India is known as the beating heart of Asia – it’s vast, complex, and simply overwhelming. From the Himalayas to tropical beaches and extreme desert to mesmerizing hill stations, India has everything that can leave a tourist asking for more. The country with 1.4 billion and Hinduism as the biggest religion has always some buzz going on – events, festivals, and so much more.
When you plan to travel to such a vast country which is also the most populated on the planet, your preparation has to be extremely well-planned. As part of our Worldwide Travel posts, to ensure that you get the best of this wonderful country and have a memorable India trip, here’s a list of the essentials you must know about.
Plan around the seasons
Plan your trip around India’s diverse climate, which ranges from hot and humid to snowy landscapes. The ideal time to visit is from October to May, but be aware of regional variations.
- India has six major climatic subtypes, according to the Köppen system. These include arid deserts, alpine tundra, humid tropical, and more. Depending on where you want to go, you may experience different weather conditions and activities. For example, you can enjoy hiking and trekking in the Himalayas in autumn, or explore the rain forests in the southwest in spring.
- The monsoon season is a distinctive feature of India’s climate. It occurs from June to September, when heavy rains sweep across the country. The monsoon is essential for agriculture and the economy, but it can also cause flooding and landslides. If you plan to visit India during the monsoon season, be prepared for wet and humid weather, and avoid travelling to low-lying or coastal areas. Alternatively, you can visit the regions that receive less rainfall, such as Rajasthan or Ladakh.
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Prepare Your Digital Gadgets
If you want to make the most of your trip to India, you need to prepare your devices for some potential challenges and opportunities. Here are some tips to help you do that.
First, you need to check the compatibility of your phone and laptop with the Indian power supply and network. India uses 230 volts and 50 Hz frequency, which may differ from your home country. You also need to bring a universal adapter or a plug converter that fits the Indian sockets, which have three round pins. Otherwise, you may end up with a fried device or a useless charger. Trust me, I learned this the hard way when I visited Delhi and plugged my laptop into a socket without checking the voltage. It was like a mini firework show, but not in a good way.
There are also various system glitches you might come across from iPhone screen blackout to connectivity issues, failed iOS updates or you may even be unable to turn on iPhone, for example. To overcome these while traveling, refer to the guide in the link. This will ensure a hassle-free journey where you don’t have to bother about your top travel gadget – your phone.
Second, you need to decide whether you want to use your own SIM card or buy a local one. Using your own SIM card may be convenient, but it can also be very expensive. You may incur roaming charges, international call rates, and data fees that can quickly add up. Buying a local SIM card, on the other hand, can save you money and give you access to better coverage and faster internet. However, you need to have a passport, a visa, and a passport-sized photo to get one. You also need to register your SIM card with the local authorities, which can take some time and paperwork. I recommend buying a SIM card at the airport or a reputable store, and avoid street vendors who may sell you fake or stolen cards.
Third, you need to be aware of the cyber security risks and precautions when using your devices in India. India is one of the most cyber-attacked countries in the world, according to a report by IBM. You may encounter malware, phishing, hacking, identity theft, and other online threats that can compromise your personal and financial information. To protect yourself, you need to use strong passwords, avoid public Wi-Fi, use a VPN, update your antivirus software, and backup your data. You also need to be careful about what you post on social media, as some content may be considered offensive or illegal by the Indian authorities. For example, you should avoid posting anything that criticizes the government, the religion, or the culture of India, as you may face legal consequences or even imprisonment.
While there’s no official vaccination requirement for India, consult a healthcare professional at least eight weeks before your trip. Consider vaccinations for diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis, and more, depending on your travel plans.
Vaccinations can protect you from some of the common and serious diseases that you may encounter in India. Some of these diseases include typhoid, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, and yellow fever. Depending on where you are going and what you are doing, you may need different types of vaccines. For example, if you are visiting rural areas or animal sanctuaries, you may need a rabies vaccine. If you are traveling to areas with a risk of yellow fever transmission, you may need a yellow fever vaccine and a certificate to prove it. For more info read this on the CDC site.
