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How To Find A Reputable Driver In India

Finding a reliable driver for your visit to India can be challenging since operators online are as difficult to navigate as most Indian roads. Getting around India often requires the use of a car so you want a driver that’s not only knowledgeable but also understands what travelers are looking during their trip.

To make things easy on yourself, there’s one driver in India who should be the first person to contact: Budhiman Rawat. Here’s why.

Drivers In India

There are a few important things to consider when hiring a driver in India besides knowing the roads. Most drivers will know how to get around however many try to cut corners to shave time off trips. (The more people they can transport the more money they’ll earn.) This incentive to be quick means a lot of drivers can be out of touch with the travelers they’re driving, particularly if those travelers aren’t Indian. It also means you might miss lesser known stops along the way like this cave where The Dark Knight Rises was filmed.

budhiman india driver

Due to sheer numbers, drivers will often be accustomed to Indian clients for whom the journey isn’t part of the trip. Indian clients are also accustomed to the food so they don’t usually have to be as picky about rest stops. Chats with the driver are usually non-existent.

Visitors In India

As a visitor aside from putting your life in the hands of a driver, they’re often part of your travel experience as well. A local to locals where class dynamics don’t encourage conversation is one thing but as a visitor, your driver is a local you’ll be spending a lot of time in an SUV with.

budhiman india car driver

English is important but so is personality and a local driver who understands the variations in this dynamic. Budhiman is a driver who puts together all of these intangible elements leaving everyone he’s driven with nothing but high praise and recommendation.

Why Everyone Loves Budhi

Budhiman (Budhi for short) is from Damak, Nepal. 20 years ago he made his way to India, first getting jobs as a bus cleaner, then kitchen cook, eventually landing a gig as a local driver in New Delhi. He’s been the main driver for Wandering Earl Tours for the past decade, where I first met him.

Through a combination of a warm personality, wise business savvy, and experience, Budhi has developed his own driving services company. Budhi is personable, always drivers the under the speed limits, and knows the best (i.e. cleanest) places to stop and eat.

Greeting you with a smile every time isn’t something you’ll find on an online review but Budhi truly makes you feel like a passenger rather than cargo being dropped off from one place to another. The van journeys become a pleasant, unexpected part of your trip. You can get in touch with Budhiman through his Facebook page or Wandering Earl Tours (request him by name) for travel anywhere across India.

What Is It Like Traveling In Pakistan?

The first thing you think of when it comes to Pakistan probably isn’t tourism but recently developments have tripled visitors since 2018. It’s not now and won’t be mainstream any time soon which makes it a very interesting place to visit for a certain type of traveler.

Tourism Infrastructure

Pakistan has a fairly developed tourism infrastructure. It’s easy and inexpensive to fly within the country and the buses are the most luxurious I’ve come across anywhere. There’s a solid middle-tier of hotels, Uber (and local Careem) ride sharing, plus a variety of food from street vendors to hipster burger joints.

karachi burns road

Like a lot of the country, there’s a broad blend across the tourism infrastructure. It’s not so developed that anyone can just pop in and hop a bus from Islamabad to Lahore. For travelers with a bit of experience who don’t mind a few rough edges in their journeys it will only add to the charm.

What Would You See? Do?

As the 33rd largest country in the world, the long shape of Pakistan makes it home to a variety of geographical zones. The second highest mountain, K2, can be found in the Karakoram mountain range in the north. Geographical diversity often means cultural diversity, with Tajikistan, China, and Afghanistan’s influences in the mountains, Punjab on the eastern border, with Karachi’s hot blend of spice and sea.

pakistan curries

In addition to the natural wonders, there are historical sites like Lahore Fort built half a millennia ago. And across all of it, there are hardly any tourists visiting. For adventurous travelers, that’s a plus; less experienced tourists might find that off-putting. It’s really the story of visiting Pakistan right now.

