I know people who have gone and have gotten mixed reviews. I think you need to be the kind of person who can handle people being on top of one another. I hear there are tons and tons of people everywhere. Personal space is a luxury not found in India. I’ve also heard people sh*t right in the streets. Toilet paper is another luxury and the alternative is someting I’d try not to think about….
I also know someone who went there for a while to connect to the people and have a sort of spiritual journey, but found that everyone who saw her really saw just $$$. She is a white American and felt everyone wanted something from her or they were trying to sell her something. She didn’t really have that idealistic ‘Enlightening’ experience that many westerners seek.
INDIA really is an acronym for: I’ll Never Do It Again (heard that from a movie)
That all being said, I’m sure there are many wonderful things about India. I’ve never been so I can’t really judge, but the stories are incredible, good and bad. You’re lucky to have this opportunity. Me? I’m too old now to handle the negative aspects of India. I’m a clean freak/germaphobe and I don’t think I’d last a day in India
You’ll see what you want to see. I am going to India in January for 6 weeks. My BF and I plan to spend most of our time in smaller cities and towns and in less touristy places. This should help with the jaded vendors and rip-off artists (that are in most tourist traps, by the way). I haven’t yet been to India, but I’ve travelled extensively. Bring a few jumbo rolls of your own luxe TP and don’t EVER try to flush it. You’ll get over the dirt, overcrowding and devastating poverty, or else you won’t enjoy yourself. Don’t go to India to be enlightened. Go to learn, experience and have an adventure. Accept the bad with the good. I always say that sometimes the nastier situations make for the funniest and most entertaining stories later.
Stay giddy with excitement. I certainly am. I’m escaping the worst weeks of winter to go to an exotic land and see things up close that I’ve only read about in books, heard about from others or seen on TV. I can’t wait!!!
Where are you planning to go? We’re flying into Mumbai, then heading straight to Gujarat. From there, we hope to take in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (Agra and Varanasi) then finish in Delhi. I expect Mumbai, Delhi, Agra and Varanasi to be absolutely nuts. The other areas should be much more laid back and pleasant.
If you’re not a seasoned traveller, I’d like to add that in foreign countries, Westerners are seen in a certain stereotypical way UNTIL you prove them wrong in their assumptions. When I travel, I am approachable. I’ll eat my lunch in a park or on a sidewalk, venture into restaurants and watering holes that attract locals, not tourists, and I show genuine interest in the locals I meet. Without fail, I come home with new friends and great experiences. Of course you’ll be viewed as wealthy and willing to part with your money. Heck, you could afford to go halfway around the world and spend 3 months in India, without working. That, in their eyes, makes you wealthy. Try to explain to anyone who asks about your wealth and income that whatever you make only allows you to live modestly in your country, which is quite expensive. They will understand that and hopefully not pry any further. If they ask you personal questions, go right ahead and ask them the same questions. They’ll love it. Leave your Western notions of privacy, personal space and bashfulness back home. Dress conservatively and keep your wits about you. You’ll have an awesome time!
I went when I was 18 with four other girls. Our big mistake was choosing to visit a series of cities – Agra, Varanassi, Dehi, and the problem was that one of my friends had huge culture shock and basically went mental after about a week. She tried to start walking home from Agra, the poor girl!
The cities in India are absolutely totally full on – traffic, pollution, busyness, nothing is familiar, everything is different. I loved it, but it was just too much for my friend who was expecting a couple of months on a sandy beach!
We moved on to Nepal which was like heaven. It was so different to India, just completely peaceful and stunningly beautiful. It wasn’t built up, or over populated, because we were in a rural area.
We then went on to stay on an island off Malaysia. There was nothing but sea turtles, hammocks and beaches.
I would love to go back to India now, knowing what I do now. I would head straight for the rural areas and for the Himalayas. The cities are just not worth it when there is so much beauty and such fascinating places to be in India away from the crowds.
Yup. Mumbai and Delhi will just be arrival and departure cities for us. We will spend no more than a day in each, before fleeing for more pleasant environs. We’ll go to Agra and Varanasi, because we want to see the sites, but beyond that, it’s smaller cities and towns for sure. I experienced the full-on human crunch in Beijing, Chengdu and Chongqing. I can handle crowds, but it’s much more peaceful to be in a small town, even if it possibly presents language barrier issues. Who cares? A smile and a wave go a long way!
oh cool, you’re bound to have an amazing time ;)
Taj Mahal is so incredibly beautiful. I went every day for 3 days and just sat and watched people’s expressions on their faces when they saw it for the first time.
