India travel tips: Key information to prepare for your trip
- 1. Do I need any vaccines to travel to India?
- 2. India travel tips about internet connectivity
- 3. What is the currency of India?
- 4. Is tipping common in India?
- 5. Haggling in India
- 6. How to travel to India
- 7. India travel tips about places of worship
- 8. Travel tips India: Useful phrases in Hindi
- 9. When is the best time to travel to India?
- 10. Packing for India travel tips
- 11. Safety in India
- 12. Additional India travel tips
Are there any countries as intense and remarkable as India? This vast and beautiful land is full of activities and temples worth the visit. Of course, everybody knows about the Taj Mahal, but there are many others that will leave you speechless.
Enjoying everything India tourism has to offer can feel like a daunting task. There’s so much to see, so many people, so much everything! But don’t worry, here we will help you make the most out of your trip.
Do I need any vaccines to travel to India?
It is not compulsory to be vaccinated to travel to India unless your place of origin is a country where yellow fever exists, then you must be vaccinated and show the International Vaccination Certificate.
Although there is no obligation to be vaccinated, it is advisable to do so for Tetanus, Triple Virus (Measles, Rubella, Mumps), Hepatitis A and Typhoid Fever.
India travel tips about internet connectivity
India is a chaotic country in which you will certainly need a lot of information, be it about where to eat, to check the address of your hotel or to know you can easily make a call in case of an emergency.
The best way to make sure you can connect to the internet if you need to is to buy a prepaid Indian SIM card. However, the bigger cities will surely provide free WiFi in hotels, restaurants and other public places such as shopping malls.
If you prefer to have internet connectivity at all times, you can buy a SIM card from the companies Airtel, Jio and Vi. The best option is Jio: it has several plans that provide more data than the other companies.
Always make your purchase at an official store and not at the airport. You will need a photocopy of your passport and a personal photograph to register the SIM card to your name.
Whether you’re connected via WiFi or with your new prepaid SIM card, remember to download the maps of all the areas you’re going to visit (or the entire country) in Google Maps. An infallible tool for travelers!
What is the currency of India?
The Republic of India's official currency is the Rupee, a non-convertible currency controlled by the Reserve Bank of India. This currency is divided into 100 paise (cents), equivalent to 1 rupee (INR).
The exchange agencies accept Euros and Dollars, although the regulations on currency and exchange are somewhat complicated. It is advisable to carry some physical cash in foreign currency.
Changing money in the black market is a punishable offense. It is advisable to exchange any Indian currency you have left in cash before leaving India, as the Rupee is not a convertible currency.
Is tipping common in India?
Tips are known as baksheesh in India and, though they’re common, they’re not mandatory. You should only give baksheesh to people who have provided a service in a satisfactory way. If an adult, and especially if a child asks for baksheesh on the street, you should avoid giving it to them.
Some hotels don’t allow guests to leave tips. If you’re allowed to, it’s common to tip valet drivers and porters who carry your bags. If you would like to avoid having to tip the porters, don’t let them move your bags.
In the case of restaurants and bars, first you should check your bill to make sure you aren’t being charged for service already. If not, a 10% tip is customary. If you have received better than normal service, it should be higher (even if they have a service charge).
If you take any private form of transportation, it’s common to tip by rounding up the fare. Only do this if they have taken you to your destination without any detours.
Tour guides are usually tipped as well.
Try to tip in Rupees instead of foreign currency. Put your smaller bills in a separate, easily accessible place to avoid flashing your wallet every time you need to leave a tip: it could attract unwanted attention.
Haggling in India
Practice your haggling skills before traveling! You will need them. The best way to start is to give a counter-offer of half of what the seller is asking for, and then slowly work your way up until you reach a price that’s fair for both of you.
If you think that the seller is asking for too much, don’t get angry: just say no and walk away. He may lower the price some more or offer other discounts if you take more products. If none of this is useful, again: just walk away.
Even though haggling is almost mandatory, know that it’s likely that you’ll end up paying more regardless. It’s the cost of being a tourist!
How to travel to India
Here are the best ways to travel around India:
- Train: India has a vast railroad network with more than 7.000 stops, you can explore the entire country only by train.
- Bus: local buses are used only for short trips. However, there are other buses used for longer trips that are more modern and comfortable. You should buy your tickets in advance if you need to travel on one of those.
- Taxi: did you know that you can find prepaid taxis at the airports and train stops of India? They are cheaper than regular taxis! Remember to always make sure the taximeter is working and visible to avoid scams.
- Uber and Ola Cabs: these are taxis but with the price set beforehand.
- Rickshaw: it’s a kind of tuk-tuk, great for living a more authentic experience. The price is usually agreed upon with the driver.
India travel tips about places of worship
Religion is a key part of Indian culture, so it’s no surprise that there are several rules each tourist should follow when visiting places of worship (of all religions):
- Make sure you’re allowed to enter. Not all places are open to everyone, and they may be closed on specific days or during prayer.
- Always carry a scarf to cover your head. Also, keep your arms and legs covered.
- You won’t be allowed entry at certain temples if you have leather items.
- You will have to take off your shoes before entering.
- Taking photographs is not allowed in every single temple. Follow the regulations of each specific place.
- You’re not obligated to leave a donation if you don’t want to.
- Don’t let the soles of your feet point towards a person or image of a deity. Also, don’t touch people nor statues on the head.
Travel tips India: Useful phrases in Hindi
India was a British colony until 1947, so you will probably encounter people who speak English all over the country.
