10 Simple Rules to make your time in India better!

Over the years, being an Indian and travelling within India has taught me a few lessons and remembering these every time I travel now helps me make the whole experience less daunting and more enjoyable. Here’s a list that should help you sail through Incredible India!

1) An honest smile can take you places…

Time and again, you might find the going tough when in India and a frown would seem to be the most apt expression at the time, but then that never made things better. Indians love to smile and see smiling faces. A smile can definitely build bridges and you will generally see things getting better when you arm yourself with a smile. We take great pride in our hospitality and most Indians would go out of their way to help you keep that smile on!

Photo credit: Vaibhav Mehta Photography

Photo credit: Vaibhav Mehta Photography (www.vaibhavmehta.com)

2) Use public transport smartly, it’s really inexpensive…

There are plenty of chances of getting conned when you try hiring an auto rickshaw (tuk tuk) or a cab in most Indian cities. A majority of Indians manage to commute within the city in less than a 100 bucks (2$) a day. Try finding out more about the local city bus service or the metro rail service as these always have plans that will let you take multiple rides at a very reasonable one time charge.

50 Rupee bus pass valid for one day in Bangalore.

50 Rupee bus pass valid for one day in Bangalore.

3) If you use public transport, use point number 1 and a hand sanitizer…

Public transport is definitely the cheapest option for commuting but remember, India is a country of more than a billion people and so it’s quite probable that the public transport options might be crowded. Be patient, carry a smile and some hand sanitizer… you’ll do just fine!

Inside a city bus in Bangalore.

Inside a city bus in Bangalore.

4) You can’t change the system, so work with it…

There’s no running away from it, corruption is rife in India and you probably will experience it during your stay here. The obvious choice would be to avoid encouraging corruption and to try and use point one to get your work done, but that might be easier said than done. At times, it’ll save you a lot of time and probably some money too if you do decide to ignore the moral dilemma and grease a palm or two. In instances where the demanded amount is not too high, we Indians try to look at the need behind the greed! It might just make you feel a little less sorry about the whole issue…

A traffic cop at work in Bangalore. There are many honest people in public services, you just have to be lucky to find them!

A traffic cop at work in Bangalore. There are many honest people in public services, you just have to be lucky to find them!

5) Use sign language to communicate if necessary, Indians are champions at dumb charades…

India is a land of more than 800 languages and even Indians end up have trouble communicating with each other once they leave known territory. That’s exactly when a few smart gestures and a sideways shake of the head come to the rescue. Keep the sign language simple and it’ll work wonders. For example, if you are looking for some place that serves food, just gesture with your hand as if you were eating an imaginary morsel of food with your right hand. You will be promptly offered food or will be directed to the closest restaurant!

Indians could easily be world champions at dumb charades!

Photo Credit: Vaibhav Mehta Photography (www.vaibhavmehta.com)

Photo Credit: Vaibhav Mehta Photography (www.vaibhavmehta.com)

6) The ‘Bazaar’ is where life happens in India…

Almost every city in India is dotted with kitschy stores that advertise the ‘Taj Mahalesque’ India. Stay away from them! Indian markets or bazaars are an experience unlike any other. The best deals on the most authentic Indian souvenirs are in these markets and the sensory overload that they promise are an added bonus for every foreign traveller.

7) Indian cooking is much more than chillies and ‘garam masala’…

India is a land of spices and not all Indian food will leave you with tears and a running nose! When ordering an Indian dish, try not to give in to the urge to whisper to the waiter to keep it ‘less-spicy’. Instead, try to sample a small helping of the original dish first and then if needed, request for a change that would retain the authentic taste to the maximum possible extent. Would it not be strange to order hot sauce that wasn’t hot!

Photo credit: Saina Jayapal

Photo credit: Saina Jayapal

8) Food always tastes the best at small roadside eateries…

Glitzy ‘India-themed’ restaurants serve lip-smacking food and we’re not debating that here but let’s not take anything away from the humble street side eatery which caters to hundreds of hungry locals every day. Some of the best food that you could taste in India is served by these stalls and most locals would vouch for that. You might be worried about the dreaded ‘Delhi Belly’ and if you have a history of a weak palate, you may stick to the fancy restaurants. But then if you see an eatery with a crowd of locals around it, it’s probably safe for you too!

Photo credit: Jalpa Trivedi Shah

Photo credit: Jalpa Trivedi Shah

9) Make a local friend…

Every Indian knows everything that I’ve told you here and so it would not do much harm to make one a friend! All you probably need to do is to make it clear that you want to experience the India that he lives and breathes every day. Indians love entertaining guests and it won’t be tough to find someone eager to show you the real India.

Photo Credit: Vaibhav Mehta Photography

Photo Credit: Vaibhav Mehta Photography (www.vaibhavmehta.com)

10) The real India is waiting to be explored…

India is a country much larger than the words and symbols that are generally used to describe it. The larger-than-life Taj Mahal, the majestic tiger and the towering Himalayas are magnificent ‘must-see’ icons of this magical country but you may also want to explore the India that lives within the narrow lanes of Old Delhi or at the Friday market in Vadodara or even at the dhabas that dot the highways that connect the many fascinating towns and villages.

 

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