A single nation with so much diversity, yet that common bonding which holds together the 2nd most populated country of 29 states, such is India. In the European context, the 29 Indian states combine to form one India just like the member nations of the EU form a single union with little or no movement restrictions across their boundaries. Every part of India is so different from the other linguistically, culturally or people wise for that matter that it gives a totally unique experience visiting such a nation in totality. One should give ample time to India to truly experience and appreciate its beauty. India is very different from other countries especially from the developed western ones with relatively less developed infrastructure or a structured way of giving a truly seamless touristic experience. One has to get into ‘real India to experience the ‘real’ India. Here are top 10 handy things one must know before visiting this beautiful country.
10) Flexible travel plan
In India the usual travel plans may not work out as intended almost 9 out of 10 times. Unexpected delays/situations are so common that it is difficult to find a person to be blamed, neither is the touristic environment so organized that you expect things to happen just as you planned. For instance there is nothing like your EU rail planner app on the smartphone which tells you the exact schedule and availability of trains, and even if there some useful app, you cannot hop on-off an Indian train just like that because they are always full!
9) Easy identification of foreigners
Foreigners look quite different from Indians and the language barrier makes it all the more obvious. Though you won’t be stared at in modern metro cities, as you move away towards smaller cities, people tend to be aware that you are a foreigner and hence you attract attention. Small kids might want a picture with you, and local auto-wallas or handicraft people may want to fool you by quoting insanely high prices. Though the situation might not be always serious, but one should always be careful about getting into trouble.
8) Getting sick is easy
Be it the spicy Indian food, or the totally different environment, your immune system is likely to break down at least once during your trip. It is advisable not to hop on to any street food and avoid drinking outside water. The weather conditions often do not suit many foreigners adding to their grief. However ‘over the counter’ drugs for minor medical conditions are available easily in India which is a relief.
7) Special treatment
As far as the pricing for things is concerned, the foreigners are ‘specially’ treated in many places. For instance the fee to visit some historic place might be different for Indians and different for non-residents. Be careful, the denominations might be the same but the currencies might be different making a non-resident pay almost 5-6 times more! Many airlines too have special fares for non-residents.
6) The best season
It might be wise to avoid India during extreme summers unless you are on some adventurous outing. Summers can be harsh to foreigners and it is advised that the best months to visit India are September and October. The monsoons are just getting over and winter has started to creep in, giving a pleasant weather to travel. The tourist buzz in places like Goa and Kerala starts sometime post mid-October. Moreover 2 of the greatest Indian festivals Dussera and Diwali are celebrated around this time and witnessing them in the Indian way, is in itself a unique experience.
5) Booking in trains
For people accustomed to travel in Europe who have never been to India, it might come as a shock, but the trains in India are never empty. Booking in trains are over only a few days after the booking window opens and a waitlist is generated for later tickets which get a seat on account of cancellations or new coaches being added at the last moment. It is wise to book tickets well in advance since there is nothing like an EU rail pass and is not possible to hop on to trains just like that.
4) Familiarize yourself with Indian culture
Culturally, India is very vivid across its length and breadth. The cultural shock can be overcome by reading, watching documentaries or knowing as much as you can about India through popular media or through Indian friends. Remember what might be the culture of North India might not be the culture of East India. One should get acquainted with common scams, dangers and annoyances.
3) The local people
Indians are very polite, helpful and well-meaning but nevertheless there are a few who have this habit of striking up random conversations with strangers. Also there are touts in any place who have an intention of fooling people especially if they are foreigners. Local vendors generally strike up long conversations and try to sell things by aiming at the emotional front. The best way is to say “No” to overly friendly people. Often waiters in places like restaurants expect a tip, and it can be wise to pay a larger note wherever possible to keep a constant supply of change money for tipping.
India can be considered a bit conservative when it comes to how women dress. Dresses which are considered okay and conservative in your home country might be considered inappropriate in India. Although western outfits are worn as much as the Indian ones, it can be a good idea to get a few Indian outfits for your trip. Also Indian outfits are a much better suit for the scorching heat of Indian summers.
1) India needs time
A known fact is that people who visit India for just a few days almost always do not have a lasting impression of this beautiful country. It takes some time to get over minor barriers to loving India. India is not about Goa, Kerala, Mumbai, Bangalore, Varanasi or Delhi only, rather about the unexplored places like the Konkan coast, north-east India, Ladakh, and Lakshadweep to name a few.