Monday, September 21, 2009

Tips for the traveller in India

India is a very safe and welcoming country. Here are some tips and advices for the traveller, coming from my experience of the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajashtan, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Sikkim in the North of the country.

* Don't be scared of dogs who are barking at you. Shout back at them with confidence (In Hindi: "Ja!", "Go away!") and throw kicks in their direction to scare them off. If they seem really dangerous (because some are, of course), you should catch a big stone that you will throw directly at them (an advice given to me by a cop in Jaisalmer at night, when there is not a living soul in the streets after 10pm and stray dogs are in control of the city).

* If an Indian threatens you, bare in mind that you are highly protected as a tourist. They know that and will not touch you by fear of police reprisals. If they isolate you, pretend to feel sick and that you need some air or that you have to go somewhere, and make your way to the nearest policeman. Alternatively you can jump in a cab to get away.

* The prices are indicated on all packaged products, convenient to verifie that you're not being fooled. In the jungle or other scarcely inhabited places, it is possible that the price will be a few ruppees up. As well as drinks in restaurants, obviously.

* You will notice that the children are more smily when they look at the photo you just took of them than when you were taking the photo. So try to not make them pose, which they'll tend to do naturally, by distracting their attention somehow (making them speak or laugh...). Do not pay them, you should rather offer biscuits, candies or chocolates.

* Avoid giving money to beggars. After only a few days in India, I understood that the best way is to completely ignore beggars because taking it in consideration will not help in any way and it will affect you, at least emotionally. Upon my arrival in Mumbai, a gang of youngsters circled me and was enquiring about the contents of my camera bag and wallet. I had in fact created the problem by starting talking to them. The situation would not have happened if I had completely ignore them.

* Don't let anyone guide you anywhere. It will always end up in a store or a very expensive rickshaw ride or a request of money "for the visit". Always embarassing.

* Similarly, don't let people take you to transports. At the exit of train and bus stations, pass straight through the crowd of people offering you rides, taxis or cheap hotel rooms. You're better off avoiding them and looking for the "pre-paid taxi" booth, where you will be offered a normal fare, or hail a taxi from the street. If an auto-rickshaw does not use the meter, always negotiate the fare before taking it. If necessary you can compare with other rickshaws. In Delhi, you can often divide the announced price by three to calculate what a normal fare would be! Don't expect to pay this price though, and you'll be reassured to know that even locals are being ripped off by rickshaw drivers in the capital. Also, make sure you have the right change.

* In train stations, look for the "Tourism Information Office", where you'll get help to book your ticket, or will be able to get a last-minute train ticket. The tourist is king in India, and you should take advantage of your rights as such. Many trains have "foreign quotas" so you can still get a ticket for a train that's booked out. To find your train, always ask a train station agent, do not ask someone from the public.

* In the street always ask your way to office workers (in suits) or alternatively to a police person. The general public tend to not know their way too well (from my experience I'm under the impression that 95% of people cannot read a map!), but they will still try their hardest to help you! They will unpurposely lead you in the wrong direction and you'll get frustrated.

* Be patient. Or learn patience in India.

* Visit Sikkim. My meeting with the local populations and the exquisite biodiversity has made for an unforgettable experience. I hear that all mountain areas in India are beautiful places to visit (Cachemir, Himachal Pradesh...).


I haven't had the chance to write any concluding observations as I feel that my trip was much too short for this. I am hoping to go back to Sikkim and stay for a while sometimes. Maybe even do some actual field research about the place and its people, who I really got along with. Overall I will just say that India has been very interesting, rich in experiences of all sorts, and a very beautiful place.

Thank you very much for your attention, and for your feedbacks!

See you next year for !!! ^^



  1. thats a long list of warnings my would be great to see some pics too of the places you visited.
    why dont you put some views on interesting things you observed as well in your journeys?

  2. Haha yes, I see danger everywhere!
    More things are to be read in the previous articles, about religion, Durga Puja, trekking in Sikkim etc.

  3. People often say India is generous. Sometimes I stuck by the good fortune of India in the form of people it attracts. Look at your first line, "India is a very safe and welcoming country." And then the content below :D Long list of don'ts. I wonder if it is India or the people who visit India!

  4. I would say that india is one of the most intriguing places in the world and that comes with the good and the bad. It's also one of the most exploited countries in terms of tourism and i was merely stating what hadn't been mentioned before, based on my experience. As apposed to India being rose tinted.

    There are 42 other articles that relate my experiences in India. It is neither good or bad it was just what occured during my time there. This opinion will obviously be different from others but this does not mean that i'm ignorant.

    One cannot judge a whole blog by the last article.

    maybe it's the patriots that should be called into question and not the people who visit?