Travel Tips for India
 
      Smart Pack | Language | Travelling | Some notes... | For God's sake
| Health | Tipping | Shop tactics | Women travelers | Safety

Online Travel Tips for India

 
Wear your smile and stick tight to your sense of humor. It will definitely help you through the myriad complexities that make up a trip to this fascinating region.
 
Smart Packing Tips
The lighter the bag, the lesser you sag ! Nothing new to say here except 'Travel Light'. Yet, in your enthusiasm to have a weightless bag, do not throw out the essentials.

Travel Safety Tips and Luggage Tips  for India

Cottons or synthetic blends are most practical for Indian summers. Don't get synthetics that don't 'breathe' - they'll make you what else but breathless !

The sun will usually be glaring at you most of the day. So a wide brimmed hat and sun glasses are a must. Winters can be chilly. Come armed with sweaters and light jackets. A collapsible umbrella will help you stay dry during the sometimes-sudden, sometimes-continuous rain during the monsoons.

Sun screen lotion (lots of it) should be a permanent part of your bag. Also carry a sewing kit, pre-moistened towelettes, pocket knife with can opener, lock and key for each duffel or bag, impact-resistant flashlight, spare batteries (unless they're a popular size). Sports enthusiasts should bring their own tennis or golf balls – these are expensive in India. A blow-up neck pillow is excellent for buses and trains. Eye patches add to comfort. If train traveling, a bike chain is a must to lock your packs up on trains. A good first aid kit you should have too.

If you are a mountain goat or a trekker, bring a day pack that will hold some essentials like sweater, camera, water bottle etc.

Delicate fabrics will get the care and attention they need only at a 5 stars’ laundry room. If you aren’t staying at one, think twice before carrying them.

Language Tips in India

For most parts of India, you won't really need to mug up any local lingo. You possibly cannot - there are 18 recognized languages and over 1600 minor languages and dialects ! But there is good news. Elementary English is commonly understood in cities and towns as it's taught in most schools and colleges. English is also what the Government and corporate world writes and talks in. By the way, did you know that the English language has accepted a lot of Hindi words - veranda, chai, pyjamas, jungle, loot....there are lots.

Yet, if sometime you get stuck, Hindi should help you get going. It's spoken in fair parts of north India and understood in the west too. Down south is the domain of the Dravidian languages. It's either English or a regional language that will do the trick. So, pick up some words in both Hindi and Tamil and get going.

 

Some phrases

My name's John - Mera naam John hai
Please help me - Meri madad karo
Where can I get... ? - Kahan milega.... ?
Where is the bathroom ? - Bathroom kahan hai ?
How much shall I pay you ? - Kitna paisa hua

And words....


Yes - Hahn
No - Nahin
OK - Achha
Thank you - Dhanyavaad
Water - Paani
Tea - Chai
Day - Din
Night - Raat
Fruit - Phal
Vegetable Sabzi
Medicine - Dava-ee


Tamil - Some phrases

How are you ? - Ehpaddi Irrukinga ?
Where is the bank ? - Bank enga irka ?
Help me - Help pannunga (Help is a commonly understood word)
Where can I get...? - .....enga kadaikkum ?
How much is this for ? - Ithu evvallavu ?
I don't have change - Sillarai illai
My name is.... - En peyar...

And words...

Hello - Vanakkam
Yes - Aama
No - Illai
Water - Tanni
Milk - Paal
Thank you - Nandre
Please - Dhayavu seitu
Fruit - Pazhlam
Vegetables - Karikai
Medicine - Marundhu
Traveling Tips
India is a huge country. And you can travel through a myriad ways. Choose what you fancy - cycle rickshaws, tongas or horse driven carriages, hand pulled rickshaws (in Calcutta only), buses, trains and airplanes. Air Travel Tips for India

Never buy railway/air tickets or book hotel rooms through touts. These could be invalid. Save yourself all those logistical hassles. Simply, try us !

Get your domestic tickets done in advance and save some precious energy and time. Also, there are 'peak' seasons when tickets aren't available. So, better not take chances. And, now you anyway know where to ask for tickets from, don't you?

