It’s easy to overthink things and get overwhelmed when you’re planning your first trip to the cities of Northern India. But don’t worry—be happy—because if you learn to love all of India’s magnificent eccentricities, Mother India will love you right back. Here are five things I wish I’d known before I visited Delhi and Jaipur…
People just love to tell horror stories about the food in India… How it made them sick… How they lost 25 pounds… Tsk. The food in India is amazing and you’ll want to eat a LOT of it. It’s very different to the Indian-style cooking we’re used to here in the West; in India the flavors are always well-balanced and they’re never overpowering. Use your common sense and stay away from tap water and salad and fruits that aren’t of the peel-able variety. It’s wise to pack some meds in case of emergencies, but trust me, you’ll more than likely be golden. I even did a street food tour of Old Delhi and lived to tell the tale. The food was incredible—flavors I’d never even dreamed about before danced a seductive waltz around my mouth—and my guide told me that the street food is exceptionally fresh in a place as crowded as Old Delhi because the turnover is so fast. The cooks working on the food stalls there are also feeding their friends and neighbors every day, so they definitely don’t want to make their regular customers sick. So don’t be afraid and dive right in!
Your first couple of days in a bustling metropolis like Delhi or Jaipur can be somewhat overwhelming. The sheer number of people busy-bee-ing around the streets can be astonishing to Western eyes. But if you look very closely, you’ll start to realize that there is an orchestrated rhythm behind what looks like ‘craziness’ to us. So accept that things work differently in India, embrace those differences and go with the flow. Have your wits about you by all means—keep your valuables safe and don’t give street hawkers eye contact unless you’re interested in shopping—but open your heart to India. Accept her apparent ‘craziness’ and she’ll pay you back with love—and lots of it. And don’t worry too much about getting lost; you’re usually never more than a few feet from a tuk-tuk that will take you to your destination for a dollar or two. Just agree on the destination and price before you hop in.
Yep, you’re not in Miami or Malibu now, so leave your boob tube or mini dress at home. It’s not a case of having your rights repressed, it’s a case of showing respect for a culture that is very different to your own. There’s no need to cover-up completely; just wear skirts and dresses that reach below knee level and try to keep your shoulders, cleavage and upper arms covered. Steer clear of anything too tight or low-cut. A lightweight scarf or pashmina is a superb way to drape your décolletage and the tops of your arms and it’ll shield you from the sun too. And you’ll find some truly beautiful and reasonably-priced ones in Delhi and Jaipur’s amazing markets.
Trying to predict the unpredictable is a favorite pastime in the West. Oh how we love to order and control things! But don’t fool yourself for a second: there is no predicting the unpredictable in India. There are 18.9 million people living in Delhi—which is mind-boggling, when you consider that New York is home to just 8.6 million. In a city of this gargantuan stature, trying to predict the unpredictable is utterly pointless. This is where going-with-the-flow comes into the equation once again. Or even better, put yourself in the safe hands of a local tour guide. There was NOTHING that the guide on my Best of North India trip, Balbir, didn’t know about Delhi or Jaipur. He understood India’s unique rhythm and irresistible eccentricities—and thanks to him my group got the very best out of their time in India.
If you’re a Westerner, you’re probably going to feel like a superstar in a city like Delhi or Jaipur. The good people of Northern India don’t see that many foreigners, and as you wander around beautiful sites like the Qutab Minar in Delhi or the Amber Fort in Jaipur, you’ll get asked to pose for photos with smiling locals. This can feel a little strange at first (I’m not Lady Gaga, after all), but after a couple of days, I started to really enjoy it. The people are so incredibly beautiful and gracious when they ask—and I was so flattered that I could make them happy just by posing for a quick pic. So prepare to strike a pose. Taking a moment to smile for their camera can truly make their day… And how wonderful is that?
Do you dream of wandering around the winding streets of Old Delhi? Or gazing at the opulence of the Amber Fort? Yes? Then come with us to India. Not only will you have the experience of a lifetime, but you will have a sophisticated itinerary that has been lovingly-created by Indus’ India experts. To find out more about our tours to India, please feel free to contact us at any time.
About the Writer: Vickie Sam Paget
Vickie is a freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver, BC. When she’s not creating dynamic travel or tech content, globetrotting or gazing at the North Shore Mountains, you can usually find her curled up with a good book or sipping a pint of the good stuff in her local Irish bar.