What to expect when traveling to India
The Truth After 5 Months Travelling India!
We are a couple from New Zealand who travelled across India for 5months. In this post we reveal the truth about India so you can know exactly what to expect.
Before embarking on our 5months travel across India we were pretty nervous. We had read all the horror stories of India and got quite apprehensive about the trip…..our families were the main culprits and freaked us the heck out with kidney theft stories!
But what is India really like to Visit? Although India is a popular tourist destination, it can be a challenging place to visit. Factors such as weather, pollution and overcrowding can make it a difficult place for tourist to adjust to.
India is an epic adventure, a travel destination that will grab you with both hands and captivate you. An imperfect place that will challenge you and amaze you at the same time.
Let’s be real, India has its challenges. India at times shocked us (more about that further in the post) but overall we fell in love with incredible India and we were able to see all sides of this unique and endearing country…the good, the bad and the beautiful!
Like every country India comes with it’s pros and cons and it can be a very polarising place. This travel destination is not for everyone, so if you don’t like rich history, vibrant and diverse culture, delicious food and stunning landscapes then there’s no point in reading further. If these things excite you and you want to hear more about what to REALLY expect from India, then this article is for you.
- What is India like for Safety?
- Does India Feel Crowded?
- What is the Pollution like in India?
- What are the People of India Really Like?
- What is India really like to Travel India as a female?
- What is the Service Really like in India?
- What is the Food like in India?
- What is the Culture like in India?
- What is the Poverty like in India?
- What is Nature like in India?
- What is the Transport like in India?
- What is Accommodation like in India?
- What is Internet like in India?
- Is India Really that Cheap?
You can also check out our full playlist of India travel blogs to get more of an insight into what India is really like and what to expect when traveling to India:
What is India like for Safety?
Local people go out of their way to make sure you are safe and when it comes to money most locals are honest. When we first arrived we didn’t know the currency very well and paid ₹3000 instead of ₹300 for a rickshaw, and guess what…..the man came back with the money!
In saying this, as a traveller you do need to exercise common travelling sense as bad things do happen everywhere and we want you to be safe on your Journey. We wrote this full guide to avoiding travel scams to help fellow travellers avoid the dreaded travel scam!
Security for malls and major sights is very good in India. You will notice very tight security check posts with bag checks and metal detectors.
Your main risk to safety in India is transport which can be especially dangerous in the Northern Himalayan regions. We nearly got wiped out by two landslides in north India, we captured one of our near misses on camera, check it out in the Kasol video below…
Does India Feel Crowded?
Due to high populations in India you will notice waiting in lines, any lines……to be a real struggle. If your travelling in India you might need to leave your orderly line waiting habits at home and be ready to hold your ground.
However, you can easily escape the crowds in India and visit some beautiful and peaceful areas of the country. One such place we loved was Laluri a picturesque village nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas with what we claim is the best homestay in India.
What is the Pollution like in India?
You may also notice toilet waste and any and all rubbish from the trains will land straight on the tracks….the cleaners literally sweep the rubbish out the train door and you will see train tracks while you pee!
Pollution is usually at it’s worse in the larger cities of India. Smells can sometimes be quite strong and some towns will have open sewers. Rats run rampant and public urination is definitely a thing. The air pollution wasn’t as bad as other countries we have travelled to, but the constant burning of plastics was definitely worrying.
There are places in India that will surprise you with there cleanliness, and peoples homes are generally very clean. But for the most part India has a pollution problem. We urge you to be prepared for this before you arrive and still see the beauty of incredible India, it will be worth it we promise!
What are the People of India Really Like?
Shop owners will make sure you do not overpay and honesty is a theme in India. We really didn’t feel unsafe at all with the people of India, if anything the people made us feel more safe and protected. I was actually in tears (tears of joy) a couple of times in India when acts of unbelievable kindness and selflessness were shown by locals.