You are so lucky to get to go loulou!! I would LOVE to travel to India! I love traveling and that is definetely in my top wanting to travel to destinations! And i’m so jealous of all of you who have already gone! This is such a wonderful opportunity – just be completely open-minded to everything. You have to do that when traveling. :) Best of journies!
Thanks for your replies guys! I have been travelling before to South East Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand) so I am well prepared for the social and cultural differences…and the toilets!
1sweetpea- I haven’t started to plan a route yet so it’s great to have a template to start with and research- especially as you are staying away from the larger cities & touristy hotspots which is what I plan on doing. I remember how draining it was when I travelled last, specifically in Vietnam, where you couldn’t take more than 2 steps without being harangued by merchants and motorbike drivers trying to sell to you.
Zoe- Your trip sounds heavenly! i would love to include Nepal in my trip. How did you cross the border, by flight? do you mind me asking what kind of budget you had and how costly it all was and…anything, just any advise!!
After I got of the initial shock of Mumbai, I slowly started to love India, especially the backwaters of Cochin, Kerala. We rented a houseboat and it was wonderful. We also took canoe trips through rural canals. So clean and peaceful, completely unlike the cities!
Be careful about how you give handouts (if you choose to). Sometimes stampedes can ensue!
We travelled by train in India. To be honest that was a real education…The train would stop for about 3 or 4 hours at a time for no reason. We’d go to sleep and every time we went to sleep, we’d wake up and these soldiers would have snuk into our cabin all silently standing staring at us sleeping, we had to keep shooing them out. We went by bus from India to Nepal. It was a very, very hairy bus ride indeed. I think it cured me of fear in general…nothing in my life has ever been as scary as teetering on the edge of crevices and passing by turned over buses. We drove uphill for a couple of days, up and up. We went in 1993, so a long time ago now. We lived like Queens on about Â£2 a day. It was ridiclously cheap. We took the Lonely Planet guide which was really helpful at the time, although half of the hostels in it didn’t exist.
You really don’t need much money at all. All our travel in India was less than Â£10. The bus ride to Nepal wasn’t anything at all either. You’ll meet lots of people when you get there who’ll tell you the hottest travellers destinations of the moment, I think it is good to keep your plans very loose until you get there. Or at least have tickets where you can change your itinerary when you want. We changed our tickets about 4 times, it cost us a fee to do that each time. That’s the kind of thing that is expensive, not your living costs. The best place to stay in any town or city we could find was about Â£1/night. Food costs nothing either.
Of course in Delhi which is the capital city there was a Hilton type Hotel, and we went in there to sit in by their pool for an afternoon to get out of the smell and the heat and to feel “normal” when it all got a bit much one day!! In Delhi and Agra there was the luxuary hotels for the rich tourists, and then the “rustic” style Â£1/night places, and also some very, very rough hostels too. Rough in a smelly way, not in a scary violent way.
I have to say that I have never felt safer than I did when traveling in Asia. We were just 5 teenage girls traveling alone and we never, ever felt threatened or scared by men at all.
We got followed by crowds of men in the cities but they just stared and asked us why we weren’t married, and why were we traveling all alone, it was just funny, not threatening.
I’m 5 ft 9 and my friends were also tall, we towered above most of the men in the street, which is a unique and interesting experience. I remember having the strange thought that I was physically stronger than any of the men there. It is things like that that strike me that I didn’t expect which makes traveling such fun.
Zoe, sounds like you had lots of fun in India. The only thing I wanted to add is that price of hotels is lot more than in 1993. When I was in college (1991-1995) in Delhi, we used to get an average hotel room for around $4-$5. Now you won’t get anything even half-decent under $20/day. If you can afford, there are many more star hotels now, even in big towns.
I'm there right now, and I am having the time of my life! I've been in the city, at some ashrams and in the villages and its wonderful here. Where are you flying into? No plans yet? You don't need them anyway, they'd just change on you!
You are right Carmentina..Kochi is the best place for nature lovers to travel in India..I visited Cochin when i was on tour to India become my favorite tourist place in India.Here you can experience freshness and the touch of nature where you go..We also had a great Experiance at spending a day in Houseboats in Kochi Backwaters..The boat was clean,comfortable,nice crew and fresh tasty food..