Image courtesy: Dharmit Shah
Gujarat is a country by itself. Like any other places, it is multi-cultured – though speaks the same language with different dialects. It is touted as one of the most developed states in India but make no mistake, it has only one international airport and none of its cities have metro services. But it has more than three world class Cargo ports but without passenger services. It has good network of roads but during monsoon these roads are in despair. The silver lining is they get repaired fast. It has a lot of historical places and erstwhile kingdoms and has the longest coastline in India – 1300 kilometers long.
1. Avoid Summer and Monsoon Season:
Gujarat can easily be divided into Saurashtra, Kutchch, Central Gujarat, North Gujarat and South Gujarat. Visit one region at a time. Avoid peak summer and as in all Indian cities, best to avoid monsoon too. Sub divisions can be done in each of these regions depending on what you want to see. Saurashtra is huge and so is Kutch.
- There is hardly any eye candy in North Gujarat but if you are keen on forest and tribal areas and visit Narmada Dam, take a chance to South Gujarat. Your mode of travel depends on your origin. If you are travelling from Mumbai, a car will be a better choice to travel around South Gujarat. But to Saurashtra a train or air route is preferable.
2. Taking Breakfast:
Gujarat has no breakfast culture and so other than star hotels; don’t expect breakfast from roadside hotels or eating joints. What you get in these joints are Cholestrol rich fried chick pea powder in long and round shapes along with papaya and yellow chutney. If you are not habituated to this type of breakfast, your stomach can seriously go for a toss. But there are good hotels that provide South Indian dishes and other varieties like sandwich etc.
- If the place you sit is not frequented with people, chances are you will be served with old Sambhar and frozen Chatni. Avoid it. Choice is yours. Take an informed decision and book room Plus breakfast package and travel only after a good breakfast. For a deeper understanding behind the Vegetarian Machoism of Gujarat read this piece by Aakar Patel.
3. Being Non Vegeterian:
Though you will travel through the longest coastline in India with record breaking exports of marine food products, you will not find a single joint that serves any sea-food product. Gujarat has a self imposed vegetarianism though a majority of its population are non-vegetarian.
- So not only are the marine food but chances are you will not find places that serve any other non vegetarian food as well, all through the route. So better prepared to be a vegetarian unless of course you barge into star hotels in cities enroute. But even here, marine products are hard to come by.
4. Taking Alcohol:
Please be aware that Gujarat is a dry state. But you can get a temporary permit. The prohibition department website is in local language but you ca use Google Translate to help you in your local language. You can avail permits for one month and one week. All you have to do is to fill up the form along with some identity proof and submit it. But most of the people who come to the state use bootleggers connected to local friends to get liquor delivered at hotels.
- Beware of spurious products. Since the risk of transporting a beer and a whiskey remains the same, price variations are minimal. But it is risky and in case you are caught with a sealed liquor bottle, you will be booked for sale and if you are caught with a used bottle, you will be booked for consumption. Though hotels are very liquor friendly, asking you how many glasses you need when you ask for ice cubes. Over enthusiast cops raid hotels when they get bored with no work to do. But it is rare. Though the normal procedure adopted is to pay a bribe and get away, better not to drink and drive because not all officers may be as corrupt as the previous ones.
5. Avoid Late Night Travel:
Gujarat is a safe state in comparison to other areas. You can use night time to travel anywhere in the state. But avoid isolated roads during nights. Also avoid roads from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh passing through Chotta Udepur for late night travel.
6. Hire Local Drivers:
Mostly the drivers are either from the Rabari Community or from nearby Rajasthan districts. Rabaris are hot headed while Rajasthanis are not. Put speed limits to your drivers and give them your preference that you are in no hurry to reach anywhere.
- There are a lot of tolls and let the driver pay tolls which you can reimburse on final bill. Except in cities, you will not find traffic snarls anywhere. You can count distance at 50 km per hour as an average speed to reach anywhere.
7. Avoid Searching for Travel Guide:
Unlike in other states, here you don’t have travel operators giving you packages. In fact they will be surprised if you ask them this. So you have to plan your trips, book hotels and taxis. Remember booking a taxi from the hotel is expensive but safe. You can manage if you know Hindi but English is a taboo here as very few, especially enroute, speaks English.
- Gujaratis are smart businessmen. They can understand exactly what you need even without understanding a dime of what you are speaking. Gujarat Tourism is friendly but most of the places it runs are either closed or in ruins. But in case of emergency, do call them. As usual 108 is Ambulance and 100 is Police.
8. Avoid Dieting while Traveling:
Take time to taste local vegetarian delicacies wherever you go though some of them will be bizarre combination. Prefer a hygienic restaurant and take guidance from the driver and use his local expertise to find a good one. Try the Gujarati Thali at least once in your life when you are here. The food in general is rich in oil. You cannot escape from it unless you are dining from a star rated hotel restaurant.
9. Avoid Woolen Clothes:
Climate in Gujarat round the year is hot but not humid. Woolen clothes are not compulsory to carry unless you travel to desert regions which have extreme cold conditions. Use cotton as much as possible because climate here can go upto 48 Degrees during peak summer.
- Drink maximum water to avoid exhaustion. Always buy bottled branded water and do not be tempted to eat roadside food.
10. Avoid Staying at a Hotel near the Railway Station and Airport:
If you are travelling by train or air, do not check in to the nearest hotel. Please remember, hotels are not built only around stations and airports. You can find better hotels beyond that. Also remember not to hire taxis from airports and railway stations for long distance travel.
- As far as possible, ask any contact or friends to book a taxi for you from a decent operator.
At times when you travel, it is always good to bend rules and do a detour. Though not as tourist friendly as some of the other Indian states are, the beauty of this state is in its unexplored places. Surprisingly, many of its places and monuments are not even known to locals, leave alone the domestic tourists. The most common tourism here is temple tourism. For an average Gujarati any outing begins with a temple and ends with another. But if you are in this state, remember to avoid the below 10 things to enjoy your trip at its best.
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