Planning a Trip to India – A Beginners Guide
Planning a trip to India? A country of 100 billion people, India is home to 15 percent of the world’s population. From the high ridges of the Himalayas to the mysterious lands of the East, India is full of surprises. Also, from the sweltering South to the shores and deserts of the west, India is more like a conglomeration of countries rather than a unified whole. A landmass covering only 2 percent of the Earth’s surface, India exhibits a diversity that rarely has any parallels.
Visiting India is like visiting another universe- complete with its own identity, own characteristics and its own charm. It is definitely not easy to be a part of this great nation. No matter how much you have read, heard and fantasized, your experience will be unique. While you visit India, you will share a story different from everyone who has ever put their foot on this amazing land.
However, a little preparedness before visiting any place does not harm and it is certainly true for India as well. If you’re that dreamy excursionist who has fantasized about India and looking forward to coming to this incredible place then you’re at right place. You will find all the information you need to have in this Beginner’s Guide to Travel in India.
These tips cover all the important aspects and advice that will come in handy for a completely mind-boggling and breathtaking experience. Read on to discover India in a whole new way and in its seemingly infinitely stretched dimensions.
Pick a Route Tailored to Your Interest and Time
India is huge. It is so huge that it could keep even the fussiest of travelers on their toes. It is quite impossible to see ‘India’ in just one trip. The geographical diversity, as well as the assortment of culture, makes India: truly an “Incredible India”. There are islands, beaches and backwaters in South India and also over 33000 temples.
Then there is central India with its National Parks which are home to Royal Bengal Tigers. In the west, Rajasthan and Gujarat pack the punch along with Mumbai. In the North and Northeast, the majestic ranges of the Himalayas cast a spell. For first-timers, Golden Triangle tour is a great initiation to India. However, depending upon your interest and the time you have up your sleeve, get an itinerary tailored to your need. Here are some of the suggested route that you could take for your introduction to India.
Golden Triangle – a Perfect Introduction to the Country
Golden Triangle comprising of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra is the most popular introduction to India. It is doable in less than a week. If you have more time, say 10 days, then add a tour to Khajuraho, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Varanasi, the holiest of Hindu city as an extension.
This circuit lets you travel to at least 11 World Heritage Sites, which include the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra. Major things to do in the golden triangle are visits to monuments and museums which are in abundance in Delhi. Shopping in the pink city Jaipur is another must thing to do as is the visit to the resplendent Amber Fort.
In between visit Fatehpur Sikri, a ghost town and a world heritage site. If you are a wildlife lover you could squeeze in a visit to Keoladeo National Park which is yet another world heritage site. When in Jaipur take an excursion to Abhaneri Village to visit the astounding Chand Baori. The site marks the location of the prison scene shoot of the Batman series Dark Knight Rises.
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Beaches & Backwaters – Where Adventure Shares Space with Serenity
Yes, India is home to some of the finest sun-kissed beaches in Asia. In fact, Radhanagar Beach located in Andaman has been voted once as the finest beach in Asia. However, with its vast coastline and tropical weather, Goa rules the roost when it comes to beach holidays in India. It is so unlike India that you will find it impossible to believe you are in India. The streets still reverberate with the distinct colonial vibe of the Portuguese rule.
In Goa, there are churches and cathedrals, parties and festivals, vibrant nightlife and spice plantation, backwaters and waterfalls. But the main allure of Goa is the numerous sandy beaches. Kerala is yet another sliver of a state with numerous beaches. But it is the backwaters here that draws foreign visitors like a magnet. Alleppey, Kumarakom and Kollam are popular for their chains of backwaters. Kovalam, Marari and Varkala are three popular beaches in Kerala.
The Imposing Himalayas – Splendid Crown of India
Himalayas stretch longest in India; from Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Arunachal Pradesh in North East. The Himalayas in India is associated with spirituality as well as adventure. Ladakh with its spectacular roads, mountain passes, ancient Buddhist monasteries, high altitude lakes and Tibetan culture is one of the major Himalayan destinations in India. The road trip from Manali is simply epic. Nearby, lesser visited Spiti Valley also houses some outstanding Tibetan monasteries and has a landscape to inspire awe.
Rishikesh, near Delhi is considered the yoga capital of the world as well as hub of adventure activities in North India. There are numerous ashrams in Rishikesh where you could enroll for yoga classes. White water rafting and bungee jumping are quite popular adventure activities. Darjeeling in West Bengal with its sprawling tea plantations and the mountain railways is slowly topping the charts. Add to that, Sikkim, a breathtaking place with its pristine surroundings and Buddhist culture is also gaining popularity these days. It is also easier to cover Bhutan from here.
Trekking in the Himalayas is also one of the things travelers love when they visit India. There are several trails in Uttarakhand, Kullu, Ladakh and Sikkim which are worth a try. A multitude of treks in Himachal Pradesh also raises the fun quotient. Goecha La Trek in Sikkim, Kauri Pass and Roopkund trek in Uttarakhand, Rupin Pass and Hampta Pass in Himachal and Markha Valley and Chadar trek in Ladakh are some of the best treks in Indian Himalayas. For those looking for challenging technical treks, Stok Kangri in Ladakh is the one to go for.
Spirituality & Religion – True Gist of India
With the diversity of faith that co-exists here, it is no wonder that there are a plethora of spiritual places in India. A pilgrimage to number of temples, churches, mosques and gurudwaras leads to spiritual enlightemnet. Amritsar’s Golden Temple is a must visit. It the holiest shrine of the Sikhs but interestingly its foundation was led by a Muslim sage. More than 35000 people are fed here for free daily. Surprisingly, volunteers perform all the work including cooking and cleaning inside the complex.
Then there are temples in Varanasi and Khajuraho that are worth visiting if you are interested in religion. Some of the holiest Hindu temples lie in Gujarat including the Dwarkadhish and Somnath Temple. Cave temples in Ajanta and Ellora are a fine specimen of a rock-cut cave carved out of mountain entirely by hand using hammer and chisels.
Down south, the temples in Tamil Nadu are a spectacular specimen of Dravidian architecture. Whereas Hampi Group of Monuments are the exquisite specimen of the Vijayanagara architecture traditions. Then there are two chardhams visiting which, according to Hindu religion, releases one from cycles of life and death. Additionally, embarking on a pilgrimage to these sites grants moksha.
Two outstanding specimen of architecture are located in Orissa and are definitely worth a visit. They are the Sun Temple at Konark and Jagannath Temple in Puri. Shore Temples of Mahabalipuram are also a must visit if you are keen on architecture and religion.
Spiritual classes are available at multiple places starting with Delhi. Rishikesh is also an internationally popular destination for spirituality. In Himachal, Dharamsala is home to his holiness Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile also has several Tibetan-Buddhist centers.
Royal Rajputana – Representing India’s at its Best
The enchanting ancient temples, mysterious forts and flamboyant palaces of Rajasthan are some of the most mesmerizing and captivating sights. These are also the highlights of any trip to India. The colorful turbans and saris add captivating hues to the otherwise stark desert kingdom of Rajasthan. It was once divided into several princely states ruled by several warrior princes known as maharajas. They were renowned for their opulence and idiosyncrasies. The kings had bountiful of riches and several queens each renowned for her beauty.
