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First Time In India? Here’s What You Need To Know

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What To Expect: Travel Tips For First-Time Visitors To India

There aren’t many countries in the world where you’ll get a bigger culture shock than in India – and that’s exactly why we love it! If you’re travelling to India for the first time, prepare for a welcome assault on your senses, and make sure you’re ready to do things a little differently… 

Have a look through our first-time travellers’ questions about India and start preparing for your Bucket List adventure now. 

Can I Speak English In India? 

A whopping 22 official languages are spoken in India, from Urdu and Bengali to Gujarati and Kashmiri. The most common tongue? Hindi, but since English is taught in many schools across the country, it’s highly likely you’ll be able to make yourself understood. In fact, you’ll probably experience plenty of locals trying out their English on you, which isn’t just fun, it’s handy too!

Buy a phrasebook before you go and try to learn a few simple words and phrases so you can be as polite as possible when you’re in India. “Namaste” is the most common greeting and easy enough to remember, and if you can commit “shukriya” to memory, you’ll get along better (it means “thank you from the bottom of my heart”). 

Do I Need A Visa To Travel To India? 

These days, you can get an e-visa easily and inexpensively online before you travel to India, which will cover everything you need for most trips there (though there are some exceptions). Have a look on the UK Government website for more information and the Indian High Commission website

Make sure your passport is valid for travel to India too. It needs to have:

  • At least 180 days remaining on it from the day you’re entering India
  • 2 blank pages for your visa
  • Machine readability

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT INDIA? Banner

Should I Practise Cultural Customs In India? 

As far as you can, yes – and there are lots of cultural customs in India to get used to! Don’t be offended if locals ask you lots of questions, stare at you or sneak some photos of you. They’re not being nosy, they’re showing you they’re interested in you! If their questions seem intrusive, it’s most likely that they’re just practising their English.

If you’re paying for a meal in a restaurant, it’s customary to leave a tip of about 10% (always check the bill in higher-end restaurants as a service charge might already have been added on). You should also tip in India for small services like when someone washes your clothing or carries your bag for you. Taxi drivers in India don’t expect tips, so don’t worry about that (though it can be easier to pay if you round up the fare to an even number!).

The other thing to bear in mind is your personal space in India. On public transport and in busy areas it’s completely normal to get bumped about in the crowds. Keep your stuff close and secure and try and enjoy the hustle and bustle! 

What Is The Weather In India Like? 

India’s a massive country and as such, you’ll experience different climates depending on where you are. 

In India you can experience baking hot sunshine, snowy peaks and seriously heavy rain, so it counts to plan the timing of your visit carefully. Generally speaking, you can avoid spending your entire holiday in a cagoule if you visit from December to February, which is when the sunshine tends to be most bearable too. 

If you want more detail about the best time to visit India, click HERE to read our rundown of the weather in India, split into various areas and different times of year. It’s a useful read if you’re seriously thinking about visiting India but you’re not sure when to go. 

What Will I Eat In India? 

If you think you’ll be on a strict curry-only diet, think again. Indian cuisine changes as you move across the country and you’ll always have a range of tasty options available to you. 

Of course, you will be able to get fresh curries just about wherever you are (and no, they’re nothing like your bog-standard chicken tikka masala). But you’ll find plenty of hearty stews and thali platters too (think the Indian version of tapas). 

Virtually every meal will come with rice or a roti (a delicious Indian flatbread) and you’ll usually receive a side dish of yoghurt-like raita too – if you’re not used to spice, use it generously to tame the hotter dishes.

Eating in India really is an exciting experience, nothing like anything you’ll have experienced at home. So throw yourself into the bright, bold and beautiful dishes and flavours and you’ll come away seriously satisfied. 

India copy scaled

Do I Need Vaccinations For India? 

You should always speak to your doctor before travelling to India and make sure you’re up to date on all your standard jabs and boosters. It’s crucial you’ve been immunised for typhoid, tetanus, polio, Hepatitis A and yellow fever to travel in India, even though the risk of you contracting any of them is low or non-existent. Have a look at the FCO travel advice before you go and you should be just fine. 

The most likely cause of illness while you’re in India will be the infamous “Delhi Belly”, so if you’re looking to eat lots of street food, make sure you always choose the busiest stall. If it’s popular with the locals then it’s most probably safe and DELICIOUS! Likewise, stick to bottled water (even for cleaning your teeth), avoid ice cubes, salad and fruit that you can’t peel yourself, and you shouldn’t have a problem. 

What Should My India Travel Itinerary Be? 

There’s so much to pack into a trip to India that you could easily make the mistake of trying to do it all in one trip. Don’t!

If you’ve not got months to play with, the best India travel itinerary will focus on one area of this enormous country and do it well. 

Our Indian Himalayan adventure covers the beautiful northernmost part of India, giving you a taste of Delhi, incredible wildlife on safari AND mountain trekking in one go. If the Himalayas, Bengal Tigers or the Jim Corbett National Park are on your Bucket List, this trip is the one for you. It’s the perfect balance of relaxation and mental restoration, with morning yoga and evening temple trips plus oodles of adventure packed in between. 

What Should I Pack To Travel To India? 

We run our Himalayan adventures in British winter to make the most of the better weather in India. That being said, it’s always worth taking a pack-a-mack or something that’ll keep you dry if the heavens do open. 

You’ll do things at different paces on different days so layers are the way forward here. Pack base layers, fleeces and flexible trousers as well as lighter clothing for the warmer days. Don’t forget your worn-in walking boots either! They’re an absolute must if you’re going to be exploring the Himalayan foothills or spending hours on your feet getting to grips with Delhi. 

Be sure to bring things that you can use to cover yourself when you’re visiting religious sites, like long trousers and a scarf, and something to cover your arms. Best bring some hand sanitiser and anti-bac wipes too, so you can give yourself at least some reassurance if there’s no soap and running water available at mealtimes. 

Will I Enjoy India?

YES! There’s no denying your time in India will be VERY different to anything you’re used to, but if you can relax and go with the flow, you’ll have the time of your life. 

If India’s on your Bucket List and you want to do it in style, why not join us on our Himalayan adventure? Spend 11 days hiking the Himalayan foothills, putting your pulse to the test on rafts and ziplines, getting up close and personal with India’s best wildlife on TWO safaris AND getting to grips with Delhi… Check out the itinerary here and don’t let life pass you by.

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