Travelling to India – Our Top Travel Tips
Whether you are Travelling to India for the first time or a returning traveller. India can be a little overwhelming and also confusing at times. These simple Tips would help you get the best of your India Holiday.
1. Don’t try and cover too much ground Less is more: When Travelling to India, remember is not a small country and has a lot to offer so plan wisely. It is advisable to cover less ground but do it thoroughly and spend more time in each destination. A lot of times just walking around in a busy Indian city would be an onslaught to the senses, so you need to factor in the time in your itinerary for resting and recovering. If you are trying to do too much in too little time, you are most likely to suffer from burnout and fatigue.
Rule of thumb that I would recommend as a former Tour Guide. If you are going to book every element of your travel with a Tour Operator then spend a minimum of 2-3 days in each big city and a day to two in smaller towns. A small town like Mandawa in Rajasthan can be done in 1 day as well as 2 days. I would use two days as it gives you access to each and every part of the this small town. If you do this in 1 day as I have done with multiple clients you would only get an overview.
if you are on DIY Itinerary where you have a fixed time frame decided and know some of the places you wish to go to but still not sure. Try and add a day to each city on the above suggested days. You would probably be relying on a lot of research and recommendations that you receive from others whom you meet along the way. A 30 days journey on a DIY itinerary should ideally not exceed 10-12 cities for you.
2. Prepare for the Cultre Shock: Be ready for a culture shock. Things in India are probably 180 degrees different than what you may be used to back home. Don’t try and fight it as it would not help. Instead prepare yourself before hand and leave your expectations at home. If you come with an Open mind once you get over the initial culture shock, you may even begin to accept this way of life. India changes you one way or the other, having been a tour guide and having led over 5000 plus travellers across the Indian Sub-continent, I can guarantee you that India would change you for the better, if you are open and don’t resist
3. Buy a Sim card as the first thing upon Arrival. When Travelling to India, Whether on a DIY trip or an Organised one, it is best to get a local Sim Card upon arrival. All Major Airports have Kiosks which would offer these, You can choose from one of the 3 big service providers namely Airtel, Jio and Vodafone. India has some of the cheapest Tariffs in the world and a new Sim card with a 28 days Pack with unlimited India wide calling and around 2GB of 4G data every day should be around US$ 5.00 Per Month, It doesnt get any cheaper than that. The Bandwidth is decent enough in most of the cases to do whatsapp calling to anyone back home if you so desire. Of the 3 I am personally biased towards Airtel as have seen better data speeds. But all 3 are good in general.
4. Pre-book your First Transfer (Your International Arrival into India): Like any other country India has it’s fair share of Scams targeting the Tourists and at no time are you more vulnerable than your first time travelling to India. If you are on a Packaged Tour / have a Travel Agent taking care of your arrangements you would surely have a car booked. If you are on a DIY trip, Do’t wait to figure it out when you get here. Pre book it. You can prebook this on Online Sites like viator.com or any other Site that you may prefer. If none of this appeals to you then it is best to ask the Hotel you are staying at for the first night to arrange a car for you. Even if it is a couple of dollars more expensive it is worth it. The reason I recommend this is because have seen countless people fall victim to scams when they have taken cabs from Airport, There are a lot of hustlers at the airport who would trick you into taking a taxi and half way to your Hotel the Driver would say something like he thinks there was some news about a Riot having broken out in that area or the Hotel having burnt down and would even stop to make a phone call to your so called Hotel number which would be answered by his accomplise who would collaborate his strory and they would take you to some other hotel which would over charge you. Avoid all this hassle by prebooking your car.
5. Dress Code: Here you will come across a lot of information, Some guide books saying dress conservatively while pictures and videos you may see show Indian women in Shorts and Skirts. There are 2 Indias that exist simultaneously. One India where people wear what they feel like which you would experience in most major cities and then there is one India where people are still conservative, which you would see in around 75% of India, mostly rural India. Generic rule, when in big cities it is acceptable to be dressed in shorts and Skirts and T-shirts etc as long as you are not visiting any place of worship when in smaller towns and villages cover yourself as much as possible.
6. Try and Include a Festival in your Travel Plan: Indian celebrates one festival or other every single day but in different regions, some are national feestivals, some regional while some may only be celebrated in a particular district or county. Do some research of festivals that happen when you are travelling and try and include it in your Itinerary. Nothing would bring this country closer to you than participating in a local festival.
