Carving of an elephant
Like any other country in the world, India has certain areas that are less savoury to walk, eat or travel in. It is important for tourists to be informed so that their holiday is as safe and enjoyable as possible. The following travel tips have assisted many other visitors to this wonderful land:
1. Only pack the essentials. India is fantastic for walking tours as there is so much to see around every corner. Lugging a heavy bag or backpack around is unnecessary and unpleasant.
2. Pack light, cotton clothing that breathes. India can get very hot and it is important that you keep cool. It may be wise to pack less than you need and buy local clothing on arrival, as this is designed for the heat.
3. Wear comfortable shoes.
4. Drink plenty of water. It is wise to buy bottled water (check that the seal has not been broken). Should it be necessary to drink tap water, always check that it is safe to do so.
5. Apply plenty of high factor sunscreen and wear a broad-rimmed hat.
6. Carry moist towelettes to keep hands clean and always wash any fruit or vegetable before eating it.
7. Do not buy food that has been lying exposed in a marketplace. It is unlikely to be fresh.
8. Hotel Laundromats are not likely to be very gentle on your clothes, so do not allow them to wash special garments or delicate fabrics.
9. English in understood in most major cities and towns. However, it may be wise to learn a few Hindi phrases or words. For example:
a. Yes – Hahn
b. No – Nahin
c. OK – Achha
d. Thank you – Dhanyavaad
e. Water – Paani
f. Tea – Chai
g. Fruit – Phal
h. Vegetable Sabzi
i. Medicine – Dava-ee
10. Do not purchase any transport tickets through an unreliable source, they are often invalid.
11. Be aware of pickpockets and bag-snatchers at all times. Carry only the money you need for the day on an inner belt, rather than in something that can easily be grabbed.
12. Travelling by train is cheaper, particularly for overnight trips, which save on hotel costs.
13. If driving a hired car in India, be very careful to avoid animals and people wandering in the streets, particularly at night.
14. Avoid asking locals for directions; they try to help even if their information is incorrect. Rather, buy a reliable map.
15. Moving the head from left to right usually indicates an affirmative answer (in contrast to western culture, where shaking the head indicates the negative).
16. Ensure that you are allowed to take photographs at certain tourist attractions as there are frequently limitations and restrictions. Be very careful of taking pictures of women, this is not always taken to kindly.
17. Remain sober, respectful and quiet in places that are considered holy by Indian locals (temples, mosques etc…)
18. Be aware of religious or customary requirements before entering temples, such as removing your shoes or washing your hands.
19. If you are not allowed into a place of worship because you do not subscribe to the faith, it would be respectful to accept this limitation and leave rather than trying to charm or fight your way in.
20. Women should be particularly careful to dress modestly (a loose blouse and long skirt is acceptable) as a sign of respect and in order not to be stared at.
21. Leather products are frequently prohibited as most Hindus and Jains are vegetarian, and revere animals as more than pets.
22. Carry medication for an upset stomach on you at all times.
23. Enquire with a travel clinic regarding medication and shots for Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Dengue Fever, malaria, etc… Remember to carry your certificates of inoculation with you at all times.
24. Use insect repellent liberally.
25. Tipping is not mandatory, and is not even expected at average or below average eating establishments. Even when a tip is paid, it is not a percentage of the total amount of the bill but, rather, a few rupees. It is recommended that you tip snake charmers or camel riders that you photograph on the street.
26. Do not accompany someone who promises to take you to a better shop with greater bargains than the one you are in. These ones expect large rewards for their ‘efforts’.
27. Women need to be very aware of not coming across as flirtatious, while always remaining friendly.
28. Women should never accept a ride to anywhere or share a taxi or rickshaw with somebody they do not know.
29. There are usually women’s queues for everything, and females need to cooperate with these.
30. Women should always lock their hotel rooms when they are inside.
31. Do not visit the homes of friendly locals who invite you for tea or a meal.