There is only one word which describes India best and that's "Incredible". We may confuse you with our radical cultural diversity and never-ending traditions and cultures but in the end, you are bound to love us because love is what we ultimately cultivate. Traveling in India is like experiencing kaleidoscope of culturally diverse images.
The extent of diversity in our country is in fact so vast that most people living in one part of the country are most probably alien to the cultures and traditions of another part, considerably a far one.
Therefore, in order to avoid a lot of confusion it is always handy for you, the traveller, to know some things beforehand to smoothen your crazy Indian travels.
Traveling In India - 11 Things You Should Know
Here are 11 things you must know when traveling in India.
1) Travel Safe - Diversify your valuables
Traveling safe is a good advice anywhere, be it India or any place else.
Never keep all your eggs in one basket. Only keep those valuables and money close to you which you will need while traveling in India like money for food, toiletries, conveyance and accommodation expenses.
The rest of the money should be packed away safe. The best advice for travellers is to carry recognized credit and debit cards or traveller's cheques apart from the money for immediate requirements.
2) The Languages changes every 100 kilometres
A result of the extensive diversity here, the languages or the dialect changes more sooner than you think. This is more frequent compared to other countries like the United States or Europe where dialects change after a long interval of time and allows you the time to adapt to the cultural changes.
While traveling in India, be prepared for this kind of change else you will be in for culture shocks and this will make your experience less happening. Over here, the boundaries are very translucent.
Hire a guide who knows your tongue and is familiar with places you wish to visit from the upbeat towns where you start your journey. There are loads of good government approved guides available in major Indian metropolitan cities.
Once you are in sync with these changes, you will start loving your stay here!
3) The Cuisine changes every 200 kilometres
Another result of the diversity, the general food scene when traveling in India keeps changing more frequently than you expect. One moment you are eating rice and beans and one hour later rice will cease to exist and breads will run your course.
Thus, it is always important to be prepared for the unknown and the eventual risks. Pack all the relevant medication associated with digestive disorders like those for stomach aches, gastrointestinal disturbances, loose motions and dehydration like electral powders and other energy drinks.
Traveling in India Some Recommended Books
Before we proceed, let's go through a bunch of recommended books for anyone traveling in India.
- India Unplugged: What Really Happens When You Are Traveling, Living and Working in India: Authored by Aurelia Zoss, the book gives insights into India's cultural differences and navigating through it. The book shares funny incidents and stories, and brings to life the colour and diversity of Indian households. You get a taste of India before traveling in India or deciding to shift there.
- Wanderlust and Lipstick: The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo: Authored by Beth Whitman, the book is for those women who plan on traveling in India, either solo or in groups. The book is the result of the author's own experience of her sojourn in India.
- Ticket to Safe Backpacking: Authored by Amanda Villaruel, it is a guide for those backpacking in India and other South-East Asian countries. The book offers safety guidelines, travel advice, awareness about scams and pitfalls and some mistakes to avoid during journey. The book also comes with three bonuses: a guide on locating the right accommodation, a backpacking checklist and how to backpack in low cost.
- Essential India Travel Guide: Travel Tips and Practical Information: Authored by Shalu Sharma, it is a very detailed India travel guide taking you from an introduction about the country to its cultural attitudes to safety tips for women and more. It is a must-have guide for anyone desirous of traveling in India.
4) The food is generally spicy
The whole world knows that we love our spices. Most people, when traveling in India, tend to enjoy the spicy cuisine available almost all across the country no matter what the cuisine. South Indian foods like Chettinad Cuisine are filled with coastal spices and so are the Punjabi and North Indian Cuisines with less of curry powder and more of red chillies and hot pepper.
Therefore, it becomes important to always be prepared if you do not want your stomach to give you nightmares because let's face it, no stomach can adapt so quickly from mild foods and whole meats to this kind of rich gravy cuisine. Pack in some digestives and keep replenishing your yoghurt and soda reserves.
5) Pack ample sun cream when going south
India is a land of extremes. We don't have mild temperatures and good rainfall. Here summers are scorching, winters are bone-chilling and it rains like a perennial downpour.
