Going on a journey around India is a great experience for most tourists, and a fantastic memory for the rest of their lives. This applies to both tourists making a luxuriously arranged tour, and backpackers trying to live their life like the Indians during their trip through India. In this article, you can read what the highlights are according to most tourists going to India, to get the most out of your own trip through India. India is not a “normal” holiday destinations. For seasoned holiday goers/tourists, it is wise to closely read the tips at the bottom of this page before starting your journey.

A trip to India offers more than just the Taj Mahal

It does not often happen that the Taj Mahal is skipped during a trip to India. This mausoleum is the best known and most famed attraction of India. Many tourists start their trip in New Delhi and from there make a tour to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is. However, despite its famous status, many travellers do not consider the Taj Mahal the highest point of their trip. The most memorable experience for many tourists is the culture (shock) and the “regular life” on the streets.

The Taj Mahal in IndiaThe Taj Mahal in India

Few things in India are like you are used to back home. A valuable piece of advice is therefore to not just seek out the highlights, which like the Taj Mahal are mentioned on this page, but to also experience how the Indian people lives by visiting regular neighbourhoods. It can be useful to bring a guide, especially if you decide to visit the slums to submerge yourself in another world.

The highlights of a journey through India

Keeping the above-mentioned in mind; you naturally do want to grab a few important cultural and architectural highlights during your trip. And you can probably also appreciate the beautiful flora and fauna of India. According to tourists that preceded you, these are (in random order) the highlights of a journey through India:

  • The golden temple of Amritsar
  • The holy city Varanasi
  • The beaches of Goa
  • The golden city Jaisalmer
  • A ride on the back of an elephant
  • The Red Fort in New Delhi
  • Fort Ajmer in Jaipur
  • Fort Agra and the Taj Mahal (in Agra)
  • The Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya
  • The fishermen’s village of Mahabalipuram
  • The Meenakshi temple in Madurai
  • The erotic temples of Khajuraho
  • The Bengal tigers in the Bandhavgarh or Kanha national park
  • The temple of Ranakpu
  • Darjeeling (the city and the tea)
  • The monastery of Thiske
  • The Virupaksha temple in Hampi
  • The caves of Ellora

The impact of a journey through India

A journey through India can have a big impact; not just because of the memories of the wonderful highlights, but also due to exposure to the large differences between the life of the Indian people and the life you are used to at home. Income inequality in India is large: from extreme poverty to almost exaggerated wealth. Did you encounter a Rolls Royce dealer in what looks like a slum? In India, nobody would give it a second thought.

Do you experience a culture shock?

For many Indians, life is what it is; the caste system can lead many to believe that a better life simply isn’t in the books for them. Living frugally and accepting how it is will be rewarded in a next life by being born in a higher caste. This principle can be difficult to comprehend for many tourists, and combined with the poor living conditions of many Indians in the lower castes, can give an overwhelming sensation; the so-called culture shock. But a culture shock doesn’t just have to do with poverty. Norms and values in India are different from those in other countries. Ultimate happiness will be described differently by people in India than what you might expect. Take for instance the rituals in Hinduism; taking a bath in the holy river where a few feet ahead bodies are being cremated is not unusual in Varanasi. These and many other situations during your journey through India will leave a deep impression, and might impact you more than viewing the nice structures in the country.

Respect cultural differencesRespect the cultural differences

Respect the cultural differences

During your trip in India, you will encounter many situations where Indians make other social assessments than you might expect. For instance, travellers should not be surprised if an Indian person asks about their relationship or how much they earn. Although this can be considered rude in other countries, very personal questions are seen as connecting in India, as well as showing sincere interest. However, it is not recommended to ask personal questions back, as it can be difficult to know which subjects are loaded and better avoided. Political and religious subjects can be especially sensitive, even if this does not appear to be so at first. Read more about the culture and history of India.

Be wary during your trip

Despite the fact that most Indians are friendly people, it is not recommended to assume that everyone has good intentions. Try to travel in groups of at least two people as much as possible, and be wary when you are approached with exaggerated kindness by a stranger. Assume you are paying (way) too much if you do not haggle. Never give money to beggars; although this seems inhumane, it is strongly discouraged by the government of India as well as human rights organisations. Beggars are often forced to give up their gathered gifts to organised criminal gangs. If you do want to give something because a beggar evokes sympathy, give food or water. It can occur that this is not accepted, which confirms that the beggars are not begging for their own sake. Also be wary of water; only drink from bottles that are sealed and open with a click. There are many Indians that try to earn a little extra by filling empty bottles with polluted water and selling them as mineral water.

Relationships in public

In India, it is not considered polite to walk the streets scantily dressed, or to walk inside of houses with your shoes on. Outside of the beach resort Goa, it is therefore strongly recommended avoiding wearing very short trousers/skirts (especially for women). Showing affection in public is also a sensitive subject. Even though it is perfectly normal to walk in the streets hand in hand, even for family and friends, making it obvious that a man and a woman are in a relationship is not common. Do not assume during your trip that men walking hand in hand are gay; this is purely a sign of friendship. The LGBT-community might be gaining ground, but showing relationships in public (regardless of the sexual orientation) is not common. Keep this in mind during your trip through India.

Flavours of IndiaFlavours of India

Coriander instead of steak for an entire trip

Be prepared not to encounter any beef during your trip through India. Even the famous American fast food chains don’t serve beef in India. The cow is a sacred animal for many people in India. Tourists who say they eat beef back home while in India are responded to in the same way as we might respond when someone tells us they enjoy a nice dog steak. Expect to mostly eat fish, chicken and vegetarian food during the trip. Which isn’t a disaster, as the food in India can be surprisingly tasty. Hygiene might be the biggest problem during your trip, as while the food in India is often delicious, it might not always be healthy for you. It can also occur that after returning from your trip, you might use a little less coriander, as this herb can be found in almost any dish in India. It is used as freely as we might use salt in our food. Find out more about health in India and recent travel advice for India.

Preparing a journey through India

A trip through India is best prepared for properly. For the best tips, you can purchase a travel guide to work out a nice route. Next, you buy the flight tickets or book your entire trip, and you are required to apply for an Indian visa online. Don’t forget the mandatory vaccinations, and also make sure to bring along anything you can use on your journey in India. With all this taken care of, you are set to enjoy a great holiday and journey through India!

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