Home to 1.3 billion people, India it is a melting pot of languages, religions and cultures that entice visitors from around the world who plan on spending their holidays in Asia. India can induce culture shock, even for seasoned travelers. We’ve rounded up our top tips for traveling to India for the first time in order to make the most of your Asian holidays.
Play it safe on Asian holidays
Tourists can be victims of pickpocketing anywhere, but the overwhelming sites and sounds of India’s cities can distract even experienced travelers. Men, get in the habit of placing wallets in your front pockets instead of back pockets. Ladies, if you opt for a purse, a petite cross-body is safer than a large tote and should be kept in front of your body. The best option for either gender is a travel belt that can be tucked underneath the loose pants you’re wearing to cope with the Indian heat. If you carry a backpack, using a backpack lock is highly advised. This advice will serve you in India and beyond if you extend your Asian holidays to travel elsewhere in the region.
We also recommend studying this list of scams you may encounter in India to avoid them during your trip.
Beyond covering up when visiting places of worship, it is advised that tourists dress conservatively while spending time in India. India’s heat might make you want to wear your skimpiest garments, but shorts and short dresses will attract uncomfortable attention. Generally, bare shoulders are acceptable, but visible knees can be considered risqué. Play it safe by choosing loose-fitting, long garments that will keep you cool. Always carry a light scarf with you to keep away the heat and cover up if you feel you’ve missed the mark.
Avoid gastrointestinal issues
Traveler’s diarrhea is an all too common malady that can ruin your Indian vacation. Before you go, consult a travel doctor and make sure you have all the necessary immunizations for visiting India. Getting travel medical insurance is also advisable in case a simple stomach bug turns into something more severe.
Your travel doctor may suggest you purchase over-the-counter probiotics to take regularly during your trip. Probiotics help balance your gut’s bacterial composition and can help thwart traveler’s diarrhea in conjunction with avoiding certain foods.
In general, you should avoid consuming tap water, ice, street food, salad and fruit that you haven’t peeled yourself. Many travelers opt to go vegetarian while in India to avoid stomach ailments caused by spoiled meat, which tend to cause the most egregious of gastrointestinal issues.
Be aware of hygiene customs
In many parts of the world finding a clean toilet that is stocked with toilet paper and has a place to wash your hands is a luxury. While modern shops and restaurants in India’s cities will have these western comforts, you will run into difficulties on the road or in India’s more rural towns.
Outside of India’s major cities you will likely encounter squatter toilets and the local toilet paper alternative – your left hand and a water jug. For this reason, it is considered improper to eat with your left hand. Carry toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you on your travels in India and take take extra precautions by applying hand sanitizer before meals.
Make plans, but be flexible
There is so much to see and do during your Asian holidays in India that going in without a plan can be overwhelming. It is important to be flexible because obstacles are bound to pop up in this exciting-albeit-chaotic country.
You could get stuck in a rickshaw traffic jam, spend an hour haggling with a merchant to get the right price for a souvenir and arrive at your destination just to find that it’s closed due to a religious festival. Things happen, but they’re all part of the magic of India.
Make plans, but be flexible. Going in with this mindset will help you live in the moment and can turn mishaps from your Indian adventure into your most-cherished memories.
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Have you already been to India? Share your top tips for first time visitors in the comments below.