India is a strange place. Heaven on earth seems to clash with the bad, the vile and the ugly. Beautiful landscapes and a rich heritage seem to coexist with cesspits and poverty. The rich drive their expensive cars past starving beggars, the educated read books while the illiteracy gap grows, the forests dwindle as environmentalists sprout everywhere. This blur of opposites living together with such chaotic serenity is what, in my opinion, makes India attractive.
I had the opportunity to live in India for 6 years after which (even though the Sri Lankan in me hates to admit it) I grew to love the country, its people, its mixture of calmness and chaos, the food, its jungles, the mountains and the diversity.
Here are a few travel tips from an outsider who has a little bit of Indian masala flowing through his veins.
- Travelling in India is cheap. Really cheap. So get up and go see places. You can travel by bus which has sleeper class, luxury, semi luxury, deluxe and a bunch of other options. I’ve been on the sleeper class buses which are super fun and comfy. If you have a bunch of people in your group then you should definitely consider travelling by bus.
Trains are another awesome way to get about in India. It’s a cheap, fast way to get around and you can find trains to almost any location in India. India has a bunch of domestic airlines which offer pretty reasonable airfares. I would recommend getting your travel plans sorted out before you start your journey because things get filled up pretty fast. You do not want to be stuck with taking government transport which can in some cases triple your travel time.
- There is no such thing as one way roads in India: Even with policemen standing on the road it is up to you to look both sides. You will see two wheelers, auto rickshaws, cars and sometimes even buses going in the opposite direction on a one-way road. What about the policemen? Well its quite easy to bribe a policeman in India. As a college student I’ve got away with driving offences by paying as little as Rs.100. Actually most of the time I never stopped for the policemen (Aint nobody got time for that).
Traffic in India can be insane, so always plan to get held up due to a traffic block. And Indians are crazy drivers. If you can learn to drive and navigate your way through Indian roads you can drive anywhere. So look before you leap.
- Indians are hustlers and the whole of India is a playground. Keep your wits up and your valuables close because you if you come across as easy prey you’re going down. This shouldn’t discourage you as this is the case wherever you travel in the world but India never sleeps so don’t be caught dreaming (You can day dream, you get what I mean, don’t you?).
- Indian people are generally very nice.
It’s always useful if you know the language as Indians in general have a soft spot towards people who speak the same language as they do. And no, there isn’t a language called “Indian”. Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India so if you know a couple of words and phrases in Hindi it will really help.
- Indian women are Gorgeous:)
- Indian food is best experienced in small “sagars” because they have the best cooks (In my opinion). And why the hell would you want to spend 200 Rs on a Masala Dosa at a “Five star” restaurant when you can get it for 25 Rs with an option of extra chutney (A spicy Indian dish). If you are a meat lover then you will love India because as much as the whole vegan thing is advertised there are loads of meat lovers in India and a hell of a lot road side shops that look like meat Heaven. And you get a whole variety of meat prepared in so many different ways. My mouth is watering so i’ll move on. Kebab!!! I mean..Next!!
- India in general has a pretty conservative culture. It is true that you get insane parties happening in places such as Goa etc. but that does not change the fact that certain things like nudity, drugs, PDA are considered taboo and will not be dealt with lightly. There’s a bunch of other stuff that is considered acceptable in western culture that is not entertained in India, so learn about the culture before you visit and research the places you are going to so you know what’s in and what isn’t.
- India has some of the most diverse landscapes and climates in the world. You get conditions and landscapes ranging from hot, cold, snowy, tropical beaches, mangroves, mountains, white water rivers, serene lakes and almost everything you can imagine, in India. Usually the colder parts of India are in the North. So if you want to see snow head North.
- Most Indian cities can be over populated, noisy, dusty and fast paced but the villages and city outskirts can be rather calm and way less polluted. So if you are the quiet type who is looking to enjoy and experience the India of old, head towards the villages. People in villages, in my experience, are more welcoming and open. They are also happier:) Ask locals about interesting villages to travel to and how best to get there. Cities can be really interesting though. Depends on what your tastes and preferences are. India also had a bunch of unique and rare wildlife.
India, like I said, is BEAUTIFUL. Everyone should travel there. However, before you do, research and come to a conclusion of where you want to travel to. There’s no way you can see the whole country in one go (If you do find a way to do so I will envy you more than a starving African child envies the owner of a KitKat) so narrow down your list based on your preferences, sort out your travel plans, try and get in touch with some locals, pack your bags and leave:)