First Time India: Tips For A Successful Trip

Jaipur India

I never had an interest in India, not even on my wishlist. The negative impact I heard from people is disappointing. That’s why it took me a long time to visit the place. However, when planning a trip to the Philippines to visit the family, I thought it was time for a visit. If I didn’t go, I would never experience it.

Many people saying India is a culture shock. Every country has a negative and positive side, but as a native of the Philippines and have traveled to many places in Asia, I have a different vision of culture shock.  

So much to learn about Indian culture. However, my time is too short of understanding the situation of the country and the people. I should abode longer for the grasp of Indian culture and tradition. After this trip, India was not on my list to revisit at the moment; who knows, maybe in a couple of years. 

Tuk-tuk the local transport in Jaipur city
The local transport in Jaipur city ( tuktuk)

Why should you plan the trip to india?

A trip to India requires preparation, as a few things must be done before you fly into the country. Such as choosing which region to visit, flight booking, vaccination, tours, and tourist visa. India is a vast country; it was a difficult decision to select places to visit.

As our time is minimal, we decided to fly to New Delhi and do the Rajasthan state. I’m not fond of tourist places, but we choose a popular destination for the first time in the country.

Thus, we have chosen the place, now is time to search for cheap flights. I like spending time on the internet looking for bargain air tickets. New Delhi is a hub for most airlines, and finding low-priced tickets was a piece of cake; read on how to find the cheapest flight.

I like long layovers, and Qatar Airways was perfect. We have never been to Doha, Qatar, and looking at their multi-destination ticket price was ideal. It gives us a chance to see the city. You’ll find out what we do on a long layover on my post of Doha.

Pushkar Lake, the sacred lake
Pushkar Lake, the sacred lake

Prepare your Vaccination for India

Going to India is not the same as going to Brunei. I’m aware malaria is a common disease anywhere in the world. But for India, it’s a different story. The sanitation in the country is pretty low than elsewhere in Asia. Some people we know were seriously sick during their trip to India.

I have found a website  Fit for what we should need for India. It looks like typhoid, hepatitis B, and A are essential when traveling to the country. It depends how long your trip is, as we are going only for two weeks, our doctor said that the three vaccines mentioned above were sufficient. If you have done this in the past, you don’t need it, but typhoid expires after three years, a recurrence required. It is not for nothing; a pricey treatment of 195 euros per person, but luckily refunded by our health insurance.

The street scene in India
The street scene in India

transport when touring in India

I’m stuck with the question of how we get around. It is good to know what options are there if traveling between places and cities. So without further ado, we decided to hire a car. We have no intention of self-driving in India, and I’m glad we didn’t. I’ve seen how they drive on the road; it’s impossible to understand. Driving regulations certainly not apply in the country. The motorbikes and rickshaws are racing by. 

If there are traffic lights or road signs, it is more like a street decoration than traffic aid. But looking back at our previous trip to Central America, traveling with comfy shuttles, and crossing borders from El Tunco to Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize, we survive the journey. In India, it will be local buses, so I can’t imagine what the outcome of the trip would be.

Legit local agencies

Searching for local agencies in Delhi can be overwhelming, as there are so many online, but the questions; are they all real? I heard a lot of scams in Delhi. For the reason, I don’t want to end up on the wrong people; therefore, I post a question on the forum at Tripadvisor if someone can recommend a trustworthy agency in Delhi. I received responses from people who used Namaste India Tours.

I contacted the agency through email and gave them our itinerary and received a quick response. I was only inquiring about the price of a vehicle with a driver.  Alternatively, they sent me a quotation for a package with accommodation. I’ve checked all the hotels; it looks pretty good. But before making the booking I am thoroughly looking for more surveys about the company, and everything good. 

Parliament Building in Delhi
Indian Parliament Building in Delhi

Don't pay anything online

A legitimate agency won’t ask money. We didn’t pay anything in advance but agree to pay as we arrive in New Delhi. Some agencies want cash once you book with them. The summarizing price for 13 days costs 90.400 INR (1150 euro) for two people.

We visited eight cities on this trip started in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Pushkar, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Mandawa. They drove us to the places specified in our itinerary; pick-up at the airport included. Hiring a taxi in India for one day costs 40 USD without accommodation. So anyway, sound like a reasonable price. I don’t think we could get it cheaper elsewhere, and with accommodation included, it makes our trip more comfortable.

Apply for e-tourist Visa online

These were the most confusing part when preparing the trip to India. There’s a lot of information online that doesn’t give a clear answer. Surely, you can let someone arrange the Visa by one of the travel agencies in your home country. It cost a little more or going to the Indian embassy. I’m choosing the cheapest way by going online for e-visa. Some say you must apply for the e-tourist Visa four days before the trip.

Four days? That is not long…what if something goes wrong? That’s crazy! I have so many questions and doubts about these. For the safe side – two weeks before the trip I take the initiative to start the application for the Visa – the process goes smoothly without any hassles.

The astonishing Taj Mahal
Mesmerizing Taj Mahal

The correct government site for Visa

Please make sure you are on the correct website to avoid a hefty price – this is the official government website for the tourist visa.

For a hassle-free visa application, you will need the following: Passport, ID photo, credit card, email address, scanner, printer.

  • A passport should valid for six months
  • The one-month e-tourist Visa with two entries permitted cost 25 USD payable by credit card
  • Beware filling up the form online takes time, you have five pages to complete: see form examples here. But you can save and continue when you have the time. That’s why you need a valid email address
  • The ID photo and passport must scan through the website on the last page.              

