The Beginner’s Guide To India

India is such a vast country, with such diverse cultures and peoples, that it can be hard to know where to start when planning a trip there. The country is home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, but many travelers are hesitant to visit India because they’re worried about their safety as outsiders. Visiting India for the first time can be challenging, but it’s also thrilling and eye-opening. 

India is filled with things you won’t find anywhere else on earth: spices that feel more like aromatherapy than food; people dancing in celebration of life instead of brooding over death; temples molded so lovingly out of clay that they look carved from stone; and markets so chaotic and labyrinthine that you wonder if you’ve wandered into another world. Read on for our ultimate first timer’s guide to visiting India.

What to know before visiting India

You’ll be stared at. People in the country are warm and friendly, but they’re curious and open-minded, too. If you’re visiting from the west, you’re automatically a tourist, and as with any tourist-friendly country, you’ll get stared at. 

You’ll also be touched in an almost-but-not-quite-sexual-harassment-y way. Just as you’ll be stared at, you’ll also be touched. This can be very upsetting for women and actually a lot of men. Mainly the people do not mean to offend. But it definitely takes some practice to avoid being touched. 

It’s a tradition to offer visitors sweets when they arrive in India, and gifts. People do it out of genuine kindness and hospitality, so don’t worry about refusing them or being rude. 

Cash is king still in India. Hotels, nicer restaurants and shops take credit cards or even some cashless forms of payment, but cash still rules.=. India’s economy is heavily cash-based, so don’t rely on your debit card to pay for anything. Have some cash on you, and be sure to withdraw more when you arrive. 

Ins site of its icon status and crowds, it’s with it to visit the Taj Mahal. The Taj is one of the most famous places in all of India, but it’s also one of the most crowded. Visit during the day if you can, but even then, you’ll be elbow-to-elbow with fellow travelers. If you visit at night, you’ll have the place almost completely to yourself, but you’ll miss out on the majesty of the building in the daytime. 

You’ll need a good mosquito repellent. Bengal mosquitoes are a force to be reckoned with. They’re big, they’re hungry, and they don’t discriminate. If you’re visiting during the monsoon or the wet season, you’ll especially want to be sure you’re covered up with DEET. 

And try travel needs a really good medical insurance plan. India is a beautiful country, but it has some ugly diseases, too. Be sure you’re protected before you visit by getting a good medical insurance plan which include medical evacuation.

When to visit India: The best times to travel

There are many wonderful times to visit India. The monsoon rains, for example, are best experienced in the southern areas of the country, and the crowds of the northern areas are thin and easy to navigate during winter. One thing to keep in mind is that the best time to visit India may also be the busiest time to visit India. If you want to avoid the crowds, consider visiting in the shoulder season, or in the off season entirely. 

Still, these are the best times to visit India: 

  • Early spring (February-March): This is the best time to see some of the country’s famous festivals, like Holi, and to witness the stunning Cherry Blossom Festival in Srinagar. Temperatures are pleasant, but the rains are over. 
  • Mid-spring (April-June): Temperatures are generally warm, and this is a great time to explore India’s many temples and other religious sites. 
  • Late spring (July-August): This is monsoon season in southern India, so it’s a great time to visit the north, where the crowds are thin and the weather pleasant. 
  • Early summer (September-October): The temperatures are nice, and the crowds are thin, making this a perfect time to visit southern India. 
  • Mid-summer (November-December): Enjoy the cooler weather and fewer crowds while you explore the northern regions. 
  • Late summer (December-February): This is the best time to visit the southern states, which are steaming hot during the rest of the year.

How to get around India

India’s railways are a wonder to behold, so it’s no surprise that they’ve been called the “greatest human achievement”. One of the best ways to get around India is by train, and there are many wonderful routes to choose from. If you’re in a rush to get somewhere, or you’re planning to visit multiple places, flying might be the best way to go. The country’s airports can be chaotic, but they’re also some of the cheapest in the world. 

Other options include driving – though we don’t recommend it. If you’re traveling with a group of friends, renting a car might be the best option, but it’s also the most dangerous. Buses in India are also cheap, and you’ll often be able to sleep on them. The best thing about buses, though, is that they’re slow, which means you can really soak up the local life as you travel from place to place.

Safety in India

There are many ways to stay safe while traveling in India, but the most important thing to do is to stay aware of your surroundings at all times. The country is vast, and there are many ways to travel around it, so be sure to research your options carefully before you make any decisions. India is also a very diverse country, both culturally and ethnically, and many of the people you meet will be different from you. Being respectful of the local customs and culture, as well as the people, is a must when visiting the country. Finally, keep up to date with the latest news before you visit India. You’ll be able to avoid any areas that might be dangerous, and you’ll also be able to discuss current events with the locals more easily.

Final thoughts

When visiting India for the first time, be sure to plan ahead. You’ll want to make sure you have the right visa and travel insurance, as well as plenty of cash. You’ll also want to keep up with local news, so you can plan your trip around any current events. 

With a little preparation, however, visiting India can be a truly incredible experience. It’s a country unlike any other, and no matter how many times you visit, it will always surprise you. Hopefully, this first timers guide to visiting India has given you some helpful advice on how to plan and prepare for your trip.