India is massive.
No seriously, it’s massive.
Only one of two subcontinents of the world – it’s the kind of country where you can take a 16-hour train ride, and still only move half a centimetre on the map.
And because of this, we thought we’d attempt to do it justice and write two articles based on the north and south of incredible India.
So, here’s your go-to guide for the southern states…
1. Start taking probiotics two weeks before you leave
Trust us, Delhi belly is not something you want ruining your holiday. Alternatively, eat the local yoghurt – full of natural goodness to make sure you don’t fall ill.
2. Don’t bring white clothes
Trust me, they’ll just be ruined after days of wandering. Do as the Indians do and just wear colours, all the time.
3. Cover yourself up
This one especially goes out to women.
As a white person, you’re going to be stared at. And as a white woman, you’re going to be stared at all the time. But don’t be nervous, it’s totally harmless – locals are just fascinated with tourists.
The only time stares can feel intimidating is when you’re not covered. Legs are actually considered the most seductive part of the body over there, so make sure you wear long skirts or trousers like the locals – just carry a light scarf with you everywhere you go to avoid being stuck.
4. Indian headshakes are different to ours
While Western headshakes usually mean we’re saying ‘no’ to something, Indians shake their heads from left to right in a way of agreement.
So if you’re bartering with someone, and they shake their head from left to right – it means you’ve got a deal!
Hard to get your head around (literally) but it’s infectious once you do.
5. Don’t pet the dogs
As hard as this may be – this may save you a trip to hospital. Just don’t do it.
6. Be careful when buying water
As you probably already know, tap water is a no-go. So sticking to bottled water is key.
However, keep an eye out for bottles that look like they’ve been tampered with. This happens often, and it’s important to be vigilant.
7. Each state has its own language
So beware that if you’re travelling through states – you’ll be inundated with different dialects, words and structure. Just something to bear in mind before you read up on some Hindi.
8. Always keep extra cash on you
ATMs are few and far between, and even when you find one, it may not be working. Always keep contingency cash on you for emergencies.
9. Public transport is amazing yet chaotic
Upon arriving at a bus station, all you can do is listen out for your destination – as all the drivers and their team will be shouting it from their different buses.
It’s mental and chaotic and you’ll be in competition with 40,000 other Indians in an attempt to get a seat, but the general public is usually quite helpful – you’ll just have to keep your guard up.
10. Beware when you ask for spicy food
The more south you go, the spicier food gets. Let that be a warning to you.
However, for spice lovers – Kerala is heaven.
11. South India is tea country
Most of the world’s tea comes from India – so now’s your chance to tuck into the elixir of life right at the source.
Get stuck into some masala chai, the flavoursome tea drink all Indians drink on the reg.
12. Get a scooter
Bring your drivers licence (it’s often not necessary, but good to have incase you get stopped) and get some scenery in. Definitely the best way to get around.
13. Don’t be so afraid of the food
My advice is to go vegetarian, unless you’re somewhere super touristy. The fish can be great, but meat can be questionable at the best of times.
If you’re on a diet, go with local specialities like thali and dosa – some restaurants can be hit and miss, but when they get it right – it’s just the best ever.
14. Hampi is a haven for tourists
So much to see, eat and enjoy – this place is a favourite for everyone who visits. Full of yoga classes and friendly hostels – this is a perfect stop over for a few days of chill.
I’d recommend staying in Laughing Buddha – once you get there, you’ll know why.
15. Read something about India before you go
Ramcharands India after Ghandi helps to make sense of the various cultural and state boundaries and Shantaram is great for those travelling through Mumbai.
16. If you’re holding something sweet smelling or edible in your hand, monkeys will rob it
Just FYI. Keep stuff in your bag.
17. And finally, set up an online train booking account before you leave
And use trains often. Sleeper trains are great and super cheap – however, they’re really best booked online. So save yourself the hassle and do it before you go.
So, there you have it.
It’s a truly beautiful place, even though it’s seriously manic. The best thing to do is accept that you’re a tourist and enjoy every minute. Oh, and always keep water on you – you never know where your next water stop will be!