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Lajpat Nagar by Wili_hybrid

First, please dump the clichés.

FOR AGES, INDIA has been viewed as a symbol of the mystical and exotic East.

Dismissing India as a cliche runs the serious risk of placing India in a timeless zone outside of the real world, which is increasingly modern and complex.

India is a vast and rapidly developing country with twenty-eight different states and seven union territories. India hosts a great many languages, religions and cultures, which coexist and intermingle.

Delhi sunset by Wili_hybrid

The real India is hardly the random (yet homogenous) assortment of the Taj Mahal, call centers, poor people and veiled women you might expect.

The India you’ll actually encounter is a lot more diverse and complicated than that. Things are changing in India at a frenetic pace, especially in the big cities.

Hopefully, these tips will give you a better understanding of what to expect when you travel to India.

Sacred cow by Wili_hybrid

Temple Etiquette

Always take your shoes off before you enter a place of worship in India, and do not wear revealing clothes.

Travelers in India are often tempted to wear shorts, but it’s crucial to keep your shoulders and the lower part of your body covered when visiting a site of religious importance.

As the land where four major religions originated, and many others arrived and never left, many Indian people take their religion very, very seriously.

If you are interested in exploring their religious sites – many of which can be of immense historical and archeological importance – please respect religious sentiments even if you are not a believer.

Street scene by Wili_hybrid

Prepare to be OVERWHEMED!!!

India carries the burden of three centuries of British imperialism, along with the weight of its own often reworked and redefined history.

The two make a very postmodern combination. The complications and contradictions of India’s political realities will stun the first time foreign visitor.

You’ll encounter huge, swanky shopping malls very close to massive slum settlements that reek of utmost poverty.

Many visitors who stay in India leave with a sense of accomplishment, after having survived the initial overpowering shock.

And rest assured: it is a shock to learn what it means to live in India (as over a billion of us do).

Public Displays Of Affection

The beautiful lagoons of Kerala or the beauty of the Taj Mahal might make you want to sidle up to your partner and give them a quick hug and kiss, but think twice before doing that in public.

Even though you might catch young couple canoodling in public parks, it’s best not to perform public displays of affection in India.

Sexuality and Women Travelers

White women traveling in India may feel very vulnerable and exposed to some of the Indian men that they might encounter.

Due to some cultural constructs, and also a great deal of curiosity, Indian men might have formed certain false notions of the sexual availability of the foreign woman.

I am not saying that every other Indian guy you meet will be a pervert, but street sexual harassment is a phenomenon that is unfortunately widespread in the country.

You might fall prey to this due to your increased conspicuousness. It’s best to dress conservatively and keep yourself safe at all times.

Don’t forget the basic safety rules you’ve learned in your own country, and also observe the way the local women dress and behave as an example.

Hands and Feet

There’s a whole hierarchy of the body parts in Hinduism. The head is superior to the rest of the body, and the feet are lowest on the rung.

Feet are considered dirty in India, so take off your shoes before you step into someone’s house. Don’t step on anything important and if you do, immediately express your apologies.

It’s a sign of deference to bend down and touch a respected elder’s feet in India.

The left hand is customarily used for cleaning oneself after defecation, so Indian people never eat with their left hands. Also remember never to pass on anything – money or a gift – to an Indian with your left hand. The most conservative Indians might take offense.

Questions and Eyes

Bow Down by Koshyk

What might be considered intrusive in many Western cultures is only a matter of course in India. Also, people will generally be very curious about foreign visitors, and this can take the form of unabashed staring.

There’s a lack of privacy among the teeming millions of India, and the concept of personal space as you know it might not exist.

Try not to take it too personally if people on the street seem to be staring at you all the time, and if Indian acquaintances and friends ask you questions that you think are none of their business.

Most of the time, it’s just friendly curiosity, and if you smile at a staring stranger, many times you will get an amicable smile back. However, never sacrifice safety for the sake of politeness. This is especially true for women travelers.

You’ll Be Hounded

You might be seen as a rich foreigner thanks to the exchange rate, and many times you’ll be followed around by beggars, beckoned into shops by over-eager store keepers, and hailed by expectant taxi drivers.

Make sure your local friends tell you what the standard rates are, because if you’re looking to do some great shopping or have a comfortable public transport experience, you need to be in the know.

