What is the one thing you wish you knew before visiting India for the first time?
Don't listen to anyone on the street or in a train station that is "just helping" because they're probably not. Unfortunately a lot of people (even those who seem official) are just trying to make a quick buck out of tourists, so you have to be very cautious.
Only ask your hostel or hotel staff for directions, and try to work out how you need to get to your destination before setting out.
You can visit my page for more practical information on the country's transport, food, accommodation India in a nutshell
India is a country that can make you very paranoid to the point where you start questioning honest people, but it is excellent travel training as it makes you sharper when you're anywhere else in the world!
Enjoy beautiful Bharat!
You'd wish that you had known how extremely chaotic and crowded India is. Also dirty and polluted. Makes me sad to say these things about my country but that's the truth. India is not for the faint-hearted. That said, the charm of this country lies in the chaos.
Make sure u know and are aware of all malarial procedures! Please do not eat randomly on the road the food is oh so good by most tourists cannot handle the road food! Also don't get freaked out by the crowds it is a bit overwhelming but if u can handle it there is a different beauty about India. Hope this helps! It is an experience of a life time
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One thing that you need to know before you visit India is you will fall in love with India and will come again and again. So carry yourself carefully because India is full of diversity and each culture offers different language,food,habits,etc. So take care of yourself.
You already have so many answers which are really helpful, I would like to suggest you few things which are also going to help you.
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Thanks for choosing India as your travel destination. India is beauty country having unity in diversity where you will find a mixture of ancient and modern culture, forts and palaces, hills, deserts and many more that will make your tour a lifetime experience.
As you are a female traveler, I want to suggest you few tips for first time woman traveler in India.
1. Cell phone is a great asset and talking to someone you know when you’re on the move is even better. And always mind your space and let people know it’s not okay if they trespass your personal space and be firm.
2. If you are a female solo traveler safety standard should take precedence over budget while choosing your accommodation. The rule is that the lower the cost of a hotel the bigger the risk with safety.
3. Also don’t take accommodation is obscure places.
4. Don’t ever accept the food offered to you by the person you don’t know especially on trains, buses, hotels and tourist places. There have been a few cases where drugged food and drink have been offered to the tourists before robbing and sexually assaulting them.
5. Clothing is also very important when you are a women traveling to developing countries like India. Following the intrinsic yet unwritten cultural codes could save you a lot of hassle and unwanted glares.
6. make sure that your arms and legs are covered fully covered especially when you are traveling religious places and market areas or neighborhoods which are not upscale.
7. If you are traveling through rural areas people will stare at you but its okay as they are just curious and mean no harm.
8. Although clothes has nothing to do with rape but some of the member of so called intelligentsia and cultural/moral brigade have also blamed ‘skimpy’ clothing for inciting men into assaulting men.
Now add that too to India’s Hall of Shame.
9. Don’t make direct eye contact and smile simultaneously as this is often misconstrued by perverts and sexually repressed people as a sign of approval and freedom to take a step further.
Not that you can’t be friendly, it’s just that you need to be very careful with your body language.
10. Appear assertive and stride confidently and ensure that your body language exude firmness. As mentioned above setting your boundaries is a must. Don’t get friendly and smile back to the people you don’t know.
11. Don’t shake hands or hug people you know very little (your travel guide, cabbie etc.). If you are uncomfortable you let the person know instead of acting friendly in trying to not appear snobbish or insensitive.
12. Don’t let anyone touch your hand or sit close as to brush you. Tell them politely but loudly to move away.
13. Get to know the many Indians you’ll be traveling to. This rule is applicable in any country to which they’d be traveling. India is vast and a potpourri of cultures and beliefs. Each region in India varies considerably from the other.
Although rapes have been reported from all around some places are much safer for a woman solo traveler. Regions like Ladai, Darjeeling, North East, Uttarakhand, Andaman, Nicobar, Kerala, and South India in general are much safer than metro cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata.
14. Get to know the Indian woman. Walk in her shoes, observe her to get a feel of how they travel and try to imitate their style. Not that it will make it safe to travel alone but it’s always good to have more tools to work around with.
15. Prefer public transports for inter-city travel and always keep change. Don’t tip generously or where it is not needed.
16. Don’t encourage a person with politeness if he/she is trying to act extra friendly and most importantly keep your eyes and ears open and be alert of your surroundings.
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The precautions with food and drinks are really important, but will not guarantee that you won't have the Delhi Belly. Give yourself at least 3 days to adjust before planning some major adventures because it may happen that you'll not be feeling very well. Your body is likely to react to a different climate, different food/ingredients and different methods of cooking. You won't escape that even in the best restaurants.
Be careful with making friends, you'll hear "my friend" very often and most of the time it means you've been picked by a friend scammer.
Don't flash your money when paying for things, otherwise you might discover someone is following you. That of course depends if you're traveling local style or more touristy style.
Don't be afraid to be rough or impolite. If you mean "no", say "no" very confidently, Indians are expert bargainers, so "meek no" will only fuel those who want to sell you something. The other way is to learn to bargain yourself and they'll give you credit for that ;)
Otherwise, enjoy! ;)
Watch out for travel agencies, sometimes they're trying to cheat. Double check the train ticket reservation.
Be aware that lots of prices are printed on products (ex. on bottle).
Book your train tickets in advance.
When you travel by bus do not take the front seat. It's better not to see how they are driving :)