Come prepared for delays, especially while flying in north India during winters. Smog envelops cities and take-offs are impossible sometimes for hours. Carry a book or a photo album that you love going through again and again and...

Pickpockets ant around – especially at crowded haunts like airports, railway station or even some popular markets and tourist spots. Wear an inner money belt.

Fares for taxis and auto-rickshaws change frequently and do not always conform to the meter reading. Ask for the latest official fare-conversion tariff-card. Fleecing is common so just keep your cool and act smart !

Trains are a cheaper travel option for long distances and saves you overnight hotel expenses. Moreover, it is a lot of fun....a great chance to see the countryside and mingle with the locals.

Ask for an upper berth in the 2nd class, 3-tier sleepers. The lower berths are used as seats during the day and your berth is your reserved sleeping space after 2100 hours. Comfortable, isn't it ?

Samosas, biscuits, pakoras, tea, ice-cream are easy to come by on most bus/railway stations. Though if your palette or tummy doesn't quite relish all this, carry something along. Some distance trains have a restaurant car near the upper class bogies that serves meals and tea.

Self-drive car hire isn't really quite the scene in India. Yet, if you opt for it, take extra precaution - stray animals like cats, dogs, cattle and pedestrians often just amble along. Night driving is risky - truck drivers can be rash and callous and other vehicles might not use lights. Must carry a spare can of petrol. Finding diesel at a filling station is easier than getting petrol.

The yellow & black taxis plying in most towns and cities are metered. Just incase you are told that the meter doesn't work, fix a fare before riding with him. You can ask the hotel desk, your guide or a local for an approximate fare to your destination.

 
Some more tips...
Simple rules to be followed by the book -
Travel Security Tips for India
People are generally friendly and willing to help. Guess that's why they will always have an answer to your query - even if it's wrong! This is mostly true about direction asking. So, instead look for milestones and overhead signs. Now, don't get hassled if road milestones and boards have film posters, circus announcements or marriage bureau ads pasted on them. Hey....this is what adventure is all about ! Move on and you shall get there !

Never leave an unlocked suitcase in a hotel room or an unattended one on airports/ train stations.

Hindus do not eat beef and Muslims don't eat pork. Don't upset them by offering what they cannot eat.

In conversations with locals, remember that a left-right nod of the head may stand for 'yes' and not 'no'. So when you ask the waiter for your favorite tipple and he wiggles his head left and right, don't feel sad. It's time to enjoy the sip !

Photography could be an issue at some places. For places of military importance like railway stations, bridges, airports, defense installations and sensitive border regions, you would require to seek permission from the authorities concerned. A few wild life sanctuaries levy a much higher fee. The Archaeological Survey of India issues special permits for shooting at monuments with tripods and artificial lights. Yet, Indians love posing for a picture. But, in some traditional societies, take care before focusing your lens on women.

 
Religious and Cultural Tips
Mind you, religion is a sensitive topic for most Indians. It is nice to keep your rational / logical self under wraps and follow the harmless norms. Just be sober and friendly in any holy place and remember some must-dos that should keep everyone happy.
 

Step no. 1 is to remove your shoes, sandals, sneakers, slippers etc. This is done to keep God’s place clean. If you hate walking barefoot and are lucky enough, there might be a cloth overshoe provided to you. Also, wash your hands and feet, if you please - it isn't compulsory but just another sign of reverence to the deity.

Alcohol is a strict no-no inside the premises, though, in some temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, liquor might be the holy offering itself. It is said that Shiva loved his sips and probably needed them to beat the cold in his homelands, the snowy Himalayas.

At some holy places, you might not be allowed in if you don't practice the faith. Don’t mind this. And, worst, don’t force or bribe to enter.

If you are a woman and in a dress that exposes your legs or hugs your body etc., beware. Though you might not be stopped from entering the sacred place but such dresses are seen 'indecent'. An Indian attire like a Sari, salwar-suit is ideal. A loose blouse and a long skirt can do too. Covering your head before entering a Sikh Gurudwara or a mosque will be appreciated. And when you enter a mosque, step your right foot first into the courtyard. It is the ‘right’ thing to do.

