Rumours & Realities : What to expect on your first trip to 🇮🇳
India can seem like a daunting place to come to and nothing quite prepares you for this completely different culture, whether it’s the crowds of people or the wandering cows and camels. There are ways to be better prepared and knowing what to expect can help put you better at ease.
To a foreigner, the traffic seems crazy! When do you cross? Why are some vehicles driving the wrong way?! As they say, welcome to India! You know what though, not many accidents occur and there may not seem like there are many rules but it does work! You can stand there for an hour and hope for a break in the traffic or follow what locals do and cross the road. This is especially true in the old city where traffic is slow and you learn to weave in and out of the cars. I walk 20 minutes to work every day and have to cross numerous roads so it is possible. Also remember that this is Jaipur not Mumbai or Delhi where you don’t find many breaks in the traffic.
People in India are super friendly, they want to know who you are and for some, they see very few foreigners and sometimes this can mean they stare a lot, which whilst we may view it as rude, their really not trying to be, your just new and different. Try to embrace it, chat with the people you meet and just be prepared that you may get stopped and asked to have your photo taken a lot. Remember you can say no if you don’t want to and depending on who it is. You may also find that stopping and chatting to people leads to new opportunities, fun adventures or having your problems answered.
Auto drivers do love tourists probably because they know they can over charge them but also because they like meeting new people and hearing about other countries. I have in fact been helped out several times by auto drivers who have simply offered assistance without me using their auto services. However I’ve also had experiences where despite the price being set before getting in the auto, they have become argumentative and asked for more money, so you do need to be cautious. A simple option is to either download the Uber or Ola app which is very helpful for organising journeys without the hassle and gives you a set price but you’ll need an internet connection. If taking an auto speak with other people to find out what the going rate is and be prepared to haggle for a good price.
Not everyone who comes to India gets ill. This is my third time in India and I have never been ill from the food and yes I have eaten street food. That being said, you don’t want to get ill, so think about where you pick to eat and how hygienic it looks. Some people prefer to go vegetarian whilst in India as a safer option. Don’t drink direct from cans and wipe the tops of bottles. As to whether you should try street food? For me, part of the Indian travels is about the street food, whether it’s trying a freshly cooked Samosa, Kachori from a street seller or enjoying the divine Jalebi’s. Try and find a stall where the food is freshly cooked in front of you and that seems popular with locals.
The population of India is 1.2 billion, a staggering number of people, so it can seem overcrowded. I live here in Jaipur, the old city is very busy, but it’s also vibrant and probably how as tourists we best picture India. You will see cows wandering. I never forget shouting to my friend ‘Watch out for the cow!’ as she walked straight into it! Stand there long enough and you’ll suddenly see things moving on the roof tops, that will be the mischievous monkeys, up to something! Due to the crowds just remember to keep your purse and bag close to you and also remember to pace yourself. There’s always some nice cafes to stop at for chai whilst you adjust to the Indian way of life.
With so many people, a shortage of public conveniences and poverty issues, you will likely see some people discreetly urinating in the street, there are not enough toilets to go round! This is the way of life and one that may come as a shock at first but after a while you not only become accustomed to it you realise it’s not important. People don’t just urinate anywhere and they try and be discreet and find somewhere set back and away from key locations. There are also many cities through-out India where this won’t be apparent and you won’t notice it.
There is no denying the fact that there is some rubbish and you may see big piles of it, but there are also a lot of bins being used and also a lot of beauty and nature in India. People are trying to change their habits in India with streets being swept daily and rubbish and recycling collections occurring regularly. If your worried about the dirt, remember your liquid hand sanitiser and wash your hands often.
India is a conservative country and you do need to be respectful and consider the culture by avoiding shorts and skimpy tops, but you can wear t shirts and cropped trousers to your knees. More often than not you will want to keep your skin covered to avoid the heat! You can always take a trip to the local markets to find some great kurtis and loose trousers. (Wait for our shopping guide where we will tell you the best markets to shop at and ways to haggle!)
One of the biggest stresses people complain about in India, is that people are late….sometimes several hours late! India has it’s own version of time and to reduce your own stress, it’s best to go with the flow and realise that many things may be late but they do get sorted in the end. By adjusting to Indian time you’ll realise there are more important things to worry about than time!
Haggling is a way of life and something that you will need to do in India to avoid being taken advantage of. If you are not sure of prices, ask at a few stalls to get an idea and drop to around half the price and enjoy the camaraderie that goes with the selling exchange! Also ask other people to find out a good price to pay. Be aware there are Malls and shops where they have set prices so don’t expect to haggle everywhere! When shopping in the markets consider what is a price you are happy to pay, you’ll never get Indian prices, but something that leaves both you and the seller happy is win-win.
Hopefully we’ve helped you see a more realistic view of India, one that once you see past some of its shortfalls you can appreciate all it has to offer, from beautiful mountain regions, stunning ancient temples, unique conversations from helpful and friendly people to amazing food you just have to try. India is like a diamond, polish away the rough edges and you see the magnificent beauty underneath and a beauty that can only be found in India.
About the author - Dannie Sowden
My name is Dannie, I’m 33years young and moved to Jaipur, India in December 2016. Why would I leave the cold and miserable skies of the UK to live in Jaipur, well for me Jaipur and India have so much to offer. Rajasthan is full of colour and and vibrancy, when you live or travel in India no two days are ever the same and you never know what you’re going to see! To me, Jaipur is my home and I look forward to sharing with you all the hidden gems of life out here.