10 tips for traveling to India
If you or anyone you know is traveling to planning to travel to India here are my top ten tips. Believe me you are going to thank me when you do make it out there!
Aside from good walking shoes and sandals, a one-piece bathing suit and cotton clothing are a must! Bathing suite you ask? Yes, most of the five start hotels have a rooftop or some sort of a pool that you do not want to miss.
Even if you don’t opt for wearing the costume preferred by many women in India, the “suit” or salwar kameez, always travel with a long scarf made of lightweight fabric. It will come in handy for situations where modesty will be more convenient and allow you to go into mosques; gurdwaras and more traditionally minded Hindu temples. Situations where you must protect your skin from the sun, from the insects, or use the scarf as a shield against a smelly situation (trust me you will understand when you make it out there).
In India, I never go out for the day without a mini pack or two of tissues, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, gum/mints, a cell phone and an iPod shuffle. I use the cell phone to call a friend (or hotel) and report the number of the taxi, as I get in, and so that the driver can hear me. (If no one answers, I pretend!) In markets and bazaars, I sometimes turn up the iPod so that I can’t hear the aggressive vendors, and they eventually leave me alone.
Do not eat at rest stops where you are not completely sure about the food, let me tell you that I experienced the worst food poisoning of my life just because I drank Indian Chia at a rest stop on my way to Delhi from Jaipur. I strongly suggest that you pack snack, bars and water bottles with you.
Ladies and gentleman the weather in India can differ city to city so definitely take your mini bottle of lotion and your favorite cardigan with you even if you plan to travel in the summertime.
Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
There are three national holidays: Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August), and Gandhi Jayanti (2 October) which occur on the same day every year. In addition, there are three major nationwide festivals with shifting dates to be aware of:
Holi, in February or March — The festival of colour is a major festival celebrated mainly in North, East and Western India. On the first day, people go to temples and light bonfires, but on the second, it's a waterfight combined with showers of coloured powder. This is not a spectator sport: as a visible foreigner, you're a magnet for attention, so you'll either have to barricade yourself inside, or put on your most disposable clothes and join the fray.
Durga Puja / Navarathri/Dussehara, Sep-Oct — A nine-day festival culminating in the holy day of Dasara, when locals worship the deity Durga. Workers are given sweets, cash bonuses, gifts and new clothes. It is also new year for businessmen, when they are supposed to start new account books. I
Diwali (Deepavali), Oct-Nov — The festival of lights, celebrates the return of Lord Rama to the capital of his kingdom, Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years. Probably the most lavish festival in the country, reminiscent (to U.S. travellers at least) of the food of Thanksgiving and the shopping and gifts of Christmas combined. Houses are decorated, there is glitter everywhere, and if you wander the streets on Diwali night, there will be firecrackers going off everywhere including sometimes under your feet.
Apart from these, each state has its own major national festival so do your research before you plan your dates!
My fellow white people you need to practice your negotiation skills, sorry to put you on the spot but you really do. In India like many other places in the east you will quickly encounter the special foreigners' rates, so you must know that any price you are quoted is highly over rated so feel free to come back with a ridiculously lower offer and tat when the price game will start. You say a number then the shop manager will counter you with a higher bit and eventually you would meet each other somewhere in the middle!
My dear followers, the world is not as pretty as you and I imagine it to be so please be careful and know that not everyone is your friend or is really offering to help you. There are so many organized gangs out there are simply out to get your money. Done trust anyone, trust your gut and do your research!
Lastly this only applies to highly skilled travelers, if you are a smart experienced traveller don’t exchange your money at the airport or at your hotel because they would charge you a ridiculous amount, exchange your money at the markets! Know your numbers don’t be fooled and please be careful!