Monday, January 9, 2012

The War on Travel

Nothing is supposed to be this difficult.

We’ve been coming to India together on four prior trips. If you count Saum’s experience, five years living here and many other long-extended stays before we met with travel nation-wide – she’s a pro. In January 2000, she organized a trip through Rajasthan complete with three-day camel safari through the Thar Desert just outside of Jaisalmer. We’ve been through mountains, over plains; in cars, trains and planes. We’ve stayed in old palaces and forts, palace hotels, hunting lodges, ashrams, even in tents. In terms of planning a vacation in India, we’ve never had this much trouble before.

Until now.

We’re here in India for six weeks together. After arriving in our base of operations, the launching point of our previous travels, we set out to make way for Kerala. In the past, we’ve used a travel agent, at other times friends, occasionally just hopping in the car. We know what we want to do, our research done, plans – well trying to set. And here’s the problem.

We have struggled and struggled to reserve our stay with difficulty after difficulty. In times past, you could reserve with an American Express card, later times a Visa. No dice. We live in a time where everything must be carefully tracked. Paypal, nope, too loose. So how, exactly do we reserve a room?

Place number one wants a wire transfer. I know how to do this, but coordinating between one country and another with a 12-hour time difference and making all the details right took over half a week.

Place number two wanted a Western Union order. After giving up fighting their website (for three days), realizing that I had to pay in person at an authorized agent – and waiting for the weekend to expire, I find you can’t Western Union within the country – only cross-border into our out of the country is allowed.

The hardest thing about planning our vacation is trying to figure out how to get our money from point A to point B.

I don’t blame the places we’re staying. I don’t blame India. Many of these same obstacles I face at home trying to open an account in the US, or wiring money domestically there. But these rules are getting too cumbersome. Each new financial obstacle put forth in law is making doing business – and travel in our case harder.

After many calls and days of persistence, tonight place number one is squared away. Hopefully with a little luck we’ll settle number two tomorrow. Planning a vacation has never been so stressful before.

If our plans for number two fall through, we’ll just have to revert to driving around until we find someplace. It’s not the worst way to travel, but I’m concerned that if that’s how the shoe drops, how will I pay them – and have to start over.

Guess some prayers to Lord Ganesh are in order.

1 comment:

  1. A quick update. All of our plans finally got set today. Now to relax.