However, if you find yourself at a small village that lacks English speakers, you can communicate using these phrases in Hindi, the language spoken by most Indians:
- Hello: Namaste
- Goodbye: Alvida/Namaste
- Yes/No: Haan/Nahin
- Please: Kripya
- Thank you: Dhanyavaad
- Is there WiFi here?: Kya yahan Wi-Fi hai?
- How much does this cost?: Ye kitne ka hai?
- Where is the toilet?: Shauchalaya kahan hai?
- Where is the nearest pharmacy?: Sabse paas wali pharmacy kahan hai?
- Help!: Bachao!
When is the best time to travel to India?
Due to its large area, India has various types of climates depending on the region you move through, with significant differences between the north and south.
India has three main seasons: hot, monsoon and cold. Surprisingly, the best season to visit India is the cold season, which goes from November to February. During these months the temperatures are more pleasant and stable, and it doesn't usually rain much.
To explore the northern part of the country (including cities like Delhi or Jaipur), the best months to travel are from November to February. This also applies to everyone wishing to enjoy the beaches of India.
To visit the natural parks and reserves of central India, like Kanha or Ranthambore, the best time to travel is from March to May.
From December to March the best thing you can do is explore southern India, because there isn’t as much rain as other months and temperatures are milder.
In general, India is quite a warm country. Note that if you visit during the monsoon season, the rain and humidity can feel quite suffocating. The monsoon season runs from July to September.
Packing for India travel tips
When visiting a country with a different culture, it’s important to dress accordingly to avoid standing out negatively. Some India travel tips about clothing include the importance of modesty, especially for (but not limited to) women: both men and women need to cover their shoulders and knees to enter temples.
Pack loose-fitting and light, breathable clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Pack a scarf if you’re a woman and you want to explore mosques or other places of worship.
If you don’t have any clothes that share these desired qualities, don’t fret: you can buy kurtas(tunics) for men and women in every market you find. If you end up buying a kurta, the best thing you can do is wear it over leggings/yoga pants (for women), so you should pack the lightest pair you own.
For exploring the important things to do in India, packing long-sleeved shirts, comfortable walking shoes and sandals is essential. Why? Because shirts with long sleeves will protect you against the sun and bugs (don’t forget to pack insect repellent!). You will need walking shoes to explore the cities in India without getting your feet dirty, but sandals are a better choice for visiting temples: they will ask you to remove your footwear to be able to enter, and wearing sandals is easier than having to take off and put on your sneakers several times a day.
The sanitary conditions of India are not as good as the ones you will find in Western countries, so packing toilet paper, hand sanitizer and wet wipes will be of help when traveling around. One of the lesser-known India travel tips is to pack Vick VapoRub and to carry it in your backpack at all times. You may get congested due to the bad air quality, and you could also use it if the smell of the streets gets too intense.
Other general items that could be of assistance are:
- A portable phone charger
- An extra cord
- Extra camera batteries
- A universal power adapter
- A reusable water bottle. India has a problem with trash and plastics in particular, and the tap water is not safe for using (not even for brushing teeth).
- A lightweight rain jacket always comes in handy if the weather gets chilly or if it starts to rain
- Sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen
- Bandages and bandaids
- Medicine against malaria and stomach illnesses
Safety in India
Traveling to India is safe. Given its geographical location, natural disasters are not expected. However, during the monsoon season from July to September, there is risk of flooding.
Muggings and robberies are not usual, although there are sporadic cases of pickpocketing in the more touristy and central areas, as in most countries.
The areas of Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, the border with Pakistan, northeast India and West Bengal and Assam are areas to be avoided.
Attempts to scam tourists who have recently arrived in the country are commonplace. One such scam is for taxi drivers to attempt to lure you away from your chosen accommodation and instead take you to a friend’s travel agency where they will get a commission.
Additional India travel tips
- Make sure you meet all the requirements to travel to India. If you don’t, you could be rejected at the border.
- Travel to India tips usually mention that tourists get burned out. India is huge and extremely crowded, so make sure you save time each day for relaxing and tuning out all the noise and chaos. In fact, it’s better to spend more time in fewer places rather than trying to explore everything and end up feeling exhausted.
- Certain parts of India are very strict with regards to alcohol consumption. The sale, possession or consumption of alcohol is prohibited and can cause arrest and imprisonment in states like Bihar, Gujarat, Lakshadweep or parts of Manipur.
- In 2018, the practice of homosexuality was decriminalized in India; however, the country is still very conservative, especially in rural areas, and discretion is advised. Avoiding public displays of affection is advised, whether it’s in a same-sex relationship or not.
- If we are going to travel by car, you must be extremely careful, as the road infrastructure in India is badly maintained and poorly lit.
- You can find electrical plugs type C (the European one), D and M, so it would be best to take multiple adapters.
- Make copies of your important documents, such as your passport. This could come in handy in case of loss or theft.
- Try to travel with a bag and not with suitcases, as they are extremely difficult to maneuver in the streets of India.
- Monkeys are very cute and you may feel the impulse to approach them. Don’t.
- Some holidays are set according to the lunar calendar and can change from one year to the other. Thankfully, the Indian government provides an official holiday calendar on its website. Make sure to check it before booking your trip to avoid missing out on anything.
- If you greet someone, don’t shake hands using the right one. The same goes for passing things to other people. The right hand is considered dirty.
- Photographing the military, border crossings and bridges is not permitted.
- It’s not allowed to smoke in public places.
- Avoid drinks with ice, fresh juices and uncooked foods (like salads). Basically, don’t consume anything that may have been touched by unpurified water. It’s the easiest way to get Delhi Belly. Try to wash the fruit you eat yourself. Hot drinks are not dangerous.
- Have you ever heard of the Indian nod?