it. I spent the next few months, saving as much money possible from the job I was doing, having a very clear focus in my mind – to leave this lifestyle behind and travel the world.

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world” Mary Anne Radmacher

Though it is true, when I quit my job in 2015, I had no idea that I will soon start blogging, but I had a belief that something good will follow. I remember during the initial few months of travelling and searching for a better life, I tried seeking a way to become a community journalist (I even wrote a few articles addressing social issues but couldn’t find the courage to get them published somewhere) and make it my permanent career, but I couldn’t. And I think it was because I tried and failed that in the end I decided to be a little easy on me, and chose a more freestyle kind of writing – travel blogging.

So the point here is, if you’re discontent, wanting a little shift in your life, there is no harm in quitting what you’re doing and trying to change the present. Because if nothing else, you can always return to the same present and say to yourself “I at least tried!”

Three Years Later Since I Became A Full-Time Blogger In 2016

Update: It has been nearly two years since I wrote this blog (and three years since I have been travel blogging) and I am fortunate to still be able to travel full-time and make money from it. Though my journey as a full-time traveller has had many highs and lows when I look back and think of what travelling has given me during all this time, there’s just one thing that comes to my mind, and it is – the satisfaction and the thrill in waking up every day!

And speaking of what’s next, I think now that I’ve got good riddance of my corporate career and have attained the financial stability, I’ll continue travelling for as long as my heart will desire, and if I ever wanted some stillness in life, I can always go back and resume what I was doing. But this time, I will only do it a little better!

Respect my decision? Like my lifestyle? Then why not follow me on Instagram or Youtube.

Top Tips For Renting A Car In Europe

Planning to rent a car in Europe, and doing it for the first time? Read these useful tips.

During my recent blog trip with Germany Tourism, I ticked off a major bucket list thing — a solo road trip in Europe. Though I understand it was a short one, and a part of me wanted to ride a motorbike over driving around in a car, I think the fact that it was my first time ever attempt for solo driving/riding in Europe, and that too on the wrong side of the road (according to my Indian disposition) driving a car felt like a safer plan.

So if are just as helpless as I was before the trip, renting a car in Europe from India (or some other country overseas) for the first time ever, this article will help you answer your questions.

The Hidden Costs: My Experience Of Renting A Car In Europe

Driving around in Europe is indeed a great experience. But there’s more to the deal than just a great experience. Thanks to hidden costs that you figure out at the reception desk before your dealer hand-over the keys, renting a car in Europe can actually kick your butts (and wallet).

I remember when I booked myself a car, sitting in the cozy corner of my apartment in New Delhi, drinking a cold beer, I was so happy that I found an unbelievably cheap deal. According to the payment invoice, I booked a Ford Fiesta for 7 days for just 125 EUR in total (some 9500 Rupees). And then 3 days later, I flew to Germany, and the reception desk happened. I presented the invoice at the reception desk of Buchbinder Car Rental at Frankfurt airport and I was told that there are an additional 40 EUR taxes that are not mentioned in the invoice. To make it worse, I was told that my agreement includes no insurance and has an 800 EUR excess fee, meaning, a single scratch on the car would make me liable for 800 EUR straight. Another scratch, and another 800 EUR penalty. On top of that, they will hold 1200 EUR from my credit card as a security deposit (nearly one lakh Indian Rupees).

Though I understand, I was liable for any damage done to the car, the very explanation of paying 800 EUR straight (which they would cut from my security deposit I assumed) for even a minor scratch on car’s body put me in a vulnerable situation. And what was the solution? To get my car insured for an extra EUR 140.

Well, that’s the kind of hidden costs your car rental company can smartly trick you in. They make you feel so vulnerable (at least Buchbinder Car Rentals at Frankfurt Airport did that to me) that you find no other escape but doing what you’re being told.

In the end, I paid an additional EUR 180 (140 EUR insurance and some 40 EUR of taxes) when my rental invoice, at the time of online booking, said, I have to only pay EUR 125 at the reception desk.

But all that said, hiring a car has its own perks. And when you’re travelling in a continent like Europe, with beautiful countryside drives, the perks become even better. It gives you greater freedom on your travels, allowing you to visit remote and beautiful locations that public transport would not be able to take you (or may take you if you’re prepared to take three buses, two train and walk for another 45 minutes in the end to get to your place).

Having said that, renting a car, even if you’re as inexperienced as I was, or you’re coming from a country like India where car laws and driving habits are quite different, does not have to be a nightmare. Just read ahead and learn from my experience.

Renting A Car In Europe: Top Tips

Choosing A Company

After my bad experience with Buchbinder, I shared about it in a couple of Facebook groups and asked people if they had a similar experience while renting a car in Europe, and I figured that Buchbinder wasn’t a popular choice, after all. Major rental car companies in Europe, as I was suggested, include Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar, and Sixt. A little research on Quora only assured the fact.

Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar, and Sixt, are the top players in Europe, and are most people’s first choice, basis on who is giving the best deal at the time of booking. And since they’re big and reputed, the chances of them ripping you off with hidden costs are moreover less.

To find the best deal, however, it’s a wise idea to check a price comparison website. AutoEurope.com, for example, is a great resource for finding out the best rates comparing all the major players under one window. It’s something similar to what Kayak or Skyscanner does for flight comparison.

The Driver’s Age

Some of the rental companies charge a higher fee if the driver is younger than 25 years in age, at the time of car hire. Though the legal age of driving is much younger, and you need to be only 21 to be able to rent a car in Europe, the rental companies charge a little extra if you’re young. So make sure you look into the company’s younger driver policy.

The Number Of People That Are Going To Be Driving The Car

Another strange thing that I never expected can add a difference to the cost of your rental agreement is ‘the number of people that are going to be driving the rented car’. For example, if you’re a squad of 4 friends renting a car, but only one person is going to be driving throughout the trip, it’s fine. But if you told them (at the reception desk or while booking online) that there are 3 drivers out of 4, you will be charged 5-20 Euros extra for every extra driver. Strange, but true! Such a thing doesn’t exist while renting a car in India, or elsewhere in Asia.

The Number Of Countries You’re Driving To

Where border-less Europe remains a valid reality in every other transportation method, whether you’re flying or taking a bus or a train, when it comes to a rented car, you pay an extra fee for every country you travel to. In fact, some rental companies don’t even allow you to to take the car to certain countries. So make sure you check your car rental company’s policy or perhaps contact their customer service to tell them what all countries you’ll be travelling to and if allowed, how much it’s going to cost you extra. Compare the cost with a few companies and find the best deal.

How Many Kilometres You’re Going To Drive

Unless your rental agreement says that you have ‘unlimited kilometres’, you are only allowed to do a limited distance (usually less than 250km a day) everyday, or you pay the fine when you return the car. So double check with your company on their policy, especially if you have a long trip/distance planned.

You May Not Need An International License, But Get Yourself One

When you go to pick up your car you are asked for a valid Driving License. You will be happy to know that most countries in Europe allow you to drive with your home-county license (eg in my case, they allowed me to drive on my Indian driving license without asking for any sort of international driving permit) but they can still potentially ask to see your International Drivers Permit (IDP), particularly if your home Driving License is not in English. So get yourself an IDP.

It is moreover important to know that an IDP does not replace your Driver’s License but only supplements it. You may not be asked to show your IDP when picking up your rental car in these countries (as was the case with me in Germany) but it’s still a good idea to have one just in case.

Dealing With Expensive Insurance

Lawfully, every car rental agreement in European Union countries comes with a ‘reduction of liability’ insurance under which any damages to you or other vehicle, during an accident, is covered. It doesn’t matter how cheap your rental agreement was, or whether you unchecked all boxes (particularly the insurance ones), if you’re renting a car, your car rental company is providing you with this third party ‘reduction of liability’ insurance. It’s mandatory by law.

Now, what your car rental company will most likely try to trick you in, is provide a cover for your car, which is often around EUR 20 per day, as was the case with mine, adding EUR 140 in my rental agreement for a 7-day period. Standing at the reception desk with a long queue behind me, forcing me to act fast, and with no experience of how to deal with the situation and avoid the insurance, I did as I was told and ended up bleeding EUR 140. But there are quite a few ways to actually avoid it, and still have your own car insured (for free, or at a much lower price).

