Preparing to Travel to India: How To?

It looks like our trip to India may finally happen at the end of this year.  People have been telling me I need to prepare, but I don’t quite know how.  On the bright side, Satya’s parents will be living with us for another two months this summer so that will help some. 


For all those non-Indians out there, how did you prepare?  One piece of advice I heard was to travel to the Southern U.S. states to get a taste of how the bug situation will be.  (The furthest south I’ve lived is Virginia so I haven’t really seen giant bugs).  I’ve also heard that watching travel dvds and reading books is useful.   I have read some of the typical classics already Malgudi Days, Maximum City, etc. 


How well did your preparations prepare you for the reality? 


What shots did you get?  I heard there is a new anti-diarrhea one which seems practical.  I hate shots, but there doesn’t seem to be another option. 


For all of you Indians, what do you think foreigners need to know about India before they arrive?  How do you recommend they prepare? 


I think for this first trip we are going to stay around Karnataka, especially Northern Karnataka which is Satya’s home turf.  We are planning to see sites like Hampi, Gokarna, etc.  I’ve always wanted to see Kerala too for some reason.  Satya also has an idea of seeing the Himalayas-maybe Darjeeling or Shimla and maybe even the country of Bhutan.  We shall see……my honeymoon ideal is more of the kind of a houseboat in Kerala while his is the frozen Himalayas. 


Also, his place doesn’t seem to fit the stereotypes of India.  He isn’t from a huge, sprawling metropolis and he isn’t from a poor, isolated village.  Are there any books that focus on more mundane India?


16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. PGB
    Jul 09, 2009 @ 15:15:04

    I am pretty sure your husband would have covered everything that is required ….. just follow what he does you should be fine ….. AFAIK my uncle who is a southerner had a really good time in B’lore …. ofcourse North K’taka is different ….not all villages in India are isolated 🙂 … my dad’s village in central K’taka for eg. has decent roads and good public transport connected to the nearest town, has a high school and a dispensary … although electricity is a problem with sometimes 7 hours of load shedding. 😦



  2. dbals
    Jul 10, 2009 @ 18:59:36

    You are going with a desi so you don’t need much preparation

    My advice to white women travelling in India…
    Never go alone. Anywhere
    Get used to staring
    Don’t look/smile at strangers
    Always drink Bottled water and buy them from big stores not shanty ones (even when in someone else’s house and they compel. It will appear rude at first but they will understand)
    Don’t eat any roadside food (especially the food that has not been heated)
    Take less clothes. So you can buy a lot of new ones there cheap and bring back.
    In cities, knee length shorts and T-shirts are ok. Tight/Transparent dress will invite a lot of staring.
    Always closely hold onto your belongings especially when you’re travelling in public trains/buses.

    Take toilet rolls (if you think you can’t adjust)
    Take Sunscreen lotion and lots of perfume and deodarant

    It’s a little awkward to write this. I hate to be a spoiler. Since you mentioned about honeymoon I can’t ignore.
    Beware of the latest scandal that I heard is going on – Fitting hidden cameras in hotel rooms and other private honeymoon places – and the video ends up in Internet. I’m not sure rampant this is. Just exercise caution.
    Hidden camera detecting gadgets sold in online (in US) might help.


  3. Quirky Indian
    Jul 17, 2009 @ 12:20:36

    Minnie, I think dbals’ list is very comprehensive….it is more for women who are travelling alone, but it never hurts to be careful.

    As far as hidden cameras go, there have been instance, but it is nowhere as widespread as it has been made out to be.


    Quirky Indian


  4. Andrea
    Jul 20, 2009 @ 10:45:24

    Your trip sounds great! I’ve always wanted to go to Kerala, too – we hope to hit it up the next time we go to India.

    As far as preparing – I don’t think you really need to do all that much. Honestly. I did get shots, but it was just to make sure my hepatitis shots were all up to date. And make sure you get a polio booster, if needed. I’m not sure if you “technically” are supposed to get more shots, but those were all I needed.

