1. Sort out your visa early. People from many countries can now arrive in India without a visa, but I’m from the UK so I had to get one beforehand. The visa process wasn’t as complicated as I’d heard about, but it was more time consuming than the visa application process for some other countries. It’s a good idea to get it sorted out nice and early so you don’t have a last minute panic.
2. Get your vaccinations and check a Malaria map. Speak to your doctor about the vaccinations you need for India and see if your itinerary includes any places where there is a malaria risk.
3. Check the weather – I was in India in April and May and it was very, very hot. However India can also get quite cold at other times of the year so make sure you know what type of clothing is appropriate. I’ve included a list of what to pack for travelling here.
4. Go with the flow. The way of life in India is very different to anywhere else I’ve ever been, which is one of the things I love about it. However, it can be quite a culture shock. I think it’s really important to relax and ‘go with it’ as much as possible. If you tense up and try and fight the chaos you’ll likely end up stressed and no one wants that.
5. Lack of personal space and no queuing! I’m from the UK and we’re known for having a strange love of an orderly queue. One of the things about India that stood out to me the most was the absence of waiting to take your turn. Two examples in particular were the ladies toilets in a train station – I had to stand directly outside the cubicle to make sure I got in next without someone jumping in before me – and checking in at an airport, which was a total free-for-all. But, as I’ve said before it’s so important to go with the flow and just accept another country’s culture and enjoy it.
6. Bring a good first-aid kit. In my experience, pharmacies in India are good, cheap and easy to find. Stock up on re-hydration sachets when you get there. The sachets I bought in Indian pharmacies were miles better than the ones I bought in England and only cost the equivalent of about 10p each.
7. Stay hydrated. If you are visiting India during hot weather, as I did, it’s very important to drink as much water as possible. This is particularly important if you get ill, which happens pretty often to travelers in India, because diarrhoea can lead to dehydration. As I said above, the re-hydration sachets you can buy in India are really good. Anyone I lent them to throughout my travels always commented about how amazing they felt after.
8. Squat toilets. I had already encountered the squat toilet before arriving in India, but if you haven’t then it’s something you’ll need to adapt to! It’s actually quite common to find Western-style toilets in India and some places will have a mixture of both.
9. Monkeys and cows. Get used to them because you will see them everywhere. A herd of cows chilling in the middle of the road and holding up traffic is a regular occurrence (cows are sacred in Hinduism). I loved walking through the streets and looking up to see dozens of monkeys running along the rooftops.
10. Prepare for power cuts. I experienced a few power cuts in India, some short and others that lasted for a few hours. Pack a small torch in your backpack so you’re not left in the dark.
11. Don’t hold back on the souvenirs. You can easily ship stuff home. I visited cotton and silk factories where I bought lots of beautiful fabrics and they would ship my purchases for me so I didn’t have to haul them around in my backpack.
12. Patience. Transport doesn’t always run like clockwork and can be unreliable. I took a night train from Orchha to Varanasi, which was delayed near Varanasi station for HOURS. I wasn’t expecting it and I started to get a little claustrophobic and panicky at not knowing when we’d be able to leave. It’s important to have lots of patience when travelling in India and factor in delays to your travel.
13. Cover up. It’s not a good idea to reveal too much in India. I’m sure some people do and are absolutely fine, but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable. I wore lots of long skirts, baggy trousers and long-sleeved shirts. Pashminas or scarves are useful too.
14. Be aware of the dangers for women. It’s sad and I wish it wasn’t the case, but the reality is India can be a dangerous place for women. I had the best time in India and it’s one of my favourite places, but I very much felt that I had to be on my guard.
15. If you’re unsure, take a tour. I’ve heard a lot of people say they would love to go to India, but they aren’t sure if they’re ready for it. My advice is go, go, go! If you’re worried about travelling alone, go with a friend or book a tour group. I’ve written more about the positives and negatives of tour groups here.
I hope there is some useful advice here for anyone thinking about heading to India. If you enjoyed this post please like and share, and if you’ve got any great tips please leave them in the comments. If you’d like to share on Pinterest, feel free to use the picture below. xx