September 2021 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Deciding whether to Fly or Drive if you need to travel this year

Should you fly or drive for 2021 holiday season

We are rapidly approaching 2021’s fourth quarter. Traditionally, many individuals travel during the year’s last three months. Families like to get together during Thanksgiving and the Christmas and Hannukah holidays, and they’re coming up over the next few weeks.

Last year saw significant travel declines during the fourth quarter. It’s not surprising since many individuals didn’t want to hit the road because of Covid-19 worries. Although the pandemic is still a reality this year, some families will want to travel and visit relatives when they were not willing to do so last year.

If you’re going to visit relatives during these last few months of 2021, you might wonder whether flying or driving makes more sense for you. Let’s talk about some cons and pros of each of these options.

Car and Truck Accident Possibilities

If you’re planning on driving to visit relatives as the holidays approach, it can save you money, and that might be a huge determining factor for you. Some families have had to engage in some belt-tightening since the pandemic started.

However, if you drive, you’ll face more crowded highways than in 2020. Many people are probably thinking the same way you are, and highway congestion isn’t the easiest thing in the world with which to deal.

For one thing, there are tractor-trailers and other large commercial trucks out there. These trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, and even a little nudge from one of them can send you into a ditch or a highway divider. If you fly, this is not a possibility.

If You Drive, You Can Avoid Potential Covid-19 Exposure

On the other hand, if you decide to drive this year instead of flying, that means you won’t have to be on a flight with other passengers from all around the country. Federal regulations dictate that those who fly have to wear face masks now, but that’s not exactly fool proof.

Nothing says that someone won’t decide to remove their facemask when they’re on the plane, and you have no way to tell whether this individual has Covid-19 or not. If you drive, you can stay safely in your vehicle with your family members. If you have an immunocompromised condition, you’re probably going to prefer this option.

If You Fly, You Can Get to Where You’re Going Much Faster

One thing about driving, though, is that it’s going to take you a lot longer to get where you’re going. If you are visiting relatives that live only one state away, that won’t be so much of an issue. You can make the drive within a day or so, perhaps staying at a hotel for a single night if you don’t want to do the trip all in one straight shot.

If you want to see relatives that live completely on the other side of the country, that makes driving challenging. It might take you four or five days to cover the whole continental United States, and do you really want to drive that far and that long? Even if you are a very skilled driver and enjoy doing it, that might prove to be too much for you.

You Might Not Be an Extremely Confident Driver

Your driving confidence is one more potential consideration. Some people enjoy driving and are very good at it. If you’re in this category, you may like the idea of getting behind the wheel and spending a couple of days driving through unfamiliar cities and states.

Other people, though, don’t like driving much at all, and the thought of navigating the car through unfamiliar territory might seem like a nightmare to them. It can induce anxiety, and if there’s no one in your family who’s an enthusiastic driver, that might be the main determining factor when you’re figuring out which transportation method makes the most sense to you.

You will have to carefully weigh which of these two options seem right to you. There is also the possibility that you can lure the relatives you want to see to come to you instead. Maybe you can convince them if you tell that you’ll cook them a lavish dinner or put them up at a hotel.

This way, you don’t have to either fly or drive, and you can stay safely away from the general public. In this time when the coronavirus continues to exist out in the world, this might be preferable to any kind of traveling.

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Monday, September 20, 2021

Dirang: Arunachal Pradesh’s Hidden Magical World

View of Dirang Town from on top of Dirang Dzong

It is a paradise for nature lovers, trekkers, birdwatchers and photographers. It is home to orchards of apple, orange and apricot and farms of kiwi. It is one of those places that is perfect for a rustic, quiet and blissful time in the lower reaches of the Eastern Himalayas. I am talking about the village of Dirang in Western Arunachal Pradesh that is surrounded by lush forests and gorgeous mountains of the Eastern Himalayas.

Scenic setting at Sangti Valley

Located at an altitude of 5,200 feet above MSL, Dirang is a picturesque valley between Bomdila and Tawang. It shares its traditions and heritage with Western Bhutan and it mainly comprises of the people from the Monpa tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. In addition to its spectacular natural beauty, it is known for its hot water springs, apple orchards and Yak research center.

