India is an incredible but challenging travel destination. We spent 5months traveling all over India and ended up falling in love with this vibrant, culture dense country. (You can see some of our India travel videos here.)
However, we were hesitant when planning our trip. Family, friends and media filled our minds with horror stories of Delhi Belly, street danger and kidney thieving scammers.
So if you are feeling a bit like we were in the beginning…..uncertain about what to expect from India, then this article will be a huge help to you!
We have thought really hard to create this list of top things to avoid while travelling in India. We have honed in on our 5months of experience so that you can take these tips & have an incredible Indian adventure!
Top 20 Things to Avoid in India:
- 1. Avoid Being Afraid of Street Food in India
- 2. Avoid Having High Expectations in India
- 3. Avoid Preconceived Notions About India
- 4. Avoid Bottled Water in India
- 5. Avoid Only Using Private Transport in India
- 6. Avoid Booking Last Minute in India
- 7. Avoid Being Too Polite in India
- 8. Avoid Toilet Disasters in India
- 9. Avoid Getting Offended or Frustrated in India
- 10. Avoid Flashy Things in India
- 11. Avoid Being Closed off in India
- 12. Avoid Revealing Clothes in India
- 13. Avoid Only Visiting Popular Tourist Destinations in India
- 14. Avoid Public Displays of Affection in India
- 15. Avoid Trying to See Too Much in India
- 16. Avoid Overpacking in India
- 17. Avoid the Cows in India
- 18. Avoid Shoes in Temples
- 19. Avoid Missing Your Train in India
- 20. Avoid Scammers in India
1. Avoid Being Afraid of Street Food in India
When we meet someone who has been to India we get excited and start sharing travel stories. But it’s a shame that a large portion of people we meet admit that amidst fear of contracting Delhi belly, they never once dared to try Indian street food.
This is mind blowing to us, as street food is where you will find some of the most incredible local food on offer. After travelling through India for 5months and eating street food regularly, I can confirm that I never got severely sick and Reti only fell sick once (bad chicken burger.)
In fact, sometimes you are more likely to get sick from fancy places rather than street food vendors. One of the main reason is due to the fact that street vendors prepare e their food fresh daily and many restaurants store food in fridges and don’t have high turnover like street vendors so they tend to serve older food. Reti’s chicken burger was great examples. This was purchased at a modern, clean restaurant!
So we encourage you to tuck in and enjoy the many incredible flavours of India’s street food! You can see our top recommended list of street foods to try in India here and our street food video above.
However there are some guidelines you will need to follow to ensure you don’t fall ill. If you follow these tips we it will vastly improve your chances of not getting sick on your journey! Here are our top tips for healthy eating in India:
We recommended following these tips for eating street food in India:
- Stick to vegetarian foods & avoid meat products
- Only eat street food if it’s fresh and hot
- Only eat street food from busy vendors
- Avoid milk products if you have an ultra sensitive stomach (milk in India is often unpasteurised)
- Avoid ice
- Avoid added water that’s not heated well
- Fresh slices of cucumber, tomato, herb/onion toppings are generally ok as long as they are prepared in a reasonably clean environment and not covered in water droplets.
2. Avoid Having High Expectations in India
It’s important to adjust your expectations when travelling to India. Particularly when it comes to certain things like; line waiting, efficient service, timeliness, traffic conditions and cleanliness….etc.
Things will most likely operate much differently to what you use to go back home. Don’t let things like this frustrate or upset you. Instead have a positive mindset and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Prepare yourself for these differences and take it all in your stride. If you get worked up over small things you could really put a damper on your Indian travel experience.
Examples of how things might be different from back home:
- India is a cash country, however shops, tourist sights, restaurants and other vendors will often not carry enough cash to give you change. This even happened to us at the Taj mahal.
- Sometimes simple tasks can take a long time with lots of bureaucratic barriers. One example is buying a sim card, this can be a long and off putting process.
- Waiting in line for anything is like your entering into a fighting ring. Actually there is no such thing as a line.
- Late is normal in India
- Service will either be extremely fast and welcoming or the complete opposite, there is no real middle ground.
- Traffic can seem crazy at first, but it is organised chaos that really does work. It might take you a day or two to adjust, but you will ease into it!
- Drivers honk A LOT. This is a warning signal to others on the road.
3. Avoid Preconceived Notions About India
Try to avoid being influenced by the media and family who buy into all the negative stories about India. Leading up to our trip to India our family members were very worried for our safety and were trying to scare us with stories of kidney scammers and violent crime.
In all honesty, unless your family have been to India, they really can’t comment on how safe the county is. We found India to be a very safe country to travel, one of the safest we have ever visited. In our entire 5months travelling in India we didn’t experience any serious safety incidents.
