Category: Travel n Tour

India may give contract of its second high-speed rail to Japan and both the countries are planning to work it out during the two-day Japan visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
If it works out, it’s going to be Japan’s second such project in India. The first was also a high-speed rail link, which is based on the Shinkansen bull train train technology and will be connecting Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
The second project is expected to be come up either in southern or central India.
Officials from both the countries are discussing the proposals. Japan is keen to expand the high-speed rail network in India and if the project gets completed, it will be a revolutionary step regarding the time taken for train travel in India.
Engineering design work for the first link is expected to start by December next month. Japan is providing financial help in a form of loan of up to 81% of the cost at a nominal interest rate of 0.1% annually.
The Indian Railways has identified at least five other corridors like Delhi-Mumbai, Mumbai-Chennai, Delhi-Kolkata, Delhi-Nagpur, and Mumbai-Nagpur, for running 300 kmph or higher speed trains. Studies regarding feasibility are being conducted for these routes.
Besides Japan, China is also in the reckoning for developing high-speed rail networks in India.
(image: Indiatimes)

Read Full Article

Expectations and realities, sometimes, reside on different sides of the galaxy. Inundated with visuals of Rekha dancing to ‘Salaam-e-Ishq meri Jaan Zara Ku bool kar lo’ in a visually stunning Kotha, the eyes, however, saw the stark reality of what it is to be Zohrabai these days.
It’s the darkest beneath the lights, an expression that aptly describes the shanties housing close to a lakh prostitutes co-existing with some of Mumbai’s toniest neighborhoods. Ever wondered what Diwali or for that matter, any festival is like in the red light district of the city? Is it colourful? Or is it business as usual for the women, trying their non-existent charm cards on prospective clients? All these questions called for a cab ride to two of the most notorious localities of the city, where prostitutes compose their love songs in grim rooms of despair.
A cabbie, with evident reluctance, agreed to ply two pleasantly dressed women to Kamathipura, lane number 14, which is next door to the old-world ruins of Alexandra Cinema. The reason for reluctance dawned on us once we got to Kamathipura, one of the oldest existing prostitution zones of Mumbai. Located near Belasis Road, it is unlike anything one has been subjected to (or seen through the eyes of celluloid) — the place smells of bodies, stale food, dim staircases, and dead hopes of women. No lanterns, no lights dangled from their balconies to welcome us, but their dead stares .
Lane number : 14
We walked into the dingy lanes, a little past 4 pm, in the fading sun, the women looked like birds caged in a zoo, with dyed hair and garish loud lip colours on caked-up faces. A brothel was awaiting its prospective customers for the day. A prostitute, in her mid-30s, grudgingly let us in although she said it wasn’t a good time for us to be there.
We were anxious about what we’d see once we climbed up the claustrophobic narrow and dark staircase. There were plastic doors on the first floor and separators that slit a typical one BHK flat into multiple rooms to house one or two people at best. We met three women there. The rest were sleeping in their respective rooms after servicing clients. The younger woman was draping a netted sari and had tucked her mobile inside her oddly fitted blouse. Tina, in her 20s, has been servicing men for three years now. She entertained our queries while an older lady looked on and another continued to wash smelly linen and utensils. “Diwali is business as usual for us though it can get pretty lonely. At a time, we go back to our native places as there aren’t that many customers around this time. We barely do any decorations here. Whatever we earn is barely enough to suffice our needs. Why just Diwali? No festivals are celebrated here. But it (in the name of a festival) gives us an excuse to take some time off and go back home,” says Tina.
