Free Spirits Around the World in 99 Days travel blog

One of the best features of a tour group is that transport is taken care of. Good thing. We are relatively comfortable with train, plane, and bus tickets in Europe, but elsewhere they can be bewildering.

It starts with finding the right station. Long distance stations are separate from local. International tickets are sold at separate windows from domestic tickets. Meanwhile, touts linger in stations and try to convince the unwary to go with their company through half truth and dishonesty, and the prices charged can seem like theft.

A tour leader cuts through the muck. We are told when we're leaving and he takes care of the details.

Trains in India have been remarkably reliable. All have left on time. Conditions on board are tolerable. We'll be taking half a dozen overnight trains on which you get a berth with a coffin-like fit, sheets, pillow, and a blanket. With earplugs and eyeshades, sleep is possible. Just be sure your bag is chained and locked to the seat frame. Chains and locks are conveniently sold on the platform. Never mind that all locks have the identical key - the idea is to discourage casual or opportunistic theft.

Now and then during waking hours, a chai or other vendor will come down the aisle, supplement to the snacks we're encouraged to buy beforehand.

We had a private bus between two towns. It was clean and reliable. Tiny seats make for sore butts.

Local buses are reliable but grimy. Any washing of the exterior seems to be saved for the monsoon season. Air conditioning means your window opens. An open window means road dust and fumes, along with added noise. At least the seats are roomy and sort of padded.

Tuk tuks have been described elsewhere. The observation here is that the further one gets from Delhi, the more honest and cheaper the drivers seem to be.

Roads vary from smooth four lane highways funded by toll stations, to rutted pot-holed local roads funded by a tax taken from drivers in cash at the city limits. Four lane city thoroughfares may or may not have lane stripes (taken as a suggestion) or traffic lights (taken quite seriously). No one sees to understand the concept of a crosswalk.

Air quality is horrible. Delhi rivals Beijing in pollutants. Most large cities are as bad. Emissions from transport are a major pollutant.

India is making efforts to address their problems. Delhi and Jaipur have subway systems. There is talk of bullet trains. Heck, if we managed to clean up the air in Los Angeles, there is hope here.

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