In fact, locals went our of their way to be helpful and kind and to make sure we were safe. And not everyone is out to take your money! When we first arrived in India we paid a rickshaw driver 3000rupees instead of 300 and guess what…he returned the money! We encountered countless acts of honesty and kindness just like this along our journey through India.
Of course you must have your street smarts in check, as with any country you travel too, but don’t let all the horror stories stress you out before your trip! We have more tips later in this post on travel scammers in India!
4. Avoid Bottled Water in India
You are probably aware that most tap water in India is undrinkable. This means many travellers resort to drinking only bottled water while in India. However with the globe’s current plastic pollution issues we decided to take our own water filtering system to try and lessen our impact on the planet while we travelled.
Admittedly, we did purchase some bottled water, however having our own easy to use water filtering system help dramatically reduce the amount of plastic pollution we generated on our trip. We used the Grayle water bottle system which cleans any water including tap water to 99% pure. You can read our full review of this system >> (opens in a new tab)”>here>>>
5. Avoid Only Using Private Transport in India
With cheap prices and comfort top of mind for many, it could be tempting to only travel by private car while in India. However, we recommend including public transport or even just a humble rickshaw ride into your travel plans, even if you have the budget for luxury transport.
Taking a rickshaw in India is a must if you want to have that real India experience! It’s actually an incredibly fun way to see the country. We also recommend trying public transport as a great way to get insight into local life. Although not glamorous, we enjoyed riding the trains and buses throughout India. It was a great place to connect with locals and get an insight into daily life. You can also read our full guide to train travel in India.
6. Avoid Booking Last Minute in India
It can be difficult to get away with booking last minute in some locations throughout India. This is particularly true with trains and accomodation. Due to India’s high population, the demand for services means it’s smart to book ahead of time.
Trains will often book out months in advance. We booked many of our trains, buses and accommodation ahead of time online to ensure we didn’t miss out on the places we wanted to visit.
As for accomodation we usually booked through Booking.com to find the best deals and discounts. Securing your accommodation through Booking.com also ensures the hotel accepts foreigners. Due to strict paperwork requirements in India, not all hotels can accept foreign nationals, we encountered this a few times when booking on Indian hotel booking sites such as Goibibo or when we would try to book on the spot.
These articles may also be helpful if you are planning on pre-booking transport in India: Train Travel in India Explained & How to Book Bus Tickets Online in India & Travel Safely
7. Avoid Being Too Polite in India
India is an incredibly exciting travel destination, however it can definitely be challenging. One thing that challenged us the most was the line waiting, or lack thereof! People in India don’t wait in lines and if they do, then people pushing in front is almost guaranteed every time.
With this in mind, leave your orderly line waiting habits at home and hold your ground. You need to physically hold your ground and push your way in front of the line jumpers. If you are too polite you will never get anywhere in India. So keep this in mind before you arrive and don’t let it frustrate you, it’s just the way things roll in India.
8. Avoid Toilet Disasters in India
As you may already know, most Indians don’t use toilet paper. Instead they use water to clean themselves in the bathroom. This is actually considered very hygienic, but many of us aren’t use to this method, so a bit of toilet paper advice will help! Most hotels in popular tourist destinations will have plenty of toilet paper. Also, most shops in popular tourist locations will sell toilet paper.
It’s when you leave the hotel that you might encounter problems. So, ensure you travel with a pocket size pack of tissues or wipes when you leave your hotel in case you find yourself in a paperless situation. Soap may also not be readily available so hand sanitizer or wet wipes are super handy to have in your day bag!
For those who like to venture off the beaten path, toilet paper might not be available in hotels or shops! In these cases, we reverted to napkins which can be brought at the local store. You can also try and adapt to the local way of washing up with water, Reti started this and ended up loving it…but it’s not for everyone!
It’s also important to know that many toilets will be squat style, especially outside of your hotel. The cleanliness of toilets are also brought into question when you leave your hotel. But if you are wanting to find a cleaner seated toilet, then you will likely find these in places like malls, fancy restaurants and cinemas.
9. Avoid Getting Offended or Easily Frustrated in India
Things are different in India. The food, culture, architecture and landscapes are all different from your home country. This is also true for behaviours.
You may notice some people in India will stare at you with a very intense look, this is only due to curiosity. You will get used to the stares, but one trick we learnt was to smile at staring people and 9 out of 10 times you will receive a great big smile back.
You may also notice people can be more pushy and direct in India. Due to high populations this is just a natural way of being that people have adopted to get things done.
Another one to pre-warn travellers about is the constant selfie requests. As a foreigner you will most likely be approached for a selfie quite often. Being asked for a selfie was flattering the first 10 times, after that we quickly got annoyed and would do everything we could to avoid being asked for a selfie.
