How to Travel INDIA – but is it safe?
Check Full Video HERE
Chaotic, disorienting, delirious, captivating, intimidating… With its immense cultural and geographical diversity, India defies any definition and can only be approached with humility and amazement. Are you ready to embark on the great journey: of going to India for the very first time? So how do you prepare for it? Follow our advice to avoid unpleasant surprises and set off serenely to discover this fascinating world.
Choosing the right season
You can travel throughout the year in India, provided you are in the right place at the right time. In such a vast territory, the climate differs from one end of the country to the other.
Keep in mind that the best time to visit most of the country is between October and March. The rest of the year is ideal for tackling the Himalayas.
Do your research on regional specifics to avoid extreme heat or too much rain. What is the best time to see tigers in national parks? When to go rafting on the Ganges? What time is best for sleeping in the dunes of the Thar Desert? And for the beach? And for trekking in Ladakh? And the festivals, will I see them?
You will have understood, that this is THE most important question to prepare for your trip: when to go to India?
Take your time
Be aware that you can’t tour India in a few weeks. A lifetime would not be enough to travel and explore this country. One rule: don’t try to see everything.
Depending on the season, all you have to do is choose your favorite region. Remember that in India, people rarely drive at more than 40 km/h. Everything takes time in this country of over 1.25 billion inhabitants.
Indian trains are not synonymous with high-speed trains. On the roads, plows, trucks, two-wheelers, herds, construction, and religious processions, many unpredictable elements can significantly slow down your journey.
The good news is that by taking your time, you will understand a little better what is happening around you, and your curiosity will be even more piqued. And it will be an opportunity to come back and visit another Indian region next time.
Avoiding the crowd
For a first trip to India, you don’t have to subject yourself to the most intense, difficult, and exhausting: avoid the big cities!
Choose a balanced itinerary that offers you moments of respite. Going from one urban center with more than a million inhabitants to another can quickly make you allergic to the Indian chaos.
Instead of visiting the classics, Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, go breathe in the Himalayan foothills, even in the middle of winter. Between two major tourist cities, take breaks in your itinerary before returning to face urban chaos.
Choose less frequented regions, go to rural India, stay in villages, explore national parks…
Seeking help from local experts
For novices, organizing a trip to India can be a real puzzle. Local travel agencies, knowledge, friends of friends, Airbnb, Couchsurfing, or others, exchange as much as possible with those who have already experienced it.
Good advice, pitfalls to avoid, must-sees, or hidden gems, you will always appreciate a little help to put you on the right path. Booking your visa for India online, booking a train ticket? Is the Taj Mahal open on Fridays? Which palace to choose in Rajasthan for a dream night? How to book a cruise in Kerala? What to see in Chennai? In which neighborhood to stay in New Delhi?
Living more than just a trip
Getting off the beaten track is the best way to immerse yourself in the heart of the country. Don’t do like everyone else. By practicing responsible tourism in India, you discover a completely different aspect of the country, far from the usual clichés and prejudices. The curious traveler who decides to travel differently in India is sure to have an unforgettable experience. Take local transport, mingle with the locals in their daily lives, and attend a festival or a wedding. Take the metro, take a cooking class, stay with locals, rent a bike to explore a neighborhood, learn to play the tabla, go see a Bollywood movie, try a yoga class… Dive into the intimacy of these endearing people, with the hope of deciphering this extraordinary world, and finally learning to love India as it truly is.
Respecting traditions and cultural differences
In a country with deeply rooted traditions and an ultra-conservative mentality, modesty is key. We advise you to dress appropriately. Avoid miniskirts and low-cut tops for girls, as well as shorts and going shirtless for boys. In temples, wear clothes that cover your shoulders and legs. Even at the beach, in tourist places like Goa, do not sunbathe topless.
Outside of a few major cities, India is not a party destination. The evenings are quiet, there are no Full Moon Parties here, and life moves to the rhythm of the sun. Remember to take off your shoes before entering a temple or place of worship. Do the same when entering people’s homes and sometimes in stores. As in many other countries in the East, when you eat, use only your right hand. Remember that the left hand is reserved for personal hygiene. If you are traveling as a couple, do not show affection in public. Remain modest and save your affection for private moments.
Getting Informed Before You Go
The journey begins at home, dreaming in front of maps and atlases. Read, watch Indian films, listen to Indian music. Try to learn more about the country’s history, codes, culture, and traditions. This is a good way to understand Indian diversity and not feel lost once you arrive.
The loss of reference points and the intensification of emotions can make the experience of a first trip to India overwhelming. With more knowledge, you can engage with another culture, no matter how different, and respect it.
So many questions arouse our curiosity: religious diversity, the importance of family, the role of women in society, the caste system, Gandhi, Indian cuisine, holy places, sacred cows, Bollywood films, cricket…
Discover Indian cuisine gradually. Street food is abundant, varied, and inexpensive. But it can also be a quick way to food poisoning.
Take reasonable precautions such as washing your hands before and after meals. Do not drink tap water. Choose mildly spicy dishes at the beginning of your trip, and gradually indulge. Adopt the local diet: no meat, no worries.
If you are heading to the Himalayan mountains, be sure to acclimatize well to avoid acute mountain sickness. In tropical areas where dengue can be a concern, protect yourself from mosquitoes.
Brushing up on your English
Even better, learn a few words of Hindi to facilitate communication. In India, people do not kiss on the cheek. Instead, join your palms in front of your chest and say “Namaste.”
The curiosity of Indians is perhaps one of the most characteristic traits of their personality. Whether you are shy or take the first step, India will challenge you with its encounters.
Prepare for common questions about your country, your family, and your beliefs in this or that god. You will also be charmed by the head nodding, a typically Indian gesture that means “yes, maybe, okay,” but without a 100% guarantee.
An Indian proverb says:
“Those who come to India learn to have patience if they do not have it,
and lose it if they do.”
First of all, we advise you to completely change your way of thinking. Put aside your Western logic to learn to adapt to this new environment, far from everything you already know.
Take things with a bit of distance and, above all, with a smile. Honking horns, traffic jams, constant noise, barking dogs, endless queues – observing this constant hustle and bustle is already a good way to get used to it.
At the end of your journey, you will appreciate the taste of resourcefulness and organized chaos where everything is possible, and a solution can always be found.
The best advice to give is undoubtedly to stay calm in all circumstances. In India, small annoyances can quickly turn into anger and frustration. Your ability to master them and continue your journey will be the key to a rewarding experience.
How to Travel INDIA – but is it safe?
In his “Carnets du Japon,” Nicolas Bouvier presents his concept of travel, which perfectly sums up the experience of a first trip to India:
“A journey is like a shipwreck and those whose boat has not sunk
will never know anything about the sea.”
Like an initiatory rite, a first trip to India disrupts and forever changes our perspective on the world. So don’t hesitate, go for it! And you will undoubtedly become a member of the lovers of India…