Hill streams join to form Dirang river

The top tourist attractions in Dirang include:

1) Dirang Dzong: A 19th century stone fort strategically located on the top of a hill and that is home to houses made of stone and wood

2) National Yak research center: for those who wish to see yaks up close and know more about them

3) Fruit orchards: Spread across Dirang are beautiful apple, apricot and orange orchards and kiwi farms that decorate the landscape with their fruits across the year

4) Hot water spring: Known for its curative properties, this medicinal sulphur bath is ideal for those seeking to relax

5) Sangti Valley: Seasonal home, feeding and breeding site of black-necked cranes that migrate to the valley in November and December from China before returning with their young ones in April and May every year

6) Madla Phudong: A fabulous trekking and birdwatching location

7) Kalachakra Gompa: A beautiful Buddhist monastery overlooking the valley

Classic Setting near Sangti Valley

Dirang has all the ingredients to be called Arunachal Pradesh’s hidden magical world. Most tourists heading to Tawang either stop here for a brief pit stop or at most spend a night here. But, Dirang has so much more to offer to all nature lovers, birdwatchers, adventure enthusiasts and for those who seek solitude in a pristine ecosystem. Its indigenous tribal culture adds to the charm for those who wish to spend a longer time here. I cannot rave enough about this place. You will know when you see it for yourself up close and in real.

Native Women at work - Sangti Valley

How to reach there:

The nearest airport with the best connectivity would be Guwahati (312 kms away). The nearest railway station with the best connectivity would be Chaparmukh junction (282 kms away) or Guwahati (312 kms away).

The best way to travel to Dirang would be through your own mode of transportation, but if you really want to get a local flavour, you can catch a bus to Tezpur –> Bomdila and then to Dirang. The journey will take you a long while, but it will be very cheap and you will get to spend time with the local people. For sightseeing around Dirang, you can hitchhike, rent a bike or hire a cab.

Corn house

Best season to visit:

Dirang is beautiful to visit all year round as the temperatures stay fairly moderate.

If black necked cranes are on your agenda, visit between November and April.

If fruit orchards are on your mind, visit between August and December.

If you want a hill station like vibe, the summer months would be ideal.

And if you want the entire place to yourself, visit Dirang during the winter months.

Traditional Stone and Wood Houses - Naturally insulated and ideal for very cold weather

Where to stay:

One of the oldest hotels in Dirang is Hotel Pemaling. It commands a great view and is a mid-range hotel. A hotel in a similar price range is Awoo resort. Both these properties are located a bit outside the town and command a good view. Hotel Sangeyla, Green valley lodge and Hotel snow lion located in the town are good budget options.

House inside Dirang Basti

Where to eat:

One can either eat at the basic restaurants in Dirang town center or eat at your place of stay. Some places might want you to order in advance. Fruits and snacks can be easily bought from the markets of Dirang.

View of Dirang Basti

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Sangti Valley: A gorgeous valley that is the also the breeding ground for the migratory black necked cranes

2) Bomdila: Headquarters of the West Kameng district and home to a massive Buddhist monastery

3) Sela Pass: A scenic high altitude pass located at 13,700 feet above MSL that is home to some exotic Himalayan birds

4) Tawang: India’s true Shangri-La and a 10,000 feet high hill station that is home to the largest Buddhist monastery in India

5) Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary: Birdwatcher’s paradise in the Himalayas

6) Nameri National Park: Assam’s wildlife haven

7) Bumla Pass: A high altitude mountain pass on the India-China border

8) Tongpen la view point: A 15,150 feet high panoramic mountain vista

9) Tak-Tsang Gompa: A remote Buddhist monastery located at 13,000 feet

10) Sangetsar Lake: A 12,000 feet high mountain lake that presents abundant mountain vistas

11) Jung Falls: A gorgeous waterfall located 35 kms before Tawang

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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

4 Advantages of Buying Travel Insurance Online

Buying Travel insurance online

Imagine going to an insurance provider's office on a bright sunny day, and they send you back saying, "Sir, you don't have all the documents. Kindly come tomorrow to get your policy activated."

No one wants this recurrent hassle. Thanks to digitalization, this can be achieved in a few clicks now. Buying travel insurance online is the best alternative to regular visits to insurance providers' offices. But, it is not as favoured as it sounds.

Often, buying travel insurance online is considered to be risky and incompetent. In such a scenario, people feel perplexed and end up buying policies offline, which makes the process of buying travel insurance cumbersome and lengthy.

No more! Let's clear some air from this perplexity.

Is Buying Travel Insurance Online a Risky Affair?

If this question had been asked years back, the answer would have been a yes, but in today's time, with the world inching towards digitalization, it is no more a question of scrutiny.

Buying travel insurance online is safe as well as preferred. The platforms these days are built with strong end-to-end encryption, safe servers, stable frameworks, and much more. The added database security elevates data safety and ensures that customers' data isn't leaked or attacked. In addition, the online platforms for buying travel insurance online aid in providing complete support to the customers.

