Reader Survey and Travel Update: Bed Bugs and Booked Trains

A few nights ago I discovered bed bugs in my mattress. It was my first experience with bed bugs so my first stop was, of course, the Wikipedia page on Bed Bugs. Thankfully, they aren't known to transmit any diseases.

Only a few weeks ago I joked about being happy there were no bed bugs in the cheap cockroach-ridden hotel I was staying at in Ujire. It looks like I spoke too soon.

I requested clean sheets and switched from sleeping on the mattress to sleeping on the floor. Some of them still find me, but it's a whole lot better than the mattress.

Starting this nomadic lifestyle of cheap travel, I knew it was bound to happen sometime. As I've said before, they're just bugs!

Booking tickets on one of the busiest train systems in the world

I spent a good part of yesterday trying to find an available set of trains that would take me from Gokarna to New Delhi, a total distance of about 1,300 miles. Since I would be passing through some interesting places along the way, I decided to spend a few days in two places: Mumbai (Bombay) and Udaipur.

The Indian train system is one of the largest and busiest in the world. Tickets become available 90 days in advance and many trains become fully booked weeks ahead of time.

Once a train is booked, you can get on a "Waitlist" and take your chances. If a confirmed passenger doesn't show up, the next person on the waitlist gets to take their place (there's also a Reservation Against Cancellation or RAC list, but this is already complicated enough).

To help those who travel on short notice get tickets, a system called "Tatkal" was implemented. A certain number of tickets are held back and only offered for sale at 8AM, two days before the train is scheduled to depart. As you can imagine, those Tatkal tickets go pretty fast.

All the trains from Gokarna to Mumbai were fully booked, but I woke up at 8AM Tuesday morning to see if I could get a Tatkal ticket. There was nothing leaving from Gokarna so I checked the next town up, Karwar. Bingo! I found an available Tatkal ticket and booked it.

Finding available trains between Mumbai and Udaipur was even more difficult. There was only one train that passes through Udaipur and it was fully booked. Even the best class seats, which usually fill up slower, were fully booked with several already on the waitlist.

After a few hours of looking up train stations and checking availability, I finally came up with an itinerary. It's not perfect or ideal, but it gets me where I need to go.

My itinerary for the next week

This Thursday afternoon, I will take a bus to Karwar (about 40 miles north) and then board the train to Mumbai. Once I arrive in Mumbai, the plan is to find a cheap place to sleep for the night and then spend the next two days exploring the city. I have several recommendations for places to see, so it will be a busy weekend!

Sunday afternoon, I leave on a 4 hour train from Mumbai to Surat. This was the furthest north I could find an available train. When I arrive in Surat Sunday night, I will look for the bus station and then try to find a ride that goes to Udaipur (my research online tells me there is one that leaves at 12:05am -- I hope I can find it).

An interesting side note about Surat: 92% of the world's diamonds are cut and polished there!

Once I arrive in Udaipur via bus (probably sometime Monday afternoon), I will find a place to stay for a few days and explore the area. Udaipur is known as the City of Lakes and has quite a few places to see (read more on the Udaipur Wikipedia page).

Next Thursday evening, I leave Udaipur on a 12-hour overnight train to New Delhi. It will be my first overnight ride on a Sleeper class train (the second to the lowest class) in India, so it should be an interesting night.

When I arrive in New Delhi on Friday morning, I will be visiting some friends who have invited me to their wedding. Unless I decide to venture outside the city, I will be staying and exploring New Delhi for two weeks before catching a plane to Vietnam on the 13th of July.

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  1. Ive read that a silk sheet is the best defence against bed bugs. Im sure you could pick on up in India for pretty cheap. Just have them sew the side and bottom and you can sleep in it, like a sleep sack 🙂 Good luck!

    • Thanks Lisa! That sounds like it would work! Plus, silk is small and light enough that I won’t complain about the added weight. 🙂

      Then again, I may just decide to endure the bed bugs. 😀 I have crazy theories when it comes to bugs. My entire life I’ve avoided bug spray for mosquito’s and now they seem to mostly avoid me, even when they’re attacking everyone else I’m with (including those wearing bug spray). I can’t help but wonder if I’ve built up some kind of natural resistance to them and if I could possibly do the same for bed bugs!