Radha Akka, who was watching us, decided to speak up too. She’s a worker in the two- storeyed building for 30 years now. She has seen the glamor and money, swell and deflate. She rewinds, “This place is more than a hundred years old. There was a time when women made ` 5 and could still save money. We celebrated festivals. But now, the earnings aren’t all that high. And there aren’t that many women here either. Once, this place was brimming with faces. Not anymore. Abhi to zyada mard aate Bhi Nahi. Diwali mein Woh Ghar pe hotel house. Idhar kam aate hain toh Diwali zyada gram Nahi Hota,” she says.
Lane number: 11
On our way out, we dodged past lecherous men and moved into another lane, which turned out to be a residential chawl. Nita Gala, a resident for decades, tells us that a cleansing drive, almost a year ago, confined prostitutes in the area to a few lanes. “We’ve faced problems because of them. Bacchon ki Shaadi Nahi ho paati. Not too many people come to our homes on Diwali because of the area we’re living in, but we still try celebrating it in our own way. We don’t have an option so we’re not moving. But we have a clear demarcation. Their area is across the road. The schools for their children and their living quarters are all on that side,” she said pointing to the lane we had just left behind. On our way out, we saw a clinic that provides health-care facilities to the sex workers in the district. We paced towards a couple of other lanes. Outside Lane No 11, we met Lipika, a mother of five children who stay in their hometown in Bihar. Wary of being photographed, she was, however, more forthcoming and confident than her colleagues we met so far.
“Women here often don’t know the name of the father of their babies, but are mighty protective about them. Who wants their children to be trapped in the drudgery of sex trade?” counter-questions Lipika, the loneliness in her eyes is hard to ignore. She continues, “Tyohaar ka time hai didi. Baccha log ghar pe hai. Idhar, aadmi log aata hai jiska aurat gaaon mein hai. Hamara Diwali to dard mein hi jaata hai, koi aaye ya nahi aaye. Pahile bahut accha kamai tha lekin ek saal se bahut kam ho gaya. Kabhi kabhi to khaali sau rupiye milta hai din ka.”
Festival or no festival, for thousands of women like Lipika, Radha and Tina, their bodies have to get to work so there’s a meal at the end of the day. And if the cops nab them for standing on the streets to attract customers, they better have enough to pay the fines. As we walked past the brothels of Kamathipura, on our way out, we turned around for a final glance at the area. More women had appeared at road crossings, doors of their dingy shanties, intersections of bylanes and some perched at the windows of their homes. Nights become days here. A couple of men glanced at them. We could have called that admiration, except that it wasn’t.
Kennedy Bridge
We decided to make our way to Kennedy Bridge and learnt yet again that hailing a cab to or from a red light area is not easy, not for women for sure. We grabbed one which plied us there, and dropped us where the infamous bridge ended. This wasn’t an in-your- face prostitution zone, but the women were all out there. They were younger, dressed in casual clothes and strolled around freely on the street. Their hideout was tucked inside an unsuspecting colony of chawls. Most of them were at that point hailing taxis to attend to their customers waiting at a lodge, hotel or maybe, the comforts of their homes. When we tried asking one of the girls, she retreated and mumbled, “Sorry ma’am. I can’t talk to you.” That sentence from her in English left us stumped.
When we asked around in the neighbourhood, it turns out that there is no Diwali celebration here either. It’s as dark as that of their fellow professionals in another zone of the city.
Legendary writer Manto, we’re told, once stood near the Falkland Road, another restricted entry zone in Mumbai, then Bombay, and observed the goings-on in the streets. In another instance, Gulzar in his poem, titled Prostitute, wrote:
Trampled in the midst of a lush field,

