Travel Secrets

Know Before You Go!



How can I shop smarter when travelling abroad?

Even savvy travellers often goof up on shopping in a foreign land. Too many make expensive mistakes. Quite a few fall into tourist traps. Some fret so much that they forget to have fun. Follow these tips from Shubhra Krishan and shop smart.


Shop the flea markets, especially in the pricier countries. These open-air markets are very colourful, boast lots of local flavour, and most importantly, allow you to scout for rare treasures without burning a hole in your pocket.

Before you leave home, do some research on what souvenirs and local goods you should be buying. One of our team-mates lugged back a big bag of gleaming round whole red chillies from the Middle East, thinking they were exotic; only to be told that they’re available by the sackful—and much cheaper—in Chandni Chowk!

Resist going overboard. Every now and then, think back to the suitcases in your room, and how much space you have left. Are they straining at the seams? If yes, do you have another bag? If you buy another one, will you be within your baggage limits at the airport? Sigh. Practical nuisances, but important, too.

Shop where the locals do. Too many of us still walk into tourist traps and end up paying way more than fair. If you can chat up a local and ask them to point you to the right store/market for what you need, nothing like it. If not, just keep your eyes open for where you see a lot of them, and follow their lead!

If you’re fond of spices, herbs and other exotic kitchen goodies, avoid the big supermarkets and explore the grocery stores. They often have the same things for much lower prices.

Retain your receipts, and once you get back to your hotel, take stock of your day’s shopping. If something doesn’t fit or feel as appealing, you can go back to the store next morning, rather than staring helplessly at your folly back home!

Almost every big city in the world has factory outlets located on the outskirts. In New York, it’s Woodbury Commons. In Edinburgh it’s the Stirling Mills complex. Bonus: you can enjoy these as day trips, sampling local food and walking the pleasant, spacious courtyards.

Do get into the discount sections of big stores such as H&M. You’re sure to get good quality stuff for attractive prices.

Read the full story in the January-February 2013 issue of Travel secrets magazine.
Digital copies available online at

Do I need a DSLR to take good travel pictures? I have not learnt photography.

Good news: you don’t need a DSLR to take good pictures, so don’t bother buying an expensive one.  You can get great results even with a simple P&S, says Samarth Mediratta, whose photos have been showcased in the Travel India Catalog of the National Geographic


Over to him:

“Well I’m going to answer this question keeping in mind that a professional photographer is not reading this, because he’ll carry more lenses than his clothes while travelling.

If you are an amateur photographer, consider the following points before buying a camera:

a) Do you often travel with family?

b) Do you want to build your photography skills eventually or are you mostly into fun trips?

c) How much luggage do you generally carry?

In case of family travel, I suggest the simple Point & Shoot cameras. They are lightweight and easy to use. Because you don’t want to miss the moment where your six-year-old finally catches a fish after waiting for two hours. By the time you pull out the DSLR from your bag, put the right lens and start pressing the shutter half way to focus, the natural emotions would have been lost. The greatest family pictures are usually shot candid. And for that, P&S cameras are the best.

If you want to build your photography skills over a period of time, DSLR would be the right choice. You will feel connected to your camera while you travel. You can experiment with different settings with your DSLR and there is a lot to learn. The features in a P&S camera are limited and do not allow you to explore much.

And finally, if luggage is a major concern, stick to the compact P& S. You don’t want to haul around a camera back pack that has equipment which costs more than all your other bags and its contents.



Now, if you have decided to use a DSLR while travelling and trying to improve your photography skills, consider buying this other equipment too.

  • A tripod: a must if you plan to shoot landscapes or long exposure shots. You can just set it up, take your time to choose the perfect frame, align it within your viewfinder and click. Also, it is a life saver if you plan to shoot panoramas.
  • A flashlight: helps you focus at night when there is no source of light and the camera auto focus assist light doesn’t work.
  • Shutter Remotes: if you’re planning to shoot star trails or any shot that has exposure time of more than a minute, I would suggest you buy a shutter remote. It lets you set a timer so that you just leave it lying beside your camera and enjoy the night looking up to the sky. Read how to use a shutter remote here.
  • Extra Batteries: There is a good chance that you’ll exceed the specified 450 shots in one trip.
  • Bug Sprays: for those venturing into the wild.

You can check out Samarth’s photographs here

Read more about DSLR vs P&S for travelling:

Should you buy a DSLR or a point and shoot digital camera

Choosing the best travel camera


Can you recommend a good hotel in Venice Beach, California?

