10 things you need to know before going to India


1. Visa

Most of us are required a Visa in order to enter India. It is a pretty simple process to obtain one but you have to make sure you apply about a month before your trip, due to sometimes your application can be delayed. If you live in the UK, all you have to do is fill in an online form, print it, add the other documents required and together with your passport, send all the papers to VSF Global for processing. There are fees for both the Visa and VSF but you can do the payment online and send them the receipt. The cost of the visa is different for each nationality. As a British you will pay £102 + the VSF service charge of £7.44. I am Romanian so I paid only £32.

2. Flights

When booking a flight to India look for indirect flights, they tend to be much cheaper. I went twice to India: first time I flew with Emirates, stopping in Dubai, and the price from London to New Delhi was around £350. Second time I flew with Austrian Airlines, with a stopover in Vienna. The price was £520 (It was over the Christmas holidays when all the flights were over £800).  Use Google Flights for the best prices and for suggestions on when to fly to get the beast deal.

3. Money 

India’s currency is the Rupee. The exchange is simple, 100 Rupees are the equivalent of £1. You have to know that as a foreigner you will pay more than the locals when you will visit different monuments. When you are in the bazaar it’s always a good idea to bargain the price, most of the vendors will be very happy to engage with you. Never pay the first price told and don’t accept anything less than 30% off that sum.

4. Costs

India is a very cheap country. A decent hotel with hot water, breakfast and WiFi will cost between 1000 and 2000 Rupees a night. A meal in a restaurant will be between 200-300 Rupees for a vegetarian option or between 400-600 Rupees for a meaty option. As I said before, I would recommend the vegetarian options due to the fact that I got sick eating chicken. North India is mostly vegetarian and the amount of veggie curies is impressive. A cheaper option, for about 100 Rupees, is too eat street food but be very careful and make sure you always eat the food while it’s still very hot.

The Smart metro card in New Delhi can be purchased for 50 Rupees (which are refundable when you give the card back). The cost of a journey can vary from 8 to 30 Rupees, depending on the distance traveled.

Traveling by train or by bus is again, very cheap. A ticket from New Delhi to Jaipur in the AC class (comfortable chair, air conditioned with breakfast included) costs 640 Rupees. However, if you choose a lower class you will be paying 120 Rupees only. There is also a tourist metro card which can be purchased for 100 Rupees (for one day) or 250 Rupees (for 3 days) which offer unlimited journeys by metro.

When booking a tuk tuk for the day always agree on the price before starting the trip. I paid 400 Rupees per day in Jaipur. In New Delhi some of the tuk tuks will have meters.

The most expensive touristic place to visit is the Taj Mahal, the fee being 750 Rupees. All the other monuments can be visited for 250 Rupees or less.

5. The cultural shock

Getting to India for the first time is a shocking experience. I remember my first time… tired after a day spent in Dubai sightseeing, looking forward to arrive at the hotel and sleep. As soon as I got out of the airport the heat struck me straight away. I jumped in the car that was waiting for me and I gazed at the window, seeing horses and cows on the road from the airport to the city. Then it hit me, Paharganj and all it’s fluorescent neon signs blinking on and off. Was I in New Delhi or in Las Vegas? I checked in and went into my room, it was almost midnight, but the noise made me go and look on the window. A wedding was taking place right there, in the middle of the street, on the opposite side of my hotel. And this was just the beginning. You will see things that will shock you, things that will make you question your humanity. You have to be prepared for this!


6. Travel inside India

If you think buying a train ticket by yourself in India is easy, think again! It took me two hours to manage to buy a train ticket in Jaipur, for Ajmer. In India there is no concept of queue, if someone wants to ask a question or buy something they will get in front of you and just do it. You have to do the same, otherwise you will wait until forever to buy your ticket.

Traveling by train in India is very safe and actually very comfortable, especially if you are choosing the AC class. On some express trains you will even have a meal included (Delhi to Jaipur for example).

You also need to know that traveling in India can take a lot of time and trains are often late. From Delhi to Jaipur, even if there are only about 300 kilometers, the journey will time will be of 5 hours if there is no delay.

When hiring a tuk tuk for the day, negotiate hard for the best price. As an example, I paid 400 Rupees a day in Jaipur, negotiated from 1000 Rupees.


7. Food and water

If you are going to India for the food, then you should know you are heading for heaven! The authentic flavours and the amount of different type of dishes, make India a favorite destination for the foodies. Don’t think of curry only, there are many others amazing recipes that you should try out, thali for example – a selection of six flavours of sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy on one single plate. Each region of India has it’s own cuisine, the South tending to be the spiciest.

