20 Top Tips for Traveling to India Alone

One thing everyone has on their bucket list is to travel solo. One perfect location for your solo trip is India. Traveling alone gives you a chance to get to know yourself better spiritually and emotionally. It is the perfect chance to trek a mountain or enjoy the beach. And you also don't have to worry about the plans or schedule set by your companion or fellow traveler.

A solo trip to India is a must for everyone as it gives you a different type of freedom. Also, when you step out of your comfort zone amazing things happen. It will give you a perfect chance to taste the local cuisine, meet new people, learn about Indian culture, and maybe make some new friends.

There are a lot of articles that would talk about travel tips and what to do in India, where to go, how to enjoy and so on. But, there will be less articles which will suggest you what should you not do in your trip to India. What are the points that are least recommended for anyone visiting India?

Keep reading to read the top tips for travel to India and things which you should keep in mind while traveling in India. Here are some of the tips that will really help you to integrate in India when you visit it.

Let's check out the things you need to avoid doing in India while traveling solo.

1. Plan on the places to visit

You will be awe-struck by the mostly harmonious coexistence of so many different religions and peoples. You can witness those mountains, deserts and beaches that you saw on the television or on postcards, and they are even more stunning in reality. Maybe you also have a spiritual awakening. Spend time in an ashram and study yoga and get a new perspective of life.

You can learn to appreciate the little things, and resolve that, when you return home, you will spend more time nurturing your inner self. You find that India is vast and exotic and intense and nourishing and challenging all at once. You find that India is a riddle that you cannot comprehend, a paradox that transcends reasoning. You love and hate India at the same time.

Often female travelers indulging in solo trips shun the thought of visiting several parts of India due to safety issues. Though few cities and parts of India are considered to be a bit daunting for solo female globetrotters, there are innumerable places that are not just safe but also invigorating to be in. Here is a compilation of destinations in India which are noted for their charm and also reputed to be female friendly.

The first thing that a person willing to travel has to do is planning his trip accordingly. For example, the person should know in advance about where he is going and what places he will be visiting there. Knowing all the routes and the order in which a person will visit all the sites is of paramount importance.

Getting some travel advisory before travel is recommended so that the person traveling has a know-how about the ground realities, as no matter from where one gets the knowledge, the only concrete information which is realistic comes from the local community living in that specific area.

For example, a person went to visit the pyramids and other historical buildings of Egypt. But he was not aware of the geography of the area. So, he ended up being scammed by several taxi drivers in that area. So, it is very important to not only do some research on an area, but also seek the opinion of locals about the current situation there.

There are many points to ponder when you’re traveling to India. For example, there are different things to consider when you’re visiting a part of Rajasthan compared to a place somewhere in Himachal Pradesh.

Rajasthan is quite hot and clothes with full sleeves should be brought there, while for Himachal Pradesh, a different set of wearable should be brought as the weather there is much colder. So, the requirements and items that should be brought with you on your travel varies a lot depending on the kind of area you are visiting.

When it is time to return your heart is heavy. A part of you has fallen in love with India and her people, and you know you will always cherish the experiences you’ve had here.

A lot of places have some or the other kind of historical importance. And definitely, all such histories may not be appealing to one person. For example, you may feel to dig into the history of Chittorgarh, but not in Bolpur. There is no mandate. Choice is yours. But, in case you feel to dig into the background of any historical place you plan to visit, try to surf internet as much as possible. You get interesting information many times.

If the place is being taken care by ASI, please try to collect their book or similar things about the place. This you can collect on the spot from their counter. Otherwise, if you know you'll be visiting such place in future and now you are at any other ASI counter, ask book on your interest place. Mostly all the counters have all the books.

A not so common, but very useful resource is historical novel. Try to read them frequently. So when you visit a place you have read of in form of a novel, you'll be able to connect to it better. No history is complete without its geography and surrounding.

