India is a land of color, energy, spirituality, mystery, love, and much more. If you consider yourself a traveler, you should definitely not miss this beautiful country.
Travel to India can be chaotic, intoxicating, crazy, beautiful, and overwhelming all at the same time. They say that you can never be fully prepared for India, but at least you can try.
If you’re traveling to India for the first, here are a few essential tips to make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible.
Traveling to India for the First Time
Drop All Your Expectations
As a foreigner, it is very difficult to guess what India would be like. Its vastness and richness can inspire, astonish, enlighten anyone who treats her soil.
But on the other hand, the innumerable challenges and chaotic madness exhaust you and put you off.
Either way, it’s no use imagining what India will be like, as it is sure to catch you by surprise at every turn.
Instead, spend time researching the locations you want to visit so that you can make the most of your time here.
India has a variety of climates, but it’s mostly hot. Keep your suitcase light with breezy, loose clothing that covers your arms and legs, especially if you plan to visit temples or other religious sites.
If you’re a shopaholic, leaving half of your suitcase empty would be a good idea. With varieties of spices, textiles, clothing, home décor, and whatnot, you can never get enough of shopping in this incredible land.
Sunscreen and a brimmed hat are compulsory while you’re sightseeing. Pack only your camera, phone, wallet, passport, and a small bottle of water.
Even regular items like cosmetics, cigarettes, and foods aren’t permissible at most tourist sights.
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Discovering the flavors of India is an adventure in itself. Each of India’s 29 states has a variety of cuisines and complex flavors that are sure to please your taste buds. The spices and cooking methods also vary from region to region.
However, India has a somewhat notorious reputation amongst travelers for getting an upset stomach. You surely would want to avoid that, especially if you have a short trip.
Hence be cautious to never drink tap water and avoid salads and fruits that you haven’t yourself peeled.
While low-cost street foods are found plentiful in India, don’t directly jump into it. It’s wise to let your stomach acclimatize for a few days before you launch yourself into something super spicy.
A good idea would be to go veggie whilst in India. You’ll find such a wide variety of dishes and menus catering to vegetarians here that you won’t miss meat at all. If you do eat meat, make sure it’s cooked well.
Try not to miss the signature dishes of each Indian State that you visit.
People are Friendlier than They Look
People, especially in metro cities, may seem completely absorbed in their own lives, but they are always ready to help if you just ask.
You can try and talk to locals on trains and buses. Many will be happy to give you company.
Pick the perfect route
All of India’s magic cannot be captured in a week’s or even a month’s time. Since you cannot see everything in one trip, think about which place you would like to visit the most and tailor your trip accordingly.
Be realistic when you make a plan. Rather than trying to see the whole country, concentrate on one part of the country.
Having said that, internal flights or long-distance trains are easily available and inexpensive. So you’ll have no problem traveling if you want a taste of both worlds.
Allocate at least two days or longer for each place you visit. The longer you stay in a city, the more local friends you’ll be able to make who can give you great insider tips.
Know Basic Hindi Words
English is spoken in almost every city in India, especially the metro cities. Not everyone can speak it well, but they will be able to understand you perfectly when you speak.
Hence you need not worry too much about communication. You’ll find the street names, important signs, and public transport messages, all written in both English as well as the state language.
However, outside of the cities, it would pay to know a few basic words in Hindi. Here are some that might help you.
- Namaste- Hello
- Haan- Yes
- Nahi – No
- Theek hay- All right
- Paani- Water
- Khana- Food
- Kitna rupia- How much money?
- Kripaya- Please & shukriya- Thank You
- Matlab- Meaning? Apka Matlab? – What do you mean?
- Madat- Help
Be Ready for Dirt, Pollution, and Poverty
Sadly, the population of 1.2 billion people in India has taken its toll on the country. It’s not uncommon to see garbage on the street, or railway lines strewn with trash. This is something you should be prepared for but don’t let this put you off.
Poverty is prevalent in many parts of the country and is heartbreaking. You’ll come across some desperate beggars in the street and railway lines.
Whether or not you want to give alms is up to you. But do keep in mind that most temples offer free food to the needy and many involved in begging are addicted to drugs and alcohol.
If you do want to help, it’s better to support charities that work to solve these problems.
But it is strongly advised not to give money, sweets or anything else to begging children as it sets a precedent for other visitors. The gifts given are also likely to be exchanged for money afterward.
So with these tips in mind, you’re ready to enjoy your first trip to this mysterious land.
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