India is a fascinating country with warm people, diverse cultures, and interesting traditions. This is why many people flock to India for a quick trip or vacation to experience what the country has to offer.
When visiting India, there are a couple of traditions and customs you must familiarize yourself with for a happy and convenient trip. Read on and learn about some tips and insights you have to remember when traveling to India, the land of mystery, diversity, and cultures.
Know the Travel Entry Requirements
Make sure that you know the travel requirements before flying to India. Your valid passport, an Indian visa, and a return/onward ticket are some of these requirements. If you are visiting as a tourist and are staying for less than 30 days, apply for “Electronic Travel Authorization.”
Remember to secure a printout of your actual visa – not the confirmation of your Indian visa, which you received via email. It turns out that a handful of people can be confused as to what needs to be presented before boarding the plane.
To avoid the hassle, make sure that you’ve printed out the correct document. Save yourself some time by checking out the Indian Government website to ensure that you have all the needed information and requirements before visiting India.
Learn a Few Words in the Local Language
Because India is a large and diverse country, this also applies to the diversity in their languages. But who wouldn’t want to be understood by the people there and vice versa? Later on, you would realize that learning a few basic words in the local language will save you a lot of time and trouble.
Although different languages are spoken in most states, English is commonly used and understood across the country. Hindi, while not the first language spoken by all Indians, is also commonly understood.
Some basic Hindi words that could come in handy are the following.
- namaste (hello/goodbye)
- shukriya or dhanyawad (thank you)
- theek hai (all right)
- haan/haanji (yes)
- nahi (no)
- madat (help)
- kripya (please)
- aaj (today)
- kal (tomorrow)
- khaana (food)
- garam paani (hot water shower)
- chalo (let’s go)
Mind What You Wear
It may be tempting to wear shorts, skirts, or tank tops in India because of its warm weather, but be reminded that India is a conservative place. Walking around wearing revealing clothes is unacceptable, and you will be drawing a lot of attention when you dress in a revealing fashion.
Covering your arms and legs is a simple step to respect India’s modest culture. Even though Indians forgive those who are not familiar with their traditions and customs, you can make a good impression if you do so.
Remember to keep your shoulders and knees covered and to bring lightweight pants. For women, bring a shawl or sarong to cover your cleavage.
Understand the Head “Waggle”
If you’ve observed that locals have a certain way of waggling or moving their head as a response, don’t mistake it for the way Westerners use the nod up and nod from side-to-side for yes and no.
The Indian nod varies in meaning, and it depends on the context or situation. Take time to learn how it is used in different contexts so that you can avoid barreling towards a misunderstanding with the locals.
Avoid Public Displays of Affection
If you are traveling to India for a romantic getaway or honeymoon, or just a simple trip with your partner, here’s some news for you: public displays of affection are considered inappropriate and are frowned upon.
Keep your hands to yourself and avoid hugging, kissing, or even holding hands on the street if you don’t want to draw unwanted attention and disdain of the locals.
Remember to keep your affection and love discreet to respect the locals’ customs and practices.
Learn How to Eat with Your Hands
Cutlery and utensils are not customary in many parts of India. Delightful dishes such as the curry is eaten by folding over a bite of naan bread and using it as a scooper or by pinching some rice and curry before stuffing it into your mouth.
Remember to never eat with your left hand, as this is the hand you use to clean yourself after using the toilet. Doing so may seem rude and unsanitary – you wouldn’t want people thinking that you are!
Eating with your hands will take a lot of practice, but it’s worth the try! You’ll see why Indians enjoy eating food with their bare hands. Try to learn it in order to experience their culture when it comes to food and dining.
Learn How to Haggle
Haggling is not unusual in the streets and shopping centers of India. Whenever you’re out shopping, learn how to haggle and negotiate with the seller to give you a lower price than what they usually ask.
Usually, the first price sellers will give you is ridiculously high, especially if you are obviously foreign to the place. Give a counteroffer, a price lower than the seller’s first price, and you can do this back and forth until you reach a price where you are both satisfied and happy.
If you ever come across a seller who won’t budge, here’s a tip: say thank you and walk away. Chances are they would hate losing a sale and probably agree on your low price and sell you the item.
Beware of Fake Deals and Scams
Like any other place, India is also filled with people who have nothing better to do than to trick and scam people. Government-run shops are one of the safest places to avoid foul scams, especially for vulnerable tourists and foreigners.
Always pay in cash when purchasing in shops and stores so that you won’t be a victim of credit card cloning scams. Pay attention to things you want to send home via courier – shops can take your money and send worthless items instead.
Travel scams, such as taxi drivers supposedly not knowing your hotel’s name even if it is a popular hotel, or insisting that your hotel has changed its location, are popular in India. These drivers will take you to a different hotel and get paid commission for bringing in victims like you. Avoid this by knowing your hotel’s address and phone number.
Watch out for Fake Ticket Offices
Big cities like Delhi and Mumbai are where you can find fake train ticket stations and tourist information offices waiting for a poor tourist to prey on. These fake offices will scam you by selling fake tickets that are useless and worthless for your supposed journey.
This is why you should have a phone with a SIM card. This way, you can look up the company online and find out whether those offices selling tickets are legitimate or fake.
Please take note that when deals and prices seem too good to be true, they probably are. Steer clear from these sketchy offices and always check the ticketing store to purchase your ticket for a safe and convenient trip.
Be Careful When Walking on the Sidewalk
The concept of a sidewalk is vague or sometimes even non-existent in the streets of India. There is no such thing as a sidewalk, as the streets are a large traffic jam of cows, rickshaws, motorbikes, people, and stray cats and dogs trying to get around with one goal in mind: trying to move to their destination without collision.
This may sound chaotic to a tourist, but hey, don’t worry, there are also some sidewalks. However, they’re poorly maintained and are plagued with big holes or sharp things sticking from the concrete.
Remember to watch your feet when you are walking and be aware when you are strolling the busy streets of India. Try to be aware and alert so that you won’t go home injured from getting hit. Experience the streets of chaos and enjoy it!
Get Familiar with “Indian Time”
If you’re the type who’s running on a military clock and is very keen on being timely and punctual, India might not be the best vacation spot for you.
India is also known for its own perspective on time, so ensure that you keep this in mind and allow extra time and patience for delays. Because of the traffic situation, people find it difficult to be on time.
Please don’t be so hard on your Indian friends when they don’t show up as expected or when the trains don’t leave on time. Build-in plenty of room for unexpected waiting, and don’t get stressed out.
Mind What You Eat
Indian street food is truly a wonder. Its meager prices makes it a staple of Indian culture and a must-try for tourists and foreigners alike.
However, if your stomach is not built for street food, have a diarrhea pill in handy because streetfood can sometimes cause slight discomfort.
Don’t drink the water served at most street food stalls if you don’t want to spend the rest of your day cooped up in your hotel room. Try to ask for recommendations from locals on the best (and sanitary!) street food shops and confidently try those out.
Every place has its own quirks, and India is not an exception. With its busy streets, delectable cuisine, and fascinating culture, a trip to India will surely be something to remember.
Follow these tips to enjoy your stay in this wonderful country and experience their unique culture. Pack your bags and get your passport because it’s time to fly to India!