Traveling to India is to discover one of the most exotic countries in the world. The richness of its culture, its delicious gastronomy and the joy of its festivals attracts thousands of travelers every year. If you want to take a trip to India and have never come to this country, you will probably have many questions on how to travel to India.
In India, nothing is white or black. I love this country, but I also think it could be better in so many ways. How am I going to love injustice, discrimination or the caste system, which -by the way- drives me crazy? However, in my heart, India is much more good than bad, and I’ll revisit as many times as it is possible, because as it is obvious… I fell in love with Bharat.
It’s the temples, the food, the lifestyle… Yeah. Whatever is going on and about to develop, it all happens before one’s eyes.
Discovering India by its roots
India is a country that needs time. The first impact is often so strong that it is easy to remain with what floats on the surface, you need to give yourself the opportunity to explore what is below. Generally, people who come back with a radically negative idea of India are usually those who have traveled in the bubble of a tourist package or those travelers who have not stayed long enough to try to understand it.
If you ask an Indian, they will always speak wonders of India, but they will also warn you about the dangers of being a tourist. Especially if you are in India and even more so if you are a woman.
India in a nutshell
When you go to India, you will realize five things:
- There’s too many things going on at once.
- It’s the land of entrepreneurship: Everyone is creating, developing or starting a new venue.
- Technologically, it is like going forward 50 years… India IS the land of tech & techies!
- Socially, it’s like going back 70 years: Gender inequality is at it’s worse, social rules go out the window, and there’s a grave problem of pollution in every city that nobody seems to notice and care about.
- People deal with foreigners like they were a complete different species, who don’t understand anything that goes on before them (Which is partly true).
As I said, India is a fascinating place, true. It is a very different place from any other you can visit.And to say this is not to say little: the contrasts, the difference of this country with the rest of the world is so great, that only this factor marks the visit. It is a word of diversity. Its north is marked by the Himalayan peaks. To the West, it passes through Rajasthan, palaces and temples, the Taj Mahal, and in South India a breathtaking landscape with tea plantations.
It’s like visiting a million countries without stepping out of the borders, and every step is magical if you just know how to enjoy it and live it through with an open mind…. Not because it is bad, but because India has its own way to do EVERYTHING.
Traveling alone in India
While traveling India is a challenge in itself, traveling alone is a whole new experience. First of all, people have a hard time believing that you are all by yourself. Let alone “unmarried” (yes, in traditional parts of India – not so much in the big cities – they still believe that a woman’s destiny is to be tied to a man)… It gets a little complicated. The best way to tackle solitude and confusion is to carry a huge smile. Indians are good people. And they will sure smile back.
Women in India
India is an increasingly modern country, but the change of mentality takes time and most women still wear their traditional clothing, which is otherwise very beautiful.
In large cities like Mumbai or Delhi it is common to see the young girls dressed in tight jeans, but almost always combined with the kurti: a long shirt that covers them to the rear. Depending on the environment in which you move (upper class families, luxury restaurants, clubs), you can get to see girls with cleavages or short skirt, but they are exceptions- that is not common to see. For their part, the big Bollywood starts always dress like that, showing off a lot of skin! The image that Bollywood transmits of India is very far removed from the general reality of the country… But it doesn’t make it less beautiful!
Touching is not admissible in any case, but the Indians will STARE (whether you wear sari or if you get into a potato sack) for the simple fact of being from the outside.
Think: if a man from your city would look at you, imagine the effect in a country as traditional as India.
If you don’t really care (like myself), and instead will call of men that are rude or make you uncomfortable… Just know that you might get into a lot of trouble.
Hindi is the main language in India. In most of it, at least. Although the natives speak mostly Hindi, many people also dominate English, especially those who develop in the world of tourism and business. You will most likely find someone that is willing to help you in English if you are having trouble. In India, dozens of dialects are spoken, depending on each region of the country. It is important to remember that you can carry yourself in India solely on English, but if you want to blend in or appeal to Indians siding with you, a few survival Hindi phrases might get you far.
It may happen that they tell you that there are no first class tickets left, that the only chance of getting them is paying a bunch of money. Take it easy, you are in India, do not make them angry because it is worthless. It is best to book train tickets five days in advance, especially for night trips. In the important stations there are offices for foreigners. And there are also retiring rooms in case of emergency or need urgent accommodation. During the trip do not store anything valuable near the window, and always carry water and something to eat.
Now, if you want to know what was my first day in India like, you can go here.