Read Full Article

The Dalai Lama is free to travel to any part of India and China’s objections about Arunachal Pradesh will not be accepted, the BJP has said.
“As far as whoever wants to visit any part of India, they can do so and these kinds of comments are uncalled for and they do not help in Bilateral relations in any way,” BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli told ANI in Delhi.
China on Friday warned India that bilateral ties may suffer “damage” if it allows the Tibetan spiritual leader to visit Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing claims is part of southern Tibet. It routinely objects to visits by the Dalai Lama and foreign leaders to the Indian state.
The border dispute covers the 3,488-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC). India asserts that the dispute covered Aksai Chin area, which was occupied by China during 1962 war.
China objected on October 24 to US ambassador Richard Verma’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, saying any interference by Washington in the Sino-India boundary dispute will make it “more complicated” and “disturb” hard-won peace at the border.

Read Full Article

The travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors have been eagerly awaiting the government’s decision on goods and services tax (GST) and the way it will get implemented in the country. While finance minister Arun Jaitley has finalized the four-tier tax slabs, the industry players continue to look for more clarity on how positively or negatively GST will impact their respective businesses.
When contacted, executives from travel and hotel companies said they were not in a position to give a comment as precise details were not available to decipher the impact of GST on their operations.
According to taxation experts, the impact of GST on the tourism and hospitality sectors will completely depend on slabs under which the various services are being taxed.
For example, said Divyesh Lapsiwala, tax partner – GST, EY India, the tourism sector is taxed at around 30% of the tour value (i.e. an effective rate of 4.5% service tax is levied). “It will be important to understand how such services will fit in the rate structure. The industry was also hoping that the government will bring in the TOMS mechanism, also called tour operator’s margin scheme, which is practiced in the developed markets,” he said.
However, there appears to be no clarity on TOMS mechanism getting introduced in India.
Secondly, agency services in relation to air tickets – domestic and international – are taxed at 0.7% and 1.4% respectively on the base fare plus fuel surcharge. “It is not clear whether such presumptive rates will continue, and the impact of this on net tax cost to consumers,” said Lapsiwala.
As far as the hospitality sector is concerned, the biggest concern for hotel companies is whether their outstation clients will get GST credit or not. “Currently a firm in Mumbai can claim GST credit for holding an event in a hotel in Goa. Will that be possible in the GST regime is not clear,” said Lapsiwala.
For the consumer goods and durables industry, there seems to be a view that goods may be bucketed into two rates categories viz. 18% and 28%. “The segregation and classification of goods will be very important for this industry and a detailed description of what will get taxed and by how much will decide the prices of those goods,” Lapsiwala added.
Quoting revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia reports suggested that service tax is likely to go up from 15% currently to 18%. “Its applicability on all the services will certainly make services expensive. In fact, services taxed at lower rates may also get impacted (like transportation) unless a framework similar to current service tax regulations is put in place,” said Lapsiwala.
While the details of the rates, categories and schedule equivalent are awaited, the first reaction to the slabs is a thumb up for the consumer essentials and other products, said Anil Talreja, partner, Deloitte.”This segment is large and voluminous and captures the local consumer and hence should be given heavy weight. This will result in an overall improvement of the cost structure and possible impact on prices. There would certainly be more pressure on the manufacturers to pass the benefits on to retailers and onwards to the ultimate consumer. Consumer electronics and luxury segments is something that needs to be carefully seen,” said Talreja.

Read Full Article

Travel tips: Seal tour packages smartlyNew Delhi: There is no dearth of exotic tourist locations waiting to be explored, but a number of factors need to be kept in mind before embarking on a vacation.
Kapil Goswami, the founder of travel portal BigBreaks.com, suggests how to select a good travel package:
* Chalk out a travel plan and specify your preferences: While booking through a travel agency, many people tend to ignore the calendar themselves and rely on the agents. However, it is important to remember that it is your vacation and you need to have a fair idea of the must do’s on a particular destination, even if an experienced travel agent is planning it for you.

A ready-made package to Kerala might contain visits of equal duration to the backwaters, beaches as well as the hill stations. However, you might be an out-an-out beach person desiring to spend maximum time at the beaches. Your preferences, therefore, have to be specified clearly to the planner. For this to happen, a rough travel itinerary must be chalked out in your mind, complete with locations of preference, budget as well as a number of days.
* Enroll yourself with multiple traveling sites: With plenty of players in the market, the customer is often spoiled for choice. However, it helps to conduct a fair comparison and research before sealing a deal. Therefore, it will help you to register with two to three travel agencies and sites from which you can receive a slew of deals, discounts and offers in your mail.
* Popular is not always the best: While dealing with travel agencies or websites, we often tend to believe that the most popular ones are the best planners and service providers. It might not always be true. Often, travelers find more lucrative and more customized solutions from lesser known service providers who are more eager to build a good image and a loyal clientele for themselves.
* Book round trips: You must try and book your flights in a manner that you depart and arrive at the same airport, as round trip fares are usually cheaper.
* Say no to extras: Travel packages often tend to lure by giving you options to select additional services to make your trip more pleasurable and memorable. These extra offerings may unnecessarily add to your budget. Offerings such as airport transfer, shopping assistance can be avoided if you want to save cash. Keep the deal to the basic minimal.
* Plan your trip in time: Flight fares are significantly cheaper if booked more than a month in advance, and so are the hotel rates. Online travel companies, as well as hotel chains now, offer significant discounts and special offers for early bird bookings. Also, by booking late, you might miss out on the best beach view hotel in town and may have to settle for an ordinary one.
* Check the facilities: If you are on a business trip, make sure that all the facilities required for making your visit comfortable and successful, are in place. You must ensure that the hotel offers WiFi, conference rooms suitable for your meetings and facilities such as fax and foreign exchange.

