India is one of the biggest and most populated countries in the world. It is a land of rich history that intertwines with myths and legends dating back thousands of years. The country is a combination of hundreds of cultures and languages. You could spend your lifetime exploring India and only discover a fraction of its secrets.
Nowadays, India is known as one of the hardest and most extreme countries to visit, a spot only explored by the bravest of travelers. After spending some time in India, I realized that it is a place I think everyone should attempt to visit.
While India is not the easiest country to explore, if you are prepared, it’s not nearly as bad as you might think. Here are some things you should know before traveling to India that will make your journey easier.
In the last couple of years, India has made it insanely easy for people from the USA to get a visa. The whole process can be done entirely online and at the cost of less than $100. My visa application was approved within twenty-four hours. Once your visa is approved, all you need to do is print out a slip of paper and carry it through customs. Certain airports like Delhi even have special lines for E-Visa’s only, making it simple and easy to enter the country.
The E-Visa gives you double entry into the country over a six-month period.
The seasons in India are extreme and it is vital to plan your visit at the right time. October through March has the best weather for traveling. However, keep in mind these months are the peak tourist season. Lines are longer and hotels are more expensive.
On the other hand, from May through September you might want to avoid India. The heat is sweltering with temperatures reaching into the 100’s daily. The hottest day I experienced reached 116 degrees, and that was not even the height of summer. These months are also the monsoon season so there is heavy rainfall almost every day.
Before going to India, I was warned several times to watch what I ate and to avoid street food if I could not see it being cooked. Foolishly I thought, because of the amount of time I have spent in Asia eating tons of street food at-hole-in-the-wall restaurants, these rules did not apply to me. I was wrong! Within hours of eating my first street food in India, I was sick. You better believe for the rest of the trip I was picky about what I ate.
If the worst happens and you do get sick, go to any shop and buy some rehydration packets. They are a lifesaver.
Asia is world famous for haggling with merchants. India is no different. In fact, in India, you can bargain almost everything from Tuk Tuk rides to some hotel rooms. Locals do not see bargaining as rude; actually, they expect it.
Local transportation in India has a bad reputation, which leads to many travelers flying between destinations. However, I took a few trains and buses in India, and they were much nicer than you would expect.
On a 14-hour overnight bus ride, I not only had my own sleeper car but my compartment came with a glass window and by closing it off, I had my own little moving apartment. I have taken dozen of overnight buses throughout Asia, and India is the only country where I had this luxury.
Admittedly, the trains are a little bit rougher, but still very manageable if you book a good ticket ahead of time.
India is a country with a variety of religions, but they all respect and expect modest dress. Showing shoulders and legs is overlooked for foreigners but it is still not a common or respectful practice. Plus, it will only draw the wrong type of attention.
Perhaps the most important thing to know before traveling to India is what you want to see and do in the country.
You should book hotels before arriving in a city. Also, have the address pulled up on a map to show cab drivers, and written down somewhere in case you need it for reference.
Because of the size, number of religions, and different cultures in India you need to research it more than other countries. Many of the notable sites in India are closed one or two days a week. India also has numerous holidays on which these tourist attractions are not open.
The people of India are friendly, but like any country, some people will try to scam tourists. Make sure you are aware of popular scams in the areas you are visiting.
India is vast. You could travel the country for months and you would only cover a small part. It also has the potential to be stressful for tourists. Make sure not to overschedule your trip, or your time in India can turn into a frustrating disaster. Look at the amount of time you have, travel slowly, and plan accordingly.
One of the things travelers find most off-putting about India is that fact that people stare. You just have to realize that the locals do not mean anything rude or harmful by it; they are just curious. It is not seen as rude for crowds to stare at foreigners in India. It does take a little getting used to but if you go with the mindset that it is ok; the transition will be a lot easier.
India is a beautiful country. The people are helpful and go out of their way to help travelers. The landscape is varied from tall mountains to flat plains. It is a country worth exploring. If you are curious about traveling to India then put those fears aside at these things will help make your travels through India easier.
Would you visit India?
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Stephen Schreck is a world traveler, nomad, and adventure backpacker. Knowing a life of aimlessly wandering the globe in search of adventures was the only life for him he set out to make his dream his reality. Currently he is trying to conquer his fears and tackle his bucket list. Follow Stephen's adventures at A Backpacker's Tale or on social media on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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