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All you need to know before traveling to India

India is a crazy, noisy but beautiful country and it can be quite a culture shock! There's so much going on but don't let that stop you from visiting - just come prepared. That's what this guide is all about!


I have to be honest with you guys... before going to India I was a bit scared... When Jacob and I booked the tickets after seeing so many beautiful pictures of India and a bucket list dream to visit Taj Mahal I was thrilled!! Then I started telling people where we were going and after numerous "oh be careful" and "wow I could never do that" it started getting to me... I started having second thoughts but I was determined not to let it ruin our trip to see the beauty of India. Instead of canceling, Jacob and I made some guidelines for our trip and that's the guide I'm sharing with you now! Including everything I've learned while traveling India. By the way... It's not that scary!



The guide includes:

  • How to stay safe

  • How to avoid getting scammed

  • How to get around

  • How to avoid "Delhi belly"

  • How much should you pay?

  • How to apply for visa


How to stay safe

Just to feel as safe as possible, Jacob and I set up some guidelines for ourselves. It may not even be necessary but better safe than sorry! And I feel like it helped a lot - after a day or two in India I felt confident and safe. Of course we forgot our rules once in a while or we were prevented from following them somehow. That's why I'm writing this post. So hopefully you don't make the same mistakes.


Tip #1 buy a SIM card

Buy a SIM card with data at the airport. That way you can call someone if anything goes wrong, you can double check if people are telling you the truth (also very good to avoid being scammed) and you can go on google maps to make sure you're the right place. I can't stress enough how important this is!! We were gonna do this but the cue at the airport was so long and we thought "let's just do it in Delhi"... DON'T DO THIS! We arrived on election day in Delhi and everything was closed by the police - even our hotel. We couldn't call anyone and we were put in a tourist office, where they offered us "help" and we couldn't double check anything they were saying. Long story short, we went to another city in a cab that costed us the same as the rest of our transportation costs combined. This will most likely not happen to you, but ohh so many times have I looked back and regretted not standing in line and getting it done right away.


There's really no reason not to do it. It's pretty cheap. We payed 800 Indian Rupees for 30 days of data and free calls with Airtel. They are supposed to be the most stabile company and we had no troubles with the internet.


IMPORTANT! To get a SIM card in India you need to fill out a form with your details and submit a photograph of you, your passport and your visa - if all this is not being done by the shop, it's not a real SIM card and it won't work!


Tip #2 travel by day

This was another major rule for us! We made sure to book flights and train tickets that departed/arrived in daylight. In general, we tried not to be out at night. Of course that's a bit difficult when the sun sets at 6pm but we were always home by 8pm. That was actually quite easy since it's really tiring being outside in the noisy city all day!


Tip #3 dress appropriately

India is very conservative in their attire - especially women. The local women I saw were always covered from their shoulders and down to their knees (at least). However, the stomach is apparently okay to show. By dressing appropriately you're not only being respectful to the locals, it also helps when people are staring. I'm a tall blond Scandinavian, which means I was prepared to be looked at. People even asked for pictures. By wearing long dresses and skirts, I felt a lot better when people were looking and I'm quite certain, that they would've stared even more if I'd been wearing a tank top and mini skirt haha. I've also read, that wearing revealing clothes can send the wrong message to the Indian men, who then thinks they can approach you and I'd rather avoid that...


In the more touristy and modern places like Jaipur it's a bit more loose. Or maybe I was just used to it by now. Anywho... I felt a lot more comfortable that I could wear whatever I wanted here!


Tip #4 invest in a fanny pack

A fanny pack or another "safe" bag for your belongings. There's A LOT of people in India - both locals and tourists, so of course pickpocketing is not an uncommon thing. I got a fanny pack for Christmas to keep my stuff safe whenever I'm traveling - especially minded on my trip to India and I wore it everyday!


Tip #5 don't walk alone

This one is kinda obvious... You're more exposed when you're alone as you probably already know, however, some people travel solo in India and I think that's cool!! Personally, I wouldn't walk around in India without Jacob. Actually, he was probably more nervous about this than I was. He even walked me to the bathroom sometimes!



How to avoid getting scammed

Sadly, you probably won't leave India without encountering at least one scam. Generally, the people of India is genuine nice people, but unfortunately there's also a lot out there trying to scam tourists. The trick is to know when it's a scam, so you can avoid them! This is a few of the most common scams:


Taxi scams: They may tell you all kinds of reasons why they can't take you to your hotel or attraction like "the road is closed", "the hotel is burned down" or "it's fully booked". The driver most likely want to take you to some place where he receives commission. Stick to your plan! Before getting into the taxi, ask them if they can take you there or you'll find someone else who will. Also, have the hotels phone number ready to call them - another reason to get a sim card at the airport!