Read Full Article

This May, Mumbai restaurateur Amin Abbagani, his wife, and two children took a cruise from Athens to Barcelona. During the seven-day journey, the wifi-enabled app on Abbagani’s mobile phone told him the right prayer times while a compass pointed him towards Mecca for daily prayers. When hunger pangs hit, the family gorged on the halal food supplied from the cruise ship’s kitchen.
The Abbaganis were on a “halal holiday” arranged by their tour operator Al Khalid Tours and Travels in Mumbai. Until recently, the Muslim travel market in India was dominated by agencies specializing in pilgrimages like Haj and Umrah (mini-Haj). But now they’ve taken a cue from rich Middle-Eastern Muslim travelers, and are opting for halal vacations.
Halal in Islam means that which is permissible. And it is not just about food. A halal holiday is an entire trip tailored to the needs of practicing Muslim clients who seek Sharia-compliant facilities. “Our package includes halal food in restaurants, accommodation in hotels which provide a separate buffet without alcohol, tours to sites associated with Islamic history and strict following of prayers, preferably at famous mosques on the route,” explains Al Khalid Tours and Travels’ owner Yusuf Kherada. Last year, Kherada led a halal tour to Turkey, one of the most popular destinations in the fast-growing halal tourism circuit. In Europe, says Yusuf’s son Khalid, it is very difficult to find hotels which don’t serve alcohol or pork.
A tourist looking for a Sharia-compliant halal tour doesn’t touch alcohol and pork and avoids visits to beaches where scantily-clad tourists sunbathe.
But aren’t holidays essentially getaways to pleasure spots? “Pleasure is very subjective term. For me, a holiday is an opportunity to connect with the force who created sea and surf, mountains and snow-capped peaks,” says a senior Muslim officer attached to Mumbai’s traffic police. The officer and his wife have visited a dozen destinations including Turkey, Uzbekistan, Egypt and Morocco since 2012. And he has a sly take on the trend: “Jeb mein haram ki kamai lekar kai log Dukan mein halal gosht dhoondhte hain (many people look for halal meat in the shop with ill-gotten money in their pockets).” Before he leaves for a halal holiday, the officer ensures he has in his bag a prayer mat, a copy of the Quran, tasveeh (rosary) and a list of Islamic sites in the countries on his itinerary. When he visited Bukhara, the ancient city on the Silk Route in Uzbekistan in 2013, he stopped to pray at the tomb of Imam Muhammad al-Bukhari, compiler of the most authentic collection of hadiths (sayings of the Prophet) in Sunni Islam. The ancestors of the current Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid came to India from Bukhara and adopted the surname “Bukhari”.
Some halal tourists from India looking for healthy, family-oriented experiences do have to shut their eyes when some young members of the team “stray”, admits V S Abdul Kareem, whose company Creative Tours has conducted several halal holidays to Morocco, Jordan, Spain, and Turkey. Kareem says the biggest hurdle on the path to halal tours is securing of visas. “There are many wealthy Muslims who want to travel with us but they don’t have their papers (income tax returns) in order, which are mandatory for securing visas for many European countries,” says Kareem. “Most religious Muslim men sport long beards and women wear scarves, which sets off unnecessary alarms in today’s Islamophobic world.”
Despite the “disadvantage” of having bearded men and scarf-wearing women on board, halal tourism is tapping into rich Muslims’ urge to travel. “By 2020, global halal tourism will be about 168 million visitors spending around $200 billion. This is estimated to be 11% of the travel market expenditure,” says Suhail Shaikh of Dubai-based travel company Sandala Journeys, which conducts halal tours. To tap into the Indian market says Shaikh, he has an office in Mumbai and will soon open one in Srinagar. He advocates the promotion of halal tourism in India: “India needs to capitalize on halal tourism as part of its larger Incredible India campaign.”
Once that happens, the rich Sheiks of Arab countries who burn petro dollars on halal picnics in Spain and desert safaris in UAE may be lured to look for halal experiences, not just in Sufi-blessed Ajmer and Delhi but even in the famous serpentine streets of ancient Varanasi.

