India is a contrasting country with diversity spread throughout all levels of society. It is home to almost every kind of people see. Myriads of people all throughout the country practice different cultures and religions that will look extremely surprising for anyone visiting the country for the first time.
The constitution of India recognizes 22 different official languages and every single one of them has equal importance to the countrymen. With a population of 1.3 billion people and a landscape that includes astounding Himalayan peaks and the Indian Ocean coastline, this country has its own flavor that might be daunting for first-time travelers.
India is a kaleidoscopic mélange of Bollywood, Elephant gods, technology, underlying poverty, and food. This country will push you out of your comfort zone but once you start looking past the chaos and, you will surely have an overwhelming experience. India is where the magic happens. From spirituality to culture, India is the right example of rags and riches and you will experience it all.
People planning to travel to this country should be ready to encounter surprises and should definitely have the mindset to embrace never- seen- before experiences.
If you are planning the trip of your lifetime to India, here are the 25 things about India you should keep in your mind to avoid uncertainties.
Places in India
India is the second most populated country in the world and you can expect to see people on the road any time any day. When these many numbers of people are present almost anywhere, you cannot expect things to be quiet and organized. The life-size chaos inside the cities and towns is beyond anything you have ever seen. Do not expect India to be anything like any other place. It has different touch and flavor to it, which can be intimidating at first but you will be overwhelmed with the diversity you will get here.
You cannot predict the landscape in India. It is extremely varied, it has humongous peaks, mountain ranges, you will get unlimited white coastlines, lush greenery in abundance, and whatever you can ask for. The beaches in India have their own touch to them. Take goa, for example, you know where the party is happening. For trekkers, India is trekking heaven with a galore of opportunities. Embark upon the trekking escapades and you will spend your life. India has huge deserts and forests too.
As tourists traveling across India, you will love to visit the different monuments, temples, historical sites, etc. But, many of these sites are closed on specific days of the week. Owing to the widespread diversity in culture and religion throughout the country, it is practically impossible to guess the specific days. Best advice, know and plan from before and to avoid any dissatisfaction.
Trust me when I say it, the traffic conditions in India are worst. Only if you have visited Bangladesh, you might have a different perspective. But taking into consideration that you haven’t been to Bangladesh and this is going to be your first time in India, you will have to prepare yourself for the traffic jams.
Being stuck in a traffic jam for almost the entire day is worse but in India, you will have to endure that alongside the heat. Temperatures in most parts of the country during summer seasons record an average of 50°C. It is hot but the thrill of experiencing something like this is unreal.
Know where you are going and what you can expect. Religion is a very public thing in India and in almost any mosque and temple you visit, people will tell you what are the dos and don’ts. If you are dressed improperly and it doesn’t follow the guidelines of that specific place, in all probability, you will not be allowed to enter.
Just not the places of religious importance, in India, you cannot pretend to walk like you are in Palm Beach. Dress appropriately and you will be surprised how welcoming and warm the people actually are.
Indians are curious people. Even if they have a culture and lifestyle like no other, curiosity remains among the majority of the people. If you are a foreign traveler, it is inevitable that you will get attention, uncalled for.
People will come up to you asking for photographs and selfies. Not one or two, if you keep on clicking pictures, you will reach a point where the memory card and battery are over and you are exhausted from inside. Learn to politely say no and they will not bug you any further. It works every single time.
Pollution is a real problem in India. New Delhi, the capital city has the worst air pollution in the entire world. If you are in New Delhi and planning to experience the magic of the Taj Mahal, be sure to see a lot of smog.
Studies show the amount of air pollution is recorded the highest in winter seasons so maybe try a different time to visit. Also, it is always advisable to carry yourself a mask in order to protect yourself from causing any damage. The change in air quality can have an adverse effect on your health.
Also Read: Travel Guide To India
With over 1.3 billion people speaking 22 different languages and practicing hundreds of different cultures and religions, you are bound to discover India in a new manner every single day. It is a treat for travelers who want to see the world with a new and fresh perspective, different from what they have seen or felt before.
Only a few countries have an impact this deep on travelers coming from all parts of the world. There are peace and calmness that can be seen once you look over the chaos.
Money and Currency
To begin with, the Indian currency is Rupees and you need to convert your money in order to have a run through the country. However, in some places, they also accept the dollar. Digitization has taken over India largely in recent years but still, almost all parts of the country thrive on using cash instead of digital payment by card or e-wallets.
Almost all rickshaw drivers, buses, street vendors, and services have a strict cash policy. If you don’t have it, either you will have to look for an ATM or look for a different vendor. Whatever currency you are carrying and using, it is advisable to exchange it beforehand and save yourself the hassles.
ATMs in India are present almost at all major places but once you start getting into the interiors, the picture is very different. Keep yourself prepared by pulling out the cash from beforehand.
Hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, and even some shops gladly accept cards without any hassle. So know your plan and expensed well ahead.
India is a moderately safe country with not so many crime reports or risks but you as a tourist should always be extra protective of your situation. Mostly reported crimes in India that cause problems for travelers are unwanted money scams and thefts. If you ever encounter any offers that are too good to be true, you are probably caught in a scam of some kind.
For female travelers and first-timers, however, it is always advised to practice safe travel. Explore the off-beat places with a trusted friend or join a group for safety. Also, in almost every tourist place you can get yourself an organized tour, city walk, visit monuments, etc. You can trust these folks.
Also Read: Is Nepal Safe For Solo Female Travelers?
What to expect
What to expect is something of a farce or unanswerable question. India is a crazy country and if you deter yourself from the craziness, it is not the place for you. Before traveling to India, you must forget everything you used to know and completely have an open mind to see or experience something totally out of the blue.