It is really helpful to know a few key phrases of the local language when traveling to India. It is also a delight for locals to hear that you have made an effort. We usually learn on youtube…..& remember there are over 380 languages in India, so research which languages are most common in each area you are planning to visit.
Good phrases to know are (in order of importance)
- Thank you
- How Much?
- What is your Name?
- My name is
- Nice to meet you
The stares can be quite confronting at first but we got used to the staring over time. One trick we learnt is if you smile at them they will usually give you a great big smile back, and your heart warms in that moment.
We got to know when someone was approaching for a selfie and to be honest sometimes we would bolt in the opposite direction….mainly because one selfie can lead to a line of people who also want their chance for a picture.
Like any country….in the touristic parts you will find scammers, you do learn quickly how to avoid them though and we have written our tips here.
What is India really like as a female?
As a female travelling with my partner I had little to no issues. You seem to be respected a lot travelling as a couple. I did notice a lot of people would talk to or direct their questions to Reti rather than me, which I didn’t mind as I am a little introverted anyway, but it was an observation. All in all there was no issues for me travelling as a female with a male partner.
However I made sure to dress in covered clothes usually traditional kurta and I was stern in my manner if I needed to be. I did not venture out alone after 8pm and would generally only go to well lit places where I saw other females and families.
I had one night train experience on sleeper class, where the train route I had chosen was very empty and the only other passengers were groups of men….not ideal. The train guards made a point to sit next to me the entire night to ensure I was safe. This was actually the only train ride I had ever had in India that felt like this and it happened to occur when I was without Reti!
If you do travel on public transport alone as a female at night, make sure the route is a popular one and also popular with families. You can easily ask locals about this before you book. The trains are generally very safe especially if you are on a popular route with a full train, families & women travel the train all the time.
The train stations can be a bit overwhelming but they are well lit and again there are usually many women and families around. You might feel a bit more secure in AC class as it is more restricted than sleeper class. On sleeper class many people jump on even if they don’t have a ticket, this doesn’t happen on AC class.
Make sure if you have nice Neighbors (couples or families) on the train, to make the effort to have a chat and build a friendship with them. This will make you feel even safer and you might even make new friends. I am not saying not to talk to single men, but just be careful not to give the wrong impression. (I always let men in any country know that I am married.)
We met many solo female travellers…Indian and foreign along our journeys who were travelling India and having an amazing time. Overall if you channel your inner confidence and have some street smarts, travelling alone in India as a female can be safe and enjoyable.
What is the Service like in India?
One hotel owner invited us to his home for cake and tea, he gave us gifts and also invited us to his friends wedding. He even drove us around town trying to find a place that would exchange New Zealand Dollars.
Other times you will get pretty unresponsive service and they may even seem like they don’t want your business, in these rare cases we would just move along to someone who did want our business.
There are not many places that accept eftpos or credit card in India. This is especially true for budget travellers, visiting more local places. So cash is king in India. But the catch 22 is most of the time shops, hotels and restaurants will have no change.
We even experienced this no change issue at the Taj Mahal! So make sure you have small notes all the time, finding small notes will be your newest hobby in India!
One thing that really annoyed us, but that we soon got over was that the menu is not always the menu, many times the item you really wanted to order is ‘not available’.
What is the Food like in India?
The great thing about Indian cuisine is that it changes drastically from state to state, so you are always discovering amazing new foods. From Tibetan Thukpa in the north to Biryani in the south and everything in between.
An interesting fact about Indian food is that each state will have its own laws regarding food. In some places beer is illegal and other places it’s totally acceptable, some places beef is illegal and some it’s eaten regularly, some places even eating meat is illegal while others it’s totally accepted.
As for Indian street food, we are all afraid of ruining our travels by contracting the dreaded Delhi Belly! But in all honesty street food is often times fresher than restaurant food.