If you are in India for the first time, take it easy! Your stomach will not be able to digest the spicy food and you will end up feeling very sick. Start by choosing mild dishes (which in India are still very spicy). If you are a coriander hater (like me), you have to know that all the curries will have it. I asked every time I ordered for my dish not to have coriander and in about 50% of the cases my meal came without. In the other 50% I had to fish it out and only after enjoy my dinner.

Never drink unbottled water! Always buy the bottles of water from a shop and check them to be sealed. Sometimes street vendors will recycle bottles, fill them with tap water, seal them and then sell them to you. So be careful and check if your bottle’s seal looks dodgy or if it has a glued hole on the bottom. You will get sick if you drink tap water!


8. People

I’ve only met wonderful people during my two trips to India. Do not turn around when people try to talk to you, you never know what wonderful experiences are waiting!. For example, one of the tuk tuk drivers that I met turned out to be a wonderful person with whom, after the day finished, I had a beer on the rooftop of a haveli in Jaipur. And on the way back to the hotel he let me drive his tuk tuk.



9. Stay safe!

This is an international rule, take care of your belongings and pay attention in crowded areas. If your intuition says “no”, always listen to it.

10.  Get involved and enjoy India!

Don’t just visit India but try to discover the people and the culture. Try to make contact with a local family and learn about their life. Bring a few toys with you and give them to the children you see playing on the streets. It is very important to understand the country you are in and not just tick the touristic monuments from a list. Do something, as little as you can! For you it might be nothing, but for someone else it might be the world! The feeling of putting a smile on someone’s face is priceless!

Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.


  1. Thnx dear. I read ur experience in our country u was total right. And in last ur suggestion touched my heart that u said to bring some gifts and give it to the need. Ur so wonderful person. Love u dear kindly visit again sometime I wl accompany you and Wl show u my country on my cost. Thnx agn

  2. I’m so jealous that you made it to India!
    I really want to go there and check out the culture.
    I’ve heard that the culture shock in India is quite massive. Hopefully, I’m a bit prepared after my solo trips to Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Malaysia!
    Thanks for the Google Flights tip! I’m going to check it out.

    1. I also thought I was prepared, after visiting Vietnam, China, Malaysia and Mongolia. But I was so wrong. India is different that any country you’ve seen so far. It’s love and hate in the same time, weirdly 🙂

  3. I’m from India and I love the balanced yet insightful advice you have up there. India is a country that you will hate and love at the same time, its hard to explain, best experienced 🙂

    1. You are so right, India is both love and hate and it’s best experienced. I am glad you agree with my advises on traveling to India 🙂

  4. This is really useful. I’m intrigued by India but some of what i’ve heard has really put me off unfortunately, which is a shame because everything else says it’s a wonderful, fascinating culture with amazing experiences to be had. Maybe I just need to be brave!

    1. India is both amazingly beautiful and disastrously ugly and smelly. The culture and the traditions are amazing and the people are very friendly. I think the best way to experience India is through a local’s eyes, you have to understand the local customs and way of living, to be able to open you mind to it.

  5. India is a major destination on my to-do list, even though it does make me a bit nervous… I am not sure I am ready for the cultural shock, but I heard so many great things about it that I decided I have to go. Reading your post only made me want to go even more 🙂

    1. You should follow your decision and go. There are a lot of things you will learn while in India, and even there are some shocking things, they will open your mind (and heart sometimes).

  6. I know something about India although I haven’t been in.. Well, relations, friends 😀 And I found you article consisting everything that necessary to know in not long text. Good job! Thanks for sharing.

  7. I love this must know lists, done some on my own already too!
    Also the fact that you describe the most important costs is very helpful. Quite similar to Sri Lanka I think!

  8. Thank you for these tips! It is on my bucket list to go but I think now I feel a little more prepared just knowing some of the cultural things that will be important while we are there!

  9. Hi..glad to hear you had a great time in my country ☺ it is a beautiful place to visit with such drastic differences across all the different regions in India..the diversity enhances its beauty and experience

  10. I haven’t been to India but I’ve enjoyed their food when I went to Singapore. The Bugis area is somewhat like a mini India. If given a chance to travel to India, I really would like to see the Taj Majal.

