India Travel Tips
India can get chaotic, crazy, daunting, and overwhelming for the first time traveler. The following list of tips should enable you to prepare yourself and ensure that you have a fabulous time in India.
Select your route wisely
India has a lot to offer in terms of things to see, do and experience. It is not practical to cram all of them into one trip. Identify your interests and tailor your trip accordingly. Weather also plays an important role when traveling in India. Remember to leave something for your next trip – you will be back for sure!
Slowdown the pace of your travel
Most India-travelers will agree that this country has to be experienced rather than just seen! In fact, there is nothing more rewarding than slowing a tad bit to enjoy a place to the fullest as opposed to rushing through it. It also enables you to be relaxed, gain a richer experience and have the time to build relationships with the people you meet along the way.
Nothing ruins a trip more than a bout of sickness. Avoid drinking tap water – always drink filtered or bottled water. Going Vegetarian while in India might not be a bad idea. A dodgy meat dish can do a lot of harm. Plus, since many Indians are vegetarians, there is always a fabulous choice of vegetarian food. If you do eat meat, make sure it’s well cooked and eat from places, which enjoy a lot of local patronage.
Always carry mosquito repellants with you. Electricity cuts during the day and night are quite common in India. Hence carry both the rub-on kind (Deet) as well as the ones which run on electricity. You can purchase the electric ones from the local stores in India (GoodKnight and All Out are reputed brands).
Familiarize yourself with different diseases that are common in Indian climatic conditions. Please consult your physician before going for any vaccination or medicine. Here is a comprehensive list of all the diseases that are common to India.
- Hepatitis A
- Japanese Encephalitis (Vaccination is recommended for those traveling to rural areas)
- Rabies (Vaccination is recommended for those who may have direct contact with animals)
- Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
Altitude Sickness is quite common in the higher altitudes. Anyone, irrespective of their age or fitness level, can be affected by AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). It is a pathological effect of high altitude on humans, caused by acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude. Read up on AMS, be prepared on how to reduce the chances of being affected by it and what to do should you be hit with it.
- Be aware of the local laws and customs prevailing in India. This will help in making your trip hassle free.
- Keep your contacts at home and in India informed of your whereabouts and activities.
- Leave photocopies of your important travel documents with your family and keep scanned images on a secure USB stick or a secure online storage site.
- Keep a copy of your passport in your backpack, etc in case your actual passport gets lost or stolen.
- Keep your embassy phone numbers with you at all times.
- Keep your the hotel’s business cards with you at all times. There is nothing more frustrating than forgetting the name of the hotel and its address when it is time to head back to your room.
- Never keep your wallet in the rear pocket.
- Leave all valuables and important papers in your hotel’s safe deposit box. Never leave them unattended in your room.
- Always keep your hotel rooms locked from inside and never open the door to unsolicited room service or maintenance. In case of any suspicious behavior call the reception or the front desk of the hotel.
- Never leave your luggage or other expensive items, unattended at airports, bus stands, taxi stands or railway stations.
- Avoid asking taxi/cab drivers for accommodation recommendations.
- Always hire taxis/cabs from prepaid booths or avail services of radio cab operators like Meru Cabs. If you do travel by local transport, insist on going by the meter or fix the fare in advance to avoid unnecessary issues when you reach your destination.
- Avoid traveling alone at night.
- Never ever discuss your travel plans or any other personal matter with strangers.
Tipping is common in India. The following should serve as a good guide on how much to tip. It is always nice to keep smaller denomination bills handy for this purpose. Avoid including tips as part of your credit card payment since in most cases it will never reach whomever you are tipping.
- Porters INR 10 per bag
- Room Service attendants INR 20 per service
- In some hotels (especially family-run ones or guesthouses), there is a common collection box which you can use at the time of check out.
- 10-15% of the bill amount based on level of service
- If the bill is less than INR 100, then leave INR 5 to 10 as tip.
- Some restaurants levy a flat service surcharge. In such cases you are not expected to tip on top of that.
TAXIS / CABS
- No tips are expected for short trips (less than 2 hours). If the service has been good then you might want to tip about INR 50.
- For longer trips, INR 150 per day is a reasonable amount.
- INR 30 for 1 hr, INR 50 for 2 hours, INR 100 for 4 hours, INR 150 for full day.
- Post Offices in India are open from Monday to Friday.
- Government and administrative offices from 0930 to 1700 hours (Monday through Friday).
- Banks function from Monday to Friday.
- While there are plenty of ATMs in most cities and towns, it is advisable to keep some money (INR 10,000) stashed away for emergency use. Increase this to INR 20,000 if you are going to remote regions like Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh.
- Outside of the metros, radio availability is very limited. Hence carry your music on your personal audio device (iPods etc) and keep a collection of your favorite music on a USB stick. Most of the cabs and taxis have a USB input on their music systems.
- Don’t stuff in all your clothes into your bags. It is better to buy clothes locally in India which are reasonably priced, colorful and fun to wear.