India Travel Tips – Part 2
19 Safety Tips for a Safe Exploration on Roads
Feel comfortable and blend in through the way you dress. Avoid looking like a tourist. Remember, there are several expats living in India, so a foreign face is nothing new. If you’re lost for directions, approach uniformed policemen who are everywhere in urban areas.
- Avoid dimly-lit and sparsely populated areas at odd hours. Walk in a group or with at least a fellow traveler during the night
- A point and shoot camera is ideal to be slipped back safely in your pocket after use. If you have to use DSLRs, secure them in your bag safely after use, rather than letting them dangle around your neck
- Leave all your valuables such as excess cash, travel docs and jewellery back in the hotel safe deposit
- A pickpocket will invariably spot you. To stay safe wear your backpack kangaroo style in front. Have your purse hanging by your neck behind the bag with the opening facing your tummy. This will make it impossible for any pickpocket to reach your valuables
- Write down the name and address of the hotel in a note pad. If you find it tough to communicate with a taxi driver, you can always show him the address
- Finally, take it slow and spend time in each location. Everything in this country has a history. India is as much about its people as it is about the magnificent monuments; so, communicate with people when presented with an opportunity
- Politeness is a trait of Westerners but it doesn’t always work in India, especially with the less educated like the waiters, hotel staff, drivers, and porters. In other words, being overly friendly with them might be perceived to be an “invitation.” Unfortunately, such men consider western women to be more “available” than Indian women. So be confident and stern in your communication (not rude).
20 Dealing with Strangers
There’s nothing like striking a cord with a local and being invited to their home for a lunch or an overnight stay. India is a society where generations of family live under the same roof. You might find this fascinating but one aspect that’ll not escape you is the warmth displayed towards you. A majority of India believes in “Atithi Devobhava” (A guest is equivalent to God).
Remember, not all invitations are equal. You are better off being invited for a dinner or lunch by a well-educated couple or woman, than a man. If you manage to strike a conversation on-board your flight, there’s nothing like it and if you’ve been invited for dinner, grab the opportunity.
But what if you get an invite on the bus or the local train? Politely refuse, unless the woman or the couple inviting you seems well educated and from the upper class of the society.
Completely steer away from accepting food and drinks during travel, especially during train travel. Such eatables might be laced with sedatives with an intention to rob you when you’re asleep.
21 Dealing with Beggars
Beggars can make your heart melt and at the same time be quite annoying when they just refuse to leave you. The Indian government is trying to curb the begging menace through rehabilitation, so you’re better off not being too generous to them with your wallet. Don’t go into trying to get into their backgrounds by striking a conversation individually. There are non-governmental organizations in India who are dedicated to such work. If you really feel you must do something, get in touch with such organizations rather than dealing with beggars themselves.
22 Gay and Lesbian Rights
Same-sex relationships are not widely accepted in India, although there is a changing perception in urban India. Rural India, however, still views such relationships with disdain. The government regulations too are not favorable towards same-sex relationships.
23 Public Smoking and Consumption of Liquor
Smoking and consuming alcohol at public places is strictly prohibited owing to recent regulations and is punishable. Although you might find a few locals flouting this law, we urge you to adhere to it and refrain from such act.
24 Cycle Rickshaws and Tuk Tuk
Your trip to India is incomplete without a photograph on a cycle rickshaw and tuk tuk. However, keep in mind that the drivers of these vehicles might try to overcharge you. Ride these with the aid of your tour guide to remain safe and only avail them as an experience, going only a small distance. Please ask your guide or your adviser at Vacation India to arrange cycle rickshaw or tuk tuk ride so that you just enjoy the ride without the inconvenience of any haggling and overcharging!
25 Tear through the Confusion and Scams
Confusion can be rampant as things aren’t always organized in India. For instance, to get to Taj Mahal one needs a ticket. One would expect that the ticket counter would be close to the Taj Mahal itself. But contrary to your belief, the booth is in the exact opposite direction. So, it’s quite a long walk for you. At Vacation India, we take care of your entrance to monuments. The services of English-speaking local guides are also included. These guides will take care of buying the monument tickets for you. You just need to keep your camera ready to capture the incredible India!
