A visit to India will take you on a journey through more than 5,000 years of diverse sounds, colors, cultures, and histories. This South Asian country offers both external and internal discovery for those fortunate enough to experience it. However, it’s important to note that “winging it” is not recommended in India. Simply showing up without any prior knowledge can leave you with a negative experience. To help you navigate this beautiful and inspiring country, we’ve compiled some frequently asked questions about traveling to India. Let’s dive in and equip you with the knowledge you need to make the most of your journey.
Is the water safe to drink and the food safe to eat?
The safety of drinking water in India depends on its source. It is generally recommended to drink bottled or filtered water and minimize the use of plastic. Food in restaurants and cafes is usually safe. However, street food in various cities may upset your stomach if you are not accustomed to the water and spices. Be diligent and check the cleanliness of the food establishments when necessary.
What medicines should I bring from home?
When traveling to India, it’s advisable to bring anti-diarrhea medication for the infamous “Delhi Belly.” Consider getting the malaria vaccine if you plan to visit areas prone to the disease. Additionally, bring altitude sickness medication if you are trekking in the Himalayas. Essential items such as anti-allergens, mosquito repellents, basic medicines for fever, headaches, burns, cuts, and band-aids are also recommended.
What and how should I pack when traveling to India?
While traveling to India, it’s important to bring patience, an open heart, an open mind, and an adventurous spirit. In addition, consider packing the following items:
- Charcoal Tablets/Electrolytes: Charcoal tablets help with diarrhea, a common consequence of indulging in a wide variety of Indian delicacies. Electrolytes help you stay hydrated in the hot, humid weather.
- Toilet Paper and Hand Sanitizer: Most public toilets in India may not provide toilet paper, so it’s a good idea to carry your own. Hand sanitizer is also essential for maintaining hygiene.
- Earplugs: India can be noisy, with constant honking and loud music at public places. Earplugs can help you get a good night’s sleep or create peace amid chaos.
- Cable Locks: Invest in quality suitcase locks and steel cables to secure your belongings while traveling by train or bus.
- Insect Repellent: Mosquitoes in India can carry diseases such as malaria and dengue. Use insect repellent generously, even if you spot just one mosquito.
- Sunscreen: Protect your skin from the hot and humid weather in India by using sunscreen to avoid sunburn or rashes.
How should I dress when visiting religious sites?
When visiting religious sites in India, it’s important to dress respectfully to avoid standing out. Different temples have different dress codes. Some may require you to cover your head, while others may require men to be topless. A safe option is to cover your shoulders and knees. Women can wear loose-fitting dresses or the traditional Indian Salwar Kameez, while men can opt for a shirt, t-shirt, and pants.
Is haggling allowed? How do I do it?
Haggling is a common practice in India, especially when dealing with vendors and sellers. Indians are known for upselling to foreigners, so it’s important to negotiate before settling on a price. Haggling is a major part of the Indian way of life, so don’t hesitate to engage in this cultural practice.
What are the basic rules of etiquette for visitors to India?
India is a diverse country with various cultures, religions, and etiquette rules. When visiting India, it’s best to embrace the local customs and practices. Here are some important etiquette rules to keep in mind:
- Remove your shoes when entering someone’s home, as well as temples, mosques, and gurudwaras.
- Avoid addressing people by their professional titles, especially those engaged in physical labor.
- Dress modestly, with legs and shoulders covered, especially when visiting religious sites. India is conservative, and it’s important to respect local customs.
- Eat with your right hand only. Use your left hand for personal hygiene purposes only. Avoid touching other people’s food or drink with your lips.
- Wash your hands before and after eating. Cutlery is acceptable if you’re more comfortable with it.
Can I travel to India on a budget?
Yes! India is one of the most budget-friendly travel destinations. With affordable hotel or hostel rentals, inexpensive food, and affordable transportation, you can explore India on a tight budget. You can easily survive in India for less than $25 per day, unless you have a taste for a luxurious lifestyle.
What’s the average cost for accommodation?
Accommodation costs vary depending on your preferred level of luxury while traveling. Prices can range from 1,000 rupees for basic accommodations to higher ranges depending on the location and services provided.
What are some basic Hindi phrases to help me get by?
While exploring India, knowing some basic Hindi phrases can be helpful. Here are a few to get you started:
- Namaste – Hello
- Dhanyavaad – Thank you
- App Kaise ho? – How are you?
- Mein achi hu – I’m good
What languages are spoken in India? Is English commonly used?
India has two official languages at the national level – English and Hindi, with Hindi being spoken by 40% of the population. English is widely used in street signs, menus, advertising, and tickets. Most people you encounter, especially in major cities, will be able to communicate in English.
What are the common religions in India?
India is an extremely diverse country with people practicing various religions. Hinduism is the most widely followed religion in India (80%), followed by Islam (14%), Christianity (3%), and other religions such as Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and more.
What is the currency of India? Can I use my own currency?
The official currency of India is the Indian Rupee (INR). It’s not possible to use any other currency for payment. You can easily exchange currency at banks, airports, or authorized money changers. US Dollars and Pound Sterling are the easiest currencies to exchange. In major cities, credit/debit cards are widely accepted, but in smaller towns and villages, cash or Visa/Mastercard may be the only options. ATMs are available in most places.
