A Guide for Surviving the World’s Largest Democracy : India

Crowds on the banks of the Ganges

Crowds on the banks of the Ganges

India isn’t a place to visit, it is a place to experience, and experience it you will – whether you like it or not. So, if your heading that way here are a few tips to help you – and your sanity – remain in one piece.

  • Don’t reveal more skin than necessary. You could wear a burqa and still be stared at, but at least you know they’re not perving at you

  • Don’t use rickshaw metres unless you know an area quite well. It’s not hard to take an unsuspecting tourist round the block a few times to get the money. Likewise, bargain hard and never accept the first amount they quote you

  • When negotiating, go so low as to insult them then work your way up to a reasonable price. Start with under alf what they first say – one third even

  • Walking away is the best way to negotiate – they won’t be scared to call you back if they really want your money

  • If you don’t like eating with your hands bring a spoon and fork – most places are fine, but you can easily get caught out

  • You will get the shits at some point. Be prepared: toilet paper, antibiotics, immodium, spare undies…

  • Beware of lassis, fresh juices etc. – many use ice which is not necessarily from filtered water.

  • Beware that many juice stands put salt in the juices – yuck – and it makes it smell like eggs

  • Make sure to buy bottled water that is properly sealed

  • Count your change and don’t be afraid to ask how much things cost to get the proper change – many stalls forget how to count when it comes to foreigners. Also, some shops will give you sweets as change – so if you don’t like sweets come with the right change

  • If someone approaches you it is for money one way or another

  • Don’t believe tuktuk drivers, or people that approach you outside stations when they say your hotel/guesthouse/reservation office is closed/burned down/moved. They are just trying to pull you to an independent agent – for much more money. At least check it out yourself first

  • Tuktuk drivers will almost always try to take you to a guesthouse or hotel that they receive commission from instead of where you want to go. Be firm with what you want to do. On the plus side, if you have no idea where to go this can be handy. So long as you are happy with the room at that price – commission shcommission. We were told some tuktuk drivers ask for half the first night’s rent as commission

  • Just say no. You don’t have to agree to everything. No, I don’t want to see your shop. No I don’t want to buy anything. No, I don’t want to take a photo with you and your 512 friends…

  • If you don’t like loud noise – don’t come. Kidding. Not kidding. Or just bring cotton wool for your ears

  • ALWAYS agree to a price beforehand. There’s no arguing once that food has started digesting

  • If someone is making you uncomfortable make noise about it. Or sit next to a cop – they have mighty big sticks

  • If you’re a guy – grow a moustache. It’s, like, serious man-cred or something

  • If travelling by train try to reserve a seat as early as possible – days in advance. But if it’s sold out and you need to move, the Tatkal scheme opens up another quota of tickets 24 hours before the train leaves on a first come-first served basis

  • Eat with your right hand

  • Beware of scams – this is easier said than done. Women begging with babies for milk may have a system set up to sell the milk back to the shop once you’ve bought it. A ‘friendly local’ may direct you to the real Government affiliated travel agency that is much cheaper – it’s neither Government affiliated nor cheaper. A child accompanying you to ‘practice English’ or anyone using the phrase “no money, no problem” is still after money

  • Have a pair of light shoes to walk around in otherwise your feet will be covered in all sorts of shit by the end of the day. And I mean that quite literally

The Taj Mahal from across the river - minus the crowds

The Taj Mahal from across the river – minus the crowds


6 thoughts on “A Guide for Surviving the World’s Largest Democracy : India

    • Yeah it is! They always seem to be sneaking something into your drinks and food in India that shouldn’t be there! And, cheers! I’m useless at planning anything – so it seemed fitting!

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