Popular tourist attractions are also places where scammers thrive. So, be wary of anyone who is over-friendly. Shouts like “Hey friend” and “Where are you from?” are best ignored. You may be approached for a photograph by some Indian tourists to pose along with them. If you’re uncomfortable, politely, yet sternly decline the request.
Trash is found all over, in the cities. Vacation India completely refrains from such behavior and requests the travelers to not contribute to such unhealthy behavior.
Cows prowling on busy roads, people sleeping on pavements and under-bridges, temples and mosques that seem to be right in the middle of the road are quite common. Watch with amazement and enjoy the chaos with a smile!
26 Entering Places of Worship
Indians are very particular when it comes to religion. It is vital that you dress in non-revealing attire when you visit a mosque or a temple. Smoking, joking around, cuddling, speaking in a loud voice are prohibited. You will have to enter bare-footed into the temples. Men and women may be expected to sit separately in some shrines.
Women need to cover their head with a shawl or scarf when entering a Hindu temple. If entering a Gurudwara (sikh temple), both men and women must cover their heads. Jains practice complete nonviolence, so when entering a Jain temple, you need to be without any leather items on you, including wallets and belts. Photography is not allowed in some Hindu temples. Please check with your accompanying guide while entering any place of worship!
27 Traditional Dining Etiquettes
No one will bother you for the way you eat in hotels. However, if you’ve been invited for lunch on dinner by an Indian family follow certain etiquette. Wash your hands before sitting on the dining table. Eat only with your right hand as left is considered dirty and used only for chores such as removing your shoes, etc. Leave your shoes outside the home. It’s considered civil to bring along sweets, fruits or flowers.
28 Tips for Photography Enthusiasts
Most temples and religious places prohibit photography. If in doubt, ask before clicking photographs. If you wish to click a photograph with locals, they might be happy to pose with you but ask permission before doing so, especially when it comes to women. It is banned to photograph bridges, defense establishments, and dams. Check if there is a board that says, “photography is prohibited.” Some places allow photography at a small price.
29 Learn a bit of the Local Language – Hindi
Hundreds of languages are spoken in India but the most widely spoken language, at least in the northern and western part of India is Hindi. Other languages widely spoken are: Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu but these are region-specific. Here are a few words of Hindi that will help you blend in!
- Namaste (num-uh-stare): Hello also good bye
- Shukriya (shu-kree-yar): Thank you
- Aap kaise hai (arp-kays-air-hay): How are you?
- Ji ha (gee-haar): Yes
- Ji nahi (gee-nay-hee): No
- Kahaan hai? (car-har-hair): Where is the…?
- Acha (uch-are): Okay or I understand
- Ruko! (rroo-core): Stop
- Chai (cch-eye): Tea
- Pani (par-knee): Water
- Lakh (lack): One hundred thousand
- Crore (craw): Ten million
- Mai (may): Me
- Mera (may-ra): Mine
- Aapka (aap car): Yours
- Kaun (car-aun): Who
- Kapra (cap-ra): Cloth
- Khana (kha-na): Food
Phrases that You Might Find Useful
- Aap kaise hai: How are you?
- Mai thik hu: I am fine
- Aap se milkar khusi hui: Nice to meet you
- Aap kaun hai: Who are you?
- Aap ka naam kya hai: What’s your name?
- Mera naam hai ___: My name is ___
- Aap kaha se hai: Where are you from?
- Mai ____ se hu: I’m from ____
- Station kaha hai: Where’s the station?
- Bus stand kaha hai: Where is the bus stand?
- Toilet kaha hai: Where is the toilet?
- Kya aap meri madad kar sakte hai: Can you help me?
- Ye kya hai: What’s this?
- Mujhe ye kharidna hai: I want to buy this
- Ye kitnay ka hai: How much is this?