The rulers kept warring but despite that, they were a great patron of arts. Their fascination with arts is nowadays evident in the spectacular forts & palaces, temples and havelis they left behind. The folk tradition is also alive today in Rajasthan. Folk dances and music is quite fascinating. Then there is the matter of art in block, printing, pottery, textiles and souvenirs which are much sought after. All this and more makes Rajasthan one of the favored destinations for travelers from overseas.
What to see in Rajasthan?
The former palaces and havelis have been converted into heritage hotels now. Then there are plenty of glamping options. However, it is the rustic Rajasthan that draws the discerning travelers. Places like Sekhawati with its havelis, forts and hunting lodges converted into heritage hotels amidst wilderness like Rohet, Bhainsrorgarh and Ranvaas. These coupled with cultural interactions and a host of insider experiences like village walk and discovering medieval stepwells and leopard spotting are off the beaten path experiences in Rajasthan.
The vast desert of Thar with its sand dunes is yet another exciting thing to do in Rajasthan. Near Jaisalmer and Jodhpur are some of the best sand dunes. One could go dune bashing on a 4X4 or take a camel safari. One could camp in style at the Serai or take shelter in some of the secluded desert camps.
Festivals are also very popular and offer an ideal way to have a cultural experience in Rajasthan. The annual Pushkar Mela is the most renowned. Then there is the Jodhpur RIFF and Jaipur Literature Festival which have come up recently and have drawn huge global attention.
Majestic Mughal Architecture – a Fine Example of Brilliance of the Bygone Era
To talk about India and not to talk about Mughal will be a great injustice. They were the last empire that ruled much of India before British took over. They were renowned for their penchant in art and architecture. The Mughals built some of the most exquisite, magnificent and astounding forts, mausoleums, and gardens across India and Pakistan.
The zenith of the Mughal architecture, a fusion of Indian and Islamic architecture was reached when Taj Mahal was built. The Mughals also built Some of the most invincible forts including the Red Fort in Delhi and the Agra fort. A tour that retraces Mughals Empire is a must for architecture lovers and history buffs.
In Delhi lies some of their best work including the Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort and Safdarjung’s Tomb. Chandani Chowk and Jama Masjid should also be included in your itinerary to see the fusion of past and present. Then Agra has the iconic Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Itimad Ud Daula’s Tomb. Many Mughal monuments are also located in Allahabad and Rajasthan. The best gardens that Mughals build are almost all located in Kashmir. Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Garden and Chashme Shahi are three of the most extraordinary Mughal Gardens that are definitely worth a visit.
Wondrous Wildlife – Offering the Best Experience in India
Home to some of the endangered species in the world, wildlife sanctuaries in India beckon the naturalist and wildlife enthusiasts from all corners of the world. It was here at the Kanha National Park that Kipling was inspired to write the Jungle Book. Jim Corbett, the first National Park in Asia was set up in Uttarakhand and is named after its founder. Kaziranga National Park in Assam is home to 2/3rd of the world’s population of the Great Single-horned Rhinoceros.
In Rajsthan, Ranthambore is ideal for tiger spotting. But it is Madhya Pradesh that has highest count of tiger reserves. Thus, the state attracts the bulk of travelers interested in spotting the mighty Bengal tigers in their natural habitat. Notably, Bandhavgarh in MP offers the maximum probability of tiger spotting in India.
With over 500 species of recorded avifauna, Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur Rajasthan is a heaven for keen birdwatchers. Sasan Gir National Park in Gujarat is the only place in the world where you could spot Asiatic Lions. One could also do elephant safari at some of the national parks in India. But, it is the Jim Corbett National Park which is most renowned for this activity. Furthermore, the park is popular not just due to the abundant wildlife but also because of extremely scenic terrain.
Wayanad National Park is where you’d want to go to spot wild elephant in abundance. Whereas, you can go cruising on either Periyar Lake in Kerala or the Sunderbans Delta in West Bengal for tiger safaris.
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Eating out in India – a Treat to the Taste Buds
With such a tremendous heterogeneous diversity, it is absolutely unthinkable to expect homogeneity in food and flavors of India. The country has one of the most varied range of cuisines, dishes and recipes. In fact you can find the essence of all the world’s flavors in India.
The country has a very long tradition of food and over the period of time. Its experience with different civilizations of the world produced and evolved so many variations that it became virtually impossible to keep uniformity. Consequently, the dishes have almost every taste imaginable.
However, one needs to follow discretion on what and from where they eat. Below-mentioned are tips that might prove useful while treating your taste buds in India.
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Insist only on freshly cooked food
The range of food that you can have in India is tremendous. No matter how appealing it may look, make sure you only have freshly cooked food. This is your best defense against bacteria and disease-causing parasites. If possible, try to get the food cooked in front of your eyes.
Avoid eating anything raw like salads and juices
Lack of awareness makes most of the street vendors treat raw food un-hygienically. Not only they might be washed with contaminated water, but unclean handling and unhygienic practices can make you fall sick. Thus, avoid having raw food altogether.
Keep away from too much spicy food and chilies
Majority of Indians like spicy food and their cooking usually involves a mixture of many spices including chili. Even though some spices can enhance the food’s flavor manifold and are good for health, chilies can be challenging. Mention specifically that you don’t want your food spicy. Or else, order Jain food, which is less spicy and less oily as well as easily digestible.
Avoid street food
Although lovers of Indian Street food are spread far and wide across the world, it can sometimes get really dangerous. Especially if the surroundings and treatment of the food is unhygienic. E. Coli bacteria, which usually enters through street food can even be life-threatening. Therefore, try to stay away from street food as much as possible, no matter how much it entices you.
Eat only from reputed restaurants which have sufficient customers
Good restaurants follow better cleanliness than their cheap counterparts, though even that is not fully guaranteed. But if a restaurant seems busy with customers, chances are that it has been tried and tested. You can also try expensive restaurants for more delicious food with a wide variety. However some local restaurants can offer you a comprehensive meal for a price, as low as 1$.
Overeating will only affect your digestive system adversely and make your stomach an easy target for bacteria. It may further lower your immunity. Eat only in moderation and complement your food with immunity enhancing drugs. There are some Ayurveda drugs that are especially helpful. Also drink a lot of water to flush your body of toxins.
Try family meals, to experience little pleasures of India
Family meals are a great way to have safe and hygienic food. There serve an excellent example to make you understand the Indian way of food preparation and presentation. But make sure you do not overeat and eat too fast. Indians have the habit of overfeeding their guests as a mark of their love. Also, avoid drinking tap water. It’s a great fun and a unique experience to eat alongside the natives and share love.
Prefer vegetarian food
India has the world’s lowest percentage of meat consumption. Moreover, beef is largely avoided and it is even banned in many states due to Hindu religious beliefs. Again, the meat sold is often done so in an unclean way with flies buzzing around in a dusty, warm environment. Thus, one would be better off if they rely purely on a vegetarian diet while in India. This will definitely save you from some serious chance of getting sick.
