India is a country like no other, no matter where you come from this vast country will hit you with culture shock. From deserts, to raging rivers, to Jurassic jungles, to white sand beaches, to the magnificent mountains that leave you aching for more! And with such varied culture that makes you question everything you knew in life. With so much to do and see you can sometimes get lost in the noise and rush of the place, but round every corner there’s a gorgeous temple amidst a garden where you can find solace.
Top 11 Tips for the prepared traveller in India:
#1 – Toilet Roll
Hold onto it guys, it’s travellers gold dust. It’s pretty rare to find a supplied toilet so when you do, make the most of it. Make sure you get in those squats before arriving, most toilets are old school holes in the ground so those quads will get a fair share of work.
#2 – Get le right price
If you’re buying something for a price that in the UK you would think dayuum that’s a bargain! You’re still probably paying too much, Indians are sneaky, if you’re not Indian they assume you live in a mansion and have 3 cars, and will charge you 4 times the Indian price. To combat this at the beginning when I hadn’t yet found my wisdom I would linger around Indian buyers to see how much they spend on things before I made a purchase. HAGGLE!! It’s so much fun and you can really lower the price, 2500RS (£29) down to 500RS (£6) was a personal best.
#3 – “Buy it here, there’s no other like it”
If you’re being hassled to buy something – Try selling them anything you have on your possession (a man tried to sell me socks and luckily enough I had a pair of socks in my bag which I tried giving to him for 100RS, it gets a smile rather than just saying no all the time).
#4 – Puppy Love
If you’re a big dog lover like me – feel free to pet the strays but don’t give them too much affection, I found myself being followed by 6 stray dogs into my work. And don’t feed puppies spicy Indian food that you may have with you at the time of petting, they were coughing and sneezing which may have been adorable but I don’t think they enjoyed the experience. Make sure you have some doggy treats from home in your hand bag.
#5 – Food and Hygiene
The past 4 months my stomach has felt like a washing machine from time to time, most travellers get a dodgy stomach while they adjust to the new food. Street food is not one to miss out on, just be gradual with it, let your body have a week or so to adjust to the new spices and all things nice before taking the plunge to street food. And when you do, if you’re anything like me, have a tissue ready for those nose runs, or be prepared for the hiccups, the spices here can send your body a little cray.
#6 – Personal Space
Personal space will be tested. Public transport will involve minor squashing and sometimes being pressed closer than you want to be against strangers. But remember, a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet! Locals may also take interest in you with their eyes and words as you are from a foreign land, so you may get asked lot of questions. Remember the culture is entirely different so remain open minded. I get stopped sometimes from people wanting to practice their English, but more so; selfies, which I imagine they use in an elaborate slide show when they return to their families.
#7 – Perceptions
Don’t let what you read about before coming put you off! Everywhere in the world you visit you will experience good and not so good people, India is the most welcoming country I have visited. Researching before you come is important to inform yourself of the dangers, but I remember feeling 60% sure of a likely kidnapping before touching down in Delhi airport and there really is no need to worry. Obviously some areas have more potential dangers such as Kashmir (Boarder of Pakistan) were I am heading in 2 weeks for a ski trip so make sure you read up on the area you intend to visit.
#8 – Driving
Lanes? What are they for? Finding an open stretch of road is a blessing in India. Prepare your ears for the constant sound of ‘beeeeep!’
#9 – Conservative Attire
Arms and legs covered, no cheeky ankle please. Also remove shoes before entering temples and peoples homes. Feet are regarded as unclean so make sure to avoid footsies with any locals. Also avoid making contact using your left hand with others as I mentioned before about the lack of toilet roll issue, you can imagine how this situation is resolved, so hand shaking is best with the right hand.
#10 – It’s my birthday, it’s my birthday
If its your birthday whilst in India, keep it on the down low. Things are the other way around in India so instead of being treated, you’re the one treating everyone else. JP forked out 1500RS for his birthday, and Fil, well he got a face full of cake, which personally I wouldn’t have minded.
#11 – Home Sickness
This is something that will effect every traveller, there will always be times when you want nothing more than to be in the company of loved ones that are far away, devour a forbidden beef burger, slip into the comfort of a bubble bath (I don’t even do that at home but it would be nice). India may be different, and feel like worlds away, but you can always find familiar things in unfamiliar places, this goat pictured below looks very similar to my cat Sox. It’s always nice to get a little reminder of home now and again.
Current Location: Delhi, India
You can read more about Ellie’s adventures in India here.