You cannot anticipate what you are going to see in the next turn on the road. From 5 people on a motorcycle to people sitting on the top of a moving bus, almost everything is totally normal there. You do not know it yet
There is a notion surrounding India that things are cheap and inexpensive in this country. No matter how surprising it sounds, India is not as cheap as people think it to be. I mean yes if you are buying everything from the streets and local shops, you will spend a significantly lesser amount but as soon as you hit the malls, the story is very different.
For any tourist looking to have some really good food from restaurants and buy some branded things to wear, you will have to shell out cash. On the other hand, the story is different when the malls and shops are running a sale.
People come from all over the world and look forward to spending some quaint time in this country. Although the number of foreign travelers seeking peace and wisdom has seen a rise in recent years, India still is quite risky for several health-related reasons.
The culture, food, and people will surprise you but it is a completely different world in India. Get yourself the right vaccines and flu shots to avoid any risks or damage.
As discussed above, India has 22 different official languages. Yes, people have a belief that all Indians are well-versed in Hindi or English, every district of the country speaks a different language.
Telugu and Tamil are not the same and in South India alone, people speak Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam. It's not possible to know them all? That's where an experienced touring and trekking company like Himalayan Trekkers comes into play.
Okay, this is a serious topic to talk about as Indian cuisine is pretty diverse, just like the country. The street food culture in India is famous all around the globe. People like it so much that they try to imitate it in their own country and include them in their own culture. From panipuri to Kathi rolls, kachoris, and samosas, every single dish is somewhat better than the other.
But, as a traveler from a different country, the kind of preparation and spices may make things ugly for you. If you are not having a good time eating them, you should immediately start eating restaurant foods made with bottled water. But, you will definitely not regret eating the Panipuri.
Water is a big issue in India. Unlike in western countries, people in India do not drink tap water because it is very unsafe. Mostly, the tap water in India is full of bacteria and contaminants. As an important suggestion, always drink packaged water.
If you are looking for the most fun and adventurous public transport experience, India is going to serve a platter full of adventures. You will not believe it until you see it for yourself. The public transport scene in India is unreal and most of the time you will spot overcrowded buses, trains, taxis, and auto-rickshaws.
It is an amazing sight and for the inhabitants of India, it is a great way to save some money.
Scammers are not everywhere but there are scammers. If you are coming from a foreign land, the scammers will not waste one minute spotting you and then planning a scam. The scam can be made in any way and if you are not careful you will fall prey to it. Most common practices include
Taxi drivers taking a longer route to charge you some extra bucks.
Gemstones being imported where an imposter will try to sell you some so-called precious gemstones so that you can import them when you are traveling back.
There are many individuals demanding money, entry fees, taxes for services that are totally free.
Many individuals are caught selling items way beyond the actual price when you are buying from street vendors.
People in India are really beautiful inside out but there are evil people everywhere right. India might just have a lot of them.
No, I am not talking about beef preparation but I am referring to live cows that you can spot almost anywhere and everywhere. Cows are holy animals in India and Nepal and you cannot anticipate where you will spot them. They can be in the middle of the road, by the shop, on the alley, or just behind you asking for a treat.
These cows are mostly harmless and you will love petting them whenever you can. If you are not willing to pet a cow, you can find a lot of dogs and goats as well.
Tips and Taxes
A whole article dedicated to tips will be less to make you understand what the complete story is. For a quick bite, tips are something you will have to give at all levels of society. From what other travelers have expressed and what we have experienced, almost anyone can ask you for a tip.
Your waiter will definitely ask and the security can also ask. So, be prepared about it and carry small bills. Also, if you do not want to pay, nobody will harass you.
On the other hand, taxes are also something to talk about. Most of the prices displayed are exclusive taxes. Things are a bit easier because India now follows GST, which will be easier for you to understand as a customer.
Local SIM Cards
Not a lot of people will talk about this but this is very important. You will definitely need a phone with good internet and connection throughout your India tour. So avoid carrying telecom networks that do not work in India. The whole process of getting a local sim card is as painful as you can imagine. There is a wait time of about 2-3 days, there are legal risks if you get the sim from any vendor, and the documentation is process is long.
But if you are in need of a sim card in India, you can always visit the registered stores. They hire super-efficient people.
Okay, there is UBER
Uber is convenient, easy, safe, and a very reliable mode of transport all around the world. It is there in India as well with all the standard features, solving half of your problems. Even, India has OLA Cabs which are similar to Uber in all sense, have similar pricing as well with equal reliability. You can book all kinds of cabs from small commutes to intercity rental cabs, whatever you ask for.
Yes, you can search for hotels online from beforehand and book your stay wherever you wish. Multiple platforms make it easier but if you want to do some adventure and thinking of living on a shoestring budget, try doing that in person.
You will get to see all the different kinds of hotels and stays. The homestays in the mountain villages are a must-try experience. City hotels are adventurous as well but be cautious about your choice. Although it is very unlikely to happen unfortunately you might find yourself in the middle of a scam.
Okay, we have talked about street food, but food as an overall topic is vast so I want to emphasize this. There are more vegetarians in India than any other country in the world. A massive 38% of the population is vegetarian and the population is huge.
Yes, you will get all types of food here but there are places where it is difficult to find steaks and burgers. On the other hand, if you are up for a food orgasmic journey, India is the place to be. Every state has its own delicacy, be it veg or meat or anything. This a journey to seriously try.
Finally, we come to people, the encounter you will have most. There are people everywhere in India, literally everywhere. But, Indians are the sweetest people. Indians know how to smile and offer their friendship, they welcome you with overwhelming respect, you will always be taken care of, both in bad times and good.
If you haven’t met an Indian in your lifetime, you should wait. Be ready to be blown away with unaltered culture and heritage, always smiling people, delicacies you have never tasted, and experiences you never had.
Don’t trust me, ask the other travelers who have been to India.
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