Indian Wanderer Who Travelled 25 Countries
“The moment you step out of the house to travel to an unknown destination, you’ve already exposed yourself to a certain level of risk” has been Ujjawal Chhaparia’s perspective on travel. Owing to this he has explored 25 countries so far with an Indian passport, across four continents. This article talks about how having an Indian passport can put you into unanticipated and thrilling set of circumstances, some brilliant ways to save money, personal obstacles and apprehensions, and how addictive traveling solo can get.
First things first
Belonging to an Indian family and traveling solo or simply traveling a lot calls for dramatization in the form of several misgivings. First, you will face them when you are planning travel with folks, this can be an unending process in a maze of figuring outs that in the end lead to unfavorable experiences. Ujjawal or Ujji as he likes to be called by friends who find it difficult to pronounce his name, faced a lot of plan cancellations and thus decided to give solo traveling a shot.
Having pursued a Masters degree in Information Security from the University of London, he further started working there where he witnessed delightful cultural dissimilarities. During the same period, he was introduced to a hospitality service that also doubles up as a social networking website for traveling enthusiasts on a budget and on a constant quest to meet new people who host you in their house and otherwise. Ujjawal signed up for the same and began to host travelers. This is when he realized there was a gamut of young adults in the early 20’s, some still students, traveling to places near and far. Being avidly interested in travel, stories of those who Ujji hosted further motivated him to venture the world.
He commenced this, now ceaseless fondness for travel, by heading to countries that allowed visa on arrival for those with an Indian passport. He took it up solo, and mentioned how apprehensions actually shape your plan! Traveling is addictive indeed, but the fact that the more number of stamps you have on your passport, the easier it is to travel more countries, has its own high. That is what Ujji learned while applying for a Schengen Visa with an Indian passport and based out of London; not a very easy deal! Schengen Visa is especially a tad obstinate to avail for someone who loves to have no plans. It demands a fixed itinerary leaving little or no flexibility to a travel plan. For this, Ujjawal availed a multiple entry Schengen Visa which is ideal in such a situation. Traveling to Europe, he advises on having a travel insurance. The idea of “Give and Take” goes a long way in Europe. This is how he covered many countries in Europe.
Further, work got him to Saudi Arabia and he chanced upon the opportunity to gallivant through the stunning middle eastern countries of UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Oman, and Bahrain among others. What helped him here was his Saudi Arabia resident card, which despite having an Indian passport availed him visa on arrival, whenever he urged to explore middle east. The key to cover many places on your passport, he says, is a lot of research about visas.
Things that will save you a lot of moolah
Ujji describes himself as a very grounded guy which is edifying to experience the real things! He has never stayed in a hotel when there has been a choice of hostels and Couchsurfing properties. You get to share and learn a lot of stories with your host, who themselves are very perceptive considering their openness about hosting travelers. The experience is heightened if your wavelength matches! Staying with a host makes you look forward to coming back to someone, you are not alone, you have someone to talk to about your day’s exploration.
If you make your travel public on a social networking website, you can further meet co-travelers wherever you are. Most of these travelers, Ujji says are keen on meeting new people and the spontaneity of being with strangers in itself is something!
But a word of advice Ujji shares is that staying with a host can be a little restrictive, especially. Imagine, you want to party and you have a host who wants you back at 9:00 pm, it can create a little bit of a situation here. In this case, it is the hostels that are best you bet!
Some hostels may usually feature small dorms but the scope of meeting solo travelers is vast. These like-minded people may have the same purpose of traveling like yours, which can be gratifying.
Now hostels and visas are an important issue to address. While applying for the visa you need to book your hostel at a 10 per cent tariff. Some countries may even require you to stay for a certain number of days if you choose hostels for accommodation. But since, it is such a nominal amount, you may not really worry about any changes in your plan.
Now, this is where Ujji lets us in on some secrets and really efficient tricks of the trade. There are several websites that notify you when the flight’s fares are at the lowest. He also suggests looking closely for ‘mistake deals’. Once he started blogging about his travel plans, his flying experiences got better.
Backpacking and traveling off seasons are two things that will essentially bring you cheaper flights. Further, sign up for airline programs such as frequent flyers, loyalty programs, mile credits and the likes to save more money. All these attributes make a greater impact than merely searching for cheap air tickets.
Ujji states local food is the way to go in a bid to save money and taste indigenous authentic grubs. You can ask for recommendations from your host if you are staying with one. However, beware of tourist traps that surround most of the popular eat outs at a place. Head to these places on foot so you also get to see the easily-missed aspects of the city that way. This is how he also finds Indian food or something close, whenever he craves some home food!
Thus, Ujji affirms how accommodation, flight, and food are three major areas where you can save money.
Finally, the Cyber security consultant mentions how solo traveling and an Indian background can sum up to a great experience! He has lived in a hostel since the age of eight, experienced five-star hospitality and even slept on the floor in Madagascar.
Travel indeed, can test your decision making skills and put you in situations where you’ve got to go with your intuition. Ujji found himself in inescapable situations many times that tested the same. We list some of the most interesting ones.
Deprived entry in Madagascar
“Simply because I looked very Indian, I was pulled out of a line at an airport in Madagascar under the brunt of not having a Yellow Card”, recalls Ujji talking about his trip there. Being a poor country, deporting Ujji was out of question. The officials, after interrogation, asked him for a “gift” and left him after he paid 20 South African Rands! So yes, racism is something you will be subject to, irrespective of the place you are traveling to.
Stuck in a no man’s land
While traveling to Cambodia from Thailand, the officials at the check post demanded a photocopy of a passport, which Ujji did not possess. It was a rather dramatic setting of heavy rains when a guy approached him to offer a photocopy at 10 USD! Given the situation he was, Ujji gave in. He was later enlightened about how this guy was one of the many small criminals at the border. How you communicate here is what matters the most and thus things like t-shirts with local greetings, learning the basics of a particular language and a google translator can come very handy! Also make sure to always, always carry hard copies of documents as you cannot anticipate when you will require presenting it. A local sim card for internet can be a good idea too.
Ujjawal’s blog http://www.wandererontheroad.com is full of interesting escapades, great tips on travelling and relationships, dealing with your pet peeves while travelling, adventures of a ‘blind trip’, natural disasters, helpful travel apps, the dilemma of choosing between travel and your loved ones and much, much more you will thank him for!
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