India is an incredible travel destination that attracts all types of travellers. Whether you’re a backpacker or a soul seeker, a trip to this country can be a life-changing experience.
To get the most out of your trip, it is wise to read up on some travel advice before you head off to the home of the Taj Mahal and the Valley of Flowers.
This will allow you to make the most of the country’s rich culture, stunning scenery, and of course, its delicious food scene! It will also enable you to interact more fluidly with the local people who are known for their friendliness and hospitality.
- 1 What Not to Do in India – Drink Tap Water
- 2 Is It Safe to Eat Street Food in India?
- 3 Why Are Cows Sacred in India?
- 4 Do’s and Dont’s in Indian Culture
- 5 Why Is It Important to Take Shoes off Before Entering Homes in India?
- 6 Things Not to Do in India – PDA in India
- 7 What Clothes to Wear in India – Advice for Travellers
- 8 Do’s and Dont’s for Tourists in India – Avoid Trying to See Too Much
- 9 Don’t Just Stick to the Famous Places in India
- 10 Use Local Transport
- 11 Don’t Believe the Stereotypes
What Not to Do in India – Drink Tap Water
The number one rule for travellers heading to this destination to remember is do not drink the tap water! It contains harmful bacteria and chemicals that will disagree with your stomach and can make you seriously ill.
Drink bottled water (always making sure that the seal isn’t broken) and the same rule applies when brushing your teeth!
A useful phrase to know when travelling in India is how to ask for your drink with no ice. The equivalent of ‘no ice’ in Hindi is ‘baraff nahi.’
No matter how hot it is, avoid iced drinks and also ice cream as they are usually made using tap water. It is best to avoid the fresh fruit juices sold on market stalls around the country too for the same reason.
Is It Safe to Eat Street Food in India?
Most Indian food is delicious, which is why it is famous worldwide for its tantalising flavours. Sampling the country’s street food can be an excellent culinary experience. However, like with street food in any hot country, you need to be sensible.
Here are some tips to follow when eating out in India:
- Stick to vegetables – Many Indians are veggie, so you will have an excellent range of delicious vegetarian food to choose from.
- If you do eat meat, make sure it’s cooked thoroughly and dine at stalls and restaurants that are packed with locals.
- Use your common sense – Does the food look like it has been sat out for a while? Is the stall thronged with customers or does it look empty?
- Always wash your hands and use hand sanitiser too before eating. Wipe down the utensils you are going to use for your meal with antibacterial wipes before use.
If in doubt, it is best to only eat at food locations that are popular with tourists.
India is the largest producer of fruits in the world and there are many delicious fruits and veggies to try while you’re visiting the country. To ensure you don’t get poorly from eating an unwashed apple, here are some golden rules to follow:
- ‘Cook it, peel it or leave it’ is a good mantra to remember. Bananas are a good option providing the peel is still intact.
- Avoid pre-peeled tropical fruits like mango and pineapple and other fruits. The same applies to pre-prepared salads as raw veg can carry harmful bacteria if they aren’t washed properly.
- Always wash any fruit or veg you purchase before eating (with bottled water or other purified water).
Why Are Cows Sacred in India?
The cow is a sacred animal in Hinduism and you will see them roaming the streets throughout India. It is quite a sight to behold if you’re a first-time visitor! Cows are widely worshipped and decorated during festival celebrations. Avoid getting too close to stray cows if you are walking near them, they are unlikely to hurt you but it is better to err on the side of caution!
Why Is Beef Banned in India?
For meat-eaters, the avoid cow rule also applies when ordering beef. Cows are protected creatures and it is illegal to eat beef in many parts of the country. Luckily there are so many other delicious foods to try, including meat dishes, so you won’t miss it. Chicken and mutton are the most frequently eaten meats.
Do’s and Dont’s in Indian Culture
When travelling to another country it is always important to be respectful of the culture. Indian culture is incredibly rich and is in fact one of the most ancient in the world.