If you are still confused about whether to buy your next travel insurance plan online or not, here are some of the advantages of buying travel insurance online:

1) Easy Comparisons

Imagine getting into long meetings with various insurance providers and then comparing all plans, terms, conditions, coverages, etc. It is daunting and cumbersome. That's when considering travel insurance online assists.

Buying a travel insurance plan online helps in easy comparisons, gives insights into the benefits and glitches of the plan, and much more. This elevates the chances of getting the best travel insurance plan with minimum hassle.

2) An Easy and Convenient Way

With the availability of online travel insurance, bid adieu to long hours of documentation and meetings, as now you can buy travel insurance in a few simple steps. Credible and client-oriented Insurance providers such as TATA AIG let individuals buy travel insurance plans by following the below-mentioned steps:

a) Visit their official website
b) Choose travel destinations and journey date
c) Input age and other details of all the travelers
d) Pick the policy
e) Pay online with a safe payment gateway

And boom! You have gotten your travel insurance activated. Even if you have an upcoming trip and you haven’t bought travel insurance yet, don’t panic! Visit TATA AIG’s website, put in your basic details, and get your travel insurance policy issued instantly without any prior medical check-up.

3) Supports Sudden Trips

Trips are not always planned; rather, a majority of them are impromptu. For such unplanned trips and travelling plans, getting an immediate appointment from insurance providers is no less than a day-long hassle. But, by making a wise decision of buying travel insurance online, one can get complete and immediate assistance in buying travel insurance for sudden trips.

4) A Convenient and "Do It Anytime" Mode

The significant advantage of buying travel insurance online is the flexibility to access it anytime throughout the day. This is because digital platforms are not time-bound; generally, one can access these anytime at their convenience.

You need not take a day off from your work; instead, you can buy travel insurance instantly using your smartphone or laptop. This eliminates the compulsive need to physically visit the chosen insurance provider's office for documentation and verification. Instead, everything happens online over an easy and convenient platform.

Therefore, buying travel insurance online saves time and effort, and allows easy comparison across various insurance providers, thus increasing the probability of getting the best travel insurance policy. Additionally, the regular customer support, immediate policy issuance, and access to detailed terms and conditions make the online mode a winner.

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Monday, September 06, 2021

Lake Nakuru National Park: Kenya’s Diverse Ecological Hotspot

Lesser Flamingos and their reflections on the waters of Lake Nakuru

It is a place where one can see the most fabulous bird spectacle in the world. It is a national park where one can spot most of Africa’s rich wildlife. It is one of Kenya’s two premium national parks and is a bird lover’s paradise. I am talking about Lake Nakuru national park, a Ramsar Wetland that is nestled in the vast great Rift valley.
A large herd of Rothchild's Giraffe at Lake Nakuru National Park     
Designated by UNESCO as one of Kenya’s lakes system world heritage sites, Lake Nakuru National Park is home to one of the world’s highest concentrations of the Black Rhinoceros. It’s ecosystem is comprised of lake surrounded by wooded and bushy grasslands. The lake is saline, which allows growing of many types of algae and the surrounding grassland is made up of highly adaptable alkaline grasses.   
The road that connects Lake Nakuru to Baboon's cliff     
It is this diverse ecosystem that makes it an important pitstop on the African – Eurasian migratory flyway. The star bird attractions are the Greater and the Lesser Flamingos, but one can also see yellow-billed storks, marabou storks, hammerkops, fish eagles, helmeted guineafowls, great white pelicans, African spoonbills, grey headed gulls, super starlings and close to 400 species of birds .
Lake Nakuru sees the largest concentration of flamingos in Kenya     
In terms of the other wildlife, one is guaranteed to see white rhinos, African buffalos, Rothschild giraffes, zebras, impalas, olive baboons, velvet monkeys, waterbucks, hippopotamuses, hyenas and jackals. And if you are lucky, you might even get to see lions, leopards, black rhinos, wild dogs, colobus monkeys and cheetahs. Apart from the African elephants, one can almost see all of Africa’s rich wildlife if they are staying inside the park for a few days.    
Cuddling Zebras at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya     
It is this insanely beautiful combination of plants, birds and rich wildlife that make Lake Nakuru national park so special. Add to it, its dusty jeep safaris and the panoramic vistas from Baboon cliff, Out of Africa and lion hill and you have a stunning African wildlife destination.    
Impala feeding at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya     
A wildlife safari at Lake Nakuru national park begins by the lake side at around sunrise. As the mist lifts from the surface of the water, you get to see a large maze of pink in the horizon. As the mist goes up and the golden rays of the sun fall on it, your eyes get treated to millions of lesser and greater flamingos that feed on the algae. And when you get closer to these gorgeous birds, you will see them take to the air, in the thousands together before descending on another stretch of the lake to continue feeding there. And this process continues, making for a fabulous spectacle.    
Great White Pelicans in the shallow waters of Lake Nakuru     
Once you move your attention away from the flamingos, you will notice the thousands of other water birds sharing the waters of the lake. They might not be as great a spectacle as the pink flamingos, but they offer diversity and fill up new colours in your viewfinder. And then there are the water buffalos that can be seen sharing the waters too.
Cape Buffalos seen from on top of Baboon's Cliff     
And you make your way into the woodlands, you will come across more grazers like the impalas, the black and the white rhinoceros and finally the gorgeously printed Rothschild Giraffe chomping on the juicy leaves of the trees in the woods.

