Traveling to India can be an exhilarating experience or a scary one, depending on how you see it. A country of myriad cultures, languages, and ethnicities, it can be daunting but being prepared helps you to take your journey into your stride. Here are some general tips to stay safe and happy during your India trip.
Traveling Tips Air travel is the best way to travel, if your budget allows it. Train travel can be fun if you can master the ticket booking and accept that trains will generally be late in arriving.
Always leave early to the airport because there may be traffic delays for a number of reasons.
Carry a valid ID and itinerary before entering the airport.
Do the web check-in to avoid standing in lines.
Look out for the security check for your bags.
Domestic airlines have a limit of 15 kilograms for checked bags and 7 kilograms for cabin baggage.
All electronic devices have to be placed in a tray for a separate security check.
There are separate security check lines for men and women.
Hire a pre-paid taxi from the airport to avoid getting ripped off. There are special pre-paid taxi booths near the exit for every airport.
Train travel is suitable for journeys up to 1000 kilometers (1-2 days of travel). Train tickets can be booked online through www.irctc.co.in website.
Long-distance buses are also available, including sleeper and semi-sleeper ones. They can be quite comfortable as well.
Indians drive on the left side of the road. Traffic can be chaotic and unruly; it will take a foreigner some time to not be overwhelmed.
Most cities are well connected by trains, buses and air but you can also book a taxi for shorter distances. Get a local to help you negotiate with the taxi company.
Auto rickshaws and buses are the cheapest way to travel within cities but they can be exhausting.
Safety Be assertive and learn to say, “No” to street hawkers, taxi drivers and those following you around for a bargain.
Dress appropriately and a little conservatively to avoid unwanted attention. Avoid shorts, crop tops and off-shoulder dresses when entering temples and religious places.
Avoid going out after dark and always move in a group.
Be prepared to be stared at and accept it with a quick smile and an open attitude.
Money Credit cards are accepted at almost all big stores, hotels and businesses. However carry cash because everything else needs to be paid in cash: taxis, auto rickshaws, street hawkers, small stores, fruit and vegetable vendors, etc.
Withdraw money at ATMs; however, most ATMS allow you to withdraw only Rs. 10,000 ($150) at a time. Check with you bank for the best exchange rates. Airports offer the lowest exchange rates.
Keep a wad of 10s and 100s handy because they are the most used for purchases as well as for tipping. Ask the bank for wads of new notes.
Keep your valuables, credit cards and cash safely as crowded places have pickpockets. Request for a locker in your hotel to keep your precious belongings. Keep an eye on your belongings in public places, railway stations and airports.
Always remove your footwear when entering a place of worship or someone’s house.
Popular temples can be really chaotic so plan your visit for a day and time when it is not so crowded. Many major temples have special darshans (view of the main deity) for a price which is a good option to avoid the rush.
You are expected to make a small donation in a temple so keep small change ready. There is always a donation box in every temple.
Expect to have some pushing and squishing even in the line in temples.
Indians have a very unique head nod to indicate a “Yes.” Get used to it. Also don’t take a “Yes” to literally mean yes because Indians sometimes say “Yes” even if they mean No or if they don’t understand the question.
Learn to bargain like a local or you can get ripped off. What is available to the locals for 100 Rupees will be sold to you for a 1000! However, avoid bargaining if the shop has a “Fixed Price” sign. These are easier to shop in as well if you cannot learn the art of bargaining.
Many Indian women still don’t shake hands with men; instead, greet them with a Namaste (folded hands).
Don’t use your left hand to accept or give anything, particularly money. It is considered unacceptable.
Food and Drink Eat only cooked food; stay away from salads even in the best of restaurants. If you still want a salad, buy fresh vegetables from the local market, soak them in salt water for 10-15 minutes, and then wash them thoroughly before eating
Never eat street food no matter how tempting it looks.
Carry probiotics and charcoal tablets because the former improve immunity and digestion while the latter prevents/stops diarrhea and dysentery. Consult your doctor before carrying any medication into India.
Avoid eating meat products as well, unless they are made at home and cooked really well.
Try and eat with your hands, especially when eating at someone’s home.
Drink only bottled water. In case bottled water is not available, carry a LifeStraw or a Pocket Water Filter (SteriPEN) or Iodine tablets. Try other hydrating drinks like coconut water instead or add electrolyte powder to your bottled water for some extra energy.
Avoid anything to which ice has been added.
Check the caps of beverage bottles before buying them.
Never drink directly from the tap.
Hotels India offers the cheapest to the most expensive accommodations ranging between $5 to $500 a night. With several online websites for hotel booking, check the reviews before booking a hotel.
Wear flip flops when entering a toilet in any kind of a hotel. Most hotels have Indian style toilets so better check out the toilet first before booking the hotel.
Carry your own towels and bedsheets, especially when staying in mid-range hotels. Use a sanitizer wipe to clean light switches, phones and faucets before using them.
Tipping in hotels can range between 20 and 100 Rupees, depending on the type of hotel.
General Tips Pollution levels in India are among the highest in the world, especially in big cities such as Delhi. Fumes from open air cooking on fire, exhaust fumes from vehicles, and fumes from burning plastic are everywhere. Use a gas mask or a bandana to cover your nose and mouth when going into heavy traffic.
Public toilets can be horribly dirty and also limited. Women travellers can carry female urination devices.
Buy power adapters for your devices that are suitable for Indian current.
Get a good guide book like a Lonely Planet one which has many more tips and suggestions for travellers.
Things to Carry Medications
Mosquito and bug repellents
Locks for doors and suitcases
Cotton scarves; loose, cotton clothing, pillow cases and bed sheets, towels.
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