When visiting as a tourist, there are some cultural idiosyncrasies that travellers should be aware of. If you are a first-time visitor these may be new to you. Locals are generally very welcoming and are sure to make allowances if they realise you are a tourist. However, in order to blend in as much as possible and be respectful to your hosts, these etiquette rules are worth remembering:
Do not give or take things with your left hand
The left hand is viewed as unclean, as it is typically used for cleaning yourself after you go to the bathroom, removing your shoes, washing your feet and other similarly ‘unclean’ activities. If someone offers you something, try to remember to take it with your right hand.
Eating etiquette to follow
Eating is typically done with the fingers in India using minimum cutlery and using the right hand only. It might take some getting used to but once you’ve adapted, you might even find you enjoy it and savour the flavoursome food even more! In restaurants, small bowls of water with a slice of lemon will usually be brought to the table for you to clean your fingers.
Do not point
Another etiquette rule to bear in mind when travelling in India is to avoid pointing your finger as this is considered rude. If you want to draw attention to something, for example, an interesting site, use your whole hand or your thumb.
Why Is It Important to Take Shoes off Before Entering Homes in India?
If you are invited to a friend’s house, you will quickly see that it is customary to remove your shoes when entering the home. Keeping them on in your hosts’ home can be perceived as disrespectful or rude. Make a great impression on your hosts by making sure to remove yours!
There is also specific etiquette to follow regarding feet. When sitting down, avoid pointing the soles of your feet at anyone, and be sure to apologise if you make accidental contact with someone’s foot.
When visiting a sacred temple in India, whether it is the Siddhivinayak Temple or Jagannath, it is vital to remove your shoes.
Most temples have shoe holding facilities where you can store yours for free or for a small fee.
If you are travelling around the country on an extended trip, you will soon get used to this. Most of the beautiful temples dotted around the country are super clean. However, if you are worried about getting your feet dirty, you can bring a pair of dark coloured socks with you.
In some shops, it is also required to remove your shoes. If you see shoes at an entrance, it’s a good idea to take yours off as well. This will make it clear to all those you encounter that you respect their traditions and values.
Things Not to Do in India – PDA in India
Indian society is generally quite conservative, particularly the older generation. Public displays of affection (PDA) like kissing or even holding hands can be frowned upon. Avoid engaging in behaviour that may be considered inappropriate by keeping affectionate gestures for private.
Have a read of some other shocking rules that might surprise you when travelling abroad.
How to greet people
Want to make a good first impression? A common greeting throughout India is the traditional Hindu greeting of ‘Namaste’.
To greet someone in this way you should bring your hands together in front of your chest with your palms touching. Different languages may have a different word for ‘Namaste’, however, the gesture is used across the country as a formal greeting.
Hugs and kisses are considered an inappropriate greeting.
What Clothes to Wear in India – Advice for Travellers
The way of dressing is generally quite conservative by Western standards. This is particularly the case in rural areas if you are travelling to places like The Western Ghats and Nilgiri Hills.
Although there is more freedom in urban cities like Delhi, Goa, or Mumbai, it is important to keep your legs covered as a sign of respect.
Avoid dressing inappropriately while on holiday in India with the following tips on what to pack. The clothing for women varies between regions, however, here are some general tips on how female tourists should dress in India:
- Avoid wearing strapless tops or tight, revealing clothing.
- Wear a shawl or scarf when visiting religious temples and other sacred sites. Many holy sites have scarves for visitors to borrow, but you can bring your own too.
- Bring full-sleeved clothes as they are more modest and will also protect you from the fierce sun and mosquito bites.
- Pack light clothes, loose-fitting clothes – keep the skin-tight shorts at home.
- It is uncommon to see an Indian woman wearing a skirt about the ankles (apart from on the beach and in student circles).
Advice for male tourists on what to wear when visiting here:
- Well-dressed Indian men tend not to wear shorts; however, if you’re going on a long expedition, baggy shorts should be okay or jeans.
- Short-sleeved shirts or t-shirts can be worn to combat the heat.
- If you want to try donning traditional Indian dress, a highly breathable cotton tunic called a Kurta can be worn over jeans to earn respect from locals.
Do’s and Dont’s for Tourists in India – Avoid Trying to See Too Much
India is the seventh-largest country in the world at approximately 3,287,263 sq km and it would literally take a lifetime to explore it all. Furthermore, travelling between different parts of this nation can be slow and Indian Standard Time is often jokingly called Indian Stretchable Time.