- Daam kum karo: Lower the price
30 What you can Bring along to India (Free Allowance)?
A tourist who comes to the country for the sole purpose of recreation, sports, touring, health, pilgrimages of religious nature, business, study and family is allowed the following:
- Up to 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars
- Up to 2 liters of liquor or wine
- Personal jewellery
- One camera and up to 20 camera rolls
- One video camera with accessories; cassettes not exceeding 12
- A pair of binoculars
- One 15-cm TV
- One CD player
- One typewriter
- One baby stroller
- Camping equipment including one tent
- One laptop
- One electronic diary
- One portable radio
- One cell phone
- Professional equipment
- Sports equipment
Bringing Currency Along
You can bring any amount of any currency into India; however, you’ll have to declare it if you are bringing in more than 5,000 USD. Also, if the total currency value of bank notes, travelers cheques, etc., amount to more than 10,000 USD, you’ll have to declare it. You cannot bring in Indian currency.
Exceeding the Free Allowance (Updated October 2015)
- Tourists cannot share the free allowance with that of any other passenger.
- Goods that are kept out of free allowance: Firearms, cartridges in excess of 50, gold or silver in any other form than jewellery.
- A custom duty of 35% plus a CESS of 3% amounting to 36.05% is levied on goods that fall outside of the free allowance. Alcoholic drinks and tobacco products over the allowance limit are considered commercial imports and are charged in accordance to Customs Tariff Act.
- In case only one item goes over the permitted allowance, only such item is charged for the excess.
31 Travel India for Reasons beyond Sightseeing
This is perhaps the most valuable tip that we can give you. India is a land of immense diversity when it comes to culture, practices, religion, clothing and landscape. Experience the friendliness and genuine hospitality of the locals and, of course, the vibrant traditional markets here. The cuisine promises to be nothing like you’ve experienced elsewhere in the world. From street food to the Taj Mahal, there is history etched in everything that you experience in India.
Experience the religious festivities that transform the landscape. Holi (Color Festival) and Diwali (Light Festival) are especially breathtaking. The Ganesha and Durga festivals will open your senses to the enthusiasm among people that is palpable at every corner of the country.
The people of India are easy to talk to. There is not much concern about privacy intrusion; people here don’t worry too much about that but you must also be prepared to answer some personal questions too.
It’s an adventure that goes beyond physical challenges. You’ll love the cultural shock that awaits you and the ancient science that each ancient monument sports. The sweet aroma of spices and coffee will fill your senses at every turn. Experience the country first hand to know why it’s called the “Incredible India”
Feel confident that if you face any problems you can contact our local associates and let them know. We would be more than happy to help.
32 Leave Your Western Standards Behind
You might be used to a particular way of living that includes maintaining high standards of hygiene, privacy, timeliness and service. Unfortunately, India is chaotic in this realm. You might find the prying eyes of the locals quite daunting and the public transport that’s never on time, quite irritating. Hotels that serve just one dish out of the menu and the general standards of cleanliness quite a shock. Expect these things on your visit to India and you’ll be much more comfortable exploring her.
33 Vacation India believes in Responsible Travel
At the core of our operations is the resolve to bring you the best of what India has to offer while keeping you safe at all times. Another core value that is close to our heart at Vacation India is the impact of tourism on nature. We believe in grass-roots travel as that’s where the real India dwells. To achieve this, we network with local communities, individuals and businesses so that local economies gain through tourism. This brings a welcome attitude towards tourists and minimizes any cultural impact.
Nature is another aspect we are sensible about. We urge you to bring rechargeable batteries and plug adapters. Disposable batteries are highly toxic and if you have to use them, bring the used ones back with you to dispose of them safely. Minimize use of plastic and make use of biodegradable detergents and soaps as far as possible.
34 Always Remain in Touch with Us
You can always reach our 24/7 emergency line at +91 99274 65808. You can also email us at any time. So, keep your Smartphone functional. If you find that you are “out of range,” try an internet café. Alternatively, you can buy a prepaid phone connection for your India travel and also a cheap handset for about $20. The call charges are among the least in the world in India.