Holi festival by faceme

Indian Festivals

With so many religions and cultures, you will come across fairs, celebrations and merrymaking of all kinds.

Whether it is the shimmering lights of Diwali, the colors of Holi, the extravaganza of Durga Puja, Navaratri, Onam, Dusshera, Id Ul Fitr and Christmas, you’ll encounter indigenous customs, amazing Indian cuisine and total festive abandonment.

We Are Like This Only

English is widely used throughout the Indian subcontinent, and is the “co-official” language of the country. Indian English has a distinct flavor and inflection that differs as you travel around different parts of the country.

Official Indian English often uses many phrases that are passé in the West, so don’t be surprised if you’re doing some paper-work and someone asks you to “do the needful”.


Other excellent articles by Shreya Sanghani include:

Photo by Wili_hybrid

Calcutta Nights: A Guide To Live Music and Discos

India’s Pink Chaddi Campaign

India’s Up And Coming Rock Scene

Also be sure to read Can You Develop Your Spirituality Without Visiting India? by Matador’s resident yogi, Christine.


Culture Guides


About The Author

Shreya Sanghani

Shreya is a 19 year old college student of English Literature and a freelance writer based in India.

  • Julie


    Wonderful article. I especially love the intro, which could be applied to many other countries, too: “a lot more diverse and complicated than that.”

  • Shreya

    Thanks Julie, my friend and I were talking about this recently – she is Indian and was just back from a trip to Rajasthan. She expressed a lot of frustration at some of the brochures and guide books she had seen – it’s a touristy gimmick to promote India as being about only certain things. But the supply feeds a demand — a lot of travelers love these stereotypes and the whole thing just spawn an extremely inauthentic Indian experience, in my opinion.

    Also (running the risk of generalizing too much myself) many Indian people ARE generally fond of cricket and Bollywood.

  • Tom Gates

    I wish I had read this about a month ago. I learned most of this the “hard way”, although it wasn’t really that hard. Thanks for not explaining why to eat with the right hand and not the left… :)

  • Shreya

    Sorry Tom :D that’s the “traditional” interpretation I’m afraid — How much of India did you see?

  • Hal

    I’m still too intimidated by the image of India I have in my mind–so big, so busy, so beautiful–to attempt a visit. But I have no doubt I’ll make it there one day, and when I do, I’ll be sure to revisit this article.

  • Shreya

    I hope you do, Hal :)

  • Tim Patterson

    I had a great time in India despite getting sick. The best part was meeting up with a cool local Couchsurfer in Calcutta!

  • Shreya

    :D You should really come back and see more of India sometime though

  • Colin Wright

    Uh oh, I’m going to have to practice with my right hand before I go to India (I’m left-handed!)….

    • kristen

      I’m also a leftie and am so afraid that I’m going to offend someone in India! I’ll have to have my friends remind me not to eat or hand things to people with my left hand. That’s going to be a challenge. So what kind of clothes are good for 100º weather if not shorts?

      • Anne

        Good clothing are 100% cotton since it is light and breezy, wear light colors and avoid wearing dark colors.

  • Shreya

    Colin, I’m left handed too! I had the whole “eat-with-your-right-hand” thing drilled into when I was little. I still write with my left hand, though I’m nearly ambidextrous otherwise. I distinctly remember this one vendor on the street refusing to take money from me because I was offering it with my left hand. It’s not always so strict though. I often leap off autorickshaws (known widely a tuktuks, I believe) when I’m late for college, without thinking about which hand I’m using to pay the driver with.

  • Carlo Alcos

    I’ve been wanting to go to India for a while now…we seem to put it off because we want to have a good amount of time there, so waiting until that day. Especially after reading Shantaram, which took about 2 years to finish.

    Thanks for the insight Shreya!

  • Shreya

    My pleasure Carlo — and just send me a message when you are coming here and need any information.

  • Tim

    How do you think the British and reworked/redefined Indian history effect contemporary political realities in India? What did the British do to triple the Indian population in the past 60 years?

  • Shreya

    Hi Tim,

    British Imperialism brought about a lot of changes – both positive and negative — to India’s political and social reality. While I am hardly an expert, my study of this subject may well give rise to some observations which I hope are relevant.

