As I am sure you are aware, India is in the East and things are done in a slightly different way here. In fact, when you first arrive, pretty much everything is alien. It's not like nipping down to France where they eat frogs and the plugs are different. India couldn't be any more foreign and the culture shock you face is massive.
You have to surrender to India, her whims and people take you by the throat and drag you in unimaginable directions.
To help make the most of your trip it helps to be aware of certain factors of the Indian culture and to develop some specific character traits. The touts, beggars, crowds, taxi drivers and Sadhus (Indian holy men) can, to the India first timer, bring an intolerable amount of hassle and grief but here are ways to get yourself through the day.
When traveling to India, preparation is not as key to a successful trip as some people would lead you to believe but it is still quite important. One thing I do not recommend is having an outlined trip plan for traveling to India.
It is good to have a plan for the first week or two, just until you adjust to being there. Of course, if you are only there for a couple of weeks or maybe a month then maybe it is probably wiser to have an itinerary so that you can see as much as possibly within that time span.
Of course all the preparation in the world can never prepare you for actually arriving and traveling to India. Return to the Travel guide homepage for more in-depth information on preparation.
Don't expect a friendly welcome when you arrive in India, expect hassle and lots of it. Touts, beggars, taxi drivers etc.
This will probably be the most terrifying part of your whole journey but just keep cool, this where the adventure begins. The taxi drivers at the airport will be waiting for you as you arrive in the terminal building. Years of experience have honed their skills of spotting India first timers a mile off. They will pounce on you like a pack of wolves trying to coax you into their various vehicles.
Try and look like you know exactly what your doing, confident and with authority, you may be a quivering wreck inside but you must try. The fear can be such that you take the first price offered by the touts but don't, not only is the price way over the top but it shows you up as fresh meat and fair game, leaving you open to some pretty wicked scams. Tell everyone you meet that you have been to India before but just in a different place (I.e North or South). Follow this link for more information on the annoyances and inconveniences of traveling to India.
When traveling to India, the only thing that you can trust in India is yourself and if you can't trust yourself now then you soon will. Everyday you are forced to make hugely important decisions, they may not seem it at the time but when you are travelling in India, every decision is important and every choice relevant.
Some people call it a gut feeling and others inner guidance but what ever it is trust it implicitly. Let it guide you in every decision from choosing your next destination down to choosing something on a menu. It's not something I had heard much about before I left on my travels but after a while in India I noticed it more and more. After lots of trial and error I started to know immediately who I could trust and who I should avoid.
Your senses have to combine here, it's no good smelling the shit and missing the beauty or vica versa. It has to be seen as a whole. All five senses are required to travel in India, if you don't apply them don't you won't even begin to understand.....not that many people do anyway!
There is no way that in one person's life time that they could possibly understand India, with all her intricacies, diversities and mysteries. It is important that you understand this. You cannot see India as a single entity, a single country or indeed a single word for it is not.
As an example I use Indian culture, it is not a block, you cannot lump together India traditions and beliefs and call it culture. You can't go to India to find out about Indian culture because you will fail miserably. It's like an anthology of a thousand books each with a million pages with no start and no end.
Take this example and apply it to all your preconceptions then you are half way to understanding India.
Every person, child, builder, shop keeper,whoever wants to talk to you. The guy sat on the side of the road and the man in the bus station. It is hard for a westerner traveling to India to find a peaceful moment anywhere in India!
Indians love talking, they start conversations with everybody without even introducing names. Lots of them see westerners as a good opportunity to practice their English and their usual questions go a little something like this: What is your name? Where are you from? What is your job? How much do you earn?
It's funny that lots of them don't understand your answer but they smile and give a quick head wobble and then they're off! Cricket, English football and Hollywood are also popular topics of conversation so it maybe be worth reading up on a bit of your own culture before you delve into someone else's!
Things are done in a different way in India, things are done at their own pace. Nothing is rushed but everything is manic and this can be very frustrating for visitors. The most valuable asset you have as a guest in India is patience. India never allows you to do things at the wrong speed, she never allows you too run faster than her.
If you are traveling to India for a quick four day tour then you are going to be stressed out completely. You are always told that life is the journey and not the destination ... and it's so true. In India you really have to relax and enjoy the ride, go with the flow.
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