Mind you, we did spend 5 months in India, so perhaps if you have a shorter trip you might be tolerant of the dreaded selfies. If you say yes to a selfie you have a 50% chance that a line will form as others walking by also want a selfies. At the end of the day we tried to be as kind and polite as possible when we were approached, especially when it was Families asking.
Bureaucratic blockers are another thing that might frustrate you. Sometimes in India things are just harder, even a simple task like money exchange or purchasing a sim can involve a lot of paper pushing and time wasting. With all these types of things in mind, it’s important to be aware of them before you travel so you can keep a positive mindset and avoid getting too upset over things you just cannot change.
10. Avoid Flashy Things in India
Leave your big fancy camera and expensive jewellery at home. See those fancy headphones Reti is wearing in the photo above, yeah not a good idea lol! Firstly, India is quite an intrepid travel destination, so your expensive and delicate things are at risk of being damaged while on the road in India.
Secondly, flashy things can attract unwanted attention such as beggars, scammers and thieves, so it’s best to be as low key as possible when travelling through India. You can read our full guide on how to avoid scammers here. To be honest, we looked like a couple of dusty wanderers while travelling through India, and it worked for us! (minus the headphones haha!)
On this same topic, our recommended travel camera is just your phone camera or the classic Gopro, which is a great robust option for travelling. We used both our phones cameras and our Gorpro to capture our travel memories in India. The great thing about the Gopro is they are small, discreet and robust and produce great footage. you can read our full review on Gopro’s for travelling here.
11. Avoid Being Closed off in India
One of the best things about India is the the people. The people of India are incredibly kind, friendly, hospitable and helpful. They are also very curious about foreigners and are proud of sharing their culture with you.
It was a common place for strangers to approach us and just want to chat about our journeys and ask what we think of their India. Often times strangers would kindly offer us food or invite us to weddings or special occasions.
Our advice to you is to not be closed off to strangers approaching. Have a chat and make a new friend, use these moments as an opportunity to learn about the Indian culture. Moments like this will likely be some of the most enriching and memorable parts of your journey.
However, these innocent occurrences were especially true in more off beat locations. In tourist hotspots travellers do need to be more careful about detecting a scam when they see one. Your gut really does lead the way here and you can quickly figure out if the encounter is genuine or not in the first few minutes. You can read our full guide to avoiding travel scams here.
12. Avoid Revealing Clothes in India
This one might seem obvious, but it’s too important to leave off the list. It’s recommended, especially for females to dress modestly when travelling India. As a rule of thumb, avoid tight fitting clothes and refrain from showing your chest, shoulders and legs.
Dressing modestly is not only respecting local culture but it’s also a way to avoid unwanted attention. We recommend for women to wear the traditional Indian Kurta, which is a dress and pants two piece set similar to what im wearing in the photo above.
Not only are Kurta super comfortable for travelling but it will also help you on the modesty front and will allow you to blend in slightly. Kurta are cheap to pick up at any store or market and they are actually very feminine and flattering. I lived in my Kurta while travelling and still wear them now back home! You can even find some Kurta to pack before leaving from your trip, there are plenty of Kurta styles available online >>>
13. Avoid Only Visiting Popular Tourist Destinations in India
Getting off the beaten path in India is probably one of our best pieces of advice. India has so much more to offer than the golden triangle, so if you have the time, we recommend to explore beyond the usual tourist destinations.
Many of our most authentic and memorable travel experiences were when we visited places less travelled. Not only will you discover a more authentic side of India when getting off the beaten path, you will also encounter less scammers and annoying sales people.
However a word of warning….off the beaten path in India isn’t going to be suited to all travellers. Some locations can be hard to reach and you will notice that western comforters might not be as readily available in remote parts of India. So keep this in mind when deciding on which travel destinations you decide to explore.
Some incredible offbeat places in India include Laluri village & Spiti Valley in the Himalayas, Ujjain & Orchha in central India and North East India including Meghalaya Ziro and Tawang.
Another way to experience authentic India is to connect more with locals. We did this through initiatives like Workaway and Couchsurfing. You can see our travel vlog which shows us during a Workaway project in the remote Indian village of Laluri Below:
14. Avoid Public Displays of Affection in India
Being affectionate with your partner in public is just not commonplace in India. So in order to respect local culture and avoid sideways looks, we recommend to avoid kissing and intimate hugging in public.
There is even a law that addresses public displays of affection in India, so it’s best to avoid it, especially in rural areas. It is however very common to see friends of the same sex holding hands and embracing in hugs. Travellers might find this strange to see two friends holding hands, but in India this a display of friendship, trust and brother/sister hood.
15.Avoid Trying to See Too Much in India
India is a massive country, it’s a world of it’s own and it would take a lifetime to explore it all. Therefore, one of our biggest pieces of advice is to not try and see it all. Pick a few top places you would like to visit and take the time to really explore those locations.
