I’ve only been back to India only a handful of times in my life and each time was a completely different experience. Depending on where you go, preparing for a trip to India may involve different things. I’ve compiled a starter list to help you out if you’re considering a visit.
See your doctor
Consult with your physician and let them know you’re going. Have them make sure your vaccinations are up to date as they may recommend some additional shots or boosters. Plus you can ask for antibiotics to cover travelers diarrhea (because honestly, you never know).
Get your visa
Everyone traveling to India–yes even us US passport holders–needs a visa to enter the country. Obtaining one is easy and can be done online at Indian Visa Online. Once you apply and pay, you’ll get your electronic visa within 1-2 business days. Then just print that email and bring it with you to the airport.
The email will look like this:
Your application for Indian e-Visa has been processed with following result
e-Visa Validity period is 60 days from the date of first arrival in India.
Gather your documents
In addition to your visa, make sure to print all your travel documents showing your exit plans from India as well. When you’re there and ready to come home, or on to your next destination, you’ll be required to show proof of your ticket in order to enter the airport.
In addition, certain areas of the country may require special permission in order to enter. If you decide you want to visit those areas, be sure to get the appropriate documentation and keep it with you at all times. Watch for those travel advisories as well. You don’t want to get stuck in a troubled area.
When packing For India
Check the weather
Depending on the time of year, and which parts of India you’re visiting, this can vary. If you’re going at a time when it rains a lot, pack a good quality poncho. Umbrellas will not help you with Indian Monsoon.
Leave your valuables at home
In big cities, wearing fancy jewelry or accessories is commonplace. In smaller towns, not so much. India is growing and is becoming more globalized, but overall its still a poor country and theft is common. For instance, wearing a nice necklace or chain? Someone driving by on a motorcycle may decide they like and just yank it off your neck. So, either leave it all at home, or when you know you’ll be visiting a crowded market/temple/shopping center, keep it locked in your hotel safe.
On the same note, regarding any hand bags you take with you, make sure there’s a zipper or secure closure.
Things you must take with you
Create a travel checklist so that you don’t forget these things.
Sunscreen, bug spray, plug adapter, first aid kit, and medications, including antibiotics, antacids, antidiarrheals and pain killers. Also, don’t forget really comfortable walking shoes.
Consider the culture
Even if you’re sticking to big cities and group tours, certain parts of India and certain areas may require that you watch what you wear. For instance, to enter a temple, or other place of worship, conservative attire may be required. I suggest you look into your specific destinations before you go and pack some extras. As an example, I never wear shorts to temple, but I will wear flowy skirts; I’ll wear non-sleeved shirts, but keep a shawl with me as a just in case. Alternatively, you may wear shorter bottoms, and use the shawl to wrap around your waist as a skirt– this also works as a quick fix measure in case you end up making an unplanned stop somewhere.
General Things to Know
India is extremely crowded. Traffic everywhere, people everywhere, and cows everywhere. Plus, no one there has any patience. Standing in line and waiting your turn? About 12 people will walk right past you and skip the line altogether and you’ll be left waiting for a chance you’ll never get. I’ve had that happen to me while shopping, at restaurants AND at temples. So watch and see what the crowd around you is doing, and then follow suit.
I spent most of my time in India this time around in New Delhi. They have a metro system that is on par, if not better, than any other system I’ve seen in cities around the world. Imagine, its as well connected, with great service, as NYC, but also air conditioned! Not to mention, super cheap and clean. Its a great option for getting around the city if you’re there.
Other methods of getting around include rickshaws, electric rickshaws (e-rickshaw) that charge you per person, the bus (I don’t recommend this), and, in bigger cities, Uber. There’s an Indian version of Uber as well called OLA. Its slightly more expensive, but more reliable than Uber and it’s safe. I would download the OLA app before you go so that you have it readily available as an option when you get there.
When you do go shopping, ask for receipts and make sure the change they return to you is accurate.
Bargaining in the markets is a must because you will be over charged. Start at 50% of the price and then bargain away. Another method is to combine purchases. If anyone gives you a hard time, then just walk away. There’s tons of vendors, and if one doesn’t give you the price you want then another will. If for some reason you aren’t able to find a certain product elsewhere, then you can always go back. Just don’t be afraid to walk away first. (Click for more tips on how to haggle).
On that note, if you go to a showroom that’s not in a mall, you can bargain there as well. Some places will say “fixed price”, but you can usually work with them to lower it. Also, these bigger showrooms have a habit of offering you drinks and snacks. If you intend to stay and purchase from them, then feel free to accept those offers. You will not be charged for them.
Street food there is fine for you to eat (and you should definitely eat it), assuming it’s fully cooked. I wouldn’t eat anything raw or uncooked off the street; save those items for actual restaurants.
Definitely don’t forget to sample the street chai. Ask around because those guys are few and far between nowadays. So if you find one, definitely order a cup!
Products in India have local flavor. See if you can find your favorite American items that have an Indian twist!
Have you ever been to India? Anything you’d like to add to this list? Let me know and I’ll put it on and tag you!