2. Buy Stuff Depending on Weather

It is very important to have necessary information about the weather condition in the area you’re going to visit. It’s easier if the country where someone is going has a constant weather everywhere. The most common example of this is Switzerland, where weather in all areas remains very much constant.

But in a country like India which is very big, but also has all kinds of terrains, it’s very difficult for an outsider to know about the weather condition especially if he has never visited a country before.

So, communicating with the local community and doing research does a lot of good. If you buy a lot of stuff and intend to send it before you arrive, you can use a courier service to send it to India. It will work out to be much cheaper than you having to pay for excess baggage charges to your airline.

Similarly, visiting an area in a certain weather condition should be decided as well. There are some places which should be visited in winter but there are others which are ideal to be visited in the summer.

3. Eat Healthy Food

India is a country with a rich variety of cuisines. The food, when you get used to it, is amazing. It tantalizes your tongue and delights your palate in ways you did not know were possible. You eat with your hands and play with your food just like granny told you never to do. Always take light food, don't go for the spicy/heavy food, which might not suit you in the long run.

4. Learning the Local Language

When you’re traveling to any place, it is good to know the language of that place. This helps in integrating with the locals, and the community appreciates the effort to speak the language as well.

It is good if you can learn even a few basic words of the local language. For India, knowing how to speak a few words of Hindi is very helpful when interacting with the local population especially if you’re purchasing something from a shop. For Example, knowing how to say ‘hello’, ‘how are you’, ‘alright’ and counting in Hindi is really beneficial.

In India it’s polite to greet each person you meet in a house, say hello, make eye contact etc. You can say Vanakkam, Namaskara, or Namaste depending on where you are in India and put your hands together like you’re saying a prayer, this is an act of respect. This is not always necessary, you can just say hello to each person. If you happen to be in an Anglo Indian household or party then everyone will kiss each other on both cheeks.

Do not address elders by their name unless you are in a business meeting. It’s considered respectful to call people older than yourself aunty or uncle. Anyone you meet in a house, or at a party, you can call aunty or uncle. They will consider this very respectful. Cricket is religion. Do not express your dislike towards the sport. Do not start a religious sensitive or politically sensitive topic.

Talking about how much you earn or spend in any manner is in bad taste. Avoid the subject of money altogether if you do not wish to appear vulgar, ill-mannered or prying.

Any talk of religion that is not purely from a philosophical or sociological point of view and that smells even remotely of proselytism is an absolute no-go. Most French people are fiercely secular, whatever their own beliefs or lack of. Which you probably won’t see them discuss. Religion belongs in the home.

5. Carry Necessary Medication with You

When you’re visiting India, the hygiene is not as good as Europe or the developed countries. So, extra care must be taken while going anywhere, eating something or drinking water. But you should go prepared in any way whether you get ill or not. Medicines in India have different names than the ones you might find locally in the area you live in.

Similarly, if you've traveled to a far flung area which is under-developed in India, then you might not find a medical store at all for the medication you need.

If you’re suffering from a disease like Diabetes or are a patient of High Blood Pressure, it becomes compulsory for you to carry medicines with you. If you’re a patient of Asthma, then always carry an Inhaler with you during your journey.

6. Don’t keep a lot of money in cash

When you travel to tourist specific destinations, the threat of getting pick-pocketed is at quite a high level. For that purpose, don’t keep a lot of money in cash. Keep some money in cash all the time, but keep most of your money in a credit card. If it’s optimal, then keep a flexible pouch as well which carries not only your money, but also your other belongings like keys, passport and other important stuff during your travel journey.

Do not show pity on beggars. Stay away from the over friendly touts to avoid scams. Split cash in different locations in your luggage to reduce the risk of losing all money through pickpocket.

There is nothing like money less travel. You can carry a tent, couch surf or stay at temples, ashrams and save on cost. You can walk, hitchhike, cycle to not pay for covering distance. But still you need to eat. Sure, you can eat at gurudwaras, langars. Probably, if you're doing temple circuits, like narmada parikrama, mata na madh etc. or if you're in punjab, You don't really need to carry money.