    Let me give you some examples. The present Indian system of law is completely based on the British model. There existed a system of law prior to this, which is completely discarded. While there are a lot of advantages to this system of law, there are also great costs incurred in the loss of the original system. The present Indian schooling system also originated with the British. The railways – the largest in the word – were brought by the British. T S Eliot in England first suggested the teaching of English in Universities – this subject was not taught at universities until 1900 – and English was first taught in India as an experiment. The British set up major universities at places like Calcutta, Bombay and Chennai. The traditional practice of sati was abolished, which to me is a fantastic thing. The Brahmo Samaj was formed, and was influenced by Europeans. The English language itself was a very positive thing – in some respects – to have happened to India. There were many wonderful Britons who came here and did some great work.

    Every time a country is ruled by another, Tim, there are advantages and disadvantages working at many levels on both sides. The British rule of India is no different. I’ve already cited some positive examples for you, now let me cite what might be perceived as negative – because of the British, the indigenous handicrafts industry was pushed out of the mainstream and till date, remains in the sidelines. The hierarchy of languages is such that English must be known and spoken in order to obtain a so called “respectable” job especially in urban India. There are no computer programs in any of the vernacular languages in Indian educational institutions, indeed the vernacular languages do have less of a currency than English. The cultural divide between Britain and India at the time of colonization was such that much of original Indian music, culture, arts and sciences and other disciplines lost out due to imperialism. One of the biggest political problems in India today – the strife between the Hindus and the Muslims – was first observed only after the British came to India. Prior to this, the Hindus and Muslims did not have major conflicts in the 1000 years of coexistence that they shared. Today, riots and endless warring over Kashmir are big political features. The partition is a big scar that both nations of India and Pakistan have had to endure. And I haven’t even talked about Bangladesh here. These are very tangible examples, and there are a other, more intangible ones which I will illustrate for you if you want.

  • Shreya

    I have not mentioned anywhere in my article that the British contributed to the population explosion in India, so I don’t know the purpose of your second question. It may well be that you have perceived my comment in the artlce with regard to British imperialism as being pejorative. This is not true. Valorizing one culture does not have to mean demonizing another. Indeed, I am a child of this colonialism, and both these cultures are my own. Yet I am Indian. The past is dead – history is fluid – the value systems that made one thing moral at one point in time have completely changed. What made sati and Imperialism moral three hundred years ago, has changed and these things are unbearable now. What I’m trying to say, Tim, is that we must move on from the past. Yet we cannot disown it. It is a part of us, it shapes us, we cannot disregard it.

    It would be juvenile to say that Imperialism did only good things, or only bad things for both India and Britain. Hence we cannot connect population explosions directly to any one historical phenomenon, any more than we can say that it is right and fantastic to disregard one culture completely for the sake of another. I do not wish to descend into jingoism, and I don’t think I have.

    I’d like to finish by telling you a little bit more about India – which is what this article is about in the first place – India is a pluralistic nation. It is about as big as Western Europe. The difference between Gujarat and Bengal is much vaster than say, England and France. I am in one place in this vast country, speaking from an urban setting. There is a vast divide between the urban and the rural in India. The country is now witnessing its 15th democratic elections. The very country whose population has tripled over the last few decades, produced singlehandedly 25 per cent of the world’s total produce in terms of GDP. India is too complex – just like any country is too complex – to have its political and social realities be defined by something as fluid and subjective as history.

    Some people will tell you that Isaac Newton did not invent Calculus. It was invented in Kerala 300 years before Newton. Pythagoras did not create or solve the Pythagorean theorem. It was solved 200 years before Pythagoras by Indian and Chinese mathematicians. Yet none of this is taught in Indian classrooms.

    There is something about colonialism that serves to wipe out regard for indigenous cultures. That is a shame, I think.

    I reiterate Tim, that I did not mention the British in a negative manner. I think British imperialism has done both great and terrible things to every country it has manifested in, including India. Thank you.

  • Tim

    Thank you for your reply Shreya! :) I was wondering about the population explosion because with 0.4 billion people instead of 1.2 billion “massive slum settlements that reek of utmost poverty.” would be reduced. How could England have made India more like China? What do you think the increased population and decreased GDP of India compared to China is due to?

