India: things to know for the first time

Tips for First Time Tourists

Traveling to a foreign country for the first time is always exciting and a bit scary, especially if it’s India. I myself have been there 4 times and each time alone (I never found any traveling companions). Those who go to India for the first time know little about the dangers in this country. Most of the time people take tours or are backpackers. In fact India is one of the most dangerous countries for girls, the percentage of rape is higher than in any other country, but of course I did not know all this when I went there for the first time. So, girls and everyone else, here are some tips:

1) Tickets . If you go to Goa or another city in India, you don’t need to buy a direct ticket from your home country: first of all it is more expensive; second, most of the flights arrive in Delhi anyway. Most of the low-cost airlines in India are around 6000 rupees round trip (I saw Mumbai and Goa). You can also buy them from home at ind.airline web sites or makemytrip.com (most Indians use it and they often have special offers).

2) Lodging . If you are a single girl in India, it is better not to take a hotel; there have been many cases where hotel managers themselves have tipped single travelers. Of course it’s best to travel with someone and preferably a male, but there are a couple of other options: couchsurfing.com (a site for travelers where you can stay with locals for free), there are a couple of tips if you want to stay on this program. First, girls choose girls thinking it’s safer, so NO! There was a case that did not end well, so it is better to choose either a person who speaks your language, or those who have a lot of reviews. It is better to agree in advance with the person, exchange phone numbers, talk to a few months to be sure. I myself have used this program, I can say that it is quite safe, if you choose a reliable person. There is also the option of a hotel (if you just do not feel comfortable staying with someone). I must tell you right away that in Delhi there are problems with hot water, basically it’s only in expensive hotels or when the weather is warm, there is a water tank on top of the houses, which heats up and maybe the water will be warm. There is no heating in India, so if it is +20 warm during the day, it is quite chilly at night. Cheap hotels have a boiling water heater, which you can ask at the front desk. I stayed in a hotel near the airport, called Aeroporto. The area of course can seem terrible, away from the road, but there is basically everything in the nooks. I booked via booking.com, compared to other hotels in the area (and there’s a whole line of hotels along the road), mine was the safest and cleanest with a latch on the door and cameras inside the hotel. Whichever hotel you stay at, always put your suitcase or tray of food near the front door before you go to bed so you have time to respond. It is also better to stay in several hotels a couple of days at a time, so it is safer.

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3) Transportation and food . Many people do not buy tuk tuk and rickshaws because it is not safe (even Hindus try to avoid them), in addition the prices are quite expensive, especially if you do not know the distance to the destination. This was my first time using the metro, and I’ll tell you right away that it’s an AD. While other countries have Rush Hour, in India it’s a 24-hour rush hour. The first car is for women only, if you are a woman, it is better to use only it. Since Delhi has huge traffic jams, the fastest transport is the subway. If it’s still safe to take the subway during the day, at night it’s better to take a cab. Everyone in India uses uber cabs, the prices are quite cheap, cheaper than a tuk tuk, and safer. But the drivers don’t speak English and don’t always find the right address. About the food: if this is your first time in India, everything will be super spicy. It’s better to order just chapati, naan or paratha (that’s all flatbread) together with paneer (something similar to bryndza in sauce, paneer is different, but the essence is the same) or dal (beans as a sauce) and rice at first. I had a week of that, then I ordered biryani (rice with chicken) and spent 3 days in bed, so better not to experiment much. I had a lot of bad taste in chili… It’s always a mega sweet tea, because their sugar is very cheap, they just put a half a cup of sugar in it and do not stir it, in general their tea is not the kind people are used to drink: too black, too sweet, too spicy, and it’s not clear what water they made it from. The water is always better to buy in a bottle, in all cafes they usually bring water for free, but you’d better always order a bottle and never take ice. The temple has a lot of sweets too, because of all the cheap sugar, if you go to the temple, they always give you something to drink or eat. Something to drink tastes like water with perfume, and something to eat is usually sticky and as if it had already been chewed (better to take it and not visibly put it in a napkin) because it is not decent to refuse. If you are not afraid to try the local fresh-squeezed juices on the street, then I say at once – they are not really concentrated, and to ask to dilute the water is the same as to desecrate the Hindu God. So it’s better to dilute yourself away from the shop.

4) Shopping . If you go to India as a tourist, not as a traveler, it is better to take a small suitcase for hand luggage. Everything you need and don’t need can be bought there. The bazaar is a separate city of ants. Without preparation you can go crazy there. There are more people than in the subway, the area of the bazaar is so large that you never find yourself in the same place twice. In the bazaar almost do not speak English. So the main thing is to know the word “Kitna” (how much) and feel free to buy. In shopping malls, too, prices are not high, and in addition there is air conditioning. It is better to change money anywhere, but not at the airport. It’s better not to change large sums right away. I did it at Cannaught place so you could buy souvenirs at the same time. From India you usually bring spices (you can buy them in the supermarket), all sorts of shampoos, coconut oil, toothpaste with pepper, soap (all can be bought in the supermarket). Various pills for everything in the world (you can buy them at the pharmacy in the mall or at the airport). Scarves and stoles (bazaar, malls). At Duty Free prices are reasonable, so you can leave some money to buy alcohol (rum “old monk”), souvenirs and sweets in a box.

