India is one of the largest and most diverse countries on the planet. In fact, the country is known as a subcontinent due to its sheer size.
India has evolved a great amount in the years that followed the end of colonialism. However, it has also managed to retain a lot of aspects of its ancient culture in different regions. This makes it a destination that everyone should visit at least once in their life.
If you’re planning to visit India in the near future, you might feel intimidated during the planning process. After all, this Asian country has over a billion people spread across 29 provinces and 7 territories. So where do you start?
To make this planning process a bit easier, we have compiled a guide for Westerners who plan to visit India for the first time.
1. Choose the Right Time to Travel to India
The first thing to consider when you are planning your trip to India is choosing your travel dates. India may be near the equator, but its regions do experience different seasons. Most places go through a wet and humid monsoon summer season and a dry and cool winter season.
You generally want to avoid travelling through India during the monsoon season due to the heavy rains, which can cause flooding in different areas. Nobody wants to see their favorite pink suitcase and luggage tag get washed away after a sudden downpour. So it’s better to visit India during the non-monsoon months between November and March.
2. Select Your Initial Destination
You might be interested in checking out multiple cities in India during your stay, including some smaller cities with rich historical sites. However, your initial destination should always be a major city such as Delhi or Mumbai.
There are plenty of airlines such as British Airways or Singapore Airlines that fly to these destinations directly. In other cases, you can take Middle East-based airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, or Qatar airways to get to India after a short layover.
3. Choose All the Places You Want to Visit
Every Indian state has some history behind it. Whether it’s history related to the country’s millenia-old religion or structures that date back to the Mughal era, there’s something to see wherever you go.
For this reason, you should chart out a list of cities you want to visit based on the attractions there. For example, we recommend visiting:
- The Taj Mahal in Agra
- The holy City of Varanasi
- The Golden City of Jaisalmer
- The Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad
- The beaches in Goa
- The Agra Fort in Uttar Pradesh
So mark a few of these locations on your luggage tag and chart out a travel route that covers each of these attractions.
4. Anticipate the Culture Shock
We’ll be upfront about this: You will experience culture shock when you first arrive in India. This is something that most people from European and North American countries go through when they visit the subcontinent for the first time.
This includes heavy and noisy traffic, the sight of slums adjacent to otherwise developed areas, densely populated urban areas, and the prevalence of beggars in city centers.
These sights can be off putting initially, but it’s important to remember that they are part of Indian life. If anything, these sights and sounds teach people to be grateful for the lives they lead in their home countries. It may also inspire you to return to India in the future and help out at an NGO.
5. Learn About the Cuisine
Indian cuisine is among the most diverse in the world. Each corner of India has developed its own unique cuisine that reflects the local vegetable and spices that grow there.
One of the first things you should note about Indian cuisine is that the vast majority of states prohibit the production and sale of beef. For this reason, most of the food options you will find in the country will be vegetarian or chicken or mutton-based.
So if you walk into a McDonalds or Burger King in India, the only meat dishes you will see on the menu will be chicken-based. However, you should generally try eating the local cuisine to get the full Indian experience.
We recommend visiting South Indian states such as Tamil Nadu and trying the local fermented rice cakes called “idli” with spiced curry called “sambar”. You can also check out the Maharashtra state and try their local veggie burgers called “vada pav”. Just be sure to stock a few packs of antacid tablets in your 30 inch luggage piece before departing for your trip!
6. Learn How to Bargain
India is used to receiving millions of tourists each year, so most locals won’t be surprised to see you in their town. However, you should be careful about people at markets overcharging you for items.
India is much cheaper than most developed countries, and it’s not uncommon to be able to purchase trinkets and knick-knacks in street markets for less than a dollar. If you suspect someone is charging you a very high price for something, chances are that they probably are. In this situation, you shouldn’t feel shy about asking for a lower price.
The country is chocked full of interesting souvenirs, so you should purchase lots of them for your family and friends back home. Just be sure to leave some extra space in your pink suitcase when you’re planning your trip.
7. Find a Guide
You might be interested in lugging your 30 inch luggage piece across India by yourself and exploring the country without a plan, but this rarely works out as expected. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in a single Indian city and not know if you’re missing out on other places that are more interesting.
You also want to stay on-the-move with your favorite pink suitcase and be where the action is. For this reason, we recommend finding a guide before setting off on your trip. Joining a tour group or finding a personal guide is a smart move because they will ensure you see many amazing attractions. If you’re lucky, you and your luggage tag will have travelled across each corner of the glorious subcontinent by the end of your trip.
Make Your Trip to India a Truly Memorable One
India is an amazing place to visit, and we recommend everyone make a trip there at least once in their life. The above guide should help make your journey a little easier, but nothing can prepare you for the phenomenal sights and sounds that await you when you actually touch down in the ancient country.
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