The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: My Experience in India…

Overall, now that I’ve made it out alive, I’m glad that I ventured to India despite many peoples warnings and general questions of “why in the world would you want to go there?”.  With the amount of travelling that I’ve done, its hard to find a place that is completely different than what I’ve already experienced before.  India fit that bill, though I can’t say that I’m going to hurry back anytime soon…


The Good

The Taj Mahal: a New 7 Wonder of the World.  I made it to Agra and found a hotel that had a really good view of the Taj from the rooftop.   I only paid about $8 USD / night for that hotel.  In nearly all other countries a drink in a restaurant with that type of view of what is widely described as the most beautiful building in the world would cost more that.  Which leads to the second good thing; the general cost of everything in India is extremely cheap: hotels, food, trains, and private drivers are all extremely affordable for any western standard.   The irony of me reading my Forbes magazine on this rooftop, wondering if I remembered to max out my IRA contribution this year, while surrounded by such massive poverty is not lost on me…



The Bad

Most of the reason for such low costs is the extremely low cost of labor in India.  I’m sure that part of this stems from the fact that there are just too many people in a small area.  According to Wikipedia, there are 1.2 billion people living in India, while there are (only) 1.3 billion in China, which obviously encompasses a much larger land mass.   Because of this competition for jobs, whether it be rickshaw drivers, shop owners, etc. they can get extremely pushy.  Being a solo white female traveler I have to assume that I was more of a target than average, but let me assure you that I bargain and negotiate with the best of them.  Negotiating or simply walking away from rickshaw drivers that were trying to take advantage of me, probably only saved me about $15 or $20 in the end, but it’s not about the money, it’s about a sense of not being ripped off and taken as a stupid tourist.

The bureaucracy in India is astounding.   I have read articles in my dorky business magazines about the notorious red tape associated with India.  One of the most widely used statistics is the number of procedures it takes to start a business.  In Singapore, that number is 3 which can generally be accomplished in 3 days and costs a mere 0.7% of per capita income.  One the other hand, in India it takes 12 procedures, an average of 29 days, and costs a whooping 47% of per capita income to do the same thing.  I travelled from Singapore, one of the most business friendly countries to India, one of the least.  Is there possibly a connection to business friendliness and general wealth/ standard of living perhaps????  Sarcasm? 

I had assumed that as a mere tourist that the extent I would encounter the government bureaucracy was the visa application and fee.  So wrong I was.  In order to check into a hotel I had to fill out information regarding my passport, my visa, my home contact information, where I was going in India, where I had been in India, etc.; in total about 15 fields needed my attention, all times three for three different sets of record books, and for some reason they don’t believe in carbon paper.  This was in addition to copies of my passport and visa that had to be sent to some government office for every single hotel I stayed in.  What in the world some public sector employee is going to do with a dozen copies of my information, I have no idea; hopefully there isn’t some black market set up for foreign passports…

Another consequence of massive government involvement is that they control the power supply.  Even though private enterprise has built many power plants, the other parts of the supply chain are government controlled, and the public sector is not doing a good job.  Power outages are the expected norm in India.  You can always tell the tourists who just arrived in India because when the power unexpectedly goes out, they go and yell at the front desk.  There isn’t anything the hotel can do, other than get a generator (which some have), all just part of the “experience of India” I guess.

The Ugly

The low costs obviously don’t come free.  The general sanitary conditions in India are by far the worst I have seen, including Eastern Africa and Southeast Asia.  Despite my precautions of drinking only bottled water from straws I lugged from home and other seemingly overly cautious measures; It took only 12 hours for me to get sick.  I got a very severe case of “Delhi Belly” and had a very bad reaction to the horrible pollution.  I basically was in my hotel room for over a week.  If you want to lose some weight quickly, I don’t recommend the India diet, but it is very effective for shedding pounds…   Not to be graphic, but to illustrate how bad the problem was: I got food poisoning three times while in the country for only two weeks.  And that includes the week that I basically didn’t eat anything…

My personal opinion on the matter, but maybe the government should eliminate some of its excess paperwork and maybe concentrate some man-power on garbage collection and disposal.  You are very hard pressed to find garbage cans anywhere, on the streets or even in buildings.  I’m not sure if that’s because the culture dictates that you just throw everything on the ground and people wouldn’t use them, or if people are forced to haphazardly discard refuse because they’re not available.  Chicken or the egg I guess.  But either way, the garbage situation is appalling.  I watched a little kid at his mothers suggestion just throw his water bottle out the train window to fall where it may.  And its quite obvious that the entire population takes the same approach, as there are literally mounds of garbage on the sides of roads.  Some shop owners actually try to clean up their section of the street by sweeping the garbage up around them.  Awesome first step, but then they make a pile and burn it creating a further problem with pollution.

Categories: Asia | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: My Experience in India…

  1. darshan

    Hi jill, thanks for travelling to my country! Yah I am an indian and I was just reading your experience and you are not wrong at all, I was looking for such experiences of people travelling in india and the reason is…. i am the victim of such experiences my self! I live in Gujarat state of india and I am currently on a trip to North part of india jaypur,hardwar,delhi, agra etc these places are so good to visit, you can spend hours hanging around some beautiful places, but during my trip with my family we faced many bad experiences not only poor services but bad behaviour of local shop owners and other local people also, they keep abusing travellers for not buying stuff or for other stupid reasons. And ya the most of places are dirty , full of junks. When I said bad behaviour of people it also includes some monks and sants sitting in temples, they are literally forcing you to loose more and more money for so called spiritual procedures, some of them will start insulting you if you refuse to donate money. So this is what we faced till now, I have no idea what we are going to face in another half of our trip.

  2. accidentalindian

    Wow, the good, the bad & the ugly. Great post!

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