Some small parts of wisdom to impart if you are thinking of travelling India (and you should!)
- If you are feeling unsure, book a tour for the first part of your trip. I did the India on a Shoestring 20 day tour with G adventures (but booked through STA Travel as they were having a sale!). I 100% recommend them, our tour group was 14 people ages 18-31 of a mix of nationalities and we travelled to so many places and it included so many things! The accommodation was great, in a couple of places it was like luxury. It was very easy, convenient and took the shock out of travelling in India for me.
2. Buses are cheaper than A/C trains
3. Book buses using redbus.com. I still have no idea how the train system works in India and while the trains on the tour were great, booking them at agencies was expensive and you can be put on a waitlist and sometimes you don’t know until a few hours before if you can take your train! As an extremely organised person I could not live like that!
4. Avoid busy, large crowds as I was aware this is where some unpleasant behaviour such as bum-grabbing can occur. I simply waited for crowds to disperse at say train stations before heading to where I wanted to go.Like most developing countries, India has a slower pace of life. Don’t get angry if your train is late! Enjoy the chance to people watch with a 5 rupee masala chai tea!
5. Cover up. Not only to be respectful but also out of safety. Yes in an ideal world women should be able to wear whatever we like, but we can’t and your safety is more important than your (and mine!) feminist views. It seemed to be more important to cover your legs than your shoulders in most places I went. Shoulders must always be covered at temples so…
6. Take a scarf – covering up, keeping cool in the hot sun, lying on for a sleeper train, bunching up as a pillow…so many uses!
7. Try ALL the food and yes I mean including street food! Curries, naans, chapattis, raitas, aloo tikka, paneer, chais, lassis…I was in food heaven in India! And I’m still exercising off all those paneer butter masalas…
8. If you feel unsure, LOOK confident. Pretend you know where you are going and head somewhere!
9. Speak to people. You won’t be able to avoid it so might as well embrace it. I met some really interesting characters and learnt so much about the country just from chatting with people near me on trains or buses.
10. Let people take your photo. It kinda feels like being a celebrity with the paparazzi following you around! For me, these situations are all about your attitude towards them. I smile say yes and try to engage them in conversation rather than just a pointless (to me!) photo. You WILL have to take more than one and likely with every family member. Go with it. If it’s a creepy guy say no, or one group selfie and move on. A lot of foreign tourists get annoyed when people take your photo without asking. I can understand the frustration but also I feel it is often because of the language barrier that the locals feel they do not have the English to ask. I sometimes stopped them, encouraged them to ask me and then said yes. Occasionally I just pulled a silly face as they were snapping me as they walked by.
11. Check out Zostel – an up and coming chain of hostels that are amazing value for money and offer free activities. They were also full of foreign and local tourists which I loved.
12. Travel by tuktuk! They were cheap and I felt that they gave reasonable prices for trips! In Thailand, a tuktuk will try and charge you 10x the actual price so India felt refreshing for this!
13. Tip! Usually 10% and remember that it’s a little for you but likely to be a lot for the locals. Even 10 rupees for someone to ‘look after’ your shoes while you are visiting a temple is expected.
14. Use a backpack! I am a new convert to the small day backpack but it was so useful and even if I had two litre bottles of water in it, it didn’t feel heavy!
15. Choose accommodation wisely. If I’m alone I feel much safer staying in a dorm with lots of other people rather than a separate room. I also make sure the location is central and look on reviews to see comments about location. The worst location would be one where I have to walk back to alone at night time.
And here’s some advice about solo female travel in India that I didn’t take and got pretty mad about!
What are your India tips? Do you agree?