India Travel Advice
India Travel Advice
Written for Startbackpacking.com by Ayal Mesher
(if you haven’t, go read Part 1 to this series – India Travel Tips)
India Travel Advice for Food
Many Indians are vegetarians. They do eat dairy and eggs but getting vegetarian dishes, and vegan if you are careful, is not difficult. At the same time there are varying diets in India just as everywhere else. Some Indians eat only fish while others will eat just about any meat. You will have no problems finding meat on menus in India and it can actually be more of a task to find a vegetarian only restaurant. It will, however, be very difficult to find beef (holy to Hindus) or pork (holy to Muslims).
Indians eat with their hands. They use spoons to serve the food from the pots but then they use either a bread (naan or roti) or rice to soak up saucy dishes or daal (lentils). When using rice, make a ball of rice using the sauce and vegetables to make it stick. You can work it for a second so that you don’t dribble it all down your chin. Then cup it in your fingers and use your thumb to pop it into your mouth.
If you haven’t mastered eating with your hands, ask for a utensil. Most restaurants in cities and the more touristy ones outside of cities will have forks and spoons on hand. The smaller restaurants, especially Thali shops, might be confused for a second, then scramble around and end up handing you an oversized serving spoon. They won’t be offended, but it might be just as awkward to eat with a spoon that big as to use your hand. Also, it is technically rude to eat with your left hand. That includes using it to help tear roti, but not many people will care and no one will say anything. Make sure to wash your hands before and after your meal. If there is not a sink or washbasin around they will probably bring you a small bowl of warm water, often with lemon in it.
Thali shops are an excellent bet for a cheap lunch. It starts with a banana leaf on your table and you will get a large amount of rice dumped on that. Next they will come around with some daal, curry, and pickle. They are usually all you can eat and a server will just continue to fill you up until you wave them off or roll up your banana leaf.
Eat the Indian food! If you don’t like it, you’re traveling in the wrong country. They’ve been making this food for longer than they’ve been making Western food and they have the ingredients they need, instead of needing to import supplies. A lot of cheese in India (unless its paneer, Indian cottage cheese) comes from a can and not the spray can. More like a tuna can. The point is, if you are worried about getting sick, the Indian food is a much safer bet.
India Travel Advice: Beaches
An important part of traveling in Southern India is the beautiful beaches. There is nothing quite like a tropical Indian sunset. For the most beautiful and tourist laden beaches in India head for Goa. If you try, you can find quiet beaches there, but if solitude is really what you are looking for there are plenty of unfrequented beaches further south and on the East coast of India.
Beaches in the larger cities can be popular, such as in Mumbai or Chennai, but are usually dirty and have polluted waters. Although that doesn’t stop the locals- so jump in!
India travel advice for money
ATMs are in most places and will accept foreign cards. However, it is important to make sure you have enough cash to get back to a major city, in case you cannot find one in a local town.
Large notes can be hard to break. 500 rupee notes can often be used to pay for your room, train ticket, or at fancier restaurants. 1000 rupee notes are a pain anywhere.
Don’t accept torn, damaged, or dirty money. You know it’s still good, they know it’s still good but it’s easier to not accept it in the first place than to try to get rid of it. If you do end up with someone who will not accept a damaged bill, a taxi driver for example, just stuff it in his pocket and walk away. He knows its still good money, but he doesn’t want it for the same reason you don’t: it’s harder to spend because someone else doesn’t want it, and so the cycle continues.
Almost all prices are negotiable. The exceptions are usually: restaurants, Western style malls or stores, and anything government run (like trains or tourist attractions). Always haggle. The first price is never the right one. If they won’t haggle at all it is not because they gave you a fair price but because the next tourist will pay. Walk away. If they don’t call after you with a better price, the guy in the next stall, who just heard everything, will offer you a “deal”.
Meet the Author of India Travel Tips:
Ayal Mesher lives in California and spends most of his day job planning for his next trip. He can’t wait to experience a new land and a fabulous adventure, but he always remembers, “once I get gone, I miss my home.”