So, when you plan to explore the southern parts while traveling in India, like Kerala, , Tamil Nadu etc., be sure you have your SPFs and anti-tans because these equatorial regions receive plenty of Sun all year round.
6) Pack ample cold cream when going up North
As said above, while south India witnesses scorching summers, the North has its share of cold nightmares during the winters.
If your plan is to visit places in the North like Manali, Spiti-Kunzum La , Kashmir, Ladakh, Dehradun or the Far East like Sikkim, Nagaland, Assam etc. then be sure to pack your winter essentials. Keep your jackets, gloves and scarves at hand because you may start needing them anytime.
That's the beauty of traveling in India, you will never just end up with one kind of experience, and rather it will be a blast of umpteen experiences of every abstract and physical kind possible.
7) Always ask the Locals about the SPECIALS
This is one of the best advice we can give you about traveling in India. Wherever you are, don't ever waste your time looking for too fancy things. This not only wastes your time but also your money.
If you go through different Indian tourist destinations on the internet like in Lonely Planet or Tripoto, you will find that the best experience of these places is out on the streets asking local people about the specialities of every kind it has to offer.
For instance, if you are in Kolkata and you go for fancy five star hotel foods instead of the street side rolls, kebabs and desserts then your trip has failed. In the same manner, if you are in Manali and you choose to stay in internationally franchised hotels instead of small taverns, cafes and guest houses in the more interior parts, you will never be able to grasp the true view and beauty of the place.
Therefore, go local and then you will be able to connect to India's real soul.
8) Your personal space is an alien concept to us
The concept of general privacy and personal space is quite ambiguous here. We tend to ignore it for people who may or in most cases may not be known to us. So, when traveling in India, though it is better to travel through public means of transport like metros and buses, at the same time be prepared to be pushed, squished and thrown around a little bit.
There is no need to be alarmed. Just remember that this is not meant to harm you in any way and is just a part of the whole experience. In the end, you will most probably not even remember that part, or might end up cherishing it.
Take care from Foot to Toe : Types of High Heels
9) Be prepared to hear a lot of noise... ALL THE TIME!
We Indians are those bunches of people who are in the mood for celebration all year around. May it be summers or winters, we are always celebrating some or the other thing. And we like to be on top of our voices when we are celebrating. Music is not music unless it can be heard everywhere.
When you're traveling in India, it is always better to keep in mind that most of the places you go to may be loud. The destinations you go to may be peaceful and quiet like Mcleodganj in the North or Kerala in the South but the journey may be filled with noise. So do not fret, this also in itself will be an exciting experience if you give into it.
Remember, more than a billion people enjoy it, so it is very much possible that you will too.
10) Have ample drinking water at all times
India can make you work and the weather here is taxing. It is always beneficial to keep your body equipped and your stash well packed when traveling in India.
What is better than fresh sparkling bottled water? It will help you when you are at your weakest, panting and sweating heavily in the desert dunes of Rajasthan or the cold forests of Nainital.
And trust me, in these trekking adventures, the pleasure would be emphatic but then you won't easily find shops and outlets to replenish your supplies.
Therefore, it is essential that you are fully equipped before starting these exciting adventures.
11) People are helpful but don't blindly trust anyone!
India is filled with different kinds of people. Where on one hand most of the people you meet will be friendly and very helpful but one should not be too optimistic when in an alien place. It is better to be the master of your domain and trust yourself and your hunches before trusting someone else.
Instead of arriving here and leaving everything to guides and locals, do most of your research beforehand.
Learn about the places you wish to visit and be informed about the areas you should visit and those you shouldn't. Places like Mumbai and Varanasi are transcendental experiences but many things can even go wrong if you're ignorant of your surroundings.
It's very easy to fall in love with India. The rich cultural heritage and geographical diversity has many experiences to offer but, this is only possible when your Travel IQ is excellent and you know what you are up for. Only then you will truly enjoy traveling in India.
This blog was originally published on Let's Expresso by Tanya Sachdev.