It has been quite a while since I came back from India, my very first trip abroad, all alone for 2 months in the “dangerous country” (according to the media). I was a total travel noob with social anxiety. Therefore as I recall, I felt really nervous and scared to backpack alone around the whole country. Things are different now, since the trip did a huge change on me and my fear. I felt in love with it and its people, its attractions and everything … All the fear was created only in my own head. What you heard on the news about the country turned out to be such lovely exposures. Below is how I picked my ass up and prepare for the indian adventure…
Original plan and terrible Visa procedure: India – Pakistan – India
“The first time traveler” in me planned this: 2 months in India, cross the border to Pakistan, 1 month in Pakistan, come back to India to fly home.
Because the plan was to stay in India for 2 months plus a couple of days after Pakistan, the e-Visa option to India (2-month-max stay) was not an option for me. I had to apply at the embassy if I wanted to stay longer. Here came the shit part…
I wished I had done some research about the conflict between India and Pakistan before applying for both visas. The consular procedures was a rough pain in the ass. Other travelers told me Indian tourist visa was pretty easy, yet I had to go to the Indian embassy 4 times and attended 3 interviews A big thanks to me mentioning Pakistan in my itinerary. And guess what? they told me to get the Pakistani visa first and then come back. I got frustrated, still I came to Pakistani embassy for it and they told me … the same thing. I swear if that wasn’t me desperately wanting an adventure, I would have gone to Thailand instead.
The result was a big ZERO, none, nada. I couldn’t get both. Shame on me.
However, I must go to India, determined. So i changed my plan. I ended up not going to Pakistan anymore, instead, applied for the 2-month e-Visa on the embassy website, and after India, spent 1 week in Malaysia, then home. The tourist e-Visa procedure was an ease. My application was approved in 2 days and the visa got mailed to my email box.
Flight tickets, IRCTC, and my luck on Couchsurfing
After I got the visa, I started to book flight tickets. There were no direct flights from Hanoi to India, so I had to buy one ticket to Kuala Lumpur, and another from Kuala Lumpur to Hyderabad, India. I chose Hyderabad because the airfare was cheapest to there.
Because I intended to move around in India by trains only, I registered an account on the official IRCTC Website (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd.). But they required an Indian phone number as a part of verification, so I emailed them to verify my passport instead since I’m a foreigner. They told me to wait…. guess what? I eventually got the a reply … just … 1 week AFTER I came back from the trip … I had to ask my indian friend to book the first train for me.
1 week before my trip started, I tried my luck on Couchsurfing. I posted a public trip for Hyderabad and fortunately got a message from a host, named VP, who later helped me a lot in the city.
Prepare my stuff
I had to buy a winter coat, which is suitable for traveling, since it was the beginning of February. Who knows? in case it might get cold. I bought a 60 litre backpack, a new pair of shoes. Made a list of things to do. I had to bring 2 backpacks. The new 60 litre was for clothes, medicine, hygiene stuffs, long-way snack, and some souvenirs for my hosts, while the small one for important documents, my laptop (as I still had to do my design work along the way).
Everything was ready 2 days before my departure. Those 2 days were the most exciting day of my life, as well as scary. Then the Feb 12 has come, I said goodbye to my family. My aunt saw me off at the airport (she worked there).
On the plane, alone, was a young boy with social anxiety, who just came out of his comfort zone, and who was about to have his best time ever.
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