Top 20 Travel Tips For Visiting India
Travelling throughout India can be a little overwhelming for some thanks to its bustling cities, manic roads and varying languages, but it can also be an incredibly enriching experience. Every state within the South Asian country has its own identity, offering an array of striking landscapes, intriguing cultures, and delectable food, making it the perfect place to visit for those who love to travel.
But how do you travel seamlessly through a country as varied as India? Can you attempt it without having to buy a guide book for each state? Arm yourself with this list of insider tips and you’ll be equipped to travel across India no matter which states are included in your itinerary!
Skip ahead to read:
- Understanding India’s local languages
- How to act in religious areas
- How to deal with the Indian traffic
- Whether it’s safe to travel at night
- Whether it’s safe to buy medicine in India
#1. Where you should travel within India
Don’t get too hooked on the idea of flying into Delhi and only exploring the Taj Mahal and Rajasthan. There’s more to India than Delhi alone, and you’ll miss out on so much if you spend all your time in Delhi and its surroundings.
Why not fly to Bangalore or Kochi and explore the southern states or fly to Kolkata and explore the stunning North eastern part of India?
#2. How to find the best accommodation in India
When it comes to finding quality hotels, hostels and homestays in India, it pays to do your research. If you’re booking ahead of your journey, be sure to read reviews to gauge if the area is safe and the accommodation provides everything you’re looking for. If you’re booking as you travel through the country, speak to locals or fellow travellers in the area to see if they have any tried-and-true recommendations.
#3. Which Indian phone networks are best
Airtel, Jio and Vodafone are the most commonly used mobile phone operators in India, but if you‘re travelling to remote locations I highly recommend buying a BSNL sim card. All the networks are affordable, and you can purchase sim cards easily from any authorised stores or small mobile phone vendors located around the major cities.
#4. Where to find the best food in India
The best food in India is definitely not found in 5-star hotels or restaurants that provide a fine dining experience. If you want to taste authentic Indian cuisine anywhere within the country, visit the smaller, cleaner restaurants, dhabas or local messes. Yes, they can be a little crowded, but that’s all part of the ambiance and truly authentic Indian experience.I do recommend you carry diarrhoea medicine with you when eating out in India, but this isn’t because the food is unhygienic – it’s because the local spices might not always agree with you! That said, when it comes to drinking water in India, always buy bottled water to help prevent any stomach upsets.If you don’t tend to eat large servings of food, I recommend asking waiters to explain the quantity of each dish – if it’s a lot, you can ask them to provide a smaller portion. They’ll likely still charge you the full amount for the dish, but at least you won’t waste food. Otherwise, if you’re eating with your partner, friends or family, why not order a few mains and share them?
#5.The best transport options in India
The cheapest way to travel around Indian cities is by 2-wheeler motorbike. They’re easy to hire, fast and convenient, and allow you to spend less time in traffic. However, they’re not for everyone.If riding motorcycles isn’t an option for you, I suggest you use app-based taxis in larger cities such as Ola Cabs or Uber and local, private taxis in smaller cities. Buses are safe but generally crowded, so if you’re not prepared to get up close to fellow travellers, this is one form of transport in India to avoid. Buses can transport you from one city to another, as will taxi drivers if the fare is within your travel budget. This goes without saying, but do not get in a car with strangers – always stick to the regulated transport options available to you
#6. Understanding India’s public smoking laws
Although you might see a lot of locals smoking in public in India, it’s actually illegal in a lot of places. Do your research to understand if the area you’re travelling through allows smoking in public places. If you’re unsure and still want to light a cigarette, I recommend looking for a space where there aren’t a lot of people. However, if you get caught by those policing India’s smoking laws, you will likely be asked to pay a small fine.
Despite being spoken by over 550 million Indians, Hindi isn’t actually the national language – each state has its own language. Some other notable languages spoken include Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili, and Dogri.If you’re a native English speaker travelling to India, over 100 million residents speak English, so you will likely come across people you can ask for help if you need it.
#8. How to protect your money
When travelling in India, don’t flash your money in public spaces. Pick pocketers target crowded public spaces and are on the lookout for tourists with money. I recommend keeping your money on your in different places, including the front pockets in your trousers as you’re more likely to detect a pick pocketers stealing money from this area.
