India can be a wee bit unnerving for the first-time visitor. The lifestyle and culture is totally different from the West. We've made a list of some important dos and don'ts for hassle-free and enjoyable travel in India.
- A proper VISA to enter and stay in India is a must. There are reported cases when travelers are advised non-requirement of Indian VISA by their travel agents. Practically every foreign national requires VISA to enter India.
- Travelers should get properly inoculated against Yellow Fever if coming through infected regions.
- It is advisable to cover yourself with travel insurance for thefts, loss and medi-claim.
- Carry proper maps of the places proposed to visit in India, as signboards are often absent. Try to reach a station during daytime if traveling on your own. In any case avoid persistent touts and taxi-wallahs at airport/stations/bus stand to help you find your hotel. Always use tourist assistance desk for proper advice.
- Women traveling alone in certain deserted places should avoid walking at odd hours.
- Don't ever enter a temple, tomb, dargah or Gurudwara with shoes on and/or scantily dressed. One should cover his/her head with a cloth while in a Gurudwara or Dargah. Parikrama or walking around the sanctum sanctorum should always be in clockwise direction.
- Do not wear black clothes while visiting a Jain temple. Leather articles are forbidden to be carried in Hindu and Jain temples. Taking photograph of the deity in a temple is normally not permitted.
- Participating in a social occasion or visiting a home requires conservative dress codes. Do not shake hands with ladies. Always pick up a thing and eat with your right hand. Take only as much as you can eat, do not leave anything uneaten over the dish.
- Do not point your finger at any person. It is taken as a sign of annoyance.
- While changing money, insist on getting encashment certificate.
- Do not encourage beggars.
- Do not checkout of the hotel in hurry. While checking out it has been noticed in some hotels, the extras are unreasonably charged which the guest hurriedly pays without cross-checking.
- Do not leave your cash and valuables in your hotel rooms. Keep your cash divided in different pockets.
- Take care of proper disposal of your rubbish always whether you are exploring desert, or Himalayas or beaches or anywhere else.
- Be careful of cultural and social sensitivities of the regions. There is no single rule for that, the best way is to observe and follow.
- Take care of contamination of water and food problem. Always drink safe mineral water and take well-cooked food.
- Don't buy antiques more than 100 years old. Selling and buying "shahtoosh" shawls is a crime. The same goes for ivory and wildlife.
- Buy at genuine shops only. Bargaining is a popular practice in India and necessary too. Don't ever believe in lucrative offers of antique dealers in which they offer you to carry a parcel of some other buyer back home with your own margin described. Entire transaction should be legal and transparent so that you may claim later if dissatisfied.
- Don't eat anything offered by fellow travelers on train or road travels. It might have sleeping pills. Always travel reserved class in trains.
- Always chain and lock your luggage under your berth in a train. Don't keep anything valuable near the window. Always carry plenty of water, fluids in trains. A lone woman traveler may request to be accommodated near other women travelers.
- Do not visit places which encourage orthodoxy, social injustice and inhuman practices (like visiting a sati temple).
- Don't photograph women without permission.
- Don't accept offers of visiting anyone's home unless you are confident of the person.
- Use licensed guides for sightseeing.
- Always use strong suitcases/baggage, as mishandling is common at airports/stations.
- Don't tip unreasonably and unnecessarily in a hotel. The NEWS soon spreads in the hotel and by the time you checkout there will be a group of them saluting you to expect something.
- While traveling, don't act confused. Keep a posture of a person known to the region.
- Avoid eating buffet meals, even in expensive hotels. The food may become contaminated due to over-exposure.
Here's a handy checklist of things that you should get along when you come to India. While most of the things are available in India, there may be some difference in quality and price, and it's always a good idea to have familiar things around you.
* Cotton trousers.
* A pair of shorts.
* Long cotton skirts for women.
* Light colored shirts and T-shirts (cotton).
* A hand towel.
* Good number of cotton underwear.
* A hat.
* A sweater for hill stations.
* Sandals and easy slip-ins for frequent removals while visiting temples. Cotton socks to wear when you find the floor of such sites hot. Slippers if there are frequent long distance train travels.
* A pair of sneakers.
* Swimming gear.
* A set of formal clothing.
* A small, handy and effective torch to be always carried along.
* A multi-purpose knife set like Swiss Army knife.
* Water purification tablets if visiting remote locations where mineral water is unavailable.
* Sunscreen lotions (High factor)
* A pair of binoculars.
* A lightweight bed sheet.
* Mosquito repellent or mosquito net (lightweight, permethrin-impregnated).
* Hands and face tissues.
* An inflatable pillow. Neck-rest pillow for long bus journeys.
* Ear plugs.
* Shampoo and conditioner.
* Lip balm.
* Water bottle (handy)
* A small bag to be tucked at back to carry essential things while on sightseeing.
* Air cushions for hard seating.
* Contact lens cleaning equipment.
* Eye mask.
* Shower gel.
* Nail brush
* Short wave radio.
* Spare batteries.
* Toilet paper
* Money belt
* Your prescription medicines, if any, in labeled containers.
* Medicine for diarrhea (Imodium, Lomotil) and an upset stomach (Gelusil).
* Medicine for cough and cold, such as pseudoephedrine tablets (Sudafed) and cough syrups (Tossex, Linctus Codeine).
* Pain-relieving medicines, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin (Crocin, Disprin).
* Decongestants and antihistamines (Avil, Benadryl) for treating allergies.
* Antibiotic ointments (Neosporin), bandages, Band-Aids, surgical adhesive tape, sterile gauze, cotton-wool buds, corn pads.
* Medicines for preventing motion sickness, such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and anti-nausea drug promethazine (Phenergan).
* Anti-infective ointments like cetrimide.
* Dusting powder for feet against fungal attack.
* First Aid kit alongwith syringes, needles, disposable gloves, scissors, tweezers, nail clippers, pocket knife, thermometer, and mirror.
* Chapsticks and vaseline are useful for colder climates; and a steroid cream (Eumosome) is helpful to relieve the itching caused by insect bites.
* Condoms and contraceptives.
* Passport and VISA. Keep separate photostat copies.
* Confirmed air tickets for all sectors.
* Clearly filled up vouchers of your tour operator with all service details.
* Contact persons' names and round the clock numbers.
* All confirmed hotels names and addresses.
* Confirmation faxes/letters/e-mails from tour operator, hotels and other service providers already booked.
* Complete information on itinerary, sights, and important places of assistance.
* Spare passport-size photographs
* International driving license.
* All permits, Indrail passes and other documents if applicable.
Still have any question regarding India...then you can write back to me again.