India

1. Taj Mahal, Agra

India is such a vast country that although I visited it recently, I don’t claim that I know the nation or her people well. My friends and I spent just about five days visiting the Golden Triangle of New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur but much time was spent on the three road trips that lasted five to six hours each.

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2. Agra Fort, Agra

Even so, after doing my research and speaking to people who have travelled to India more times than I have, plus my own experience, here is a list which I have compiled that would ensure your preparation for a trip to India is a lot easier.

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3. Agra Fort, Agra

1) Vaccinations

Although I did not personally get any vaccinations prior to my trip to India, there are two injections that one could get: against Hepatitis A and Influenza. Allow at least three months to complete the course before your trip.

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4. Amber Fort across Lake Moata in Jaipur

2) Avoid the Delhi Belly

This is the dreaded stomach and intestinal infection that one could get from drinking contaminated water or eating raw food that has been contaminated by such water in India. It strikes the best of us and it upsets not just one’s stomach, but also travel plans.

What you can do is to avoid drinking water from unknown sources, such as tap water, ice cubes and opened bottles, or eating exposed fruits or salads.

Only drink bottled water of these brands: Bisleri, Kinley, Aquafina and Catch, a local brand but has been proven fine.

Even for brushing teeth, mineral water should be used.

To prepare my guts, I took a month’s worth of probiotics before I left for India. Also, if you could get hold of a bottle of olive leaf extract, spray it in your mouth every morning while in India as it lines your stomach and helps increase your immunity.

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5. ascending Amber Fort in Jeeps

3) Carry your passport with you

This is not only a safety measure because you don’t want to leave such an important document at the hotel. A reliable source has warned us that foreigners are stopped by the Indian police all the time and made to show their identity. If you can’t produce any identification, they could make life difficult for you.

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6. view of the village from Amber Fort, Jaipur

4) English is the medium of communication

Being a former British colony, almost everyone in India speaks English. Those who are involved in the tourism industry, even young street children, can speak a smattering of other foreign languages.

Although one could communicate comfortably with Indians in English, the only word they don’t understand is “No”. Street vendors whom you reject by saying “no” will take that as a challenge and try even harder to sell their wares to you.

Even for those Indians who are not trying to sell you anything, you hardly would hear a “no” from them. Ask them to help you with anything, it is always a “can” and “yes”. Well, it’s up to you to believe/trust them.

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7. visitors to Amber Fort in Jaipur can also opt for the elephant ride at Rs1200 per animal

5) Put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign

My friend passed me this tip just before my flight. Even though I stayed at star-rated hotels, I heeded his advice. India observes a tipping culture which is fine if you have used their service(s).

The problem is that hotel staff could come knocking at your door to check on this and that, ask if all is good for you, and refuse to leave!

So, what do you do but to tip him so that he would leave your room? And before you know it, another staff would come knocking at your door shortly after that! And another, and another…..

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8. leaving Amber Fort in a Jeep

6) Keep small change of 10 Rupees handy

It always helps to have small change handy for street kids or for the use of public toilets. 10 Rupees is the smallest note available. Street beggars would try to get money from you. It’s up to you to give or not but realise that by giving to one person, you are inviting the rest to swamp you.

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9. Hawa Mahal (Wind Palace) in Johri Bazaar, Jaipur

7) Bargain

Almost everywhere you go shopping, you can bargain the price lower, even when it is stated as a “fixed price” item. If you purchase from street vendors, the more desperate they are to offload their goods to you, the lower they can go on the price, so that they can get some cash from you.

This doesn’t mean that you should press them so low that they don’t get to survive. Let it go if it’s just, say, 20 Rupees. The amount wouldn’t make him rich or would it make you poor.

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10. Fatehpur Sikri

8) The barter system is still practised

Believe it or not, a friend got himself a small souvenir in Jaipur in exchange for a shawl. Whether it was worth the value, my friend thought it was a good deal when he was made that offer.

In New Delhi, a vendor also offered to exchange his saree for my watch. I declined.

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11. on the streets of Delhi

9) Be prepared for spicy food

India is a land of curries. All sorts of spicy food is available, and it is too bad that not everyone can stomach that amount of spices. I witnessed with my own eyes a young tourist who suffered a severe gastric attack while he and his parents were touring Amber Fort in Jaipur.

So, watch what you eat and understand your body.

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12. at a textile factory

10) Local SIM / mobile data card

When in India, recommended telcos are Airtel or Vodafone.

These are required at the point of purchase:
– 2 copies of colour passport photographs
– photocopy of the personal details page of your passport
– photocopy of your Indian visa
– photocopy of document to prove your home address in your country of residence (passport, driving licence, MyKad)
– proof of where you will be staying in India
– proof of father’s name

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13. in Parliament House, New Delhi

SIM card is activated within 24 hours (at the earliest), after a confirmation call is made to your mobile phone for verifying the details provided in your application. However, you need to be in the same city of purchase when it is being activated.

If you are travelling to several locations in India, you need to get roaming activated on the SIM. The SIM card is only valid for a three-month period after which it will have to be reactivated.

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14. to Sarojini Nagar Market, New Delhi

If you plan a long trip to India, it is worth this hassle. If it is a short trip, and it is essential for you to have a local number or mobile data, you can purchase a pre-activated card. Usually your tour guide can settle this for you. However, be prepared to pay up to Rs1000 for the card.

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15. visitors in colourful rented costumes get ready for a photo shoot across the Water Palace (Summer Palace)

As you can see from my list, I made no mention about keeping your belongings safe or to not follow strangers around. These are safety precautions that we observe wherever we are, even in our own hometown.

No doubt, many people carry a negative perception about India due to the many violent sex crimes in the recent past but if you are visiting in a group or stick to a couple of trusted friends, India will take your breath away, even if they are just ruins of palaces and old cities.

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16. a street vendor

Also, India will make you realise how you have taken for granted clean water and fresh air. Also, the comfortable life that you lead at home.

So, would I recommend India to you? Yes, but open up your mind to the colours and sounds of India and you will enjoy the country a whole lot more.

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With love

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