“Atithi Devo Bhavah” is an ancient Sanskrit saying in India, which means “Guest is God.” It is part of the Indian ethos to welcome guests into one’s home or one’s country with the utmost hospitality. This only adds to the enriching experience that a country so steeped in ancient traditions and rich cultural heritage has to offer.
According to a press note released by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, the highest Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) in India are from the United States of America. Coming from the West to a melting pot of culture like India can be a sensory overload for Americans. But don’t worry, forget all stereotypes, keep an open mind and you’ll be welcomed with open arms.
Having said that, India can be an adventure, even if you’re simply walking down the street. Here are a few tips and tricks for American travelers to stay safe and sane in India. (Also read: Vaccinations to take for American travelers to India)
Tips for American Travelers in India
- Before you exit the airport, book a prepaid taxi/cab. Avoid the local drivers that are available outside the airport, since they tend to overcharge foreign tourists. You can read more about the transport facilities provided to and from airports in India here.
- When in the taxi, give a precise location to be dropped off at and track your movements on Google Maps. Even if you don’t have a hotel booking, behave as if you do and if your driver suggests a different or “better” place to stay, simply and firmly refuse.
- Within the city use, Uber or its Indian alternative, Ola, for cabs. These are safer and also inexpensive for the level of convenience provided. If you are visiting Goa, you will have to rely on local taxi services, since these services are not available in Goa.
- If you are traveling on the Delhi Metro or a local bus, be cautious of your surroundings. Beware of pickpockets and discourage over-friendly behavior of strangers.
- Female travelers using the metro should board the “women only” compartment, which is always the first one in the direction of the train’s movement.
- Avoid traveling alone at night. Try to find a trustworthy companion if you absolutely have to travel after dark.
Staying & Accommodation
- If you’ve booked a room in a budget hotel, check it for faulty door locks, inspect the windows and mirrors carefully.
- Use online services like Expedia.com, Yatra.com, TripAdvisor.com to look for hotel reviews. Avoid shady looking hotels with bad reviews.
- Sometimes even the hotel staff might be involved in unscrupulous activities, so beware.
- Don’t trust anyone blindly. Be alert and have your guard on at all times.
- Lock all your baggage before leaving the hotel room and do not leave valuables lying around.
- Interact with families staying in the hotel, so that you know someone to turn to if something goes wrong.
- You are bound to get a lot of attention and stares in India. It is best to ignore or simply revert with a polite smile and move on.
- Female travelers are often advised to avoid smiling back or even make eye contact with local men.
- Although most Indians understand and speak (broken, if not fluent) English, try to learn a few useful local words and phrases for a smoother experience.
- Talk to locals and understand the general pricing of goods and services you might need. Foreigners are often overcharged. Also, learn to bargain.
- Firmly refuse any offers or suggestions that you are not comfortable accepting.
Every country has its own share of unscrupulous people and India is no different. However, what the country does offer is the warmth that goes beyond just the weather. So, pack your bags and keep ‘caution’ handy, this country has so much to offer that you don’t even need to look for fun, it’ll find you!