Glad you asked. Our US correspondent Kristen Cashman spent a refreshing weekend at this seaside resort town, and could not stop gushing about Hotel Erwin.

Over to her:

venice beach, california

Los Angeles, California, offers visitors a wide assortment of attractions and landmarks to check out—from the Hollywood Walk of Fame to the Sunset Strip to the luxury shopper’s paradise, Rodeo Drive. But for a sprawling ocean view coupled with unparalleled people-watching, the Venice Beach boardwalk is not to be missed. Historically a mecca of surfing, skateboarding, and bodybuilding, and the birthplace of the legendary 1960s rock band The Doors, the boardwalk teems with colorful, oh-so-California sights and sounds, including tattoo parlors, bikini-clad rollerskaters, fortune tellers, and a smorgasbord of shops and vendors.

If you want to spend a night or more perched above all the hubbub of the boardwalk, the Hotel Erwin is the place to stay. Gelling with the neighborhood’s young, hip, laid-back feel, the hotel is decorated in bright colors and modern design details.

Hotel Erwin's half-circle driveway
Hotel Erwin’s half-circle driveway


The six-storey building has standard rooms as well as suites. My 750-square-foot suite felt enormous, with a kitchenette, dining area, living room, funky bathroom, and bedroom. The minibar featured offbeat options beyond the usual snacks and spirits, such as surfboard wax, sun-protective lip balm, and a portable torch for late-night strolls. The living space had a gas fireplace, a large flat-screen TV, and a desk. WiFi was complimentary throughout the hotel, and the connection was speedy and reliable.



The suite’s best feature by far? Its balcony, with a stunning panoramic view of the boardwalk’s happenings as well as the vast Pacific Ocean beyond. I soaked up the varied eye candy below—the skateboarders careening down the slopes of the beach’s skate park, the surfers stacking up along the faces of the waves, and the acrobatics of street performers surrounded by throngs of tourists.

If you’ve been toying with the idea of getting a tattoo and are ready to take the plunge, you’re in luck! The Erwin offers an “Ink n Stay” package that includes overnight accommodations, a $100 voucher for tattoo services from a local acclaimed tattoo and graffiti artist, lotion, an ice pack, and a bottle of tequila. Where else but Venice?


The hotel’s crowning jewel is its rooftop lounge, High. The only place of its kind in town, it boasts a fabulous vista of the sea, the boardwalk, and the city rooftops. At $11–13 each, the cocktails aren’t cheap, but they are tasty—I sampled a blackberry Collins and a passion fruit mojito, both made with fresh fruit and high-quality spirits. The lounge also features an eclectic but limited snack menu whose offerings include guacamole, chicken skewers, and hot dogs. Although Venice enjoys a warm, Mediterranean climate with over 250 days of sunshine per year, evenings can be cool, so the lounge has propane heaters to keep its clientele cozy.


On the ground floor is the hotel’s restaurant, Barlo, which serves breakfast, dinner, and cocktails. The menu showcases local, sustainably grown produce and meats, and I was pleased with my breakfast of eggs from pastured hens with goat cheese, tomatoes, and spinach. Barlo is known for its fabulous burgers, but as a non–beef eater, I didn’t partake.

Everyone at the hotel was extremely accommodating, helpful, and informative, while also exuding the casual, low-key vibe that coastal LA county is known for.

All Photos courtesy of

What is a typical day in the life of a Parisian like?

Well guess what: we have a fairly good idea!

TS Editor Shubhra Krishan met the lovely, lively Laurie Trognon, PR head at the iconic Printemps in Paris. The young lady wrote a beautiful ode to her home city, spilling lots of local secrets along the way!

 Over to her:

I am 23, and have lived in Paris all my life. I live in the 17th arondissement in a quiet residential neighbourhood called Villiers, which is sprinkled with parks and French brasseries.

Every morning, I wake up in my apartment and feel lucky to live in Paris. I open the window and look out to a beautiful old Haussmannian building. In the very early hours, we can hear birds, wind, or rain.

Like any other big city, Paris gives you the feeling of being on your own—in a nice way! I start my day with a typical Parisian breakfast of croissant or a chocolate roll with fresh orange juice or a tea. Sometimes, I keep it simple with just bread and butter.

It takes me 20 minutes by Metro to reach my workplace, which is PRINTEMPS (the departement store) in the nine area (75009).

