10 Things To Do Before Visiting India

Till now, I have majorly focussed on Indians and people from other parts of the world visiting the US and tried to solve the problems that they may encounter during their visit to America.

This time, I thought of twisting things around a bit and talk about what Americans wanting to visit India for the first time should know.

Attracted by the exotic culture, welcoming people and wide diversity, Americans are increasingly making their way to India each year.

However, travelling to India can be a big challenge if you are completely unaware of what the country has in store for you.

10 Things to Do Before Traveling to India

Let’s start with the first one.

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1. Visa to Travel to India

To visit to India for any purpose, US citizens need to have a valid passport and valid Indian visa. Americans can apply for the visa at the Indian embassy or a consulate in their own country.

The major consulates are located in cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago, while the Indian Embassy is in Washington, DC. It will take around 3-5 days for the processing of your visa application.

However, the time can extend, depending on certain circumstances. It is best to apply for a visa online to save time and effort.

2. Get Insurance

Americans, in their home country, use domestic insurance and Medicare to take care of any medical emergency.

However, you’ll have to invest in a good travel medical insurance policy when visiting India, since American domestic insurance and Medicare do not provide coverage and medical evacuation outside the United States national borders.

3. Vaccinations

Given the number of slums and rural areas India has, the country hasn’t managed to get a clean chit in terms of cleanliness and health.

It is always advisable for a foreigner visiting India to be up-to-date with specific vaccinations, such as those for polio, rabies, Hepatitis A and B and typhoid.

Most importantly, Americans are advised to run a course of anti-malarial drugs, since malaria is highly common in India.

Related: Vaccinations to get when traveling to India

4. Pack Certain Medicines

As I mentioned earlier, hygiene is still questionable in some parts of India and can play havoc on visitors’ digestive systems, especially through water.

I will advise you to carry iodine tablets for use in water that is not sealed. Don’t forget medication for diarrhea, which is evitable, in a maximum number of cases, after you have tried street food being sold at an unhygienic place.

5. Travel by Plane

India offers services like of trains and buses to travel long distances.

However, given the fact that these are not only time-consuming but incredibly crowded forms of transport in India, the smartest way to travel between cities in India is by air for long distances and rented cars for short distances.

6. Research India’s Dress Code

If you want to explore India’s culture to the fullest, the best way is to dress the way Indians do. At holy places, like temples, mosques and gurudwaras, you’ll also need to cover your head as a rule.

7. Do not Pack Revealing Clothes

India has a bad reputation when it comes to the safety of women. Eve-teasing and sexual harassment is highly common in the country.

Tank tops and shorts will only attract strange looks, which might even turn unsafe.

8. Learn the Skill of Bargaining

You cannot buy things in India without bargaining; else you’ll be left with the feeling of having been cheated.

As a foreigner, you will need this skill even more, since street vendors tend to hike prices when they see non-Indians.

9. Prepare Yourself for India’s Pollution

The Indian environment is full of dust and pollution, given the excess traffic the country has. Buy some face masks and scarves beforehand. You’ll need them.

10. Do Not Give Money to Beggars

Beggars in India often target foreigners and do not let them go without taking money. However, begging is illegal in India.

If you find someone really needy, give them food or cookies, instead of cash.

India is a beautiful place, enjoy your visit!

When you visit India, the most important thing you’ll have to take care of is your safety and your belongings.

I recommend that you learn about India, the destinations you’ll visit and make bookings accordingly to avoid having to ask strangers for help.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What vaccinations do I need before visiting India?

Vaccinations for Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus, and Polio are commonly recommended. Depending on your planned activities and regions to visit, you might also consider vaccinations for Hepatitis B, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, and Yellow Fever.

2. Do I need a visa to visit India?

Yes, most foreign nationals, including US citizens, need a visa to visit India. You can apply for an e-Visa online before your trip.

3. How should I handle money while traveling in India?

India is still a predominantly cash-based society, especially in rural areas and for small vendors. Carry some Indian Rupees for local purchases. Credit cards are accepted in larger establishments and cities.

4. Is travel insurance necessary for a trip to India?

Yes, it’s recommended to have travel insurance to cover any potential medical emergencies, trip cancellations, or loss of belongings.

5. What should I pack for a trip to India?

Pack lightweight clothing for the tropical climate, but also modest attire for religious sites. Don’t forget essentials like a good insect repellent, sunscreen, universal power adapter, and personal hygiene items.

6. Do I need to book accommodation in advance?

While not always necessary, it’s generally a good idea to book at least your first few nights of accommodation in advance, especially during peak tourist season.

7. Is it safe to drink tap water in India?

Drinking tap water isn’t recommended in India. Stick to bottled water and avoid ice in drinks unless you know it’s made from purified water.

8. What kind of food precautions should I take?

Avoid street food if your stomach is not used to it. Stick to cooked foods and avoid salads or fruits that can’t be peeled.

9. Is it necessary to learn Hindi before visiting India?

While not necessary, learning a few basic phrases in Hindi can enhance your travel experience. However, English is widely spoken in major cities and tourist areas.

10. Do I need an international driving license to drive in India?

Yes, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is required if you plan to drive in India.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to check for the most current information from reputable sources as these details can change.

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Mani Karthik

About the Author

Mani Karthik

Ex “NRI” and Founder of the “Back to India” movement. I share my experience about immigrating to USA here.

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