India is a large and hectic country. With more than 1.3 billion inhabitants and many languages and cultures, the country can quickly become overwhelming. Read these 5 handy tips about travelling to India, and donʼt forget to apply for your Indian visa on time.
1: Watch out for scammers
India is a very popular country for tourists. Unfortunately, scammers sometimes try to take advantage of this. It is not enough to know that there are scammers in India. That is the case in almost every country. You also need to know what the most common scams are so that you can recognise them quickly. For example, taxi drivers may deliberately drive past your hotel and try to convince you that another hotel that is much further away is better. In Delhi and Mumbai, you can sometimes find fake ticket stations for train tickets, for example. Near temples and mosques, someone posing as a "holy person" may give you a red dot on your forehead as a "blessing" without asking and then ask to be paid as a “donation”.
2: Be prepared for "Delhi Belly"
It is very common that many tourists visiting India consider it inevitable: the infamous "Delhi Belly". The expression refers to the stomach problems travellers experience due to some of the water and food in India. For some, this is because of the many spices found in Indian food, but it is also usually due to bacteria resulting from poor hygiene. "Delhi Belly" can lead to severe diarrhoea. Once one is afflicted with the condition, going to the pharmacy is difficult as one spends most of the time either in bed or on the toilet. It is therefore a good idea to be proactive. Make sure to bring diarrhoea medicines, such as an oral rehydration solution (ORS for short). To minimise the chances of getting "Delhi Belly", take some precautions: donʼt drink tap water, only eat fresh fruit and vegetables that you can peel, donʼt eat ice cream, and wash your hands regularly with soap or disinfectant.
3: Dress appropriately for the environment
India is a hot country. In summer, temperatures can easily exceed 35 degrees Celsius. One may be tempted to think of dressing lightly because of this. However, this is not recommended, especially for women. India is a conservative country, and wearing a miniskirt or a tight T-shirt is often not appreciated. It is not forbidden, but if you do not want to attract unnecessary attention, it is better to wear long trousers and a shirt that covers the shoulders. This also has the advantage of making it easier to enter temples and mosques. It is compulsory to cover oneself in these places.
Be prepared to haggle
In the UK and Ireland, bargaining is usually not the norm. One can assume that the price quoted by a shopkeeper is the price they expect. This is not so in India. Haggling is actually quite common. Tourists have to be especially careful not to overpay for products or services. Tourists are seen as easy prey because, for one thing, they have much more money than the local population and another reason is simply because many of them prefer not to bargain. Partly not to appear rude, but also because bargaining is not quite so common in their country. This results in many tourists spending more during their trip than necessary. So be prepared to haggle, but remember that it should always be done in a polite manner. Haggling is not a fight to be won, but rather a friendly negotiation. Of course, one should not haggle for everything, such as small purchases such as snacks or soft drinks.
5: Apply for your Indian visa online
A visa for India can be applied for online. There is no need to visit the Indian Embassy in London. Instead, you can fill in the online application form. The visa comes in three variants: the "eTourist" visa, the "eBusiness" visa and the "eMedical" visa. The eTourist visa is valid for 365 days and can be used for an unlimited number of trips to India. Each stay may not exceed 90 days (180 days for business travellers). Please note that the e-visa allows one to arrive at a limited number of locations. The Indian visa application form is relatively long and requires very specific information, so take the time to fill it out properly to avoid rejection of the application.