**Updated : April 2023**
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After spending nearly an entire month in India, and being completely overwhelmed when we first arrived (or really the entire time we were there...) we put together a short hand list of what to expect during your first trip to India! Although these are great things to expect and keep in mind, we also encourage you to keep an open mind when visiting and we promise you'll have the best experience! From local cuisine and etiquette to scams to watch out for, make sure to read through this list before you visit India yourself!
10 Things to Know when Traveling to India
1. Don't Drink the Water - this might be pretty explanatory, but the first thing to avoid Delhi Belly is to never drink the tap water. This includes when you're in the shower, when you're brushing your teeth, and when you're eating out it's essential to always make sure they're using mineral water (or just avoid ice all together).
2. Scams Scams Scams - we don't want to scare you BUT there is an endless amount of scams (and scammers) that will target you when you're doing your best to explore India. It's so important to never listen, follow, or go with anyone you don't know - they will say whatever they need to trick you. We've seen locals wait for tourists to leave their hotel and follow them to claim they actually work for the hotel, we've seen locals trick people into saying the metro is the opposite way of where they're going, we've seen locals give tourists "free things" and then demand payment later, we've seen Tuktuks pretend not to know where to go and then demand increased payment then the agreed upon price. Just trust your gut, don't follow people, and watch your stuff.
3. Expect to Pay More than Locals - Pretty much everywhere you go, restaurants, street vendors, attractions, etc., the "tourist" price will be significantly more than the local price. At some places you'll be able to negotiate, however just know to expect this when exploring, shopping, or eating out.
4. Pack Appropriate Clothing - When in India, most people dress conservatively. This can be a bit different in larger cities like Mumbai or Delhi, however we recommend airing on the side of caution. Especially when visiting holi sites at temples or mosques, your knees and shoulders will have to be covered. Our best piece of advice is to bring a long shawl or sarong to easily cover your head and shoulders with in instances like this.
5. Verbal & Physical Harassment - Unfortunately, this is still quite common in India. The cat calling was actually not as bad as we had predicted, however the onslaught of TukTuk drivers, beggars, and merchants is something to prepare yourselves for. Occasionally, they will get quite aggressive and grab your arm or pull on your clothes. When this happens just be firm and tell them NO, and if it continues you can record them on video and say you're going to show it to the police.
6. Air Quality & Pollution - The air quality in India is some of the worst we've ever seen. Seriously, if you Google it you'll see the hundred of news articles yourself. It's so bad that 94% of the entire population currently lives in areas where the air pollution levels exceed India's own standards. Not to mention, there is garbage and poop everywhere in the city streets. You'll even see multiple people in the middle of a city peeing on the side of streets and sidewalks, in addition to the constant onslaught of spitting. We highly encourage you to bring comfortable walking shoes you don't mind throwing out after your trip (that goes for any clothes you bring).
7. Lodging Expectations - Unless you're paying out hundreds of dollars a night (or close to it), you'll probably have to lower your lodging expectations. If you have wifi that actually works in your room, that's awesome. If you have a clean bathroom, incredible. If you have clean sheets and towels, you've probably just won the jackpot.
8. Animals in the City - From cows to dogs to monkeys, you'll see plenty of them everywhere. Although you'll see people interacting with and petting each one, we can't recommend, even if you have your rabies shot.
9. Local Foods - If you've never had Indian food, then visiting India and trying local foods can be a bit of a shock. A large portion of food in India is veg friendly, although you can easily find non-veg meals as well. Some of our favorite foods (that weren't too spicy) were :
10. Local Customs & Etiquette - India is a magical place, and if you've gotten this far then it might seem like we hated it. Truth be told, we had an incredible time in India and although everything seemed like A LOT to take in while we were there, we both agreed that we would love to go back one day! Our last point is local customs and etiquette to know. We've created a short hand list of social norms and rules below :
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We're Deborah & Tyler, a pretty average husband and wife duo from a pretty average state that didn't want to live so averagely. After our *Covid wedding we sold everything that didn't fit into the Jeep and moved to Alaska, then decided to take a gap year!
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