Traveling to an exotic country like India can be a surreal experience. It is a chance for you to experience several cultures, sample a plethora of cuisines, and see the world in a new light. However, in the excitement of exploring new things you need to ensure you don’t end up looking like a clueless tourist or embarrass yourself by doing the wrong thing that offends the locals while you’re there.
No matter what season or what time of the day, we can see tourists listening to tourist guides at popular destinations. While there is nothing wrong with that, it also means that those tourists are unaware of the actual place and instead of enjoying the place to its essence they get lost in the one-track commercial tourist package.
As with any place on earth, India has some cultural dos and don’ts that you need to know before your trip. This blog is here to instruct you on how to ensure you travel to India in the most explorative way, blend in with the regionals, and truly enjoy the place like a localite.
Dos & Don’ts For Tourists visiting India
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Every state has its wonder and its highlights. Most of the time it is Indians from other states who get ostracized in a crowd by being clueless tourists. What defines you as a tourist is your attire, the way you act, and your behavior. It is the attire that makes a tourist evident. If you’re not sure what to wear or don’t want to be inappropriately dressed, we have all the answers on how to dress like an Indian without looking like a tourist!
Tip: Have a shawl or dupatta handy in your handbag to use for multiple purposes. The key thing to remember is, that if a local doesn’t wear it, it is not appropriate for you to wear it either.
Do Your Due Diligence
Information is knowledge. The more you know about India and the Indian culture, the more confident you’ll be while visiting the country. This will definitely help you not look like a tourist and avoid offending the localities.
Our vacation destination is someone else’s homeland. There is always room for improvement in the choices you make. Learn local customs and etiquette by taking cues from the locals.
For instance, It is disrespectful to enter a house or temple wearing footwear and it is an offensive gesture to give and receive things in the left hand.
Utilize Online Platforms
India is slowly but surely entering the digital hemisphere. From booking tickets to getting taxis, and food right at your doorstep. Skip queues and delays by utilizing the luxury digitization offers. Paying online decreases the possibility of getting scammed. The best way to tap into this is by getting an appropriate SIM card.
Beware Of The Travel Scams
Tourists are a massive target for scammers. Avoiding them is probably the biggest challenge while traveling. Don’t fall victim to these popular tourist scams in India. Be cautious, observant, and prepared about your surroundings. Eliminate risks and avoid anyone displaying suspicious behavior.
For instance, as soon as a friendly stranger starts bringing something to do with money into the conversation, they’re a tout or scammer. Say “No thank you,” and walk away. After encountering a few touts you’ll know how to spot them, and more importantly how to avoid them.
Beware Of Your Belongings
There is nothing that screams “Look at Me!” like wearing flashy brands and showing off luxury products. Avoid prominently displaying your gadgets in public or crowded places. They make you an easy target for pickpocketers. Take care of your belongings and keep them in sight at all times. Never leave them to a stranger even for a few minutes under any circumstances. Be alert at all times to ensure you don’t get robbed or have anything stolen while you wander.
Tip: Don’t hold your purses and wallets in your hands or even in your front or back pockets where the chances of snatching them are high. Keep your valuables inside the main or anti-theft compartment of your backpack.
Always Pay The Right Amount For Your Food
The dishes available in Indian restaurants are usually displayed with the price on a board or on a menu card. Go through them and never pay extra. The tipping culture here is optional. But people expect you to pay 5-10% of your bill amount. Furthermore, keep in mind that in most places you eat, the menu card does not display the Goods & Service Tax (GST) amount. So, if you are charged more than your tally, ensure that your calculations include a max of 18% GST (subject to change).
Get acquainted with the road and traffic rules in the country. Download Google Maps offline and use them efficiently in cities for booking cabs. In certain popular cities, Google Maps also enables you to use public transportation by providing information on the bus or train details and its timings. Know more about the public transport available in the country and how to use them as effectively as the locals do.
Reserve Your Stay
When it comes to booking your hotel, understand that you have to make a choice between saving time or saving money. Booking rooms at the heart of the city will be easy for you to commute to, yet expensive. On the other hand, booking rooms on the outskirts of the city or in a less touristy area will save you money but take time to visit the hot spots. We recommend you to choose wisely, the location of your rooms and remember, you pay for what you get. Regardless, if you are on a budget, the safer options will be to choose hostel chains like Zostel and GoStops.
Get to know the festival and holiday season in the state that you are planning to visit and book your accommodation accordingly and always well in advance.
Tip: Stay longer. Have a flexible itinerary. Leave room for spontaneity.
Be Linguistically Prepared
The conscious efforts that you make to “blend in” help you to enjoy yourself like a local. Although English is everywhere in India, it is better to learn the basics of a language, based on the region you are planning to visit.
Key point: Contrary to popular belief, Hindi is not the official language of India. While it is widely spoken in the north, comprehension of it in the South is fairly poor. So if you plan your trip well in advance, you have sufficient time to pick up common phrases, and the meaning of common words.
Know What You Are Buying
When bargaining for goods, don’t show too much interest right away or it’ll lead merchants to think that they can charge more money for their goods. Don’t be offended if they refuse your offer, they’re just trying to get the best price possible for their products. If you are buying from the local street shops or markets, make sure that the quality of the product is good and is worth your penny. Haggle shamelessly! You are paying your hard-earned money. However, do realize that it will only work within reason. So, fix a reasonable limit in your head and haggle to a point where it is close to or reaches that limit.
Key point: India is a place where the first said price is rarely acknowledged, so nothing will make you stand out less than you haggling.
Fake It Until You Make It!
Look confident. Don’t wander around aimlessly or look lost or make it obvious that you’re reliant on Google Maps in the streets or crowded places. Locals know where they are going and what they are doing. Right?
If you are facing challenges or difficulties, approach people for help. Shopkeepers, bus drivers, and even schoolchildren know the surroundings better. Know the safety precautions that you need to be aware of if you are visiting India for the first time or as a woman traveler.
Never ever pay the full amount in advance as getting your money back is always a major hassle, although, in India, it’s next to impossible. In case of online shopping or payments, please ensure you read the terms and conditions beforehand.
Many foreigners have appreciated and fallen in love with India and have settled there for life. Such adventurers travel more extensively and better than Indians do and are often mistaken as locals by fellow tourists. Follow these tips and you can count yourself among them.
Hope this blog serves as a useful companion to help you blend in better when you set off on a trip to India. For more useful travel such as this, stick with us. We cover everything that is travel and travel-related.