India: Insider Tips for First-Time Travellers

India: Insider Tips for First-Time Travellers

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Travel not just to explore the place you are travelling to; but to discover more of yourself among people who belong to a different culture, speak a different language and perceive emotions in an entirely different way. An intrepid traveller finds fulfilment in the overall experiences that sums up their travels into one unforgettable experience. There is a lot of promise in the suave itineraries of travel companies, but did you just end up with a jaded trip that hardly touched the true soul of the place?

The Hindustani in me yearns to bring to light the more exciting facets of my country; an experience that is rarely felt through fabricated tours. If I had my say, here’s what I’d ask every traveller heading to India to do:

Get Invited To An Indian Wedding: An Indian wedding is the most beautiful and colourful reflection of Indian traditions. Ostentatious decorations, flamboyant trousseaus, beautiful rituals and a tummy-luring spread of food makes it clear that there is nothing simple about Indian weddings.

You will witness rituals rooted deep in ancient beliefs, giving you the chance to drink deep from the cultural well of India. The laughter-filled ceremonies, soulful singing and dancing, and lively haldi {tumeric} and mehendi {henna} ceremonies give you the chance to experience the true essence of this beautiful country. Get yourself invited even if it is a friend of a friend of a friend’s wedding! Really! You will truly enjoy being a part of this vibrantly beautiful aspect of Indian culture.

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For Solitude Seekers: India may have its own bag of surprises if you let it lead the way, so let your plans run asunder and take the chance to enjoy your trip solo instead of sticking to an itinerary that requires you to have a travel companion. Find a book for your journey, or talk to friendly locals to understand their cultures and beliefs and even get insider tips about the place that you are visiting. The diversity of a region’s landscape, culture and traditions will create a kaleidoscope of memories that you will cherish.

Go soul-searching in the peaceful Himalayas, escape into the coconut embraced backwaters of Kerala, lose track of your nights and days in the beaches of Goa or join the tribal artisans of Bhujadi, Kutch in their revelries. If you’ve got the spirit of travel, then India will generously lay out a plethora of options.

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Catch A Local Train: One of India’s most remarkable experiences lies in a train journey. With 25 million people travelling in trains almost every day, India’s railway network is one of the largest in the world. Travelling by train will allow you to take a closer look at the way of life of the people of India. Enjoy the refreshingly beautiful views of the rural landscapes as they whizz past your window, taste the local delicacies as the train stops at quaint towns and villages, savour tea and coffee brought to you in earthen cups or simply lose yourself in the mechanical humming of the train as it journeys to the next stop.

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Savour Roadside Food: A luxurious meal at a 5 star property is hardly the “Real Indian Experience”. And most fine dining restaurants are good at tweaking the food enough to make it agreeable to the foreign palate. But the real India is out there on the streets.

Roadside food is the best example of the use of freshly available local ingredients. While most Indian street food is off-limits and for good reason, there are a few roadside eateries that take great care to keep things clean and hygienic. Elco Panipuri in Mumbai, Murthal Dhabas on the outskirts of Delhi, Lassiwala in Jaipur and Central Tiffin Room in Bangalore are some very popular joints that offer authentic Indian food with no concessions on quality. Tip: the locals will usually help you identify a good roadside eatery in almost every city or town you visit.

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Goa on a Scooter: The natural beauty of Goa includes green forest, waterfalls, fabulous beaches and sunshine. The north and south coast offer diverse travel experiences to people visiting for a leisurely vacation or even a lively party scene. My idea of vacationing in Goa is via a bed and breakfast, with a rent-a-Scooter to explore the city on two wheels. While it’s easier to travel to some places on foot, a scooter helps you discover the beauty of the friendly town, the charisma of old churches, the simplistic way of living and the quietude of the less-explored beaches.

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My country is brimming with a much longer list of more must-dos; but for now, these will have to do. In the meantime, I will be sure to work another list of under-appraised travel destinations that you must experience.

 

End note: India is a fairly big adventure for a first-timer. My advice to you would be: don’t just travel, but experience India. Soak into its cultures, blend in with its people and the memories you create will be more vivid than ever. Travel safe and have the time of your life!

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* I love bringing together a bunch of conflicting items and weaving my own sense of one-ness to them. *

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