Many credit cards offer car rental insurance. Check if one of your credit cards have that too. Use that credit card to make the payment for the car rental, and you are taken care of. If not, there are quite a few third-party insurance companies in Europe that provide full or partial coverage of your car, at a much lower price. Eg, iCarHireInsurance.com is a great option (PS: I am not being paid to advertise them!) that I later checked and found, was giving me the same insurance that Buchbinder gave (for 140 EUR) at a mere price of EUR 35. Though it’s true that it was a third party insurance company and any damages had to be first paid out of my own pocket first before I could claim the money back from iCarHireInsurance. But that was only if I had to use the insurance at all, which is often very unlikely. The difference between the two similar insurance was huge!

Key Takeaways:

  1. Don’t use Buchbinder, from my personal experience. Try to stick to the reliable and bigger companies like Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar, and Sixt.
  2. Use comparison websites like AutoEurope.com
  3. Read the company rental policy for any extra fee for young drivers, number of kms per day restriction and country restrictions (if you’re visiting multiple countries).
  4. Find a way to save on additional protection of your car insurance if you can.

Also Read: Germany’s Most Beautiful Route: The Romantic Road

A One Week Road Trip Along The Romantic Road: Germany’s Most Beautiful Holiday Route

Last year, while backpacking in the Bavaria region in Germany, I got introduced to Germany’s most beautiful holiday route: The Romantic Road.

It all happened when I planned a day trip to Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, almost unknowingly that it is located on the Romantic Road trail, or, the fact that there is something called the Romantic Road, and found out that Germany has not just one but several such picturesque fairy-tale towns.

“You should do the Romantic Road sometimes, if visiting similar small medieval towns is your thing” I remember being told as I picked a brochure that read ‘Medieval Germany’ at the tourist information center in Rothenburg At that time I paid no interest in what the lady at the reception desk was saying, and neither did I bother inquiring more on the subject. But as I got back to my hotel later in the evening, and looked at the brochure, I came across the same term again “The Romantic Road”.

Naturally Intrigued, I Google more about the subject and found that Romantic Road, in fact, is Germany’s one of the most picturesque and top rated Holiday Routes.

Fast Forwarding Six Months Later…

Six months later, I planned another trip to Germany, but this time it was a bit more specific. The itinerary was well defined, for I knew where I was going. On Agenda, was, a one week road trip along Germany’s Romantic Road.

I hired a car from Frankfurt Airport and covered the entire Romantic Road (though not staying or visiting all the towns on the Romantic Road but travelling from its north to south end!) over a period of 7 Days and 6 Nights, and it turned out to be the most memorable visits to Germany I ever had.

For those who don’t know, I’ve been to Germany four times in the previous three years, and the Romantic Road remains my favorite!

Romantic Road Germany: An Introduction

Running from the River Main to the Alps, the name ‘The Romantic Road’ offers a landscape change from river valleys to fertile agricultural lands, forest and meadows to dramatic mountain scenery. And that’s not all. A journey along the Romantic Road offers more than the beautiful countryside. Here you will find 30 inspiring German towns too that not only define Germany’s but entire Europe’s history, art and culture. Some of the towns you will find are as old as 15 b.c, with architectural buildings surviving since the 15th century, or older. No wonder, a trip along Germany’s Romantic Road brings about the fascination and a sense of being transported back in time.

The route starts from Wurzburg in the north (about 120km from Frankfurt) and runs straight south of the country towards the alps, before concluding itself in the town of Fussen (the border town to Switzerland).

There are actually three ways of covering the Romantic Road…

  1. The Romantic Road drive: it is by far the quickest and most convenient way (we will talk more about it following my 7Day/6Night journey below!)
  2. The D9 Long-distance Cycle Trail Romantic Road: It runs from Wurzburg to Fussen, covering a total of 460km and running parallel to the Romantic Road on little-used side roads, local link roads and tracks through consolidated farmland and forest. There are short sections too that are ideally suited for short-stay and weekend visitors too. From April to October, there is a coach service that runs along the Romantic Road, and accepts bicycles on advanced reservation. So you can use it cover individual stages of the route or to return to the starting point of the journey. Check romanticroadcoach.de for more information about the coach and the Romantic Road bike trail.
  3. Long-distance Walking Trail Romantic Road: Starting in Wurzburg and ending in Fussen, the Romantic Road’s long-distance Walking trail covers a distance of nearly 500km. Just like the cycling trail, the walking trail is also signposted all the way to make it easy for those who dared to walk its 500km long trail. Details fo the entire route, as well as of the stops for each stage can be downloaded from the internet both as a map and in GPS data format at romantischestrasse.de

How Do I Recommend Exploring The Romantic Road

I believe cycling is a great way to see more of the Romantic Road’s countryside and the beauty, if only, you have the time and the fitness level for it (given, you will be driving over 30km everyday while enjoying the landscapes and clicking pictures at the same time).

I would have, myself, done a bicycle ride had I visited the Romantic Road between April and October. And this is for two obvious reasons: a pleasant and more favorable weather, and the availability of the Romantic Road Coach.

But since I was short on time and wanted to do the entire journey – starting from River Main to the Alps – a road trip was the only way. Additionally, a road trip was more comfortable and could be done in the month of March when the weather was still too cold and periodic rain was still quite prevalent.

So yea, basis on how much time you have and what you want, driving or cycling, both are great options. Walking, on the other hand, is going to take just a little more time, can be boring and will take you to same route as cycling would other do.

A One Week Road Trip Along The Romantic Road: The Itinerary

If you’re starting the journey from the northern end i.e. Wurzburg, Frankfurt airport is going to be the nearest and most convenient for you.

Frankfurt Airport is one of the busiest and resourceful airports in the entire Europe. And when it comes to renting a car, there is no better place. You will find pretty much every every rental company at Frankfurt’s Terminal 2 including the popular ones like Sixt or the unheard-of ones like Buchbinder (though I do not recommend them, given my experience). So if you want to compare prices and rent a car on the spot you can do it all at one place.

However, it is always a better idea to book one online than doing it directly because of higher prices. Moreover, just like flights, the more closer (to your pickup date) you book your car, the more expensive it is going to be. It is advised to book a car at least 7 days in advance. Read these useful Tips On Renting A Car In Europe for more.

Day 1: Frankfurt to Wurzburg (120 km | 1.5 hours)

Frankfurt to Wurzburg is an easy 1.5 hour drive via the A3 Autobahn. To be honest, the route doesn’t offer anything great and is more or less just a highway drive.

If you haven’t been to Frankfurt before, a quick stopover at the old town of Altstadt is totally worth it. Head to the Eiserner Steg pedestrian bridge and catch the beautiful views of Frankfurt Skyline. A stroll along the Frankfurt Main-Riverside is quite a highlighted thing too. Here’s a more detailed Travel Guide on Frankfurt that I have covered in another blog.

The town of Wurzburg is a charming little town with interesting architecture and a special atmosphere.

Visit the Marienberg Fortress, which sits atop the hill across from the old town, explore the baroque style Residence Palace, walk the 16th century Old Main Bridge (Alte Mainbrucke in German) across the Main River, there is so much to see in this little town.

And to spend the night, I recommend where I stayed in Wurzburg, GHOTEL hotel & living which is located very close to the Residence Palace and the old town. Its high rise building moreover gives sweeping views over the city.

Day 2: Wurzburg to Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber (64 km | 40 minutes)

Wurzburg to Rothenburg, again, is a very short drive, and a not so interesting one, given you will be driving pretty much over a highway for most of your drive, but the town of Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber will make it up to you.

Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber remains one of the most visited towns on the Romantic Road. I have personally visited Rothenburg twice in the previous still couldn’t get over its beauty. From architecturally restored houses to a completely intact medieval town-wall, everything about this cute little town spoke of nothing but a hint of medieval well-preserved history. In short, if Europe, for you, is all about cobblestone streets, small alleyways and street cafes, Rothenburg is going to prove you right.

