India is a vibrant, busy, colorful place. It can be an explosion of sensations, stifling and stimulating in equal measure. The food, the people, the cultural sights, the smells. It can all seem overwhelming – but with the right planning, India is an amazing place to visit. This is what you should know before you go:
1. Passports and Visas
You need a visa to travel to India, and you can apply for an e-Tourist visa online. The cost of visas varies, but they are generally affordable. It’s also a good idea to have some photocopies of your passport and Indian visa when you travel.
2. Health and Safety
It is wise to take out comprehensive travel insurance and medical cover, as the average cost of a hospital stay in India costs around $236 per day. If anyone has a pre-existing medical condition, it’s also recommended that they carry their medical information with them in case of emergencies.
To avoid "Delhi belly", carry hand sanitiser, toilet roll and diarrhoea tablets. It is wise to drink only bottled water. You are always guaranteed a decent cup of tea in India and there are many varieties to choose from – and it’s often safer to drink than water. The food can be fabulous but try to avoid uncooked food such as salads. Watch out for pickpockets and try not to carry all of your money and valuables with you at all times - including your passport. It can be very hot so make sure you wear a hat and sunscreen. If you are traveling with kids take plenty of wipes to keep hands nice and clean.
Shopping in India is cheap and can be lots of fun, but you need to learn how to haggle and bargain (it’s even expected for items without a fixed price). Do not overpay for souvenirs and rickshaw rides and make sure you always shop around. Another shop will probably sell a similar item cheaper and there will often be two prices, one for a local and one for a tourist. There are wonderful railway journeys to take – but be aware, personal space is sometimes understood differently in India. And if you are a woman traveling alone, be confident and direct - you will be less likely to attract unwanted attention. Don't be offended if locals ask you lots of personal questions. It is a way of life.
To feel comfortable in the heat, try to wear loose-fitting clothes with high necklines, along with ankle-length skirts or trousers in cool, lightweight fabrics such as linen and cotton. Scarves can be useful to cover your head when visiting temples and mosques. Try to dress conservatively. Carrying a spare pair of clothes can be handy if you are traveling with the family. The streets of India can be dusty, so dark colours sometimes work best. Unless you are on a beach, never wear skirts or shorts above the knee – it’s important to respect local customs while you’re there.
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