India is no walk in the park. You can’t (or shouldn’t) just pack your bags and head here without at least knowing a bit of what to expect. India can be a slap in the face, but that painful culture shock can be followed by a gentle caress that massages all of your achy travel muscles. It can truly be a highlight of your travels IF you plan your trip properly.
Surely if you’ve decided to go to India, you have heard the rumours. This is not a place for the faint of heart. While we still rate it as one of our favourite destinations, the subcontinent has pushed our limits at times. For women, the country can be stressful and many feel as though they spend their entire time here defending themselves from prying eyes and groping hands. This is of course not entirely true.
Dariece In Her Typical India Attire, Usually Accompanied by a Scarf
While many Indian men do seem to find western women irresistible, being stern and forthcoming can do wonders. For women, be prepared to cover up in India and do everything you can to avoid unwanted attention.
Luckily for travellers, Indians usually treat us like honoured guests in their country, which helps during those times when your patience is running low. When booking train tickets, often there are separate lines for foreigners or windows will suddenly open to call over the goras (foreign people). While you may not get paid to be white like we were in China, Indians will welcome you to their country and you may be offered some special treatment along the way.
Prepare for sensory overload. Walking the streets of India will likely exhaust you, but it is this excitement that makes this place so amazing. Everywhere you go there are the smells, sounds, colors and tastes that make the subcontinent so unique. It often feels as though India is trying to be as crazy as possible, flexing its chaotic muscles to try to scare away visitors. But underneath the rough exterior, India is a soft, gentle and loving place and no matter who you are, if you stay here long enough and open your mind to it, you will love it… eventually. We even loved Delhi!
Gadgets & Gizmos:
A lot of people travel to India with very little. You don’t need much to get by here and in extreme cases, you’ll even see tourists without shoes! Regardless of how you choose to travel here, there are a few things you’ll want to bring.
Ipod / Smart Phone: You definitely don’t NEED a smartphone to travel here, but it’s easier to pack than a computer, and it acts as a phone and your music as well. Even though many Indians speak English, having an App that can help you translate your language into Hindi can be a lifesaver. Google Maps and Trip Advisor apps can do wonders as well.
Need a compass? Want to read about current events in the country? How about a local newspaper feed. Trying to keep track of all of the Hindu Deities? There’s an app for that! We’re new to the world of tablets and smart phones but there’s no denying their use in travel, India is a place where you may want all of the help you can get.
Travel Adaptor: India has a strange power system and you won’t find it in many other countries. If you want to charge and power your gear you’re going to want an Indian travel adaptor. You can buy these at many corner stores in the country but some are made to last a week at best so be wary of where you spend your rupees.
Other Essentials To Pack:
Hand Sanitizer: In India, everyone eats with their hands and it’s a fun way to get more intimate with the amazingly varied cuisine here. But of course, your hands will be full of bacteria from days spent on trains, buses and rickshaws. You’ll want to “freshen up” before eating here. After sleeping on some trains you’ll probably want to bathe in the stuff.
Ear Plugs: This is a definite essential. The streets can be incredibly loud, even at night when you’re trying to get some shut-eye. Vehicles honk their incredibly loud horns all night long, dogs seem to bark at nothing at all, and music can play into the wee hours of the morning. Bring some ear plugs.
Tiger Balm: Ah… the magic Asian menthol! Never leave home without this stuff. Tiger Balm has many uses including masking gnarly smells, curing headaches and soothing itchy bites. All of which you’ll have when travelling here.
Sheet & Pillow Case: These can come in pretty handy in India. You may see some less-than-immaculate bedding during your travels and it always feels good to sleep on a sheet that only has your stench on it.
Odomos: This is an insect repellant that you can buy in India and it’s amazingly effective. After trying Odomos, you’ll probably never go back to Off! or other DEET products.
Himalaya Products: A wonderful line of all natural products. Everything from lotion to lip balm, all at great prices. If you leave India without buying Himalaya, you’re missing out!
Tips For Travel In India:
Almost everything in India has the price marked on it in rupees. Bottles of water, chocolate bars, soap, bug spray… nearly every consumer product. So don’t be fooled at corner stores when they try to charge you twice the price for a bottle of Cola. Point to the price stamped on the side and don’t get ripped off!
Price Marked In Rupees (Rs.) On This Lotion Bottle
Rickshaw Drivers will try to rip you off. Always bargain your prices in India ESPECIALLY with rickshaw and taxi drivers. Keep in mind that these guys often don’t make enough to feed their families and while you shouldn’t offer every driver charity, sometimes it’s best not to bargain to the last penny. You may find it hard to bargain with the shoeless foot rickshaws in places like Kolkata and there’s no shame in paying a little extra to help a guy in need.
Friendly Rickshaw Men In Kolkata
Women cover up and husbands act rationally. As I said earlier, western women tend to attract unwanted attention in India so the best way to avoid this is to cover up. Boyfriends and husbands should try to avoid conflict and instead of getting aggressive, just hold her close, laugh and walk away.
Nothing is free in India: Bell boy carried your bag? Pay him. Chai (tea) brought to your room? 5 rupees. Guy walks you to your hotel? Backsheesh (tip). Money changes hands with blinding frequency in India so be prepared to pay a small backsheesh for every service you are offered. It doesn’t cost much each time you pay, but it can definitely add up.
Tourist Pricing & Tactal: This isn’t referring to that annoying tourist pricing when foreigners pay extra for sites (although it does happen here). Tactal and tourist pricing in India has to do with the train tickets. With over 1 billion people in the country, train seats book up quickly.
Luckily the Indian rail system reserves tickets especially for foreigners and for those who must book last-minute. Talk to the information desk at the train station, or any travel agency in town and figure out how to get seats on a train that seems to be fully booked. You’ll almost always be able to get to your destination, even last-minute.
India Is So Crazy! Why Even Go?!
Reading the first 1000 words of this article, you’re probably thinking “why would I want to go somewhere so crazy?” If you’re asking yourself that, you need to first ask yourself another question. Why do you travel? Is it to experience new cultures? Taste different foods? See amazing sites? Learn about incredible history? Witness a world different from that of your homeland?
For us, travel is all about finding something unique and different and India has different in spades! India is bar none, the most epic travel experience you can have and it is a great country for budget backpackers.
Some travellers say that India is like going to the big leagues of travel and after being there, you’ll feel like other countries are just like tee ball.
While I don’t believe that India has taken away from other countries I’ve visited, there is still no comparing it. India is a country, a continent and a world all of its own and it is somewhere that everyone should visit at least once.
Everything that a person could want can be found in India and it is the epitome of quirky culture, sumptuous cuisine, awesome adventure and extreme spirituality. If you hear a lot of negatives about India, it is simply because horror stories tend to be more entertaining. But for every bad story that comes out of India, there are 10 good ones that far outweigh their counterparts.
India will never disappoint and it will always amaze visitors… for generations to come.
Have you ever been to India? Anything you would add to the list? Share below!
Like it? Pin it! 🙂