I will never forget my first-time visiting India. My first car trip in Delhi felt like a roller-coaster ride. Cars and trucks of every size, overloaded bicycles and motorcycles, and even the occasional bullock cart, seemed to be coming at me from every direction. No one was paying any attention to lanes or road rules. Vehicles were driving the wrong way. I couldn’t make sense of what was happening.
I had heard about the “sensory overload” travelers feel in India, and now I was experiencing it. It was exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measure. And just a taste of things to come.
I spent six months crisscrossing the subcontinent on my first trip, back in 2005 and was often overwhelmed by the huge crowds, the foreign traditions, the perplexing bureaucracy, the mind-boggling complexity, and the bewildering culture shock.
These things combined make India a challenging — though very exciting and rewarding —destination.
However, reading and following these travel tips for first-time visitors could help smooth out some of the more disorienting bumps.
Practice safe travel
India has a reputation as a daunting travel destination, especially for women. However, I have spent many years in India as a female solo traveler, and though I have been uncomfortable, I have never felt unsafe or threatened. Reported crimes against tourists are relatively rare, but harassment, staring, pickpocketing, and getting ripped off are common.
There are also anecdotal reports of women being molested, especially in busy, crowded places. Follow basic precautions, safe travel strategies, and use common sense in India.
Here are several safety travel tips (please read my top tips for women traveling in India for more details):
- Buy a local SIM card so that you can make local calls and stay in touch.
- Research carefully where you want to go, ensuring it is an area frequented by other travelers, with good infrastructure and hotels.
- Plan your travel so you don’t arrive late at night; travel during daylight hours only.
- Be careful when posting to social media, so that you are not revealing your current location.
- Stay alert to your surroundings, and keep a close eye on your handbag and luggage.
- Keep the Tourist Helpline number handy and call if you need any assistance: 1-800-111363.