With India being less than a 4 hour flight away from the UAE, it really should be one of the more popular destinations for people who want a quick getaway and change of scenery from the Middle East. Yet somehow… it isn’t.
I recently spent a few days of leisure in India and upon my return, people seemed shocked that I had gone; enjoyed it and furthermore, not returned utterly sick. This got me thinking about how people perceive traveling to India. They are mostly-
-Off to find themselves/align their chakras in some yoga retreat at the foot of the Himalayas/by bathing in the Ganges (always white people)
-Off to buy copious amounts of blindingly yellow jewelry or an excessive amount of elaborate outfits for an opulent wedding (always brown people)
But did you know that you could go to India for the same reasons you travel to other places?! For relaxation, sightseeing and to enjoy culture & food?
Yes it’s true!
So this post will address some misconceptions people have about traveling to India and why I think they are pretty unfounded.
1. You need A LOT of time if you want to visit India
Obviously the longer you spend in a country, the more time you have to explore the places and the more relaxed you will feel. But India doesn’t have to be a 2 month long trip- I popped over for a weekend with some friends and enjoyed myself thoroughly! In that time we saw:
– The Taj Mahal
-The Wind Palace
As well as enjoyed some shopping and general leisurely time. We could’ve squeezed in more sightseeing but it was our choice to take it slow. I would’ve loved to spend more time of course, but I didn’t have the luxury of doing so. With that being said, I should also mention that roads in India are not ideal, public transportation isn’t always reliable and you can’t control traffic or cows on the road- therefore you may not see as many things as you would like to see which means you have to be a flexible traveler.
2. India is dirty and smells bad
If I had a dirham for every time I heard this I would literally be able to buy another Audi in cash. Every country has areas which are not so great and areas which are beautiful. India is no exception. When we landed in Delhi, my friend Krystel remarked on how clean the city was. But when we got to Japiur, she was shocked by the contrast between the cities as Jaipur had a lot of trash strewn across the sides of the road. Look -you could probably go to India and not see a single slum area if you plan your trip to precision. But seeing all aspects and sides of a country is part of the experience I think.
And as for smelling bad? India smells of curry and incense. Yes please! Beijing (China) and Antanarivo (Madagascar) have much stronger (and more unpleasant) smells in my opinion.
3. I’m black/white/Asian and I don’t want to be stared at.
If you don’t want to be stared at, don’t travel anywhere in Eastern Asia.
Sorry to be blunt but that’s the truth.
Don’t go to China, South Korea, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia… you get the picture right?
In countries where the population is homogenous and there is a lack of diversity, its intriguing to the locals to see people they don’t normally see. I learnt this the hard way after living in Korea for 2 years “(Excuse me, can I touch your hair? It look like noodles”). It’s rare that people are staring at you because they think you are ugly/want to attack you. They are merely curious.
On the other hand, I am as local as can get when I go to India. See for yourself:
If you didn’t know any better, you would think I grew up in India instead of on the southernmost country in Africa.
And YET I GET STARED AT TOO.
I know staring isn’t considered polite in Western society but it’s normal in other cultures. If you can’t accept that, then stay at home.
4. I have heard it’s crazy and I think I will just be overwhelmed. How will I get around? Do the people speak English?
Yes India is crazy. Yes you might be overwhelmed. But what is more important is that you need to realize you will be fine. Why you ask?
Well for a few reasons:
The people will help you.
90% of people in India are warm, friendly and helpful. They will give a left kidney to ensure that you are enjoying you time in their country. If you ask for help, you will receive it.
The country is so bilingual that it’s astonishing.
When traveling around India, you will notice that most people in urban areas speak English. And not just to tourists; they speak English to each other too. Ads on TV are comfortably spoken in English and Hindi. Signs are in English as are menus. To be honest, India is even more bilingual than South Africa and that impresses me. You might have to wade through a thick accent and some head bobbing but I am pretty sure you will get the help you need!
And as for how will you get around?
Well, using the English you now realize is widely spoken in India, you can easily buy train tickets, take auto-rickshaws, hire a driver and generally exist. I personally advise people to hire a driver (it’s a really reasonably priced option) so you have some freedom, comfort and flexibility in your trip.
5. Will I get sick?
Its well known that Delhi Belly is a real thing. I mean we all know at least one person who has come back from India with stomach cramps and a need to expel what’s in their body in some way or another. But I do believe it’s unfair to generalize and say that if you go to India you definitely will get sick. There is always a risk of sickness when traveling anywhere especially when the food on offer is completely different to what you are used to eating (what do you mean you’re not eating curry regularly?) and if hygiene practices in that country might be completely different from what you are used to.
My food recommendation while traveling in India is to order a thali. When you order thali, you’ll get a neatly, arranged plate containing multiple bowls loaded with a variety of dishes so you- and a friend- can sample a few things in one meal. Oh and if you’re a fan of masala tea like I am, once you have the original masala chai in India nothing compares when you get back home- it’s THAT good.
The way I see it, you can get sick in your home country, in the country you live in and basically ANYWHERE! I didn’t come back from India with any sicknesses. Not this time round and not when I went backpacking in India for a month in 2013 (Don’t ask-I was young and energetic). On this trip one of my travel partners did and the other didn’t. It’s all about what your stomach can and can’t handle and is not necessarily a poor reflection on your destination!
There is something special about India. You never know what adventures you will find – or more like, will find you — when you head out in the morning. No matter whether it’s a street market, festival, temple, or something else, you do know that your day will be filled with sensory overload of colours, humanity, sounds and smells.
People can watch movies about India, read books or listen to Indian music. But India must be seen by your own eyes; it must be heard by your own ears and felt by your heart. Only then you will understand why India is called INCREDIBLE.
I love travelling to India
Because in her quiet and in her chaos
I find a depth of experience that is unparalleled,
because in this vastly entangled place the inexplicable happens,
I find myself small, yet eternal
and while marveling at the ingenious joyful response to life that is the essence of this mystical land and her people,
I discover that same response awakening in me.