The Truth About Traveling to India
India is one of those travel destinations that seems to be on every traveler's radar. The only difference between those who book their ticket and those who are hesitant to do so is a fixation on all of the things that could go wrong. If I had a rupee for every time I've heard, "I would love to travel India but . . .", I would be drowning in the taste of sweet chai. It's a country that often gets a lot of negative media attention. There are concerns surrounding everything from the food and cleanliness to safety and culture. If India intrigues you, don't let what you hear keep you from exploring its abundant beauty. There are some truths that you should know.
It won't be a breeze, but it will be worth it.
India is an assault on the senses. It hits you in the face — loud, colorful, chaotic. People may stare. Children might beg. Rickshaw drivers will quote you three times the normal price. The traffic is exhausting and things don't always go as expected. That's not to say that it isn't exhilarating. It can be as lovely as it is overwhelming. Locals will help you in times of need and plans will go off without a hitch. Just be sure to leave comparisons to your home country at the door. If you don't, you may miss the sensory spectacle of it all.
The food is probably not what you expect it to be.
My first time in India, I ate without putting too much thought into it and left without a single digestive disaster. Indulge with caution and exercise the normal precautions of drinking bottled water. Indian cuisine is not just curries, rice, and breads. There is an extensive amount of dishes to choose from, most of which you probably haven't heard of. It usually comes as a surprise, but I have stumbled on Irish pubs, fancy Pan-Asian restaurants, European cafes, and vegan eateries all while traveling India.
Every city is extremely different from the next.
Mumbai is not New Delhi, not all of Rajasthan is the same, Varanasi is nothing like Goa, and Kochi doesn't feel like Munnar. In a country as massive as India, it would be unfair to assume that every inch of it looks or feels the same. You'll find bohemian beachside resorts, ancient forts and palaces, cosmopolitan cities, mountain ranges, villages, wineries, and tea fields. The landscape drastically changes everywhere you go. Each place is laced and buzzing with its own stories from another time. The abundance of varying vibes, cuisines, and customs around India is as prominent as its history.
Embracing the locals will change your experience.
Being aware of one's personal safety is a part of traveling anywhere in the world, not just India. The media doesn't always make it sound like a dream, which results in a flood of preconceived notions. On top of that, people fear the language barrier. In truth, most of the country can speak English. Swept up by abundant love, kindness, and timeless wisdom — that has been my experience. It is nearly impossible to hold a real opinion about India and its people without having explored the country for yourself. Open up to engaging — with obvious safety guards — and you will be greeted with open arms.