In 2012 I spent four weeks in Bangalore, India. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I cried a lot, I complained a lot, and there were at least two instances that I was positive I would die. That said, I learned a lot and went on adventures and had so much fun. On a bi-weekly-Monday basis I will share my trip here.


. . .

Like I said last time, I don’t want this to be a boring day-by-day retelling. Instead of talking about school or stray dogs or waterfalls (coming soon!) I’m going to list a few things that I learned while in India/tips to survive your trip to India!

  1. Pack intelligently…
    I. This tip covers two subtopics. First of all, India is a modest county. Saris show off a woman’s stomach, but that’s not a sensual part of the body there. It’s important to cover you chest area and your legs. Leggings + kurtas (or tunics) are the way to go. Similar to the American rule, cover your butt & front- tight clothes are uncomfortable and inappropriate. **
    II. Pack inexpensive items that you can leave in India. This trip has ruined me. Now when I pack for trips I think, ‘Oh, my suitcase will be much lighter when I come back because I’ll just leave XYZ there!’ That’s not really normal… Before we left we were able to donate belonging that we didn’t need. (Gently used, of course.) I donated multiple clothing items, a pillow, and tennis shoes. Since we were a part of a study abroad program we were also able to leave sunscreen & bug spray behind for the next set of students that needed it.
    ** I am 100% Ms. Feminist-hear-me-roar but when you’re in another country and you’re the only Caucasian (woman) for miles and miles it’s fairly important to blend in as best you can and wear the clothing of the country.

    Alicia is so cute & colorful in her kurta
  2. Take your medicine/Get your shots…
    You have to be up to date on all your shots when traveling to India, but you’ll also need to bring malaria medication. You can take pills or get a shot- but both have potential downsides so pick the less of two evils. (I am not a doctor, this is my personal assessment.) I’ve heard that the shot can potentially give you night terrors, but I believe that’s a one time thing. The twice-daily pill made me SUPER sick to my stomach. In the mornings I had to take it with food and at night I took it RIGHT before falling asleep.
  3. Utilize a scarf…
    A scarf will save your life. I bought mine on day one and wore it every. single. day. You can protect your nose & mouth from smells and dust. You can cover up in religious temples. You can shield yourself from the sun. Seriously- invest in a good scarf.

    This brown scarf was my best friend
  4. Watch what you eat…
    Honestly, chances are your body will hate what you put in it once or twice. “Delhi Belly” is a real thing, guys. I will skip the gross repercussions and go right to the rules I followed. No ice. No unfiltered water. (Check the seal of your water bottles!) No fruit with an edible exterior (e.g. apples, cherries, grapes). No raw veggies. I know that sounds tough, but in India you eat a lot of rice & sauces & naan. Which is all safe. Essentially you want to avoid things that were washed in unfiltered water. Also, I mostly avoided meat while I was there. Of course, there were moments I broke these rules (like at the Subway in the mall). Just be smart.

    The typical Indian meal (red = hot, yellow = safe)
  5. Learn the cultural norms…
    Obviously you can’t learn everything… but here are some American oddities/Indian norms to get you started:
    – To shake your head “yes” you tilt it side to side (ear to shoulder movement). When they do it quickly it looks like our version of “no”, but it’s not. A tilt to the side is a shortened version of this movement & still means “yes.”
    – For the most part, this culture doesn’t like to say “no.” If you ask an auto rickshaw driver if he knows where your desired destination is and he says yes (or more likely tilts his head “yes”) then it’s not a guarantee he knows…
    – Haggle for everything. Don’t be afraid to walk away if the price is too high. The price will always be too high at first.
    – People will probably stare at you. Don’t stare back.
    Obviously I’m generalizing. This is just based on my experience.

    Alex, me, Elizabeth, & Amanda crammed into an auto rickshaw

That’s my best India advice! Next I will recap specific adventures we took. More about that in two weeks, though!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


18 thoughts on “The India Archive [4]

  1. All great tips for travelling abroad! Glad you learned those lessons early as well and I had no idea about the night terrors thing!


  2. These are such great tips! I’d love to visit India one day but I feel like it definitely takes a lot more planning than just booking a ticket to somewhere in Europe and hopping on the plane! Can’t wait to read more about your trip and your India advice!

    xx, Caitlin


    1. Thanks, Caitlin! It does take a bit of planning- you’re right. The country has westernized elements, but it’s still a totally different world 🙂


  3. I didn’t know you’d gone to India! How cool. These are great tips for any international travel.


  4. That’s so interesting about the yes/no thing. I worked with several Indian people at my previous job and never noticed whether they did the head shake thing, but some hardly ever said no to anything. Even when I wanted an honest answer to, “Do you already have a lot of work and will this be too much?” One guy would accept it all anyway. Not sure if that’s related to the culture, but he also complained a lot all the time, too, so could just be him haha. This is really interesting, and I love the food tips. I once drank ice water in Mexico as a kid and got horribly sick!


    1. Haha! I bet his refusal to say no was cultural based! The head tilt was very weird at first (and it’s hard to get yourself to do it) but after a week or two it becomes natural 🙂 I think we all suffered sickness at one end of our bodies…. but I was fortunate in that I never threw up from food!


  5. I have one friendly bit of advice from a friend of mine – don’t take an overnight train if you are a solo female. She said that men would openly stare for long periods of time, sit entirely too close to her when it wasn’t necessary, and made her feel extremely uncomfortable/borderline unsafe.


    1. Yep. I totally agree with your friend. I don’t think I ever went anywhere alone.. And we were warned about spending time in the slums. (Some students went to tutor kids.) Women aren’t on an equal playing field and we were told the country does have a high percentage of reported (and unreported) assaults.


  6. My friends got SO sick from eating something when we were there. Not sure what it was, but it wasn’t pretty. I got the shot and didn’t get night terrors, but one shot (I forget which one) made my arm sore for several days after getting it. Also the scarf is super necessary, since I was doing a lot of sightseeing and you couldn’t go into religious temples without one. I should have used it more to block the smoggy air, but I didn’t and came back with bronchitis- it was terrible! Great tips!


    1. Thanks, Dani! That totally stinks that you came home with bronchitis! By week 3 I could feel the layer of smog in my throat. (They actually warned us that we’d probably be spit black by the time we left… Crazy!) I think the scarf is one of the top three things to have in India! I’m glad you agree!


  7. super interesting about the cultural norms – thank you for sharing those! i also appreciated your statement about being pro feminist and i agree – we can still be that while respecting another culture’s attire when appropriate!


    1. Every place is different, but I just advise lots and lots of research when planning a trip to a place like India 🙂 Cultural norms can REALLY trip you up if you’re not careful!! Ha!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s