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India Travel Tips - Preparing for your Trip

India travel tips are vital to the first time visitor to India whether it is for business or for pleasure.  There is much anticipation as the traveler arrives to the India location.  The abundance of sights and sounds may just be overwhelming to the first time visitor if he or she is not prepared for it.  The first thing that the new comer to India will notice is the noise.  Noise pollution comes from everywhere: traffic, radios, videos, loudspeakers blaring at both daytime and odd hours of the night.

India Travel Tips

5.   Hindi or English in India

As a visitor to India, you can get along using English.  It's an official language of India ever since the colonial times.  To make you a better tourist, you should be aware of the common Hindi words:  Namaste = hello or good bye, shukriya = thank you, kshama kijive = excuse me / sorry.

6.   Use Only Authorized Money Changers

Ask for an encashment slip even if the bank charges a fee.  You'll need this slip to pay your bills if you want to pay in rupees.  You'll also need this slip if you want to convert your left over rupees back to your local currency upon departure.  Don't take ripped, soiled, or taped paper currency.  Many places don't take them and you'll be stuck with rupees that nobody wants.

7.   Shopping and Bargaining

Popular items to shop for in India are:  gold & silver jewelry, handcraft goods, wood & ivory carvings, Kashmir carpets, silks, furs, marble tabletops and leather hides.  Beware of fakes when shopping for jewelry and other expensive items.

Everyone bargains in India.  It is expected unless you want to pay double for everything.  It only feels strange after the first couple of days.  After that, you will feel more at ease about bargaining.  Start with the asking price and offer half.  Then go back and forth a few times.  You should ask some tourists about the prices for common products.

8.   Health

It is highly recommended that you have the following shots prior to your trip to India: typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis, diphtheria, cholera and malaria.  The water in India is not safe to drink.  Bottled water should be your drinking supply.

Then there is the smell. Some are strong and pungent while some are subtle. They are all fighting for your attention which lead to sensory overload. There is air pollution mainly from traffic fumes in all the major cities in India. Then there are the people.  There is always somebody who is trying to sell you something or taxis and rickshaws wanting to give you a ride.  Lack of public hygiene is another shocker to the first time visitor to India.  It is common to see people urinating or even defecating on the side of the road. You need to prepare for these realities using the India Travel Tips below as you plan your trip to India.

Photo Credits: Sam close up - Samantha Villagra

Twelve India Travel Tips

  1. India Travel Visa

    You must obtain a visa for traveling to India prior to your arrival.  The travel visa is available at the local India embassy in your country. You must show your return ticket for your trip as evidence that you intend to leave India.  Six month multiple entry visas are standard.

    If you need to stay longer, you will need to register at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office within 14 days after your arrival.  Even though you have a visa, beware that certain places in India such as the Andaman Islands have restricted access and require a permit. You'll also need to prove that you have sufficient funds for your stay but currency over $1,000 must be declared to customs.
  2. India Travel - Best Time of the Year

    As a large country, India has diverse climates depending on the location.  If you are traveling to the south of India such as Mumbai, the best time to go is around October due to the cooler temperatures. There are essentially three seasons here:  Cool, October to Feb; Hot, March to June; Monsoon, July to September.
  3. Transportation

    There are many major international airlines connecting to cities in India such as New Delhi, Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta.  Look for Indian Airline, the national carrier to connect within major cities in India.

    Rail or train is a good alternative to flying between major cities but the travel distances can be long due to the vastness of the country. Local transportation sources include buses, taxis, cycle rickshaws, three wheeled scooters and horse driven two wheeled tongas.  Buses tend to be crowded and the service is irregular while taxis are in abundance in large cities especially tourist regions.
  4. Riding Taxis

    Sadly, first time visitors are always preyed upon by unethical taxi drivers.  They are waiting to charge you higher prices if they know that you are an uneducated first time visitor to India.  It is easy for someone new to the country to want to be friendly and to chat with the taxi driver.  Do not admit that you are a first time visitor.  If it is possible, you should arrange for a prepaid taxi.  Be firm that you want to go to your booked hotel destination.  Do not let them take you to a "better" hotel.  Always check the taxi meter when you get in.  Make sure that it is cleared.  Insist on using the taxi meter if it is not a prepaid trip.  If you believe that you are being ripped off, your only recourse is to threaten to report the driver to the police.  Drivers can lose their permits.

9.   Food Alert

Do not eat food from street vendors.  Stay away from the raw meats and vegetables. Even washed vegetables should not be eaten raw due to the parasites living in Indian water supplies.  Drink and brush your teeth using only from bottled water.  Avoid just filtered water supplies because it does not filter the parasites out from the water. Even tap water is not safe for drinking in India.  

10.  Eating Etiquette

Indian food is eaten with your hands.  Indians usually wash their hands before their meals.  There should be a sink nearby whether you are in someone's dining room or a restaurant.  Always only eat with the right hand.  The left hand is considered unclean.

11. Religious Sites

All of India's shrines and temples are considered sacred.  You must remove your shoes prior to entering even if the place appears to be in ruins. You should be respectful.  So no drinking alcohol and don't raise your voice. Some temples won't let you in with your leather goods (shoes, belts, purses). Other locations don't even allow visitors if they do not practice the faith.

12.  Sex Segregation

Expect being separated from the opposite sex in India.  It is customary for men to be seated separately from women when they are invited to someone's home.  So beware if you are going to India with your spouse.

India is a country with a rich history and diversity.  Traveling to India whether for business or pleasure will require full use of the about twelve India Travel Tips.  If you are looking to export from China to India as an opportunity, India with centuries of history and culture is waiting for you.