Things To Know Before Making A Trip To India
Making a trip to India is an immense undertaking. Apart from how far away India is geographically, it’s also hugely far away culturally. There are so many reasons to go to India. It’s an enormous, beautiful country with many of the most exciting and interesting sites that you can find anywhere in the world. The food is fascinating and the culture surrounding it rich and complex. It’s also one of the most populated countries on earth, with a population so large that it makes up 1%17 of the global population.
The architecture, the religion, the colors, the language; there are really so many amazing things about India that it’s hard to know where to start and where to stop. Traveling there to see it all is a different issue and one which requires a good amount of forethought and a lot of planning. Part of the battle is knowing what exactly you are getting yourself in for, something which can also be dealt with through adequate research. So, to help you with precisely that, let’s look at the most important things for you to know before making a trip to India.
You Can’t Do Too Much
India is an absolutely vast country, with many different fascinating regions, each with their own cultures and sites to offer. Before you head off on your trip to India you need to be prepared to acknowledge the limitations of what you can achieve. Each region, each city even, could take a week or so to get a really good look at.
When you step back and look at how much here is to cover overall, you will start to realize that it’s a futile battle and that you need to temper your expectations. This is also even more cause to research, since you want to make sure you zero in on the destinations in India that are really worthwhile visiting for you with your personal tastes.
The Traffic Will Blow Your Mind
Traffic in India is intense. You probably have some ideas in your mind from films or something, but seeing it first hand is a completely different experience like nothing else. “In general, driving in India, particularly in the cities, is not advisable for beginner drivers.
If you’re a real master behind the wheel then you could give it a go, but without growing up around it, you won’t have the knowhow to ever be fully in control of the situation”, explains Nikhil Agarwal, lifestyle writer at Writinity. Driving is lawless, at least comparatively speaking, and you’re going to be experiencing some pretty unbelievable conditions while you try and navigate the roads.
Don’t Eat Street Food
This isn’t too complex. If you aren’t used to street food, it will make you sick. In fact, any food eaten outside of upmarket hotels or restaurants will likely give you a mild case of diarrhea simply from the unfamiliar bacteria. But street food can make you seriously unwell, so just avoid it even if it looks really tasty.
Don’t Drink Tap Water
There’s a lot of debate amongst locals, the government and tourists about this topic but, long story short, you really shouldn’t drink tap water anywhere. Drink bottled water. The tap water can have really dangerous bacteria in it, or heavy metals from the eroding pipes. The other thing you have to do is ensure that the bottled water you buy hasn’t been opened and refilled. Make sure the seal is cracking for the first time. The aversion to tap water also extends to ice, which is mainly made from tap water. If you order water in a hotel, even if the water itself is from a bottle, and it comes with ice you should send it back to be safe. Diseases like cholera and dysentery are awful and can be fatal, so be very, very careful about this the whole time you are traveling.
Be Careful Traveling Alone As A Woman
Being a woman in India, particularly a foreign woman, is a really difficult thing and you need to be prepared for things to be tough. Unfortunately, issues like rape and sexual assault are particularly bad in India and dressing how you might when in America, especially when the weather is hot, could cause you some real problems. It’s always important to be careful regardless of where you are, but you ought to be especially careful in India where things can be especially rough for women.
Watch Out For Stray Dogs
This can be a really difficult one to adhere to, especially for dog lovers! “India has many, many stray dogs. They are usually hungry and will invite attention from travelers, particularly those with food. The problem is that many of the dogs in India are disease ridden and many have rabies”, explains Raj Joshi, travel blogger at DraftBeyond. Once you attract the attention of a couple of strays it tends to be that others will come at you as well, wanting food. This can lead to difficult situations that are hard to escape from. No matter how cute or vulnerable a dog looks, you want to always be smart about this.
India is a very religious country that places a lot of value on respect and on the traditions of respect. It’s easy to fall foul of those standards, especially since they often vary from place to place. To be respectful, you want to research the cultural habits of the particular area you’re in and do your best to always keep that in mind. That is particularly important at religious sites, like shrines or temples. You’re a guest of the country, so play by their rules.
Don’t Just Stay In The Cities
It’ll likely be that when you arrive in India you will be in a city to at least start with. The cities have so much to offer and it’s a really great experience to have the full journey of being in a busy Indian city. But it’s important that you realize that there is loads to see outside of the city gates, in the Indian countryside.
Aside from the natural wonders, there are also so many precious Indian village communities with their own rich culture that you can explore with the backdrop of the beautiful rustic environs. It’s also a great way to slow down and get away from the noise and pollution of the cities and get a different insight into Indian culture. You’ll want to do a good amount of research before simply jumping in with a trip like that, to make sure you’re going to the best places, but it’s well worth the effort.
Getting To Grips With The Indian Head Waggle
There’s a certain physicalized expression in Indian culture. It’s hard to describe but it looks like a head nod or waggle, even, that has a variety of meanings. In general, you can think of it as a sort of multi-purpose affirmation. It can mean ‘yes’, or ‘OK’ or even just show that someone is listening to you. It’s even used as a greeting at times. It can be very confusing and it’s important that you know about it at least so that you aren’t thrown off when you first encounter it. If you’re worried, there are a few good YouTube videos that you can look at for help and an explanation.
Haggling Is Vital
Prices in India are always flexible, for almost anything. As a Westerner, you’re going to be a target for inflated prices, regardless of the situation. This means you have to be ready to haggle. Whatever the first price is, you should almost never pay it, or you’ll find yourself spending far too much, very quickly.
Haggling is not a battle, it’s a mutual act that can be friendly. You don’t have to worry about offending a shop owner, they’re completely used to it. A top tip is to be prepared to walk away. Some vendor’s will play hard ball and act like the price is final. Even if you want it, it’s always worth walking away to test there resolve, since normally you will find that they call you back and let you have the rate that you want.
Try And Avoid Pickpockets
This is a piece of advice that is pretty much applicable regardless of where you are in the world, but it is pretty rampant in Indian cities. You always want to have your possessions zipped up so that no-one can surreptitiously pinch anything. Better yet, try and wear your bags out in front of you so that you can always keep a watchful eye.
A trip to India could be a lifechanging event. It’s such an extraordinary place that is so different from anywhere else that it will really open your mind to the world. Of course, that difference can cause problems. Hopefully this list will help you to know what to look out for.
Ashley Halsey is a professional author, working at LuckyAssignments, writing on all sorts of travel and lifestyle topics. A mother of two children, she enjoys travelling, reading and researching the topics that inform her writing.