7. Delhi Belly / Stomach upset: On the similar lines as Cultural shock there are very few who would be able to avoid this. Be mentally prepared that the change in weather, extra stress on your system and senses, different spices etc would all be contributors to you spending a day or two with an upset stomach. Carry tablets with you, drink loads of water and flush out the bug out of your system.
8. Try Indian Food in different cities : It is said that in India every 200 Kms the dialect, the way people live and the way food tastes changes and having covered this country extensively I can only agree. Just be careful of a few things when travelling to India. Not all restaurants where locals eat may be right for you unless you can cope with spicy food and not all places your Guide books recommend are authentic as well. Best bet is to ask the locals and if you have taken a local sim card with data do your own research online. Also use apps like Zomato where you would find out the prices of most of the restaurants and reviews before you go there. I used to make sure that my groups ate atleast 2-3 times in local restaurants instead of dining in the Hotels. Not always would you fall sick after eating food in Local restaurants, that is a complete myth.
9. Beware of Religious Scams: With religion being an integral part of our daily life in India, it is bound to happen that somewhere someone would try and trick you into a Religious scam. Best examples of this could be Pushkar where Indians go to perform rites for the family members who have departed this earth. Pushkar is notorious for scamming the Tourists with this scam. Best way to avoid it is to hire one local guide and get a thread on your wrist also called the Pushkar Passport. Similarly Varanasi is another place where you can get suckered into a scam. Best beware and where ever possible learn to ignore these so called priests.
10, Choose your accommodation wisely: In the early 90’s and 2000 it was really only Lonely Planet you could rely on or maybe word of mouth but there was still no way to find good decent accommdation for your stay. It was inevtable that you ended up in Dingy and shoddy places specially on DIY trips. A lot of people still prefer these but there are alternates available. As some one who travels a lot, my suggestion for anyone Travelling to India, is to go to AirBNB and see if they have something in that part of India. You would not go wrong. Aboid the local brand called OYO rooms if you can, it is a hot and a miss with OYO. I have never used it but the amount of times I have heard bad things on forums makes me very skeptical of OYO.
11. Use Ola and Uber where possible: Good thing about these Taxi sharing apps is that you can get safely from point A to point B and also they are more reliable. If you are not renting a car for the entire duration of your Journey from a renowed Vendor and would like to experiment with local modes of transport, be ready to be scammed at a lot of Touristy towns. Ola the local app in India also has an option for Full day hire and Intra city transfers. Use this v/s local Taxis. If you end up hiring a car for your entire duration of stay make sure they are approved by ITTA (Indian Tourist Transport Association)
12. Book Direct- Use IATO Approved Tour Operators only: IATO is the Apex Tour Operators body in India (Here you can find their Members list) which would help you choose the from one of many operators who are a member and reliable. If you are using an IATO tour operator for your trip you don’t need one in your country which can result in upto 25% saving for you. At the end of the day even a Travel company you may use back home relies on one of IATO Operator for last mile fulfilment. You don’t need to go for all of the Suggestions as offered by your Operator, you can do a mix and match of Hotels they recommend and Airbnb that is what at least I would do. If you want someone to take a second look at your Itinerary please share that itinerary with me and I would be happy to make suggestions. (Email Me) Before you close your program with one ask for their Liability Insurance cover. This is for your own safety.
13. Have a Travel Insurance: Don’t ever leave home without it. A Travel Insurance policy is something that you may not need at all. But God forbid you need to be repatriated to your own country for medical reasons. Travel Insurance can be a life saver else you may end up paying a lot for getting Quality Medical attention in India.
14. Do not display affection publicly: Yes, we are the country that gave kamasutra to the world but public display of affection is something frowned upon. We may defacate publicly but not show are our affection towards our partners. Ironic but true. So please avoid public display of affection and you would have a great trip to India.
15. Pack according to the weather: North India can get very cold in Winters (Cold even for Canadians and people from Scandinavia) because where you are used to heating in these countries India largely does not have heating. Summers can be very Hot despite most of the places haveing some sort of air conditioning. Each and every part of India has different weather so it is best to do some research before you leave your home. In case you have missed buying something there are shopping malls in practically every city and clothes are affordable.
We hope these help you and you are able to have a great trip to India.
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