  • Shreya

    Hey Tim, yeah it is true that lesser people would translate into lesser numbers of poor people in a developing country. However the same thing would possibly be a plus in a country that’s already developed. One way of looking at the population explosion is that fewer people die because of better medical facilities. This happens with increased technological advances which were put into practice by visionary Indian leaders such as Nehru and later politicians.

    There are also many immigrants coming from neighboring countries adding to the existing population. Poverty and illiteracy also lead to people who have larger families, which in turn lead to other problems such as increased child labor, etc. It’s a cycle. As to how England could have “made India more like China” I am unequipped to answer. I’ve already expressed my skepticism about making these direct uni-dimensional connections. From whatever little I know of history, China had a pretty effective family planning policy that was strictly enforced. Also, China was not colonized as a whole I think — only parts of it, and different parts were under different spheres of influence.

    Also I’d like to add one point to my earlier comments. I’d like to give credit where it’s due — the work of Indian feminists such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy was greatly responsible for the abolition of sati. Should have mentioned him. It was definitely an amazing thing to have done — stand up against extremely conservation values and oppose them especially during those times.

  • Shreya

    conservative values, not conservation values. Forgive me.

  • Meghana

    Hey Shreya,

    take a bow!!!! It makes me wish I had written it!!! Bravo!!! And at 19!!!! Well written and definitely a pleasure to read.

  • Shreya

    thank you so much, it’s an absolute pleasure

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  • Samantha

    I’ve always wanted to go to India, I’m fascinated by it but I’m unsure what I should see first, any suggestions?

  • Kalyan

    Hi Shreya,

    Its definitely a nice and brief introduction about India to Foreigners. You indeed done a great job, with great matuarity.

    Hi Tim,

    (no offense to you, I record my perception here – that I believe as of today fully, I do NOT claim that everyone in this world have to accept/agree with my thinking)

    I am an Indian and agree with Shreya, that we Indians witness both Negative and positive impacts from British Raj. However we do NOT consider every present good and bad of India have direct link to British raj. . . . I personally do not think population is a problem for India. . . . the problem for India is to provide basic education, food and health for people… and that can only happen when we can fruitfully engage our human resources for value creation much bigger than they consume… the day we achieve this the whole world see India with great respect… I know its a long drawn task… but it will possible by joining creative and active participation of our own people…..I am hopeful that we will do it… we are working it in our own way, and in comings years and decades many more with join in Nation building….we all know Japan was devastated after 2nd world war, but with great populations its still win the prestige of the world… that gives indication population is not curse, but utilized rightly it can make India proud. There are many examples around the world who do not have enough talent (read population too) to extract value fro their country. They are doing everything to bring top professionals from developing countries like India, China and many others to make TAX money (from corporate profits by doing more innovation, more business & earning more Individual Tax) for their pension system for their aging population Some major power will crumble if all Indians & Chinese decide to go home and use their knowledge, skills and talent for their own nation. – my point is population itself is not India’s or China’s problem, problem it how we as a nation create more value than we consume …

    I am positive India and China will shine some day more than any other country in the world. But that do not happen in a day….both are countries have different history, different present and different future growth path with different goods things and different bad things, …. so they are not comparable.

    There was a time when British Rule the almost all world, and they think they can continue doing that….but time have proved that’s not true…..when America took the power and British hide behind the shadow of America, by becoming friend….now its time have come America will lose control on the world…. although its looking good for India & china in mid or long term, but history told us, nothing is constant…but change it.

  • Vyoma

    Very well written Shreya. Hats off to your analytical skills and clarity of thoughts at tender age of 19. I am based in the US for past 8 years and am planning to visit India (Gujarat) in November of this year. While reading about ‘current’ India – your article came up online. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it and of course your comments. Keep it up!

  • Shreya S

    My sincerest thanks to everyone who left comments. It’s such a pleasure to read them!

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  • Chloe

    Hi Shreya,

    I’m off to India next month.. any tips on the situations in India at the moment. Anything new I should know?

    Thanks for a great article!

    • Shreya S

      Hey Chloe and Nicole,

      Thank you! Hope you both have wonderful experiences traveling around India.

      Chloe, it all depends on where you’re going. India is massive and there’s a ton of stuff going on all the time. And to both of you, please feel free to ask me anything you want to know about.