Another taxi scam is trying to charge you more on arrival at the destination. Make sure you agree on a price and payment methods CLEARLY in advance. A way to avoid this is by using the taxi apps Uber or Ola where the price are fixed on the app. And never pay them before you've reached the destination!


Shortchanging scams: Keep an eye out for your money because people might try to shortchange you. Don't leave before you check if it's all there and if you notice there's an issue, confront the person authoritatively.


Fake tickets: Always buy your tickets from an official ticketing office. Don't trust people standing at train stations or outside attractions offering you tickets. Also don't trust all the guides offering guided tours outside the attractions. You probably don't need a guide. And if you do, ask your hotel instead.


Of course there's so many scams out there and the only thing you can really do is to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings... And if something feels wrong or too good to be true - don't do it! And remember: Nothing is free! Always ask what's the price. Don't be afraid to just walk away.


Here's a link to the most common scams to look out for.


How to get around

I'm normally the type of person who walks everywhere - and that's partly to travel cheaper! 5 kilometer? Sure! We can walk! But that's just not possible in India... The traffic is craycray!!! and there's no side walks and pedestrian crossings - you're on your own here!!


I've already mentioned the Ola and Uber apps. But they're actually a must have in India. Of course you can take a rickshaw in the cities, but even if you want to do this it's still a good idea to have the Ola or Uber app. Whenever we needed a ride and it was easier to catch a rickshaw, we would check on Ola what the fare would cost. Then we would know how much we were ready to pay for the rickshaw. Often enough, the Ola ride was actually cheaper than the rickshaw! Especially for longer taxi rides (for example between cities) it was easy to use and cheaper than the taxis the hotels provided.


In the beginning we used Uber, but then we discovered that Ola was actually cheaper. The good thing about Uber is that most of the drivers speak English, so it's easier to communicate. We didn't have a single Ola driver who spoke English, but they were all nice and the app explained them where we wanted to go. If they picked us up at the hotel, I sometimes asked the hotel to talk to them for us if it was necessary. All the fares are fixed by the apps, so you'll never have to argue with the driver about price. Note: If you are being taken to/from an airport, there's always an extra fee on about 100 rupees.


How to avoid "Delhi belly"

The flavours of India is mouthwatering and eating local food is definitely one of my favourite parts of traveling. However, it's not fun to get sick - especially not from food and drinks. In India this is referred to as "Delhi Belly". Luckily, you can probably prevent it by taking a few precautions like...


  1. Wash your hands often and use hand sanitiser!

  2. Don't drink tap water

  3. Don't get ice in your drink - it's probably made from tap water

  4. Eat HOT food - heat kills germs and it's often an indication that it's also fresh!

  5. Avoid food like buffets (nice restaurants and hotel buffets are probably fine)

  6. Don't eat fruit and veggies that can't be peeled

  7. Consider eating vegetarian or vegan - it's not only delicious but often the meat is the cause of illness

  8. Eat where the locals eat

  9. Avoid Western food (unless it's been recommended) - often it's not as good quality as the local food

  10. Pro-biotics as a pre-trip prevention (fermented food or a supplement version from the pharmacy)



How much should you pay?

This probably changes from place to place in India but you can use this as guidelines. This is the prices we payed in the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur). When finding transportation I always look up the Ola fares first and then I know how much I'm willing to pay for a rickshaw. Remember to get cash! Most places in India don't take card. Possibly not even the restaurants (it was about 50/50 for us).


  • Rickshaws/tuk tuks (in city) = 50-500 rupees

  • Ola (in city) = 60-300 rupees

  • Ola from Agra to Jaipur = 3500 rupees

  • Metro in Delhi = 40 - 100 rupees

  • Clothes <1000 rupees (cheapest outside the cities and most expensive at the attractions)

  • SIM card = around 800 rupees


How to apply for visa

For a 30 days tourist visa you can apply 30 days before entering India and if the trip is all planned, then it's best to do it as early as possible in case you run into complications! You can apply directly on the Government of India's website and choose regular/paper visa application. Before applying you need to have a few things ready:


Passport Your passport needs to be valid a minimum of six months after you return from India. For your application you need a PDF copy of the photo page (less than 300 KB).


Photo

You need a photo (your passport photo for example) for your application. The photo must be in colors, JPEG and a maximum of 1 MB. Additionally, it should be no less than six months old.


Your application

When you have these things ready on the computer, you can apply for your visa. You will be asked about your passport information, your travel plans in India, your family information and your occupation, which means: have your passport ready and the address and phone numbers of your work and family members. If you are a student, you'll be asked to fill in your father or spouses information and occupation, so be ready with these things.


There's three different eTourist Visas with different prices:

30 days - $25

1 year - $40

5 years - $80


That's all for now! Hopefully you're now fully equipped for your future travels to India and/or are less worried now if you (like me) were a bit concerned! :-)


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