I’m currently neck deep redesigning a travel rules section on Full Stop entitled, “How to Plan a Trip to India.” Two years ago I ambitiously set out creating this template to help tourists plan their own trips to India using the advice and travel rules from my experiences.
As I look through the various tips I’ve written for safe enjoyable travel, it reminds me of how it felt to step off the plane for the first time in India. It also reminds me how most of the travel rules I read prior to that first trip were just tired cliche advice copied and recopied from one website to another. Very few travel rules turned out to be factually correct.
Readers often write to me with questions ranging in topics from whether to bring a laptop or iPad to where I think they should visit. Ultimately each person will discover that, regardless or my advice or that of others, we all find our footing at different times in India. Travel rules are merely guidelines to get you off your feet exploring.
In seven years of traveling throughout India I’ve been sick but never hospitalized, I’ve been thrown from a rickshaw but never in a serious accident, and I’ve overpaid for things but never been robbed. Here is a list of travel rules I have both followed and not followed..thus far.
Travel Rules I Haven’t Followed
- I’ve never had a cell phone in India
- I’ve accepted ripped Rupee notes
- I’ve touched my mouth after riding a bus
- I’ve left my luggage unattended on a train
- I’ve eaten street food, a lot of street food
- I’ve never had the recommended vaccinations for India
- I’ve slept with the hotel door unlocked
- I’ve dipped in the Ganges
- I’ve left my passport, camera, and computer in hotel rooms in an unlocked bag or out in the open
- I’ve worn a shiny wristwatch every day of every trip no matter what time of day or location
- I’ve offered bribes to policemen in exchange for favors
- I’ve jaywalked in front of policemen and run when called on it
- I’ve driven a car without a proper license
- I’ve talked with strangers, ridden in their cars, toured their homes and enjoyed their tea
- I’ve walked through farm fields in sandals
- I’ve walked through slums alone
- I’ve refused to pay for services with inflated foreign charges
- I’ve refused to pay bribes
- I’ve picked up hitchhikers
- I’ve gone days without calling friends and family who have no idea where I am
- I’ve given money to beggars
- I’ve not taken preventative malaria pills for nearly all my trips
- I’ve taken mysterious unmarked pills when sick from doctors who don’t speak English
- I’ve gotten lost
Travel Rules I Have Followed
- I always buy travel insurance
- I always register my trip with the US Embassy
- I always have a baggage ID in my luggage
- I always wear a money belt
- I always bring photo copies of my passport and India Visa
- I always carry a business card of the hotel where I am staying
- I always brush my teeth with bottled water
- I always wash my hands before eating
- I always tip waiters
This list is by no means exhaustive nor meant to encourage any tourist to abandon the advice of guidebooks. It is, however, a declaration of how incredibly safe I feel in India and how graciously most Indians have treated me.
Travel inherently pushes all of us out of our comfort zones. I never would have been able to bring so much reality to Full Stop if it weren’t for blending equal parts common sense and gut instinct while ignoring most of the travel rules I’ve ever read.
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