  • Nicole

    Thankyou Shreya for a very well written article. Im planning on going to India and reading all I can about it and your articles have definitely helped.

    • Shreya S

      oops Nicole, please refer to my reply to Chloe’s comment :)

  • chloe

    Thanks Shreya,

    Can you give an approx idea on how much money I should allow for each day.

    My tour covers accomidation and most travel expenses but not food etc.


    • Shreya S

      Hey Chloe,

      I’m assuming you don’t want to spend too much (you can get by with spending very little and a lot, which I suppose to true for travel in general). I’ve had backpacker friends who have survived on Rs 500 a week, which is really very little considering they’re technically doing world travel. Food won’t cost that much, and the other things you need to keep money for are commuting expenses and any shopping that you might do. If you’re staying put in one place for a long time, then you’ll be spending less than if you’re moving around a lot, so it’s really quite subjective. I’d say keep a minimum of Rs. 500 on you at all times when you’re walking around exploring India.

  • Amberose

    I am going to be traveling to Tanuku,India this summer on a mission trip. Are you familiar with this state or city, whatever you call it?

  • Adam L

    You forgot to mention how beautiful all the women are! With all your great big eyes, and great big smiles everywhere you go- it is always hard to leave a place like India.

  • Adam L


    Hey, Tanuku is a city in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. I’ve been in the area twice- actually just returned a couple of weeks ago from just a little further south, near Narsapur. WG is remarkably pretty, and benefits from the good fortune of having a well-designed canal system that was put in place by an altruistic British gentleman, I think by the name of Cotton who was duly hated by his superiors for his efforts.

    Anyways, there are vast green fields, surrounded by coconut trees and canals and it is all very beautiful to look at. The people are pretty too, of course, especially the kids.

    At the same time, it is very rural. If you are an American, compare New York City to a village in the Appalachians and you are on the right track. Get used to seeing men and children making poo poo on the side of the road and get very used to being stared at, especially if you have fair skin. For me, offering a smile and a wave or head nod (side to side) usually gets a positive response and makes me feel more comfortable with the attention.

    Feel free to pick up strangers’ children and admire them and carry them about (as long as you put them back), and enjoy the (cooked) food from the street vendors, especially the samosa. If you’ve got any specific questions, you can find me on Skype (adam.starrh), but I won’t spoil much, because half the fun is seeing things you don’t expect, like big widescreen TVs inside thatch-roofed houses. All in all it’s a fun place to go, but it is also a place with alot of hardship, so you’ll probably see things and learn stories that will break your heart as well. If you’re experience is anything like mine, you’ll hate coming home. Count it all joy,


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  • Suresh

    Hi Shreya,

    It’s such a pleasure to read your article. It’s very well written. I’m an Indian now living in US. After reading your article, now it makes me realize this is how we have been in India. It will definitely help everyone who travels to India. India is a vast country with many different cultures and customs. I think that’s what makes India Unique. Unity in Diversity.

    Great writing. Welcome to India everyone.

    - Suresh

  • Pradeep.P

    Dear Shreya,
    Your article is wonderful. But I have to disagree with you on the comment that ‘ street sexual harassment is wide spread’. May be most of the Indian men are sexually suppressed, but all of them are fearful too.. Most of them don’t have the courage to go for an open harassment. They will stare at every woman they meet in the street, that’s all! And when someone notice an attempt of open sexual harassment, the public will take no time to react to it vigorously, ( almost all time).

    There may be cases of harassment, but I don’t think it is too high, especially to foreign tourists.

    Anyway, congrats for your wonderful article.

    • Shreya

      Whoa, Pradeep, where do you live? :D Me and all of my girlfriends would like to move there, so that we can all be safe and tell you all the stories of harassment we had to face and when no one came to vigorously protest what was being done. Thanks for reading.

      • ellie

        Agreed Shreya!! I’ve never felt more sexually violated in my life than I did traveling in India. Women, be careful! Do like the local Indian women do and please be loud and make a scene when you’ve been violated!