Keep the stock of Probiotics and Charcoal with you
Probiotics enhance digestion by increasing the production of good bacteria and improving immunity. Their importance to any trip to India cannot be emphasized more. On the other hand, charcoal tablets are extremely effective in preventing diarrhea and countering dysentery. Consult your doctor and keep charcoal tablets with you as they are very effective in absorbing pathogens and toxins.
Water matters in India
The source of drinking water in India can be varied and it can contain impurities of all kinds. Thus, it is rarely safe to drink water from any untrusted source in India. It may carry a number of diseases as well as transmit a number of dangerous bacteria and parasites. Therefore, it is important to be watchful and considerate of what kind of water you are consuming. The following tips can prove handy in dealing with water issues in India.
Drink only bottled water
Tap water in India is not at all safe and may contain dangerous bacteria and pathogens. Thus, always purchase mineral water bottles for your consumption. Also, make sure that you buy it from a reliable grocery store or hotels. Otherwise, it is possible that the cap might have been tampered with.
Always stay hydrated
Moving around in India can really take a toll. The country remains hot and humid for the most part of the year. Thus, make sure you always carry a good stock of water with you. Anything less than 2 liters a day is strictly not enough. Moreover, if you are indulging in hiking and trekking, you must need an extra portion of potable water with you. Doing so will protect yourself from dehydration and thirst.
Search for Coconut Water
Coconut water is fairly popular in India. It is a wonderful alternative refreshment to the usual aerated and sweetened drinks. Moreover, the water is also extremely good at enhancing your electrolytes and setting an upset stomach right. You can take the coconut water in a container if you are not sure of the cleanliness of the straw.
Tea is the heavenly nectar in India
Tea is doubtlessly the most powerful and popular drink in India. Any Indian experience is incomplete without the quintessential chai. There are different kinds of chai in India that depend upon what you put along with the usual tea powder, sugar and Milk (optional). For instance, chai mixed with ginger and cardamom tastes great and it is also good for digestion. Make sure the cup is clean and the tea you get is hot and boiling.
Use mineral water to brush your teeth
As ordinary water in India may contain dangerous contaminants, it is a better idea to brush your teeth with bottled water. Gums are the direct path to bloodstream. Thus, it is discretionary to use a safe source of water rather than be vulnerable to different disease causing agents.
Practice precaution while taking a shower
You can curtail your chances of getting sick by showering with your mouth and eyes shut. As you usually don’t know the source of the water from which you are bathing, it is preferable to follow a preventive course.
Taking bath in holy rivers can be dangerous
One of the most cherished experience for any traveler to India is taking a bath in the holy Ganges. Although massive Ganga cleaning drives have been launched from time to time, the holy waters can still not be reliably trusted for taking bath, especially if some of the water gets ingested during the course. However, if you still desire, be careful to keep your mouth and eyes shut while taking the holy dip.
Communicate – speak your heart out
Communication is the best and most effective way to understand and absorb the culture of any country. However, interacting with people in India is second to none in the world with weirdest and most unique of experiences. At one time it can get really funny while at other times, so much full of insights and wisdom. As you will experience, almost anyone or everyone will be ready to interact with you. People here happily share their knowledge, outlook and understanding. Thus, if you really know those subtle nuances of interacting with the people, communication in India can be a thoroughly enriching adventure.
Learn to decode the famous Indian head wobble
Head wobbling is one of the most popular forms of non-verbal communication in India. It is also popular almost all over the world as quintessentially Indian. Different head movement may mean different things and it will take you some time to understand and get used to it. However, when understood, it can be one of the most interesting ways of communication which you will thoroughly enjoy.
Keep an open mind to understand and interpret different English accents
Being a massive country, there are 17 different principal languages spoken in India. For this reason, the regional influence is really strong. And this influence is so much pronounced on Hindi which is the ‘national language” of the country, what to say on English. Although English is widely spoken and understood, you may find it a bit difficult to comprehend what exactly is being said. In any case you can always ask them to clarify or repeat by saying “I do not understand”.
Grasp the key Hindi phrases to find a place in their hearts
Learning a few important phrases of the language brings you closer to the culture of the country. Furthermore, it also makes you closer to the people. Natives will doubtlessly appreciate it. It will also help you to strike friendships quickly which can be advantageous. You can always use some basic phrases like “Namaste” for hello, “Dhanyawaad” for Thank you, “Ye kitnay ka hai” for how much this costs, “Aap Kaise Hain?” for how are you, etc.
Cultivate a lot of patience
Sometimes communication can get really frustrating, especially when there is a large communication gap. Sometimes, it can be annoying to analyze what is being said and what is being understood and vice versa. Have patience and calmly sort out things when they get difficult. You can always use a lot of hand movements to convey yourself and what you want.
Cultivate to see humor in every situation rather than losing your nerves
The huge cultural difference will generate a lot of situations to make you annoyed or angered. But, if you really take things easy and cultivate a humorous outlook, things will become much easier to handle. Also, keep in mind that most of the people are trying their best to help and please you. So have some compassion and patience and take things in your own stride.
Money Handling – every single penny matters
The art of money handling in India is important and you need to be careful while carrying money in public places. However, one must carry a sufficient amount of cash in India to pay for little things. Buying groceries, bus tickets, taxi/auto fares and spending on other sundry expenses will be easy if you carry some cash. As a foreign traveler, check out the points concerning money handling, you must keep in mind before traveling to India.
You will need a lot a cash
Although big cities like Mumbai and Delhi have a lot of options for cashless transactions, especially in the supermarket. Still the country relies mostly on cash transactions especially in smaller cities. Thus, you will have to carry cash for most of the dealings and purchases. Break down larger bills into smaller ones and carry coins for ease. Keep your money properly guarded and segregate the amount to be concealed under your clothing, pouches or passports etc.
Use Pay pal or Western Union to transfer money from your own country to India
Pay Pal and Western Union have a lot of branches in India. You can safely and conveniently receive money from your home country. Moreover, you can use any of the service you want or the one which seems more reliable to you.
Effectively guard your money and valuables
Make sure you protect your money properly. You can easily become a target of pickpockets and beggars if you carry your cash and valuables loosely. They can literally rob you. Keep your money segregated into different areas like under your clothing, within the purse, in a pouch and inside a passport. Always properly conceal large bills. If you follow this tip, then rest assured, you will never get your money stolen.
There are many banks which allow to withdraw a good amount of money at a time
With ATM’s of reputed banks across the country, you can withdraw as much as $150 or 10,000 INR at a time. The banks allow you to withdraw whatever maximum amount you can withdraw in your home country. This becomes really advantageous for frequent travelers. Also, there are banks too that help a lot for carrying out many national and international transactions.
Avoid exchanging currency from the airports
Airports have the worst currency exchange rates than anywhere else in the world. It is better to use ATM’s rather than going for the same at airports. They are good only for the emergency purposes.
