India Travel Tips for the complete beginner
Looking for some India travel tips?
See, I’m going to India for the first time in about a week. So today, I’m here in Barcelona doing my research.
And in the spirit of “sharing is caring”, I figured I’d write a bit about what I’ve found out so far.
Let’s call it Indian travel tips for the complete beginner.
“Chaotic, bamboozling, intoxicating…”
So begins Lonely Planet’s flagship article on Indian travel tips.
This begs the question: is bamboozling an adjective?
No. It most certainly is not.
But it’s stuck there, second in line in a long list of adjectives describing India, right at the beginning of the LP piece. How it got past the editors is a mystery to me.
But hey. That’s mainstream travel writing.
I’ve written for Lonely Planet myself, and I know all about it.
You won’t find that sort of hogwash, malarkey or claptrap here on The Chorizo Chronicles, though.
I promise not to call anything “vibrant” or “off-the-beaten-path”.
And I won’t tell you to, uh, visit the Taj Mahal.
(You do you.)
Anyway, without further ado, here are my…
India Travel Tips: General Etiquette
First and most importantly, according to the interwebz…
Don’t point the soles of your feet at other people, or at deities.
I guess this is an offensive gesture, both for people and for gods.
And the last thing you’d want is to have your AirBnB host or Shiva the Destroyer mad at you when you’re on a trip to India. Keep those soles on the ground, homie!
Other tips include: dress modestly, avoid public displays of affection, and be ready to bargain over the prices of things.
Apparently – again according to random people on the internet – Indian people might press their palms together and say “namaste” as a greeting.
I’ll get back to you on that one, though. I thought that only Ultra-Spiritual types like J.P. Sears did that.
Avoiding illness on your trip to India
“Always drink bottled water” seems to be the biggest piece of advice here. “Bathe in holy rivers at your own risk.” “Keep your eyes closed in the shower.”
Also: get vaccinated.
This I was able to do on the cheap due to Spain’s public health system. They shot me full of Hepatitis A+B vaccine, plus Typhoid and Japanese Encephalitis, all for the low low price of 19€.
(And it must be said, the 19€ were for the optional encephalitis vaccine. The other two were free.)
Other recommendations include only going to busy restaurants, avoiding street food, and making sure that what you’re eating has been thoroughly cooked.
Also: avoid fresh fruit and salads completely.
That last one seems like it’ll be absolutely no effort for me, since it’s basically my M.O. for daily life here in Spain.
One blogger even suggests going vegetarian for one’s time in India to avoid illness… ha!
I’d wouldn’t do that to myself if you paid me.
Changing money and avoiding scams in India
It looks like the money situation is like anywhere else.
You can (usually) find ATMs to withdraw cash using an international card. At least in cities. Shops often accept credit / debit cards as well.
There are plenty of (high commission) money changers around. If someone offers to change your money on a streetcorner, you’re probably being scammed.
You know, the usual thing.
The most interesting bit of advice I’ve found on the money front is not to accept worn or damaged bank notes as change: apparently, nobody else will accept them from you later, so it’s better to haggle for some crisp bills.
About scams: I guess it happens. The main advice is to keep your valuables safe and use official, licensed tour organizations (not some guy you meet at a taxi stop who claims to be a tour guide).
And also: if someone comes up and gives you a “gift”, it’s only about 4 seconds before they’re going to ask you for money for it.
I might update this soon with some of my own Indian travel tips.
In the meantime, I recommend you listen to Brimful of Asha by Cornershop. It’s about India, sorta. And bosoms. And pillows. And who knows what else.
Also, if you want to do some further reading, look no further than The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. It’s a sometimes-humorous-and-sometimes-dark look at modern India, and won a Booker Prize. (Now a major motion picture, from what I’ve heard.)
You could also read Autobiography of a Yogi, ‘cuz Steve Jobs was a fan or something, but trust me. I went through all 606 pages of that thing a few years ago and it was bulllsshiiiiiiiitttt.
That’s all I’ve got for today.
P.S. I guess if you have your own India travel tips, you could drop them right here in the comments. I’m all up for hearing the collective wisdom of my massive audience. Thanks!
P.P.S. Updated: I went to India. I didn’t get scammed, and I didn’t get encephalitis, but hot damn the diarrhea… It was brutal. Anyway, here are the articles I wrote about Mumbai and then Panaji and Anjuna, Goa. Have fun!