6 Tips for Travelers Visiting India for the First Time
India is a fascinating country. A rich history combined with the world’s second largest national population, no one can experience all the sights and sounds of this country in their lifetime. While India has come under fire following a number of widely publicized sexual assault cases in recent years, many women who visit the country leave without incident.
Whether you fly a commercial airline or charter a private jet to get there, your visit can be a fun and positive one the memory of which you’ll savor for years to come. Here are a couple of tips to help you do just that.
1. Brace for a Culture Shock
It’s good practice to make the most of Google Search by gathering as much information as you can about the country you are traveling to. But there’s no amount of research that can truly prepare you for a visit to India. While every country is unique in its own way, few nations of the world can rival the diversity and complexity of India.
To avoid getting overwhelmed, you must be mentally prepared for the culture shock. Acknowledge that things will be done differently from what you are used to. You don’t have to compromise your personal values but it will be futile to endlessly argue with locals in the hope that they’ll adopt your world view. Keeping an open mind will work well for you.
2. Choose Your Must-Visit Sights and Sounds in Advance
You cannot see everything that India has to offer in your entire lifetime let alone during one trip. Trying to do that will only leave you tired and frustrated.
Develop an itinerary at least a week before your departure. Take into account the city you’ll be landing in, the amount of time you have and how much money you intend to spend. Pick a theme too. If you are a history buff, choose your sites accordingly.
3. Explore Rural India
India has some of the largest cities on earth where the sea of humanity can feel suffocating sometimes. Like many other countries though, the cities represent only a fraction of the country’s charm. Actually, you haven’t experienced the real India if you haven’t spent some time in the rural areas.
Put on your adventure hat, ditch those predictable city tours and make your way to the countryside. Explore the hills of Uttarakhand, mix with the locals in Rajasthani villages or rest in the serenity of Kerala’s quaint upcountry settlements. Enjoy that raw, authentic and warm welcome that only rural communities can give.
4. Learn Basic Vocabulary
Indians love to smile. It’s not unusual for virtually every second person you run into to spontaneously grin in your direction. Some will go to the extent of offering a Namaste (a Hindi word meaning Hello).
Unless you are ready to attend years of language classes, you are unlikely to master Hindi or any of the other major languages used in India. What you can do though is to learn words and phrases that will help you with basic communication. These words can be great icebreakers and reduce the likelihood of getting ripped off.
5. Travel Light
India is a developing country and is much poorer per capita compared to the United States and other advanced economies. With that context, it may seem sensible to pack plenty of items including basic toiletries and personal care products in the belief that your favorite brands aren’t available in India. This isn’t necessary though.
India’s largest cities have virtually everything you will find in the average Western country. Pack light and plan to purchase items that can be found in local stores.
6. Dress Conservatively
India may be the world’s largest democracy but that doesn’t mean the country is a bastion of liberal views. It’s still a deeply conservative society that frowns upon anything that is thought to offend public morality.
For this reason, you should carry clothes that cover up your body (this, unfortunately, is especially so for female tourists). Some religious sites will require that visitors cover their head to enter. To blend in, many visitors will buy Indian attire when they arrive. Consider doing so.
By following these tips, you’ll have the peace of mind to enjoy the enchanting beauty India has to offer.