Transportation and Traveling in India – this is something worth trying
Traveling in India is not easy. Though India has one of the widest networks of roads, one of the most robust railway systems and a big aviation network. Yet, it is still not very comfortable and convenient to travel in the country. A primary reason for this is over-population and bureaucratic corruption. This results in poor maintenance and upkeep of roads, tracks and stations. But this inconvenience has its own charms. Anyone who has traveled by Indian Railways will tell you about the incredible experience. An Indian auto rickshaw ride is as much unforgettable. Let us see what Transportation and travelling in India has in store for you.
Indians drive on the left hand side
The system was introduced by the British and has since then stuck. But there is a lot of crazy driving and rule breaking in India. Anyone can pop out from any side of the road. Always wear a helmet when riding a two-wheeler and insist on a seatbelt when inside a car. India has one of the worst records for deaths due to the road accidents. So, it is better to be safe than sorry.
An Auto-rickshaw ride, it is a must
Riding in an auto-rickshaw in India can be one of your most memorable recollection of the country. They are visible everywhere and are like local taxis, best for short rides around the city. However, riding on an auto-rickshaw on the dusty, polluted and damaged roads of India can really exhaust you. Thus, it is best to properly cover your head and wear sunglasses to protect yourself from these elements. But this is the jaunt you should never miss.
Indian train journeys will be cherishing moments of your trip
Indian railways are fantastic for affordable and convenient interstate travel. They are amazing for short term journeys and you would thoroughly enjoy it. One must prefer flights for long journeys, as there are great options, to choose from affordable and cost-effective carriers.
Avoid long journeys by road, especially by bus
Roads in India are often uncomfortable, bumpy and are really dangerous. Besides, there are fewer options of super comfortable buses. Although road trips can be a great way to enjoy the countryside and understanding an India hidden from popular lore; a bus ride can make you sick and exhausted. Long distance journeys should be carried out on trains or airplanes. If you must travel by road, hire a car instead.
India for solo women travelers – quest to discover yourself
India can be delightful and at the same time very frustrating for a solo women traveler. Largely due to cultural difference, perceptions and misconceptions, a foreign lady in India can find the country really odd and trying. However, by just following a few tips and tricks, one can really make their journey smooth, easy and a lot more enjoyable.
Be Confident and learn to say “No”
People in India can be intimidating and can really invade your personal space if you are a woman. The best way to counter any unwanted activity is to remain absolutely confident. Be ready to show strength. Confidence can intimidate people and discourage them to be mischievous and take any advantage of you. Even though it may appear rude to you, it can really save you from a lot of hassle. It can further keep you away from any unwanted conversations and experiences.
Dress appropriately and cover up
Although speedily moving ahead into the future, India is still very much a conservative country. Any unwanted exposure of body is widely discouraged and disapproved. Thus, you must dress appropriately and properly cover your shoulders with a shawl or a dupatta. Also reasonably cover your legs by wearing knee length and full-length pants or skirts. While the tops should be long enough to cover your bottom. Unnecessary body exposure and tight-fitted clothing only draws needless attention. Doing so, is also considered disrespectful while vising sacred and holy sites.
Plan well ahead in time and know your destination well
It always a good idea to sit back and spend some time, learning about the destination you are going to visit. Read about the place, consult your friends, visit online groups and seek tour guides. There are a lot of internet forums and travel sites which can give you all the necessary information you want. Avoid going to places where crime is more frequent. Thus, research well and prepare yourself up. Be active both physically and mentally to be in the best of steads before your excursion.
Avoid going out or arriving at your destination after dark
It is better to be safe than sorry. Even though India is said to be fairly safe for women by the locals, but still all the negative publicity that the country has got cannot be dodged. Avoid getting out after the dark. Or if you must, travel with a group or a close buddy who knows local ways and routes. Also, book the hotel at your destination well before your arrival. It is much better to know where you are heading to after you reach your destination. Whether at the railway station or airport, being completely clueless can make you becom a prey for devious touts or worse, miscreants.
Learn to twist the truth and deceive when you feel the danger
Using discernment for your personal safety is not at all inappropriate and especially so when you are a solo female traveler. Sometimes even plain lies can really come handy if you feel any danger. It is very important to watch your body language and avoid any sort of physical contact with males. As any type of physical contact can most likely be misinterpreted. Always be on your guard while talking to males and for the most part remain completely formal with strangers. Although there is nothing to worry about always. You can find some great male friends too. But, when it comes to safety, it is better to follow precaution.
If possible, always travel with/in a group
It is always advisable for solo women travelers to India, to travel with a group. This becomes all the more important, especially if it is your first trip to the country. There are several tour companies that can organize group travel or women-only groups. Hence, you can contact them and have a tension free expedition to the country. After you get acclimated to the country, you can then always take the solo trip. Enjoy its numerous colors, sights and flavors at your own wish and foresight.
Scams in India – be prepared and stay safe
Exploring India can be quite an experience for foreign travelers especially when they have to deal with the locals. Indians are known to be dexterous, especially when they have an interest in communication. They can quickly influence you according to their wishes, with their communication skills. It is for this reason that most of the travelers can get scammed very easily. Here are few tips that can be valuable, especially when it comes to preventing oneself from scams.
A gift may simply not be a gift
Be sure of the intention of any gift before accepting it. A seemingly simple gesture of kindness and friendship can turn into a sale anytime. Thus, make sure you accept any such gifts from the people you genuinely know and are sure of their intentions. Otherwise, just politely decline.
Tampering with food or drink
This is one of the most unfortunate scams. A few shopkeepers fill in the used mineral water bottles with the ordinary tap water. They, then glue the cap to sell you the same with the price of the new. Thus, always check your packaged water for any signs of tampering. A bigger scam that you can face while traveling in rail is that the food offered to you can be laced with drugs. This can make you unconscious which can cause your bags getting stolen. Therefore, it is very important not to accept food items from strangers. Purchase eatables and drinkables only from reliable shops.
Shopkeepers can easily cheat you
Seeing you as a foreigner and unassuming of the local ways and practices, a few shopkeepers can easily befool you. The best way to avoid this is to go only to fixed rate shops. Or you can ask a trusted local friend for the same or to accompany you. Also learn the typical Indian way of bargaining as soon as possible to effectively save yourself from the scams.
Be watchful of the auto-rickshaw drivers
Drivers in India, especially the taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers can cheat you very easily. They will either quote a very high fare, take you to a wrong hotel or carry you to your destination following a longer route. Hence, they can make more money. Thus, always insist on traveling on an auto-rickshaw or taxi by the government fixed fare meters. Although, even they cannot guarantee protection from a scam.
Avoid giving money to beggars
If there is anything you would like to give to beggars, it is better to give them food (and that too only limitedly) rather than money. Offering money will not only draw a train of beggars behind you, who can as well put their hands in your pocket. You will actually be helping to sustain their often drug driven and even child trafficking trade.