  • Robert Ahmed

    Indian Music is really cool and some of it are great dance music too.~.*

  • Nassau

    Thanks for the insightful article! I’m thinking that my experiences in China are similar to that of India, which leaves me rather intimidated. I’m blonde, busty and have a big laugh and I never manage to be inconspicuous. Looks like I’ll have to keep searching for tips on how to manage the attention (and the daunting sexual interest).

  • Warren

    Hi Shreya,

    I cant wait to see your beautiful country, I am visiting the ancient ruins of Hampi, whenever i tell my indian friends here they never seem to know what I’m talking about. But i discovered this from an exhibition held in Melbourne, Australia. Im so exited to be visiting your country, i cant wait to try all the food.


  • Shreya

    Hey Warren,

    I hear Hampi is gorgeous. I’m sure I’ll make my way there someday. Happy trails!


  • Chaitra

    Hey Shreya,

    Great writeup, Warren you are in for a fantastic treat. The ancient city of Hampi a heritage site, was once the most glorious empire, one gets to see the ruins of this city. Its part of Karnataka (South India), the government here had planned ” Hampi By Night ” for tourists to view illuminated ruins of Hampi. If its been implemented, add that to your checklist.


  • Chloe Lai

    Hi, I just wanted to express my gratitude to you for having written such a beautifully straightforward article. Your observations about British influence were even more useful to me as an individual, since I am from Brunei and as an ex-colony we still bear a lot of British influence, mainly in the form of expats who do not always remember to respect the country that is hosting them. Your ability to keep such a balanced view of their effect helped to temper my own, which sometimes gets carried away!
    I am very excited to be coming to India in January, I have the good fortune of knowing some family friends who live in Mysore and operate a clinic there. While I know that having local friends will undoubtedly help ensure that my adventure is a safe one, I was also wondering whether you know any other areas nearby Mysore that I could visit while I am there!

  • Justin

    I am planning a trip to India and I am just wondering What should I learn most about?
    My reason for visiting is My Girlfriend Shreeya lives there and She has invited me to stay in her familys home. Just wondering what i should be careful about do’s and don’ts Please email me… I really want to make a good impression on her parents..

    • Heather Carreiro

      Hey Justin!

      It really depends where Shreeya’s family lives and what their background is, as Indian families can have a range of different cultural expectations. It’s best if you can ask her how you should act around her family and how you can respect them. Generally, you should call anyone older than you by first name plus title. If you don’t speak the local language usually calling someone “Auntie” or “Uncle” will do. Ask your girlfriend to observe you while you interact with her family, and the best thing she can do is that is she sees you doing anything that’s disrespectful (and you didn’t even realize it), she can tell you about it later privately or make a joke of the situation to ease any tension. I spent three years in Pakistan, and the culture there is similar. One of my local friends did a great job of helping me understand what was expected in different social circumstances. Without her advice, I would have come across as a rude person numerous times!

  • Melissa

    Shreya, I have been looking for information that will help me with my trip to Hyderabad, and your article really helped. I am very nervous because my husband is going on business and I am going with him. We are leaving in 10 days, and I hardly know what to pack. Do you have any advice both for the area we will be in and for what I should or shouldn’t do as this is for business and not pleasure? I was told the wife of the owner of the company and their receptionist will taking me out during the day when the men work. But I have no idea what we will be doing.

    I would also like to take them gifts from our area (Iowa), but I am not sure what would be appropriate. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!


    • Shreya

      Hello Melissa,

      I’m glad your found the article helpful. I suggest you look up Hyderabad on wikitravel and other travel guides to get a sense of what kind of place it is. It is a big city with much to offer and I hope that very soon your nervousness turns to excitement at all the exploring you’re about to do! Apart from familiarizing yourself about the city in general also look up the weather conditions to know what kind of clothing to pack. I’m guessing there will be office parties so a few formals can only help. Please don’t be nervous, just be yourself and enjoy exploring a new city! As for gifts, anything that you think is typical of Iowa would be nice. If you have any other questions I’d love to answer them. Good luck, Shreya.

  • Catherine

    Hi Shreya,

    I am heading to India in november for my friends wedding in Mumbai. While I am there I thought I would look around India to experience the culture and sights. Just wondering if you have any tips for how not to offend people and what sort of gifts (?) we can take for our friends wedding. I understand not to take leather products.

