Planning to travel to India? Read this before you book
Have you always dreamed of exploring Delhi’s Red Fort, bathing in the Ganges and taking a selfie at the Taj Mahal? Or perhaps you already have big plans to travel to India? My guess is you’re feeling a bit nervous and apprehensive. I know I was – but honestly, India is one of the most unique and memorable places I’ve visited. No matter if you’re a group of friends, a couple, or a male or female solo traveller, these tips will help you save money, stay safe, and have fun.
Plan to travel to India during Holi season
This colourful festival is filled with nothing but fun, colours and smiles. I celebrated in the coastal fisherman village of Arambol in Goa and had the absolute time of my life making new friends and painting the streets with colour.
Stick to a budget and you can travel India for less than £10 a day
You’ll be surprised at just how much money you can save by simply travelling slowly, eating local food, staying in hostels and making friends. The slower you travel, the less money you’ll spend on transportation. If you eat local food (I’m talking delicious and authentic tikka masala), you’ll actually spend less money – so go crazy and eat curry all day. If you’re travelling solo, stay in hostels so you can make new friends and share a variety of dishes with your new pals to share the cost.
If possible, go vegetarian
Many people in India are vegetarian for religious reasons which means you’ll be able to find delicious vegetarian dishes everywhere. Being vegetarian also helps you avoid getting ill, as it’s often meat that gives people the dreaded “Delhi belly.”
Check out the unique and funky hostels all over the country
Staying in a hostel in India is a great way to meet other travellers, save money and get local recommendations. I stayed with at many of the well-known Zostel hostels in India and loved it. Their hostels are clean and funky with artwork that gives them all a unique personality.
Say yes when someone offers chai
Just like in the United Kingdom, people drink tea all day. Therefore, if someone offers you chai tea, be polite and say yes. Every chai tastes different, so go chai tasting across India. My absolute favourite was masala chai. Yum!
Book your train tickets online
You need to sign up for IRCTC, the platform that people use to reserve tickets. It doesn’t always work the first time or the second time or the tenth time for that matter, but just keep trying. Trust me when I say you always want to book ahead of time to get a seat. You’ll thank me later.
Do your part in reducing plastic waste
Pollution is a serious problem all around the world, but it’s especially bad in India. You’ll see piles of rubbish on the side of mountains with cows chowing down on plastic bags, so try your best to avoid using plastic. Ask for no straw with your drink, don’t use plastic cutlery and avoid buying plastic water bottles.
Use taxi apps to facilitate your travels
Taxi apps like Uber and Ola are super helpful when travelling in the big cities. No need to haggle with a rickshaw driver, just request one through the app and you’ll know exactly how much you’re paying before you get into your ride.
Be cautious when buying bottled water
Most shops refill empty water bottles and then resell them. The water they use isn’t clean, so make sure the water bottles you buy are properly sealed. I got seriously ill from drinking both bottled and filter water. It felt like there was no escape because every time I got sick, I would need to rehydrate which would make me sick again – a vicious and not very fun cycle that you want to avoid at all costs. If possible, plan ahead and bring a reusable filtered water bottle.
Try not to stay out past sunset
Unfortunately, things can get a bit dangerous when night falls. So, avoid trouble by heading back to your hostel before dark and then catch the sunrise with an early start the next day.
Take your time and travel slowly
Just because everyone else seems to be in a rush, doesn’t mean you have to be. India is a big and beautiful country, give it all the time it deserves. Not only will travelling slowly save you money, it simultaneously allows you to truly experience India. After all, India is the 7th biggest country in the world, so a two-week holiday just wouldn’t do it justice.
Take public transportation
Taking public transportation is a whole experience within itself. Try a bus, train, taxi or a rickshaw. Try it all. You’ll come out with stories to tell. I know I did – like the trip where I shared a 2-person bus seat with 5 people. Fun times.
When in India, try yoga
Yoga originated in India, so find yourself a yogi master and learn the art of yoga. Maybe you’re like me and can’t even squat for longer than 30 seconds? Who cares – give it a try. Namaste.
If you’re a woman, take safety precaution
India is a beautiful country, but it can also be a bit overwhelming, so make sure you’re always aware of your surroundings. Avoid overly crowded places and try to stay away from uninhabited areas that seem dangerous. Just use your common sense, and always be on the lookout.
Mindfulness has shown to have many benefits, so if you haven’t yet tried it, you should. India, especially Dharamshala, has many meditation centres that provide mediation retreats ranging from from one day to over a week. If you really want a challenge, try a 10-day silent retreat. Shanti Shanti Shanti.
If you’re travelling India on a budget, you don’t always have to just eat street food
Ask locals for restaurant and cafe recommendations. Most of the time, meals from a restaurant or cafe are cleaner, relatively cheap and equally as delicious. That being said, you should definitely still indulge in street food because it’s delicious. A street stall meal may cost you £1, but a meal from a cafe may cost you as little as £1.50.
It is important to respect the culture of the country and dress accordingly. It’s typical for both men and women to cover their shoulders and legs, so try to pack shirts with sleeves and trousers that cover your knees.
Say yes to the people asking for selfies – but say no when you’ve had enough
I assure you, if you look foreign in any way, people will ask to take pictures with you. It’s really cute and endearing at first, but when you have a queue of people waiting for their personal selfie, don’t be afraid to say no.
Arrange to visit Arambol, and then plan to stay longer than you planned
This cute hippie town will make you fall in love with its beautiful sunsets, smiley residents, and chilled out ambience. Everyone plans to go to Arambol in Goa for a couple of days and some end up staying for a couple of months. I know I did.
Whatever you do, visit Dharamshala
This Tibetan town in the North of India is peaceful and scenic. The town is located right next to the Himalayas, so you constantly have a view of the beautiful mountains. Also, if you’re into Buddhism, meditation, yoga, or just nature, you’ll love Dharamshala.
Visit the Himalayas
If you’re into hiking, a trip from Dharamshala to the Himalayas needs to be on your Indian bucket list. They’re breathtakingly beautiful, and you’ll make friends with hundreds of monkeys… unless they steal your food, in that case you might make a couple of enemies along the way.
When you get ill (because you will) just try to make the most of it
Truth be told, you’ll probably eat meat that was left out for too long, or eat a salad washed with tap water, or simply drink water that you thought was filtered and clean. Whatever it is, something will make you ill, so just try to see the positive in the situation. At least you can check off “Delhi Belly” from your to-do-list of Indian adventures. Glass half full, am I right?
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