Five useful tips for your India trip
India is all these things, and more. How can you possibly prepare yourself for the ultimate travel plunge? Start with our tips for travelling to India for the first time!
Whether it's a day on the beach or a night aboard one of Kerala's beloved houseboats, sometimes you have to slow the pace in India © Vaishali Birari / 500px
1. Slow down
Many people try to cram too much into a visit to India and subsequently burn out. To get the best out of your trip, concentrate on a few places rather than trying to tick off as many as possible. Seeing one or two places slowly can be much more rewarding than seeing loads of places, but not having time to appreciate any of them. Spend a few days in one spot and you'll be less stressed, gain a deeper understanding of where you are, and have more time to get to know the people you meet – your exchanges with hospitable locals will almost certainly lead to some of the most memorable moments of your trip.
Motorcycle riders tackle the high altitude dirt roads of Northern India © Soloviova Liudmyla / Shutterstock
2. Escape the crowds
With over a billion locals, many parts of India are certainly crowded. The bustle and mayhem can be fun, particularly if there's a festival in town, but it's easy to reach the point of saturation. Fortunately, India has plenty of quiet retreats, so plan some relaxing escapes into your journey. To keep your batteries charged, spend some days or weeks in a city, followed by some days or weeks in the countryside or in a small town. For inner (and outer) peace, head south to the backwaters and beaches of Kerala, or north to India's captivating hill stations or the Tibetan-influenced valleys of the Himalaya in Ladakh, Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh.
Don't let the fear of getting sick stop you from sampling India's incredible cuisine – but exercise caution © Santhosh Varghese / Shutterstock
3. Stay healthy
Many travellers go veggie whilst in India, and it's not a bad idea, as a dodgy bit of meat will do you a lot more harm than undercooked vegetables. Plus, many Indians are vegetarian, so the country offers perhaps the world's most fabulous choice of vegetarian food. If you do eat meat, make sure it's well cooked, and stick to stalls and restaurants that are packed with locals (the best barometer for hygiene standards).
4. Pick the perfect route
India packs a lot into a massive space, and you'll never have time to see it all in one trip. Think about what interests you, what you like doing and how much time you have, and tailor your trip accordingly. Be realistic about how much you can fit in. Rather than trying to see the whole country, you may get more out of your trip if you concentrate on the south of the country, or on the north. However, internal flights – or much more enjoyable and atmospheric long-distance trains – are plentiful and inexpensive so you can hop from north to south if you want a taste of both worlds.
5. You need a visa.
For a stay one year or less, you can now do it online through the government website or you can use a third party, like GIS e-Visa, so you don’t have to do all the work. e-Visa charges an admin fee, but allows you to submit well in advance unlike the government site & does all the hard work for you.
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