India is on most people’s bucket lists. There’s something strangely enticing about the prospect of the exotic and chaos all mixed up in one. India is renowned for its intoxicating and wonderfully colourful culture.
It’s a shame that so much has been written of India to scare even the most ardent traveller off. But remember the media likes to provoke emotional reactions. Sad stories of poverty and the woeful treatment of women are reported frequently from India, including cases of rape. The fact is, there are many other travel destinations with similar problems.
If you’re serious about visiting India, don’t let the negative aspects reported in the media put you off. There’s a whole lot more India has to offer. Tales of overwhelmingly fantastic experiences don’t get the same media attention. And there are many. Taking a sensible approach, doing some pre-travel research and taking safety precautions while travelling will go some way to protecting you from any difficulties.
We’ve put together a simple 10 step guide to make sure you get the most out of India and stay safe at the same time.
Plan your route, but always have a plan B
Arriving in India for the first time can be quite overwhelming. It’s most definitely a culture shock for most travellers coming from the West. Travelling in India is often fraught with delays and cancellations. Don’t be surprised if you have to change your travel plans as you go. It’s always a good idea to have a plan B. Be sure to book travel tickets in advance. Train tickets sell out superfast.
Be sure to have a travel guide for last-minute recommendations. The Lonely Planet guide is packed full of good advice and great places to go.
Vaccinations you’ll need
Vaccination advice will vary from individual to individual. Check with your GP or a travel vaccination clinic for the correct jabs for India. It is generally recommended that you get vaccinated for the following if you are travelling to India:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Japanese Encephalitis
There is also a risk of Malaria in India. The risk varies between areas. Again, you will need to take advice according to your itinerary and travel destination.
Don’t cram too much in
As with any long haul trip, there’s a temptation to see as much as you can in case you don’t make it back to the continent again. To get the best out of your trip, prioritise your must-sees and immerse yourself more fully in a few places rather than flying around on a whistle-stop tour. Choose less and explore those areas more. You’ll find you’ll be able to immerse yourself in all that India has to offer. A wisely planned visit will deliver much more. Be sure to visit some villages and get out of the city. Perhaps a trip to the mountains or slower-paced Kerala in the South.
India’s Delhi belly is for most travellers a passage of rights! However, no one wants to get sick on their long awaited holiday of a lifetime, so taking a few simple precautions will hopefully prevent a major upset. Getting a dodgy stomach in India might be par for the course for travellers while they acclimatise, but it’s still worth heeding the following if you want to avoid a major health problem:
- Never drink tap water
- Never eat ice or ice cream
- Steer clear of food that has been washed in tap water (fruit you can’t peel yourself and salads)
- Check out the cleanliness of a stall before buying street food
- As a general rule, opt for stalls and restaurants where there are lots of local customers
- It’s not a bad idea to go vegetarian in India
- If faced with less than sanitary toilet stops, make sure you carry soap, anti-bacterial wipes and anti-bacterial hand gel. The chances are there won’t be toilet roll, so you’ll need to adopt the left-hand-and-water method and use the anti-bacterial supplies before you eat.
That said, India offers a vast array of regional cuisines.
Keep your wits about you
You can expect to be scammed in India. India has a reputation for it. Keep your wits about you and you’ll reduce the chances of being cheated. If you do find yourself on the end of a scam, you’d be wise to walk away, rather than get stressed about it. Consider if it’s really worth making a big fuss about.
Be prepared to bargain. Everyone does it.
With regard to crime, women should take extra care when travelling in India, even when travelling in a group, and especially so if travelling alone. British women have been the victims of sexual assault in Goa, Delhi, Bangalore and Rajasthan. Respect local dress codes and avoid isolated areas.
Avoid travelling alone on public transport, especially at night. Avoid hailing taxis on the street. If you have to use a taxi, get one at a hotel taxi rank. If you are being collected at the airport, make sure the driver properly identifies himself.
If travelling by bus or train, do not leave baggage unattended and keep passports and bank cards safe on your person. Keep a photocopy of your passport, visa and travel documents.
Don’t carry huge quantities of cash. Pickpocketing in the cities is a big problem.
Be prepared for some shocks
You’ll see great contrast in India. Social inequality is huge. It can be emotionally overwhelming to see.
Be prepared for noise. Indian cities are very noisy.
Plan carefully, keep your wits about you, and heed travel advice, and you’ll find India to be a wonderful, colourful and addictive travel destination.