Check the mail within 36 hours

It can take up to 36 hours to get an answer. Therefore keep an eye on your emails. If you don’t receive a reply in your inbox, check out your spam box. If your Visa granted, print out the necessary documents because it may ask at the airport of departure during check-in. Also, you must present this document together with the passport at the immigration in India.

For clear information:

You can apply for an E-Tourist Visa two weeks before your trip – it is not mandatory to wait four days. The validity of the tourist Visa started from the day of your first arrival in India, not from the day of approval.  

First time India: tips for a successful trip

I make a mistake going to India without reading what should be aware for the first time visitor. I know the population density in the country is very high many people want something from you as a tourist. I already had the image of India before the trip, which makes it incomparable with other countries.

I’ve seen a lot on television of how chaotic the country, especially in big cities like Delhi. Traveling through India can be stressful tiring, as well as frustrating. I advise you to take it easy for the first few days. My tips will allow you to travel through India carefree and relaxed. It is a great country to discover and immerses yourself in a unique culture. 

A street vendor in Jaipur
A street vendor in Jaipur

Accepting the facts

You hear everyone saying you love it or hate it, a shocking land for first-time visitors. Not the standard of life because I’ve seen so much poverty in Southeast Asia.

I’m talking about the scammer and touts. You can’t peacefully walk on the street without being irritated as they’ll follow you everywhere. We’re only halfway on the trip I already want to leave. A trip to India requires some challenges for first-time travelers. 

These people don’t have an idea that is pretty annoying what they do. In return, it pushes you to snap at them. It is the only way to leave you alone.

Then I realize the situation that there is no improvement to make myself a fool by getting angry and just accepting the fact that it is the way every tourist should overcome. You will encounter this daily until the last day. You will see them coming as only men doing this to you. What they mostly ask to get your attention; where are you going or you need help


People staring and wants a selfie from you

Sometimes I ask myself, is there something wrong why did they stare at me? I’m no different from them; I have a brown complexion with an Asian look. So many questions I’m asking for myself. But it seems generic for Indian people men and women to stare from different races. It’s uncomfortable, on the other hand, rude, but I have to get used to it. It is the Indian way of showing interest in people, and it doesn’t mean negatively.

In other places in Asia, you have to be careful about where to aim for your camera. Sometimes you need consent before photographing local people. But the Indians like being in front of the camera. Our first selfie experience with locals happens on the second-day while visiting Humayun Tomb in New Delhi.

There was a load of students that day, followed us everywhere for a selfie. I have no clue that it was typical of India. But after a while is like the invasion of privacy, you have followed for the selfie. And sometimes grab you and forced to smile in front of a phone camera.

A tramp with a baby asking money
A tramp with a baby asking money

India Confronted with poverty every day

Men living on the streets, beggars, children without clothes – these are not new for me. If you visit the slums area in the Philippines and Phnom Penh Cambodia, the comparison of the country’s impoverishment is for me the same. The homeless and beggars exist in big cities in Europe too. I’ve read a blog from someone saying even if you have been to other places in Asia, the poverty in India is different.

Fairly to say, the worst thing that genuinely shocks me, is the common sight in the urban and rural areas of India where you see pile of garbage on the street overcrowded and poorly managed. Public places and sidewalks deprived of dirt and waste, rivers, and canal use as garbage dumps – these are for me disturbing sights. 

Shopping a souvenir in Mandawa
Shopping a souvenir in Mandawa

Bargaining skills

Negotiation is part of the culture. I consider myself a negotiator and pretty good at it. I know for a long time tourists never get the same price as the locals. That’s the same in the Philippines; even local Filipinos asked for discounts. Never pay the full amount unless it states fix price.

You should learn to bargain in India, especially if you want to buy souvenirs. Outside the temple of Agra, a guy was selling an artifact of the Taj Mahal. I asked how much it was; he said 400 rupees. We walked away, and he came after us and asked me how much I wanted to pay. I said 100 rupees. He found it too little; on our way back to the car, he’s following us and sold the relic for hundred rupees.

And a little further, a kid selling the same stuff for 50 rupees. We just smiled at how the swindle does to us. A good reminder, give an exact amount because some of the vendor tricks they don’t have change or not enough money for a change. If you board a taxi or tuk-tuk, make sure you have agreed on a fare in advance.

Tourists are a victim of ragged money

It took us a couple of days noticing about this swindle until our money refused during the payment; I thought it was false. It’s silly we didn’t realize that was important. The note ripped in the middle, and smaller shops don’t accept torn money.

Another lesson we’ve learned. As it was a note of 500 rupees, I fixed it with a tape and paid in a shop, and they didn’t notice anything. Since then, each time we receiving banknotes, we carefully check if they are in good condition. Even a small rip on it, we asked for an exchange.

They don’t like it, but I have seen that ripped notes are placed apart and only given as change to tourists. Avoid this deception check your money if they’re all acceptable for payment before leaving the counter.

A street food vendor in India

Avoid Delhi Belly

A funny name for a stomach upset in India. I had no idea when someone said to me to be careful with Delhi Belly I thought about something else. Delhi Belly (diarrhea) – a common disease that every visitor experiences during the trip.

In fairness, I never have a problem during my trip, I’m not only picky about food, but also aware of sanitation when traveling to Asia. I always pack toiletries like sanitizer, wipes, which were a must in everyone’s luggage. To minimize the risk, avoid street food in India. Walking through the streets of one of the many Indian places, you soon realize that food is devoted to this country. However, street food in India is not the same as in Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, and Vietnam. I ate street food, yet I haven’t dared to try anything in India.

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