Safety Elephant In The Room

We know the reason few people are visiting – concerns about safety. In 2014, a terrorist attack on a military school prompted the government (with mass public support) to begin a campaign against terrorism. The following two years resulted in the deaths of 4,000 terrorists and since then, terrorism-related deaths have decreased dramatically.

karachi pakistan

“From 12,000 deaths in 2009 (32 per day), the number declined by 87 percent by 2017 and continues to do so. In 2019, fewer than 300 people were killed in terrorist attacks nationwide.” – Vice

Where that leaves Pakistan today is on the cusp. Having eliminated, so far, one of the primary deterrents for people to consider Pakistan a tourist destination, the first wave of travel first adopters is arriving. Backpackers, adventurers, and us blogger types are enjoying Pakistan on the cusp.

Pakistan’s reputation hasn’t recovered nor the infrastructure developed enough to attract casual visitors. On the flip side, it’s got more than enough in place to make it a unique, inexpensive, and relatively easy place to visit for someone with travel experience and inclination.

It’s too soon to tell if Pakistan will continue to improve the areas important for tourism – security, infrastructure, reputation. At this moment however if what you’ve read so far has you very curious, Pakistan might be a good candidate for your next destination.

How Long It Takes To Get To The New Istanbul Airport

Getting to and from different parts of Turkey’s largest city to the new Istanbul Airport (IST) isn’t as convenient as it was from the former major airport in town. Planning a visit through IST is a lot easier though when you know how to get there and the time it takes to do so.

You can see the best times to get to Istanbul Airport in the video above or read on.

Timing

Traffic in Istanbul could be called punishment instead since most of the time that’s what it feels like. However, if you’re fortunate enough to have a flight in the late evening or early morning hours (10pm-7am) a ride from the European side of the city to Istanbul Airport will take roughly 30-45 minutes with a taxi. From the Asian side, add an extra hour to be absolutely sure you’ll make it to the airport on time.

ortakoy mosque istanbul

For all other hours of the day, add an extra hour of drive time to get to the airport. You may get lucky with traffic but to be absolutely sure, those are the minimum amount of times you’ll need just to get to IST.

Once There

Keep in mind at IST you’ll go through security before entering the airport, then after passport control, with a third check likely before your gate. Checking in as well, plus the security checks is a 45 minute process at non-peak hours – at all other times add an hour to this.

Adding it all up at non-peak traffic hours, you can comfortably leave for IST Airport 2.5 hours before your flight from the European side, 3.5 hours from the Asian side. During most of the day though you’ll have to add an hour to both times. So, if you’re flight is at 4pm, from the European side you’ll want to leave around 12:30pm. From the Asian side, 12pm is a safe bet.

Ride And Security

You almost never need to arrive at an airport 3 hours before your flight, two is usually sufficient. That’s the case at IST as well, but since traffic and the added security checks can take a while, calculate so you’re walking through the front door 2 hours before takeoff. Besides, if you get there early, you can enjoy using the free wifi with this hack.

The Best Travel Tech From CES 2020

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is a sprawling showcase of bleeding-edge technology, concepts, and cool stuff being shown off for the sake of creating headlines. Through all of it though are a few products to look forward in 2020 plus some tech trends we might be seeing not long after.

This is some of the best travel tech I came across at CES 2020.

Sony’s Vision-S Electric Car

Put this one under things that will never be made into production but we really wish would be. Sony shocked CES this year by showing off a slick electric car, with high resolutions screens inside and high definition cameras (instead of mirrors) outside. Not unexpected from a company known for making quality displays and lenses, but a car like Sony’s Vision-S could give Tesla some actual competition… only if more than one were ever made.

sony vision-s

Delta’s Parallel Reality Screen

Imagine being able to have customized airport screens that give you specific information like your gate all in a language of your preference. Delta’s Parallel Reality let’s 100 people look at the same screen but see different things. Partnering with the startup Misapplied Sciences, Delta will debut Parallel Reality in Detroit’s airport this summer but you can watch a preview in the video below.