  11. WOW !!! The information you give is excellent , I never even thought of going to India , but what I am reading sounds very exciting . Kinda different world all together . I think , that could be a very different travelling experience ! Great reading , thanks for that .

    1. India is a very different world, with their own set of rules that somehow work in all the chaos. But it’s a great experience.

    1. Yeah, cows, dogs, pigs, donkeys, monkey, everything you can imagine! The other day I’ve read that a leopard went into a school. Luckily there were no children around, they were on holiday. But it hurt 6 people before they managed to catch it

  12. What i really love to explore about India is their fascinating culture! Thank you for these information! Your travel adventure inspires me. i may not have the courage yet to travel abroad but through these kind of posts, you somehow give me confidence that i can travel this far someday!

    1. You should take small steps into traveling, you will love it. It’s getting out of your comfort zone, but in a nice way.

  13. It was kind of strange reading about your own country from a third person’s perspective and I think you have done a good job of it :). Indians love a good bargain…so please bargain for everything. Paharganj is not the place I would suggest to stay, which is why you have experienced so much noise. You can try homestays, airbnb and ginger hotels for cheap and decent accommodation.

    1. I am very happy that you liked my post and that you think I’ve done a good job. I appreciate this! 🙂

      First time I was in India I stayed in Paharganj and the next time in Karol Bahn.

  14. What a wonderful post! I have never been to India, but these facts would make it much easier should we ever plan to.

    I love the sentence “if you are going to India for the food, then you should know you are heading for heaven”! As a massive foodie, this means a huge amount to me! x

  15. I would love to go visit India but with it being so crowded and busy it wouldn’t be good for my anxiety. I did watch a programme recently about British celebrities who were all aged over 60 and visiting India to consider retiring there and that was really helpful I’d feel a lot more relaxed after watching the programme seeing how kind and considerate the Indians are. Thank You for all the tips I didn’t realise there was too much to take into consideration.

  16. I’m living in India since my childhood and I am aware of each and every fact you discussed here. The people here to be extremely friendly and considerate, helping each other in the smallest tasks possible. Besides some minor odd quirks, India is a very lovable country.

  17. If your intuition says “No,” then listen to it – great rule to follow! I watch tons of horror movies so I always ask myself, “Am I about to do something, go somewhere, or talk to someone that I would yell at a character in a horror movie for doing…?”

  18. It was nice reading your post about India. I agree India is country with diverse cultures, the good and the bad so is the case anywhere else. I loved the way you have put up your views. Thanks for visiting my country. Hope you visit again 🙂

  19. It was very interesting to read your perspective on my country. Amusing infact! One more thing, I would love to suggest to when you visit India, plan your visit during spring or autumn when we celebrate the most colourful and dazzling festivals viz Holi and Diwali respectively. 🙂

  20. Indian people are very very nice! They are good in nature! This is why some people find this very weird or naive or something! I think even though you read about other experiences , you have to do some mistakes! maybe the same mistakes! great post!!


  21. As usual love how well you know my country. And yes as you say staying safe is key. I go you trust when you are travelling alone is very important. And Paharganj is not really the true delhi. If one wants to spend more one should stay in South delhi or Gurgaon and you will not find the neon lights.
    Also now you can book your train and your bus tickets online in India. I know what a relief. And North Indians love their non-veg. They really do. I am one and we can have tandoori chicken even for breakfast

  22. It seems you’ve seen a small part of India but have discovered there’s a whole new world waiting at the end of the rabbit hole 🙂 Hope you make another trip to India soon, you can always buzz us if you need help with the planning 🙂

  23. Joanna, India has got to be one of the places most people could go to and experience culture shock! I find the customs and traditions so different. I guess that is part of the appeal of visiting.

    As is the case wherever one goes, health and safety is important. I tend to stick to bottled water and choose the food I eat. As for safety, in any new place I go to, I check out not only blogs, but forums for travellers. Usually, I find info on how scams and schemes work especially those preying on tourists.

    I can’t count the number of times I could have been ‘tricked’ had I not already read about it and recognized what was happening.

  24. I’m from India and it really feels great to see that you loved my country. Each and every point in your post is true. I’d suggest to visit India in October and march when we celebrate the Holi and Durga Puja. and let’s not forget about Diwali which is celebrated in India in autumn or spring.

  25. oh yes, cultural shock is something inevitable in India. But , I guess that’s the fun element while travelling to this country. i am from India and I still find it hard to manage so many diverse cultures at the same place. but I guess thats where the beauty of the country lies in. 🙂

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