I will always remember my first trip to India. My first vehicle journey across Delhi was exhilarating. All sizes of cars and trucks, crowded motorbikes and bicycles, and even the odd bullock wagon appeared to be heading in my way. Nobody was paying attention to the lanes or the traffic laws. The incorrect direction was being driven by cars. I was unable to comprehend what was taking place.
I had read that visiting India might result in “sensory overload,” and now I was feeling it. It was both thrilling and anxiety-inducing. And just a preview of what’s to come.
On my first journey, which spanned six months in 2005, I was often overwhelmed by the massive crowds, unfamiliar cultures, puzzling bureaucracy, mind-boggling complexity, and the perplexing culture shock.
Together, these factors make India a difficult vacation, but also one that is thrilling and gratifying.
However, by reading and implementing these travel advice for first-timers, you may be able to avoid some of the most perplexing hiccups.
To properly explore in India, one needs time and a little bit of knowledge. Hurried travel is not appropriate here. Avoid trying to take in as much as you can; it is not the best strategy. Traveling in India is exhausting, and the goal should be to experience it rather than cross items off a list.
Pick one area for every two weeks you are in India as a general guideline. Simply choose two areas to visit for a month; for example, spend two weeks each in Rajasthan and Kerala. Even if you just sit motionless, you won’t miss anything. No matter what, you will experience India if you are there.
Modify your outlook
An Indian woman traveling alone poses in front of a medieval wall with a view of a town.
Allow yourself to experience India fully. A line from the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel neatly captures the situation: The impact of India is like a wave. You will be taken down if you push back. However, if you go in, you will be OK.
Accept that nothing will happen exactly as you expected. Develop the belief that events take place naturally rather than according to a plan. The greatest incredible experiences may result from this mentality.
Watch who you trust.
Although being open is a wonderful idea, having a healthy dose of skepticism also helps a lot in India. There are a lot of con artists there, particularly in the tourism and hospitality industries. They are able to feel newcomers and will attempt to take advantage of them.
So, before haggling with auto-rickshaw drivers and market sellers, find out the pricing by asking locals and other tourists. Never trust drivers, strangers you meet at airports, railway stations, or tourist sites when they inform you that your hotel has burnt down or that the train you wish to take has been canceled.
Many times, the chance to profit off of you can inspire ingenious strategies, and some of these scams may easily catch you off guard. When I once needed a new iPhone cover, the merchant showed me one and informed me that it was produced by Apple. However, a thorough inspection found that one little text etched within the box has four misspellings.
Always travel safely
A female tourist alone in India studying a historically significant structure
India has a reputation for being a difficult place to visit, particularly for women. But even though I was uneasy, I never felt really threatened or dangerous throughout the many years I spent traveling alone as a girl in India. Reports of crimes against visitors are generally few, although teasing, staring, pickpocketing, and being taken advantage of are frequent.
Additionally, there are anecdotal accounts of women being harassed, particularly in busy, crowded areas. Use common sense, safe travel practices, and fundamental safeguards while visiting India.
Here are some safety travel advice (for more information, please see my top recommendations for women traveling in India):
Get a local SIM card so you can communicate and make local calls.
You should thoroughly research the location you wish to visit to be sure it is a popular destination with excellent infrastructure and lodging options.
Plan your route so that you won’t arrive in the middle of the night; only travel during the day.
Make sure not to expose your present location while posting on social media.
Keep a keen check on your bags and baggage, and be aware of your surroundings.
Take a tour in a small group.
Take a small group or personalized trip if it’s your first time visiting India to help you become acquainted with the country. My business, India for Beginners, was established to aid ladies in having a secure and successful trip to India. We do a few small-group tours, but our expertise is in designing unique itineraries and offering very high levels of personalized care, such greeting guests at the airport and designating a tour manager who is accessible around-the-clock. In India, we hold your hand.
Board a train
India’s trains are fantastic experiences that shouldn’t be missed. However, you must have a foundational understanding of the classrooms and trains. It’s possible you won’t want to go right into sleeper or general class; instead, I suggest 2AC (second class with air conditioning) or CC (chair car). Additionally, there is 1AC (first class with air conditioning) and EC (executive chair car).