Visit the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store, eat a Schneeball, visit the medieval crime museum and do the tower trail. These four things will complete your Rothenburg visit. And here’s a complete Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber Travel Itinerary, if you’re looking for more tips.

Day 3: Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber to Nordlingen (85 km | 1 hour)

Rothenburg to Nordlingen is another short drive of only 1km but the drive starts getting a little better from here as you’re not on the highway for all the time. Additionally, to make it better, you can avoid the A1 and take B25 which runs pretty much parallel to A1. This route will moreover take you to the town of Dinkelsbühl, which is another destination on the Romantic Road and a very picturesque one. I took B25 as my route, but skipped the town of Dinkelsbühl.

Speaking of Nordlingen, however, the town is another medieval looking with its old town still surrounded by a city wall, just like it might have been back in the days, making it one of the only three towns in Germany (Nordlingen, Rothenburg, and Dinkelsbühl) that still have a 100% intact town wall, giving it a medieval charm.

What’s more interesting is that Nordlingen is actually located in a crater caused by a meteorite hit about 15 million years ago making it one rare town, not just in Germany but the entire world.

Image credit: wikipidea

Upon first glance, Nördlingen actually draw hints of a typical German town. It has a city wall surrounding it. At its epicenter sits a towering church dominating the skyline. The church is perfectly alibied with red pitched roofs of hundreds of timber-frame houses and shops. The entire vibe of the place is quite unlikely, making Nordlingen a must do on the Romantic Road.

Read more about Nordlingen here: Nordlingen Travel Guide

Day 4: Nordlingen to Augsburg (75 km | 1 hour)

Nordlingen to Augsburg is from where the drive will start becoming a little picturesque as you will no longer be driving on a highway and but country roads taking you through small towns and villages.

Augsburg, as a town, is one of the oldest in Germany, with its foundation dating back to 15 bc. Statistically speaking, Augsburg is Bavaria’s third biggest town, but when you’re there you don’t feel it that big. To me, Augsburg felt as one of those places that still holds that old European charm from yesteryear where an intriguing blend of history, culture, and art is still prevalent; where trams still chase each other on cobblestone streets; and where there are more people walking on streets than cars.

Here’s more on Augsburg: Augsburg Travel Guide

Day 5: Augsburg To Schongau (66 km | 50 minutes)

From Augsburg, the more your drive south, the more picturesque the journey gets. Between Augsburg and Schongau, you get patches of highland, with beautiful farmlands running on either side. However the closer you get to Schongau the journey starts getting a little hilly. In the town of Schongau, you see alps erecting at a distance.

Schongau is popular among tourists for its well maintained medieval Stadtmauer. Funnily, for years this fortification defense wall protected villagers by keeping people out & now it’s the reason for wanting to get in.

Another remnant of the Middle Ages is the 15th century Schloss Schongau. This old castle’s been through it all-parts of it have been torn down, blown up, and everything in between. Another highlight is the 18th century Polizeidienerturm (or Police Servant Tower).

Unlike other stops on the Romantic Road, particularly those mentioned in this list, Schongau proves to be a little weakling in terms of the tourist attractions it offers, but the entire small-town vibe that it has makes Schongau one of the must sees on the Romantic Road.

Day 6: Schongau To Fussen to Hohenschwangau (37km | 40 minutes)

Schongau to Fussen will take you to the most beautiful part of the journey with alps coming nearer at every kilometer. The drive is going to be the shortest, making it easy to cover more than one highlights on the Romantic Road in a day.

Make Fussen your base and do a day trip to Hohenschwangau and Schloss Neuschwanstein.

Fussen’s Altstadt (old town) is a pretty blend of brightly coloured buildings, many of which are adorned with frescoes.  The typical Bavarian architecture and cobblestoned streets gives the town an old world charm.

The highlighted thing to do in Fussen, however, remain the royal castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, related to King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Both the castles are quite spectacular to explore. Set in a mountain setting, on the foothills of the Alps, it’s hard to visit them without conjuring up thoughts of fairy tales and royal musings. You can find the castle of Hohenschwangau on many brochures highlighting tourism in Germany, and when you will see it on your own, you will easily understand why!

Day 7: Fussen To Frankfurt (420 km | 5 hours) & fly back!

Following the A7 and A3, drive back to Frankfurt. Your Romantic Road road-trip has sadly come to an end!

Visiting Munich? Don’t Miss The Town Of Augsburg

Last year I spent three days traveling in Munich and I know a lot of Indian and Asian tourists doing the same — spending a good share of their Bavarian holiday wandering and lazying around in Munich. Where Munich is certainly a great destination to travel to, and you won’t find such amazing beer culture (I still miss its beer gardens!) anywhere in the world, it still makes no sense if you spend all your time there and lose the opportunity of exploring another great town located at only half-an-hour train ride away from Munich. Yes, I am talking the town of Augsburg, on the Romantic Road Trail.

If you’ve not heard of the Romantic Road Trail, read about it here: Romantic Road Trail in Germany (currently writing about it!).

My First Impression of Augsburg

Despite being located only 70km away from Munich (or a quick half an hour train ride) Augsburg is unlike any part of Munich. I mean statistically it may just be Bavaria’s third biggest town, but when you’re there you don’t feel it that big.

Augsburg still holds that old European charm from yesteryear where an intriguing blend of history, culture, art is still prevalent; where trams still chase each other on cobblestone streets; and where there are more people walking on streets than cars — something that Munich has, unfortunately, lost. Though I am not claiming that Augsburg is better than Munich, or that you should not be visiting Munich, the fact that Munich caters to a more younger action-loving audience, whereas Augsburg is comparatively slower, more romantic and idyllic, cannot be disregarded.

So yea, if you’re visiting Munich, I suggest you to not miss visiting the town of Augsburg!

I spent an entire day exploring Augsburg, and honestly speaking, the experience was quite similar to that of holidaying in a small German town. All tourist highlights in Augsburg were so closely located that I could easily cover them on foot. And if I felt a little tired and needed a quick lift, I could hop on to a tram, take a few quick breaths and resume walking.

Speaking of the locale, the old town of Augsburg kind of time-transports you back in the time of Renaissance when wealthy traders still ruled its streets. The town’s 2000-year-old past comes to life in its historic city center with baroque townhouses, lovely boulevards, and romantic street cafes.

A Little History

efore I go ahead with suggesting my usual ‘top tourist highlights for Augsburg’, let’s start with a few facts and know the city better.

Augsburg was founded by the Roman emperor Augusta in the year 15 b.c. and it is because it was ruled by the Romans, you can find a lot of baroque architecture around its old town. Due to its strategic location for trading, the town grew in wealth and population over the following centuries.

Today, Augsburg is home to nearly 300,000 citizens and is Bavaria’s third largest city.

Getting To Augsburg

If you’re driving, as was the case with me, you will be glad to know that there are no toll taxes on the way to Augsburg, irrespective of where you’re coming from (Munich or the north/south of the Romantic Road). Parking is also affordable in Augsburg (less than EUR 2 per hour, depending on where you’re parking with some places offering space for EUR 0.60 per hour). Overnight parking in Augsburg is possible in under EUR 5.

If you’re taking public transport, the best way to get to Augsburg is by train. Trains from Munich Hbf to Augsburg Hbf take only about 30 minutes. From Nuremberg, they take about 1.5 hours. The central train station in Augsburg is only about 2 km from the old town, and is easy to walk.

If, however, time is no problem and you’re looking for the cheapest option to travel to Augsburg, try ride-sharing apps like BlaBlaCar or perhaps take a bus. There are very few buses from Munich to Augsburg, but they are quite cheap and are available at a price of less than EUR 10 for a single journey. Trains between Munich and Augsburg cost around 20 EUR.

Once You Get There

The first thing I will suggest you do when you arrive in Augsburg, is visiting the Tourist Information Center located in Augsburg market square and getting a city walking map (unless you’ve found one in your hotel).

Nearly all the tourist highlights in Augsburg can be accessed by foot, or you can rent a bike to make it even easier.

