Chandni and Kiran belong to the set of passionate people who are willing to trade a comfortable life with one that accords them the liberty to follow their hearts. Putting at stake their successful IT careers in Toronto, Kiran took the bold decision to travel – so he could chase his childhood dream of bag-packing around the world, while age and health allowed for it. Fortunately, his spouse was more than a willing partner in this endeavour.
About the couple
Kiran is from Pune and Chandni is from Nagpur. Though Indians, they live in Toronto and both worked in the IT sector, before the travel bug bit them.
Kiran attributes his love for travelling to his dad, with whom he travelled across India; and to his mom who has an interest in travel-blogging. His driving license has been put to good use, not a single opportunity ever lost for going on road trips with friends and family. A typical Bong, the one thing Chandni detests about travelling is the limitation on the footwear that she can carry. An expert travel planner, she has mastered the art of travel packing – a skill that is invaluable when you go globe-trotting.
India ke travel couple
Yes, Urbandesis, that is what Chandni and Kiran call themselves. The husband and wife team is presently in the middle of their world tour, which is already in its 8th month. The couple has already toured Europe extensively, followed by parts of Africa and South-East Asia. Ahead on their travel list are New Zealand, Amazon and Central America amongst others.
During their recent Singapore stopover, we spoke to them and it was a revelation. You would assume that it is difficult to go globe-trotting on an Indian passport (and you would be right) but this incredibly inspiring couple is on a mission to demonstrate that one can be a nomad and travel on a budget – nationality notwithstanding. As Kiran so aptly put it, “We aim to spread the message that budget-travelling is not as hard as it is perceived to be. We want everyone to realise that it is not the money but the drive in you that will make it happen.”
Travel tips from the travel experts
In our conversation with the duo, we learnt plenty of travel tricks. Here we share with you, their top ‘Dos and Don’ts’ for travelling smart.
1) Apply eVisa or avail Visa on arrival facility, wherever possible. Turkey, East Africa and Cambodia have eVisa, for instance. Holding valid visas of one region, can sometimes also give you entry to other countries, on arrival. Eg. Indian passport holders who are Singapore residents are allowed visa on arrival in Malaysia. Croatia allows entry if you hold a valid Schengen visa. Canadian PRs do not need a visa to enter Mexico.
2) Have a primary bank account for travel, which is part of the Global ATM Alliance. There are no transaction charges of any type when you withdraw money from an ATM affiliated to banks of Global ATM Alliance. Barclays and Deutsch Bank are part of this alliance.
3) Use couch surfing and AirBnB. You get to know local insights and can use facilities like kitchen and laundry in-house, instead of having to go out and pay for these services.
4) Use (offline) apps. Google Maps is available for offline download in almost all countries. Mark all the places you want to visit as ‘favourites’ in Google maps and you can explore the city on your own. Google Translate helps in overcoming the language barrier. Download the offline language pack so that you are not dependent on mobile data/ Wi-Fi.
5) Take a free walking tour, especially in European cities. It gives a great insight of the city, culture and history.
6) Understand and respect local customs. Follow local laws, dress as per local customs, especially in conservative countries. If locals frown upon alcohol, try to avoid it even if it is easily available.
7) Always carry a water bottle. Get it refilled in restaurants, if tap water in that city is safe. For reliable Wi-Fi, clean washrooms and free water, McDonald’s is generally a good bet.
8) Book directly from the website of low cost fliers, as they are usually not registered with the big travel portals. For instance, a flight from Mumbai to Malta costs a 6-digit figure (in INR) on all travel portals. However, Mumbai to Rome and Rome to Malta separately is much cheaper as RyanAir (which is not registered with any travel portal) offers 30 Euro flights from Rome to Malta.
9) Be flexible with eating habits. Enjoying local cuisine, is cheaper and completes your travel experience. If you are vegetarian and looking for cheap eats, look for ’Doner Kebabs’ restaurants. They are all over Europe and have very tasty falafel and veg wraps. Nowadays, there are also several apps and websites (eg. happycow) dedicated to vegetarian and vegan travellers.
10) Buy a City Pass / pass for public transport. Many tourist destinations offer a multi-day unlimited public transport travel pass which is of superb value. Holding a City Pass sometimes also makes you eligible to earn discounts on entrance fees to major attractions, further bringing down cost.
11) Take on overnight journeys, and save time and money on hotel stays.
12) Regularly monitor new border security rules and regulations in Europe. There are daily updates which might not be broadcast on media channels – a temporary closure of train travel from Hungary to Croatia, for instance, might affect your travel plans.
1) Book single day tours online. Go to the destination, walk into the office of a tour agent, bargain and then book. It will almost always be cheaper.
2) Take conversion rates lightly. Never convert money at airport counters, they have the worst conversion fees. Also, don’t pay in home currency when using a credit card, pay in local currency instead. If you choose home currency, the conversion rate is decided by the merchant and not the financial institution.
3) Book multi-leg tickets as part of one reservation, especially for low cost fliers like AirAsia. If you want to book 2 tickets then make two different logins and book one ticket each. Most of the times, this will end up being cheaper.
4) Use any smartphone/tablet app for bookings. Always book from your laptop browser, and in Hidden/Incognito mode. Compare prices in different currencies. If you have VPN service, then changing your IP location to different geographic regions can also surprise you.
5) Visit places for the sake of it. If you don’t like and understand art, then there is no point in going to art galleries and museums, just to tick off a box. It’s a huge waste of money and time.
6) Pack too much. Travel light and do flash packing. Many things like adventure gear can be rented out at the location.
7) Use public Wi-Fi hotspots. The ones in cafés and restaurants should be fine but at a public square you might find public Wi-Fi hotspots which might be an attempt to hack your information.
8) Post passport and visa stamps photos on social media. Use RFID covers for passport and credit cards.
9) Risk not buying medical coverage (travel insurance which covers medical emergencies) just to save a few dollars. Cost of medical emergencies for non-residents of a country are usually very high.
10) Wear expensive jewellery or wrist watches. Also, avoid carrying your bag or backpack on your backs in public transport, especially in Europe. Pick pocketing is rampant in recession hit global economy. Always carry your bags where you can see them.