Wednesday 22 April 2015

Druk Diaries: Prologue

Finally, decided to take the plunge. The land of the thunder dragon was calling and we just couldn't say no to it. The plan was to visit the country during April, 2015.
This was probably the longest drive that we have done till date so lots of preparation needed to be done. On top of that driving to another country has its own challenges.
We learnt that everybody who is travelling needs to have following documents
  1. Passports
  2. Passport size photographs
We also carried PAN card and driving license for all adults and aadhar card for all the passengers that were travelling just in case.
Got the vehicle checked, couple of weeks back and everything seems to be in order. As I was making sure all the documents are intact, it hit me. The insurance in India doesn't work in Bhutan. So I needed to do something about it.
I found that most of the insurance companies in India allow extension of geographical area for insurance for Nepal/ Sri Lanka/ Maldives/ Bhutan/ Pakistan/Bangladesh.  Following information was gathered from New India Assurance website and armed with this, I approached my insurer.
 In consideration of the payment of an additional premium of Rs……….it is hereby understood and agreed that notwithstanding anything contained in this Policy to the contrary  the  Geographical  Area  in   this  Policy  shall  from  the  . . ./ . ./ . . . . to the
        . …/. . /. . . .(Both days inclusive) be deemed to include * 
It is further specifically understood and agreed that such geographical extension excludes cover for damage to the vehicle insured / injury to its occupants / third party liability in respect of the vehicle insured during sea voyage / air passage for the purpose of ferrying the vehicle insured to the extended geographical area.
Subject otherwise to the terms exceptions conditions and limitations of this Policy. 
 NOTE: - Insert   Nepal/ Sri Lanka/ Maldives/ Bhutan/ Pakistan/Bangladesh as the case may be.
In these times of call centre and centralised processing it is actually impossible to do anything that is not run of the mill work. Finally after threatening the insurance company that I am not going to renew my insurance with them if they don't respond and some good work by my broker (vehicle dealer), I finally received the insurance extension endorsement. and funnily enough it did not cover third party damages. In any case, there was very little time left to do anything about it.
Insurance Endorsement approval letter
With the insurance in place, Following is the list of the documents that need to be in the car alongwith few copies just to save the hassle in case they are needed.
  1. RC Book
  2. Insurance
  3. Pollution Check certificate
  4. Drivers License
It is better to carry photo copies of all the documents. The photocopy charges in Bhutan are Nu. (Rs.) 5/- per page and one has to xerox some stuff anyway but don't create a scenario where you are xeroxing your passport and vehicle documents.
The next step was to get all the emergency gear in place. Here is a list of items that I plan on carrying in my car.
  1. Jack, this is also a must, as I realized during the trip, many of the road side puncture shops only have jacks for trucks and they may be too high for cars.
  2. Small compressor, for people of long trips, this is a life saver. Alll sizes and shapes of tyres are not available everywhere.
  3. Tyre pressure gauge
  4. Tubeless puncture repair kit
  5. Torch
  6. Spanner set, this is a must, as I realized during the trip, most punctuure shops may not have all the spanners that are needed. 
  7. OBD  II Code Reader
  8. Towing Rope
  9. Jump Start Cable
Many of these items can be procured from HVK Store

When one is driving, make sure to carry headache and fever medicines. Use these in absolution emergency but it is a good idea to carry it.
We knew that food in Bhutan is not a problem but all of us being vegetarians, just as a backup plan we carried following items.
  1. Maggi Instant Cup Noodles
  2. Biscuits
  3. Tea Bags
  4. Few chocolates
  5. Juices
  6. Water
  7. Coke
  8. Amul Kool
  9. Few Ready to eat meals
We also carry a 12 V refrigerator and and 12 V kettle that can be used to boil water and works off the cigarette lighter socket of the car.
Earlier only Rs. 100/- notes were allowed in Bhutan but recently Reserve Bank of India has relaxed guidelines and even Rs. 1000/- and Rs. 500/- notes are allowed. We were told that establishments in Thimphu and Paro and accept credit cards but as we go further into the country and small towns, it is better to carry cash. So the decision to allow Rs. 1000/- and Rs. 500/- denomination notes were definitely a helpful one. One needs to be careful though, only maximum Rs. 25,000/- are allowed to be exported to Bhutan in cash.
Car Chargers
In these times of electronic gadgets, carry sufficient charging power in your car. Most cars have a single charging socket with a  10-20A fuse. Understand the rating of your car's fuse. You don't want to have a blown fiuse while on a long drive. Carry a car charger USB splitter, Also understand, if you are using mobile phones for navigation, most car chargers would't not be able to charge the phone with the same speed as the phone is consuming the battery. So over a period of a day, your phone still may discharge. Switch off navigation when you know for sure that you have to follow a road for next couple of hours. If don't want to switch off navigation, atleast switchoff the screen,
A long segment of our drive was to reach Bhutan. In most cases it is not known how much distance one can cover. That is where the good people at HVK Central Hotel Desk came to help. They can remain in touch with you and then provide you a hotel in a nearby city when you are ready to call it a night. I used there services in quite a few places and I would say it was comfortable knowing that they are there to provide backup.
Carry cash for your requirements. Many times hotels that claim they accept credit cards, may say their machine is down or network is down. Always have cash as the backup. Even though I had heard that Indian ATM cards work, in  most places my ATM cards from SBI, HDFC Bank, Citibank were rejected. I had to withdraw cash on my credit card. Of course that has higher financing charges.
Early to rise
One thing that I have realized driving across India is that the best solutiion to making good progress during the day is to start up early. Most cities in India are full of traffic blocks and it is best to get started before 5 AM. In many cases, particularly when one is driving with family consisting of kids, we go early to bed.
Don't wait for the fuel to get over. I always start looking for a petrol statiion as soon as my fuel tank starts going below halfway mark. Many towns run out of fuel and it is a better idea not to reach a state where one has to scramble for fuel.

No comments:

Post a Comment