For a successful trip there are several truths worth knowing and putting into your back pocket. As a woman travelling alone these are some of the things I experienced as I travelled throughout India by train, bus, auto-rickshaw, scooter and taxi. I previously wrote about travel myths and these are my travel ‘truths’.
1. Dress ‘Kind-of’ Indian
You might think it’s unfair and backwards, but it helps to dress ‘Indian-ish.’ Like the saying goes, “When in Rome do like the Romans.” Dressing Indian shows respect for the culture and its people. It is a bit of a double-standard especially when Indian women show their bellies, but cleavage is not popular. On the flip side, take advantage of the bright coloured shawls (or pashchima) and throw them over your shoulder. Stay away from shorts or tanks. You could be the subject of what they call ‘Eve’s teasing; the North American equivalent of sexual harassment.
With many Westerners going to India today, it is not as rigid as it used to be in terms of wearing traditional saris or looking Indian. In large cities like Delhi and Mumbai, you’ll see both men and women wearing Western clothes. But don’t let this fool you into thinking their attitudes are.
2. Travelling is Dangerous
Travelling does have potential risks, but don’t let fear take you away from a trip of a lifetime. In 2003, there was an escalated concern of Pakistan and Indian starting WWIII including a travel advisory not to go to India. Because of this I was going to cancel my trip. In the end, I decided to go. When I got to Delhi I learned from the locals that the situation in Kashmir was not any different than before. Down in Kerala (the south of India) people were oblivious to the situation (it was business as usual).
Indeed none of the political issues are to be taken lightly. While travelling stay aware, be cautious and if you are concerned register yourself at the Consulate. In the event of a crisis they will at least know where you are.
3.Malaria Versus Traffic Accidents
In tropical climates there are usually areas Malaria infected areas. However, with over 1 billion people and crazy drivers I am more concerned with being killed in a traffic accident than contracting Malaria.
Statistics show accidents are 3 times higher in countries like India than developed ones. The rule in India is the bigger one has the right away. Many pedestrians and not just foreigners have been killed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
4. Hospitality and Customer Satisfaction
Hospitality is not a thing of the past in India. If you are lucky enough to befriend some of the locals you will be treated to a home-cooked meal. And if things go well you could experience many home-cooked meals. Nothing compares to an Indian dinner lovingly cooked by an Indian woman.
Being a customer is not the bad end of the stick either. India is full of auspiciousness. It is believed that by giving the first customer a discount it will bring good luck and fortune for the remainder of the day. Simply put, if you have friends tell them to shop there and they’ll also enjoy a discount.
5. Beggars Beware
One of the hardest things to deal with is the poverty. Sometimes just coping with it is the best you can do. It can get nasty with beggars following you and tugging at your clothes. Little children also appear cradling a 5-month year old baby; something equally as distressing. Unfortunately, as good as it feels to give money it usually encourages more beggars to arrive on the scene. It’s one of the most difficult things to handle as a foreigner. And interestingly enough, they always spot you first.
When faced with such a situation it is wise to remember you are one who has the money to travel to India, the nice clothes and can eat.
It is difficult to find ‘good’ female hygiene products. After 13 trips I am still looking! If you use OB tampons you’ll be in luck. But if you are more of a tampax fan this could be difficult. I’d advise taking your own. Pads, however, are very popular in most of the local pharmacies called medical shops. Yet they only have a few brands; not the array of name brands and styles typically found in our drug stores.
I hope these travel myths and truths inspire you to look further into a potential trip to India. From the Dalai Lama’s list of 20 instructions for life he instructs, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.”
Hm, sounds like that could mean India?