Since most Hindu and Jains are veggies, it isn’t surprising that leather products like shoes, belts, handbags, camera cases etc. are prohibited.

Now for some body language once you are inside. Do not point your feet and back towards the Holy Book / the idol / altar. In a Hindu or Sikh temple, sit cross-legged or tuck your feet away.

Some temples prohibit photography in the main hall and the inner sanctum. Usually, signboards announce this. Be prudent and ask if there are no such indications. Some temples and other monuments levy a fee for photography.

In a Buddhist monastery, remember to follow a clockwise direction while any sort of movement – from spinning prayer wheels to walking around the stupa or even the exteriors. Inside, do not plonk yourself on the cushions and chairs. These are reserved for the lamas or the monks. Sit on the steps outside or on the floor. If you get to meet a rimpoche (head lama) or any respected monk, it's polite not to turn one's back on him while leaving. It is decent to remove the hat and lower an umbrella within the monastery. Basically, be your courteous best.

 
Health Tips

Travel healthy. Once on the road (or in the air ), take all precautions that will keep you from that running nose (or tummy !), dizzy body temperatures, giddy hangovers etc. Make sure you don't embark on a trip even if there are some early signs of a sickness.

 

Cholera, dengue fever, dysentery, hepatitis, malaria, meningitis (trekking areas only) and typhoid are the risks here.

Travelers from the US, Canada or the United Kingdom do not require any vaccination certificate. Though normally, an International Health Certificate is not asked for by the immigration officials, its always better to carry one. Remember to play safe ! God forbid but just in case you need medical attention, this will be an invaluable piece of paper. Carry certificates like the one for Yellow Fever Vaccination.

Precautions:
 

If you believe in taking precautions, take all the vaccinations one needs. To avoid malaria and dengue, carry mosquito repellents, nets and sprays. If you can bear the heat, wear clothes that cover most of the body.

The best thumb rule is to be a careful about food and water. Eating raw salads and fried food from a street-side vendor is a no-no. Avoid pork too. If the temptation is soaring, go to a clean restaurant that you can trust. Eat balanced and healthy meals. Keep popping those friendly multi-vitamins.

Water has to be from a reliably clean source. If not sure where the water comes from, ask for a known brand of mineral water. Always carry a water bottle with you - this will save you from dehydration too. (Make yourself a quick salt-sugar solution - 1/2 tsp. salt and 4 tbsp. in one liter of water - to re-hydrate those parched cells). If you cannot lay hands on branded water, use chlorine / iodine tablets in water. These kill germs that can cause water-borne diseases. Read the instructions carefully and do not overdo these.

Carry a first aid kit with adhesive bandages, thermometer, water-purification tablets, antibiotics, antiseptic creams and mosquito repellents.

If you fall ill, see the doc and keep cool. Tell yourself that this too shall pass !

 
Tipping Tips
In India, more often than not, a tip is money paid to get things done and not for something well done!

 

Tips are optional in a not-so-fancy restaurant. Place only a few rupees as a tip and not a percentage of your bill. But outside restaurants and hotels, tipping or ‘baksheesh’ is commonly practiced.

At most eating joints, you can pocket the tip unless you are in a swanky, upmarket one - the kinds that dot the metros and has liveried men serving you. Some tourist restaurants and hotels add a 10% service charge to the bills.

In a 5 star, the waiter, room service boy, housekeeper, porter, doormen will all expect tips. For railway porters, always fix a price before taking his services. For a not-so-heavy bag, Rs. 5 - 10 per bag is ok. Yet much depends on the weight.

No tips for taxi drivers unless he miraculously got you to the airport or put you on a train that you never thought you could make it to. Rs. 50-100 is a handsome one. Give a local guide Rs. 50 for 4 hours of his service and Rs. 80 for a full day.

Hand out a few rupees to people whom you photograph on the road like the snake charmer, the cart puller or the camel rider...

