Sorry about that alliteration, couldn’t help myself.
I love India. I’ve gone five times and you can read about it here. I don’t think I’m an expert, but I do have a decent amount of experience. Let’s get to it, shall we.
1 ) Don’t limit yourself to one city. So many times when people travel, they say that they’re spending one week in one major city. Sure, there are a lot of things to do there, but there are so many fascinating places just outside. The first time I went, the plan was just for Mumbai. When I decided to stay an extra week, we ended up taking an eight hour bus ride to a tiny place called Mahabaleshwar and got to live the strawberry dream.
2) Take pictures. Everyone that goes to India gets the slum, market, and Taj Mahal pictures. They’re almost a rite of passage. Take some that you can’t find in Google though. Include yourself! Include the gorgeous hotels and skylines. A lot of foreigners have the perception that India is a giant slum. We should take this chance to show our friends and family the other side so that they can see that India is also developing quite rapidly.
3) Don’t drink water from the tap or anything with ice. You’ve heard this tip, I’m certain. This includes brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating a slushie. Don’t do it unless you want to poo all day. There is, however, an incredible device called a Steripen which uses a UV light to sterilize an entire liter of water in only 90 seconds. Highly effective, pretty cheap (less than $50), and easy to travel with.
4) Dress like the locals. If you’re female like me (hii!), then you’ve probably heard that you should be modest and cover your shoulders and knees and cleavage. Immediately you scowl and say that you shouldn’t have to do that and it’s too hot to wear so much. Use this time to wear the dually beautiful and comfortable Indian clothes. If you can tie and pull off a saree, you have my immense respect. The rest of us will stick to churidars, anarkalis, and whatever else we can find.
5) If you want to eat it, eat it. So many people say don’t eat street food because you’ll be sick and regret it. I’ve eaten street food and I’ve gotten sick. I spent two hours pooping, but it was so delicious. Honestly, sometimes it’s worth the sickness. I’ve since developed a bit of a tolerance and learned to try to stick to food I’ve seen cooked in front of me, but I still say that if you shouldn’t hold back if you want to try it.
6) Try Uber! It’s expanded to nearly 30 Indian cities now and you can use your account and card from home. Even a fifteen minute ride is still barely $2. Many speak English and are also using tour vehicles so you may be able to get a nice sight-seeing tour planned for your stay. Although, I must say, take a rickshaw at least once. Nothing compares to it!
7) Be open minded about your hotel. Some of the coolest places to stay don’t have websites. There are so many amazing beach huts in Goa and other locations that aren’t online. In Varkala, Kerala there are small, beach-front apartments you can rent for only $60 per month (though the facilities are poor). When you’re out sight-seeing and see an interesting place, go and inquire. Usually the rates are pretty low and you’ll see a place you wouldn’t have known about before. AirBNB offers some great alternatives as well. I stayed here in Trivandrum, Kerala for only $45 per night for a private 3 bedroom house.
8) Use local beauty secrets. I was not one for putting coconut oil in my hair before living in Kerala for three months. My hair became a poofy monster that was beyond recognition and a small girl actually approached me asking what was wrong with my hair (lol!). She prescribed Parachute coconut oil and began applying it to my hair daily. Before I knew it, my hair became much more tame and was SO soft when I got home. Highly recommend.
9) Don’t wear tennis shoes if you don’t have to. You’re going to have to take your shoes off a lot. Some shops, and even hospitals, require it. It’s going to be a huge headache for you to untie and retie your laces sixty times per day. I’d invest in some comfortable flats or even sandals. If you look around at most of the locals, that’s what they’re doing too.
10) Go to the movies. You should be exploring what India has to offer outside, but I’ve got to admit that India has some of the most amazing theatres. With huge ranges of food, comfortable (and assigned!) seating, cheap tickets, air conditioning, and a fun experience of seeing the national anthem played before it starts… it’s sure to be a good time. I have gone to more simple theatres and those weren’t as fun, but try a fancy one sometime and see a movie for only like $3.
This is just a short list of some things that I’ve learned over the last four years. I’d be happy to add more if needed. Feel free to ask specific questions 🙂
*None of the links are ads or sponsored. Just trying to be helpful by showing specifics on what’s worked for me.