Top Tourist Highlights In Augsburg

The Town Hall & The Golden Saal: If you’re interested in seeing a bit of the Renaissance period and studying some expensive ceiling paintings, visit the town hall and the Golden Saal (located on the top floor of the town hall).

Constructed in early 17th century, the Golden Saal is one of the most important cultural monuments of the late Renaissance in Western Europe. In 1944 the Town Hall and the Goldener Saal were destroyed by an air raid and were reconstructed after the war. It is free to visit Town Hall, but for the Golden Sall there’s an entry ticket of EUR 2.10.

Fuggerei: Perhaps the most interesting attraction in Augsburg, Fuggeri is world’s oldest social housing project that was started in 1516 by Jakob Fugger, a powerful merchant banker. Within a decade 52 houses were constructed in a walled housing pattern. The idea was to give poor people a place to live.

Today, Fuggerei acts as a tourist attraction, with a handful of residents still living there. 

What’s interesting to note is that the residents still have to abide by similar rules to the ones set out 500 years ago, stipulating that they must be of the Catholic faith and pray for the souls of the Fuggers! The annual rent for the residents is a token €0.88, less than a quarter of what it costs to visit as a tourist. This makes Fuggeri the cheapest housing community in Germany and (as it’s termed) a unique housing complex for poor people.

Other places of interest in Augsburg that I didn’t visit but were advised to me include Augsburg Cathedral, Mozart House, the church of St. Anna, Perlach Tower and Diocesan Museum.

It is also worth exploring the shopping streets in new town center in Augsburg.

Where To Stay In Augsburg

Augsburg is a kind of place that feels rich and royal. Naturally, to complete your visit, you would want to stay at a place that matches the wavelength. Having said that, there is no better place than a hotel that offers not just luxury, but absolute luxury and my hotel Steigenberger Drei Mohren certainly fit that description.

The hotel is located directly on Augsburg’s grand main street Maximilianstraße and is only a stone’s throw from the old town and the major attractions such as the city hall or the Perlach tower.

The interior of the hotel had an atmosphere of traditional elegance. I booked an executive room that came with a beautiful bathroom, upholstered sofas and armchairs, a mini-bar and flatscreen TVs for my comfort.

On top of that, the hotel’s in-house restaurant Maximilian’s had an open kitchen which was one of its kind and is known for serving regional specialties alongside excellent wines.

The hotel also had in-house spa and wellness facilities that included a gym, several saunas, and even steam.

So if you’ll ask me for a place to stay in Augsburg that matches the tone of the city, you know what I am going to recommend!

Have you been to Augsburg? Would you add anything in the article?

My First Impression Of Nördlingen

When, after revisiting Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, I moved further south of the Romantic Road to spend a night in Nordlingen, I wasn’t expecting anything exceptionally medieval, for the name Nördlingen sounded pretty ordinary and regular. It didn’t seem to hold that weight to its name that ‘Rothenberg Ob Der Tauber’ rather did, at least for my Indian ears. So yea, Nördlingen sounded pretty ordinary and I was hoping for nothing beyond just another small German town, beautified with a colorful Marketplatz, a few dozen half-timbered houses, and cobblestone streets.

From Rothenburg, it took me just a little over an hour to reach Nördlingen. Getting to my hotel (that sounded pretty welcoming with its name 2nd Home Hotel) was moreover easy, for it was located right outside of the old town. But as I reached my hotel and to the reception, I saw a brochure drawing out a walking trail for the town of Nördlingen.

“We have a city wall in Nördlingen too?” I asked the lady at the reception, sounding taken aback.

“Yes, we do. In fact, you can walk over it and do a circle around the old town” the lady replied.

To my surprise, Rothenburg wasn’t the only town in Germany with a completely intact town wall. Nördlingen too had a 100% intact wall surrounding its old town. In fact, there happen to be a total of three towns in Germany, that, even today, have a completely intact city wall, with the third one being the town of Dinkelsbühl.

A Bit About The History of Nördlingen

Unlike Rothenburg, Nördlingen’s history isn’t a proud one, with its local population being majorly into farming and buying/selling livestock. Though Nördlingen was always a beautiful place as you find it today, it held no charm to an outsider back in the days… but only until 1960, as in 1960 a group of Geologists found traces of millions of microscopic diamonds declaring Nördlingen as a place of national interest. According to them, Nördlingen was covered in 72k tons of diamonds. Yes, you heard that right, 72k tons!

It all happened some 15 million years ago when a wayward little asteroid hit this particular area of Bavaria and changed its soil forever. Interestingly, until 1960 (when the research was conducted) people had no idea that the buildings they are living in have a microscopic diamond dust on them. Though of course, they cannot do anything about it even now that they know.

So yea, the town picked massive popularity after 1960 because of the fact that Nördlingen was hit by an asteroid millions of years ago. Another interesting thing to note is that Nördlingen is actually built entirely inside a massive crater. The crater, today, is named as the Nördlinger-Ries, or the Ries Crater. Having said that, the town’s placement is an interesting thing to note.

Image Source: Wikipedia

My First Impression of Nördlingen

As I ended up in Nordlingen and started exploring it, I realized that Nördlingen is actually a cute little town, the kind where you may perhaps want to get retired and settle-in forever.

Just like Rothenburg, Nördlingen too is pretty walkable and can be explored on foot in just a day.

It is moreover possible to walk over its town wall and do a loop around the old town, which takes about one hour to do a full circle. From the wall, you get clear views of the city.

Upon first glance, Nördlingen actually draw hints of a typical German town. It has a city wall surrounding it. At its epicenter sits a towering church dominating the skyline. The church is perfectly alibied with red pitched roofs of hundreds of timber-frame houses and shops. What sets it apart from any Germany town, or any town in the world for that matter, is the fact that its buildings are embedded with millions of microscopic diamonds.

What To See & Do In Nördlingen

Quite a few things actually. But if you’re visiting Nordlingen on a day-tour (or even if staying there for a night and have an entire day to explore) try not to do much and just experience the town as it unfolds. Wander around its many picture-perfect streets, take a walk on the town wall, shop and collect some pretty souvenirs, or perhaps just do nothing and sit and watch people at the old town square!

And if you’re into gastronomy, find yourself one of the street cafes or a fine-dining restaurant. Some of the popular places that were recommended to me for eating out in Nordlingen includes Cantina Diablos, Stuck, Sixenbräu-Stüble, and Gasthaus Roter Ochse.

And if you’re still interested in doing the highlights, these are my top travel recommendations for Nördlingen:

  1. Old Town Wall: Just climb up the wall, take a walk and explore some of the 11 towers and 4 fortifying gates.
  2. Rübenmark: The market-square in the old town with a lively crowd and some of the vibrant buildings surrounding it.
  3. Stadtmuseum: For those who fancy exploring the antique collection from Nördlingen and Bavaria’s olden days.
  4. St. Georgskirche: This Gothic Hall church, which dates back its foundation to 15th century happens to be Nördlingen’s one of the oldest buildings.
  5. Rieskrater-Museum: If you’re interested in knowing more about the meteorite impact into the earth here millions of years ago, the very moment that made Nördlingen so special today.

But rest assured, even if you wander in Nördlingen totally directionless, you will be treated with beautiful views you would not want to miss.

Where To Stay In Nördlingen

While booking a place in Nördlingen, I came across a few hotels located in its old town. Though the idea of staying inside the old town was intriguing, I knew that the experience can be pretty dreadful because of a crowded and noisy neighborhood, thanks to wave upon waves of tourists wanting to spend their day in the old town.

So unlike Rothenburg, in Nördlingen, I decided to stay outside of the old town, even if just a few steps away. And it was a rather good decision.

I stayed at a place called 2nd Home Hotel that was located right outside of the old town (just a stone through away from the old town wall) and loved how peaceful the neighborhood was. From its third floor, my hotel room gave me sweeping (well, not literally, but still good enough!) views right into the old town, with one of the town wall towers touching the sky.

The hotel even came with a Sauna Room, that, to my surprise, the hotel staff reserved just for me and me alone. I think they take their name 2nd Home a bit too seriously and give you an experience similar to staying in your home rather than a hotel.