Gemstone scams are very popular in India. At every tourist location, you will find scammers persuading you to buy these trinkets or stones in the name of precious gemstones. Don’t entertain these people much and if you must buy these items, make sure you sufficiently bargain the price down.
Don’t accept food from strangers and be wary of eatables tampered with
Seals of the beverage items, especially the water and other drinkables can be tampered with. Thus, always check for it before buying one. Also while traveling by train or while being at any place, don’t accept food from strangers. Such food items can be laced be sedatives and you can be robbed.
Always count your money to the last coin after you shop or purchase
Shopkeepers can easily scam unsuspecting foreigners by returning a lesser amount or change. Thus, they cheat you with money. Therefore, always check your change to the last coin in order to guard yourself from any such monetary losses.
Never pay for anything in advance
Paying in advance for anything will only increase your chances of not getting the desired service or result. Ensure that you get the desired product or service satisfaction before you pay for it. This is again a good way to prevent yourself from scam.
ATM’s are the best way to exchange money
Best way to keep yourself from getting scammed while exchanging money is to get it done from ATM’s. There is wide network of ATMs of almost all the major banks across the country. Thus, money exchange must not be a big problem.
Watch out for kids asking for stationary and beggars wanting milk
In both cases, they have a pre-arrangement with a shop to sell these items in exchange for cash. Hence, it is best to watch out what you give to these people.
Properly research your destination before you arrive
It goes without saying the benefits of researching your destination before you finally arrive at the place. Getting to know your station with the help of tour guides, city maps, and books helps you a lot. You get to know the insider information, travel tips, tricks, cheats about the place. It prepares you to expect the unexpected and equip you to counter any scams to some extent.
At many places, before sitting in the taxi or auto-rickshaw, the driver may report you damaged or non-functional fare meter. This is another scam to rip you off of extra money. Never agree to sit in an auto-rickshaw or a taxi if its driver complains you of a damaged meter. Also, always insist on travelling by fare meter whenever you hire a taxi or auto-rickshaw in India.
Scams at traffic lights
Many a time at traffic lights, you will find women (or often young girls, carrying babies or infants) and asking for money. These babies are often drugged to keep them sleep throughout the day. The realities of the begging industry in India are harsh. Young girls, carrying infants are doing so only to invoke empathy. Thus, never offer them money and if you want to offer anything, you can offer food. Otherwise, you will just be helping to sustain this cruel trade.
Pollution in India – stay protected
Due to rapid urbanization, uncontrolled growth of population and commercial spaces, India has one of the worst levels of pollution in the world. So much so that till the recent past, New Delhi was the most polluted city in the world, surpassing Beijing by 2.5 times. As they say, prevention is the best medicine and knowledge is the most potent weapon, it is best acquaint yourself with the pollution scenario in the country.
You will find tones of plastic burning everywhere
India has a poor waste management scene. Unfortunately, there is not much awareness about pollution either. Thus, you will find piles upon piles of trash burning here and there. This is one of the ways of disposing of it. Sadly most of this trash also include plastic. Thus, plastic burning emits lot of poisonous and dangerous gases which can be choking.
A majority of villages still use primitive methods of cooking
This also includes the impoverished families. Most of these families use dried cow dung cakes as fuel which produces a lot of smoke. Other fuels used such as kindling, dried wood, waste paper are equally polluting. This further adds to the already suffocating atmosphere, especially in the big cities.
Wear a gas mask or cover your face with a cloth
A gas mask will be a great companion to your visit in India, especially in the big cities. Indian atmosphere is dusty and polluted. Thus, if you are unable a get a pollution or gas mask, at least cover your face with a cloth or a bandana. Do it in order to stop fine dust particles and dangerous fumes from entering your lungs.
Exhaust fumes from vehicles are suffocating
Big, metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai etc. have a huge density of vehicles. With the rising standard of living of the urban middle class, more and more vehicles are being added every day. This has led to massive congestion problems in these cities and pollution level have reached an alarming level. The air in these cities is of poor quality and getting stuck in a traffic jam is simply asphyxiating. Thus prepare and gear up well to encounter the famous Indian traffic woes.
Bargaining in India – it work wonders!
Haggling or bargaining is the quintessential part of any shopping experience in India. Bargaining is something which is present in the very fabric of Indian psyche. You will find people bargaining even on the fixed rate items. Nevertheless, it is also one of the most enjoyable experience as well. Take it as a friendly battle of wits between you and the shopkeeper. No matter who wins, it invariably gives you a unique taste of conducting business in the country and negotiate like an Indian.
Bargain like a native
Indians are known for their excellent negotiating ability. No wonder Indian bargaining is famous all over the world. Bargaining in India is a must have skill and it is one of most interesting experiences you will ever have. Bargaining has such an effect on foreign travelers that they often end up becoming good negotiators in their home country too.
Understand how the bargaining process really works
The idea is to start really low and then gradually increase the rate. Continue it until both you and the shopkeeper reach on mutually agreeable terms.
Find some fixed rate shop if you want to avoid bargaining
Bargaining is the quintessential element of any Indian purchase. However, there are fixed rate shops too that do not compromise on their prices. So, if you want to avoid bargaining, this is where you should visit.
“Maximum Retail Price (MRP)” is not the final price
In fact, the government itself also endorses it. There is a huge margin that retailers have on a normal day to day selling items. One can always negotiate with the price mentioned as MRP. Indeed, some retailers spontaneously keep the price lesser than the MRP. If that is however not the case then remember that you can always bring the price down by negotiation.
The best practice is to shop around and compare prices
Until and unless you absolutely love an item, it is best to explore the market around. Compare prices to get a better deal. In fact, this is the technique majority of Indians adopt when they shop. This way, you will not only learn about the best price available in the market for an item. but it will also alert a shopkeeper that you know the price. Thus, you will destroy any chances of them befooling you.
Take your local friends along
Bargaining can be a lot of fun! The experience can literally get you under the skin of being an Indian. To fully enjoy the process of bargaining, it is best to take a local friend along with you. Watch the “show” of getting the price of your favorite item reach the rock bottom levels.
Etiquettes to Follow at the Hindu Temples
Visiting the many temples in the country is the part and parcel of any expedition to India. The guests visiting the country cherish the pervading spiritual bliss, the amazing and exotic rituals, temple bells, architecture, devotion and elegance.
However, there are certain etiquettes and practices that need to be followed while visiting these temples. You can follow certain other practices while inside the temple, which can help you enhance your overall spiritual experience.
Always remove your shoes
Usually, there are shoe stands outside the temples to keep your shoes. If there is no such place, then the best recourse is to keep them at the shop. You can also purchase flowers or other such offerings from the same shop. These shopkeepers have a vested interest in keeping your shoes. Otherwise, there is a high chance that someone will fancy your shoes and steal them away. Take care of them, especially if they are new or are good looking.
Enjoy the spiritual ambience and don’t let the chaos overwhelm you
The atmosphere at the Indian temples can get overwhelming especially with all the crowd and noise. It can become really difficult to concentrate and enjoy any spiritual bliss. Thus, if you want to get inward and focus on the spiritual experience, wear earplugs to dampen the voice around you. This also helpd you meditate solely on the spiritual power that surrounds you.
