Intro to India: What the Traveler Needs to Know

Mark Twain, when he was sixty years old, set off to India. He wrote, “This is India! the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition…”

This is India

While there are resorts and relaxing vacation places everywhere, India is for the adventurous and the spiritual. Most main religions started here, so much history of the human race lies here, with ingrained traditions and ceremonies that you will want to experience.

That is what India is: an eye-opening, colorful, teaching, and soul searching experience.

I am so happy you are planning on visiting, here are some basic things you should know:

  • India is the second most populated country in the world (almost 1.3 billion).
  • Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism originated here.
  • Religiously, most people are Hindus (80%). Second most popular religion is Islam.
  • The four seasons: hot, cold, rainy, monsoonish
  • Temples are everywhere, and you are welcome in them (just usually leave leather out, and sometimes cover your head).
  • You can haggle when shopping, do it for sure. Unless you’re in store that would have set prices, like an Adidas chain.
  • Driving is an adventure. Just trust in your driver, he knows what he’s doing and he’s certainly a better driver than you (also sometimes close your eyes).
  • India is so colorful. Pink and yellow houses, bright fabrics.
  • Smells of spices, sometimes of sewage, sweat. Food, cows, cars. I love the smells of India.
  • Anywhere outside is okay to dump sewage, be aware of this.
  • Dogs are everywhere. And they are not pets, in fact they may be beaten in front of you.
  • People will come up to you on the street, begging for money. Mostly, children will come up to you.
  • Pedestrians do NOT have the right of way. Cows do though.
  • You will wake up to cars honking.
  • Everyone will want photos with you.

There is so much more I could say about this wonderful country. But ultimately, you’ll need to learn for yourself. Rich cultural experiences are worth any price- remember that.


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