Carry small change - you'll need it often for people who help you with little things like those who keep your shoes outside temples/mosques etc.

 
Shopping Tips in India
Online Travel Safety Shopping Tips for India

The Indian bazaar - a place that puts your temptation resistance skills at test. They are stuffed with bright and beautiful things - handicrafts, silks, ethnic jewelry, curios and what have you. You can shop till you drop. Read more to be a smart shopper in India.

First, the thumb rule - get the right bargain. This stands for all items that don't come with an MRP (Maximum Retail Price) stamp like clothes, jewelry, leather goods, carpets, paintings etc. Don't grab the first good-looking thing and pay extra bucks for it. And who knows....it might be fake or of poor quality. Always, always look around, compare prices and then buy.

Exporting items like ivory, fur, animal skins, antiquities etc. is illegal. If you must have it, obtain a certificate of legitimate sale and permission for export before leaving the country.

If you don't see what you're looking for in a store, ask. There's more than meets the eye ! Most stores have little display space, so much of the stoSck is above the ceiling or in a separate room.

Visit the various state emporia and the Central Cottage Industries Emporia (most major cities have one like Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad etc.) The prices here are fixed and will give you a fair idea of the cost with a regular dealer.

If you need a delivery, ask if the price includes delivery charges. Be ready to pay additional customs (generally 20% of the cost) and handling charges (normally a 10% of the total value of the good).

Never, never believe the touts (they hang around the tourist-y spots and cities) who promise to take you to the best shop around and get you the best bargain. They usually have their handsome commissions built into the cost.

Those sparkling gems and patterned carpets look very attractive but the market is flooded with imitations. You don't want to pay for a 'real' one and get a fake, do you? Be sure you know the grain from the chaff !

Just a suggestion. While buying carpets, look for one with a Smiling Carpet label - these come from factories that do not employ child labor.

 
Women travelers Tips
Once upon a time, women traveling alone used to be frowned upon in India, but times are a changin'. Ladies travel a lot more now - infact, there are now ladies’ queues for train tickets, ladies’ compartments in trains and even ladies’ seats in buses. So you see, it is not that bad.
Special Tips for Women Travellers and Online Air Travel Tips for India

The 1st commandment - Be friendly but don't get friendly, especially with those servicing you in hotels, trains or even your cabbie or coolie.

Don't wear anything that attracts glances or invites cat calls. In metros like Delhi, Mumbai etc., it is ok to dress western but in smaller cities and towns, short skirts, tight pants or blouses can make you stand out in the crowd. Dress sober - loose and long clothes that neither define body shape nor expose it.

Never accept a ride to..…anywhere..…if there's someone accompanying the driver in a taxi or an auto-rickshaw

Keep your hotel room locked while you are inside. Chain locking your hotel room door is a smart precaution.

It's a good idea to avoid eye contact. If your eyes like to look around and you cannot resist glancing, put on sun glasses while out of doors or just carry an interesting book and glue your vision there.

 
 
Safety Tips
No place is completely safe. Yet, some are safer than others. The safest of cities can be 'unsafe' at a different time of the day or have 'seedy' places. So, why worry? Just pick your bags and trip on !
 

Don't be reckless. Rely on your senses and instincts and not so much on the local Tourist office. Remember they will always want to play it down.

Agreed that you want to experience local culture etc. but never accept invitations from locals to their homes for a chai or a meal. Not unless you want to invite trouble.

Carry your passport, travelers cheques, money, cards etc. in an inner shirt/jeans pocket. Better still, shove them in a hidden money belt against your skin. You can then dance around pickpockets and yet be safe. The worst thing to do is to carry them in a zippy bag hung over the shoulders. You will never know when someone just slips it out. The fanny bags or waist packs spell 'money' to pickpockets and make you an easy prey to swoop on. You cannot escape their nimble fingers and sharp razors.

Turn your alarm sensors on when in crowded places like airports, railways stations etc. Watch for faces that are always lurk in a radius of 10 feet.

 

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