#9. What to wear in India
You are welcome to wear anything you like as a tourist in India. However, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and avoid outfits that are too revealing when out and about in public. Swimwear is perfectly fine to wear if you’re at the beach.
If you go to temples while travelling through India, please don’t offer or donate money. Don’t pay any one inside or outside the temple premises either – unless it’s for a ticket, it may be a scam. Do feel free to offer some flowers to the gods at temples, as this is a sign of respect. Given most Indian states are Hindu dominated, please don’t ask for meals that contain beef as cows are considered sacred in Hinduism.
#11. What to pay when shopping in India
Not all travellers will be comfortable with haggling, but you should learn how to do it before you shop in India. Unless it’s a major store, almost every shopkeeper will be willing to negotiate on the marked prices for their products. If you have the opportunity to shop with a local, I definitely advise doing so if you don’t want to get fleeced.
#12. Why the concept of personal space does not exist in India
When you are in a public space or on public transport in India, be prepared to let people invade your personal space. India is a crowded country, and as you spend more time there you will understand the personal space you’re afforded in your home country isn’t quite the same as it is in India, so you’ll have to embrace it!
#13. How to travel alone safely
When travelling solo in India, make sure you inform your friends and family of your itinerary and movements ahead of time. I recommend you also use a mobile tracking device to share your locations while you’re on the move and alert your loved ones of your arrival when you reach new destinations. You may also want to avoid going out at night, as this is when incidents are more likely to occur not only in India, but in any country.
Yes, the amount of traffic makes the roads chaotic in India, but the fact only few people follow the traffic rules creates even more chaos. If you are riding or driving through India, stick to your lane, learn when you need to honk (which will be a lot!), and watch the locals to learn how to navigate through the roads.
#15. How to plan the perfect travel itinerary for India
My best advice for those travelling to India is this: Don’t cram too many activities into each day. Instead, allow for plenty of rest time in between your sightseeing, as well as unexpected traffic delays and bad road conditions. This will help reduce stress and panic, while also allowing you to spend more time in each destination to truly soak up what they have to offer.
#16. Understanding India’s alcohol etiquette
Drinking alcohol is fine across all regions in India, but I recommend you don’t drink too much. Tourists are more likely to get fleeced if they’re seen to be drunk, so drink in moderation and you’ll remain alert. If you’re travelling alone, I’d avoid drinking in places that are less crowded – stick the busy areas so you don’t stand out.
#17. Whether you can trust locals
Treat the locals in Indian like you would treat people anywhere - be nice, but don’t be too nice. Keep your wits around people who are far too friendly as they may have a motive, and don’t be too trusting unless you personally know the individual – you never know what their agenda may be.
In tourist areas, it’s generally safe for tourists in India to travel at night – but stay away from places that are dark or relatively empty. As mentioned previously, if you are travelling alone, try to avoid going out at night unless it’s in a crowded space near your hotel, and let others know of your plans.
#19. When it’s important to keep to yourself
What do you do when you see something bad happening in India? It’s sad to say this, but you truly must stay out of it! For example, you might see parents slap their kids or people fighting with each other, but it may be best is to turn a blind eye and move away from the area.
I recommend bringing your usual medications – along with a doctor’s note – with you when coming to India to ensure you’ve got what you need, but you can also purchase items in India. There are pharmacies across the country, so if you need anything extra while you’re travelling, simply walk into any big pharmacy and make your purchases. Check the expiry and you should be good to go!
Travelmynation, run by Archana and Vidur, is their dream project foraying into the world of off beat travel. Their travelling and writing journey started 4 years ago when they decided to pursue this as a full-time career and since then it has been fantastic. Thanks to people who support them, they have built a good following online and with that they recently started their own travel company, Moto Overlanders, that caters to foreign tourists in India. Archana and Vidur have been married for a couple of years now and reside in Bangalore. While Archana is from the North Eastern state of Assam, Vidur is from the northern state of Punjab. To see more about Travelmynation, you can check them out on Instagram.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More India.