Do’s and Dont’s while traveling India
About the author: Carolin Dutt, Yoga Teacher & Practitioner and CEO at Pratham Yoga has Solo traveled India 2 times and is partially living in India since 2016. She also has solo traveled Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Mexico, and Peru. She is an expert on traveling India and has collected lots of experience while interacting with locals and learning about cultural differences and common ground – India is a place which makes many visitors realise the true importance of life – an essence which often gets lost while living in a fast paced society.
Lets dive right in!
India is definitely one of the most exciting countries to travel to worldwide. With its huge cultural and geographical diversity and potential, historical heritage, spiritual depth, and a cuisine with exotic flavours, vibrant colours and variety – there is nothing which can’t leave one impressed on a journey to India.
However traveling to a country like India can raise mixed feelings for many first time visitors – we therefore have collected a few interesting cultural and safety guidelines to feel comfort and ease while exploring the land which was once known to be home for one of the world’s 3 first civilisations (Indus Valley civilisation) and by now is one of the fastest growing economies on earth.
Do’s while traveling in India:
1. Prebook your hotel or AirBnb for the beginning of your trip in Delhi (or other destination of arrival) in advance and make sure they send a Taxi to pick you up at the Airport. This is mainly to avoid Scammers in Delhi Airport – which often try to convince tourists to stay in their suggested hotels and book their Taxis – all at extremely overpriced rates.
2. Greeting locals: Generally Indians greet each other with their palms folded in front of their heart (prayer pose) and say “ Namaste” , “Namaskar” or “Pranam”. In spiritual destinations “Hari Om” “Ram Ram” is also common. It is always nice to greet locals in this way. Women: Try avoiding handshakes especially with men, it might signal wrong impressions even if its an innocent gesture in the west. It is not common to greet strangers while walking on the street.
3. Know the basics of the local language. It will be very pleasing and helpful if you know a couple of words in the local language of your travel destination. Even though people in tourist areas usually know English, still they appreciate a couple of words in their own language.
4. Meet people and connect to travel. Try connecting with likeminded tourists to explore places together. This can built great friendships and unforgettable memories, but also it will be more comfortable to visit more remote areas together rather than alone.
5. Dress culturally appropriate to avoid unnecessary attention, stares and encounters. This depends strongly on where in India you travel to. But generally speaking, you already will get more attention just being a foreigner, this multiplies when dressing very permissive. More open-minded areas are: Rishikesh, Goa, Bangalore, Mumbai.
Modest clothes (covering legs and cleavage) are a must at: weddings, Ashram and temple visits (additionally shoulders must be covered), ceremonies, invitations to local homes (for tea or food), hospitals, hikes and remote areas or non – touristic towns/ areas.
6. Take your shoes off – whenever you visit a temple or are lucky to be invited to a local home for a delicious home cooked meal, make sure to leave your shoes outside.
Dont’s while traveling India:
1. Avoid Pre – cut fruit or vegetable snacks from the roadside. Prefer buying fresh but uncut fruits and preparing fruit salads by yourself after washing them well. Roadside fruits are often washed with tab water, or have been sitting in for a while. Same with juices on the streets, they are cheap and delish, but most likely washed with tab water making it a potential occasion for catching a stomach bug.
2. Avoid roaming around alone at night. In most areas it is not common for women to roam around late night on their own. This implies especially for cities and towns (Delhi!). Rishikesh in general is quite safe for women also in evenings.
3. Avoid walking in remote areas after sunset, before sunrise due to wildlife passing. Remote forest areas belong to animals at night, leopards, tigers, elefants are not uncommon in the areas around Rishikesh and other parts of India.
4. Don’t pick up items from Ganga beach. Little clay pots or rosaries may look interesting and beautiful to take along, however if they lay at the beach, they usually have been used in a kind of ritual or ceremony held earlier. Therefore it is not allowed to take these items along, since they already carry the energy of performed ritual.
5. Avoid Over bargain: While bargaining is a very common practice in India, it is important to understand that over bargaining is inappropriate. Also keep in mind that many shop keepers or Riksha pullers don’t earn a fortune for their service, they may agree to a small bargain, but if not – it’s probably to protect their honour and value of work. Classical tourist rip offs are more common in Delhi, especially in Taxis around the airport. Try asking locals if you are in doubt to suggest the real price.
6. Do not point with your feet towards any idols or people, and avoid touching your feet onto books. For Indians feet are considerate a lower energy of the body, which is not appropriate to bring close to sacred items. Books contain knowledge – and knowledge is a form of Saraswati – the goddess of wisdom. Locals are very strict about this rule and will feel unpleased if people touch their feet onto books or idols.