Ah, India! Just saying the word conjures up images of the Taj Mahal in the soft light of dawn, camels trekking across deserts, worshipers bathing in the sacred Ganges, mountains of spices in marketplace stalls, and women wrapped in luscious silk saris. India also means being exposed to filth, poverty, masses of humanity, beggars on the streets, incessant touts, and bouts of “Delhi Belly.”
Nowhere else in the world are these contrasts so evident as in Mother India, and many visitors arrive on the sub-continent wholly unprepared for these incongruities. I saw all this and more when I traveled to India a few years ago. In areas of Mumbai, shanty towns constructed with scraps of scavenged wood and cardboard stretched as far as I could see. Here, people lived in abject poverty, clad in rags and defecating by the side of the road. Garbage was strewn throughout the streets and the overwhelming stench of sewage permeated everything. Homeless wraiths curled along the edges of the sidewalks in front of my hotel each night, yet inside everything was luxury and staff in starched white uniforms. Fortunately, I was forewarned. I had a friend who had been to India and he repeatedly told me what to expect so that I would be prepared.
I encourage everyone to travel to India, at least once in their lifetime, but it would be wise to take steps to be prepared for the experience. One of the best ways to do so is to read the recently published book by travel expert Beth Whitman, “Wanderlust and Lipstick: For Women Traveling to India.” Although Beth gears the book for women travelers, it’s an excellent primer on India for anyone planning to visit. She thoroughly covers taboos such as: never eat with your left hand (this is the hand Indians use to clean themselves after using the bathroom), never pat someone on the head (it’s considered rude), never allow your feet to touch someone (feet are considered dirty), never curl your finger in a “come here” gesture (this is considered provocative). The book provides an excellent overview of the various modes of transportation and types of accommodations available across India, as well as a good overview of Indian food. Beth also provides dozens of invaluable “hot tips” throughout the book.
In short, my advice to anyone planning a trip to India is to get this book! It is well worth the affordable price of $14.95 and may just save you ten times that much through the advice it provides. I wish I had read it before I went to India, and when I return you can bet this book will be in my backpack.
Beth Whitman is the founder and editor of Wanderlust and Lipstick. For more than 22 years, she has been traveling the globe and inspiring women travelers, combining her love for travel with volunteer work, adventure trips, travel writing and business.
11 thoughts on “So You Think You Want To Travel To India?”
Some people are saying that the taboos/cultural norms mentioned in the artice are false. None of them are false – ALL of them are true and correct to some extent. Only they are not that serious – you can totally get away with doing some/most of those things – nobody will be seriously offended. And India is a huge place – so these norms may keep varying in different places..
Well, India is a bit conservative in terms of traditions. And also, adopts to the changes. It’s always better to know about a country (not just India!) before travelling to that country. Moreover, this thing is about the feet; since India is an Oriental country, whenever they come to home from going out they clean their feet with water. And it is a tradition to touch the feet of elders as way to ask them to bless. That’s it nothing more or nothing less.
Most of taboos you write are false, you only write the downside of India. Have you ever visit Punjab or other north Indian State? Plz try to visit North India region, they will give you better understanding of India
Hi Gagan: I wrote about my experience in southern India, as I stated in the article, all of which was absolutely true. I do intend on visiting northern India next year, so it will be interesting to contrast the north and the south. But most importantly, I did not write the book that I featured in the article, so if you are referring to something in the book, best write to the author rather than me.
I have lived in India for almost 4 decades and never found that ‘never curl your finger in a “come here” gesture’ is considered rude. Neither is eating with your left hand considered a taboo. My partner there was a leftie and she did everything with her left hand.
Feet are never considered dirty because youngsters always touch the feet of their elders and elders give them blessings.
Sahi Jawab. I am Impressed. Sekhon.. they can’t ever understant our culture.
Its true – if you curl your finger and call someone – its considered a little sleazy – how they show in movies a lover calling his/her partner.. ALL the stuff mentioned above are correct and true to some extent.
Family plays a significant role in the Indian culture. For generations, India has had a prevailing tradition of the joint family system. It is a system under which extended members of a family – parents, children, the children’s spouses and their offspring, etc. – live together. Usually, the eldest male member is the head in the joint Indian family system. He makes all important decisions and rules, and other family members abide by them
I’ve heard a lot of good and bad things about India. How colorful their culture is and how poverty occupies most of the people. But for some reason, I would want to experience the real Indian living. i want to visit Taj mahal and eat their curries..
I might visit India after my vacation in Sardinia.
I think India is the best country of contrasts that I’ve ever seen. Indescribable opulence sharing space with abject poverty, and life going on around it without anyone really seeming to notice.
It’s interesting when you get in touch with other culture.