Going to India was one of the most interesting and eye-opening experiences of my life. If you get the chance to go, you absolutely should. I would not describe this trip as a “vacation”, but more of an “adventure”. I can tell you this will be the first of many India-specific posts I write because there is so much I want to talk about. In this post, I will go over some key things you need to consider both when booking a trip to India, and while you are there.
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1. Do Not Plan on Driving Yourself
Cars, trucks, tuk-tuks, ox-pulled carts, cows and people all share the roads. I personally would not feel confident driving myself in the cities, and I would even be weary driving from city to city. Using the different forms of public transportation is the easiest way to get around within a city, and it’s fairly inexpensive. If you are planning on visiting multiple cities during your stay, you have two main options: ride the train or rent a driver. India is famous for its trains, so I recommend planning on taking a ride to get the full India experience. If you ride the train, make sure you book your tickets in advance to ensure you get a seat.
I would also recommend having a plan on how you will get to and from the train stations. One great way to travel India is by getting a driver for the duration of your trip. We got a driver through Castle and King (1), and we were very happy with our experience! Our driver, Krishna, was very nice and honestly made our trip! We were thankful to have someone informative to give us tips that we wouldn’t have even thought about. Castle and King even helped us book our train tickets and had someone waiting for us at the next train station that took us to our next hotel. I highly recommend using Castle and King for your trip to India!
2. Hotel Room Sizes
I traveled with my family of four, and we typically have no problem finding a hotel to sleep us all. That was not the case in India. Nearly every hotel we stayed in had one large (queen, sometimes king) bed and one small (usually twin) bed. The rooms are set up to sleep three, not four. When you are booking hotels, make sure to ask how many people each room sleeps and what options they have for bringing in an additional bed if your party is greater than three.
3. Watch For Pick Pockets During Your Trip to India
Pick pockets are something to be aware of in many places around the world, and India is no exception. Be aware of your personal belongings at all times. We experienced people distracting us while a friend came in from behind, kids trying to take things out of our hands while we were walking, and people of all ages begging on the side of the road, even coming as far as to bang on our car windows.
Nothing was stolen from us, so I know you can go on a trip to India without losing any belongings. To keep your items safe, I recommend using a cross-body bag that fits under your clothes like this one (2). Put the bag on under your shirt so the strap cannot be cut off, and keep the bag at your front so you can easily clutch bag in crowded areas. Please note: this is not just specific to India. I would give this same advise to someone traveling to anywhere with known pick-pockets.
4. Be Prepared to Get Your Picture Taken
When visiting India, you really feel like a celebrity! At nearly every tourist spot someone stopped us and asked to take a picture with us because we look different. One girl around 13 was excited to see her “first white person”, and wanted to practice her English with us. Typically it’s not just one photo either. Several times there was a line of people waiting to take their picture with us. If you are not into getting your photo taken, you need to tell them “no” or you will be there all day. Sometimes, it was really neat! This picture was taken with a girl’s birthday party that was walking down the street. They were really excited to see us, and took plenty on selfies. This praparazzi moment was particularly fun.
Bonus Tip: Tampons
We learned the hard way that India does not carry tampons, or at least nobody we asked knew what we were talking about when we showed them a photo of a tampon box. If you’re thinking you’ll need some while you’re on your trip, I recommend packing plenty!
Anna’s Pick of the Week
A buff is a great thing to have in India for a couple of reasons. First, you may come across temples which require you to cover your head. Buffs can be worn as a head covering and they are easy to pack around. Second, they can be used as a mask. The air quality in India is not great, so having a mask available is always a good idea. They can also be worn as a headband or scarf which makes them great for every day!