Gap year safety: How to travel in India

By: Julian Goetz | February 28, 2017
Topics: Gap Year Planning, Travel Skills
You're in a foreign country, let's say India. You're traveling on your gap year and it's turning out to be the best year of your life so far.

You get off the train in Mumbai, headed to Bollywood to learn filmmaking and maybe become a star, and you pull our your printed hotel receipt for $75 for the week at ‘Lucky Hotel.’ It has an address, but the tuktuk driver pulls away before you can even say the rest. The afternoon sun is beautiful and warms you from the cold train.

It’s going to be a great week. You’ll probably meet Salman Khan. On the train you overheard that the federal government just issued an order restricting paper bills, cash in roughly $7 and $15 US dollar equivalents. A kind old woman next to you advises you in perfect English to exchange all the bills you have in these amounts to the bank, they’ll give you your money back with the approved bills, “theek theek,” she says as she wags her head.

You check your pockets in the tuktuk as it veers around another glimmering corner of tight alleyways and a few holy cows. Petty cash. You should be fine, enough to pay the hotel. Worst case scenario, you have to use your credit card and make a call back home.

He comes to a stop in front of a stately hotel, helps you with your suitcase, and pulls away after a short bargain about the rate. By now you’re pretty good at guessing the right rate. You enter the building, see the giant chandelier by the concierge, and immediately realize it’s a mistake. You ask if this isn’t Lucky Hotel. The young concierge tells you there’s another Lucky Hotel in town, “Not far,” and in kindness calls another tuktuk for you.

By the time you arrive at the right Lucky Hotel, you’re short on the $75 you need to pay the hotel bill. They don’t accept credit. With the sun going down, finding another place is not an option, so you manage to convince them to let you stay there with only the first few days paid, and you’ll head to the ATM early in the morning, and have the rest of the day to explore those film sets you’d mapped out back in Paris.

You set your bags down beside the bunk bed and go to sleep. Turns out Lucky Hotel is a hostel.

The next morning you head out to look for an ATM and discover the streets are filled with people. The commotion happens to be the ATMs. People can’t get their money out. You wait in line for half a day, only to be told to go home around lunch time because the machine has reached its daily limit. With no other option, you do the same thing the next day, hoping for a different result, as your low funds are permitting you only to eat at either expensive restaurants that take credit, or at plastic table corner stores where the chefs don’t wash their hands.

While waiting for the ATM, you’re getting good at mastering the squat, but you keep your eyes out for Salman Khan. It might be a while before you actually get to start your film career.

Reflection:

  1. What happened here?
  2. In the comments section below, name 3 things you could have done differently to avoid this unfortunate outcome.
  3. How might you stay abreast of similar unexpected dilemmas as you move onto your next gap year destination?

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