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The most important thing when traveling to India: be careful and do not be afraid. You should not trust anyone in India!

50 Tips for First Time Travelers in India

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50 tips for beginner traveler in India

We returned with our 6-year-old son from a 10-day trek through central India. It was an extreme experience. I’m sure the trip alone would have been different. But when there is a child around who needs attention and care, you have to stretch yourself a lot internally. The purpose of the trip was to bring father and son closer together and to show the boy how to survive outside his comfort zone.

Our journey took us through central India from Delhi to the mountain village of Pachmari (a former British military base). Before arriving in Pachmari, I wrote down thoughts, facts, and observations in my travel notebook. Despair overtook me twice, but we went through fire, water, and brass pipes, beyond which there was a reward waiting for us.

Hygiene

1) No vaccinations were given.

2) During the first four days (it is important!) we should brush our teeth only with bottled water, avoid fruits, wipe the tables in cafes with alcohol napkins. The body has to get used to the local microflora. The brave ones spirit butt this advice can be ignored.

3) After defecating, Hindus wash the anus with water. All toilets are equipped with a faucet at basement level and a ladle. My son and I only used toilet paper the first day, then we switched to the local household. We hold the ladle in our right hand and wash with our left. Hindus’ right hand is always clean. If you offend the waiter in a cafe, they will serve you food with the left hand…

Food and Drink

4) The dry climate of India leads to dehydration. The local bottled water does not contain salts and minerals, so it is impossible to drink it. The Hindu doctor recommended buying ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts) powder at the drugstore for 25 rupees and diluting the package per liter of water once a day. The tone and mood are improved.

ors

5) In bars, Hindus take a lot of peanuts as an appetizer to beer and pour ketchup on top. I tried it, so-so.

6) It’s hard to find freshly brewed green tea after 9 pm. It’s a mystery.

7) Portions vary in India and it’s impossible to predict. Sometimes we had to call for help from the other members of the group, and at times we left hungry.

8) The farther away from the tourist spots, the less free Wi-Fi and English menus. We had to take food at random.

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9) All Indian food is delicious. Experimentation is welcome.

10) Food takes 15 minutes to cook. Word of mouth. In reality, we waited up to an hour. It is useless to push the Indians, they smile, shake their heads and agree with everything.

11) I have never seen a brewed coffee. Hindus drink instant.

12) I found real Indian tea only in duty-free shops. On the street sold not a good idea.

13) No ice for drinks if offered.

14) Before eating wash everything that is washed. Cutlery is wiped down with napkins.

On my third day in India, I didn’t keep track of my son’s ice cream being transferred to an unwashed cup. As a result, my son’s temperature went up to +40, I started vomiting and loose stools. We stuffed him full of all kinds of medications, the next day he felt better, but he could not look at food for another 24 hours. In the first aid kit must be “Enterosgel”, “Lopedium” or analogues.

15) If you sit on a sports diet, forget about it. In the country, 80% of meals are vegetarian. If I found chicken for dinner, I was glad. The rest of the time I actively consumed carbohydrates (rice, noodles, tortillas). Upon arrival home – minus 2 kg.

Accommodation

16) We stayed in guest houses for 300-600 rubles per room. I learned one lesson: never trust the advertising photos. In ads a room always looks better than it really is.

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In reality, the room is 4 square meters, no windows, with flickering light, something smells, and for hot water we go to the common faucet in the corridor.

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Toilet. The door did not close, we slept to the unforgettable aromas of Indian sewers.

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People and manners.

17) Hindus are happy to help you find or bring something. The way to the ATM was shown to me by two Hindus at once. And in the evening for a small fee I sent a messenger to get rum.

18) Delhi is very noisy, dusty and dirty. Tourists stay there for 1-2 nights before traveling further into the province.

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Downtown Delhi

19) In order for a Hindu to give an intelligible answer, you must ask him 3-4 times. Preferably by rephrasing the question.

– Where is a bank? – How to get to ATM? – Could you show me the way to a bankomat? – I need a cash!

20) It’s very easy to communicate in English in India because there’s no embarrassment of gaps in grammar. Most Hindus don’t know it either – and that’s okay, sometimes we had such heated conversations that we broke up at three in the morning.

21) Hindus like to take selfies for good luck. I was photographed five hundred times. Men with men, women with women.

selfie

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22) Brown-haired girls and brunettes are asked to take pictures more often than blondes. It is considered chic to touch a hand. After that you are guaranteed a rich husband, a happy family and many children.

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23) Hindus are polite. Not once have I seen a resident yelling, swearing couple, swinging the rights of the natives. No one is rude. Russians should learn.

24) In India the soul rests. Maybe that’s why many people come here.

25) Hindus say hello, then ask for name and country. They need this information for something. We answer, we smile back. Then a smile will become a habit.

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26) I read a lot about stealing on the streets, from guest rooms. However, I have not encountered any. Probably traveling in a group to scare away cheaters.