Instead of trying to pack too much into your travel itinerary, select a few cities or regions that you really want to discover (depending on the length of your trip).
Doing this will mean you have a much more memorable experience, as you can really get to know the places you visit rather than zipping through a long list of sites.
Slow travel is a way to get to know the country and its culture on a much deeper level and to experience its holy sites and breathtaking landscapes to their fullest. After soaking in the country’s unique atmosphere, you may find you never want to leave!
Avoid the rainy season
The best time of year to visit is from October to March. The summer monsoon season lasts from June to September and you can expect torrential downpours and particularly humid temperatures.
Avoid booking last minute
India has a huge population so it’s best to book accommodation and trains well in advance if you’re planning a trip here. You don’t want to miss out on some of the places you most want to visit due to lack of organisation! Once you’ve got your India eVisa sorted for your trip, you can start booking trains and other parts of your journey before tickets sell out.
Give yourself plenty of time too when you arrive at the train station in India as they can be massive. Finding your platform in plenty of time will ensure that your journey goes as smoothly as possible. Taking a sleeper train across the country can be an incredibly exciting experience. Taking an overnight train can allow you to make the most of your time.
Don’t Just Stick to the Famous Places in India
Yes, Delhi, Goa and Mumbai are all incredible places; however, this is so much more to this country than just these destinations.
To give you an idea of just how diverse this nation is; it is home to over 100 languages, 700 tribes and every major religion is represented here. From snow-capped mountains to sandy deserts, its geography is characterised by its diversity too. India has megacities with some of the highest populations in the world as well as remote regions with barely any inhabitants.
Exploring some ‘off the beaten track’ locations is one of the best decisions you can make as a tourist in India! It will give you a more authentic and more rewarding travel experience that you will always remember.
Here are 5 less widely known destinations that are well worth visiting if you have the time:
- Karnataka, southwestern India
Discover resorts where local Indian families holiday on this gorgeous coastline. Experience charming fishing towns, port cities and sacred temple towns. Don’t forget to try the scrumptious seafood curries too!
- Meghalaya, northeast India
If plunging waterfalls and living bridges sound like your idea of paradise, head to Meghalaya. This hilly region full of tribal villages is frequently described as the wettest place on earth.
- Kannur, Kerala
If you’re intrigued by Indian folklore, this could be the destination for you. Experience the ancient ritual of Theyyam in the villages of southern India, a tradition that is said to predate Hinduism.
Witnessing this hypnotic ritual featuring elaborate dress and performances is a once in a lifetime experience!
- Tadoba, Maharashtra
The main attraction of Tadoba is the National Park and wildlife sanctuary, which is the oldest one in the state. It is also the largest national park in this part of the country with a total area of 1727 km2. The tiger reserve here is one of the best-kept and preserved tiger reserves in the country.
- Gangtok, Sikkim
Gangtok is the capital of the mountainous northern state of Sikkim. Until 1975 it was its own separate country and so you really get a taste of the nation’s diversity here in this Buddhist region. If you enjoy hiking, it is a great base for an organised trek through the Himalayan mountain ranges. Simply breathtaking!
Use Local Transport
Prices here might be significantly cheaper than in your home country. However, to get a more authentic experience and a valuable insight into local life, taking public transport is recommended.
Taking a rickshaw ride in India is a unique experience that you are unlikely to forget in a hurry. Taking local buses and trains can be a great way to connect with locals too. If you are on a budget or are on an extended trip where you have time to play with, it can be an exciting way to experience the country and all its sights and sounds.
Don’t be offended if curious locals ask you questions while you’re travelling! It is normal for strangers to ask each other all kinds of questions to gain an understanding of you. This is considered polite conversation and is meant with no malice.
Don’t Believe the Stereotypes
As we said above, India is as diverse as it is vast and its range of cultures and traditions is one of the things that most strikes visitors to the country. Each of the 29 states is very different with its own history, traditions and festivals. Experiencing some of the local festivals during your trip can be a highlight of a trip to India. Don’t draw conclusions about the whole country, keep an open mind and you are sure to have the trip of a lifetime!
Discover more about this rich and vibrant destination that will touch your heart and soul on our Visit India page.