Before you get vaccinated, you should also check your medical history and current health status. Some vaccines may not be suitable for you if you have certain allergies, medical conditions, or immune system problems. You should also inform your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant, as some vaccines may affect your baby. You should also avoid getting vaccinated if you are sick or have a fever, as this may reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine or cause adverse reactions.
Watch this video to learn more:
Respect local etiquette
Learn and embrace local customs. Simple greetings like “namaste” or “salaam alaikum” can go a long way. Understand handshaking norms, gift-giving etiquettes, and the importance of removing shoes before entering someone’s home.
India is a diverse country with many religions, languages, and cultures. Therefore, it is important to respect the local etiquette and avoid offending anyone with your behavior. One way to do that is to learn about the religious beliefs and practices of the people you meet, and follow their rules when visiting places of worship. For example, you should cover your head and shoulders, and avoid wearing leather or revealing clothes when visiting a Hindu temple, a Sikh Gurdwara, or a Muslim mosque.
You should also refrain from eating beef or pork, or drinking alcohol in front of devout Hindus or Muslims, as these are considered taboo by their faiths. Food diversity in India is just mind-boggling. You will enjoy a variety of food in every new state but there are some basics to follow. You need to respect religious rules regarding food, and don’t be afraid to eat with your hands in certain regions – it’s pretty common. Familiarize yourself with local customs, such as eating from a banana leaf.
Another way to respect the local etiquette is to be mindful of your body language and gestures. In India, some gestures that are common in the West may have different meanings or implications. For example, you should avoid pointing your finger or your feet at someone, as this is considered rude and disrespectful. You should also avoid touching someone’s head, as this is considered sacred and intimate. You should also be careful about using your left hand, as this is considered unclean and used for personal hygiene. You should use your right hand for eating, shaking hands, giving or receiving gifts, and paying money.
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As a spiritual globetrotter, you must know that modesty really matters when in India. You need to respect local modesty norms, especially for women. What easily works in America does not work in India. Loose-fitting clothing that covers arms and legs is advisable. Consider traditional garments like kurta pajama for men or salwar kameez for women but if you are not comfortable in these, go for t-shirts, jeans, or anything that can keep you nicely covered and prevent exposure.
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Master the art of haggling
Haggling is a way of life in India, especially in street markets. Take it as normal and when someone haggles, stay patient. You are open to negotiate as much as you can but do so in a polite manner and if it does not suit you, don’t be afraid to walk away. The key is reaching a mutually agreeable price or just walking out if you can’t.
Watch this video for some good laughs and tips:
Respect at religious sites
Religion holds great significance in India. Familiarize yourself with rules at temples, mosques, gurudwaras, and other religious sites. Follow dress codes, remove shoes, and avoid disrespectful gestures.
Street harassment awareness
Is India safe to travel? Yes, it is. But there are a few key things to know about. Unfortunately, street harassment is common. But some caution like avoiding isolated areas and staying vigilant goes a long way in ensuring your safety. Use designated women’s sections in public transport and strategies like wearing sunglasses and headphones for privacy.
When hiking in the Himalayas, be mindful of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Ascend slowly, take rest days, and descend if symptoms persist. Altitudes above 2500m pose a risk, so acclimatize cautiously and contact the local sherpas before planning a hike.
Know local laws
Familiarize yourself with local laws. Some of these include restrictions on photography, smoking bans, liquor bans, and dietary prohibitions. Research your destination carefully. Seek advice from locals, and adhere to regulations to avoid legal issues or any unwanted trouble that would end up wasting your time.
Watch this video to learn more:
Natural disaster awareness
India is vast, stretching from the mighty Himalayas in the north to warm beaches in the south. It’s bound to have different weather patterns and the disasters that occur because of it are common. Stay vigilant regarding natural disasters in specific geographical areas and seasons. Keep track of the local news and follow updates from the Indian Meteorological Department.
When you visit India while knowing these basics, you are sure to have a smooth travel time. Every moment that you will spend in this diverse country will be something that will remain etched in your memory for a long time. With so many things to do in India and knowing what can keep you safe in different environments in the country, all you need to do now is pack your bags and book the flight ticket.