I traveled to India in 2015 and before leaving, I heard all kind of bits of advice from my travel friends like “expect the unexpected”, “are you really planning to go THERE?”, “be prepared to cry”, and there is a strong reason for all this kind of cliches. Let’s try to summaries in words my experience. You are never ready for India but India its always ready for you!
Be prepared for dirt, pollution, and poverty. The population of India is 1.3 billion people and it’s the second most populated country in the world, after China of course. The poverty problem is big and you can see it at any crossroad. The issue here is very complex, as the rich people are getting richer when the poor people have no access to water or toilet and I was shocked to see people almost dying on the streets, it was overwhelming.
Stick with one area. The seventh-largest country in the world, India occupies more than 3 million kilometers of landmass on the globe. The distances are big so my advice, try to stick with one region. For example, in 4 weeks we traveled only to New Delphi and Goa.
What to wear and what to bring. It’s more complicated for ladies than for gents, you can wear what you want. As a female, covering up makes a huge difference. I have always covered my hair as I was totally blond at that moment. Try to pack light scarves – useful for draping over your head. Don’t take too many as you will buy more for sure. Cotton pants. Shoes similar to VANS so you will not get dirty while you walking around. Pair of flip-flops, as it’s always very hot. Multi-way travel adaptor and a power bank will be useful enough for long-distance travel. Also, travel insurance it’s a must!
Especially in New Delphi, it’s good to have all the tours organized. We had a driver/guide for 3 days to travel to Agra, Karauli, and Jaipur. It was the best decision to rent him. Tip: because of the complex traffic they have, locals are never punctual. The two ladies in the tribe had it hard to just walk around as the male-locals were grabbing our hands to take pictures with us and buy us stuff, a bit aggressively sometimes. Luckily, we had a male-friend with us that saved us every time.
Negotiation. You have to negotiate everything all the time. They enjoy it as much as you can enjoy it too. Prices are really low and once you will found the price-market for souvenirs, you will be amazed how cheap they can be.
Safely. The capital is not that safe and you hear a lot about all sort of crimes. Try to stick with touristic areas and try to use taxis as much as possible as it’s safer. The air pollution and noise pollution is at its home in New Delphi. In the evening, we felt sand on our tongue, sometimes it was difficult to breathe normally and you cannot see the sun during day time.
- Swaminarayan Akshardham – the World’s Largest Comprehensive Hindu Temple (you are not allowed to take pictures). It’s a beautiful temple and you should not miss this place.
- The India Gate – World War 1 era monument to represent the moment when India was part of British Commonwealth
- Humayun’s Tomb – resting ground of the Mughal Emperor Humayun
- Jama Masjid – made with red sandstone and white marble. It’s one of the biggest mosques in India
- Taj Mahal – one of the seven wonders of the world & Unesco World Heritage. Taj Mahal is a complex architectural creation. With a tomb, a mosque, a guest house, the main gate, they have maintained the conditions of authenticity at the time of inscription.
- Agra Fort – Unesco Work Heritage site
- Hawa Mahal – “Palace of the Winds” or the Pink City
When I came home, I said to my friends that nothing in this world can prepare you for the reality of India. You can touch the extremes. You can enjoy the best food in the world. You can buy anything you want at decent prices. It is a place that is hard to travel and even harder to understand. Ever since I saw a lot of poverty and people suffering from basic needs, I realize that water is priceless and we should not waste it. This goes for everything we usually take for granted.
In a nutshell, I am so glad and proud of myself that I went with my gut and boarded that plane. This incredible experience taught me a lot of things but the most important one is that fear should never hold you back and that even all the risks and dangers everywhere in the world, it’s still important experience what the world has to offer.