Let’s not beat around the bush, India is a hard country to travel in and it can get under your skin and break your spirit if you let it. We travelled in India for 2 months, and although (at least once) I found myself screaming with frustration, we did it and experienced all that India had to offer. Follow our guide below and you can do it too.
1. No matter how prepared you think you are, or what you’ve heard, India is 10 times more chaotic and in your face than you are expecting. You need to realise you can’t change it, so stand up for yourself, and try not to get too stressed out. Ear plugs are essential to drown out the street din from your room and also the snorers on the train.
2. Luckily we didn’t experience pick pocketing first hand, but we put this down to the fact we always locked our rucksacks and hand luggage in order to deter pick pockets. Ensure you bring a couple of different sized padlocks with you to lock your bags and also to use on room doors and lockers. So we weren’t kept awake by paranoia on the train we also invested in a long chain by Pacsafe that we used to chain our bags to the seats.
3. Don’t let people take you for a mug, mostly rickshaw drivers and touts. Remember what your mum said and don’t talk to strangers (including beggars) as they are only interested in separating you from your hard earned cash. Always ask ‘how much?’ before agreeing to anything and STOP AND THINK before handing over money.
4. Don’t trust anyone. No one is your friend. If you need help or directions then approach a policeman, although their English may be limited they may still be able to point you in the right direction.
5. Before you set out, ensure you know exactly (or at least vaguely) how to get to your destination i.e. know the distance to your destination so you can gauge how much a rickshaw or bus should cost. On average a rickshaw should cost rs.10 per kilometre.
6. Haggling is India’s national sport, only behind cricket. Be prepared to half their first price, or in some cases reduce it by 2/3. You may feel you are being rude at first, but worry not, as they have no qualms in charging you 10 times the correct rate. If they do not take the bait then simply walk away and you’ll be amazed how much the price will drop.
7. For all you carnivores out there, consider becoming a vegetarian for the duration of your stay. We saw first-hand chickens’ being prepared to be sold to restaurants and the conditions this is done in is far from hygienic. Even when eating vegetarian, remember to use hand sanitizer as the food is often not the problem, but the dirty hands eating the food.
8. Before checking into a hotel, take a look at the room and ensure the fan or air con is working and that there is running water. If you are not happy then ask to change rooms, or go and find another hotel.
9. Never leave the hotel without toilet paper for obvious reasons.
10. Bring a silk sleeping bag liner, these are a god send as they will protect you from bed bugs in cheap hotel rooms and are handy if you take an overnight sleeper class train (as you don’t get given sheets).