India is a bright, exciting, magnificent country, with scenery like no other and cultural landmarks that people travel from far and wide to see. It’s also a place that can cause a colossal culture shock, requiring a broad mind along with some adaptation to settle into. Read our guide to making the most of your stay in India.
1.Get Some Space
New Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta are the busiest and most populous cities. A trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra will also make you redefine your needs for personal space – you’re not going to get much at any of India’s main tourist spots! Escape the cities and see some beautiful landscapes in smaller towns. Not only will you get some space to breathe, you’ll see some more authentic parts of India rather than just the places cultivated for the pleasure of tourists. Recommended quieter cities with breath-taking views include Tosh, Pondicherry, Orchha, and Hampi.
2.Follow these Local Customs
Be aware of these Indian customs before your arrival, to avoid upsetting anyone and finding out the hard way.
- Dress conservatively – cover arms, legs and everything in between with loose clothing to prevent overheating
- Remove shoes – before entering someone’s house, sacred spaces, and even shops (if you see shoes stacked outside a building, you should remove yours too)
- Feet are considered dirty – be careful not to touch anything other than the ground with your feet
- Rely on your right hand – left hands are considered dirty as well, for reasons you might imagine. Remember to pass things using your right hand only
3.Money in India
Carrying large amounts cash in Indian cities is not advisable – pickpocketing is a problem in places with large crowds and a large tourist population, like markets and landmarks. Stay safe by keeping money and valuables out of sight. Similarly, paying with a card is not the best idea. Card-cloning is rife. Avoid both problems by keeping a small amount of cash stashed in a secret pocket or secure bag when you venture out. Be aware that haggling in markets can sometimes become a heated exchange. Newcomers to the country should remember to keep their cool when haggling. Try not to be shocked and stand your ground if met with hostility. If you plan to stay in India for several months, it’s recommended that you open an Indian bank account to control your finances. This also means that you can be sent money from home, which will help with budgeting. You can transfer money cheap to India with the Pangea app – it charges a small flat rate fee and always offers the best exchange rate with their instant money transfers.
4.Discover the Best Street Food
As you probably know, Indian cuisine is some of the most delicious and flavoursome of all world foods; and tasting real Indian food in its native country is an awesome experience. Check out the most recent edition of the Lonely Planet guide to India, which will show you the precise location of the best street food that you can plan ahead of your visit. Street food is a cheap and authentic way to taste the best food in India – but watch out for your stomach. Overloading with rich, spicy food can be a shock to your system. As a rule, avoid anything that could have been washed with tap water, like raw fruit, vegetables and salad. Eat only cooked fruits and vegetables, avoid ice, and only drink bottled water.
5.Where to Stay
Check sites like Booking.com, Rough Guides and Trip Advisor for ratings and recommendations on the best places to stay depending on your needs and budget. Lonely Planet has a very useful categorised guide for finding accommodation based on whether you want a cheap stay, a restful sleep or somewhere with a rich heritage.
Be aware that where ever you stay in India, earplugs are a necessity! Move over New York – India is full of cities that never sleep. Expect traffic noise where ever you lay your head and come prepared.