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Complete list of things you need to know as a foreigner in India

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Whether you are a foreigner visiting India for a trip or planning on staying in the country for a job or business, there are certain things that you need to know. India is a country with vivid colors, culture, and religion. Being a massive country, every corner of this South Asian beauty is different than the other. While you experience the scenic beauty of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and similar states down south, the mountainous beauty up north will surely mesmerize you. So, if you are visiting India with no clue about the country, here is a well curated list of the most important things you should keep in mind.

1-Budget Destination:

Things and travelling in India comes cheap when compared to other popular travel destinations. Booking a decent room in this country can be as low as 5 dollars per day but if you are looking for a lavish and luxurious stay, prices can go well, a bit too high for a budget trip. Moreover, you can get food for the day for as low as 6 bucks but make sure you try not to eat a lot of the street food as it can make you unhealthy. The locals are accustomed to the conditions in the country which can be a bit too unhygienic for foreign visitors, so make sure you invest a bit more to eat at a clean and healthy diner.

2-Indians are shy yet “Friendly”:

Indians are generally shy in nature when it comes to indulging in conversations. However, they will surely help you out when looking for directions or places to stay or similar information. Make sure you know how to differentiate between a curious Indian and someone who can cause nuisance during your travel. While many Indians are just curious to know more about you which is why they tend to stare a lot, others can actually try to mug you or manhandle you, especially when you are a solo woman traveller. So make sure you are friendly with Indians but not too much. India isn’t just about villages which is a common myth among most visitors. It consists of some of the coolest people that welcome foreigners as their own living in cities and metropolis.

3-Learn basic Hindi words:

As you enter the country, you will be amazed to see how many of the locals know and speak English, especially in the Southern half of the country. However, it is advisable to learn some basic Hindi words when travelling to this country. It will surely help you establish a good relationship with the locals. You can learn words such as:

  • Namaste: Hello
  • Acha: Good
  • Acha Nahi Hai: Not Good
  • Thik Hai: Okay
  • Kitna Rupiya: How much or what’s the Price?
  • Kripya: Please
  • Iska Matlab: What does this mean?
  • Madat: Help
  • Paani: Water

4-Pick the right time:

Unless you are someone from Australia or down south, you should surely avoid a journey to India during the summers. The place gets too hot for someone that is visiting the country from cold places such as the UK or the US. However, if you cannot avoid a summer trip, visit the popular tourist destinations in the northern territory of the country which includes Shimla, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, etc. You can also visit the North-East during summers for a relaxed trip in India. So, make sure you plan your trip between the months of October and March.

5-Learn the Temple Etiquette:

When it comes to religion, people in India are very much dedicated to theirs. Make sure you always take off your shoes before entering an Indian place of worship. Remember to keep it decent when it comes to clothes. Refrain from wearing revealing outfits. Foreign travellers in the country often try to wear short clothes given the humidity and warm temperature. However, it is important that you respect their tradition by keeping it casual and sober. If you have interest in exploring religious sites, respect is something you are bound to adhere to.

6-Refrain from PDA:

With time, India has become open-minded when it comes to love, homosexuality, and various other aspects that were frowned upon earlier. However, things haven’t changed as exponentially as we would expect it to have. The beautiful and mesmerizing lagoons of Kerala or the charm of Taj Mahal could make feel like kissing your partner or hug them. However, refrain from doing so as some might give it a pass but most of them might not and you could end up in trouble. So it is best that you refrain from PDAs in India.

7-Women Travellers and Sexuality:

Even if India is scaling towards a modern era, it has always been a patriarchal country with men mostly taking charge. This means you can experience some nuisance if you aren’t being careful. Given the cultural construct, the men in the country come with massive curiosity. Some Indian men have developed a wrong notion of being sexually available. Try not to interact with such men who seem perverted in the way they communicate with you. We aren’t saying that every Indian man is a pervert. However, sexual harassment in this country is actually widespread. The best way is to dress in a conservative manner and keep the communication with random people to a minimum.

8-Don’t get hounded:

As a visitor from different country, you might be seen as someone who houses a lot of riches, all thanks to difference in exchange rates. At times, you will be chased around by the beggars, charged higher price for cheap products, and would be required to pay higher taxi fares. It would be great if you have local friends so that they can inform you of standard rates. So, if you are in search of a great place to shop, make sure you aren’t being duped. Having a local friend will save you a lot of money regardless of what you buy or where you go.

