Before the holiday becomes a distant memory, here’s a few tips for your trip to India.
What you need to know before you go
- Passport size photo needed – in order to apply for a sim card, you need to have a passport size photo. Add this to your packing list. Once we were in India, we applied for an Airtel sim card and were able to use it throughout India. Most service providers accept payment in cash only. Just ask for a call and data package. It does take a few hours to activate.
- Sleeper trains – the sleeper train is not recommended for women travelling on their own. Do take special note of this if you have arranged your tour with a travel agent, and especially where the journey time is slightly longer. We didn’t have a food cart on the sleeper train so plan ahead if you do decide to use it.
- Non-sleeper trains – just a heads up – some of the food items we were served with our first class tickets were expired. You may find that the trains are outdated, but I would recommend them for short trips, travelling first class preferably.
- E-visa – this can be done online prior to your trip. Our travel agent was able to do this for us. When you land in Delhi, just remember to follow the signs for e-visa and not foreign passports.
- Packing -suggest you take closed shoes, and not your brand spanking new sneakers. It’s dusty and fairly polluted. And in Winter, it does get cold at night and early morning so pack appropriately. Some of the religious sites require that you wear a cloak or a headscarf.
- Choosing a hotel – whether you DIY’ing your trip or using an agent, take special note of where your hotel is located and split your stay for shopping and sightseeing etc. Traffic is horrendous in some parts. Some hotels charge extra for wifi. Yeah i know, insane!!! And agents don’t necessarily tell you this. Do enquire.
- Organised tour – if you a female travelling solo or with other females only, I’d recommend an organised tour in India. Use a reputable travel agent in South Africa, guiding them on your ideal itinerary i.e no. of days, which cities you keen on visiting. If an organised tour is not within your budget, then ask fellow travellers for details of a reputable taxi driver or have a look on TripAdvisor. We booked our tour with Serendipity Travel and Tours, and it was very well organised. I do suggest shopping around as well to ensure that you get a good deal.
When you there
- Air pollution – The major cities are very polluted so if you prone to lung infections, use a mask and carry meds that you prefer. Medication is easily accessible too.
- Freezer food – We were all down with the flu after having the most amazing kulfi ice cream in Jaipur. I may just be making an assumption here, but stay away from the food items in a freezer.
- Delhi belly – The after effects of street food. Can’t say we suffered from this. And we tried most things! We stuck to bottled water though and I do suggest carrying one with you always.
- Shopping and scams – Have an idea of where you going, specifically for shopping. Use a reputable taxi driver or one recommended by the hotel. The staff at the hotel are trying to protect you and not pulling a fast one. Google what the place looks like. Tuk tuk drivers were the worst, but that’s nothing. Ordinary civilians and taxi drivers will lie to your face and take you to these so called ‘cottage industries’ for shopping. Do not shop there. It’s an absolute rip off. The local markets and shopping malls are the way to go.
- Haggling – This is how business is conducted in India. Practice your skills and negotiate your way through everything. Haggle hard. Really hard. Start at fifty percent less than the quoted price. Definately carry an extra suitcase. Consider flying Emirates for that generous baggage allowance.
- Food – if you love Indian cuisine, then you will be in food heaven in India. Don’t limit yourself to high-end restaurants. The street food is a must try. If you ever exhausted from all the sightseeing and don’t feel like going out, then order in with Zomato. There are some really reasonable eats, like Raju ki Chai in Mumbai. Best sandwiches ever!