India is overwhelming. There’ s no better word to describe it. It’s noisy, dirty, smelly, packed to bursting, and HUGE! First time visitors are always shocked when they first arrive. You can’t avoid it–India is unlike anything you ever have and ever will experience again. And yet, people are drawn to it. Once visited, you’ll want to come back. here are some tips to ease the shock and help you see India’s magical interior:
1. Prepare for long drives.
India is huge–really, really huge, and sometimes it doesn’t make sense to fly everywhere because flights are much more expensive than travel by road or rail. So that leaves you with India’s excellent, if somewhat slow, public transportation system. The only problem with the system is that those buses and trains often take more than 12 hours to reach their destination. This experience sounds a lot worse than it actually is–there’s always the option to take the air-conditioned tourist semi-sleeper bus (seats that go back almost horizontally) north of Delhi in the mountains and the full sleeper bus (compartments with closing panel doors that can fit one or two people easily, 3 if a parent and two smaller children) south of Delhi in the flatland. Those are very comfortable and a family shouldn’t have any problem with them even on longer drives.
2. Respect the holy sites.
India is full of temples and other religious sites. We often see tourists strut around in blatant disregard for religious culture and for the worshippers. Even things that seem innocent to you can be viewed as disrespectful by the worshippers. Always take your shoes off before entering temples, never wear a revealing swimsuit when swimming in holy waters such as the Ganges River. Don’t wear miniskirts and short jeans in religious cities. Respect the locals and their culture, and you’ll get respect back from them.
3. Watch out for spicy food!
Indian food can be very spicy! It’s true that many places in the more touristic cities and villages serve foreign cuisines and less spicy Indian food, but in the local restaurants there’s no avoiding it. Even their breakfast yogurt is spicy, and families who love food won’t want to skip any meals just because they’re a bit hot! You can ask them for less spicy (“no chili please”) but you can’t ever completely escape it. I recommend you get yourself and your kids used to eating at least a little spicy before going or you’ll have a hard time eating cheap. Having something sweet in your bag helps. A few sugar cubes or a lollipop in your bag can help ease the burn in extreme cases.
4. Purchase a SIM card.
Each Indian district has it’s own SIM card, and you’ll have to switch them or pay outrageous roaming charges (unless you buy the more expensive all India package). Ask the locals before about which company offers the best coverage and fastest data–usually Airtel. Some shops sell already activated SIM cards, but if you can’t find one of those you’ll need a passport photo and a passport photocopy to get it. Data speeds through the wireless provider are faster than WiFi in most cases, so make sure you can stay in touch with your loved ones back home!
5. Baby slings or a stroller?
India isn’t designed for strollers–the roads and sidewalks are bumpy, full of stairs, and filthy (and as I mentioned before, it’s crowded!). You don’t want your young ones wandering around on their own, and a baby sling or a carrier is the perfect solution. You can comfortably carry your young ones without having to worry about street conditions and how crowded it gets.
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