Best India travel Advice
This list of the best India travel advice is here to save you a whole heap of money, time, effort and energy. Travelling to India is not like travelling anywhere else in the world for several reasons.
First of all the massive population in India means that most towns and cities are seriously overcrowded, polluted and impoverished, all leading to different issues fro travellers. India is also a very socially diverse place with a myriad of customs, cultures, temples, churches, political views etc. They all make for a life very different from what we are used to here in the west, so take a look the best India travel advice to get the lowdown on how to behave, what to avoid, how to eat, what to take etc.
Drugs and alcohol
I’ve written about drugs in India before because there does seem to be some confusion with regards to legalities. Well they’re not legal anywhere in India. And don’t think that just because you’re a tourist you can get away with it with a sorry and a bit of baksheesh. Taking drugs in India is a serious offence and surely the quickest way to get locked up – and it’s never happened to me thankfully but I can’t imagine an Indian prison being a very nice place to be!
Alcohol is a different story and is becoming more accepted especially in places like Goa where you can expect a laid back approach to drink. In some states alcohol is completely banned but if you ask nicely in some restaurants and cafes you may be brought a pint of beer in a T-pot or something. The dry states in India are: Gujarat, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland. The other states also have varying drinking ages ranging from 18 – 25 but I don’t think many places are too strict about this.
Churches, temples, monasteries - Conduct
While it may seem obvious to you that entering a holy temple in a short-skirt is inappropriate, to many foreigners it is not and as a result they come across as ignorant and very disrespectful. Be respectful wherever you go and cover up. Most places will require you to remove your shoes and you really should cover up at least most parts of your body. A T-Shirt is generally fine in most places but shorts are a grey area – so err on the side of cautions and wear long pants/trousers.
Different religious premises allow different things. Jain temples require that all leather items be removed before you enter and most Hindu temples require you to cover your head. If you’re not sure what exactly you should be doing then keep an eye out for signs or ask someone. One of the great things about Indians is that they love to help (even if they can’t they will try).
Demeanour and body language
This is a very important piece of India travel advice and can really change your travel experience. India is pretty crazy place with a huge amount of people meaning that if you behave like a little shy mouse you’ll no doubt be trodden on. Hold your head high, look confident, look like you know where you’re going even if you don’t and you'll get far less hassle. This is an invaluable piece of advice. When I first arrived in India I was shocked and frightened and it showed, but after a few months my confidence grew and I knew what I was doing. The difference in the way I was treated was quite astounding.
One thing I found particularly enjoyable on my first trip was the Indian head wobble. While to an outsider it can look rather amusing it is actually a vital part of an Indian's vocabulary and is used to communicate a whole host of different emotions and messages, including ‘yes’, ‘no’and 'maybe'. After enough time you’ll no doubt end up with a similar wobble but be respectful and don’t mock.
Other items of body language can also accidently cause offence such as standing with hands on hip – in the North of India especially this is seen as a sign of aggression. As in much of Asia, touching another person with your foot is seen as insulting. In fact pointing with your feet, having them on a chair or table or generally doing anything apart from using them to stand is frowned upon.
You need a visa for India
No doubt you already knew and it would be fairly stupid to book your flight without even investigating whether or not you actually need a visa for India but still, it is an important piece of advice so I though I would include it this India travel advice. You can choose from a 3 month or 6 month tourist visa or if you have different requirements there are other options available.
Taking the right clothes
My first ever mistake when going to India was flying somewhere cold without packing accordingly. I had shorts, sunglasses and T-shirts and it was -10 all day. Big, big mistake however I do realise that not everyone is that stupid but still, I thought I would include it in this India travel advice as it’s important. India is not hot everywhere!
Deciding on what clothes to take to India is very important especially if you are backpacking where you need to pack light meaning that every item you take must serve some purpose. If you’re doing North and South i.e. hot and cold, you’re going to need to think seriously about what to take. Of course, one thing that many travellers overlook is the fact that you can buy clothes there or even have some made for you relatively inexpensively. This means that you don’t have to worry about taking all of your clothes with you when you leave. I’ve written about this in more detail on the link above.
Yes, yes, boring I know but it really does belong in this India travel advice because when you’re a million miles from home your health is the most important thing you have. If you’ve been to India before you know how easy it is to get sick.
Get properly immunised, check government warnings against travel, don’t drink the water or brush your teeth with it, never take ice, stay hydrated, don’t stay in the sun too long, carry antibacterial hand wash with you all the time, avoid mosquitoes as much as you can and carry a proper first aid kit (equipped with antibiotics). All obvious I know but all vitally important India travel advice.
When you get diarrhoea, take Imodium or something equivalent and if it lasts for more than two days (which it probably will) get straight on the antibiotics and don’t stop until you have finished the whole course. If you stop taking the pills before the end of the course the bug will just come back twice as strong.
Malaria still exists in areas of India and poses a certain risk to tourists. This is a serious topic so check out this malaria in India page for more information about precautions etc.
That point of exhaustion
India can give you the ride of your life, so much to see, so much to do and so many hours travelling but there does come a point where it is all too much. Many travellers to India report hitting a wall; a point where they generally get ill, maybe depressed, tired and/or lethargic. If it happens, don’t fight it, just stop. Find a slightly nicer hotel than what you’re used to and chill out. Take three for four days to just chill in comfort – whatever that may mean for you.
What can I say, take your own for the sole reason that you know the quality is good. Because of the high rate of STDs and HIV in India the government have been pushing for condoms to be widely available so go to almost any chemist (alone) and ask, they are not expensive but you maybe limited when it comes to size, quality etc. Unexpected maybe but still an important piece of India travel advice.
Go with the flow
Perhaps the most important piece of India travel advice is to simply relax and go with the flow. All too many times I saw desperate travellers frantic to see as much as possible before they had to leave, frantic to get the last train and franticly fighting with the rickshaw driver to get the lowest price possible. India travels at her own pace. While this may not make any sense to you now it soon will. Relax, India is an amazing place to just ‘be'. Visiting every last temple, lake and marketplace is not as important as actually enjoying yourself.
Follow the link for some more important India travel advice regarding the mindet needed for travelling in India.