7 Things First Timers Should Know About India
Although the excitement that comes with landing in a foreign city with no itinerary, plans or obligations is second to none, not every country is conducive to just winging it. Case in point: travelling for the first time to India. It’s a trip that requires a fair bit of planning.
To get the most out of this expansive, exciting country, you’ll first need to think about things such as curating a cohesive itinerary, procuring preventative medication, finalising visas, and of course, what to pack. Never fear, heed the below advice and you’ll be more than prepared before you immerse yourself in a sensory explosion that will be your maiden voyage to India.
#1 First things first: itinerary packing
There are limitless options for places to visit in a country as vast as this, which you’ll quickly discover while planning your first time to India. If you try to pack too much into your itinerary, you’ll run the risk of experiencing travel fatigue and burn out before you get to enjoy all the spoils the country has to offer. Have a think about what interests you, how much time you have, and how you want to spend it. Be realistic with yourself and what you want to fit in.
You may get more out of your trip if you stick to a geographical area – eg, just the north or the south of the country.
#2 Strategy packing: the whole trip
Keep in mind while you’re packing that India is a conservative country, so it’s best to err on the side of modesty when dressing. It’s likely you’ll be visiting some globally-revered monuments, not just in New Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra – the Golden Triangle – but throughout the whole country.
Many have strict dress codes that you won’t want to be caught out on – paying an exorbitant amount for a street side makeshift. Think long-sleeved, heat protective light and versatile garments – bonus points for things that don’t take up a lot of room in your suitcase. The last thing you’ll want to do is trek around with a heavy bag in scorching temperatures.
#3 Strategy packing: day to day
Make your travel experience (and life) easier by keeping some unsuspecting necessities on you at all times.
- Hand sanitiser – to keep your hands clean but also to avoid using local water (more on staying healthy below)
- A sarong or lightweight scarf to throw around your shoulders should you need to cover up in a jiffy
- Bottled water – hydration is key
- A little bit of cash for the places that don’t accept cards.
#4 Touching down and getting around
If you’re (understandably) exhausted from the long flight and you opt to jump in a taxi to your hotel or hostel, make sure you do it from a prepaid counter or company from inside the terminal. Airports are a favourite hangout for scammers, and they can spot a tourist from a mile away!
If you’re travelling with a few people and are staying in one place for a few days, something to consider looking into is splitting the cost of hiring a car and a driver. Otherwise, taxis and rickshaws will (most of the time) get you where you need to go. Just make sure you have a strong stomach, mind the cow standing in the middle of the road, and hang on tight!
#5 Keeping it clean
The horror stories of “Delhi belly” and falling ill in India spread far and wide, but it’s easy to take precautions to ensure you’re doing what you can to minimise having a bad reaction to something. Water is the number one thing that’s going to trip you up, so avoid any instance a where you think the food in question has been washed in or contains water. Think ice, ice cream, salads, and fruit.
Additionally, before you launch into sampling the local fare, let your stomach acclimatise for a couple of days. If you do ultimately opt for some street food, do a mental assessment of the standards of cleanliness. As a precaution, it’s a good idea to carry probiotics and charcoal tablets to keep your gut happy.
#6 Safety first and stay sharp
You can’t afford to be precious about your personal space in a place as densely packed as India. You’ll likely encounter some blank stares and gawking – but remember these come from a place of curiosity over anything.
The huge disparity of wealth in India also means lots of beggars – especially where tourists are rife. While it can be quite confronting, donating money doesn’t always solve the problem. Many of these people are exploited by bosses who force them to beg.
#7 Go with the flow
One thing you’ll never experience in India is boredom. It’s a place of many surprises and moving parts. Missed trains, delayed planes, tour cancellations and surprise scams – you may experience all or nothing. Having a flexible mindset and rolling with the punches – as obvious as that may seem – will put you in good stead to have nothing short of the time of your life.
Check out our guide to visiting Mumbai for more.