India is a vast and beautiful country to travel across. However, the cultural plurality, huge distances, language barriers and climatic variations across the length and breadth of our nation can make travel quite daunting, even for the most seasoned travelers.
For enjoying a smooth ride while traveling through India, here's a list of 10 common mistakes that travellers make, and how to avoid them:
1. Planning an Overambitious or Tight Itinerary
Given the boundless treasures that India offers a traveler, most of us try to cram too many places or experiences in our itinerary. But in India, the traffic can be unpredictable, especially in rush hours. It may take enormous time to cover short distances due to traffic, bad road conditions, or even weather. At times, visiting too many similar places in a short time can also take away from the experience. I experienced it in Jaipur, when I tried to visit 3 magnificent forts in a single day.
Tip: Don't try to cover too many places at once. If places are located a little far off, the travel in trains, buses, flights is exhausting and unpredictable, so stay updated on local conditions like road and weather, and keep a few buffer days. If there are similar places/experiences, keep only one or two to get an experience.
2. Underestimating the Peak Season Rush
Peak season and long weekend rush should never be overlooked while travelling. I faced a terrible delay reaching Ranikhet because we had arrived in high season, on a long weekend, at the time of an event which attracted lakhs of people, and there was a transport strike as well. Any travel plans during long weekends or high season have to be carefully planned and local conditions, festivals, strikes etc. should be thoroughly researched, and accommodation must be pre-booked.
Tip: Plan your trip in advance, research local conditions and festivals to know the peak tourist season, and try to plan your trips during shoulder season, when it is neither crowded nor deserted .Book your accommodation in advance.
3. Not Checking the Local Conditions for Travel
India has vastly different weather conditions in different parts of the country. Especially during monsoon, there may be floods and landslides. So it's best to check the local weather conditions before finalizing your plans. Sometimes, there may be local holidays on the days of your travel and some places you intended to visit may not be open. At times, I've even been confronted with transport strikes and similar situations which make travel cumbersome.
Tip: Check the local weather, local holidays and any other relevant news before proceeding to a place.
4. Booking Tight Connections on Flights, Trains and Buses
In India, delay is a norm. Flights, trains, buses and any other mode of transport can be delayed by hours, due to unpredictable traffic, weather conditions, or other local conditions. Even planning an itinerary based on timings shown on Google Maps in non prak traffic hours may throw it into jeopardy, as peak traffic may find you stuck for hours on end.
Tip: Keep buffer time for your connections. Don't overload your itinerary and always start really early when you want to catch a train or flight, even if you have to wait at the destination.
5. Not Dressing Respectfully
Most of India is fairly modern when it comes to dressing and in bigger cities all kind of clothes like shorts, skirts, dresses etc are in vogue. But in the interiors, many people still believe only in traditional clothing. Some temples don't even allow inside without following the dress code(example Sari for women and lungi for men).
Tip: Always ask a local if you are unsure of what to wear, and pack a few modest pieces of clothing in case it's required.
6. Not Eating Local Food
India's huge culinary diversity makes sampling local food a memorable affair. But the reason you should go local on food is not just the taste, but it's suitability for the region's climate and local conditions. It gets digested easily and protects against the region's climatic conditions.
Tip: Find a hygienic place to sample the local food and drinks. However always keep some medication handy in case it doesn't suit you.
7. Sticking Only to Popular Destinations
Popular destinations are popular for a reason. They should not be missed when visiting a place. But India's hinterlands and unexplored destinations are a treasure trove waiting to be unlocked. Many of these 'hidden gems' can actually give the most popular places
Tip: So, it's best to keep some spare time in the itinerary to explore new places, or gain new experiences which are off the beaten track, known only to locals
8. Not Packing as Per Your Itinerary
India has a lot of climatic variations, and packing has to be done according to the local weather conditions and the kind of itinerary you are planning. For instance, we went to Manali in April thinking it would be warm, and ended up shivering in cold, because the snow hadn't even melted in the high altitude areas.
Tip: Pack as per local weather, and take into account the temperature variations within the day. For instance, nights in Jaisalmer are very cold, while days are really hot. Carry proper shoes and gear, if short hikes form part of your itinerary. Keep in mind, any local places that require dress code. Always keep SOS medicines handy and take bug spray, mosquito repellant, sunscreen etc. depending on the part of India you are visiting
9. Not Pre-Booking Accommodation
Accommodation forms a large part of your travel experience, sometimes its entirety. It is important to book your accommodation in advance because, you may not get the property you were looking for at the last minute, especially of it is a boutique property offering only a few rooms.
Tip: Pre-book accommodation depending upon your requirement. India offers a variety of accommodation options, ranging from budget and luxury hotels to homestays, palace and heritage stays, plantation stays, forest stays, glass igloos and even floating huts. But even if an accommodation looks really cool, evaluate what you want from it. Sometimes, a forest stay may have limited facilities and food. At times, a budget hotel may be too far from the city centre. So choose your accommodation as per your requirement, and pre-book it.
10. Not Carrying Enough Cash
Most of India still runs on cash. At some of the remote places, connectivity is not too good, and many card machines don't work. Even ATM machines in remote towns and cities are often out of cash. And many of the local vendors don't accept card or digital payments.
Tip: Always carry little extra cash for local activities, shopping and extra expenses. You can top up your cash at any ATM in the larger towns and cities if you are unsure of ATM services at the place where you are headed.
So, follow the above tips, and if you have some experiences and tips of your own, do let us know in the comments.
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