Travelling India: What you need to know before you travel to India

January 22, 2020

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Travelling India is unlike any other country. The vastness and variety you’ll experience as you travel the country will surprise you. It will change you. You’ll probably also experience food poisoning unlike anything you’ve ever had as well. India is very different on so many levels. The south of India is generally hot all throughout the year while north India will have seasons you’ll need to cater for. Even the desert gets cold in winter as you head over to Rajasthan. Packing and dealing with what to pack while planning your trip is going to vary as you travel throughout this country.

Things you need to consider while travelling India are the weather and seasons, clothing requirements, safety, modes of transport and medication you need to carry.

North India has a pretty brutal winter and summer so best times to travel is between February to April and September to November. South India is best avoided during summer when its really hot. Months to be avoided are May to July. Monsoons are also not the best time but the country is usually beautiful and the weather crisp during this time. Most places will experience monsoons by June/July till September. You’ll also get some good deals with flights and hotels during monsoon. Best time for south India is November to February. Places like Kerala and Goa are great during December and New Years as the entire place is super festive.

While travelling in the South of India, clothing like shorts and low cut tops aren't an issue. Cities and or states like Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Kerala and North-east of India are pretty relaxed and you’ll have no issues wearing what you want. Travelling in North India on the other hand, is best handled with more cover-up. Its best if you avoid clothing like tank tops, shorts, low cut tops unless you enjoy being looked at like a piece of meat. Wearing kaftans and loose pants are usually the best bet in India as cotton suits the weather here well.

people in streets delhi indiaSafety is an issue anywhere else in the world. Its best to always remember that India is as safe as you want it to be. Heading out late at night in dark streets is never a good option. South India is always relatively safer compared to the North but caution is always advised. I have lived in this country for twelve years and I’ve never ever not felt unsafe. Do not walk around in dark streets. Do not get into small alleys in crowded cities alone. Never get drunk if you are a woman and lose control of yourself. Do not fall asleep in a cab if you are a woman travelling alone. If you’re a woman travelling in a cab, what I usually do is, I take a photo of the cab and the driver and tell them I’m sending the information to friends. This has always ensured I have a safe ride. Carrying pepper spray also makes me feel safer and I’m never without it on most of my travels within India or overseas. Uber in India is safe and I’ve had no issues anywhere in India. Always best to practice the taking a photo like I mentioned before. If you feel like you need to have a radio taxi service, Meru Cabs is pretty reliable and have never failed me. Slightly more expensive than Uber but safety is never an issue.

While travelling India, I always carry a sling bag kept in front of me. The only time I’ve ever felt that I’d get pick pocketed or in any danger of it is while I travel on the Delhi Metro. There have been cases of pick pocketing on the metro. Keep your bags in front and be wary of your phones and wallets in your pockets if you’re travelling on the Delhi Metro. Even while walking around in the crowded streets of Old Delhi, its best to always be aware of your valuables. I’ve had a family member lose his phone in a Gurdwara in Punjab due to crowds. Always remember that you need to be aware of your valuables in crowded places in India. India is crowded. It’s the one thing you’ll notice when here, there are so many people around at all times.

While you’re packing and wondering if you’ll need to pack your travel chargers, my advice is to always pack a good travel charger while undertaking any sort of travel. Most hotels will always have international plugs but home stays and Airbnb houses may not. Also be aware of the voltage differences between countries. India uses 220 volts that is similar to the UK, Australia and Europe. If you’re in India and find that you need to get chargers or any other electronic item, stores like Reliance Digital and Croma are dotted around any major city. They will carry any electronic items you may need.

It is always best to carry medication when travelling to India. Allergies is always an issue here with the dust and pollen in spring. Carry probiotics for your gut health and antacids as the food here can be pretty rich when it comes to diary and spices. I usually carry a course of antibiotics just in case. Dengue is an issue in India during the hotter months and mosquito repellents are absolutely a must. If you have food poisoning, the best thing to do is to head to a pharmacy and buy a course of antibiotic called Norflox with Tindazole. I have tried using overseas medication for food poisoning and it never works. I always remember what the emergency room doctor once told me – do not use foreign medication for Indian bugs. They don’t work. Do not attempt to try and wait for the food poisoning to pass. It doesn’t. The Delhi Belly is real and it is pretty bad. I always carry Norflox and Tindazole with me every time I travel India. Carrying electrolyte powder is also a good idea if you’re suffering from food poisoning or dealing with extreme heat.

To ensure you don’t get food poisoning in India, there a few things you need to take note of:

  • Do not consume any water besides mineral bottled water.
  • Do not brush your teeth with tap water nor consume any water while bathing. I know it sounds ridiculous but you’ll be surprised how many people fall sick this way.
  • Do not consume raw salad. Not even in good hotels. 
  • Always wash your fruits or salad with mineral water before you consume it. 
  • Always have hot food and no cold cuts or salads
  • Eat at places where there’s a rush of people. This ensures that the food is fast moving and freshly cooked.
  • In summer and hot weather areas, its best to always stick to a vegetarian diet. The refrigeration of meat and cross contamination is always an issue in India as hygiene levels are not as high as developed countries.
  • Never have ice. 
  • Avoid fruit juices. Most places water down the fruit juice with water. The only exception being high end hotels.
  • You can get food poisoning in MacDonald’s. I have experienced this. It’s not fun. I only have the vegetarian burgers when I travel and they are surprisingly tasty too.

auto rickshaw ride in traffic in old delhi india people

Travelling India like any other country has its pros and cons. It takes some time to adjust to the noise, dust, people and pollution. Its always best to be prepared when travelling this country. That’s not to say that you should be wary of travelling here. It’s a beautiful country with warm people and you’ll find that loving this country is quite easy. Its just always best to come prepared to ensure you leave with beautiful memories and the need to come back again to see more.

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