So – you’ve read my blog and you’re thinking of visiting India? Nice choice. Here’s what you should know before you go:
1) Expect the unexpected. The level of poverty in India means that you will undoubtedly see some upsetting sights. Delhi in particular, on a tour of the Golden Triangle, is rife with homeless disabled people and children. I certainly found this very difficult to digest on arriving into the country. Beyond just this, the way of life in India is so completely different to anything I had ever experienced in general. A motorcyclist on the road with thirty ink printers stacked high on his side-car? Check. A barber cutting his customer’s hair whilst sat in the middle of a busy road? Check. Men having a fight with an axe in the street? Check. Keep your eyes peeled.
2) If you are not of Indian heritage, you will be approached and faced with some unwanted attention. While travelling on the roads, we would find that whole bus loads of commuters would be looking at us. In Jaipur, a young couple brought their toddlers across the road to see us, as women of a different race. At the Taj Mahal, I found that more local people seemed to be taking photos of us rather than the monument itself – this is not an exaggeration! While the majority of people are simply just being inquisitive and are interested in where you have come from, make sure you are vigilant at all times. If someone asks for a selfie, politely decline, or you will soon have a whole line of people suddenly asking for the same.
3) There are cows everywhere. Cows are sacred in India so make sure that you are wary and respectful of their presence. Even accidental harm caused to a cow may land you in trouble with the locals – this is simply a rumour I heard and thankfully I do not have any personal anecdotes to recall upon here!
4) Delhi Belly is real.. and not just in Delhi. As such, it is a good idea to make sure that you pack some suitable stomach relief (such as Imodium) as well as some anti-bacterial hand wash for your trip. Be careful with everything that you eat and drink. It goes without saying that you should not drink the tap water (or beverages with ice cubes), but also consider avoiding items that may have been washed in tap water, such as salad. Some restaurants will wash salads in bottled water, if requested, though personally this feels like a bit too much of a ‘diva’ move for me. If you like your spicy food, note that the spice level in India is likely to be a lot hotter than the spicy foods you’ve eaten before at home – so, to initially acclimatise your stomach, I would suggest first trying a medium-heat dish rather than a hot and fiery one!
5) Travel by Uber. Uber is incredibly cheap in India and is a safe and easy way to navigate the Golden Triangle, without having to awkwardly negotiate on a price with a taxi driver.