9-India isn’t only “POOR”:

While you might know India only from movies such as “Slumdog Millionaire” that depict Indians as poor and ones that live in the slums. This Oscar nominated movie might be great but it was an incorrect depiction of the country or in this case, just a section of India’s reality. We agree that India comprises of people below poverty. However, it is just one side of the coin where the other side is completely different like any other country. Most foreigners think that India is all about filth but there are very clean places too. The country is a proud parent of Mawlynnong, which is the cleanest place in Asia.

10-Snake Charmers:

Many a times, foreigners make fun of India being a country of snake charmers. However, those days are long gone and the country has changed itself into a digital land with top ranking IT services. As said by the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, our country is not about black magic or snake charmers, rather a digital destination.

11-Not Every Indian Food is Spicy:

Yes, we do love our spices but it’s actually a misconception that Indian food is always spicy. We are a land of versatile culinary. So if you are looking for food that will relax your taste buds and stomach as well, you can find a range of items that aren’t hot or spicy. Don’t be afraid, we can easily get food that won’t make you chug a bucket of water.

12-Get your documents ready:

As a foreigner in India, you might get called upon by random officials or law makers for inspection to assure that you legally entered the country or everything in your passport and visa is up to date. You wouldn’t want to get amid the legal hassles when in another country. If you are in any legal trouble, make sure you call up the local embassy representing your country.

13-Indian isn’t a language:

Now, we have come across several foreigners who assume that Indian is a language. However, that isn’t the case just like American isn’t a language. This is the nationality of everyone that lives in the country. India flaunts about 22 majorly spoken languages with several local languages. Hindi & English rank among the widely spoken languages in the country. So feel free to replace the line “Do you speak Indian?” with the sentence “Do you speak Hindi or English?”

Legal Rights for Women Travelling in India

  • Only a female officer can escort a woman from other country or India itself to police station if required. If you aren’t escorted by one, you have the right deny going to the police station.
  • A female can easily refuse to be escorted to police station after 6pm in the evening and before 6 am in the morning. In cases where the crime committed by the foreign visitor is serious, the male police officers require written permit in order to escort the guilty party to police station.
  • Women in need of aid, especially when travelling alone can lodge their complaints or grievances via email sent at the official email id by National Commission for Women at [email protected]

Public Protocol

  • Homosexuality: Till the year 2017, Homosexuality or for that matter “Unnatural sex” as defined by the Supreme Court was illegal in India. However, a milestone was acquired by the Indian nationals when in the year 2018, the Supreme Court legalized LGBTQ. However, this doesn’t give you a free license to have sex in public. If you are feeling particularly romantic, get yourself a good room and enjoy your vacation in the country.
  • Recording Videos: When visiting a whole new country, it is obvious that you would want to record your moments or take a picture of the places you managed to visit. However, try and adhere to the rules and regulations listed by certain places that ban photography or videography. Government and military zones along with railway stations and crowded airports have high security alert. So try not to take videos or pictures of these places, especially if you happen to see a warning sign.
  • Alcohol: In India, legal age for drinking varies but in general it lies somewhere between 10 and 25. Do not drink and drive or create nuisance after drinking as it can get you jailed.
  • Drugs: While chewing tobacco and smoking cigarettes is legal in India, drugs are illegal. If you are caught possessing drugs, you can be sentenced for 10-year jail, unless you have been prescribed a drug for health reasons. Remember to carry your prescription to ensure you do not get in trouble.
  • Beef: A lot of states in India have banned the consumption of beef and beef products. So if you practice deliberate maiming or killing of cow, you can get sentenced 5 years in prison. So be careful, especially when driving.
  • Dangerous Items: In India, possession of antiquities, firearms, electronic equipment, gold objects, and similar items are regulated by Indian government. Non-residents or visitors from foreign lands are prohibited when it comes to exporting or importing of Indian Rupee. Satellite phone is also illegal in India to be carried by foreign visitors.
  • Passport & Visa: When checking in at airports or hotels, you need to carry along your visa as well as passport to verify your identity.

This wholesome list of things you need to know about India certainly proves the fact that regardless of where you come from and the amount of research you have done, this country will surely surprise you. Things might get bumpy as you travel, but is important that you keep calm and enjoy the trip you planned for so long. Carry enough money to fall through during unforeseen circumstances. Forget the stereotypes and get set going with things that can surprise you during your trip to this country. Remember to pack light and embrace the country’s diversity.

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