So you’ve decided to travel to India? Amazing! It’s a beguiling and incredible place that deserves at least one visit. It can also be confounding and chaotic and send your head spinning if you’re not prepared.

Here are our best tips and things I wish I would have known as a first timer in India:

1. Adapt to India

First, and most importantly, drop any preconceived idea that the way you do things is the right way. Sure, you may have grown up with it and prefer doing something your way, but across the world, there are so many different customs and cultures – that’s why we all love travel.

India has its own way altogether of doing things, which is basically ‘however and whichever random way that it happens’. For example, I saw an ambulance filled to the brim with watermelons – what the?

India is a huge country, 7th largest in the world to be exact (Australia is 6th largest but has over double the land-mass of India). Make sure you do your research and know what to expect in the region you’re going to. From mountains to desert to jungle, India has it all. But make sure you go to the right places at the right time.

2. Come prepared if you want a SIM card

We’ve gotten used to picking up a cheap and quick SIM card when overseas, but it’s not quite as easy in India. Bring passport-sized photo as well as a copy of your passport as the process is quite involved, and you'll probably still need a local to help you out. Don’t expect to use to use it the same day either! Last time I was there it took 2 days to activate.

3. Embrace the lack of personal space

There are SO many people, over a billion actually. So don’t be too precious about your personal space. To give you a comparison, Australia has 2.66 people per km2 – India has 343.68. It will take a bit of getting used to, especially on transport. Trains and buses are generally always packed.

Special tip: If you are travelling on an overnight train, make sure you book a berth (bed) and be aware that if you are on the bottom bunk, your upstairs neighbour will likely be sitting on your “bed” until it’s lights out time. We’d also suggest booking First or Second Class.

4. Don't support organised begging, especially with children

You will come across quite a number of beggars, especially children. Many good-hearted people who just want to help don’t realise that giving money perpetuates a cycle of poverty. That money is either going to incentivise that child to stay out of school and try and collect more donations, or you are going to encourage organised-begging (also known as human trafficking).

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In India, it’s estimated that approximately 60,000 children disappear every year and are forced to work as beggars for organised criminal groups. The children don’t keep any of these earnings or get to go to school. They are often starved so they will gain more sympathy and potentially more donations. You’ll feel really terrible and want to give them something, but you need to resist!

5. Embrace 'Indian time'

Everything is 20 minutes away. Indian time is relative! Everything takes longer than expected, shops close randomly, traffic stops all the time and the locals just don’t mind when things take a while. You will just need to adjust and run on Indian time.

6. Yes sometimes means no

The locals in India are incredibly hospitable. They want to help you and will very rarely say no, even when it isn’t possible and they really mean no. If you are unsure, ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer, you will often work out what they actually mean!

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Image source: pixabay.com


Have you visited this beautiful/incredible/chaotic country? What was your experience? Tell me in the comments below!

For more posts on India, don't forget to check out:

Don't make these 9 Mistakes When Travelling to India

The Full Breakdown of a Month of Yoga in India

8 Must-Read Safety Tips for Women Travelling Solo in India

An Off-The-Beaten-Path Guide to Tamil Nadu, South India


This post originally appeared on Inspired Adventures and has been republished with permission.