Sub -Adult White Rhinoceros looking at us     
In between, you can also lay your sights on rowdy olive baboon families or the more playful black velvet monkeys. And if you get lucky, you might be able to spot some apex predators such as the leopards, cheetahs, lions or wild dogs.
The flamingos grab all the photographer's attention at Lake Nakuru     
And if you have some snacks or a picnic lunch with you, you can drive to the panoramic view points and enjoy the beautiful views at high noon while relishing a much needed bite after a whirlwind morning full of bird and animal sightings. These view points are also a great place to get a bird’s eye view of this diverse ecological hotspot while enjoying the cooler breeze during the hot part of the day.
A Group of Great White Pelicans and African Spoonbills     
As the sun starts making its way down, you can return to the woodlands, grasslands or the lake for more wildlife action before retiring to your place of stay within the national park or head out of the gate to the land beyond. And did I tell you that you can also go on a hike to a waterfall here. It is called Makalia falls and it carries decent amount of water during the wet season.
Locals admiring the view from Baboon's cliff     
Lake Nakuru national park is nothing short of wild miracle. It is one of Kenya’s most diverse ecological hotspots and a place that I much recommend for all wildlife and bird lovers. Do ensure that you stay here for at least two days so that you give yourselves the best chance to see all of its magic.     
An Olive Baboon family     
Fees and permits:

The fee per foreign national adult is USD 60 and USD 35 per foreign national child or student. If you are foreign adult residents of Kenya, the fee is KSH 1030 and KSH 515 for child or student.

Cape Buffalo rests in the swamp land of Lake Nakuru

In addition to the entry fees, there is a vehicle fee too and that depends on the vehicle and its number of seats. 
Superb Starling at Lake Nakuru National park, Kenya    
How to reach:      
If you are driving from Nairobi, take the Naironi-Nakuru highway. This is a scenic route and will give you good views of the Rift valley and the volcanoes. The total distance is 168 kms and will take you about 3 hours. It is best to have your own mode of transportation.

If you wish to fly, it is a 25 minute flight from Nairobi to the Naishi airstrip inside the national park.    
Yellow-Billed Stork at Lake Nakuru National park, Kenya

Best season to visit:    
The best season to visit Lake Nakuru national park is between July to December or January to March. These months also happen to be the peak tourist season and the dry season.

If you don’t mind some rains, you can visit during the other months of the year. These months also happen to be the low season.   
Hamerkop near the lake fringes - Lake Nakuru National park, Kenya

Where to stay:    
If you wish to stay inside the park, your only options are five star hotels. If you are okay with staying outside the park boundary, you will find budget hotels and backpacker hostels. There are also special and public campsites where you can pitch in your own tents. These campsites are basic, but they offer a stay in the wild experience.

If you are on a full on wildlife experience, I would recommend staying at the five star hotels so that you don’t have to drive long distances every day and can spend more time spotting and photographing wildlife. If budget is an issue, then you will have to stay outside the park. But, you can compensate by walking up real early in the morning to make it to the core of the national park at sunrise.   
Grey-headed gull - seen quite commonly around Lake Nakuru

Where to eat:    
There are a few restaurants outside the park boundary where you can find some basic food options. Your best bet for food would be your place of stay. And self-cooking in case you are camping.

