Traveling to India is an adventure of a lifetime, exploring a world of its own. Here are essential tips you should know before your first trip to India. They will help you to stay safe, healthy, and to get the most out of your trip to India.
I was a female solo traveller when I first came to India. I was excited to explore new places, yet concerned about my safety, health and the general comfort of visiting India. The tips below would have really helped to ease my mind and to better prepare for this wonderful trip ahead.
Top tips for your first trip to India
1) Save Transportation
In India you can book Uber services, as well as the local equivalent called Ola. Both transportation apps allow you to book drivers to your exact destination. It is a safe way to travel as all drivers are certified and your route is tracked via GPS. Offering a fixed price, you can be sure that you won’t be taken advantage of.
2) Exchange Money in Advance
You might be in trouble if you are planning to withdraw money only after you landed in India. It was a shock for me to learn that many ATM machines don’t work in India. If you encounter that case, don’t worry: Nothing is wrong with your card, it’s just the faulty ATM machine. Either way, just make sure that you travel to India with some cash in your pocket.
3) Cash Only
Talking about cash, you will be heavily relying on those colorful bank notes. Not many places take card payments (don’t even start with mobile payments) so bear in mind to carry enough cash with you (e.g. taxi rides, restaurants, etc.). Moreover, I recommend breaking your money into smaller notes at the airport.
4) You will be stared at
You might think that Indians have seen many tourists and are used to foreigners. You thought wrong! It doesn’t matter where you are – in a large city or in a rural area – in India foreigners are the centre of attention. Especially as a young woman you will be stared at. Be prepared for people asking you to take pictures with them. If you agree to this, please make sure that you take a group photo because otherwise you might not be leaving the place anytime soon.
5) Bring Tissues
Coming to a rather unlovely subject, we need to address the toilet situation in India. There are many, many places in India, which do not have toilet paper. So bring tissues everywhere you go, just in case.
6) Offline Maps
One of the apps that I use most on my travels is Google Maps. I LOVE their feature of downloading offline maps to your phone. You can even highlight points of interests in your map (I always mark my hotel). Despite the internet being quite fast and reliable in India’s larger cities (e.g. Delhi or Mumbai), you will be on the safer side if you have your offline maps at hand. You never know where you need to navigate next.
7) Hand sanitizer will be your best friend
Have you heard scary stories of travellers falling sick in India? I have to warn you, they are all true! To avoid falling ill, hand sanitizer should be your best friend on your trip. Use it regularly, especially before you eat. Most foreigners are not used to the many germs and bacteria floating around, so we are the first to fall sick.
8) Only drink bottled water
Most foreigners get sick in India because they drink tap water. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to drink only bottled water. Make sure that the water bottle also makes the ‘crack’ opening sound (in some cases water bottles have been refilled with tap water).
Remember to also use bottled water for brushing your teeth, washing your face etc. I remember a friend who told me that he paid so much attention to drink only bottled water but he then ordered coke with ice cubes at McDonald’s. The ice cubes were made from tap water and he fell sick within the next 24 hours. Lesson learned, don’t consume any products which might contain tab water. That includes no ice cubes, milkshakes, or milk which is often diluted with water. Lastly, I recommend staying away from salads as well because they have been washed with regular water. You will be on the safe side with foods that have been cooked.
9) Ask for less spice
In India a lot of dishes are very spicy. This will be a whole new level for our foreign taste buds. To avoid being in a minute long spicy coma thereafter, wrestling with air, you should ask the restaurant for less spice. It is not considered rude and they will be happy to give you a milder version of their meal. Enjoy!
10) Keep your bags save
You might think that holds true for every city in the world, but I have to re-emphasize that point. In India are a lot of pickpockets. Make sure that your bag is always closed and don’t carry all your belongings with you. Also, I recommend locking all valuables in your accommodation.
11) Don’t go out at night alone
When the sun sets, you shouldn’t be walking in India alone (especially if you are a girl). Again, this tip might be obvious but even local girls don’t go out alone at night. If you are getting home late, always take an Uber or Ola.
12) Know some basic Hindi phrases
It doesn’t hurt to know some basic words of Hindi when you are in India. I am not sure if the spelling is right because I only caught those from hearing but here are some phrases which might help:
• Namaste- Hello
• Acha- good
• Acha na-he- not good
• Tike hay- right, yeah or say ha/ haji -yes
• Kitna rupia- how much?
• Krupiyah- please & shukriyah- thank you
• Mutlub- meaning? Apka mutlub ho? (what do you mean?)
• Ek bottle Pani dedo- give me 1 bottle water (krupiyah- please!)
• Madat- help
• 1, 2, 3, 4, 5- ek, do, teen, cha, panch