India is one of the biggest adventures any backpacker will ever have and it is a firm fixture on any gap year bucket list, but it isn’t always the easiest destination for first time backpackers. From dealing with culture shock and Delhi belly to navigating awkward visa issues, here are the top 10 tips to make sure your trip to India is much smoother and easier.
India is a traditional backpacker mecca, whether you are lounging on a beach in Goa, climbing mountains in the Himachal Himalayas, visiting the famous Taj Mahal or trying out some of the epic street food, there is a lot to offer the independent adventurer. But it can also give the unprepared backpacker a hard time, from the unnecessarily bureaucratic E visa system and visa requirements to a sudden and explosive gastrointestinal issue, travellers do need to be on their toes. Here are a few tips to make your adventure a little easier.
Sort Out Your Visa Well In Advance.
Indian visas are notoriously bureaucratic and frankly a bit of a pain in the backside. There are still two versions available, the physical visa and the E Visa. The E Visa For India was supposed to streamline the process and make it a lot quicker and easier and it is technically straightforward, (fill in the online form, pay, get your e Visa), but the process is extremely laborious, bureaucratic and buggy, especially when you reach the payment section which may or may not work at the time you choose to do it. When I filled in my last form it asked me for every country I have been to in the last 10 years (hello, I’m a travel blogger that is a lot!) I spent hours on it and then the damn thing crashed when I tried to pay! So when you apply for your Indian Visa, no matter which one of the many types you are getting, make sure you leave more than enough time to get things sorted. I have seen far too many people leave it too late and then panic about getting one.
Follow The Locals When Looking For Good Street Food.
Indian street food is almost an adventure in and of itself in India and is an absolute must do, but you have to know where to go! When it comes to finding the best street food locals always know best! So if you are wandering which stall or eatery to go to or even what food to get, it’s always best to look at where most of the locals are, join the longest queue you can and look at what they are eating. If everyone is getting a specific dish, then that’s probably a good local option!
Get Away From The Touristy Areas.
Look I get it, everyone wants to see the Taj Mahal, the blue city of Jodphur and lie on the beach in Goa, and all that is great! Do that! But once in a while just go somewhere away from the beaten track a little. You never know what you’ll find!
Learn To Haggle.
If you learn one thing before you go to India, it should be how to haggle! Haggling is not only necessary here it is expected! And if you don’t haggle, you will get screwed over every single time, so don’t be nervous just do it.
Always Agree On A Price First.
When getting any type of bartered service, getting in a rickshaw or taxi, staying in a cheap hostel, whatever, make sure that you know exactly how much you will be expected to pay before you proceed and if you have haggled and are happy with it, then stick to that price. If you don’t do this you will likely be quoted a price many times higher than it should be and you will be in a much lesser position to argue since you have already taken the ride or eaten the food.
Take A Water Purifier Bottle.
Tap water in India should be avoided completely, but you don’t want to be buying tons of single use plastic water bottles every single day either! Do yourself, your stomach, your wallet and the planet a favour and take a water filter bottle, then you can fill up at any tap or any water source and have safe, clean drinking water.
Carry A Small Pack Of Tissues.
Do not expect to find toilet roll in the majority of places in India unless you are in an upmarket hotel or touristy area. Indians use a jug of water or the infamous bum gun, so it is always a really good idea to carry just a pocket full of toilet paper or tissues around with you at all times, you never know when you will need it! And you will definitely thank me for it later!
Carry Hand Sanitizer With You.
Effective hand washing isn’t just the clean and courteous thing to do, it is actually the best and easiest way to make sure that you minimise the risk of a whole variety of common travel illnesses as well as minimising the risk of the Coronavirus outbreak! Warm water with soap is always the best option but in between the times you have access, always use a bit of hand sanitizer too.
Practice Good Spatial Awareness.
All this means is basically keep your wits about you and be aware of your surroundings. Travelling in general is very safe and travelling in India for both men and women is pretty safe too. The odds of anything bad happening are pretty low. There IS risk out there however and there is always that chance that something will happen. By keeping your wits about you, by not burying your head in a screen or having your earphones in as you walk everywhere, by knowing where your valuables are and that they are definitely still there, you reduce your risk factor significantly. I once stopped a potential pickpocketing scam when a group of young boys crowded round me asking for a photo. I complied with a smile but adopted a pose where I put my hand in my pocket and over my wallet (the only pocket with anything in). Odds are they only wanted a photo and no harm no foul if they did, but I also knew at the time that this was a very popular pickpocketing method in the area I was in at the time. Just stay alert.
Go With The Flow.
India can be challenging, there is no doubt about that. It can assault your senses and culture shock can hit you with the full force of a baseball bat to the face, but you will acclimatise, you will get used to it, you just have to learn to go with the flow and develop a little patience, and a good tolerance for everyone staring at you!
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