Nakuru town is a good option in case you wish to indulge in local cuisine at local prices.
An African Spoonbill standing on one leg at Lake Nakuru national park, Kenya

Other wildlife reserves nearby:    
1) Hell’s Gate National park: A small national park known for its wide range of wildlife and for its cliff scenery

2) Lake Naivasha: A fresh water lake that is part of the Great Rift valley and that is home to more than 400 species of birds and a sizeable population of hippos

Black Faced Vervet Monkeys: Inquisitive brothers

3) Aberdare National Park: A high altitude national park that is home to a large variety of birds and mammals

4) Mount Kenya National park: A high altitude national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site

5) Maasai Mara: The 8th wonder of the world and home to one of the greatest wildlife migration in the world

6) Samburu National Reserve: An oasis of wildlife in arid North Kenya

7) Lake Elmenteita: It is a Ramsar site, an UNESCO World heritage site and home to over 400 species of birds
Marabou Stork gets ready to eat its prey at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Other tourist attractions nearby:    
1) Nairobi: The capital city, commercial and cultural hub

2) Nanyuki Equator Point: A great place to keep one step in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere

Helmeted Guineafowls at Lake Nakuru National Park

3) Hyrax hill: It is a prehistoric site in the Rift valley province of Kenya

4) Menengai crater: It is a massive shield volcano with one of the biggest calderas in the world

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Thursday, September 02, 2021

Planning your Budget Trip: Travelling to India in 2021

Budget trip to India in 2021

Once the world got locked down due to the pandemic in 2020, travellers have had to stay at home and say goodbye to exploring the world. And that too for a significantly long time. But, things are changing. Now, adventure seekers who have been fully vaccinated can continue to explore the world… though there are some things that travellers have to keep in mind such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and may be paying a slightly higher price for some products and services. 

Tourism in India is on the uptick and many states have opened themselves to fully vaccinated travelers while offering them the safest of environments to explore the charms of this diverse nation. This opening of tourism channels is especially very appealing to budget travelers as discounts, upgrades and freebies are being offered all around and which makes it very affordable and incredible to visit India in 2021. Using any airline like Air India, you can safely land there and begin your fun exploration. Below are some handy tips to explore India in 2021 in a cost efficient and safe way.


Choosing the right backpack for your travels

You have to pack your luggage as simply as possible. Lesser kilograms means that you don’t have to pay for extra baggage fees and it is much easier to carry around, especially on a hike or in cities that involve a lot of walking.

In addition to packing simple, you need to pack smart too. In addition to your main bag or suitcase, you need to have a small daypack. This daypack carries your essentials, valuables and documents and it should be on your person at all times. This allows you be super flexible with your travel plans, while it mitigates all theft and loss of belongings. You can simply leave your larger baggage in the hotel cloak room or at a friend’s place and travel for a short trip with just your daypack. May be, even go on a weekend motorcycle trip.


Gujarati Thali at Thaker Bhojanalay, Mumbai, India

India has a huge food scene with a wide variety of regional cuisines and yummy treats. While the world over knows some iconic Indian foods, the traveler to India will discover that each state has different specialties and they are all super affordable. You don’t have to look at high end restaurants and five start hotels for tasty and healthy food. Instead, one should look at street foods, traditional restaurants that locals throng to, food walks that are offered in many Indian cities and may be look at home cooked food in case you are staying at a homestay or if you have been invited to someone’s home.

Plan beforehand

In order to save money while you are traveling to India, it might be prudent to plan your itinerary in advance. Advance booking might get you some additional discounts. And the chances of you facing some additional expenses might be limited thus allowing you to enjoy your holiday in peace. 

Safe accommodation

Beautiful play of colours inside the durbar of Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Accommodation costs make up a significant portion of the travel costs of the budget traveller. Luxury hotels have increased their room rates in the post covid era. Even some mid-range hotels and homestays have hiked their prices. Guest houses or apartment rentals might be a better choice these days. They offer safety, freedom and they are cheaper these days. Many such properties can be found on AirBnB. Personally, I would recommend traditional homestays, backpacker hostels and Airbnb to budget travelers for a wholesome experience that doesn’t burn a hole in their pocket.

Use cards, digital wallets instead of cash

Pick pocketing is quite common in the busy areas of Indian cities. You could become a victim if you do not know how to handle your money in a busy environment. Credit cards and digital payment avenues such as Google Pay, Paytm or PhonePe come in handy as alternate sources of payments. In the post covid area, many shops and destinations across India have started accepting digital modes of payments.

Dressing consciously

It is best to dress like the locals so that you don’t stick out like a sore thumb and call for unwanted attention. While modern forms of clothing are quite common in major Indian cities, it might be better to dress conservatively in case you are visited rural India or if you have been invited to an Indian home or an Indian family event. Simple and comfortable local clothing will help you beat the elements while embracing local fashion.

Monsoon moment at Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, Karnataka

Always stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings. This will help you avoid any untoward incidents and allow you to enjoy your holiday to the fullest. And do remember to wear your mask in case you are in a crowd or in a confined public space. Socially distance yourself where possible.

Good Luck!

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