Planning a tour

Planning is the first step of any tour. The ‘zen’ stage of motorcycle touring is when one just picks up a direction and ride there, deciding on the way where to go. But for us lesser mortals, a well planned trip is a must, and the best insurance you can have towards a successful tour.

First thing first, let weather be your friend. Touring West and South in October to March, and touring East and and North in April to November, is logical. Of course the beauty of snow capped towns is unbeatable, but the odds of a safe trip are stacked against your favor when you go in wrong season.

If you are single or couple with no school-going kid, you have just saved yourself at least 25% of the tour cost. Find when the exams are generally held – the months are June, October, January to April (because the third and final exams are very tightly woven around). Plan the tour in those months, and you have just secured yourself photographs with no peeping kids, and hotels that are ready to bargain. In off season, you can knock off at least 20% off the advertised price of hotels, going up to even 50%. Also, in off season, do not book the hotels beforehand; otherwise most probably you lose out on much better deals at the place. However if you are going in season, or a local event – like Dalai Lama speaking in Dharamshala – then the hotels are going to be booked, and it will be much better to book the hotel beforehand. For selecting such hotels without looking, rely on travel sites that provide hotel review by other tourists. This helps greatly in weeding out possible bad decisions.

If you depend on public transport or shared taxis, then going in off season may work against you as there are few tourist to share those things with!

You can plan the ride in two manners: first, a destination trip, and second, a loop trip. For example, consider Goa trip. In destination trip, you will join the National highway no x – the Mumbai Goa Highway, and ride with your throttle open. In loop trip, your will go by the beaches road from Shrivardhan – Harnai – Guhagar etc, and then while returning you will come back by the highway. This way you will not repeat the same road twice, but rather see the places that lie at the periphery of your route. I usually prefer loop route, where the starting and ending point are most probably same, and we get to visit a lot of places in the same trip.

Once you have decided on the trip dates and the place, then comes the itinerary. A pro tip that has helped me every time in planning any trip: search the net for ready made itineraries by travel companies. For example, if you are going to Rajasthan and you have only 7 days and 6 nights at hand, then search for ‘Rajasthan 7D 6N’. This will present you a plethora of itineraries done by various travel agencies. I would prefer the ones catering Indian crowd, than the ones serving foreigners alone. Because for some reasons, most of the foreigner centric itineraries are weird – to use the least offensive word. They spend days and days at non-descript non-scenic crowd, perhaps because Indian poverty sells more to foreigners than India’s beauty. In any case, this step will give you a solid base to stand on, and to start your plan.

Almost every travel itinerary will be too slow for anyone. When you search for 7D 6N trip, most probably if you skip the silly part your will end up with a 5D-4N trip. Now its time to head for other wanderers, to get true opinions from travelers and locals. Numerous travel websites serve this need perfectly. You can search on their forum about whether such itinerary was already planned, or you can ask for help. Local input cannot be dispensed with any amount of net research and guide books.

Again, two types of travelling: half day Travel and half day sight seeing, or full day travel, followed by next full day sightseeing. In long holidays, I prefer the later, because in a full day ride you get to cover a lot of distance and ride in beautiful roads, and next day you can recover as well as see the place leisurely.

Slowly, you will have the days, place and itinerary in hand. Next, see google maps in satellite mode for all of the route. Google maps will give mostly correct paths with approximate distances, but in satellite mode, you can see how the scenery will be, whether there is a nearby attraction on road that you would otherwise ride past.

Buy/borrow a Lonely Planet India book, and copy their pages of the place you are going. There are mixed reviews about LP book, but I have found that specially in big towns, its street level maps and food and stay suggestions are bang on point. Beats meandering in the street anyday.

These are some of the important documents you need to take, before you leave.

  1. RC book – A must if you are transporting the bike by train or truck
  2. Insurance – a non expired one
  3. PUC – an utterly useless document solely created so that police can make money. Treat it as a Rs. 30 donated to government.
  4. Printouts of maps and lonely planet pages.

Besides the PUC, keep scanned copies of every other document on your email. This way, if you lose any important document, you still have its e-copy that can’t be misplaced, unless you are a memory loss patient and forget your own email password.

Thus, it is all set now. Your trip starts not when you kick start your bike on the first day of trip, it starts when its thought first comes to your mind. That’s the beauty of planned trips, they last for many days.

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