Even though this won't cost much, it also means you stick to those predetermined trails and timings. There isn't much leeway unless you can go hungry for a day or two, which is not wise if you're on a long journey. Even in all the above cases, someone else is spending for you. Only no one is asking for a price. Same when some one hosts you. So it's only MY money-less travel.

If you're clear about it, then its not an issue at all. Our culture actually promotes it. Its an excrcise in humility. To be a begger, a seeker, just to show that what you've is temporary and you may easily loose it. It's a lesson in kindness. Maybe you can keep track of how much was spent on you while you're on road? Another statistic to keep like kms and days?

7. Don’t Restrict Yourself to the Comfort of Your Hotel Room

When you go to travel to India, never restrict yourself to your hotel room in the city you live in. India is much more than seeing the buildings of the big cities. Rather than doing that, try to go outside the cities and visit villages to find out the real beauty of India. The local people living in rural areas are more pure and closer to nature.

The air in villages is really fresh and clean as it does not contain the smoke and impurities that the air in cities contain. The people of the villages are very hospitable and friendly.

The villagers really like it when someone comes to visit their place. They tend to take really good care of local guests let alone foreigners. So, do not limit yourself to the views of the cities in India. More than 65% of India’s population lives in rural areas, so you’ll be missing a hefty chunk of the Indian natural beauty if you do not end up visiting villages during your trip to India.

8. Public Display of Affection in India

Indian’s are quite conservative and won’t even hold hands in public most of the time, so kissing and hugging is very much seen as rude and even obscene. Starting from honeymoon capitals of the country, the hill stations of Darjeeling and Shimla to the Venice of East, Kerala, to the Taj Mahal you are entitled to enjoy a Hollywood styled vacation. But, public display of affection is considered to be an offense by people in this country.

Public display of affection includes kissing and hugging of all kind. In some traditional spots, it is not a good idea to perform handshake with opposite gender. Public display of affection rule is also for couples and especially in public transport. To be on safer land, do not show off any affection in physical action if you are in a traditional area.

Ultra modern Indian cities can approve certain form of display of affection, but when it comes from a foreigner, there are a lot of people who find it offensive. And to tell you what all constitute PDA- even a light hug, peck on the head, cheek, or arms over the shoulder is PDA. While, pretty much 90% India is still to be accustomed with PDA, in Tamil Nadu, this is at a different level altogether, while PDA would be okay in say- posh regions of Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata etc, in Chennai it still isn't.

Get ready for unwanted stares, frowns and in some, if you are young enough- reprimand by some senior citizens or police/security. More importantly, if someone reprimands you do not argue. Do not expect, just because people around you are young, they'd be okay with PDA. Even youngsters are raised to be conservative.

9. Don’t use your left hand

Blame it on superstition or culture shock, left hand and left foot are considered to be bad. Indians’ don’t use their left hand to hand over anything like money in a shop, or to receive something. This is because they see the left hand as dirty, since they use it when they go to the toilet. Indian’s use their left hand to go to the toilet, and they use their right hand to eat.

So eating with your left hand is seen as pretty disgusting. An Indian is unlikely to tell you they think it’s disgusting and may take into account that you are a foreigner so probably don’t use your hand to in the toilet.

You should not accept or give anything with your left hand. On the same rule, you are no supposed to enter a place with your left foot first. If you are a left hander, you might find it a bit hard, but try to remember this rule. If you want to try to eat with your hand only use your right hand.

Don’t point with your finger. It’s seen as rude to point with your finger, it’s better to use your whole hand or even gesture with your face or chin. You may notice Indian’s “pointing” with their chin in a certain direction rather than pointing with a finger.

If you are using your hand in a “come hither” motion, Indian’s will do it with their fingers pointing down rather than up. If you wish to motion to come here to someone like a waiter or a child, point your hand down instead of up.

