Thursday, July 19, 2007

White Girl Seeking Help: Questions about finances, communication, and electricity in Hyderabad

We're taking a temporary break from Harry Potter Week because I've got a few questions which I know y'all can answer for me.

And my thought is that if I ask them now, we'll all be less likely to have our noses buried in a book and won't mind the interruption. ^__^

I get on the plane for Hyderabad in 24 days. Wow. And, trying to get all of my ducks in a row, I have just a few more questions.

(BTW -- for those following the shoe story -- I bought another similar pair in black, so we should be all right. They're also much less comfortable than they appear. However, I refuse to perpetually wear beat-up sneakers with white sport sox. Eew.)

1. Finances. How do I handle my money? Would I be able to stick my Visa into an ATM and have rupees come out? Do I need travelers checks? How can I avoid having to carry around/protect four months' worth of money in cash?

2. Communication. Clearly the internet works much the same way in Hyderabad as it does in the rural midwest (although, from Manish's post today, I gather it works much less often, and in only short spurts). But what's the best way of making international phone calls? Getting a phone card and using the available landlines (in the university, in the hostel, etc.)? I'm pretty sure my cell phone won't work in India, since it barely works here -- do I need to buy one in Hyderabad, or can I manage easily enough without?

Also: is it possible to have my (snail) mail forwarded? Is it too much of a hassle? Would it be easier for me to ask my new roommate to Fed-Ex a month's worth of letters at a time? (I don't plan on getting a lot of mail, and the bills are direct debit.... but still.)

3. Electricity. Do I need to get one of those special plug adapter thingies? The only electrical appliance I'm planning to bring is my laptop, but it did occur to me that I might need some kind of adapter to go with it. Yes or no?

Y'all are fantastic. In thanks I'm going to post a (true) story so hilarious it will have whatever liquid you happen to be drinking at the time squirting out of your nose. It'll show up tomorrow, right before we all tuck in to read Mr. Potter.

8 comments:

Beth said...

I didn't go to Hyderabad, but there were ATMs everywhere I went - all over the place, no problemo. As for electricity, yes definitely, you'll need the voltage converter thingy - step the voltage down from their system to that of your laptop. I ordered one from Radio Shack (despite having a pretty big South Asian population in my city, none of our three Radio Shacks had what I needed). You plus your laptop in to it and then it into the wall there (so you don't need a separte plug adapter).

the saint said...

1. Finances > You can use any of the local atms and have Rs coming out but the exchange rate you get would not be the best. Ideally just carry some TCs and cash them and rely on ATMS only when necessary. - But yeah there are atms everywhere and if a few cents per $ is not a big deal - you can use the ATMs

2. Communication > You can get a prepaid SIM card and used that on your mobile, or you can use Skype which works out a lot cheaper. Also you can get a cheap handset or one of your friends here could lend you one ( even i could :-) )

3) You would need an adapter - you can get it here - costs a dollar or 2

Snailmail> I would think its better to get stuff forwarded once a month or twice.

the saint said...

Skype for overseas calls ie

Abi said...

Yes, ATMs are all over the place. But be careful: some of them may be tied to just one bank (or a cluster of banks); if you use these ATMs, you may end up getting charged a hefty fee.

If you are planning to be here for sometime, consider opening a bank account, and transferring some money into it (either through wire transfer or through a simple cheque). This account will also give you an ATM card / debit card, which will allow you to roam around without having to carry cash with you.

I have a similar suggestion for your mobile phone too. Just get yourself a fresh number here (they will need an address proof); mobile calls are amazingly inexpensive here (or so I am told), so it would make sense to get yourself a new account with a telecom operator here.

The chargers for mobile phones and laptops are (usually) capable of handling a voltage range of 100 to 240 (or so I am told); if so, you do not need a voltage converter, and all you will need is a plug converter (the configuration of pins is different here). In any event, even if you don't bring them with you, they are available here (and probably cost a lot less, too).

If you are going to be at a university in Hyderabad, you shouldn't have any difficulty with internet (except, perhaps, slow speeds). At home/hostel, your cellphone may also allow you to use the internet (again, at a slow speed). Don't count on internet connectivity in the hostel, though.

Daniel said...

I have no idea how to answer any of your questions, but I thought I'd just say this: Harry Potter comes out TONIGHT!!!!

(although, it'll be a bit anticlimactic, as I've already finished it!)

Anonymous said...

Blue,

all questions answered but I can't resist answering them again! :-)

1) Money - yes, ATMs everywhere - but check with your bank if they charge extra for overseas withdrawals. I would say have some Rs. with you (about Rs 2000) when you land in India - changing $ at your port of Entry is an option, though IME, intl flights arrive at times that the changing booths are closed. Keep some $ bills, (smaller denominations, $10s are good) on you in any case - they are easier to change than travellers' checks, when in a hurry. Check with someone as to how travellers' checks are to be cashed - about 10 years ago, I could only cash them in a bank, which was a pain...after that, I never carry TCs to India.

2) Communication: skype for sure. Get Skype outgoing (I think it is $10 for an account) - you can then make calls to a phone number, not just a skype account. Cheapest way to call the US - get an Indian cell phone. Now this involves some finagling....you need a GSM handset which works worldwide (quad band) - see if you can buy/borrow one from someone here. Tri Band phones (some Nokias don't work fully in India - they may work with only one network, and you may not be sure that network is available where you are). Buy a pre-paid SIM in India. You need an India-based address for this, and it involves some jumping through hoops - better if you can get someone in India to get you one. Alternatively, providers like Tata Indicomm provide free phones with service bought from them - the phones are fine (basic, but who cares) and the service is decent - again, local address needed, maybe a year-long contract or something, but the price is low enough that I think you may be OK. Calls to the US from Indian cell phones are as low as Rs 2 a minute (that's about 5c)
Snail mail - don't bother. It takes forever to reach - is the cost worth it to you? Can you ask someone to look though your snail mail on a regular basis, and see if anything important needs to be sent to you?
3) Electricity - most laptops are world voltage, so all you should need is a plug adaptor - Indian plug points are round, and most laptops there use a 3-point pin with a ground. Check any other electronics you're taking. Beauty products may not be dual-voltage. IPODs and the like usually are. Easiest place to look for adaptors - your local Indian store - most stock some form of electronics/electrics - and almost all of them have adaptors.

Bitterlemons

3)

AvinashBlithe said...

Welcome aboard. Hyderabad isnt the remotest place around, so these are not worries at all. The pace and the attitude of the place will take some getting used to though, for someone who has not been to India for a while.

Blue said...

Thanks to all -- I will respond more fully in a separate post! ^__^