Find a quiet place and feel the spiritual vibrations
The best way to enjoy being in an Indian temple is to find a quiet corner, away from the crowd. Delight in the amazing vibrations that surround you. Visiting Indian temples, especially the ancient structures which are full of mystical aura can be a life altering experience. The exceptional architecture, together with the sounds and sights, takes you in a different world altogether. Hence, just relax and enjoy the great mood of the place.
Arrangements for the special “Darshan” from the temple office
“Special darshan” allows you to jump the queue and obtain the blessings from the presiding priest, officiating in the temple. This often requires a small fee which is well worth because queues at the temples can be quite long. Or else, one may has to wait for hours to get anywhere near the idol.
Keep some change to offer as donations
There are special donation boxes where you can put donation in small denominations. If it is difficult for you to carry coins, then you can keep a wad of 10 rupee notes for easy handling. If you want to donate more money, you can have the receipt from the temple office.
Hire an authentic temple guide who charges you reasonable
Temple guides can be useful and can enlighten you about the history, traditions, etiquettes and many other aspects. But make sure, they are genuine, speak good English and does not rip you off. You can contact the temple office to find a suitable guide for yourself.
If you plan to soak in the ambience, get a room near the temple itself
This is a great way to stay near the spiritual atmosphere and really dig into the very essence of temple life of Hinduism. Also, it becomes more convenient to leave your shoes and valuables behind in your room. Enjoy the pure spiritual bliss at any time of the day.
Hotels in India – a perfect option for accomodotaion
Hotel experience in India can be vast and varied. Being a huge country, India has almost all types of hotels to suit any kind of pocket. Also, the number of hotels are sufficiently abundant to let the visitors compare prices and contrast facilities and service. The following info may prove useful as to what to expect from India’s diverse hotels, while in the country.
You can find hotels in India across a wide range
In India, you can find hotels for as low as $2 per night to as high as the five stars around $500 per night. Of course, the experience of these two categories varies vastly. In the former, there may be no pillow, uncleaned bed sheets, cold showers and squat toilets. While the latter will offer one of your most exotic hotel experiences. Any hotel lying in the range between the two will be a varying blend of comfort and price. Research thoroughly before you choose a hotel. But, certainly the higher price you go for, more facilities such as the western toilet, you will get.
Cheaper hotels do not provide towels
With ultra-cheap accommodation prices, the staff will try to cut corners anywhere they could find. Hence, getting personal towels should not be expected at such hotels. Even if they do provide towels, they may be the used ones. Thus, it is best to bring your own towel, may be two or three, of different sizes.
Be Alert of your Hotel’s location
The price of the accommodation will also vary depending upon its distance from chief sightseeing locations. Always check the exact location of your hotel on the map rather than relying on the statements of the hotel staff. Again, being sure of your hotel’s location will prevent you from getting lost. So, you can always reach your accommodation at the end of the day.
Tip the staff appropriately
Tipping is very much expected and it is also a way to get better services and a more alert staff. Whenever you reach your hotel room, remember to tip the room service something like 20-30 rupees. In bigger hotels, you can give even more. This will make the staff even more perceptive to your needs and make you have an enjoyable stay.
If you feel, you should wash your teeth with bottled water
Hygiene is something which cheap Indian hotels are not particularly enthusiastic about. Thus, the water that you get in your washroom may or may not be suitable for your mouth. Therefore, brush your teeth with bottled water to be sure of the cleanliness and sanitation.
Lock your room properly, if possible, with an extra padlock
If you are staying in a cheap hotel, security of your belongings may be an issue. Thus, to ensure suitable security, guard your room with an extra padlock. There are many different kinds of locks available. Choose the one which is most reliable and difficult to open.
Navigation through Indian Airports – spare some time for it
Except for cities like Delhi and Mumbai, whose airports and associated services have been recently refurbished, navigating the airports in India may not be a very comfortable experience. The reasons could be many. However, the following guiding points may be helpful to ease your navigation through Indian airports.
Spare a lot of time to get to the airport
With the typical Indian Traffic woes well in place, the possibility of missing your flight is very much on the cards. Thus, you must keep a lot of time spare for reaching the airport. Always keep multiple options available. Be ready, for example, if at the last minute your taxi fails to appear, just in case.
Make sure your bags don’t weigh more than the permissible limit
The maximum limit you can carry in domestic flights in India is 15 kilograms. Also, you can take 7 kilograms along inside the flight. The rules are strict and the fee for any additional baggage is 5$ (300 INR) per kilogram.
Hire a prepaid Taxi from the airport to get to your hotel
Prepaid Taxis are not only convenient but they are very safe and efficient. The drivers are registered with the airport and there is little chance of any untoward incident.
It is essential to carry printout or soft copy of your e-ticket in order to get entry into the airport:
The security guards stationed outside the airport will check for these in order to allow you entry. Also, you must produce the copy of your ID proof along with your ticket when asked for.
Remember to attach carry-on bag tags at the check in
These are available during the check-in. Make sure that every bag that you are carrying on inside the flight have these tags. Otherwise, they would not be allowed past the check-in security.
Avoid the airport food
The food at the airport has been kept for a long time and hence can be stale. If you have to purchase food, buy packaged food items which can at least be more trustworthy.
Why you should come to India?
India is a unique destination, quite unlike the ones you will find anywhere else in the world. Just as its diversity renders its unlimited colors, the reasons for visiting India can be varied and numerous. India is so overwhelmingly full of attractions. In fact, figuring out reasons to visit this incredible country, hardly makes any sense.
India will afford you the experience of a lifetime
In fact, India is so vast, diverse and colorful that it is difficult to understand this incredible country. you won’t have enough of it in the whole lifetime, what to say of in a single trip. The Indian experience will stretch your imagination. It also broadens the scope of your mind to an extent, that you would have hardly conceived before. Small glitches, troubles, stress and agonies apart, India will doubtlessly offer be an experience of a lifetime.
The history of India is breathtaking:
The oldest civilization in the world, the record of the earliest activity on Indian soil is still present. The history of the country is long and full of the most incredible drama and ideas. This history gave this country its exceptional literature, distinctive monuments and fascinating tolerant character.
Diversity of food in India is simply mind blowing
With such a diversity present even in the remotest of corners, India has the most incredible recipes to offer. Indian food is an exotic mix of spices and herbs and presentation is usually an assortment of different dishes. Almost any restaurant can serve you with delicacies from roughly all the corners of the country. This heterogeneity in food is an essential and important element of the unity in diversity of India.
Find a tremendous spiritual power in the temples and holy sites of India
The Indian subcontinent is the cradle where four of the world’s major religions originated. And almost all religions of the world find their home in the country. The land of most illustrious of saints and deepest of philosophy, India will blow your mind. With its immense wisdom, accumulated through thousands of years of contemplation and reflection, the country is truly distinctive. The knowledge and intelligence delivered by the great souls like Buddha, Krishna, Rama, Shankara and many others find its home in India. Thus, there is lot to learn and introspect.
