Here’s a couple of notes from my visit to India.
The larger airports have Prepaid Taxi stands, I would recommend this so there is a fixed fee for your trip. Taxi’s are incredibly cheap, the most I paid was 400 rupees, approx. $8 NZD. It’s then standard to wait in the shade or somewhere quieter for the taxi driver to get his car and pick you up.
The majority of staff are men – from taxi drivers, waiters and hotel staff to beauty therapists. I found this really interesting!
ATM’s withdraw a maximum of 10,000 rupees at a time – $200 NZD so for larger purchases it’s easiest to use your credit card.
Everyone will ask you where you are from – from street sellers to store people to people who are genuinely interested as it breaks the ice.
At tourist spots everything has security and guards, guards often act as guides – so if you don’t want a guide be firm, they will follow you and keep talking to you so I repetitively said no then kept walking. I found it was best to hire a guide for a fixed fee if you want one.
People also ask to take photos of you, it’s quite cute but can get annoying and some people can be quite rude when asking! So I often said No way Jose. As I went in the Indian summer / low season I suspect it was worse as there weren’t many tourists around. A lot of people asked if I was on business.
Kids are really friendly and like to touch your white skin if you let them, lol. The children are very cute!
Driving on the roads is absolute mayhem – so very entertaining. Tooting at other motorists is massive so others are aware you are on the road and if anything goes wrong along the way it’s completely normal for everyone to start yelling at each other. Drivers also often stop for directions and chat to each other on the road. There are beggars in some cities on the road, and people selling snacks and car accessories!
Women dress very modestly, which I couldn’t really get used to in the heat. You will get stared at if you wear skirts that are above your knee or singlets.
Everything takes long time, from security checks to traffic to ordering food – so allow more time then you would expect to do anything. Once you get used to it, I found it pretty funny. The majority of workers work huge hours, often 14 hours a day – so I found no one was in a large rush. People often have more then one job and take cellphone calls all the time.
Tourist attractions often don’t open until 10am and most shops and malls at 11am, so I usually planned my day in the morning and headed off once places were open. I found the majority of places did have wifi but it could be really patchy, so booking online etc. can take quite a bit of time.
Overall I found the Indian culture really welcoming and proud. Strangers often share food with each other and and play with children – and are generally really helpful. Religion and family is hugely important – people live very closely.
On the whole food is absolutely amazing, super tasty with a lot of spices and natural ingredients used. I also found a lot of Indonesian and Mexican food available at the more western style eateries and hotels – all with a slight Indian twist. As it was so hot when I went I had a lot of Mango Lassi’s and Kulfi which is a local ice cream on a stick. Delish! I would recommend going vegetarian while in India, as food poisoning is really common from the lack of hygiene and refrigeration.
I personally wouldn’t recommend traveling in India as a women on your own. I think it would be the most fun to go with a small group of friends.