10 tips to help you survive India
1. Get a sim card
Your phone must be unlocked so make sure you do this before you leave your country. Having a sim card is an essential whilst travelling as it enable you to make calls or use internet [if you have a smart phone] on the go at very cheap rates. I would also advise you to get who ever you buy the sim card from to help you set it up too as everything is in Hindi!
2. Always book train tickets in advance
Especially during the festival season. The main form of transport used by Indian people is the train. We met more than one person travelling during Diwali that couldn’t book train tickets. A website we found very useful whilst we were in India was The man in seat 61 where you can check the timetables, routes and lots more info.
3. Book a tourist bus for long journeys
We were only fortunate enough to board one tourist bus on our adventure in India but it was the best bus by far. It was a little bit more expensive but it sure beat having a sore ass and stopping at every corner in every village with the driver constantly hanging out the door shouting whichever destination you are heading to. Local buses are very dusty too as the doors/windows are always open. We are not saying don’t take local buses as it’s an experience in itself especially during peak times! You can tell the conductors love to see tourist too as they look after you and make sure you get off at the correct stop.
4. Always bargain
It goes without saying you are gonna get ripped off in India, everybody does haha! Always, always, always haggle! When buying packaged products the price is always somewhere so make sure you look. In markets/bazaars etc they are always going to try to overcharge you so nicely try to reduce the price. BE CAREFUL when buying souvenirs and always shop around first. NEVER EVER let a guide take you to a shop as they get 40% commission and you will be charged three times the price.
5. Eat local
If it’s full of locals, it’s for a reason. That was our motto after we got fed up of shit recommendations from the usual guides. Locals restaurants are always cheaper and they keep your dish topped up. A good way to save money and try different flavours is by eating “thalis” each region has their own style.
Always drink bottled water! make sure the seal isn’t broken. Most brands of bottled water in India is just treated tap water. Himalayas was the only one we found that was actual mineral water but a bit more expensive.
7. Never ever book a tour
If you read our posts Rajasthan part 1 & part 2 you can read all about our nightmare tour! We are not alone in being ripped off as apparently it’s very common, especially in Delhi. If Delhi is your first stop in India don’t fall for anybodys sweet talking and be very cautious! It’s possible to do everything on your own and you will get it A LOT cheaper than through an agency. You’ll just need to do a little planning and have a little patience as some things a little longer in India.
8. Travel insurance
If you are planning to travel long-term its a good idea to get travel insurance. We say “better safe than sorry” and we don’t regret getting ours as we have used it. Also if possible waive the medical costs or you’re going to have to pay anytime you get ill.
9. Save and learn whilst travelling
We have been Couchsurfing and using sites like Workaway, WWOOF and HelpX whilst in India. Couchsurfing allows you to contact locals and get a taste of the real culture. You will need to sign up and make a profile [The better your profile the more chance you have of being hosted]. Workaway, WWOOF and HelpX are all volunteer websites where you have the chance to work in exchange for accommodation and food. Some projects charge a fee to participate towards food but it’s usually not much. Just make sure you research the project properly and the same applies about your profile.
You not only save money using these sites but you can meet locals, learn new skills and see India like you wouldn’t be able to on your own. India has a lot of opportunities to do both and we never had a bad experience.
Sometimes India will get too much but our advice is stop, breathe and remember where you are. There will be days when you want to kill someone and days when you feel like you’re in heaven but its all part of the adventure so remember to SMILE and enjoy you’re trip!