    Regarding stomach issues, shots, etc., I think it just depends how sensitive you are. I’ve been to India twice, now, and never once had any problem with an upset stomach (except when I ate too much, but that’s different :). We even ate food from a street cart once, but made sure it was good and hot, and it was the type of thing that didn’t require utensils/plates, which my husband tells me are the real problems with the street food.
    I did read a few fictional and nonfiction books, but they seemed so removed from what I experienced there, it wasn’t really beneficial. Perhaps, though, if you read a few nonfiction travel books (like some where women write about traveling around the world, etc.) you might get some useful tips?


  5. Gori Girl
    Jul 20, 2009 @ 18:59:08

    I wouldn’t worry too much, if I were you. I, um, prepared very little (none is the technical term, I believe), and had a blast anyways. Since you’ll be on Satya’s home turf he’ll be able to explain most things if you have questions on what’s happening or the proper behavior.

    Have you been to any developing countries before? I feel like that was the best “preparation” (in terms of giving me an idea of what to expect in India) as anything else I’ve done.


    • minnesotameetskarnataka
      Nov 25, 2009 @ 00:27:18

      No, I’ve never been to a developing country before. Greece has been my farthest trip eastwards.


  6. Melissa
    Aug 04, 2009 @ 18:16:02

    Blanket disclaimer – this is all based strictly on my experience and may not be (probably is not) true for all of India, but stuff I was glad to know or wish I had known…

    I would definitely get some toilet paper, unless you’re prepared to do without. They sell travel sized rolls – I think they’re called Charmin To Go or something.

    Shots I got were just a tetanus (wasn’t sure when I’d had my last one) and my polio booster. I didn’t take the malaria pills or anything, and I’d already had the hepatitis when I’d gone to Africa.

    I personally would skip the shorts altogether and stick to long skirts or loose pants if you’re not wearing something more traditional. I am generally uncomfortable with staring, so for me, wearing shorts would have been made me stand out in a way I would not have wanted.

    I’d also prepare yourself for the possibility that you may not always be able to get bottled water. When I left I was planning on drinking nothing but bottled stuff, but for a variety of reasons this was not possible. It was possible most of the time to at least get boiled water, which isn’t the same obviously, but still a decent option in my non-professional opinion. I got pretty sick twice, but I am reasonably sure it had more to do with some cane juice I drank off the street, (like someone said above, I think street food is ok & I’d eat it again as long as it was hot – which the cane juice is obviously not) and I got sick again from some food I ate off a buffet type thing that was outdoors. If you are at functions that have buffets set up outdoors for any length of time, the best advice I can give is to try to stick to veg stuff.

    Bring some rubber flip flops for the bathroom. The showers weren’t enclosed like they are here so the floors get quite slippery and wet so you want to have something that you don’t wear outside to use for the bathroom.

    Bring enough feminine products to last your entire visit. This was probaby the single thing I was gladdest to know about before I left. Where I was in India, tampons can be difficult to obtain (& your husband might not know or think to mention this 🙂

    Have a great trip!


  7. La Vida Loca
    Oct 04, 2009 @ 20:58:18

    OB brand tampon is available in medical stores (as they are called). If you are picky then carry your own.

    And get used to staring. If someone grabs or gropes you, don’t be afraid to slap the bastard.


