Colossal, multicultural, utterly beautiful, spiritual and fascinating: these words sum up India. It’s not just a destination but an experience. However, if you are travelling to India for the first time, it can be overwhelming and daunting. Fret not! We bring you some travel tips for visiting India, which might just save your life and make your stay in India seamless, safe and super.
Know the Entry Requirements -
To enter India, you need to have a valid passport, an Indian visa and a return/onward ticket. If you’re visiting as a tourist and your period of stay is no longer than 30 days, apply for ‘Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA)’. To know more about ETA, visit the official website (https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html) of Indian Government. Apply online prior to arrival.
Take it Slow and Steady
India is vast and incredibly diverse. From the Himalayas in the north to the serene backwaters in the South to the coastal countryside in the East to the arid deserts in the West, India is brimming with places to be explored.
It’s advisable to start with the classics, i.e., the ‘Golden Triangle’ that includes Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. Or, follow your interests. If you’re into spirituality, head to Varanasi; for trekking and adventure, Himachal Pradesh; for shopping, Mumbai and Delhi; for Ayurvedic massages, Kerala; for a royal vacation experience, Rajasthan; for beaches, water sports and remnants of Portuguese culture, Goa; for a French atmosphere, Pondicherry.
Plan According to the Weather
India experiences diverse weather conditions, although in general the huge country has four primary seasons: summer, winter, monsoon and post-monsoon. Each region experiences different climatic conditions, so there’s always somewhere worth visiting, no matter the time of year. The Western Himalayas, such as Ladakh & Kashmir, and hill stations like Srinagar, Dharamshala, Darjeeling, Shimla & Manali can be visited in summer, while the popular tourist destinations like Mumbai, Kerala, Goa, Rajasthan, Agra and Varanasi are best visited in winter.
Health is Wealth
To stay healthy, remember these basic precautions. Indian food is a bit tangy and it can be common to experience a swirling stomach; consume wisely by eating freshly cooked food and drinking only from sealed water bottles. To protect against pollution in the cities, wear a scarf and mask in the streets. It’s also a good idea to travel with medications for diarrhoea, headache and other common ailments. Also be sure to get the necessary shots before your trip. Talk to your doctor about what might be necessary for you, and where you’re travelling. If you run out of medicines, don’t worry as there are pharmacies everywhere.
Beware of Fraudsters, Scammers and Touts. Depending on where you wander, scammers and fraudsters have a tendency to chase tourists. A common scam is to offer deals for an India tour. Do not fall into their trap! Book your tour only with Ministry of Tourism or Government of India recognized travel companies, not people who approach you in the street.
Learn a Few Basic Words in the Local Language
India is a culturally diverse country, and this includes the language. In fact, different languages are spoken in most states, although English is commonly used and understood across India. Hindi, while not the first language of all Indians, is also commonly understood, so it helps to learn a few basic Hindi words:
shukriya or dhanyawad (thank you),
theek hai (alright or OK),
haan/haanji (yes), nahi (no),
garam paani (hot water shower),
chalo (let’s go).
In India you should also dress according to the place and customs. Some tourist spots, like a mosque, temple or other holy places require you to dress modestly by covering your head with a scarf and taking off your shoes before entering. In big cities you can wear whatever you want, but when visiting small towns, dress modestly. It’s good to aim to blend in with the rest of the population.
Know the Transportation
Flights, trains, local buses, taxis, auto rickshaws… getting into and around India is smooth. India boasts one of the largest railway networks in the world. To experience the real beauty of India and save a few bucks, train is the optimal option. When travelling by train, carry chains and locks to secure your luggage and make bookings in advance. Air conditioned buses also travel between cities every day. For short trips within cities, use pre-paid taxi services. Another way of navigating within cities is to use auto and cycle-rickshaws. Keep in mind that traffic on Indian roads can be torturous, so leave your hotel a few minutes early to avoid being late.
Packing for a trip to India will largely be determined by the climate of where you’re going and the activities you plan to do. If travelling to India in the summer, light-weight clothes are perfect, but winter (November - February) conditions vary a lot throughout the country. For example, winter in Delhi is very different from winter in Mumbai or anywhere in South India. It’s worth packing a light coat/jacket for evening and an umbrella/raincoat for monsoon travel.
Extra items to pack are high sun protection cream and a power bank to charge mobiles. 220-volt electricity is used in India, so pack necessary transformers, converters and adapters for your electronic appliances. Hand sanitiser should also be carried at all times.
Use your discretion while talking to people. Avoid walking or travelling by public transport at odd hours, as you would anywhere in the world. Don’t carry a large amount of cash around with you. Make a photocopy of your passport and carry that with you. Also, make note of emergency numbers are keep them handy. In India, the all-in-one emergency number is 112. Otherwise, for fire-101, police-102 and ambulance-103.
Travel Insurance is Vital
Emergencies and mishaps cannot be predicted. It’s better to be prepared in advance. Get travel insurance from your own country that covers health issues, accident, travel delays, damaged or lost luggage, cancellation and other possible eventualities.