India is an explosion of color, saris, marigolds, lumbering cows and sunlight. The cities are home to impressive architectures, a cacophony of beeping horns and a myriad of smells—spices an incenses.
For a beginner, all these things can be overwhelming. It can difficult to determine which locations to cram into your first tour. Moreover, most beginners try to do a lot within a short period which leads to an unsatisfactory trip.
To help ensure that your first trip to India is both a blast and enjoyable, here are a few tips you should always remember.
1. Have a rough itinerary
For a beginner, this is arguably the most important element. Before you travel, research and determine the places you will visit, the number of days you will stay in a particular place, and how long your entire trip will take.
With regards to how long your first trip should take, one month is a good time-frame if you can swing it. If that is not possible maybe due to your work schedule, then aim for at least two weeks.
Within the two weeks, plan to at least stay in one place for two to three days so that you can experience everything that place has to offer. Note that you need to plan and determine how you are going to travel from place to place.
If you choose either a train or bus, ensure you always book your ticket at least two days before. Trains and buses fill up fast which means if you do not book early, you will end up stranded.
Finally, it is advisable to stick to north India if you are a first timer. North India is home to the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur) in addition to other beautiful sites such as mountains and trekking trails.
The reason north India is a good starting point is that you are less likely to be overwhelmed and suffer sensory overload. Once you are done with the north, you can then plan a second trip and travel to the south.
2. Sort out the internet as soon as you land
As a first timer, you are going to use the internet a lot. It could be to look up information on a particular destination, booking your tickets online, using Google maps in real time, accessing your bank account online to transfer funds, uploading your photos, booking hotels and keeping in touch with everyone back at home.
As a result, the first thing you need to do as soon as you land is to determine your source of internet. You have a couple of options—a local sim card, public Wi-Fi, and roaming data. Of the three options, a local sim card is the least costly and the one that guarantees 24-7 internet access.
Once you have the sim card, the next step is downloading a VPN. For one, a VPN will ensure your internet speed is not throttled. Local mobile networks tend to throttle speed if they notice heavy-duty usage.
A good example of a network that does this is Joi. Second, the VPN will allow you to catch up on your favorite shows or sports, once you choose a server based in your home country. Finally, the VPN will encrypt your communications guaranteeing any personal information such as banking information, and social media passwords are secure.
3. Decide if you will go alone or opt for a tour group
Both options are valid, and it all depends on your preferences. If you choose a tour group, then there are countless in India. Research thoroughly to ensure you get a tour company that is legit and that offers conducive prices.
Alternatively, you can choose to travel alone. If you do so, ensure you have pre-downloaded the map of your destination and take advantage of Google maps. Moreover, you need a power bank to ensure your phone never goes off as it will be your main source of direction.
However, if it gets too overwhelming, remember you can always enlist the help of local guides who will be with you for maybe half a day and help give more insight and information.
Ultimately, it is your choice, but for a beginner, it wouldn’t hurt to enlist a tour group so that you can at least learn the ropes. After that, you can go alone for a second trip.
4. Watch what you eat and drink
Indian food is spicy. As a result, you should make a point of watching what you eat if you do not want to suffer stomach upsets. Take it slow with regards to Indian cuisine and if your stomach is extremely sensitive, then avoid it altogether by eating in high-end hotels where you get your choice of cuisines.
Also, avoid street food and stick to hotels that most locals frequent as that is a sign of good food. With regards to water, stick to bottled water for drinking and avoid tap water. Brushing your teeth with tap water is okay though.
Finally, remember to get travel insurance which covers medical in case of stomach discomforts before your stomach gets used to the food.
5. Stay safe
When you travel to India, it is essential to keep safety at the forefront. While this applies to everyone, it is especially so for women because India is a largely patriarchal society and sometimes little things might be wrongly construed.
Therefore, you can stick to women-only floors in hotels, something the Indian ministry of tourism has directed should be a standard in all hotels. Moreover, you can also stick to women-only couches in trains.
Also, dress conservatively and during festivals, avoid traveling alone. Keep your wits about you and if you feel as if something is wrong, immediately call one of the police contact numbers.
With the above tips, you are ready to have a blast in India. The only thing to add on to the mentioned tips is that India largely operates on cash. That means you should always have cash in hand to pay for things and you should not depend on your card.
India’s currency is Rupees, and you can easily exchange your dollars, pounds or euros for rupees in banks.