Before you travel to a new country, you should always consider and research a few things about its customs and culture. Not only does this prepare you for what to expect when you arrive, but it'll also ensure you're being respectful to the culture from the moment you land.

Even within India, there are differences in what's expected between from the north to the south, with the south being a little more conservative. Even so, I still believe these nine points hold no matter where you are in the country.

1. Wearing exposing clothing

India is still a fairly conservative country so showing too much skin is frowned upon. Ladies, to dress respectfully, cover your legs as much as possible and your shoulders too. I also read that women should cover their crotch and buttocks, hence the traditional clothes (Salwar Kameez and sari/saree) sitting loosely on top. A big no no is having underwear showing (bra straps for the ladies or underwear poking out the top of the shorts for the men) and definitely no midriff showing, unless, of course, you’re wearing a saree.

I’m sure clothing standards vary greatly depending on how many tourists pass through the area and the location (I imagine Goa would have slightly different standards) but regardless of whether other tourists are doing it or not, try to be respectful where you can and dress more modestly than you would in Western countries.

As a bonus, loose fitting clothes made from a natural, breathable material actually help to keep you cooler as the sun isn’t directly hitting your skin!

2. Assuming everyone is out to get you

After hearing from various people about all the scams I’d be faced with in India, it was hard to wipe all the stories out of my mind and give people a fair chance. My husband and I stayed in a place called Gokulam, Mysore for a month doing yoga, which is a very chilled area in India. People are really friendly and the price seems to be the price no matter whether we get a loaf of bread, a coconut or a meal.

People aren’t always out to get you and if you think they are then you’ll have a pretty miserable experience. Even the rickshaw drivers (Indian tuk tuks) have been fair when we ask for a price first up (except for when we ask to go to a touristy area. But hey, you can’t blame them for trying!).

3. Forgetting to look up the common tourist scams

Actually, this is something that should be done before you go anywhere to get a heads up on situations you may be faced with. This isn’t to freak yourself out but simply to know what could happen and how to react accordingly. I wish I’d done this before visiting Paris, I had a stupid bracelet on my wrist and a man who assertively demanded payment for it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about read about this common Parisian scam here.

4. Giving money to begging children

UGH this one really breaks my heart. It makes me so angry and upset and sad and all at the same time. It’s especially difficult when these kids come up to you while you’re eating. They beg for money saying they’re hungry, hoping your guilt will kick in enough to give them some cash.

The unfortunate thing is that the begging industry in India is massive (73 MILLION beggars) and when you give money to kids it doesn’t go to their families to feed them but to the leader who runs the area. This is a great article explaining the begging industry in India in more detail, it even says beggars ‘rent’ babies from their mothers to make their begging more credible.

If you really want to help with communities living in poverty then it’d be best to try and volunteer at an NGO or even smaller scale, direct volunteering through workaway.info.

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5. Being scared to try a new meal

You won’t know everything on the menu (or maybe even most things!) and that’s OK. My favourite restaurant in Mysore, which I went to for two solid weeks, was stumbled upon in the usual sense – walking, decide I'm hungry, keep walking until I can’t see any tourist-targeted cafes (usually anything containing the words Om, Mandala, Raw or Yoga), decide on a place that looks local enough and hope for the best.

On the day my husband and I arrived we were so lucky the friendly owners were there to explain a few meals to us. We ended up letting them surprise us with whatever they suggested so we got surprised with a new meal each time. It’s such a good way to try new foods and flavours and we’ve never been disappointed!

6. Forgetting to leave a tip

Travelling through India is so cheap that a 10% tip will be barely noticeable in your pocket. An extra 50c or $1 to a meal isn’t a huge cost to you but means a lot to the workers. The wages are low and every little bit counts. Not to mention, they’re really appreciative and you get the biggest, happiest grins when you leave a little extra.

7. Trying to bargain down EVERYTHING

It’s not always worth trying to bargain the cost right down. Work out the exchange rate and most times you’ll realise it’s only a dollar or more than you had in mind.

Is the price you’re getting charged more than the price for a local? Maybe. Does that matter? No. Should you pay the same price the locals pay “because it’s only fair”? I truly believe not.

A part of travelling is being generous to the people you meet and the country you visit. Many of the residents in India live on a few dollars a day and pay a smaller price because that’s all they can afford. If you get quoted a dollar more than the locals, that’s fine. Be happy that you’re contributing to giving someone a better quality of life.

8. Making a judgement of the country based on one place

India is a huge country which is so diverse – various religions practised, 780 languages spoken and eight bordering countries (six land borders and two sea borders).

They say the north is a lot more chaotic whereas the south is more chilled. Where we stayed in Gokulam is a really beautiful place (not so much aesthetically but the people are really beautiful), however, had I stayed in Mysore city I think I would have hated it.

Wherever you go, keep exploring, keep researching, find out what others love to do in the area and see what they recommend. It’s the only way to see all the different sides to the city and then if you still don’t like it, well it doesn’t mean you might not love another part of India.

9. Forgetting to have fun

It seems like there are so many rules to follow but don’t forget to relax and have fun! More than anything be open minded! Meet new people, try new things, explore a new culture and have a blast while you do it. You’ll work the rest out once you get here.

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9 Mistakes Not to Make When Travelling to India - Breathe Travel

Images: pixabay.com & author's own