Try to reserve one of the Shatabdi or Rajdhani trains; they are among the finest in India. Keep in mind when booking that overnight trains might be problematic since they don’t clean the restrooms at night.
Ingest the meal
India is one of the best gastronomic destinations in the world, so first-time tourists shouldn’t be hesitant to sample the amazing food on offer, even the street food. You shouldn’t miss some popular Indian dishes like masala chai, sweet lassi, biryani, pakoras, dosas, and desserts like gulab jamun and kheer.
However, it’s challenging to stay healthy in India since you never know when a contaminated food may make its way onto your plate. It may be in a high-end restaurant or a street vendor. However, by abiding by these fundamental guidelines, you may lessen your risk of being ill:
Only consume filtered or bottled water.
Keep an eye out for undistilled water in sauces or ice.
If you can’t peel it, stay away from raw salad and other foods (such as an orange or banana).
Eat only freshly prepared meals.
Try to find crowded eateries and eateries with plenty of customers.
Purchase a local SIM card.
In India, SMS messaging, WhatsApp, and one-time password (OTP) verification are used for everything. You thus need a local number. To achieve this, purchase a local SIM when you arrive at the airport. Even so, it could be difficult to use a foreign credit card to make online purchases in India because of the country’s OTP verification requirements. It’s also practically impossible to register with Indian Railways so that you can make train ticket purchases online.
Recognize your location
An Indian lady standing alone in front of two painted elephants
India is still a traditional society, despite its rapid change. It is advisable to get familiar with the local customs and traditions and err on the side of caution.
For instance, it’s advisable to dress modestly in India unless you’re on the beach in Goa. For clothing for the temperature and the culture, long, loose, and flowing garments are essential.
It’s also best to show a lot of respect, especially for the various religions. Also, keep in mind that overly friendly behavior can be misinterpreted because gender relations differ in India. Be polite, but it’s usually best to tone down effusive friendliness when speaking to strangers, especially those who work in the hospitality industry.
Be aware of the seasons
In India, the season and weather are important. The monsoon season lasts from July to August, while the winter months of December to February are unusually chilly in north India. It is very hot practically everywhere in May and June. Find the finest spots to visit in India according to season by doing some research.
So, if it’s chilly in north India, fly to Goa or Kerala, which are both tropical locales, and visit the beach. Visit Ladakh, a high desert plateau that sometimes appears unearthly, at the height of summer. You may celebrate Durga Puja in Kolkata, Diwali in Jaipur, or the Camel Fair in Pushkar during the fall festival season.
Arrive at attractions early
a female traveling by herself poses in front of the Taj Mahal in India while wearing a vibrant sari.
In India, mornings are often less crowded at popular tourist locations. Indians often don’t get up early, so if you want to visit a popular or busy location, leave early (also the coolest time of day). If you want to view the Taj Mahal, for instance, spend the night in Agra and arrive around daybreak; when the gates open, the queue will be mostly made up of visitors from other countries. A few hours later, throngs of Indian visitors would start to arrive.
Travel outside the city.
Indian lady living alone posing in a green field with grass and trees in the background
The majority of first-time visitors to India typically plan their trips around specific cities. They arrive in Delhi or Mumbai before traveling to locations like Jaipur, Udaipur, Rishikesh, and Cochin. Make an attempt to visit the wild places, including the mountains, deserts, and jungles. More than 50 tiger reserves, multiple biodiversity hotspots, the 20th biggest desert in the world (the Thar Desert), and the tallest mountain range on Earth may all be found in India (the Himalayas).
You may take a boat tour on the Brahmaputra River, go on a tiger safari, explore one of the numerous national parks, camp out overnight on a sand dune in Rajasthan, or go hiking in the Himalayas.
Don’t overlook the rural regions either. Indians still live mostly in villages. Wandering through the charming villages of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, or Uttarakhand is well worthwhile.