Read Full Article

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Around 70 leading wholesalers, tour operators and travel agents took part in the two roadshows conducted by Kerala Tourism in Melbourne and Sydney last week in order to tap deeper into Australia, the state’s sixth-biggest tourist market.
The high-energy roadshows, held after a gap of two years in Australia, advertised the best of `God’s Own Country’ in these cities generating significant interests in both new and established offerings in Kerala, tourism officials claimed. As many as 35,244 Australians holidayed in the state in 2015 and this year’s campaign was held ahead of the official start of the tourist season in November.
Tourism director U V Jose led a delegation that included representatives of 12 trade partners, including Abad Hotels & Resorts, CGH Earth, Chalukya Grace Tours, Discover Kerala Holidays, Eastend Hotels & Resorts, Intersight Tours & Travels, Kumarakom Lake Resort, Marvel Tours, Pioneer Personalized Holidays and Spice Routes.
“Kerala is already a well known brand in Australia.Upon seeing the surge in tourist arrivals from the lucrative emerging market, both the government and tourism stakeholders were keen to better explore and exploit the potential.We hope our strong showing at these roadshows will lead to more industry tie-ups and greater tourist footfalls to Kerala,” said tourism minister A C Moideen.

Read Full Article

PUNE: The district consumer court has ordered a travel company to refund Rs1.63 lakh with 9% p.a. interest since August 26, 2015, to an elderly couple for causing deficient service after the couple had to cancel a tour to China due to the wife’s illness in September 2014. The company failed to refund the tour money despite having assured a couple of refunds.
The bench, comprising V P Utpat, O G Patil, and Kshitija Kulkarni, held in an ex-parte ruling on Tuesday that the tour money paid by the couple was a non-gratuitous payment. The travel company was under legal obligation to compensate or return the money rather than enjoy the benefit of such payment.
In support of its observation, the bench cited provisions under the Indian Contract Act regarding the obligation of a person enjoying the benefit of a non-gratuitous act. By not adhering to it and offering a paltry sum as a refund to the couple, the travel company caused a deficiency in service, the bench ruled. It, however, held that the company was entitled to deduct 10% of the tour money towards financial loss suffered due to cancellation.
Apart from the refund, the bench directed the Travel India Club near Mhatre bridge to pay Rs2,500 compensation to the complainants M P Bendre, a veteran lawyer, and his wife, Jayashree. The 9% interest on refund amount works out to over Rs17,000 and will grow till the company implements the directions within 45 days from the date of receipt of the order.
The Benders planned to join a group of the Rotary Club of Pune South members on a tour to China and approached the travel company for booking and related arrangements. Between July and August 2014, the couple paid Rs1.74 lakh to the company and also issued a cheque of Rs8,535 towards insurance.
A few days prior to the tour, Jayashree Bendre took ill and was diagnosed with dengue. She had to be admitted to a hospital from September 9 to 15, 2014. The Bender informed the travel company about their inability to join the China tour and the latter assured them of refund.
In December 2014, when Jayashree approached the firm for the refund, the company representatives offered cheques of Rs20,720 towards booking refund and Rs7,035 against insurance money. The complainants insisted for a full refund as promised.
Lawyer A R Pinnacle filed a consumer complaint on behalf of the couple on August 26, 2015, seeking Rs2.85 lakh inclusive of refund of a tour and insurance money, interest at 18% p.a., compensation, and litigation costs. The bench partly allowed the complaint by calculating the refund of tour money as Rs1.56 lakh, after 10% deduction, and Rs7,035 refund towards insurance money.