So yea, if you are looking for a place to stay in Nördlingen, my natural choice would come to 2nd Home Hotel.

Have you been to Nördlingen? Do you have any tips to add for fellow travellers visiting Nördlingen? Please spill, in comments below!

Disclaimer: I visited Nördlingen during a blog-trip with Germany Tourism. While my visit was sponsored by the tourism department, all recommendations are solely mine. I only recommend what I personally try and find worth appreciating.

Revisiting Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber

I am not one of those people who appreciates the idea of revisiting places, for there’s so much to see and do in this world that revisiting places feels like a waste of time. But as with everything, for some places, there exists an exception. And one such place happens to be the town of Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, in the Bavaria region in Germany.

I happened to visit Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber the first time less than a year ago while backpacking around the Bavaria Region in Germany. It was moreover the time I was first introduced to Germany’s Romantic Road Trail and I realized how Germany can be so beautiful beyond the popular Munich, Frankfurt, and Berlin, among other metropolis, where tourists often frequent. Though of course, small German towns can be expensive for there exists no backpacking culture, and most of the tourists who visit them are either fancy honeymooners or families travelling on a decent budget, the fact that these offbeat medieval towns offer the Real Old European Charm cannot be disregarded. For the kind of beauty and experience, they offer, even I won’t mind paying a little extra.

So yea, this time as I decided to rent a car in Europe (for the first time ever!) and drive along the Romantic Road Trail, an effort to stay away from the frequented big German towns, Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber became an easy choice.

My First Visit To Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber

I fairly remember how when I visited Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber the first time it had me smitten by its beauty. And the 5-minute taxi drive (from Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber train station) was itself, enough to realize it. From architecturally restored houses to a completely intact medieval town-wall, everything about this cute little town spoke of nothing but a hint of medieval well-preserved history.

It was fascinating to know how despite being heavily bombed during the Second World War, Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber still has a city wall intact at its place with the old town still being totally surrounded by it, just like it must have been in the olden days.

As you enter the wall, into the old town, you find the usual tar roads being replaced by cobblestones, with new-age Audis and Mercs confusingly running around. The many half-timbered homes, with a modern mix of household ornaments, further adds to the charm. No wonder, Rothenburg
Ob Der Tauber is a beguiling mixture of Old and New.

Outside of the wall, the sweeping alpine vistas can be found making for a fairytale backdrop for a memorable vacation.

A Little History

During the middle ages, Rothenburg happened to be a Free Imperial City. With over six thousand people living in the town, it was Germany’s second largest city.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stay like that forever. The town was reduced to poverty during Germany’s 30 years war, losing its significance with its growth pretty much stalled to zero. It, however, still retained its Imperial credentials for a further one hundred and fifty years, which finally came to an end in 1802.

It only started recovering after 1873 when Rothenburg was connected to the German railway network. The town restored its rich status and maintained a good development rate in the following years, until an American air raid, during the Second World War destroyed the town again, with around 45 per cent of the old walled town being destroyed too. The restoration process later took off again.

The successful rebuilding of the town in the post-war period is the most significant achievement in Rothenburg’s recent history. Today Rothenburg is known world wide as being Germany’s best preserved medieval walled town.

Why Visit Rothernburg Ob Der Tauber?

Rothenburg remains my favorite place in Germany and I’ve a compelling belief that it will be your favorite too, should you paid Rothenburg a visit and explored its Instagram-perfect streets. But that’s not it. There are more reasons to be visiting Rothenburg than just its beauty.

Rothenburg is pretty centrally located between Munich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart, and can be visited in a train or car on a day trip. But trust me, you’ll want to spend at least a day wandering around its romantically beautiful cobblestone streets.

Other than its well-connected approach to most southern German cities, Rothenburg has some of the well-preserved medieval architecture in the entire Germany. From its 14th-century town wall that, even today, allows you to walk over it to a historic Marktplatz(market square) to Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum, Rothenburg has enough attractions to keep you busy!

And speaking of Instagram perfect photos, be rest assured that you will not find a better place throughout Germany.

A Useful Tip

If you planned to visit Rothenburg at all, I suggest you to start early, because in Rothenburg the crowds start setting in soon. And when I say crowd, be warned that it can get really crowded (the only thing I hated about the city).

For some reason, I’ve noticed Rothenburg is fairly popular among big Chinese groups, whom I found during both my visits. So start early (at least with the Altstadt Old Town) and spend the rest of the day getting lost down the countless alleyways!

Looking for a detailed itinerary on Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, read my other article here… Rothenburg Travel Guide!

Disclaimer: I covered Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber during a blog-trip with Germany Tourism. While my visit was sponsored by the tourism department, all recommendations are solely mine. I only recommend what I personally try and find worth appreciating.

The Best Places to Travel in Uttar Pradesh

The rich history and cultural heritage of Uttar Pradesh make it one of the most loved states in the whole of India. Often referred to as the “Heartlandof India, Uttar Pradesh is home to some of the most beautiful examples of Indian architecture as well as some of its most stunning geographical delights. From the Taj Mahal to the Ganges River, there are plenty of reasons to visit this incredible land.

Whether you’re traveling through India on a budget or looking for somewhere to spend a two-week vacation, Uttar Pradesh has everything you could need and more. 

Agra

One of the most recognized and visited places in India, Agra draws tourists like moths to a flame. But it is not only the magical Taj Mahal that makes this place worth a stop on your tour. There are a plethora of remarkable things to see and do here, so much so that you may end up spending more time here than you anticipated. The Elephant Conservation Centre is an excellent place to see elephants being rehabilitated while the Agra Fort is one of the finest sandstones and marble Mughal forts in India. For a truly stunning view of the Taj Mahal, head to Mehtab Bagh park, originally built by Emperor Babur long before the Taj Mahal came into existence. The gardens fell into disrepair until being reconstructed to help prevent the erosion of the Taj Mahal by the sands of the river. The parks of the Taj Mahal line up perfectly with the Mehtab Bagh, making it a wonderful place to watch the sunset away from the crowds. 

Sarnath

Located 10 km north of Varanasi is Sarnath. A famous pilgrimage center, the town is full of ancient monuments of great historical significance. From the Thai Temple to the Archaeological and Excavation Area, there is plenty to see and do in this captivating and unique place. Pay a visit to the 50 m Ashoka Pillar, known as the national emblem of India and a mark of Emperor Ashoka’s visit to Sarnath, or head to the Sarnath Museum to view the collection of artifacts ranging from the 3rd century B.C. to the 12th century B.C.

Lucknow

Visiting Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, often feels like stepping into another world. Filled to the brim with bustling bazaars, mouth-watering food and epic monuments, the locals here are friendly, and ancient charm is abundant. The striking Rumi Darwaza is a must-see for anyone visiting this city. Built in the 1780s by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, the monument is synonymous with Lucknow and is thought modeled on an entrance gate to Istanbul. Lucknow is also home to the tallest clock tower in India, standing at 37 m tall, and the state museum, which houses sculptural masterpieces dating back to the 3rd century A.D.

Kushinagar

As an ancient pilgrim center, the historical significance of Kushinagar is apparent by the number of ancient artifacts found in the Buddha Museum. To spend some time in nature, head to the Jagdishpur Reservoir in Lumbini for stunning views of wild birds or check out the Kushmi Forest for beautiful views of Sal trees. The Rail Museum and Gorakhpur Golf Course are perfect for spending an afternoon while the Ramgarh Tal is a stunning lake spread over an area of 723 hectares where you can take a boat out and enjoy a picnic on the water. 

Varanasi

A truly beautiful town with a fascinating culture, Varanasi is one of the most unforgettable places on Earth. But it is worth noting that it is not for the faint of heart. In fact, after my first visit here, I put together some tips for anyone else visiting Varanasi for the first time, as it can often be confusing when it comes to basic etiquette. As the spiritual capital of India, there is a lot to take in and remember when you get there. Located on the banks of the Ganges River, one of the best things you can do here is sample the local street food and sit on the Ghats while you soak up the complexities of Indian culture.  