The cultural diversity in India is without any parallel
The tremendous variedness of the religions co-exist in the country. There is also almost unlimited diversity across the different regions of India with many cultures, sub-cultures, traditions, customs, language and mannerisms. India is a wonderful mosaic of delightful experiences and adventures from Kashmir in the North to Kanyakumari in the South and from Salt deserts of the West to gorgeous mountains of the East.
India has almost endless places to see and explore
Although India has been visited and explored by countless travelers, still there is something new and different every day to explore and experience. India has all the diverseness of landscapes-from the majestic high mountains in the Himalayas to grand deserts of the Rajasthan. From the vast and exotic beaches of Goa to temples of South India, the country falunts them all. With a long and an incredible history, the country boasts of stunning monuments and grand structures along with fascinating flora and fauna. There are hardly any places in India that will ever disappoint you with its charms.
Celebrate India in its own style
Festivals in India form the backbone of the cultural life of the country. In India, people celebrate festivals with great enthusiasm and fervor. These festivals are not only a way for people to express their cultural distinctiveness. But also, they are a way for different communities to come together in the spirit of common brotherhood and celebration. Here are some of the festivals that are most popular and often tend to bind the nation into one.
Diwali – marks the victory of good over evil
Also called the “Festival of Lights”, Diwali is the most important festival in India. The fiesta brings the people of different communities together. A national holiday in the country, Diwali is celebrated with exotic fireworks, sweets, exchange of gifts, parties and lots of fun.
Holi – get smeared in colors
One of the most famous festivals worldwide, Holi is the festival of colors. The festivities drive the nation with excitement and fun. Holi involves throwing colors on one another, wishing and exchanging sweets. Children and youth especially enjoy laughter and amusement. Holi in Vrindvan takes the fun quotient to next level. Make sure you celebrate Holi with your Indian friends to truly experience its festivity and fun.
Get ready for unlimited fun with our exciting Holi package
Raksha Bandhan – celebrate kinship
The festival treasures the bond of love between a brother and a sister. It involves tying of a sacred thread around a brother’s wrist by his sister. Then the brother gives some auspicious return gift to the sister. The Hindu community usually celebrates this fiesta.
Eid ul Milad – marks the birth aniversarry of Prophet Muhammad
India has the third largest Muslim population in the world with over 172 million Muslims. Eid-ul-Milad is celebrated after the end of the holy month of Ramzan (or Ramadan). during the auspicious month, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. The festival celebrates common brotherhood which also brings other communities together as well. Exchanging sweets is an important aspect of the festival.
Christmas – lets’s welcome Santa
Although India has only a small Christian population, Christmas is still celebrated far and wide. People of almost all communities visit nearby churches to light candles. Kerala cleberates Christmas in its own distinctive style which is very interesting to witness and participate.
Durga Puja and Ganesh Chaturthi – arrival of Goddess Durga and Lord Ganesh
While Durga Puja is the chief festival in Kolkata, the latter has the same significance in Maharashtra. However, both the festivals are celebrated in other parts of India as well. The ambiance, energy and excitement for the festivals are worth witnessing. There are public “pandals” where these deities are publicly worshipped and adored. At the end of the festivities, the idols are immersed in the waters of the sea.
Onam – commemorating King Mahabali
The Onam is the harvest festival, celebrated largely in South India. People wear new clothes and make beautiful decorations with flowers outside their homes. Aboriginals prepare delectable delicacies and wish each other. If you happen to be in South India, then you must visit home of any local to truly understand the colors of the festival.
Relax and Rejuvenate – bask in the bliss
India can truly be one of the best places to relax and rejuvenate owing to a number of Ayurveda spas and treatment centers. The massage and other rejuvenation techniques offered here are based on age-old customs and wisdom which are truly beneficial. Thus, if you want to experience the true spirit of the traditional healing, then India is the place to be. Kerala, the exotic backwater state is one of the best places to enjoy the age old Indian methods of relaxation and rejuvenation.
Shop until you drop
India has such a variety and diversity of shopping items and products. It will literally overwhelm and exhaust you on which item to choose. And with the important tool of bargaining in your hand, you can have many items at a drop dead prices. Thus, be ready to have a bag full of things to take home after your expedition to this incredible country.
What to pack for a trip to India
With a trip full of so many uncertainties, it is difficult to decide upon the items one need to pack for a journey to India. Lots of travelers on their maiden visit to the country are left confused as to what items they should pack. The following list of items may prove useful while preparing for a visit to the country.
Passport pouches can be great in handling money as well as bank cards close to you. The pouches reduce the hassle and risk of a usual wallet. If you are in any crowded place in India, chances are that your wallet may get stolen or your pocket might be picked. Also, keep the money segregated in different places so that all the money is not lost at once.
Charcoal tablets are a great way to stay safe from various food and water borne disorders. They are potent in absorbing all the toxins and pathogens and keep you in a good stead. However, do take advice from your doctor before using them.
Electrical systems can vary with countries. The Indian plug system is similar to what people have in Europe. So bring these plugs accordingly in order to avoid any hassles.
A very important and essential element of our diet, Probiotic should be included on a regular basis. Probiotics not only enhance the percentage of good bacteria in the body, but it also improves digestion. Further, these are a great source to boost immunity. They are indeed very essential on any travel trip to India. Since eating from a variety of sources can disturb your constitution which the probiotics can then bring back to a normal level.
The body can quickly lose electrolytes if one gets afflicted with dysentery. It can also cause severe dehydration. India being a hot and dry country makes it essential for a traveler to stay well-hydrated all the time. Electrolyte not only keeps you hydrated, but also maintains the overall chemical balance of the body. You can get electrolytes from anywhere (even in India) and they usually come in small packets or sachets. Just add them in your water intake to stay strong.
First Aid Kit
Always keep a small first aid kit with you no matter where you travel and how short the trip may be. Travelling can cause you small cuts, scrapes or bruises anywhere. Thus, it is the best idea to keep antiseptic lotions or adhesive bandages like band-aid with you. Doing so prevents you from infections and germs.
Portable Water Purifier
Bottled water may not be very reliable especially when the package is not from some top notched company. Again it is possible that the cap may have been tampered with or the bottle may have been filled with ordinary water. Thus, always carry your own portable water purifier to prevent yourself from taking any chances.
Travel Insurance is a necessary and important tool for any traveler to prevent themselves from any unseen event or circumstance. And especially in India, one must always expect the unexpected. Thus, make sure you have a valid travel insurance that cover maximum areas concerning your trip to effectively stay on a safer side.
India travel guides
A travel guide work wonders especially when on an expedition to a distinctive and unique country like India. The guide not only has detailed maps and various facts and figures, but it also contains small tips and tricks which are really useful. An India travel guide has a content of high quality and advises the readers on a personal note which is very helpful. There are almost an infinite variety of travel destinations available for any and every destination.
Some wonderful facts about India
India is densely populated and is the second largest population in the world. In fact, the population of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh alone is more than the total population of the entire Russian Federation. The state of Chhattisgarh has more people than the whole Australian Continent.
