I headed for India having only:
- A 10 kg backpack (including the 4 books I carried almost for nothing)
- A laptop that broke along the way. Fortunately, it didn’t break for good, it still works, but it’s obvious that it’s time for me to find a more practical solution for my adventures. Smaller, harder to break
- A 16-300 mm lens from F64, which was very useful and I highly recommend it to any traveler! It was so versatile especially because of it’s zoom capabilities, but also because it’s not that heavy/big. I was able to use it to capture so many faces, expressions, landscapes and food!
- Enough music in my phone
- A lot of overcomed fears and a crazy appetite for knowledge
- Apparently too many books. Again! And don’t start recommending portable solutions, I’m old school, I like to feel the book in my own hands.
We flew 18 hours, 18 short hours, with at least 4 hour layovers. We had one in Vienna, we had a comfortable sleep in Emirates airplanes, but not before testing their (almost) infinite entertainment possibilities.
First of all, I will try to put together a list of useful information about India.
- I didn’t wear sandals, because from my experience, they always break or hurt my feet. For me, sneakers are the best option. Even those that stink after wearing. I kept the ones I had in Iran, even though they stank through 3 bags. I kept them and after I washed them, everything was ok.
It’s best to be careful what fruits you eat. I usually don’t eat fruit, not even when I trust the source, but I love juice and fruit-shakes. In India I absolutely loved Slice (mango nectar).
I din’t use the water-purification tablets at all. You can find bottled water everywhere.
India was a british colony, so they drive on the left side of the road (at least theoretically, because in practise, everyone is free to drive as they wish).
The official currency is the Indian Rupee. The exchange rate was 61 rupees for 1 USD, and 17 rupees for 1 RON. To make things easier, I decided to divide by 20 to make the conversion.
How cheap is India?
I must say, I was really surprised and delighted to find out India is a very cheap destination. I payed 15 RON for a double room in Varanasi, and 12 to 20 USD in New Delhi. My total budget for 2 weeks in India was 500 dollars, which were enough for:
– Mumbai – Delhi plane tickets (around 50 USD);
– Agra – Varanasi round-trip train tickets, Varanasi – Delhi – 63 USD, which was in fact a total rip-off, we were in a hurry so we didn’t think it through. Because the train ride took too long, we also bought:
– Varanasi – Delhi plane ticket – 53 USD
– Jaipur – Mumbai plane ticket – 66 USD.
Wow, now that I see it all laid down, I realize I threw away almost half my budget on transportation. But still, the other half was enough for 2 weeks, I even bought some souvenirs for my friends and family, more diverse stuff than usual: tea, condiments, a lot of incense sticks, sweets and scarves.
A bottle of water is 10 to 30 rupees at most. I wanted to experiment India in every possible way, so I paid 20-30 rupees for street food (in places where it looked safe, where they burned all the bacteria in front of me J), but I also had some food in a more touristic place, in a very nice restaurant, with candles on the tables, fancy and exclusively for tourists, and I didn’t declare bankruptcy. I had noodles, water, soda, coffee, and paid 350 rupees at most, including the tip.
At HardRock Café in Mumbai we paid 2,000 rupees for 3 people one course and 2 or 3 soft drinks each.
How dangerous is India?
It took me a while to figure out what the answer to that question is, and you’ll probably don’t like the answer that I’m about to give you: I think it’s as dangerous as any other country.
First of all, India is extremely crowded so that’s one of the reasons it may seem dangerous. Women are fewer than men, and are getting fewer, and the society, in all it’s kindness, is very materialistic. But in an interesting way, they don’t see having money as a life goal, but relationships happen only in a “fair” exchange situation: men have to impress women by having the latest technology.
We rode 25 hours in a train with a group of young indians (18-22 y.o), all of them were complaining about the fact that it’s very hard to get a girlfriend if you don’t have money. So there are SOME circumstances for certain incidents.
Most of indians are hindus, they strongly believe in karma, do good to have good happen to you, money is a gift from the gods, through which they can achieve what they want in life. So they wouldn’t hurt a fly.
There are cases of all kinds of aggression in India, which isn’t surprising, considering the population! In the subway, in temples and crowded places, in general, people are constantly being checked with metal detectors, etc. This gives you a strong feeling of being safe. Police is everywhere. I never saw police in action while I was there, I didn’t witness any felony. Not even a traffic incident, in all that chaos (it really deserves a separate article).
In the end, I wouldn’t say India is a dangerous place. I wouldn’t go alone, but that’s a different story. It’s a country with a huge population, where things can happen: good and bad!
If you’re a woman (and even if you’re a guy), you will constantly be asked to take pictures with local people, or have your photo taken without your permission. Everybody (including locals) confirm the fact: they take pictures and say you are their partner, or use photoshop to undress you J. There were times when I absolutely refused to take photos: I was tired or I simply dind’t want to, because the people that were asking me didn’t seem trustworthy.
How dirty and stinky is India?
India is interesting, very interesting! But yes, it’s very dirty! It’s definitely the dirtiest country I’ve ever been to! I was expecting it to stink. I have heard horror stories about people who didn’t stand the smell anymore and came back home early. It’s not entirely true. India has many different smells: it sometimes smells like condiments, food, incense sticks, other times like sewage! Body odor and cow dung are also common smells. Cows freely roam the streets, so do monkeys.
India has a huge population, let’s not forget this. For example, there are over 22 mil people living in Mumbai. Altogheter with monkeys and cows, chicken, office buildings, expensive mansions, clay houses, tuk-tuks, luxurious cars, homeless people, drug addicts, etc…
The smell doesn’t kill you, though J. Of course it depends on how sensitive everyone is! But if your only argument for not going to India is the smell, it’s not a good enough argument.
India isn’t for everyone to see and understand, that’s for sure!
In the end
In conclusion, if you want to go to India, go right away! It’s a very photogenic country, with a lot of spiritual background, karma, much commotion, many people that want to sell you something (at a ridiculous low price, probably), it’s a country where negociation is an art taken to the next level, food has the most unexpected and interesting flavours!
Go without having any expectations. Get vaccinated before, always have toilet paper with you, and a cocoon to wrap yourself around with, in dirty trains or hotels.
Don’t worry and go with an open mind.
India also has many luxurious resorts and hotels, guided tours, pools and full services, for those of you who want to see this side of the country. It’s a land where everything is possible!