India is brimming with cultural heritage, good vibes and great sights. Attracting thousands of visitors every month, this oriental land is visited mostly for the spiritual enigma that it offers. In the recent times, yoga has entered the mainstream, which made India one of the top destinations for the same. Being a yoga fanatic, I have stayed in spiritual destinations like Rishikesh, Haridwar, Varanasi, Pushkar etc. multiple times and even in my city, I see foreigners struggling with directions, language, culture and Indian ways of dealing with things.
Obviously, staying in India cannot be the same as their motherland and when we visit another country, we have to be open and receptive of the changes but first time visitors might be in for a shock. Believe me, I have seen people expressing bewilderment on everyday acts performed by Indians. And that could mean simply how we talk to each other, how we eat, how we move. Most of my experience comes from the yoga teacher training and yoga camps I keep attending in the yoga capital of the world Rishikesh and based on my understanding & readings, this article would be advising the foreigners on what to expect and what not to.
Tips for Foreigners Travelling in India
1. The Disease case
As I walked down the curvious roads of Rishikesh with other foreign students, we shared our experiences with each other and the one that shocked me the most was, ‘the fear of getting sick’ during their stay in India. They are told about the unhealthy living conditions and how they will suffer from a zillion diseases if they do not take so and so vaccinations. A friend from Germany mentioned as we completed our stay in Rishikesh, “we are just frightened unnecessarily, India is beautiful and I would recommend it to everyone.” Well, that made my day. If you are travelling to India, don’t be afraid of the diseases or illness etc. Of course it is not as clean and hygienic, I agree, but it is not so bad either. Take care of a few vaccine shots and carry a few necessary medicines, drink from Bisleri or filtered water rest all is available here. And nothing major is going to happen.
2. Be prepared
Taking forward from the aforementioned point, yet another complaint I have noticed foreigners make, the cleanliness, noise and pollution they have to witness here. I understand that from where they are coming, they can have such issues here, but the only solution to this is to be prepared. You can pre-plan or pre-book your journey. The pollution level in India is high, carry face masks if you need. Carrying chargers or three pin plugs that will work well in India is also a good option to avoid any future issues with phones, tablets or laptop. The hygiene and dirt, we are growing up and evolving every second and as it is said the untouched beauty is the best version, who knows, maybe the next time you step foot in India & you might find everything commercialized. May be then you would miss the beauty of the old and the real India.
3. Don’t give in
Many of my foreign friends complain how Indians try to steal from them by charging them exorbitantly for activities, travel, stay and other leisure activities. They even despise India for this reason. But isn’t it like this with all the other countries. A sure shot way avoid being cheated is to negotiate. Every time you take a cab or like a dress or want to buy a souvenir, feel free to ask for a discount because most likely you will get it. Don’t give in to the various shams and rather research for yourself before you set course for anything. The internet is the biggest rescue in today’s time. Every place has plenty of Internet Cafes, sit, research and chose wisely. I was the guide every time we went for shopping with the group, being a native the language was natural and I fairly understand how much it should cost. It really helped. Find a friend if you can.
4. Hold your stand
India is a magical land with mysterious things. Places and people might intrigue you or even entice you. I have seen both good and bad happening with foreigners. I would recommend not to get carried away by what others say or ask you to do. It is not always that simple and easy. Once, a friend from Czech, went to explore downtown Rishikesh and two hippies turned into Baba tried to do black magic on him so that they can steal his money. The yoga teachers at the ashram were really helpful to him when he returned and after two days of serious illness, he recovered but could not remember what had happened to him. Such things happen every now and then, therefore it is better to get in touch with someone you know before you give in a tricky situation.
If you are on a yoga spree, you will be offered healthy Indian food prepared with ayurvedic recipes and oriental herbs. You may or may not like it. But when we crib or complain, we are losing out on the real fun of the trip. The food may be bland, too spicy or not match your taste buds, but ashram will offer a specific version of food. If you do not like it, explore and find a place that matches your requirements. India has a wide range of cuisines to offer from north Indian food delicacies to South Indian to West to East Indian recipes, every place has a different traditions and different type of foods. Try it all, I bet you will find a lot of preparations matching your taste buds.
6. Cultural difference
One of the obvious reasons why foreigners face difficulties or struggle in India is the cultural differences, which reflect in ways like how to conduct oneself, clothing and the time of movement. It is best if both men and women act a little conservatively when it comes to dressing, moving out at night and mingling with people. Although Indians are very friendly and welcoming, it would still be wise to cover up as much as possible and not venture out alone at night without proper company or alone and to carry guide books with yourself to avoid being lost.
These were the six main complaints or reasons for foreigners to struggle in India. These suggestions are based on personal readings. Please feel free to add anything below.