Folding Screen Laptops

Dell showed off a prototype folding display laptop which in a few generations could give you a viable laptop-tablet combo with the benefits of both. Having a screen on the bottom half of a laptop gives you more usable space – perfect for tray table typing – but the concept Dell debuted at CES is still too fragile and clunky for practical use for now.

dell folding screen laptop

Jabra’s MySound

Jabra makes a solid pair of noise-cancelling headphones (original review here) but it’s their new software that caught my ear at CES this year. They’ve got a hearing aid division at Jabra so they’re brought in their expertise there to help develop MySound, an app that can tailor music to your specific ears. We all hear different sound frequencies differently, based on genetics, age, and gender. At setup, MySound gives you a hearing test to determine your unique sensitivities to adjust music accordingly. The improvement I heard was so dramatic I didn’t want to listen to music any other way. MySound can improve any pair of headphones using software; it will be released around March this year.

Some Other Cars And Cameras

BMW was back with their Urban Suite concept I tried in virtual reality (VR) at CES last year; except now the driver-less car is a physical vehicle. A street legal one at that, the BMW i3 Urban Suite is car that embraces self-driving technology by letting you sleep, read a book, or simply chat with a friend as the car navigates traffic for you. Several of these all-electric i3 were driving around giving people rides at CES – imagine how much more you’d get done on a commute if you weren’t the one driving.

A few other notable gear updates:

  • GoPro’s Media Mod – The complete vlogging setup was finally on display and will begin shipping around March.
  • Everything Was In 8K – But it’s still too expensive for prime time.
  • Ping Pong AI Robot – I got to play against a machine that was reading my emotions to help me become a better player. It even let me win a few times to put me in a better mood, how nice!

CES this year showed a clear trend in the personalization of tech through smart feedback systems to customize our interaction with various electronics. Cars that become our living room, music made for our ears, not to mention airport screens only we can see. For the past decade hardware and software have been on different courses but improvements to both mean a unique convergence is beginning, hopefully resulting in more time for us humans to enjoy the ride without having to drive.

How To Travel

new york city

There are a lot of ways to travel smarter but if you want the most straightforward advice on how to get started, this is your guide.

First of all, traveling is not that hard. At least not the basics in general, assuming you’ve got some disposable income, a bit of time, and of course the inclination to go somewhere.

Where To Go

Traveling can mean a lot of things but often the first thing to come to mind is some far off exotic place. Those can be great choices but you’ve probably never gone to the tourist sites in your own town. What about the next town over? Maybe you want to start a travel blog or YouTube channel, you don’t need to go very far to do either.

Since you can’t see the entire world in a lifetime, these places are good choices to start from. If you love street food, definitely go to these cities. Adventure sports? Las Vegas. Want to see how much it costs to fly from where you are to anywhere? Kayak Explore will show you.

Honestly though, most of us have a place we’ve always really wanted to see. Don’t let people talk you out of it. Get suggestions on things to do nearby (more ideas can’t hurt) but if there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, that’s where you should probably be headed. You might love or hate a place and that can change over time so aside from actual dangerous places, all you’re hearing are people’s opinions about a given point in time.

travel memes

And if someone’s never been to a place don’t listen to their advice about a place. It’s probably negative and definitely uninformed.

How To Go

Some places you have to fly. For others, taking a train is more environmentally friendly but also easier on your body than taking an airplane. Remember to add 4 hours at least to any total flight time – that covers getting to an airport on time, checking in, plus going through security. A 30 minute flight is really more like 4 or more hours of travel time.

Obsessing over flight prices isn’t likely to save you much nor is booking on a Wednesday. Check out multi-city flights. Travel savings are much more obtainable through choosing the right accommodation, where you eat, and by simple packing habits like buying a reusable water bottle.