Due to high turn-over at street food stalls…..food is usually prepared fresh daily. Unlike some restaurant foods that might sit in a fridge for a day too long! Plus street food is always super cheap and it’s where you will eat the best food of your life, we promise!! Check out our Indian Street Food video for proof:
What is the Culture like in India?
You will see amazing and fascinating things every day and will be treated to cultural delights at every turn. Every place you visit will have its own unique culture and vibe which makes travelling across India so fascinating and…..ADDICTIVE!
Some tips for not offending people in regards to Indian culture:
Do eat with your hands, this is the custom across many parts of India. It does feel strange at first, but after a while, you might actually like eating with your hands …so at least give it a go, especially if you have a local to show you how.
Don’t wear shoes inside anyone’s home or in any temples. Even some shops require you to remove your shoes first. It’s very impolite to wear your shoes inside the home and very frowned upon to wear shoes inside a temple.
Don’t wear a miniskirt or tank top. This one mainly applies to the ladies. India is a conservative country and if you want to draw the least amount of attention to yourself, then it’s a good idea to dress with your shoulders, chest and legs covered. Also when swimming, it’s important to know when its ok to wear a bikini and when it’s not. Most women swim at the beach fully clothed, but if you are in a resort or in Goa a bikini might be ok.
Don’t show too much affection in public with your partner. It is not a usual thing to see a couple kissing in public or being overly affectionate, so respect local culture and save that for the bedroom. (This can sometimes even extend to shaking the hand of the opposite sex.)
What is the poverty like in India?
Do be prepared to witness people living in extreme poverty and in harsh conditions, you might need to find personal ways to process this.
What is Nature like in India?
From jungle to the Himalayas to desert, India has it all! Some of the most incredible scenery we have ever seen has been in India, Spiti Valley & Kheerganga are a couple of natural wonders in India that ring a bell.
What is the Transport like in India?
Whats seems like chaotic driving to foreigners works really well in India and helps avoid large traffic jams. We found traffic in India seems to flow nicely most of the time.
One thing to note is that road conditions can be very bad in India especially in the northern Himalayan Regions where landslides are very common.
What is Accommodation like in India?
If you are smart when booking you can easily avoid the hotel horror stories and find great clean budget options. It’s only when you get off beaten path in India that you may find it hard to find decent budget accommodation options.
Electric outlets in Indian hotel rooms can oftentimes be placed unusually high up the wall making it difficult for charging. It’s a great idea to bring a multi box to India so you can charge multiple item at the same time with one adapter.
If your a budget traveller hot water and good hotel wifi are pretty much a bonus and you will need to bring your own toilet paper as this is also not guaranteed. For midrange and luxury accommodations you should have no issues with hot water and toilet paper.
We always check hotel reviews on booking.com before booking any accommodation and it has never failed us. It’s a great source of reliable reviews and has helped us for the most part avoid hotel duds.
What is Internet like in India?
Is India Really that Cheap?
We hope this post helped you to understand what India is really like to visit and provided insight into what to expect when travelling India. Be sure to leave us a comment if you have any more questions around what India is really like or if you have any India travel stories to share, we would love to hear from you……happy India travels Natives!
Cheers, Native Travellers
INTREPID & OFF THE BEATEN PATH TRAVEL STORIES, GUIDES, TIPS & HACKS
5 thoughts on “WHAT IS INDIA REALLY LIKE TO VISIT?”
Wow, by far this is the most unbiased review I have ever read about India, and as An indian myself, I had tears of joy in my eyes too. Thanks a lot for this, means a lot 🙂 May you have several such beautiful experiences in the future.
Kia Ora Sameer, thanks so much for your kind words we are glad you enjoyed our article…we love your beautiful country
two words Unbiased and honest
Your vblog is amazing and inspiring. Thanks for sharing your wonderful travel experiences. It inspires me to travel and brings back old memories of traveling through India. All the best for your future adventures! Happy travels! 🙂
Hi Parul, thanks for your kind words, its great that the content is reaching and inspiring people! Happy travels, Bianca & Reti