Muzaffarnagar

One of the lesser-known districts of Uttar Pradesh, Muzaffarnagar is a rich and lovely city with a long and interesting history. It is home to Ganeshdham, a temple famous for the 35 feet high statue of Ganesha. The temple is next to the Nakshatra Vatika park, which is the perfect place to spend some time in tranquility. Another stop worthy of making in the city is Akshay Vat Vatika, an enormous banyan tree estimated to be over 5,000 years old. Also known as the “Tree of Undying Character,” it does not shed any of its leaves, so it is seen as a symbol of sacredness, truth and forgiveness. Traditionally, newlywed couples visit the tree to tie a red string around it as a symbol of their future. Muzaffarnagar is also home to the small town and tehsil of Budhana, the birthplace of the famous Bollywood star and PokerStars Ambassador Nawaz Siddiqui.

Kanpur

Also located on the Ganges River is the largest city in Uttar Pradesh: Kanpur. Kanpur is a major industrial hub of commercial industry, but it is also home to a significant number of tourist attractions. The Blue World Theme Park is known as one of the best theme parks in North India while the peaceful Nana Rao Park is a stunning place to enjoy a picnic or an afternoon stroll. It’s also worth heading to the industrial suburb of Jajmau, which many believe is the oldest inhabited place in the region. Excavations carried out here by the Archaeological Survey of India have unearthed tools and pottery dating back to c. 1300–1200 B.C.E.  

Would you like to add another name in the list? Let me know in comments below!

The Bible of Budget Travel In India: Top Tips

After living in India for almost my entire life, when I quit my job in 2015 to travel, I decided to initially explore my own country, before stepping out in the world. This was for two reasons: one, because I knew if I survived a few months in India and still didn’t give up on travelling, I can handle any place in the world. I wanted to test my endurance. Secondly, because India was among one of the cheapest countries to travel, and given I had no source of regular income at the moment, budget travelling was the only way to afford travelling.

So my choice was easy, and I spent the initial 12 months of my travelling stint mapping the length and breadth of my country, before actually stepping abroad (except for travelling Nepal and Bhutan. But they’re more or less India).

During my corporate life, I used to travel during weekends and wonder how some poeple (particularly European and Israeli backpackers in India) manage to live a nomadic life. “Where do they get the money from,” I always asked myself, because to me, accommodation always seemed too expensive, and long distance transport – simply unaffordable. Even if I could get that extra vacation time, hotels, flights and resorts always made travelling look like a distant dream. Cheap never seemed cheap enough. And sadly, this was happening in India which is popular as one of the cheapest and budget travel destinations in the world. “If I can’t afford to travelling in India, how can I explore the world” I always enquired myself.

Then in 2015, I had it. I quit my job, with little savings and no plan. I’d no source of future income, and no one I knew was there to financially support me. My savings also, always, seemed too little to sustain my long term travel goals, particularly if I had travelled the conventional way.

But as I became a full-time traveller and time-boundation became an invalid question, I realised that there was a lot more to travelling than what was actually known to me. I was no longer forced to take taxis and save time, neither flying seemed important. I learned how easy it was to travel – at least in India – on a budget as low as 500 Rupees a day. And this was possible throughout the country. In just a few weeks of full-time travelling, I explored new boundaries of budget travelling, that made travelling look more like a reality and less like a dream.

To give you an overview, my first ever journey in Northeast India, including the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, happened in less than twenty five thousand Rupees. The next journey in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir (from Delhi), for about a month, took between seven to nine thousand Rupees. And that’s not all, from South India to Gujarat to Goa, every place – as I personally found backpacking while keeping the expenses to the minimum – could be travelled on an average of less than 500 Rupees a day. I even did a solo motorbiking trip across Spiti Valley in under 5000 Rupees, which included my food, fuel and accommodation costs, for a period of 9 days.

And how did I mange to save so much and travel on such a low budget? By trying a few budget backpacker hacks that I learned along the journey, which included ‘camping to save money on accommodation’ to ‘becoming a local wherever I went’ (we will talk about them all later in the article). Solo travelling, moreover, was the reason why I was able to travel across India under such unbelievable budgets.

So let’s start with the topic in hand and discuss some affective budget travel tips for India.

The Bible of Budget Travel: Top Tips On How To Save Money While Travelling In India

Indian Railways Can Make A Difference

I once travelled some 600kms for almost 100 Rupees in its General Class, that is less than 2 dollars. And that’s how cheap Indian Railways can be. From New Delhi to Bangalore, you can travel for as low as 300 Rupees (or 6 dollars). So yea, if you already haven’t understood, Indian Railways offers some of the cheapest transportation modes, not only in India, but in the entire world.

Indian Railways comes with different classes, with the General Class being the cheapest and 1AC being the most superior and expensive. The hierarchy goes something like: General Class-Sleeper Class-3AC-2AC-1AC.

Travel in General Class if you want to save maximum, but be known that in General class, you are not guaranteed a seat, and the chances are you’ll be sharing the space with 500 other people hopelessly crammed in a buggy that was originally meant for just 50 people. So how to make sure you travel with The Indian Railways and still not end up punishing yourself? Travel in the Sleeper Class. In Sleeper Class, you will get your own bed on a fairly cheaper price (about four to five times of that of the General Class). If you want a little more comfort, try 3AC with Air Conditioned compartment and your own bed-sheet, pillow etc. In Sleeper Class, you don’t get a bed, and there’s no Air Condition.

luxury trains India
The rooms of the Golden Chariot speak of luxury

I travel in Sleeper Class, if I know the weather isn’t brutally hot or cold. If, however, I am travelling somewhere where it is going to be 40 degrees outside, I book a 3AC coach., which still saves me a money compared to flying.

Find Accommodation For Less Than 500 Rupees A Night

A few years ago, finding accommodation in under 300 Rupees was not possible everywhere in India. I mean where guest houses still didn’t cost much in small tourist towns, big cities like New Delhi or Bangalore were expensive.

But since the previous few years, the entry of many backpacker hostels has changed that reality. We can now get a dorm bed in a backpackers hostel anywhere in India in less than 500 Rupees a night, with many selling a bed for as low as 200 Rupees a night. What’s better is, backpacker hostels cater to an educated crowd and hence maintain hygiene.

Throughout my travels in India, I’ve tried many backpacker hostels including Zostel, Backpacker Panda, Go Stops and The Hosteller, among others, and never did I find dirty bedsheets. Though of course, in a hostel dorm, you share space with others, if getting clean a bedsheet and saving money on accommodation are your priorities, there can’t be a better option.

And then, if you’re visiting small towns in the mountains, or even destinations like Varanasi or Rishikesh, you can get a private room for under 500 Rupees is. It was just the metro cities where guest houses charged big money, which has now been taken care by the entry of backpackers hostels. So while travelling in India, make it a rule that you will find something that will costs you less than 500 Rupees a night. Because it’s possible throughout India, and it will save you some extra cash, and help you travel for longer!

Carry A Tent While Travelling In Mountains

During the initial days of travelling, when money remained the most important factor for me, I majorly focused on the Himalayan region only. This was for two reasons: one, because mountains are love and I prefer them over anything else; and two, because they let me save 100% money on accommodation.

How? By Camping.

camping himalayas

I would carry a tent with me and use it for sleeping. This is how I did Spiti Valley motorbike trip, for 9 days, in a budget of less than 5,000 Rupees. I saved 100% on accommodation, by using my tent.

Carrying my own tent moreover enabled me to stay outside of the beaten track where there were no hotels and thus, enjoy the exclusivity of nature.

And because people in the Himalayas are kind, honest and helpful, never did I have to worry about personal security either. There were so many times when I left my tent unattended in some unknown village with all the belongings lying inside, to explore the town or do a day hike, and nothing happened. Forget stealing, I wonder if anyone had even checked out my tent in my absence. Yes, the Himalayan region in India is that safe!

Avoid Peak Tourist Season

Because tourism industry in India is highly unregulated, and there is no lowest or highest set bar for services or hotel prices, prices for everything shoot sky high (as per Indian standards!) during peak tourist season. Where prices get affected by in-flow of tourists pretty much everywhere around the world, I’ve seen such a trend to be affecting more in India. So, avoid travelling during the peak tourist season at the moment.

