The experience of being on the ground in India is never quite as one reads prior to arriving. Intense sights, sounds and smells of this fascinating country are at times indescribable. Now comes the part of moving about with public transportation, finding places to stay the night if not already pre-booked, dealing with touts & beggars, using the toilet, and of course, learning the local etiquette.
Accommodations: Travel agencies are the most convenient way to make housing arrangements before hitting the ground, but often they rely on corporate locations which don’t add much character to an India experience. Be sure to specify if B & B’s (or homestays as commonly referred to) are preferred options. Read on to learn how to travel smart with hotel vouchers and what to expect about the beds of India.
Beggars: Prevalent, annoying, heart tugging…first time travelers will no doubt feel compelled to offer up a donation to the outstretched hands of beggars. Doing this can present safety issues for yourself and those around you. As is the case in other countries, the back story of each individual can differ from a legitimate need to an act of business. Be smart, know your surroundings and keep your emotions separate from your wallet.
Car & Driver Service: A fantastically fun and enriching way to see India is through the use of a car and driver service. However, this is mainly true if personalities between the guests and driver click. Travelers can find themselves with a dud rather than a bud for the duration of their trip. Working with reputable agencies can result in a good match which sets everyone up for success. Tips are expected but always at the guests discretion.
Communication: Staying in touch while traveling the country is ridiculously easy thanks to mobile phones, landlines, email/skype and of course, old fashioned snail mail.
Culture Shock: So you’re packed and off to see the magnificent sights of India. Palaces, forts, temples and more await; Only when you arrive, the scenery isn’t quite what the brochure depicted. Visitors either love India, or they choose to dislike it. A rewarding trip is likely with a little preparation.
Etiquette: Simple commonplace expressions or hand gestures back at home can raise eyebrows and emotions in India. Hands on the hip, raised voices and pointing are best left for dealing with cobras and not the locals.
Gay and Lesbians: Confusion exists with recent events regarding gay rights in this country. Continuing disapproval toward gays and lesbians is a long entrenched feeling in villages and outlying areas where traditions run deep. Modern, evolving cities such as Bombay and Delhi are changing the landscape for conversations, relationships and social activities around India.
Liquor & Smoking: Newly passed laws have outlawed smoking in designated areas. Travelers are required to abide by the same laws as Indian citizens. At the same time, bars, drinking and alcoholism is growing at a rapid pace in various areas of the country. Out with one vice, in with another.
Permits: Foreign tourists require a Protected Area Permit/Inner Line Permit in order to visit certain areas of India. Guidelines for the minimum number of people allowed as well as type of tourism varies based on location. Individual travelers can obtain permits with time and patience. A local travel agency can best assist in working around red tape to speed the process. Inner Line Permit of Himachal Pradesh | Permits for Northeast India
Taxis and Rickshaws: Really a must do if only for the entertainment value. Seeing the streets from the open vantage point of a tuk tuk or cycle rickshaw can add so much to a trip. Tourists are targets for exorbitant rates as well as false or misleading information regarding requested destinations. Be aware of the schemes designed to fleece unsuspecting wallets.
Toilets: You can’t escape it. At some point in your travels the dilemma of using an Indian toilet with present itself. While it might seem crass to discuss this topic, a prepared travelers can avoid an awkward situation. Using an Indian toilet requires not only learning a new position for release but also an entirely new way of cleaning.
Transportation: Horror stories about train travel in India grab headlines while tugging on the emotions of wary tourists. The reality is most routes start and end in the same boring, routine manner as the day before. Buses are a terrific way for budget minded travelers to canvas the country. Indian airports are evolving into world-class hubs with all the amenities designed to cater to an astute clientele. How to Ride a Bus in India | Tuk Tuk’s
Useful Links: Quick access to only the most needed resources.
Women Travelers: India continues to tow the line between over-the-top films portraying women as sex objects while preaching a conservative tone in public and in private. Foreign tourists who flock to popular destinations targeted toward westerners feel a false sense of comfort, thus revealing their bodies and minds as if at home. This has resulted in an environment (I.E. sexual harassment, groping, rudeness) which female travelers need to prepare themselves for and plan accordingly.