It was a cup of coffee and a map of India that inspired a London-based journalist Monisha Rajesh and photographer Harald Haugan to embark on a journey across India in 80 trains much like the adventures of Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days. Covering the length and breadth of the country, she has covered luxury trains, toy trains and the newly launched non-stop Duronto Express in her blog 80trains.com.
“Though the Indian Railways website has adequate information about the different train schedules and routes, this website not only has train reviews but also provides enough information if I am planning a vacation covering multiple stops,” explains Ruchi Soni who checks up a number of travel blogs before planning a trip.
Planning a trip to a foreign destination or any part of the country has become easy with the help of online travelogues and forums.
There are several social networking sites where travel enthusiasts can find information and also develop their own network across the globe.
“I was looking for a safe and reasonable accommodation in Colombo as we were an all girls gang. When I posted my question on a social networking site, I was provided with information on several home stay options,” says Ruthu Sreebashyam referring to the hospitality service network couchsurfing.org.
This site has members from all over the world and any travel related information can be obtained from any of the members. The site allows all the members in creating their profiles where they can post their pictures and link their blogs.
“The added advantage for this website is that any member can be a surfer or hosts. One can just get in touch with a host and stay at his place with his permission for absolutely free,” adds Ruthu who is also a couch surfer. Some of the other sites like hospitalityclub.org, wikitravel.org, and lonelyplanet.com also provide an interactive platform for travel enthusiasts.
Another couch surfer, Pranav Shah recounts his experience using the site and says: “I stayed over at a couch surfer's house in Singapore. Not only did he take me around the city but he was a crime reporter and regaled me with wonderful anecdotes. His grandmother made me feel at home and used to prepare delicious meals for me everyday.” Since his food and lodging were taken care of, apart from the flight tickets he managed the vacation on a shoe-string budget. He adds that he has hosted people from several and is sure that they will extend the same hospitality when he visits their country.
Though the hosts get references and vouched by other members to ensure safety, like any other networking sites this comes with its share of flaws and arguments. “Most members are young so sometimes travel details are not the only thing that they are looking for in these websites.
Even the information that is available are not always accurate,” cautions Vipin Kumar and advises that the information from sites should be cross-checked with an authorised website. These travel networking sites are a great way of discovering new country and understand the local culture; however they come with user discretion.