India is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in the world, and for good reason, but it isn’t always the easiest destination to travel through and can give most backpackers a heavy case of culture shock. Here are the 10 most common travel mistakes all backpackers make on their first time in India, and how you can avoid them.
Avoiding these common travel mistakes on your own trip to India will allow you to avoid a lot of the pitfalls and culture shock that affects many backpackers on their India adventure.
Not Avoiding The Water.
One of the biggest causes of general illness and stomach upsets in India is travellers not being careful enough with water, whether that is out and out drinking tap water or not thinking that the occasional toothbrush ran under the water or a drink with ice counts. The longer the trip, the more lax travellers can get with staying vigilant.
The water in India is in general terms not fit for travellers to drink. Apart from the general stomach upsets caused by normal everyday bacteria that your own stomach may not be used to, contaminants in local water can cause Diarrhoea, Dysentery, Hepatitis A, Cholera and more.
The vast majority of the time the water itself may be safe for locals but your gut won’t be used to the natural bacteria, but occasionally you may come across water from less than sanitary conditions too and that can lead to serious problems.
The best thing you can do is stay vigilant about not taking ice in your drinks or making sure that if you buy water bottles that they are properly sealed (refilling bottles is a common scam), or better yet use a refillable water filter bottle.
Avoiding The Local Street Food.
So many first time travellers to India avoid the street food at first, some who just want to stick to familiar food they are used to, others because they are afraid of becoming ill, but this is a huge mistake. Street food is absolutely safe provided common sense precautions are taken, and you really are missing out if you get to India and don’t try the amazing food!
Not Preparing For The Crowds.
India is busy, and it’s crowded! And you can’t begin to know exactly how busy and crowded until you are there! There is no let up from it and no concept of personal space. That can be hard for a lot of travellers to deal with, especially when they first arrive, and can lead to a lot of culture shock. The simple fact is normal rules and norms that you may be used to at home do not necessarily apply in India, that is one of the best things about travel, once you get used to it at least.
The best way to deal with it is to be prepared for it, or at least understand that it will happen before you get there, and that you will get used to it and you will adapt! Just give yourself time to acclimatize and get used to it.
Thinking The Staring Is Dangerous.
Travellers in India get stared at. A lot. Everything in India get stared at. A lot. It is just a way of life there, a cultural difference, but for many travellers it can be a little disconcerting at first. This can be especially true for solo female travellers. The big problem is that this disconcertment often overspills into actual fear, and it really shouldn’t. There is obviously a line where your own intuition should tell you if the situation has become risky, but staring in and of itself is not dangerous.
This is a common general mistake many first time backpackers make wherever they are, but lugging a huge, overstuffed backpack around is ten times worse when you are trying to navigate the sheer crowds and chaos of India, and it means you won’t be able to make room for all those amazing souvenirs you will find along the way! Just travel light!
Wrong Place, Wrong Time.
India is a huge place with a variety of climates, and a big mistake many travellers make is not factoring in where to travel at any given time. Rajasthan is great during the monsoon season but Goa, not so much. Delhi is sweltering in June and July but can get a bit chilly in January. India is an all year round destination, but knowing how to navigate the different seasons and different regions can make all the difference to your trip.
Not Budgeting Enough.
India is still a budget destination and it is absolutely possible to travel really well on a relatively small budget, but it is nowhere near as cheap as it used to be and prices are rising all of the time. You can absolutely travel on an extreme budget but you will miss out on a hell of a lot and it won’t be a great experience. There is no point in going on the trip of a lifetime if you miss out on all the experiences that you went there for in the first place just because you didn’t budget enough!
Thinking Taxis Will Use The Meter.
They won’t. Figure out what the journey should cost by looking up the distance, knowing how much the journey should be beforehand and telling them how much you will pay. Don’t pay whatever price they quote. Uber is becoming a much more popular option in many major cities.
Not Knowing Local Prices.
Being overcharged for pretty much everything is par for the course for backpackers in India, and many backpackers become complacent by not knowing the correct prices that locals should expect to pay for things. It’s normal to pay a little bit more, but when the quoted price is three or four times what it should be it pays to have a little knowledge beforehand.
Trying To Do Too Much In Too Little Time.
India is huge, seriously huge, and one of the biggest mistakes most first time backpackers make is trying to fit travel around the entire country in just a few weeks. It isn’t going to happen! India is a country that takes at least a few visits to get to know properly, so unless you are spending a significant amount of time there plan your visits in manageable chunks.
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How To Deal With Reverse Culture Shock After Your Gap Year.
How To Make Friends And Meet People When Travelling Solo.
Great advice, you’re right, it’s a great country but can be so difficult for travelers as it’s a lot of everything all at once.
India can definitely be overwhelming for first time or inexperienced travellers.
It really looks like a beautiful place to visit. thank you for the idea!
It really is! And so Diverse too! I’m happy to have inspired you to visit, feel free to check out all my other posts on India if you need more information.
Absolutely right. Haw! Haw! Haw!
I’ve had my moments in India but it’s still a country that I would recommend as long as you do your homework BEFORE you go out there!
Sadly, there are stories aplenty of people who didn’t, tried to wing it, and had the worst experience ever, or didn’t last more than a few days before taking the next flight out!
Even though I knew what to do, I still got caught out but lived to tell the tale! 😀
Yeah India isn’t for first time travellers! We all get caught out though, even experienced travellers! It’s all part of the learning experience.
Indeed it is! 😀
I am so glad I took your advice years ago and travelled through India only AFTER I had spent a gap year in seasia! You were so right when you said it would be much tougher for a first time traveller!
The culture shock of India can be a lot easier to navigate if you have that little bit of experience under your belt. Glad to hear you found the advice useful Ash!
Thanks for the tips. I’m currently trying to map out an itinerary for a big India trip and I’m a bit overwhelmed!
Happy to help Ashley! It is easy to get overwhelmed but don’t worry, everything will fall into place. I have plenty more articles and tips to help you make your plans too.
Another amazing post! I love your blog it is such a resource!
Thank you so much Marie
Thanks so much! Great advice! I will use it when I travel to India next month.
Hope you find it useful. 🙂