What are the types of toilets like in India?
Western-style public toilets are most easily found in major cities and tourist sites. The cleanest ones are often at modern restaurants and shopping complexes. In smaller towns and off-the-beaten-path destinations, squat toilets or Indian-style toilets are more common. It’s advisable to carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer, as they may not be readily available in such areas.
What are the common foods in India?
Indian cuisine is as diverse as its culture, with no homogeneity of flavor between different regions. The staple foods in India include wheat, rice, and pulses, with chickpeas being a prevalent ingredient. Indian cuisine balances spices and herbs, offering tasty dishes with medicinal properties. There are 20 to 30 basic spices used in many dishes, each serving a specific purpose. While exploring Indian cuisine, avoid tap water, raw food washed in tap water, unhygienic street food, and ice made from tap water. Let your stomach acclimatize for a few days before indulging in the different Indian delicacies available.
What’s the best time of year to visit India?
India has diverse weather patterns, with different states experiencing varied climates simultaneously. Generally, the best time to visit India is from October to March, as the climate is milder during these months. Summers can be extremely hot and humid, so it’s important to stay hydrated and pace yourself accordingly.
Do I need a visa to travel to India?
Visa requirements for India vary depending on your country of travel. Visit the official website for country-specific visa requirements. Indian visas are generally easy to obtain, as India welcomes visitors from around the world. While traveling in India can sometimes be challenging, especially for solo travelers, with proper research and understanding of the culture, you will have a wonderful time. India offers world-class hospitality to its guests.
Is India a safe place to travel?
India is generally a safe and tourist-friendly country. Petty theft may occur if you are not cautious, but violent crime is rare. At major tourist destinations, everyone is treated with equal respect, regardless of ethnicity or gender. Concerns about women’s safety in India have been raised in recent years. While incidents can occur, most women will experience, at worst, unwelcome attention from men. It’s always a good idea to exercise caution and be aware of the local culture.
Where should I travel and what should I see on my first visit?
India is a vast country, both geographically and culturally, so it’s difficult to suggest a single itinerary. However, for a first-time visitor, Rajasthan offers the true essence of India and is a comfortable destination for solo travelers. Goa and Kerala are also must-visit places. Delhi, as the capital and a heritage city, is worth exploring. Mumbai, known as the “mad” city of India, is a vibrant and exciting place to experience.
What’s the best way to get around the country?
India has an extensive transportation network that includes trains, buses, taxis, and domestic flights. Trains are a popular and affordable mode of transportation, offering a unique cultural experience. Buses are also widely available and connect various cities and towns. Taxis and auto-rickshaws are convenient for short distances within cities. Domestic flights are recommended for long distances or time-sensitive travel.
Is India LGBT-friendly?
Homosexuality was made illegal in India in 2013, but it was decriminalized in 2009. Trans rights have fared better, with legal recognition of a third gender in 2014. While homosexuality is technically illegal, authorities do not generally arrest or fine individuals for their sexual orientation. The attitude towards homosexuality has shifted, with increased discussions and depictions in the media. Traveling as an LGBTQ+ individual in India is generally safe, and harassment is rare.
I’m traveling to India with my significant other. Is public display of affection (PDA) allowed?
While traveling in India, it’s generally best to avoid excessive public displays of affection, regardless of sexual orientation. Kissing on the lips in public places is not common in India and may attract unwanted attention. It’s important to respect local customs and cultural norms.
India offers a rich and diverse travel experience that is both rewarding and enlightening. By keeping these frequently asked questions in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate the complexities and nuances of this vibrant country. From the safety tips to the cultural etiquette, embrace the incredible hospitality, flavors, and wonders that India has to offer. Get ready for an adventure of a lifetime!
Q: Can I pay for things in my own currency in India?
A: No, the official currency in India is the Indian Rupee (INR). You will need to exchange your currency to INR.
Q: How many languages are spoken in India? Is English commonly used?
A: India has two official languages at the national level: English and Hindi. English is widely used and understood, especially in major cities.
Q: Do I need to tip in India?
A: Tipping is not mandatory in India, but it is appreciated. It is customary to tip around 10% of the total bill at restaurants, and small tips for services such as hotel staff, guides, and drivers are also appreciated.
Q: Are there any cultural customs I should be aware of?
A: India is a diverse country with various cultural customs. It’s important to be respectful of local traditions, dress modestly when visiting religious sites, remove your shoes when entering homes or temples, and be mindful of local customs regarding food and interactions.
Q: What are some must-try dishes in India?
A: Indian cuisine is incredibly diverse and offers a wide range of delicious dishes. Some popular ones include butter chicken, biryani, dosa, paneer tikka, samosas, and masala chai.
Q: Can I use my mobile phone in India?
A: Most international mobile phones work in India, but it’s important to check with your service provider regarding international roaming charges. Alternatively, you can purchase a local SIM card for your phone.
Q: Are there any specific health precautions I should take before traveling to India?
A: It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or travel clinic before traveling to India. They can provide guidance on vaccinations, medications, and health precautions specific to your needs.