  • Melissa


    I was just in Hyberabad, India in February with my husband, and while we were there we got to attend a traditional Muslim wedding. It was an amazing experience, and we were both treated like royalty. We didn’t know anyone in the wedding other then a distant cousin who took us with him. The mother of the groom spent the whole night holding my hand, getting me food, and making sure I was having a good time. My husband was treated the same by the brother in law of the groom. The muslim wedding is different then hindu, so it may help to determine what kind of wedding they are having, and how traditional. We were told not to give a gift, but we did anyway ($30 in US cash). I would say from my experience, that in general the best things to keep in mind are what you wear, and how you handle yourself. There was no public affection of any kind (except that men hold hands a lot). I made the mistake of hugging my husband for a picture once, and we got all kinds of stares and people started talking. Best thing to do is just be like the locals wherever you are. Also…I got nervous in the ‘old city’ one day and had a smoke. That really got me a lot of unwanted attention. Good luck!


  • Adam Starrh

    I attended a wedding in Hyderabad in Janurary. It was a Catholic wedding, but there were lots of Hindu customs mixed in. Lots of food and loud Telugu music.

    Almonds make great wedding gifts, but so does anything you bring from the states.

  • sue

    Hi shreya,
    My 18 year old daughter is going out with a 23 year old boy from Punjab in India, who is studying here, all his family live in India and he is an only child , his religion is a seek please can you give her any useful information for their future life together, like if they were to marry, travelling there to India and taking children there on a holiday. thank you sue

    • Johnnyromper

      Hello Sue, 

      I think it was Mark Twain who said East is east and West is west and the two shall never meet or words to that effect. I would suggest that both your daughter and the young man from Punjab recognize that they are from two different worlds in almost every sense of the phrase. These romances tend to have a low survival rate. 

      • Aggie5976

        Ignore him. I’m American and have been happily married to my Punjabi husband for 5 years. Like most marriages, you just have to have mutual respect and compromise. 

      • Zia

        I am a bangladeshi-canadian, my wife is from Korea, although our marriage is young, our struggle to gain acceptence from our conservative parents is a testament against everything you just stated. Incompatibility stems from an individual’s characteristics, not their race.

      • Ang123

        false. Do some reading.

  • kip

    many thanks for this information-it will come in very useful soon.:-)

  • shivani

    really very beneficial information…………

  • Lcruz505

    Wow this is some very interesting information thanks for sharing it with us

  • Sarah

    Hello Shreya, thank you for the article. Exactly what I was looking for!

    The only area of concern for me is being harassed by men. My friend and I want to go to India together — no concrete plans yet — and we are both girls. What kind of things can we do to minimize that unwanted attention?

    • Diana Geetha Sunder

      Dress very conservatively. More conservatively than what you would wear to work. Best bet is to go there and buy some tunic-style tops and wear those over jeans. Hopefully you’ll feel pretty comfortable in that. People are going to stare at you, but mostly just ignore them. Generally your best bet is to just display a lot of common sense and don’t talk a lot to strangers – unless you are very, very sure of the people you are with, it’s not the kind of place to go to the bar and hit it off with a stranger. Just keep to yourselves, be respectful, and if anything starts feeling weird, probably best to just leave it alone. If someone’s annoying you, don’t be afraid to just turn around and leave or completely ignore them- don’t worry about being rude. 

      Staying at a nice hotel is definitely a good idea (or with a family if you have any family friends there). As two girls, I would skip on the cheap hostel. You could probably get away with it if you really wanted, but the security of the nicer hotel and the reliability of the staff to help you find your way around will definitely be worth it. 
      You’ll still get lots of attention just for being tourists (and presumably white?) but as long as you’re careful it will be the general touristy kind or just easy to brush off in general. 

    • Jack

      Do not go to indian, you will get rape by so many men, did u read the news lately?

  • Richard

    Its really a great & unique information for us. Well written post.I appreciate your writing skills.Its great.You have done a great job by sharing this information with us. I would like to read your more updates.Keep in touch with us.

  • lisa

    Nice post. You have managed & compiled really some good
    points about Indians. Your way of presentation is too good. Thanks for this
    informative post. I would love to read more on this subject.

  • richardwhite1983

    hey guys (and Shreya),

    i just spent three months in India – solo. Hard bloody work but one can learn some much!

