India has a very different experience from what we are normally used to. There are many people, there is a lot of visible poverty, it is dirty, the traffic in the cities is chaotic and the cows walk slowly through the streets.
It is often said that one loves or hates oneself. I won’t go that far, but I think it’s advisable to take some steps to cushion the initial shock, such as booking a reasonable hotel for the first few nights, booking train trips well in advance, planning the itinerary and attractions you want to visit in some detail.
“Baksheesh” (tipping, tipping) is widespread and commonly used throughout the country. Sometimes it means the difference between being treated well or treated badly. Therefore, it is always good to carry small notes to distribute when we need someone to do something for us. On the other hand, the lack of change is chronic in taxi drivers, auto-rickshaws, some shops, etc… which is all the more reason to always have small cash on hand to give them just the right bill.
Always negotiate the price before accepting any service, even if it seems like it’s just a “friendship favor”. Otherwise, it’s true that in the end they will ask you for an exorbitant amount. In any case, never feel obligated to pay an unreasonable amount and make a scene if necessary. Indians have a very strange relationship with money and can be very annoying and deceiving when trying to sell something, but they are generally good people.
As a rule, ignore people who approach you without being asked. As genuine and available as they seem, they always have some up their sleeves for the sole purpose of trying to get some money out of you!
Once a person gets used to all this and the multitude of situations he will face every day, India is, without doubt, one of the best countries to travel.
Delhi is the capital of India and a city home to around 13 million people, most of them on the brink of poverty. Traffic is incredibly chaotic, dirt lurks around every corner and there are many people living on the streets. Still, it can be a pleasant city to visit and undoubtedly has many points of interest to visit, for example, India Gate, the Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb and the must-see Ghandi Smriti museum. The narrow streets filled with shops of everything and more of Old Delhi contrast with the wide boulevards and spacious parks of the new part of the city (New Delhi).
Agra is a city that, from a tourist standpoint, is almost only interesting because of the Taj Mahal, possibly the biggest attraction in India and one of the biggest in the world. The ideal program would perhaps be to sleep just one night. On the first day visit the Agra Fort and watch the sunset at the back of the Taj Mahal, on the other side of the bridge, by the river. There are budget hotels to sleep very close to the Taj Mahal complex and so, on the second day, visit it at dawn.
Jaipur is the city of maharajas and palaces. The main attractions are the City Palace, the streets within the walled city (Pink City) and the Amer fort, just a few kilometres from the city centre. Monkey Palace may be fun for anyone who has never seen monkeys outside their cages, but otherwise, it’s a mistake. Another great attraction of Jaipur is the “havelis”, ancient palaces of maharajas transformed into charming hotels and that exist all over India. Even if you don’t stay in one, it’s worth going to have a drink or a meal to live the experience and get to know it.
Varanasi is total madness and a must-see destination on a trip to India. It seems that, suddenly, one enters a movie from another dimension, with mysterious and diabolical characters that feed on beliefs, strange rituals and baths on the banks of the Ganges River. The action is all along the river and in the old part of town, so it makes sense to stay there despite many travel guides recommending the area for the best hotels. It is well worth taking a boat trip at dawn and passing through the various Ghats (doors) where pilgrims are taking the sacred bath.
The beaches of Goa are a very popular destination in India and a more relaxed and trendy alternative to spend a few days in the sun.