When referring to India, thinking about it as one country does not pay sufficient tribute to this vast country. There is no such thing as one India. India comprises of 29 states and seven union territories which collectively have a rich and large diversity of cultures, even within their borders. India is home to nine different main religions, 23 languages (and those are only the recognized ones), and a large assortment of regional dances, music, food, architecture etc.
Despite the diversity, the Indian states are united in the biggest democracy the world has seen so far. The country unites more than 1.3 billion people under one roof; 814 Million people had the right to vote in the last election – that is almost double the size of the whole of the European population. Due to its large working population, lower wage structure, strong legal system, the many fluent English-speaking citizens and the recent reforms, India also is one of the fastest growing economies worldwide.
Surely India’s attraction is not only caused by its human-made creations, but also by the natural ones. With world renowned landscapes like the Himalayas, the Ganges, many forests (e.g. the Shola Forest or the Bhitarkanika Mangroves), deserts (e.g. the Sand Dunes of Jaisalmer), India is probably the country that offers the widest variety of different climate zones, flora and fauna. India is, after all, a sub-continent!
Without a doubt, travelling to India is an adventure. But that should not hinder you from going! We have listed ten points which will help you to find your way in this fascinating country.
10 things you should keep in mind when travelling to India
1. Stable stomach – Indian food is amazing! Every dish is prepared with many different spices and will provide you with a unique culinary experience. It might take some time for you to get used to the spiciness, but it is definitely worth it. Take your time and familiarize yourself with the Indian cuisine slowly, pay attention to only eat only well-cooked or peeled foods, and you will absolutely enjoy the tastes of India.
2. Strong assertiveness – When visiting an Indian friend’s family at their home, you are probably going to be treated like a little king or queen. They might be overwhelmingly welcoming and offer you a lot of food and drinks to try. So don’t get confused by their rough manners when it comes to boarding a train or a bus. Just like everyone else, try to make your way through the crowd.
3. Less privacy – India is the country with the second-largest population in the world. And some parts of the country rank among the places with the highest population density in the world. That can make privacy a rarity. Even if you manage to have your ownpersonal room, keep in mind that the janitor or the maid could always enter to fix something or to clean up. Besides that, the high density of people, as well as human curiosity, sometimes makes it impossible to type a message or make a phone call in public without having several people reading it or listening to it, respectively. It takes some time to get used to the crowds of people in big cities, but once you do, you will probably get used to it and even perhaps enjoy it.
4. Eating habits – Eating with your fingers might seem quite weird to you if you have been raised in Europe, but once you are in India, it will seem to be the most normal thing to do; most of the dishes are made to be eaten by hand. Let one of your Indian friends show you the proper technique and you will soon become a pro. Admittedly, the first few times you might find yourself making a small mess, but you will get used to it! The best thing about it: the smell and the colour of most of the dishes will stay on your hands to savour long after enjoying it!
5. Walking on the Pavement vs. Walking on the Streets – Sidewalks in India are a suggestion and not a must. Sometimes the sidewalks are too dirty or little huts are built on them, so you will have to walk on the streets quite often. There is nothing to be afraid of, most of the time, the drivers will look out for you. Just don’t move too suddenly; let them predict your way.
Some concrete, ‘materialistic’ advice
6. Reusable Plastic / Cloth bags – Especially during rainy days, but also during the dry season, it is advisable to have some well-sealed reusable plastic or cloth bags. You can buy them at every street corner in India. They are so well made that you can use e.g. your phone without taking it out of the bag. That way, you can keep your belongings from becoming wet or dusty!
7. Sunscreen – The Indian sun can be hot and unyielding. If you have fair skin, you will most probably face some problems with it. The sun could burn you without you even realizing it. So don’t forget sunscreen!
8. Earplugs – India is beautiful, but India is also loud. May it be the never-ending honking of cars on the streets, the loud music in every restaurant and bar or even your neighbours enjoying their lives. Be prepared – mentally and physically – with ear plugs!
9. Waterproof shoes – When the monsoon arrives, heavy rain can start within seconds without you even having the time to take out your umbrella or raincoat. So be prepared with the right clothes. One of the items that makes life in India much more comfortable iswaterproof shoes – basically sandals out of a waterproofed material. Then the rain can come as much as it likes!
10. Insect repellent – Indian mosquitos are small and noiseless. You will not see them or feel them, but when you get bitten, it will start to itch terribly. So better safe than sorry! Use repellent. Another possibility to keep the annoying insects away, is the Indian incense. They do not only save you from itches, but also deliver a nice aroma.