It has been an amazing 3 months in India which came to an end last week. So I spent the three months studying and travelling around and I gathered a few pointers on how to survive in India as a foreigner. This is for people who want to visit India in the future:
- India is huge!! Really it is. It has approximately 1.2 billion people. We stayed in the state of Orissa and its population is equal to the whole of Kenya, yes there are about 45 million people in Orissa alone. You can’t cover the country in a few weeks, it is impossible.
- Speaking of covering the country, there are two main options of travelling, planes and trains. I tried the planes when it was necessary, you can easily book tickets online and you don’t need to print anything, just show them your check in sheet on your phone as you enter any airport and you are good to go. The trains have beds, tiny but alright. Be warned that the country is big so you will find trains that even take 29 hours to move from one part of the country to another, but it is worth the experience. I once took a 16 hour train with my classmates from Patna to Bhubaneswar instead of connecting flights. It was cheaper too.
- Getting hotels is super easy, and they are cheap too, especially if you are on a budget. I would totally recommend OYO rooms, downloading their app and booking rooms online earns you major discounts, you get to have good service at a cheap price.
- Moving around: you will use taxis and tuk tuks mainly. To get a good deal, download the Ola Cabs, they are very convenient in terms of service and cost, I prefer them to Uber. In case you don’t get a branded taxi, make sure you have your own GPS to your destination on your phone. Believe me you will need it. On using tuktuks, the secret is in bargaining. If they tell you a certain distance is 100 rupees, start at 50 rupees and reach an understanding. If you can’t reach an agreement, walk away (or pretend to walk away), they will call you back with a reasonable counter offer. If you can get what they call “share tuktuks”, the amount is even cheaper, you could even end up paying 5 rupees to your destination.
- Language barrier can be real, not everyone knows English, which can be frustrating especially if you are not with an Indian. You have to know basic Hindi words like thank you, how much is it and let’s go. This will save you a lot, plus you need to practice patience with those that don’t speak good English, if you can’t be patient don’t bother about the trip. Other than that, there are times you will have to practice silent conversations, I did that with a tailor and got my clothes made 🙂
- If you go to an urban city like Delhi, try using the metro, it is amazingly cheap, cheaper than you would imagine, and there are specific sitting spots for ladies too.
- When it comes to food, you cannot exhaust the variety that India offers. Every region has its own food. I would however, recommend trying chicken butter masala, palak paneer, lassi, gulab jamun, biryani, momos, chicken kadei, chicken kasa, paratha, butter paneer, the list is endless. One tip though, never take tabled water unless you are willing to risk illness, always order bottled water, it is super cheap anyway.
- I would recommend visiting the following places and towns if you can: Delhi is the capital, there is old and new Delhi, staying in old Delhi gives you a certain vibe that is amazing, visit new Delhi to see abit more and if you want to have a Western feel, go to Connaught Place. Second, go to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, if you take a cab it will be approximately a 2 and a half hour drive from Delhi. Third, Kolkata is also an amazing city, it
- You will find out that India is very cheap, cheaper than living in Kenya. They have a robust textile industry and that makes clothes cheaper, even the branded ones too! So you can come with an empty suitcase and shop! Even optical stuff is cheap too, that includes glasses, sunglasses and contact lenses too.
- You have to get used to people staring at you on the streets, some will even take your picture without your consent, some will be kind enough to ask for your consent and force their babies to take pics with you. It will get overwhelming at times, very overwhelming, but you will have to live with it.
If you need more tips ask away. I can assure you that India is one of the most interesting countries to visit. It will give you lessons and stories to last a lifetime and it will quench your wanderlust. I had an amazing time there. I would go back for a wedding though. The weddings are phenomenal!