For example, if visiting Goa, avoid the peak season of December to February and rather visit during the monsoon (between July and August) when the weather isn’t too hot and the prices are not affected by high demand.

Even today, when I am financially more stable, and travel blogging helps me generate money while on the go, I still avoid visiting places during peak holiday season, because other than high prices, having to deal with the massive crowd at the destination is also a total turn off for me as a traveller.

Eat At Places That Are Not Serving Tourists

Food throughout India is super-cheap. If you stay away from the tourist trail and eat where locals eat, you can find a proper meal for less than 50 Rupees for a meal. And no, I am not talking about some offbeat Himalayan town, but metro cities like New Delhi or the over-rated Goa and Hampi.

When I am on a budget trip, I either live on street food, or dig deep into the town and find a local eating-joint. Restaurants or dhabas located close to bus and train stations also serve food at nominal rates.

Other budget travelling tips for India

And then, there are other common budget travel tips to save more:

  • Do you own laundry: as laundry rates in India are high (for some reason I’ve found that getting your laundry done in India costs just as much as it does in Europe. Maybe it’s considered as too much luxury).
  • Bargain for better prices: pretty much everywhere you go.
  • Avoid renting a car and use public transport: it’s possible to travel throughout India on public transport.
  • Don’t bother giving a tip: unless you are really happy with the service.
  • Go street and local shopping: you can find street markets throughout India.
  • Travel in a group: and share accommodation and transportation costs.
  • Hitchhike: and travel around for free.

And lastly, Remember That Budget Travelling Isn’t Something To Feel Ashamed Of

During my early days, and while travelling on a low-budget, there were days when I ate at local people’s house, slept in their property and even received farewell gifts from them in the end. I hitchhiked in lorries, slept on bus stations and did my laundry in bathroom sinks. I was so pathetically frugal by nature that now when I look back in time and think of my budget backpacking days, I almost feel a little guilt. But it was those days that I made some of the amazing journeys of all time – just like I later did while volunteering in Europe and Australia, which was initially done with the idea of saving money but ended up giving some amazing life-experiences.

So yea, budget traveling can be wonderful, and you should not think of it as something to feel ashamed of while speaking about it to your friends. If you have insufficient money to travel, there is no harm in cutting down on luxuries and compromising during your journey. Some of the most amazing things happen when you actually step out of your comfort zone and experience life in its more real and conscious form.

Also Read: How To Travel The World On No Money

solo traveller

Travel Tips For The Lone Traveler

Traveling alone is often given a bad reputation, but it can be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life – if you plan well. Because those who don’t plan their solo journey well, are destined for a world of bumming around endless cities, with nowhere to go and not much fun waiting for them. So Plan effectively, and plan in a way that you’ll be able to wake up from your hotel and hit the road with a clear sense of purpose.

What’s more, being a lone traveler means no compromises. This is your journey and that means you can do whatever you like.

To help you make the most of your solitary trip, read these tips. They’ll keep you organized and help you have as much fun as you can.

Know your airport

For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re starting your travels at JFK Airport.

This bustling mega-flight hub is jam-packed with fliers at all times. The queue for security will last for hours, finding a parking space will be a nightmare, and eateries will be busier than free donut day at your local 7/11.

Anyone travelling to any airport needs a plan – and, if you can afford it, there are workarounds to the airport’s most headache-inducing inconveniences.

For one, park your car with a private valet. Brands like Looking4.com can help you out here with their prompt service. For two, check for fast-track options at your local airport. For three, eat before you arrive. This will save you queuing and stop your wallet getting lighter before your journey’s even begun.

Keep an itinerary

In any road trip movie, the character with an itinerary will invariably be geekier than your acne-riddled cousin who loves Dungeons & Dragons. But having a loose plan for your travels will keep you on track and enable a good time.

No one’s asking you to write an hourly breakdown of your day. Just jot down the places you’d like to see in a notepad and figure out the best time of day to visit them.

Start early

The early bird catches the worm – and the tourist who wakes up early will avoid queues like a champ.

Most people don’t want to visit the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, for example, at 9am. But if you do, you’ll have the museum to yourself for a few hours.

It’s a tip that’ll keep you in good stead if you can’t be bothered with crowds.

Stay apped

Mobile phones are usually a time-wasting nuisance, seemingly designed so you can mindlessly scroll through Facebook like a cow chewing its cud. But when you’re on holiday, your phone can be a lifeline.

Download Duolingo to learn choice foreign phrases, Google Maps to orient yourself around an unfamiliar city, and TripAdvisor for tips on the choice sights and restaurants in your local area.

That were a few quick tips if you’re traveling as a solo traveller! Got any other tips for lonely travelers? Then let me know in the comments below!

5 Bucket-List Worthy Things to Do in Venice

Although Italy is loaded with must-visit travel destinations, including the ancient town of Rome and the many island, the city of Venice is truly magnificent. It has been praised throughout history and still remains one of the world’s top tourist destinations. With palaces, churches, and more all constructed on a lagoon, the city appears to be floating and is unlike any other city on the continent. These are a few reasons why you’ll want to add Venice to your destination list.

These are a few reasons why you’ll want to add Venice to your destination list.

1.The Secluded Islands

Many travelers know that Venice is surrounded by islands, but they don’t know that there are 118 small islands linked by roughly 400 bridges. You can easily see many of them by using the water-bus service run by the city. This is a great way to step off the beaten path and enjoy the authentic city life that’s not been altered much by tourism.

You’ll probably want to visit several spots on your trip, but make sure to stop by Torcello, a small island that dates back to the days before Venice. When the weather is warm, stop by Mazzorbo. This island is covered in vineyards and artichoke fields, so it’s a great spot to visit for a fresh, local meal with unbeatable scenery. Finally, watch a sunset on San Giorgio Maggiore to round out your complete day in the islands.

2.Take in the Food Scene

All of Italy boasts amazing cuisine and you’ll want to be sure to stop by some of the top spots in the city of Venice. One of the best ways to enjoy what the area has to offer is by taking one of the Venice tours that incorporates food. Check out Venice’s favorite food tour, Ten Tastings, to sample a variety of eats from the capital city of the Veneto region.

If you’re simply looking for a place to dine for the evening, visit Bistrot de Venise. This spot is perfect for a romantic meal and has authentic dishes that have been passed down through generations. If you want to try authentic Italian wine, then you’ll want to visit the wine bar Cantine del Vino già Schiavi. The expert staff can help you find the perfect glass.

3.Check Out the Movie Sets

While you’re touring the city, you may notice that many of the spots have been featured in popular movies. Several James Bond films have filmed partially in Venice. The final scene of one of the latest films, Casino Royale, was filmed in Venice, which made the perfect backdrop for the tragic epilogue. These films aren’t the only ones that were featured in the film.

One of the best times you’ll have in Venice is simply wandering through the city and its canals. As you tour the area, you may even recognize some of the architecture from your favorite Hollywood flicks.

4.Buy from Local Artisans

There are many things that Venice does well and the art scene is one of them. It’s always bustling. One of the best crafts to experience is the making of Venetian glass. The artists’ work is world-renowned for being elaborate and skillfully crafted. The glass is made in Venice, mostly on the island of Murano. You can easily travel to this island and watch the glass be made right before your eyes.

When you take a trip to Murano, stop by the glass factories and sign up for a tour so you’ll get to see the artists in action. You can also stop by Venini Glass, an authentic store and museum that is located next to St. Mark’s Square. Here, you can purchase a piece for a souvenir or simply enjoy seeing the unique pieces that are made here.

5.Experience the Carnival

If you’ve ever heard anything about Venice, then you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with the Carnevale di Venezia. This yearly event isn’t just one single activity, but it includes a variety of entertainment options for visitors to enjoy, including amazing costumes, rowing races, parades, and more. Even if you’ve been to Venice during the event in the past, it changes each year, so it’s always a new experience.

The theme varies and the date will vary every year as well. The carnival is usually held at the end of February and beginning of March, so plan your visit based on the details provided on the Carnevale website.  Be sure to book early, because the festival is always packed with visitors from around the globe.

