Helpful Tips for your first time in India
Let me start with this quote I read on one of the hostel walls in Jodhpur. “Travelling is teaching you that everyone else’s perception of the world is wrong.” I’m not sure who wrote it, or pasted it on the wall, but I believe that is the most accurate quote I read for our India trip. With that said my experience will be completely different than yours or those of any other brave soul who ventures to India, that’s why you need to grab your backpack and go.
My First tip would be to take what people say in stride, before venturing off to India we were told to no ends how dangerous it is, how scary of a place it is going to be and how unbelievably dirty everything will be at all times. Yes. it was dirty, but that’s part of what made it
really beautiful. We were travelling as a group of 5, sometimes 2 and sometimes 3 depending on the day, and I can say with no doubt in my mind that none of us felt uncomfortable or unsafe during any portion of our trip.
Yes I’m sure there are unsafe places in India, and if you partake in dangerous activities there will always be more chances of running into trouble, but if you’re going to enjoy the culture, food and people and you stay in the tourist regions I felt like the chances of running into danger were slim.
My second bit of advice would be not to try and get anywhere really quickly, take it day by day and don’t have a firm schedule, because everyone and everything runs late in India, so your plans won’t always go as planned. That is one of the most frustrating and also fun things about backpacking through India. You’ll think you’re going to get on a train and have ample time to tour around the next city before your night train, but then you’re first train is 10 hours delayed and your plans have all been thrown under the tracks, literally!
Another note about the trains, they aren’t luxury, you’re in India so the night trains are crammed, we spent a bit of extra money and bought tickets in the sleeper trains with AC, but they still weren’t the best when you’re going to be spending around 12+ hours laying in the bed. They do give you bedding though and you are able to buy meals on the train. If you have to go to the bathroom though you’ll be going over a hole which drops right onto the tracks below ( so be careful not to drop your phone in the toilet 😉 )
Scams, Scams, Scam… India has to be the worst place we have travelled to for Scams. They spot you from a mile away for being a foreigner, and then they are on the move to get your money, and they are quite clever in how they go about this. Varanasi is the worst for trying to get donations for the hospice that doesn’t exist, and when you don’t give them money they curse you and tell you you’re going to have bad Karma forever. If I had a dollar for every time I was told I’m going to have bad Karma I would have had enough to happily donate to their “causes”. Still be friendly but be cautious that a lot of the people in India are poor and looking for ways to get a few extra rupees from the foreigners.
Go Vegetarian and don’t drink the water. Like most Asian countries you don’t drink the tap water in India, always stick to the bottles and this isn’t going to add much to your budget because a 2L bottle of water will run you only 15 rupees, which is about 30 cents CAD. As for the food, it’s extremely easy to be vegetarian in India because a large portion of the population is already vegetarian, so they have a large array of veg friendly dishes. Justin is a total carnivore when we are in Canada, so if he can cut out meat for a month I have faith anyone can do it!
Don’t plan on partying and drinking every night. Unlike other south east Asian countries India isn’t packed with buckets and cheap beer. Once you get south towards Goa the drinks become cheaper and there are many places to go out clubbing to, but if your’e sticking to the northern parts in Rajasthan then you’ll soon discover that they aren’t big on drinking in public. The bars and places to buy liquor are down questionable dark back allies in dark hole’s below buildings and are mostly filled with sad old Indian men. Also keep in mind that yes, you can buy a beer but it will run you around 200 Rupees, which is the same cost of an entire delicious meal, so depending on your budget it might be nice to detox your body while you’re in Northern parts of India where they are really religious.
One more thing… watch out for the cows. They seam really calm and docile in some of the cities, but I had one charge down the street and hit me right in my ass the once day while I was casually shopping in the market. The local’s couldn’t contain their laughter and when I asked why the hell the cow did that they replied with “You were in her way”. So they might seam nice, and it’s funny to see them wandering through every street, but beware… there are some that are out to get ya!
So what are you waiting for? Book your tickets now, go explore this amazing country, and experience India for what it is. It’s truly one of those countries you need to experience first hand, not even the endless amount of stories I have can really explain how insanely wonderful and chaotic this country is.