You will have a much more memorable travel experience if you can give yourself the time to really get to know the places you visit rather than skimming through and quickly jumping from one location to another. It’s amazing how much you can grow to love a place just by spending time to discover its quirks, soak up the atmosphere and unique culture.
We arrived in the North East city of Guwahati and were not immediately impressed. However, we spent a week there and ended up really loving the city! Travelling across India can also take time and energy due to road conditions and large populations, so it’s also important to consider travel times when planning out your itinerary. You can see our ideal one month north India itinerary here and our Guwahati travel video below:
16. Avoid Overpacking in India
It’s easy to overpack for an overseas adventure, but believe us when we say you will be glad you didn’t when you arrive in India. Having to cart around a massive bag full of things that you will never use is never fun! India is already a fairly difficult country to travel in, with it’s crowds, road conditions, traffic and sometimes dust and pollution. So you don’t want to make it more difficult by taking an oversized bag or two!
We travelled for one year and packed a medium sized backpack each. We thought we did well to eliminate unneeded items, but we still found ourselves ditching things along the way that we never ended up using.
Another great reason to pack light is that it leaves room for you to pick up things along the way. India has some incredible products, so you will definitely want to save some space for those special purchases, especially if you are a shopper by nature.
In almost all hotels and guest houses, budget or lux you will find affordable laundry services, so no need to pack a set of clothes for each day of your trip! As a general rule of thumb this is what we suggest you should pack for your next trip to India:
- 1x Light scarf
- 1x Sunhat
- 6x underwear
- 1x Sunglasses
- 3x Shorts (men only)
- 1x maxi skirt (women only)
- 1x maxi dress (Women only)
- 2x India Kurta Outfits (can buy online or in India/ women only)
- 1x three quarter pant
- 4x light tops/tees
- 1x pair of light pants
- 1x light sweater
- 1x Travel/hiking sandals
- 1x travel umbrella
- 1x travel first aid kit
- Activated charcoal
- Rehydration salts
- Insect repellent
- 1x travel towel (if budget travelling)
- 1x light sleeping bag (if travelling for more than 1month)
- 1x Sports belt – (for securing passport & credit cards)
- Travel camera
- Day bag
- 1x Power bank
- 1x Multibox & Power Adaptor
- Water filtration system
- Hand sanitiser or hand wipes
Add these item if your considering visiting any location with a temperature below 10°C
- 1x winter hat
- 2x long sleeved thermals
- 1x compact winter coat
- 1x Lightweight covered shoes
- 4x socks
17. Avoid the Cows in India
One thing you will see in India that you may not see in many other parts of the world is the abundance of cows roaming the streets. This is largely due to the hindu belief that cows embody god like status and are scared and protected creatures.
At first we were not phased by the cows and would walk past them without a second thought. That’s until we got a horn to the butt! We were never seriously hurt by any stray cows, however they will butt if they feel you have gotten too close, so we recommend just to keep your distance as you walk past. We had a running joke that the cows were aware of their godly status and really did embody this, acting as if they owned the street!
You can see us getting a cow but in our travel video below at 7.35mins
18. Avoid Shoes in Temples
All temples in India will require you to remove your shoes before entering. There are shoe holding facilities at most temples that are free or very cheap, so you do not need to worry about your kicks going walkabout! The no shoe rule is also true for peoples homes, in India it is extremely disrespectful to walk into a person home with your shoes on.
Removing our shoes did feel strange to us at first, but we quickly got used to it. Most temples are very clean, however some more than others, so If you are worried about getting your feet dirty a tip is to carry a pair of dark coloured socks with you if you know you will be visiting a temple. This was what I did when entering the Rat Temple in Rajasthan, see video below.
19. Avoid Missing Your Train in India
We noticed many travellers missing their trains in India. This was likely due to a number of reasons. The first one is that things just take longer in India, a trip that might usually take 30mins in your home country, may take double the time in India. So our first tip is to leave extra early, you never know what might cause your journey to be slowed down along the way.
Another reason travellers miss their train is that some train stations in India can be very large and confusing. Make sure you give yourself at least 30mins to find your platform once you arrive at the station, especially if you are still learning about the system. You can also read our full guide to Indian trains here.
20. Avoid Scammers in India
Firstly, we would like to mention that not everyone in India is out to scam you. In Fact, the majority of people in India are honest and proud people, with strong religious beliefs. Many times we were blown away by the kindness and generosity of the local people, rich and poor.
But like every travel destination there are always a few cheeky scammers who might try their luck! We have already mentioned a few ways you can avoid scammers including avoiding touristy locations and not wearing flashy things. But for our full guide to avoiding travel scam you can see our post here>>
We hope this list of Top 20 Things to Avoid in India was helpful so you can enjoy a fun and safe trip! If you have any further questions about travelling to India please let us know in the comments and we will do our best to answer your questions.
Cheers, Native Travellers
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