When you’re planning a trip abroad, the town of Venice is not to be missed. The activities listed above are five things I think everyone should experience in Venice, but please include your comments below if there’s an experience you think shouldn’t be missed.

Also Read: My Workaway Experience In Rome

Why Taking A Luxury Train May Just Be The Best Way To Travel India

It has been nearly 10 months now since I experienced luxury train travel in India, with The Golden Chariot. And after reading my first blog post on it — the review of The Golden Chariot — a lot of people wrote to me asking how do I actually rate it “off the record”. Do I really recommend them to try a similar journey? Do luxury trains in India really worth their price tag?

Well, attempting the answer today in this blog here – publicly, and honestly too — if I were to summon up in a few words, I would say: Yes. Luxury train travel may just be the best way to travel India, provided, you can afford it.

The entire group of bloggers who were travelling withe me

How Much A Luxury Train Ride In India Costs

India has a total of 5 luxury trains, out of which, only four are currently operating. This includes The Golden Chariot, The Maharajas’ Express, The Deccan Odyssey and The Palace on Wheels. And they all cover a different itinerary, covering a different part of India.

And speaking of the price, they all have a different tarriff! For an instance, if I talk about The Golden Chariot, its Pride Of South Circuit (PS: there are two different routes for The Golden Chariot) costs Rupees 3,85,000 (approx USD 6135 ) for single occupancy for non-Indians. For Indians, it costs Rupees 2,45,000.

The Golden Chariot train from outside

If we talk about another luxury train in India, say, the Deccan Odyssey, it costs Rupees a whopping 4,27,000 for single occupancy for Indian nationals (or a little higher for non-Indians). And then, some of the trains have a better and a more superior cabin too that comes with an even mind-boggling price tag. Eg, the Rupees 4,27,000 price tag for the Deccan Odyssey, that I’ve mentioned above, can go to a whopping Rupees 9,24,700 for single occupancy if you choose the presidential suite.

So yea, if you look at the price, it’s certainly big money for a (nearly) one week tour in India. But with that price, comes not just luxury, but ‘royal luxury’.

My Experience of Luxury Train Ride In India

Where travelling in India, and travelling in India in trains, in particular, can be highly unorganised, confusing and ticky, travelling on the Golden Chariot was totally different. It was safe and highly organised way of travelling. And well, at that price, you must be wondering how can it not be… so it’s a fair question! 

But the thing is, there’s was more to it than just organised travel. The entire experience of travelling in a luxury Indian train is crafted in a way that it makes you feel like a royal personality.

Right before we boarded the Golden Chariot for the first time, at Bangalore Railway Station.
Welcomed by a garland and the red-carpet

To say the least, it kind of time-transports you back in the golden days of kings and queens — because of the way The Golden Chariot (and the other luxury trains) looks from inside, and the way you’re treated on-board.

From your dedicated room butlers to the waiters, everyone on board is ready to literally serve you like a maharaja with anything you might need – even if it’s at 2 o’clock in the night.

Being welcomed and debriefed about what to expect in the coming days: on Day 1

Unlike my experince of travelling in commuter trains in India, on the Golden Chariot (and I am sure that same applies to other luxury trains in Inda too) everything seemed safe and secure, including myself. Cabins were lockable and doors to the main carriages were always kept locked. When stationed (why stationed? You will find out in the next part where I discussed the itinerary!) open doors were protected by the staff on the train. Wherever I went during the entire 7-day trip, someone was always accompanying me and keeping an eye on my safety, in a very discreet way.

The food was of high quality and conditions onboard the train and in the kitchens was clean and hygienic. An onboard gym, a spa, and comfortable private rooms and bathrooms, with a butler on hand, moreover means that you cannot ask for more in a train.

The Golden Chariot Itinerary

So the Golden Chariot’s itinerary (and other luxury trains’ too) is designed in a way that other than covering the frequented places, they takes you to destinations that many people have never heard of in India, including a lot of historic places.

The inside of one of the Badami Cave Temples: visited on Day 6
A stone structure in Badami Cave Temples.
It is believed that these caves were found back in 6th century
The 12th century Belur Chennakeshava Temple in the Hassan district of Karnataka: visited on day 4
The Gumbaz at Srirangapatna, that houses the grave of Tipu Sultan. Those who don’t know, Tipu Sultan was a ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore and is (still) a very revered man among the Muslim community in India: visited on Day 4
And that’s me, feeling happy and nostalgic for revisiting Hampi.
I first visited Hampi back in 2016

The Golden Chariot, as I’ve mentioned before, covers two itineraries – the
“Southern Splendour” and “Pride of the South”.  I travelled on the Pride of the South, that started and ended in Bengaluru, with the major cities being Bengaluru, Mysuru, Srirangapatnam, Bandipur, Belur, Halebidu, Shravanabelagola, Hospet, Hampi, Badami and Goa.

The Golden Chariot’s routemap

All of the luxury trains, including the Golden Chariot, operate on a set, seasonal schedule, which you can check on their respective websites.

Now, what really sets apart the experience of a luxury train ride from the usual tours is the fact that your train actually acts as your hotel on a pair of wheels, and transports you from one destination during the time that you otherwise waste sleeping in a hotel.

Understand it this way: the train moves from destination A to destination B in the night. During the day it stations at the platform at destination B, that you explore in a bus. In the evening, you return to your train and it starts its journey from destination B to destination C, followed by a day bus tour at destination C, and the same thing repeats throughout the journey.

A group picture in front of the bus, during one of the day tours

You explore a new town during the day and sleep in your moving hotel in the night. Saves you time! Keeps the comfort!!

And all the logistics are taken care of from bus travel to lunch and dinner locations off the train, tours and sightseeing.

Enjoying a glass of wine at a beach in Goa

It would take a lot longer to do this itinerary by yourself or even by booking a regular tour. Taking the train is a brilliant way of exploring a country so big and full of experiences.

It’s moreover a perfect trip for those who love trains. It’s also a good fit for the more non-adventurous travellers or for people who are nervous about travelling in India. Though with the price tag, it’s not going to be appealing to those travelling on a budget, nor will it be for the highly free-spirited.

And then, there were other areas where I felt a little scope of improvement that could make the journey better. This includes the constant shaky motion of the train (unlike trains in Europe that always run smoothly) but this was more or a less a technology issue that you will always find in third world countries, not to mention the tiny bathroom for the usual big-built Europeans.

A Few Pictures Of Train Interiors

I know I know, you are dying to see how a 6000 dollar train ride actually looks from inside. The pictures below are from The Golden Chariot. The other trains have slightly different interior but the ambience they create is equally royal.

The Final Verdict: Do I Recommend A Luxury Train Ride In India?

As I said before, I do recommend travelling with a luxury train in India. And I believe it may just be the best way to travel across India, provided you’ve the budget.

If you can spare 6000 dollars for a one week tour, and if travelling in luxury and feeling pampered is your thing, then go for it without a second thought. Because not only the trip is well organised and comfortable, this is by far the quickest way to travel around in India. Any other tour (that makes you sleep in a hotel) cannot cover as many places as these luxury train cover in a little time.

As part of the itinerary, these trains also organise special events on board. For example, we had a Heena Night and a cooking class as special events.

Our head chef giving us cooking lessons
The heena night

And then, travelling together with a big group is an added charm. Imagine it as a group of strangers hiring an entire train to themselves. The same group of strangers will soon become friends.

The entire group of guests.
SPOT ME!!!

And last but not last, for a country like India, that is so vast and culturally rich, a train or a road journey is the best way to travel. It allows you to not only see more but also calculate the cultural shift you experience more closely.

So speaking of it again, for those who can afford it, luxury trains are certainly the best way to travel around India.

Disclaimer: I was on a blog trip with The Ministry of Tourism of India to expereince The Golden Chariot. While my trip was sponsored by the tourism, all recommendations are solely personal. I wasn’t paid to write a biased report in any way. I only recommend what I personally try and find worth appreciating.

Special thanks to Jinson Abraham for allowing me to use some of his pictures in the article!