Prior to booking our trip to India I had been warned by so many people that it’s ‘probably not the best honeymoon spot’ and ‘you’ll expect such a culture shock’ that I spent a long time planning our itinerary down to the last detail. I am so pleased I am a control freak as all of those little things I planned, meant we had the most wonderful time. And no Delhi Belly!
A few tips for you to consider if you’re travelling to India:
I’m no medical expert and I can’t promise you won’t suffer with Delhi Belly but thankfully, with these few precautions, I didn’t.
- No ice and eat only peeled fruits, for example bananas.
- Avoid salad that will need to be washed.
- Try to stay away from buffets, the food may have been left out and the temperature will vary.
- Follow the same food patterns as you do at home – if you don’t eat dairy at home, for example, then don’t indulge in yogurt/curd in India!
- You’ll find herbal tea everywhere in India, enjoy it and embrace it, it’s good for your tummy! I had a lot of jasmine tea and ginger tea!
- The best piece of advice my nurse gave us was to take antibacterial wipes and NOT the gel. You see, the gel only wipes the germs over your hands whereas the wipes remove them. We took two packs of wipes with us and used them tirelessly, from before we ate to wiping our hands after handling money. I even wiped my iPhone a few times, although be careful, I don’t want you ruining your phone! Of course wash your hands everywhere you can but I always used the wipes after washing in restrooms too.
We spent around £100 – £150 on tips over a two week period but a large portion of this was for our driver. My husband found this really useful guide on how to tip in India.
- Beggars – The website suggests Rs 5 maximum but we gave Rs 10 here and there
- Car & Driver (Total, not per person): Half day Rs 300 – 500, Full day Rs 1000 max, Multi-Day Rs 600 per day or as you see fit. We gave our driver Rs 1000 per day which works out at £10.
- Guides: Half day or less Rs 250 – 500, Full day Rs 600 – 800. We were generous and gave our guide Rs 1000 per day and also lunch. This was mainly as we tipped our driver and guide at the same time!
- Porters/Bellboys: Rs 20 per bag. Again we tipped a little more, especially when our bags were over 25kg each and they had to carry them on their heads up stairs!
- Spa/Beauty treatments: 10%
- Toilet Attendants: Rs 5 maximum
- Waiters: 10%
Try to carry as many small denominations as possible as it’s easier to tip. Also, keep in mind that some hotels prefer that you tip at the end in one box as the tips are shared between all employees.
While India is not an expensive place to travel compared to other countries, you don’t necessarily need to always go for the cheapest option. We hired a driver for a week and I am so pleased we did as it meant we could visit where we wanted, when we wanted, in the comfort of our own car. If you need a driver for the Golden Triangle Tour or around that area, I highly recommend Jasvir – you’ll find further information on his services and contact details via his website http://www.journeytoindia.net. We felt safe and comfortable during our seven days with Jasvir as he navigated the busy streets of Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Jodhpur!
When visiting markets do negotiate! I had henna applied in Jaipur for £25 (after negotiating her fixed price) and in Delhi it cost £8. I also negotiated a sari to £25 from £45, went to pay and he put the price back up. So I politely declined, walked away and he offered the price I agreed on. Ask how much the item is, offer your price and they’ll say no, so start to walk away and watch them give you a much better price! Don’t be rude and know what the item is worth, sometimes I just paid the price they offered and other times negotiated up to 30-50%.
If you’re visiting a village or a school, check with the lead person if gifts are accepted. When we visited Chandaleo Garh, a hotel near Jodhpur, we walked through the village and I wanted to gift the children with something but the hotel owner advised against this. He runs a social enterprise where the village women work and therefore the money is spread quite fair rather than individual gifts.
If you have a set itinerary and know exactly where you need to be, I recommend you book your train tickets in advance as the first class air conditioning seats get booked up! You can book tickets via Clear Trip – it’s a little tricky as you need Indian details but go with it, they’ll email you fake Indian details just to secure the booking and you can sort it from there. We booked to use the train but un/fortunately I changed our schedule at the last minute. Nonetheless, it’s really cheap!
Before you arrive in India you’ll need to complete the e-Visa registration form which is a pain in the arse. I hope they sort this procedure out and correct all the little mistakes. Do this plenty of time before you leave! If you turn up to the airport without the necessary info showing your visa has been granted, airlines will not let you fly (they’ll be charged a $5000 fine per person if they did).
Pollution is terrible in India at best but during Diwali it is excruciatingly bad. Just consider this if you have asthma and don’t forget your inhalers! At Neemrana Fort Palace I could literally smell the pollution in the air from morning to night, it was horrendous!
I was actually quite poorly with bronchitis and had to visit a chemist. No doctor, just a chemist who prescribed antibiotics costing the equivalent of £1. Check the ingredients online beforehand to make sure it’s safe to use!
The weather was perfect for us in November, warm but not too hot, if a little chilly towards Delhi in the evening. So many people we spoke to warned us of not visiting Rajasthan between April – August as the weather is excruciatingly hot and many hotels close so maybe think twice about booking then if you don’t like the heat.
Do your research about elephant tourism before you visit India. Very few of these ‘elephant experience’ companies look after the animals well and avoid the elephant treks up to Amer Fort!! A lot of these elephants are working in hot weather with no access to water for long periods of time, it’s all to make money. While poverty is still present in India, the elephant tourism is not an excuse for a valid income.
When it comes to clothes, women are advised to cover their upper arms, chest and legs. Wear comfy trousers with t-shirts, shirts, blouses and always have a scarf on hand so you can wrap it over your shoulders if you have a vest top on or drape over your head in a temple. You may also need to wear an Indian swimsuit in certain hotels, I only found this at Neemrana Fort Palace Hotel where I was asked to wear one of theirs – it had a skirt and shorts attached. I think as long as you use your common sense and respect the local culture, you’ll be perfectly fine.
If you visit a village and they offer you opium tea, you are well in your right to politely decline!
We found that people wanted their photo taken a lot, especially children and those who owned small shops. I had so many people ask for a selfie with me or even parents throwing their baby at me and asking if they can have a photo of me with their children. It’s a little intimidating at first but I soon got used to it.
Lastly, enjoy India. It’s the most exhilarating, wonderfully colourful country I have ever visited. Take your time to appreciate the sights, sounds and tastes and don’t be afraid of experiencing this beautiful place on earth. I cannot wait to return!