We’ve all been there. You’ve had the flights booked for months. Your itinerary has been revised and re-revised so much that recently you’ve started to dream in bullet points. Your mind is so made up that you’ve even bought those funky white pants you saw on sale the other day. Your last few niggling doubts are slowly but surely beginning to fade away – right up until you hear the famous refrain, echoed from nearly every corner: you’re going where?!
Let’s face the facts. India is a beautiful and diverse country with a population of nearly two billion people – there are bound to be some bad eggs thrown into the mix, and it’s human nature to cling to the horror stories since they’re the ones we remember. It’s not all bad, though; and with a little know-how and a healthy dollop of caution, there’s no reason that your pilgrimage to this incredible place can’t be the most important experience of your life.
1. Read Up On Cultural Differences BEFORE You Go
Culture shock is among the biggest problems travellers face on their first expedition to India. A little research could go a long way for preventing arguments and making your trip as smooth as possible. For example: the way the constant honking of the horn isn’t considered rude, as it’s sounded to actually prevent future collisions and accidents – save yourself from road rage and do your homework.
2. Check The Seals On Water Bottles
Unfortunately, the infamous “Delhi Belly” is all too real – tap water is rarely safe to drink in India, and even sticking to bottled water religiously you’re bound to encounter a few stomach cramps here and there. All is not lost, however: you can quickly and significantly reduce the risk for yourself by meticulously inspecting the seal on every bottle you buy. It’s simple – if it’s broken, don’t buy it. This one tip could save you hours of diarrhoea – don’t wait until you’re already sick to try it out.
3. Give Toothbrushes, Not Twenties
There are few sights more heartbreaking than the sorrowful, morbidly malnourished begging children that swarm over any and all tourists like an adorable, unfortunate crowd of locusts – but don’t let your emotions guide your actions. Giving money doesn’t help the situation so much as it actually encourages the begging, especially as it’s often the parents who are behind the endeavour. We recommend sticking up on some toothbrushes before you go out and distributing these instead, as dental hygiene is a problem of endemic proportion among the impoverished of India, and even a token gesture can make a big difference in somebody’s life.
4. Be Patient
We can’t emphasise this one enough. Indian clocks seem to run on a different mechanism to those almost anywhere else – whether it’s at a restaurant or a visa office, expect to wait. And wait. And wait. Combat the boredom in advance by always having a book or magazine handy and lower your expectations to the floor – the time will fly and your interaction will be the better for your improved state of mind.
So there you have it. India will change your life, in one way or another – we just want to make sure you give it the best chance. What tips have worked for YOU in the past? Share your experiences in the comments below!