India has more than 16 percent of the world’s population living only over 2 percent of the total land area. The problem of illegal migrants and refugees still dot the country. Also, there is the absence of any effective family planning measures from the government. Thus, India is expected to soon surpass China to be the largest population in the world.
India has a long and strong tradition of democratic principles. The country is popular as the world’s largest democracy with strong institutions. Although corruption is widespread and poverty is rampant, India has been able to hold fair and free elections, after its independence.
India’s diversity is tremendous and mind boggling. Although embracing modernity with a rapid rate, the attachment to traditions is strong amongst Indians. There are powerful regional, caste and class influences. Linguistically, India has a profound diversity as well. There are over 17 principle languages spoken in the entire country while Hindi, plays the role of national unifier.
Sanskrit, the mother of all Indo-European languages was once widely spoken in India. It is the language in which most of the repository of Indian wisdom, like the Vedas, Shastras and Puranas is composed. English is widely spoken and understood. Thus, easing things a bit for the travelers coming from western countries.
Hinduism is predominant, with over 78 percent of the people following one sect or another of the religion. Besides, India is home to the third largest Muslim population in the world. Almost all the sects and sub-sects find their place across different corners of the country. Other religions like Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism occupy smaller proportions but numerically, they are still quite significant.
The railways are the lifelines of the country. The Indian Railways are the largest in Asia and second largest in the world with over 115,000 kilometer of track length. Its approximately 12,617 trains carry nearly 23 million passengers, which is equivalent to moving the entire Australian continent. Also, the Indian Railways is one of the biggest employers in the world. Over 1.4 million employees which is the combined population of Trinidad, Tobago, Mauritius, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Iceland, Monaco, Vatican City, etc.
India is one of the largest and fastest growing economies of the world with an annual GDP of 1.877 trillion US dollars in 2013. This indicates the third largest purchasing power parity. Statistics apart, India’s rising middle class are now one of the biggest consumers of high-tech technology. They flaunt swanky cars and palatial homes. Economic liberalization in the 90’s directly put India on the world map with the country’s trade reaching in billions of dollars. Apart from the already well-off middle class, India has one of the largest numbers of billionaires at 90.
Also, in stark contrast to the image of the rising India, the country has one of largest populations who live under the poverty line. As a matter of fact there are hundreds of millions of Indians who live on a subsistence of less than $2 per day. Poverty is widely conspicuous.
Although hockey is the national sport, cricket is by far the most popular. So much so that some people pronounce it to be the national game. A sport similar to baseball, one can see small children and young adults playing it in almost every other street, road, park or alley in India.
In fact, Indian tradition considers guests in the place of God. It is a great honor for Indians to have guests in their home. Thus, following on the proverb of “Atithi Devo Bhav” which means a guest is God, chances are high that people will invite you to their place.
Indians love serving their guests and genuinely helping them out. In fact, most of the people have this amazing curiosity to know and understand people from other cultures and countries. But their intention to help out is real. Even though some of them may not have enough money, they will still make an effort to please you.
Spirituality is very much a part of the lives of the Indians. This is established from the fact that one can find one or other forms of a statue or a place of worship in one street or the other. At places such as Haridwar, Rishikesh and Mathura etc. one can feel the aura of the true spirituality of India.
Indians are hard-working. They always want to make the best of the opportunity that the 21st-century modernity and globalization has to offer. Visit any place like the Mumbai and you will witness the true hustle, energy, eagerness and commitment of people. It is always amazing to find a developing culture remolding and reshaping itself to the new realities of a futuristic world.
The love of Indians for the colors is legendary. Walk around any street or market and you will find a tremendous diversity of colors, whether in clothes, food, decorations, houses and what not. The creativity and mosaic that it creates wonderfully bring in the element of beauty in anything that India has to offer.
Indians have wonderful resourcefulness and the typical Indian “Jugaad” is famous throughout the world. Anywhere, you will find an admirable usage of limited resources. An excellent ingenuity of mind to mold the stuff at hand will surely awestruck you. Although it is the poverty that drives this all, but the proverb that “Neccesity is the mother of all inventions” perfectly applies in this case in India.
India is one of the most peaceful nations in the world. In fact for the last 1,000 years India has not invaded any other country. India has always been welcoming for other cultures and civilizations. In spite of all the negative publicity that the nation gets in the world press, the crime rate in India is lower than that in the United States. Follow safety measures in big cities and overall you will feel safe in India.
No matter what your individual tastes are, the diversity of food in India is tremendous. With a wide range of flavors, textures and colors, the country casts a spell. There are almost unlimited ways of decoration and presentation and many dishes take hours upon hours to prepare. So if food is something that fascinates you then, India wlecomes you with open arms. Get ready to treat your taste buds to a variety that is not hitherto experienced before.
The country is literally crowded at places and sometimes the chaos can be overwhelming. Bustling, the streets are full of people, livestock, vehicles with potholes, trash, drainage etc. This can really get on your nerves and frustrate you. But, that is where the uniqueness of India lies. A complete contrast to streets and roads in the West, this something you will have to get used to India.
India is teeming with millions and it can be invading to your personal space. Partly due to population and mostly due to a strange curiosity people can come too close for comfort to foreigners. Since such a close proximity is otherwise not culturally rude in India, it is best to keep patience and take things in your stride.
India is a country that loves traditions. Unfortunately some age-old traditions that kept the Indian society in the grip of meritocracy and backwardness, like the exploitative caste system, still exists. Although independent India has done a lot to uplift the denied and discriminated sections of the society, the prejudices still exist.
Poverty is widely rampant and an increasing population of Indians lives under the poverty line with less than $2 a day. Thus if you feel that you are being robbed or the price quoted is way above the suitable, be patient and try to be compassionate.
Staring incessantly does not seem to be rude. Many people tend to stare at you without any purpose or with an expression less face. Most of it is harmless of course. The best policy is definitely to avoid it because people will not admit it offensive, most of the time.
You might encounter a lot of lies or bending or truth. This is again very much prevalent. In case of foreigners may partly arise out of communication difficulties. Unfortunately, you may have to get accustomed to this. But most of it is not harmful. It might be done with the purpose of earning some extra bucks. So it is best to cultivate perseverance and maintain your poise.
Spitting and throwing trash is commonplace was common. Many men chew betel leaves with tobacco (called “paan”) and throw red colored spit around corners of public places.
Again littering and trash can be widely seen across India. There is little conscience of keeping the public places clean and one can witness piles upon piles of trash at some places. And sadly most of this trash (containing a lot of plastic) is burned when not picked, aggravating the already acute pollution problem in the country. But, with the initiatives of the Government, people now maintain more cleanliness than before.
India will be one of your most breathtaking adventures, spiritually enriching experience and a journey full of wisdom, vision and insights. Brace yourself to drown yourself into an ocean of overwhelming encounters on your journey to a “wonder called India”. Did we miss anything that should have been a part of planning a trip to India? Do let us know using the comment section below.
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