What To Take

Recently I saw this tweet which is mostly true unless you’re a French horn musician. What you use at home is what you’ll use on the road. You shouldn’t pack more than you can use in two weeks and most specialized travel gear isn’t versatile enough to justify the costs (remember what I said about saving above?)

arthurs seat edinburgh

Learn these important phrases of the local language using this powerful tool. Gum or mints are essential. One other thing, it’s usually worth paying a bit more to get durable gear. Cheap fabrics don’t withstand traveling well so it’s better to get one good thing than 3 cheap things over the same period of time. Plus good products usually come with good warranties because the brands can stand behind their products.

Stay Connected

Currency is a helpful app that works offline. WiFox gives you passwords to all the airports in the world, important since getting to your accommodation from the airport is when you’re most vulnerable. Find some good travel blogs, they give good firsthand insights that can help with planning, navigating scams, and learning the local customs.

scottish highlands

Download Google Maps offline to help you get around. Put the phone down and look up when you don’t need it.

faucetsafe app

Go with the flow, try a food you’ve never had, and always eat where the locals do. Long lines of tourists don’t always indicate the best places to eat and TripAdvisor can only get you so far. Ask a local. Try it, you’ll get good advice like this.

Remember The Important Things

There’s certainly more, but this should help get you started. Traveling can be tiring, confusing, or a bit lonely sometimes. Keep in mind that if you can travel for recreation, you’re one of the lucky ones on Earth. Not everyone can travel and for most of human history it was impossible to move like we do now.

Understanding other cultures doesn’t require much footwork far or near – meeting new people can give you an important insight. Getting out of cities and into nature can give you perspective. The one thing to bring on any journey is an open mind, without that, you can visit every country in the world and still have not seen much of anything at all.

Bookaway Is A Travel Search Engine For Ground Transportation

bookaway search engine

Purchasing a flight between two countries on opposite sides of the world is often easier than booking ground transportation between two local cities. Bookaway is a travel search engine that tries to help travelers fill in the gaps on the ground but has a few of its own blind spots to work out along the way.

Clarifying Ground Transportation

In short, Bookaway wants to be your search engine for bus, ferry, train, or car travel. Where it works, Bookaway is straightforward. For example, searching for transportation between Split and Hvar, Croatia, yields a number of high speed ferry options. Prices on Bookaway are competitive when compared with independent or using alternative services. Some routes offer a few option filters (e.g. air conditioning) you probably tend to ignore on most flight search engines.

Bookaway though tends to work best in certain regions, most notably southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, and Adriatic coasts. The gaps outside of these areas make finding a booking hit or miss, though one hopes Bookaway adds more destinations as the service expands.

Piecing It Together

The search function on Bookaway is also a little bit wonky – tending to guide you to where it wants, rather than accepting each letter of the search term. What I noticed though is using the suggestions that pop up can save you time since it’s really showing you what’s not available along with the destinations it serves.

bookaway

A map or listing function would work great here, to help you visualize the routes possible. When you’re not too creative plus keep your route fairly local (for example Bangkok to Koh Samui, Thailand) you’re presented with a variety of ways to get to where you want to go. When gaps are present, a bit of guiding by Bookaway would go a long way to improving the user experience.

For Travelers With Cars In Tow

Despite its shortcomings, where Bookaway excels is car transportation. Specifically, if you’re traveling with a rented or your own car, the ferry options Bookaway returns notes boats and trains with car compartments. It’s a niche offering but a large one, particularly for road trips in southern Europe or southeast Asia.

Bookaway isn’t going to be your one stop search engine for all things not in the sky but if you’ve got 4 wheels with you, it can help bridge the gap between destinations. It’s a time-saver in these cases, since for now, a lot of the information blending ferry, train, and car bookings require precise, multiple online searches. Bookaway takes care of that for you while staying up-to-date. Provided Bookaway can fill in its own gaps, it might help you do just that for your particular itinerary as well.

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