  8. Jennifer
    Oct 28, 2009 @ 13:37:25

    Wow.. Great!
    When I went to India first time, 1999, I got all the shots, etc recommended by CDC.
    Now I go to India almost every year since 2005 with my hubby (Kerala) and have not updated my shots. Don’t know if that’s good or not, yet it is what it is.
    I avoid water unless its filtered and boiled. Good thing in Kerala many homes serve a water that looks pinkish- this has ayurvedic herbs boiled into it. Since it’s boiled it’s safe. Plain water is a hard find. Try not to have a lot iced things- it does affect the throat differently in a hot climate. Drink Tender coconut water!! 🙂
    Regarding feminine products… ‘Always’ is known as “Whisper” there, quality is good (slightly better than in America I feel)..
    If you go to Bangalore I am sure even Indian girls now a days wear shorts but the problem is when a white girl wears it, more stares occur. After ten years of being stared at in India and dressing Indian in American by Indians- i know decided the best thing to do is STARE BACK! Yes, I felt uncomfortable at first. This gets me two reactions- if it is an Indian in America or an Indian in India possibly with foreign experience, they will wonder why I decided to stare then then stop:) If not, we both will continue to stare blankly at each other, or warm into smiles and the other will begin asking me questions- why I wear salvaar or sari or whatever and I make a new friend! 🙂


    • minnesotameetskarnataka
      Nov 25, 2009 @ 00:24:35

      Thanks for your tips! Good to know about Whisper. I never would have thought about icy things being bad for the throat.
      What do you wear when you visit India? That is one of my concerns (seems more fun than worrying about health stuff, anyway!)
      No, I don’t think I’ll be wearing shorts. I was told jeans and skirts are ok though by Satya’s mom and sister.


  9. Jennifer
    Dec 06, 2009 @ 22:54:41

    Yes, it is fun to think of what to wear. Jeans and pants are ok, but if you’re not used to the hot and sticky climate, I’d stick to loosely fitting dresses, pants (like the pants of salvaar kamiz). It may feel very hot to wear jeans. But it depends on the person. I find it suffocating to wear jeans in India especially in hotter seasons in South India.

    People would say it’s ok to wear sleeveless and lower cut shirts, shorts and short skirts. I don’t disagree- but as a ‘white skinned’ we may get more stares than the Indian girls Wearing this in bigger cities. If you’re going to a village where they have limited experience with seeing foreigners, you’ll get even more stares. If you wear Indian clothes you’ll get stares too but more appreciative stares. In the times I have been to India (lived in Chennai two years) and the six other visits to Chennai/Kochi/Trivandrum) and wore saris, salvaar kamiz I have gotten 98% good feedback from people.

    Do you like to wear Indian clothes? Just be sure if you wear sari, know the right etiquette so you don’t over expose, etc etc. For salvaar kamiz just try not to wear ones that are too transparent. These kinds go in and out of fashion. Dress in layers if so. You can get ‘undershirts’ that are long like salvaar tops if they are transparent or you want an extra layer (it actually does help to keep cool- this takes some time living in India sometime to realize the benefit…first it’s all TOO HOT! 😉

    Best to wear flat shoes. Now a days women in cities wear high heels. See the street and decide if you can if you wear high heels. Open toed shoes are best. But if you are going on tours or hiking anywhere take some comfy walking shoes to India with you. (Just one less thing to worry about).

    Have fun! When are you going?


    • minnesotameetskarnataka
      Dec 10, 2009 @ 20:20:08

      Yes, I agree. The thought of wearing jeans when it is above 80 degrees just is not appealing at all!

      For the sari, now that it is 3 weeks away I think I’ll only be wearing them when I need to (important visits). I’m thinking my mother in law will end up pinning me in! The only sari etiquette I know is that it should be long enough to cover the ankles, look neat, and that breasts should be covered. Any other sari advice?

      Thanks for all of your great advice!


  10. Jennifer
    Dec 11, 2009 @ 15:17:54

    In 2002 I wrote up some things on sari etiquette

    I have to update it.. there are few misspelled words in there….

    Hope it is helpful.


  11. cyrene boston
    Feb 12, 2010 @ 03:59:58

    nice info..thanks for this post..i wanna share this site too..

    it colud other to in travelling india..


  12. Rajasthan Tour
    Mar 17, 2010 @ 05:00:07

    Its a nice article as well as a good girly conversation..

    Nice one



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