    Gonna post my tips below, (hope you dont mind Shreya!)

    Bye bye

  • Michal

    Thanks for this post.India
    is the land of unity in variety. You will find a huge number of cultures,
    religions, traditions, cuisines and people in India. It is a magical land and
    most people fall in love with this country as soon as they come here.

  • jsiess

    my husband is left-handed and has limited use of his right hand. he cannot eat or pass things with his right hand. what should he do?

  • PassportVisa_TravelersGuide

    I want to go be a part of the Holi festival so bad!

  • blue scarf

    is really a beautiful country. You have put huge information in a single blog. One
    of the best blogs I’ve read recently. Really well written and gave lots of
    useful info.

  • Bluerose

    what a wonderfull article of India i love it

  • William Billy Talley

    he is dellicious.

  • Vinny Talwar

    it is very intresting.

  • Rachel Lebzelter

    I am left-handed. I have a right hand; it looks normal, but it is severely nerve damaged. I cannot eat with it nor can I hold anything in it. What should I do?

    • Masihhur Laskar

      Sorry to hear that.

      Use your left hand and you may like to explain in short words why you used your left hand instead of right hand. Say you are paying fair to a cab driver, while passing cash with left hand, you may say ” I’m sorry, my right hand is paralyzed”.

    • Jack

      Used a folk

  • Ross Barja

    I’m going to travel to India in october. I would know what places I could visit there. Thanks!

    • Daksh Rawal

      well were there are loads of places you can visit, but you must visit the golden temple and varranassi if u go to india…

  • Chris Young

    I may have the chance to visit india in the near future, but I have never travelled outside of the U.S. and so I have anxiety about it. I thought this article was extremely helpful! I will continue my research!

    • Kay Norm

      You’re going to India?

    • Kay Norm


    • Chris Young

      can tell you more later

  • Elizabeth Mary Hamilton Singh

    This is a brilliant article and I have copied a link to it on my site,

    I agree about dressing conservatively if you are a woman, hopefully you won’t get too hassled but western women have been portrayed as easy for too long in the Indian media for things to change over night.

  • isha

    most of these is not true . most of the indians never follows these customs. just because you met a person who does wierd stuff that does not mean everyone is the same and still there are slum areas because other countries in the past came and destroyed the life of the people of india. many people of india wear western clothes and i am one of them .

  • DHristovPhotos

    Thank you, Shreya, for a wonderful article. I’m leaving for a month’s (mostly) solo adventure in India, in a week’s time. Last time I was there, 24 years ago, I was a 5-year-old kid. Some Indian customs were ingrained in me (I lived there for 3 years), but some I had forgotten about. It was good to get ‘refreshed’ before I left. Looking forward to a wonderful time re-exploring some of the cities I went to between 1988 and 1991. I’m also beyond excited to visit old friends!!!

  • Jack

    Are u feeling ok? Any sex assault happened to u? I hope you did not get bangxxx, have a safe trip

  • Jane Smith

    White women aren’t the only non-Indian women that travel to India…

  • sana

    we travel to india a couple times a year. we buy clothes at goodwill and then just leave them there when we come home, they are greatly needed and appreciated and india is dirty enough you probably won’t want them anyways. as tacky as they are use a fanny pack to carry your i.d., money, etc. it is the safest because you will be pickpocketed, be very careful. also leave A LOT of time between flights while in india, because if you miss your flight you will be purchasing a new ticket to get out of the country. i would recommend at least 6 hours between flights. wear capris not shorts, no tank tops~keep your shoulders covered. the taj is beautiful, darjeeling is magical. delhi and kolkata are nasty and dirty. make sure you take all appropriate meds to avoid disease. Never eat any raw fruits or veggies, EVER, no matter what 5 star restaurant you are in. Our daughter did not listen, at off of 2 raw apples and ended up in ICU at the kids hospital for a week with typhoid and dengue fever a month after we got home. she will not ever make that mistake again, she was 10 at the time. We are going back again in a couple of months and are taking 3 of our kids. it is a lil easier for us as my husband has been studying Hindi since we first went 8 years ago. and it is true you will either love it or hate it, there is no in between with india. god bless to all, god bless india.

  • Chris Young

    not officially, but the opportunity may be there

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