Before Jason and I go to another country we get obsessed with doing as much research on the area as we can. We watch videos and documentaries, read books and blog posts and talk with anyone who’s been to where we’re going as if we’re stalking the country. I always feel like we get more out of our time when we understand the layout better, have an idea of the things we know we want to see and experience and know a bit about the culture. So, when we officially decided to go to India, the stalking began. Every single thing we read and watched always said first and foremost there’s nothing that can prepare you for your first time in India. A lot of people even commented on wishing they could go back and experience their first time again because of how shocking and transformative it is. After being in India for one day I already knew what everyone was talking about. The version of me sitting in my living room thinking “Ok, so nothing prepares you for it. I’m prepared to not be prepared. Be open minded and take it all in.” compared to the version of me actually in India seeing what everyone was talking about for myself, I thought, “Good lord, I really had no idea.” Describing India with words, pictures and even videos still falls short of what it actually feels like to be in it.
Even though I’ve probably already convinced you there’s nothing that can prepare you for your first time to India, I still think getting as much knowledge and advice as you can is still the best way to go. I’ve put together a short list of things to expect and tips for your first time in India.
1. WILD ANIMALS EVERYWHERE
Wild animals roam the cities and towns and are, for the most part, pretty harmless as long as you respect their space. Dogs, cows, monkeys, the tiniest and cutest chipmunks you’ll ever see are free to explore. Just make sure to watch where you step 😉
2. AMAZING FOOD
Hopefully, if you’re going to India that means you like Indian food. We had good luck using the zomato app to find the higher rated places to go which really helped in finding the best food. It’s just like any other place where finding the hotspots to eat are so worth the extra time to look it up. Don’t forget about the amazing street food! Just make sure whatever you eat has been cooked and not washed in anything but clean water. It’s typically best to only eat fruits with peels and veggies that are cooked when eating street food. My absolute favorite street food was a dessert called Jalebis, a deep fried batter in a coil shape that’s dipped in a sweet syrup.
3. INTERESTING SMELLS
There are some really great smells like the food and incense along with some really bad smells. Make sure to bring something like tiger balm to put under your nose if you have a weak stomach.
There is dirt everywhere. Your shoes will get pretty dirty, so make sure to wear something comfortable that you don’t mind getting really worn in or even throwing them out at the end of the trip.
5. INCREDIBLE ARCHITECTURE
India has some of the most beautiful architecture in the world. Hitting some of the tourist spots like Tombs, Temples and Palaces is a touristy thing you won’t regret.
6. LIVING CONDITIONS
Expect to see extreme contrast in living conditions. You will find some of the poorest living conditions right next to a contrasting scene of wealth and you will see more poverty than anything.
Especially in larger cities like Delhi, expect to see a haze in the sky, and breathing will feel a little difficult at times. This also means some pretty gnarly boogers. Bringing a pollution mask for the larger cities is definitely a good idea.
Indian people love to take pictures and to be in pictures. If you happen to stand out as a tourist with light skin and hair expect for people to want to take pictures of you and with you. Remember that it’s ok to politely decline if the pictures start to become too much and take away from you experience.
9. CHAOTIC DRIVING
Driving will seem like absolute chaos in India, so whether you take a cab, tuk tuk or Uber the best thing you can do is relax and trust your driver. They know how to maneuver through the streets and the chaos system they have seems to work.
Be prepared to barter for most things. Indian people actually love it when you barter with them, so don’t be shy when bartering for a tuk tuk ride or when shopping.
All in all, India is an absolutely stunning country with such a rich culture and beautiful people. My main advice is to go to India with an open mind and a soft heart and let it reveal itself to you and you will be changed forever. Good luck and safe travels!