Pittsburgh Desi Guide Part 1
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New Desi Guide to Pittsburgh
I started to search about Pittsburgh one week before my travel date. I had little time and it was my first assignment outside the Country. I landed with very few expectations and lot of doubts about my survivability in a foreign land. But to my surprise it was amazingly easy to start life in this City. After couple of days of rest and few days of hand holding Pittsburgh was my new home. Pittsburgh is welcoming to everyone but for Indian's there is already a beautiful ecosystem built that will make you feel almost as if you are in another City of India and not in different Country. Here are few tidbits on what you will experience in Pittsburgh from a desi angle.
Just a visitor:
If you are visiting Pittsburgh (or) going to stay here for very short term then this section is for you. Pittsburgh is known as “The City of Bridges” for its remarkable amount of the overarching structures. If you’re a sports fan, PNC Park and Heinz Field are places for you. Hike up to the peak of Mt.Washington for an unbelievable skyline view or visit the famed Strip District for a rich cultural atmosphere.
Check out our favorite list activities here and desi food coupons here.
Pittsburgh winters are bad. They can get cold even when there is no snow. Snow days are better than days after. If you are visiting during winter plan for proper clothing. I have seen enough first timers coming from India with a sweater and shivering here in cold. If you are coming from India, my advice is to buy something here in Pittsburgh as soon as you arrive. Pair of
gloves and scarf (or) our Monkey cap will go long way. If you are coming from another colder part of US you already know what I mean. Places like in Downtown or in North Shore it is colder than what you see in your phone, it is because Downtown is on three rivers and they carry chill wind. With proper clothing you may enjoy out with hot coffee in your hand. Summers are beautiful, days are long, you can see warm Sun until 8:30 PM (or 9:00 PM on some days). It's best time to visit Pittsburgh. Temperatures are not too hot, for us folks from India we can survive hottest day with a smile. One warning, it can Rain anytime on a beautiful day. It rains too much for my liking here. But again, it's oftena drizzle and day is gold with in no time.
Pittsburgh has many Desi Whats-Up and Teams groups for Indians. Most of them are invitation only, that is you should know a friend who is already in group and they can let you
in. We have Teams Group "Indian Community Pittsburgh", it is one of the largest group in Pittsburgh with 1200 members and growing. Check this link for Instructions to Join. There are groups for Ride Shares, a popular Ladies group and many community specific groups. Joining these groups will let you find help for services that are personal and hard to find else where. At
our group we find members posting and getting help for finding rides, moving sales, beauty and decoration services, help with accommodation, help with children care, carpools and more. Check our home page for some of Social groups that are active. I strongly recommend joining our "Indian Community Pittsburgh" for simple reason that it is by far the largest and well
moderated group. Again this is link to join.
Pittsburgh is not very commute friendly city. Downtown is very well-connected with public transport. You either have Port Authority bus (or) train connecting most part of city to Downtown. Remember you must tender exact amount for your tickets. No change is given. You can get Connect Card from most of grocery stores (aka Giant Eagle). These are smart cards that you can pre-load and swipe on your ride. You can load for any
amount (or) get a pass. Passes give you unlimited rides for duration of its validity. Check link https://www.portauthority.org/fares-and-passes/fare-information/ for fare information.
Transfers: I don't know if other cities have it, but one unknown concept to us Desis is transfer. If you are catching multiple busses (for ex: a round trip to and from downtown) you can ask for transfer. Transfer is a discounted ticket to your next trip if you get on to that trip within 3 hours of your first trip. Transfers are cheaper than round trips. So if you know you are going for a shorter ride ask for a Transfer on your first ride. Remember these are time bound and expire in 3 hrs.
If you want to move within suburbs or for any destinations not near downtown than public transport is not as good. It is very desirable to have your own vehicle (car). If you are coming from India, your Indian driving license is valid for 12 months. You don't need "International license". PA requires international license only if your native country driving license is not in English. Check https://www.dmv.pa.gov/Pages/FAQ%20Pages/Miscellaneous-Frequently-Asked-Questions.aspx
My advice is own a car (or) at least driver’s license as soon as possible, for non-drivers you need to take a learner’s test and driving test. Driving classes are expensive but I would say suck it up and get it over with. Once you have your license, it is with you as long as you are in PA. Unlike some states you don't need to take learners and driving exam if your license is expired and not renewed within 12 months. There is no time limit before which it will become invalid. Also, check social groups for carpool options, downtown parking is expensive and lot of people carpool to work.
Is Pittsburgh tap water safe for drinking? I don’t know. Many say it is safe, but enough people warned me about it that I switched to bottled water. Pittsburgh was steel capital of world at one time (from late 1800 to first half of 20th century) and people say it caused spike in lead content in water which continue to this day. I have to admit I don’t know how true it is but lot of Desi people use bottled water for
drinking. If not bottled water many of them use water filter pitcher. Crystal water spring is another popular option. They give water cooler for free and home deliver water cans month to month basis. If not for lead these alternate water options taste much better than general tap water.
World famous Sri Vekateshwara temple is in Pittsburgh. It is first temple to be build outside India and is called Tirupati of US. For many Temple is only reason they plan a trip to visit Pittsburgh during long weekends. It is also great learning place for your kids. There are host of dance classes, language classes and music classes that happen during weekend. Your trip or stay to Pittsburgh is not complete without praying at this temple. This is closest to can get to Tirupati in US. Even metaphorically it is location up the hill in an elevation similar to Tirupati located on seven hills.
Near to Venkateshwara temple there is Sai baba temple and huge Hindu Jain temple. Both temples are very active and have lot of events during festivals. Hindu Jain temple also has classes for kids on weekends and they have lot of cultural events planning through out the year. There is also Gurdwara nearby. Temples are one more reason you can feel right at home in Pittsburgh.