10. Don’t touch anyone with your feet

Feet are seen as dirty (especially the soles of your feet) so don’t use them to touch anthing or anyone. While talking about foot, you need to know that you are offending someone if your foot touches someone no matter whether it was intentional or whether the person is younger to you. You are supposed to express apologies immediately. Touching foot of elders is considered as a blessing. Thus, do not expect apology when an elder’s foot touches you.

11. Dress Conservatively in India

India is a place which seems liberal from the outside but it’s mostly conservative except the posh areas of the city. If you are not wanting to draw attention to yourself then it’s worth having a look at how the people around you are dressed and then follow suit. Most women won’t wear very short skirts or shorts, if they do they may have comments passed at them.

So, you must not wear dresses like skirt or any other dress which uncovers your body. Bring full sleeve shirts and jeans with you. If you are going to a night club then it’s OK to dress in short shorts, low cut tops etc.

You will definitely want to follow these guidelines if you enter a temple or place of worship. Also, while visiting the Gurdwara or any temple, it is necessary to cover your head, and don’t go against the religious beliefs of the people in any way. You’re getting yourself in trouble big time if you do so. So, to blend in with the public and not attracting any unwanted attention, it is imperative to wear conservative dresses.

You can find all kinds of women's dress in India especially in big cities. Starting from traditional wear like sari and dhoti to western styled dress like jean, jersey and so on, you can find diverse styled clothes in India. You can also find a lot of people wearing extremely glamorous dresses.

But, as a foreigner you should not be dressing in India in any way that is considered to be glamorous. You need not stick to traditional wear. You need to wear a dress that covers most of your body parts except hands, foot from knee below and no cleavage.

Some auspicious spots like temples would not allow most western wear. If you are wearing one, you would be requested to enter the premises after wearing a shawl over your upper body. Learn about rules in spots you are about to visit in prior to avoid any problems.

If you going to a club, wear anything you want or if touring Goa, Bombay or other big cities.

12. Drinking in India

A pint in a brewery in India can cost around 50 or 100 rupees, although the most distinguished bars and restaurants can charge much more. Kingfisher beer is the most famous in the country. There is a milder variety, called Kingfisher Blue with 8% alcohol. There is also the Kingfisher Premium that has more flavor and 4.8% alcohol.

Stout beer lovers appreciate the Black Haywards, a strong dark beer with 8% alcohol, and a strong sweet malt flavor and, apparently, traces of caramel. There are different varieties such as Haywards (7% alcohol), Haywards 2000 (5% alcohol) and for the strongest Haywards 10000 (8% alcohol).

Royal Challenge Premium is quite a beer with a lot of body and flavor. Kalyani Black Label is another of the classic beers of the country and one of the oldest and most popular in eastern India, especially in the cities of Calcutta and Delhi. Its alcohol content is 7.8%, so it has a mild flavor without being too strong and also has a sweet taste.

Kings beer invites you to the beautiful beaches of Goa for a pint of Kings, since this beer is only manufactured and sold in the state of Goa. It is well known for its aroma of smoked malt. It has an alcohol content of 4.85% and it is quite economical, since a 375ml bottle costs around 50 rupees.

13. Gifting Rule in India

Don’t just hand it over with one hand, give it with both hands. Also if you are inviting someone close to you to an event (such as a wedding) it’s seen as more respectful to go to their house and give the invitation in person. People who are close to you will expect this, and may be slightly offended if you just send the card in the mail.

Visiting someone at their home without a gift is considered as a offense in many places. Do not pick up a bottle of wine for gift. It is offensive too. Find out whether they consume meat or not. Gifting something related to meat to someone who is vegan is considered offensive too. Do not gift white flowers or any object made of animal skin. They are considered to be bad omen by many.

It is always better to stick to basics and buy a box of chocolate when you visit someone's house. If they offer something to eat, do not refuse it. At least have a part of it. It is considered hostile to reject what they offer to eat.