  2. Bed bugs are funny thing… sometimes. Ryan and I lived in Bandung for a few months during my last semester in my bachelor program. I’d been living in this student house for 3-4 years (cut one year when I was doing exchange student program in Tokyo). After a few days staying there with me, Ryan told me that there were many bedbugs and he got bitten by them. The funny thing was, I’d been using that particular bed (provided by the house owner) for many months, and I was not aware of the bed bugs! We could only conclude that because Ryan is taller than me (by 1 feet), his feet slipped out from the blanket, and the bedbugs could reach it. While mine were tucked in. We moved after that, and thankfully the new bed was bed bugs free!

    (I did the survey)

    • Hey Dina! Thanks for doing the survey. 🙂

      Bed bugs do seem quite peculiar… they seem to bite at various times, regardless of the time of day or whether or not I have the lights on. Maybe they just get hungry and certain times and start moving around!

  3. Wow – I could not get used to bugs in my living area, I don’t think. But that’s what makes me a wuss and you a badass. 🙂

    Do you ever get lonely out on the road? Do you know other people there? I’d like to hear more insight on your social experiences being a location independent person.

    • Haha, if you don’t like bugs in your living area, you probably won’t like most of the undeveloped world!

      I had a passion for bugs when I was a kid (and I still love’em), so it’s not that difficult for me to live with them. On the other hand, bugs that feed on my blood are a different story.

      As for getting lonely, I’m quite an introverted person and I’ve never really gotten lonely on the road. I don’t know anyone here, but since I’m not constantly moving around, I get to know a lot of the people who work at places I frequent. We exchange short conversations when we see each other.

      I have felt a little homesick a few times, mostly missing the familiarity, but otherwise online communication and replying to comments like this give me my necessary dose of social interaction. I do need to get out more often and not spend so much time working on my laptop though. 😛

  4. With all my world travel, somehow I don’t see myself making it to India so I must read your stories. An Indian wedding is very interesting in all its tradition and color. I’d try to go if I were you. And you brave man with overcoming your bug phobia. And I can’t wait to read about Vietnam……keep it up, Raam!

    • Hey Farnoosh!

      Yes, I’m definitely going to the wedding, so you’ll see pics posted as soon as I get a decent WiFi connection! Since you probably won’t make it to India, you can travel the country vicariously through me! 😀

      • Well, there is this Ashram in Mysore that I wish I could be transported to for a silent retreat following a yoga journey to bliss and happiness but perhaps until then, you will be the channel through which I will experience India. I am reading every word, Raam. :)!

  5. Hey Raam – Looks like an excellent itinerary to me!

    And there is definitely an overnight bus from Mumbai to Udaipur. In fact, there should be anywhere from 4-5 per day that will make the journey and you can even reserve a sleeper bed in the bus which are surprisingly somewhat comfortable (there’s a level of beds above the seats if you can picture that). However, all of the buses generally leave from north of Mumbai, about an hour away from the city center as it’s impossible for them to navigate the streets downtown. But definitely try to book the bus on your first day as they too can get crowded.

    And a good place to stay in Mumbai is the Colaba district. The Salvation Army hostel is the best value with dirt cheap dorm rooms and cheap singles as well, all including breakfast and with plenty of security. Apart from that, rooms in Mumbai are quite expensive (400 – 800 rupees range).

    I just realized that you’ve left Gokarna already, so hopefully the train up north worked out well!

    • Hey Earl! Thanks for the info! 🙂

      I’m actually taking a train from Mumbai to Surat and looking for a bus from Surat to Udaipur. I’d prefer taking a train all the way to Udaipur, but at least this way I’m eliminating some bus time.

      Today was my first day in Mumbai. I decided to spoil myself a little and pay a bit extra for a nicer room. I’m only here for two nights, so I figured what the hell. I have heard good things about the Salvation Army hostel though.

      I spent today walking around south Mumbai. I visited the Prince Wales Museum, the Gateway to India, and did lots of walking. Later in the evening, I got lost somewhere in the northwest part of south Mumbai walking back to the hotel. For someone who has to try really hard to get lost, that was fun! 😀

      • Glad to hear Raam! If you have some time, a wander around Crawford Market during the day and a visit to Chowpatty Beach at night are both worth a look. At Chowpatty Beach you can ride in what has to be the only human-powered ferris wheel on the planet…

        Enjoy as always and keep on getting lost!!

        • Thanks Earl! I’m definitely visiting Chowpatty beach tonight (my last night here) and a human-powered ferris wheel!? I definitely have to check that out! 😀

          It’s been quite interesting walking around Bombay and keeping the fast pace of everyone else, even while I have no idea where I’m going!


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