India can sometimes tend to overwhelm travellers; it is a busy and sometimes confusing country. It will take time to acclimatize to the frenetic energy of this particular country and learn to stay healthy, safe and sane. However, although India is not the easiest country to visit, it is also one of the most rewarding. It offers panoramas that are unique in the world and truly remarkable. It also offers delicious food, incredible nature and charismatic people, as well as a very interesting cultural heritage to discover.
So, to help you make the most of your time in India, here are some smart tips you should know before you leave.
Do not try to travel too long distances
One of the most important tips I can give you if you are going to India is to plan a few stops on your itinerary and spend more time there – rather than trying to do too much.
Just walking around in a bustling Indian city can sometimes be tiring, especially when the senses are being stimulated from all sides. You should therefore plan breaks to rest and recover. If you try to do too much in too short a time, you will exhaust yourself.
Instead, take your time and explore fewer destinations, but more deeply – your stay will be more enjoyable. You will also have a better chance of meeting Aboriginal people and having interesting experiences.
Prepare for culture shock
When you first arrive in India, you will undoubtedly face a culture shock. No need to try to oppose it. On the contrary, prepare yourself and accept that things will be different from home. Try to open your mind and leave any prejudices at home.
Take tablets for diarrhea
Unfortunately, many tourists who travel to India often suffer from the dreaded “Delhi Belly Sickness”. Even if you are very careful, your body is not used to the diversity of bacteria found in water and food in India. That’s why it’s better to have diarrhea remedies on you before you actually need them.
If you wait until you are sick, you will not be able to get away from the toilets and will have to quickly look for a pharmacy in the many mazes of streets. A good remedy for diarrhea is Loperamide, because it slows down digestion and therefore reduces symptoms. If you continue to have stomach pains for more than three or four days, consult a doctor, as you will probably need antibiotics.
Get out of the cities
While India’s large cities, such as Delhi and Bombay, can be fascinating, it is also worth going out of the cities to visit some typical small villages. The pace of life will be slower, the air will be cleaner and you will have a different perspective of Indian culture.
Although it is hot in India, you can’t walk around in a miniskirt or with a plunging neckline. It is a conservative country and you will be the object of great undesirable attention if you dress in a revealing way. If you visit a religious site, like a time, it is disrespectful to dress in this way. Instead, wear long, lightweight pants, shirts that cover the shoulders and a shawl or sarong to hide your cleavage.
Leave your shoes on before entering a temple
Many temples will ask you to leave your shoes before entering. So it’s a good idea to wear shoes that you can leave and put on easily, like sandals. If you are afraid of having your shoes stolen while you are indoors, you can take them with you in a backpack or give a few rupees to the temple guardian to watch them.
Take a SIM card for your phone
Being able to use your phone when travelling in India will make it much easier for you: you can check directions on Google Maps, read comments on TripAdvisor for example before going to a restaurant, quickly check travel websites for tips and scams, among other things. Having a SIM card to exchange data should be one of your priorities.
It is sometimes difficult to find a local SIM card in India; the other option is to buy an international SIM card. This type of SIM card can be used in several countries, which is convenient if you travel to countries other than India.
Beware of religious scams
In many temples and mosques, you may be pressured to make a donation or buy a sacred offering. For example, a religious person may place a red dot on your forehead or tie a string around your wrist and then ask you for money.
Many tourists feel obliged to do so because they do not want to disrespect the local religion. But you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. If the amount requested seems very high in relation to the local standard of living, it is probably not a real spiritual offering, but rather a way to take money from tourists.
Don’t be afraid of local pharmacies
Some people with a health concern during their trip will ignore the problem and hope to get better without going to a local pharmacy because they are suspicious. But your health is unlikely to improve without doing anything, and there is no reason to be afraid of local pharmacies.
When you go to a pharmacy in India, you find that the products are cheap and the people are very welcoming. You can buy antibiotics or other pills to treat yourself, often without a prescription. If you need to consult a doctor, he or she will often be competent and inexpensive.
Understand Indian head nods
When you travel to India, you will probably notice that the locals nod their heads in a certain way to answer you. It is not a nod from top to bottom to say yes, or from right to left to say no. It is a head movement that does not exist in the West, it can leave you perplexed. The nod of an Indian head can mean many different things depending on the context.
Here is an interesting video that explains the meaning of nodding in India. Look at her, so you can better understand what an Indian person is trying to make you understand.
Learn how to bargain
Bartering is a natural part of shopping in India, but if you come from a culture where bargaining is not the norm, it may seem a little weird and intimidating at first. The important thing to know is that this is not a fight, it is a friendly negotiation.
The seller will probably tell you a little rather high, and he or she will wait for you to make a lower offer. You will then exchange offers and counter-offers until you agree on a price that is convenient for everyone. The price is always negotiable, and if you don’t bargain, you will almost always pay too much for everything you buy. In addition, by word of mouth, all other sellers will know that you are an easy target and prices will go up for you.
Here’s a tip, if the merchant doesn’t want to lower the price, just say thank you and walk away. As he/she does not want to miss a sale, he/she will change his/her mind and lower the price as soon as your back is turned. Of course, you have to accept the fact that tourists will have to pay more for most of the time – so don’t bargain too much on low prices.
Beware of pickpockets
When you are in a public place with many people, be on guard and make sure your personal belongings are secure. Do not put your wallet, passport or phone in your back pocket, but rather in an inner pocket, ideally with a zipper. Don’t wear too many precious jewellery or accessories – keep it simple and wear only the bare essentials.