Read Full Article

With the festive season kickstarting, it’s autumn paving way for the chilling winter – the perfect time to pack your bags and travel.
It may be possible that after traveling during two consecutive long weekends this year, you are hardly left with enough money to splurge on exploring places. But, this doesn’t mean you should give up on traveling till the next appraisal.
Manmeet Ahluwalia, Marketing Head of Expedia India, believes Indian travelers are turning more experimental, whether they are a couple, family travelers, FIT or a group of backpackers. With this newfound desire to explore the world, the concept of travel intelligence is catching up with Indian travelers.
Here are some tricks and tips he shares, to travel within a budget and give that credit card a break.

Fix your budget
Set a budget while you plan your tour. Based on this, you can look at the kind of trip you want – a weekend getaway, long vacation or backpacking trip. Now make a list of possible destinations and also the length of stay.
Load your phone with apps
Download travel apps on your smartphone. They update you real time on airfare sale no sooner than they have kicked off. Get app-exclusive deals which will be more attractive than the web deals.

Travel after sunset
Travel at night, as it helps you to save on the hotel cost. Try taking an overnight train/flight journey. It is suggested to book the flights well in advance- 5 to 6 months for international and 2-3 months for domestic travels.

Choose business hotel
Business Hotels are more affordable on weekends and leisure hotels are more cost effective on weekdays. Use budget hotels for stop-overs.

Prefer home stays
If you are willing to explore the destinations and spending more time with the locals then you can also opt for a homestay.

Buy passes
Buy a visitor / tourist pass. Most countries have 2 – 5 days visitor pass that helps you save money on public transports, F&B, attraction tickets, and city tours.

Use public transport
If you decide to use public transports, passes are more economical. It is valid for 3 – 10 days and includes trains, buses, trams, ferries and other modes. It’s better than buying single tickets each time and you end up saving both money and time.

Book hotels in advance
If you are booking months in advance, you can easily bag up-to 60% discount on hotel stays. Before booking a hotel read the reviews and you can understand its hospitality.

Additionally, there are a lot of cities that offer discounts of up-to 40% when buying tickets for 3 or more activities together.

Say yes to mailers
Subscribe to e-mailers, RSS feeds etc. from your preferred travel website so that you are informed of deals and offers as soon as they are announced.

Never deal offline
Use online websites as they are able to negotiate a better deal owing to the volume of sales and keep the transaction transparent. Buying flights, hotels, and activities together get you a higher discount.

Hotels near airport/ train station
Look for hotels closer to the airport or railway station to eliminate taxi expenses. Avoid renting a car where you have a good public transportation system.

Read Full Article

US travel advisory on possible terror attacks will not impact tourist arrivals into IndiaUS government’s advisory to its citizens about possible terrorist attacks in India will not impact foreign tourist arrivals, say tour operators. The US is the number one source market for Indian tourism. In 2015, over 1.2 million US citizens visited India, accounting for 15 per cent of India’s foreign tourist arrivals.
“We do not see much impact due to the advisory. Those who have booked months in advance will not cancel their trips, though there could be some deferrals. Overall, the impact of the advisory will not be more than one-two per cent,” Subhash Goyal, chairperson of Stic Travel, said.
Inbound tourism is expected to grow 10 per cent this year, with strong growth from Asian markets, said Goyal. Arrivals from the US too are increasing, he added.
According to Karan Anand, head, relationships, Cox & Kings, “Tourism to India has been on an upswing and such advisories do not change the perception of India being a safe destination. In the past 12 months, there have been terrorist attacks in Europe but it has not deterred travelers from visiting the continent. Compared to them, India has been incident-free and we expect the same momentum in tourist arrivals.’’ According to the tourism ministry, India is expected to receive a record nine million foreign tourists in 2016, up over 12 per cent of the eight million visitors last year.
The government’s e-visa initiative is said to have contributed to the growth.
On Tuesday the US embassy in New Delhi issued a security message to American citizens in India on Tuesday to be vigilant following reports that Islamic State may be planning to attack targets there.
“Recent Indian media reports indicate ISIL’s desire to attack targets in India,\,” the advisory said, warning of an increased threat to places frequented by Westerners such as religious sites, markets, and festival venues.
ISIL is an acronym for the jihadist organization, which has seized territory in Iraq and Syria.

Read Full Article