27) Hindus have a different perception of time. They are unhurried, unhurried, and look at the fussing Europeans like big white monkeys in heat.

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A Hindu takes a nap in the center of Delhi.

Money

28) ATMs in downtown Delhi are empty 80% of the time. Tired of looking for cash.

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Downtown Delhi

29) To withdraw cash, you have to insert your card, wait five seconds and take it out. Until you take the card out, the ATM won’t show the menu. Many tourists waste time waiting because of this. Take the card out, then enter the pin code! 1 rupee ~ 1 ruble.

30) Do not leave a tip. Often the bill includes all charges.

31) Check the bill against the menu. Hindus confuse the dishes and may add a couple of hundred rupees extra. No ulterior motive, of course.

32) Some items can be bought on credit.

I was thirsty and hadn’t yet got change for local money. The Hindu in the store gave me a 2-liter bottle with the words: “Bring it back later. I bought medicine in a pharmacy in a similar way.

33) The cost of alcohol for locals and tourists is different. In the latter case, it’s taken from the ceiling. In Delhi, I bought a bottle of local rum Old Monk for 950 rupees, in Agra for 700, and in Cajuraho for 500.

34) The same goes for medicines. Many things cost 2-3 times cheaper for the locals. It is advantageous to give the hotel Indian 50-100 rupees and send it to the pharmacy, so as not to overpay.

Security

35) Split your cash into 2-3 stashes. We carry 500 rupees in a purse so as not to shine banknotes in front of locals, otherwise prices skyrocket. The rest of the money securely hidden in a backpack or bag.

36) The biggest thieves are monkeys. They steal everything that is bad. They can snatch it from your hand or steal in an open cafe. They used to bring stolen goods to Man in exchange for food. Now they have wised up and bring things to the leader, who already “negotiates” with people. I wonder how many bananas he got for our sandals, socks, and underpants?

Roads and Transportation

37) Tuk-tuks often go to the wrong address.

tuktuk

One cab driver brought me to the tourist center for some reason to get a free map of the city instead of a bank. Apparently, he wanted to appear hospitable. Fifteen minutes lost.

Another one from Pre-Paid Taxi (you pay at the airport cashier’s desk and you go) decided to drop his brother off at home on the way to the hotel first. Half an hour was lost, I couldn’t get out as I had given the money in advance.

38) Animals in India are relaxed. Dogs snooze in the middle of the roadway, and cows are allowed everything (standing on the highway, eating out of urns), because it is a sacred animal.

dog

39) If you want to cross a busy highway, get behind the cow. Even the trucks give way to the cow. Cows are respected and loved in India. That’s why there are more homeless cows here than in any other country in the world.

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cow

40) At dusk, drivers drive on the road exclusively with high beams and never turn them off. It’s a challenge for the eyes.

41) Hindus prefer motorcycles to mopeds. An acquaintance of mine told me that a motorcycle gearbox is easier to repair than a scooter’s variator, so the more reliable of the two vehicles is chosen.

moto

42) Traffic in India is chaotic. No rules. But also without rudeness. Everyone rides as they can.

43) The driving style of Indians is jerky, abrupt, because you have to maneuver in the flow of cars, pedestrians, animals. If you get carsick, take the appropriate pills.

44) Surprisingly, I never once saw an accident. Once a cab driver on his way to the train station and drove into oncoming traffic because it was faster. I was soaking wet from adrenaline (speed over 60 km / h), and the girls from the horror lost the power of speech, but got safe.

45) At the sight of the sign “Speed limit 30 km / h” Hindu speeds up three times, otherwise karma for the day is ruined.

46) If the driver does not honk his horn at least ten times a minute, he will be born a mouse in his next life. That’s why everyone honks on and off. Honking the horn means “Attention!”, not “Get out of the way. Even if you walk on the side of the road, they still honk, because in India it is not customary to look around when crossing the road.

47) There are no lights on provincial roads, and the sun goes down at 6pm. I recommend bringing a flashlight, otherwise it is scary to walk home in the dark.

48) Between cities is best to travel by train. There are special cars for foreigners in the trains where they do not sell tickets to locals. However, the seats there are sold out in no time. The guide did not have time to buy them and had to drive by car.

49) The optimal number of people in a group is 6. If it is more, you need the second car.

50) When you arrive in India, forget all the advice. Everyone has their own unforgettable experience in this country.

What my son and I learned in India :

– To sleep in any condition; – To eat any food; – To overcome 12-hour drives in the third row of a minivan with the air conditioning off; – To make do with little; – To appreciate what we have at home.

By the end of the second week, something clicked in my head and there was SAFETY. Maybe I had to overcome the difficulties, give up the comfort, to be alone with myself and achieve inner equilibrium. In no other country in the world has such a thing happened. And perhaps many people go to India for peace of mind.

However, if I had been asked to go a second time with my son, I would have refused. There were a lot of Russians with babies on the flight to Moscow, and someone was even six months pregnant. I assume they were on vacation in Goa. And the difference between the comfort of a tourist Goa and the conditions of central India is enormous.

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