Travel Guide-cum-checklist for Foreigners

New Age IndiaTravel
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Yes! India is fairly safe to travel in. There I said it just to answer this important question in the beginning. But being a complete stranger in a foreign country has its chill and thrill moments. And that is why you should follow a few common-sense precautions, though:

Petty theft, are, however, quite common to be honest but violent thefts are rare. Keep a secret stash of cash with you for emergencies, away from your wallet, probably in your undies.

Always carry a cellphone with you. If you have a fancy, attention-grabbing cellphone, carry a low end, cheap phone with good battery life and a torch as a backup. You get these for between INR1000 and INR2000 now (about USD25 to USD45). Cellphone coverage is fairly ubiquitous.

Know where you’re going. Know the public transport system of whatever city you’re going to be in. Know a local at whatever place you’re going to be at.

Have a map. Have a copy of your passport and other important documents. Keep a copy of this in your webmail account so you can get to them quickly if they’re stolen.

Don’t give money to beggars. Instead, carry a few small packets of biscuits and give them out instead, if they persist.

Read the news. Listen to the radio for updates too (you should be able to get a radio connection on your cellphone).

Walk purposefully and at a brisk pace. Don’t amble around and look lost.

Don’t walk around with a DSLR or fancy music players. These attract attention. A point and shoot, or a good cellphone, should be sufficient for most purposes. Be quick and discreet when you’re photographing, don’t give off the wide-eyed noob tourist vibe. It is not legal to take photographs in certain places and of certain things. Keep an eye out for boards or signs that prohibit photography. You do not want to get into a tussle with cops over photography.

Don’t carry a fanny pack. Nothing screams, “I’m a clueless tourist and you can rip me off!”, like a fanny pack does.

Carry mosquito repellent (body cream is best- you can buy this in India though, look for the local brand “Odomos”).

If you’re going to be traveling outside of major cities, carry addresses of your accommodation and destinations in the local language. In most cities, people should be able to read English- particularly transliterated from the local language, if not converse in it. Avoid peak travel hours (office rush hours) for traveling. Very early morning and late afternoons are usually great times to travel around a big city.

Don’t talk to touts and agents who offer to show you around the place, or to arrange for transportation for you. Almost every railway station and airport of any consequence has government owned stalls where you can book fixed rate or metered taxis and/or auto-rickshaws.

Keep the phone numbers of a few radio-cab companies with you, so you can call in for transportation if you’re stuck somewhere or aren’t sure about the availability of taxis or public transport in a given place. The numbers tend to be easy to remember, such as 44224422, 43434343, 41414141 (preceded by the city phone code). If your taxi or auto-rickshaw has a mechanical fare meter, the actual fare will not, in most cities, correspond to the meter reading. Don’t take the driver’s word for it, though, ask for a tariff card which provides the conversion rate.

Don’t let your purse dangle from one shoulder. Sling it across your torso so that the strap goes around the shoulder on the opposite side of your body where the purse is. Purse snatching is prevalent in crowded areas.

If you’re going to have to drive, please be very vigilant. Heck, you should be vigilant if you are so much as close to a road. Outside of cities like Bombay, traffic rules are pretty much non-existent.

If you plan to enter a place of worship, know the rules and expected behavior and etiquette. Avoid entering unless you have a person who is familiar with the specific religion with you. For example, when you enter a mosque, you should enter with your right foot first. You should take off your footwear before you enter a Hindu temple. You should cover your hair before you enter a Sikh gurudwara. And so on.


 
Avoid traveling through Naxalite areas. Not only do these areas have poorer security, Indian Railways typically does not allow trains to pass through these areas at night. This can cause unexpected delays in your schedule. Prefer using air transport if you must travel through Naxalite belts. Note that foreigners are not particularly targeted in these areas, anything tied to the Government of India is at risk.

Sexual harassment, lewd and lecherous behavior is prevalent. If you’re a woman traveling alone, you should consider carrying pepper spray. Be mindful about where you wear revealing clothing- places like Bombay and Goa are fine, but at many other places, you will get ogled at.

In general, respect local customs and traditions. “Local” is a key here- every city/region has its own quirks. What’s kosher in one area may be improper in another.

Be vigilant, discreet, polite, avoid loud or brash behavior; don’t walk around inebriated. Respect local laws.

If something important is stolen, like a passport or a cellphone, the first thing you should do is to visit the police station and ask to file a FIR (First Information Report- there are various types of complaints you can file, insist on an FIR). Dealing with the cops can be a pain in this regard, ask for assistance from your country’s consulate or embassy if need be.

Rest try to plan your visit once before visiting India and then after reaching India. These are just the guidelines not to scare your but to make you a Smart traveler and you can use these guidelines in any foreign country.

Jai Hind !!

 

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