14. Take off your shoes

When you enter a shop or someone’s house you may see pairs of shoes as you enter the door. This is a pretty good sign that the cultural norm here would be to remove your shoes. This will be in shops on a street, not in a mall. Also remember to remove your footwear before entering someone's house even if they insist on you putting it on.

Now you may wonder why do people remove their shoes? Well it actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it for a moment. Your shoes have been walking around outside on who knows what messes, dirt, dust, germs, and possibly worse. If you wear them inside you are very likely bringing all that mess into someone’s house, or shop.

15. Don't ask for beef

India is a highly religious country, and cows are considered sacred here. So, avoid asking for beef anywhere in India. Even asking for beef here can get you into huge trouble. Cows can be seen wandering around the country freely, so asking for beef is a big insult to the culture here. Do not hurt a cow. Beef is available in many restaurants but, do not expect in every place.

16. Don't drink tap water

Avoid tap water and drink only bottled water to stay healthy. Drinking tap water or unfiltered water while on a trip to India is one of the worst mistakes you can do. It will make you sick, and your trip will be spoiled. Drink only bottled water and ensure that it is good water and not tap water disguised as branded mineral water.

Also, make sure that whatever liquid items like juice, milkshake, or lemon water, you get is made using bottled water and clean ice. If you shy about specifying these things, you will pay the price by getting ill and delaying your trip.

17. Don’t be too punctual

If you are invited to a function, don’t show up too close to the time it was advertised, as you will likely be the only person there, and the host may not be ready. You are better to be at least 30 minutes to an hour late, and you will still find you are one of the first to arrive.

18. Travelling via Delhi Metro

The most empty coaches are the second and the last one. Never board the coach right next to the stairs or lifts. These will be very crowded. For Dwarka route, the metros arrive at an interval of 1 minute and then 3 minutes. Always try to board the 1 minute one as it is empty. For Noida route, Vaishali metro is fairly empty during mornings.

In yellow line, never stand near the opposite gates. It is impossible to get out during rush hours. For Rajiv Chowk metro station, 1–4 gates will lead you to the towards Noida route and the 5–8 will lead you to Vaishali route. Yellow line is equally accessible through both of them. Never ever buy anything from those shops on the metro station (Rajiv Chowk, Rajouri, Kashmere Gate). They sell super overpriced items.

Keep your bags in front of you and clasp your hands onto the zipper/latch of the bag. Always carry a pair of earphones to zone out the BS around you. If you can, just stand. If you are offering someone your seat, make sure you call them first. Keep changing your routes and coaches regularly. Never scold/touch someone else’s child.

19. Add a luggage lock

A small padlock is a great theft-deterrent, especially if you will be traveling on trains or buses. Make sure your suitcase or backpack has lockable zippers. There will always be places where pickpocketing is common. A simple solution to the problem is to wear shorts that have zipper pockets.

20. Having a small budget

India is a big country, and with increasing prices, you cannot complete your trip in a small budget. So, make sure that you carry enough cash or cards with you. Also, if you think that hotels or restaurants are charging you more, it is not true. You get the same rate more or less as rest of the Indian tourists. Only local residents of the region get discounted rates.

Some of the most dangerous diseases are carried by daytime mosquitos. Dengue fever, for example, is usually transmitted during the day. So you should also put repellant on then if you're in moist forestry areas. India can be a land of various superstition and rules. But, it is a land of love too.

People understand that you are new to the Indian culture and they do not expect you to follow most of their culture. But, a very few consider that offensive. To be on safer side, it is better to avoid such acts and follow our tips for traveling to India.

Engage in soul-searching, enjoy your independence and feel empowered as your embark on your solo trip. It’s your time to don your travelling shoes and explore the country all by yourself! So, your next trip to India has to be a solo trip and trust me you will have amazing stories to tell others. I hope these tips will help you avoid any unpleasant experience in India. Keep these in mind and have the best time of your life.
Kalyan Panja