As an Indian American I have visited India often. Below are some tips I’ve compiled from my experience and things I’ve heard from locals.
- Don’t drink the water
The water in India, especially during the rainy season isn’t as clean as most Americans and Europeans are used to so you can get very ill. The best thing is to carry your own filtered bottled water either Bisleri or Kinley brand bought from a reliable source.
- Bring your own toilet paper
Most Indians don’t use toilet paper they use hoses or water buckets. Even most tourist attractions and average restaurants you won’t find toilet paper in the bathrooms. Usually if you’re staying in a nice hotel there should be toilet paper, but most other places won’t have any. In addition some places will still have what I call hole-in-the-ground bathrooms which can be tricky if you’ve never used one before. Usually tourist stops will have both regular standing as well as hole-in-the-ground so just make sure to check.
- Never drive yourself, expect terrible roads and lots of traffic
The roads in India can be quite terrible and the cities have a lot of traffic. Many of the highways are built with terrible materials because of corruption making travel by car really slow. In the cities the traffic is terrible and people don’t follow any regular rules so unless you’re used to driving in India you’re bound to either get hit by someone or not move forward. Although I drive a lot in America I would never be able to get anywhere in India.
- Beware of pickpocketers and cheats
This is pretty standard advice for traveling anywhere but it is always good to ask your travel guide or hotel what scams or thefts have been happening recently. Also you will stand out as a tourist so make sure you don’t openly display jewelry, electronics or even fancy shoes which are prone to getting stolen when removed to visit temples.
- Always bargain with street venders
So often during my travels around India I have seen street venders start at double or even triple the selling price I was able to bargain. If there is no sticker price then they will always inflate the price, especially if you look like a foreigner. Even though I am an Indian American they can instantly tell that I am a foreigner.
- Dress conservatively in long pants and at least half sleeves
Although it is very warm in India the locals, especially girls, never wear short skirts, shorts, tank tops or tube tops. For guys shorts have started becoming more popular but still it is safer to wear pants if possible. Long pants can also serve as a barrier to the vicious mosquitos.
- Street food and small restaurants can be super cheap and tasty
Many people are skeptical about the hygiene standards of street food and small joints especially in India. However if you ask the locals they can point you in the directions of some real gems. Sure they will never be the cleanest but the food really delicious and unique. You’ll also get a flavor of what locals eat since many posh restaurants are designed for foreigners or Indian expats.
- Try to visit during a religious holiday
There are a lot of Hindu holidays scattered all throughout the year so no matter what time you want to come there is a chance to see some pretty incredible celebrations. Do some research to see what’s going on when you want to visit and you might be able to plan to see the festivities. Some cities are famous for the way they celebrate certain holidays like Ahmadabad for Makr Sankranti (kite festival) and Mumbai for Ganesh Chaturthi.