Photo by A Cruising Couple
You’ll either love it or hate it, and there’s rarely an in-between. India is arguably the most intense country on the face of the earth, and all that color, spice, and chaos will either capture your heart forever, or have you leaving on the next plane and never looking back. From the thick, hot rice fields of the south to the brisk Himalayan air in the north; the remote tribal regions of the East or the luxurious modern bustle of the West, India’s 29 states can be more accurately described as 29 different countries smushed together and branded “Mother India.”
A trip to this glorious country will open your eyes to a whole new world. What's more, there are real ways to avoid the more difficult aspects of life in this country, while embracing the best parts. Follow these top 5 tips for a successful trip to India, and you're bound to leave India with experiences you will cherish forever:
1. Have No Expectations
Go ahead and lay down all of your preconceived ideas about India. While it’s true that India is one of the most beautiful countries you will ever visit, you will need to have the right eyes to take in the most precious aspects of the country.
More than likely, if this is your first time to the country, it will be nothing like you expected it to be. It’s not that India isn’t an amazing place, it’s just that there is truly nothing that can prepare you for the moment you first step out on its streets.
If you’ve layed down your expectations, you’ll be ready for anything, and much more apt to notice the beauty amidst the chaos. On the other hand, if you’re reeling from the disappointment of unmet expectations, on top of the inevitable culture shock, your ability to embrace India’s beauty will be snuffed out by your focus on the pollution, traffic and crowds.
2. Keep An Open Mind
Right alongside with having no expectations is the importance of keeping an open mind. Once you’ve laid down your expectations, get ready to be prepared for anything. If you’re coming from a Western country, you will probably find India to be vastly different from anything you’re used to. Be open. Forget about the need to be right, to have a plan, and to understand why locals do things the way they do. Instead, embrace the opportunity to learn about a new culture, and be open to the idea that your way of life isn’t the only way to go. Of course, this is true for travel anywhere. But it's especially important before journeying to India.
3. Let Go Of Control
As a follow up to numbers 1 and 2, don't forget to let go of control over anything. Flexibility will be your best friend in this land of the most vibrant culture. India is a country of Type Bs. Time is more of a general concept, and plans are never concrete. This is a people-oriented culture where flexibility is woven into the very fabric of the nation. Let go of your control and need for efficiency, and just embrace the adventure.
4. Do Your Research
Especially if this is your first trip to India, you will want to ease into the culture as smoothly as possible.
Research hotels, and book in advance. Trust me, it’s worth it to pay extra for a nice hotel with English speaking staff and semi-western accommodation. India is intense enough. You will be thankful for familiar accommodation to retreat to at the end of a long day.
Research the ins and outs of travel. Uber when you can--it’s often cheaper than haggling with an auto on the street.
Research the trains--you’ll want to understand what three-tier AC is and how to navigate the platforms.
Research food and sanitation: eat street food with caution, don’t drink the “hard water,” and always bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you.
Any research you can do ahead of time will help prepare you. Knowing the basics will keep you from wasting time lost in the “how-to’s” and enjoying the best that India has to offer.
Travel With The Right People
If you’re with the right people, you can laugh off any hard day and make the best memories no matter what chaos ensues. Keep flexible friends with good attitudes and a bit of resourcefulness and you will have the best of times. It’s not recommended traveling around India alone for your first trip to the country unless you are an extremely comfortable globetrotter. Trust me, this will in no way lessen the adventure. In addition, make friends with locals as they will take great care of you and help you understand the ins and outs of a culture far different from your own.
Follow these five tips and you will be well on your way to the most incredible adventure in Mother India! What useful tips would you add?