In summer, I like to wear colourful long dresses to work. Parisian women are very fashion-conscious, and enjoy sporting avant garde fashion.

I enjoy going out with my friends in the evenings. My favourite hangouts in the city are as follows:

Local paris secrets       

Best pizza: Paparazzi restaurant (75009)

paris local secrets     

     Best cup of coffee: Kooka Boora (75009) / Angelina (75001)

paris local secrets

Best French cuisine: La petite Cour (75006)


Best bar: O Chateau (Wine bar)


Best bakery: Ladurée

Some of the restaurants, pubs and bars that the people of Paris love, and you won’t find in most guidebooks are :


La Félicité (75010)

Pershing Hall

Pershing Hall (75008)

Le Club des 5

Le Club des 5 (75017)


Candelaria (75003)


Razowski (75001)


Lefty (75002)

Paris looks most beautiful during summer time, when everybody is on vacation. All people are very open-minded, the weather is great and you can enjoy parks, terrace, swimming pools.You can really appreciate space at Rosa Bonheur which is a restaurant in the Buttes Chaumont park.

Rosa Bonheur
Rosa Bonheur

When I am unhappy and need some peace, Paris comforts me with wine! I sit with a glass of wine and a friend at Bertie or Vert Tulipe; very affordable, great wine, and perfect for forgetting your woes!

Vert Tulipe

Plus, I like to practice sport and more particularly Aquabiking; sport is something very important when you live in a big city. It’s a great way to decompress.

When I’m looking for a moment of rest, I go to the NUXE Spa at Printemps Haussmann and get a manicure.


The city’s loveliest street is Rue des Francs Bourgeois, a typical Parisian street with trendy but not-too-expensive shops such as Zadig & Voltaire, Isabel Marant. For bargain shopping, I would recommend the area of Chatelet – Les Halles. For high-end purchases, you should head to Printemps Haussmann or Rue Saint Honoré.


In the evening, Paris looks an old city which is waking up; all brasseries and terrace are full, even during the winter and my apartment fills up with the sights/sounds of my neighbours who invite their friends for the cocktail hour.

I don’t have the time to cook, so I usually order food from a website named AlloResto. One of my favourite foods when I can’t cook is Japanese.

A typical Paris weekend is never complete without a brunch on Sunday morning.

All in all, I love my city because this is a city with a real history. The typical Haussmannian buildings are majestic, and I can’t get enough of admiring them!

(This story was first published in May June 2013 issue of Travel Secrets Magazine)

How can I stay clean while trekking in a forest?

“Dude! You stink.” You don’t want to hear that when you’re trekking, right? Travel Secrets writer Aarohi Roy shows you how to have a spotless trek.

Trekking cleaniness

Amateur bag-packer that I am, it’s hard to adhere to or even know the rules of cleanliness in a forest. I researched, and there are quite a few of them. So next time I plan on camping out, I’m going to be well prepared.

For starters, have you ever heard of Isopropyl alcohol? This alcohol-based compound is a life saver that lets you clean without water. Carry a small bottle of this and a few cotton balls; you’re all set for a grime-free trek. If you’ve seen—‘Eat. Pray. Love’—the movie, there is a scene when Julia Robert’s Italian housekeeper pours a kettle of hot water in her bath and says that it’ll clean all parts that NEED to be cleaned. Well, the alcohol is similar.

When water is available, bathe as many times you can but don’t use soaps in rivers—Nature has issues with soaps. Also, if you come across multiple rivers and creeks in a day, don’t lose the chance to at least dip your feet in them. Yes, yes, just your feet. Did you know there are at least 20 common diseases caused by unkempt feet? Also, every time you soak and dry your feet, you can rotate your socks.

Did you know that cosmetics and perfumes attract wild animals? So does toothpaste. So brush your teeth far from your tents and stomp when you spit. The soil is the best cover up. And always, always be safe while drinking or eating fruits because the juice—if spilled—will attract mosquitoes. Mosquitoes will make you fall sick quicker than anything else in the forest.

If odour is a problem, switch to light-weight wool or silver-embedded clothing. Change your clothes while sleeping, and hang the day’s clothes—helps the odour. If you still stink, that’s what the isopropyl alcohol is for!

There have been times when I’ve wondered how in Jurassic Park and Lord of The Rings, people stay clean and healthy—seems it’s pretty easy, isn’t it?


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