Ah, India – the land of spices, of color, and of beautiful tropical weather! The place with unparalleled butter chicken, with gorgeous landscapes, and wonderful people who exude friendliness and warmth. India is a great travel destination for those on a tight budget, or for people looking for a warm climate and exotic adventures.
Planning on traveling to India? Great decision! Here are some tips that’ll help you ensure your trip goes smoothly:
1. Do your research
This is important when traveling to any foreign country, but especially so in the case of India, since it’s very different from America in terms of culture, weather, cuisine – just about everything you can think of.
So let’s start with the basics – you’ve singled out a city or state you want to visit, yes? If not, you should start right now! If you don’t know where to start, you can look at Kerala for hot temperatures and stunning beaches and lagoons; Sikkim for cool weather and a nice, quiet atmosphere; Uttarakhand for stunning landscapes and cool weather; and Goa for a small-place feel with lots of tourist-free beaches (Majorda Beach is a great example).
Now that you’ve chosen a place, research it thoroughly. The most important points would be to check for political disturbances and weather. These are two factors that can easily ruin a promising trip. If your trip timing is flexible, visit when the weather’s pleasant in the state you choose. If your trip needs to be in a certain month/quarter, find a place that has pleasant weather at that time. India uses Celsius for temperature, so make sure you’re converting the numbers!
2. What to pack when traveling to India
Okay, so we’ve all been on trips before, right? We know you need to pack your toothbrush, underwear, passport, camera – all the necessities. But here are some specific things you need to pack on a trip to India.
Plug convertors, for one. The sockets in India are shaped differently from American sockets, so you’ll need a convertor to make sure you can charge your devices while there. We recommend buying a set of two, so in case one doesn’t work (which you won’t find out till you’re there), you have a backup.
If you’re traveling to India during summer, or if you’re visiting a warm state (even in winter), you’ll need to pack sunscreen. India gets a lot of sun even during winter, and sun damage is nothing to laugh about. If the weather in your destination is hot, you definitely want to pack light clothes. Light colors like white and cream are ideal. Also make sure the material is absorbent.
If you have breathing problems, take an inhaler with you. Sadly, pollution levels can be quite high in major Indian cities, which can be problematic if you don’t have your medicines and inhaler with you.
Finally, take your smartphone with you. The units of measurement used in India are different when it comes to weight, speed and temperature. Additionally, you may need to convert currency or translate signs and other stuff. At such a time, not having a smartphone with internet will leave you in an awkward place. Which brings us rather neatly to…
3. Staying connected while in India
When traveling to India, a cell phone – or shall we say a smartphone? – will come in handy. Staying connected is important not just for posting photos on Instagram, but also so you can reach emergency services, book a cab, make hotel and restaurant reservations, etc. Most of us have a smartphone, so we’ve got that base covered.
Now, the usual modus operandi in the past was to go to the destination country and then buy a local SIM card. Now the times have changed and buying a SIM card in India can be a bit of a hassle. So instead of wasting your time on that, we recommend keeping your phone on airplane mode and just switching on WiFi for connectivity.
So now you’ll need WiFi access. Most major cities in India have multiple public spots (malls, restaurants, bus stands) that offer free WiFi. The speed can be slow since it’s shared by a lot of people, but it should be enough for necessary work. To get the password, you can either look around and ask someone, or you can use a global WiFi password finder. There are many such websites available, and you can take your pick from them.
4. Some things you should know when traveling to India
As we mentioned previously, Indian culture is very different from American culture. So you need to be careful when talking to new people, lest you offend them. Indians generally tend to be a little shy and conservative, so rude or lewd jokes should be avoided, for instance.
Listing every point will take a while (and admit it – you’ll never remember them all), so as a golden rule remember to be careful around local people. It’s like when you meet someone new – you want to try and add a filter on what you say because you don’t know what may offend or hurt them.
Another important thing is that the food may be different from what you expect. When you eat Indian food in American restaurants it’s usually Americanized to some extent (and vice-versa). You know when people visit Italy and say the food there is “so much better than Italian food here”? That’s due to the same reason. When you visit the country, you get the full doze – the food’s 100% local.
Another point to bear in mind is that India has many different cuisines. Most states have their own cuisine. If you only like certain Indian foods and are a picky eater, you may want to visit the state they’re from.
5. Stay safe while in India
Like any other country, India has its good and bad sides. Ensure your safety while traveling to India, so you can make the most of your trip and avoid stress. The first step would be to book a hotel in a safe area.
Look at popular listings online, and carefully go through their photos and reviews. Travel reviews can sometimes be fake, so read them through and check the user’s activity to see if they seem genuine. Pictures posted by the company can often be misleading as well, so look for pictures posted by travelers instead.
When in a crowded area in India, watch out for pickpockets. Keep your credit card and money in a hard-to-reach place. If they’re in your wallet, button the pocket and consider buying a wallet chain that attaches to your belt. Distribute your money across 3-4 different pockets, and be vigilant. If you feel anyone touching you, turn around. If you have a bag or fanny pack, make sure it can’t easily be grabbed and pulled away. Remember that safety beats style.
If you’re visiting a big city in India, renting a car to drive around may be unwise. That’s because you’re unfamiliar with the place and the traffic can be heavy. India is great in the regard that it has an extensive public transport network. You can choose from rickshaws, autos, cabs and the subway (in select cities). They’re available 24×7, every day, everywhere. Just make sure the driver understands English!
6. Take care of your health
Many people complain about stomach bugs and other issues after their trip. Personally, I think that’s a case of the loudest voices being heard the most. In other words, I doubt the food and water in India will make you seriously sick, unless you eat from street-side vendors or take a big gulp from a muddy lake.
I know many people (from USA and other countries) who’ve visited India, and they didn’t have any issues with the food. However, it doesn’t hurt to be careful. So there’s no need to be inordinately worried or to carry a hand sanitizer every time you step out of the hotel, but do carry the necessary medication for a stomach upset, flu and whatever you’re generally susceptible to.
If you have any allergies, take your allergy meds with you, and ask the waiter before eating any unfamiliar food. It may be a good idea to print a palm-sized photo of what you’re allergic to, in case the term for the allergen isn’t commonly used in India. Certain words such as “pepper” have a different meaning in India. If you want peppers, for instance, you need for ask for “chillies”. Bear that in mind when traveling to India.
We hope these tips help! Research is very important, but once you have the key stuff covered don’t worry too much. While traveling there are always ups and downs – you’ll always love some things and regret some others. It may be possible to plan the perfect trip, but it’s certainly impossible to write a one-size-fits-all guide for such a trip.
So take your time to research, book in advance, ensure your health and safety, and leave the rest to fate. Have a fun journey!