After returning from her Golden Triangle Tour with G Adventures, Heather shares with us her fears travelling to India as a young woman, and what she learned from the entire experience. From what to pack, to proper etiquette, she shares her tips for females travelling to India in the future:
I will openly admit that I was terrified of going to India. I signed up to go on a trip with G Adventures, and until a week before I left hadn’t REALLY thought about the actuality of it all. Once I started packing, I started getting really nervous. Why was I nervous? I had no idea what to expect and everyone around me was telling me all these terrible scary things about India. The biggest part of my fear had to do with being a white, blonde, North American women in a country where people like me do no exist naturally. I lived in the Middle East when I was younger so there was a little familiarity with “sticking out” in a crowd because of my skin tone and hair colour.
So I faced my fear, and I went to India. Not only did I go to India, but I had a good time in India! I saw some of the most amazing sights I’ve seen in all my travels, and I am so proud of myself for facing the fear. If you are thinking about going to India, might I offer some suggestions on packing, etiquette, and other helpful hints so you can leave feeling great about the trip.
1) Packing is the most important step to getting to India (besides getting your visa of course). My MUST-HAVE pieces of clothing on my trip were two long flowy light fabric skirts, and three pashmina scarfs. My tactic was to cover up as much as I could. Is it a rule that you have to be covered head to toe? No, not at all. But if you do not cover up, just be aware that you will be stared at by everyone. So to avoid this, I wore long skirts and scarves.
I would usually wear a light tank top under my scarf so when it was appropriate I could remove my scarf to get some relief from the heat. It is VERY hot in India, so make sure the fabrics you choose to wear are breathable. No polyesters or synthetic fibres. I would also highly recommend wearing hats. Not only does a hat provide some shade from the hot hot sun, but also camouflages the true colour of your hair. A hat or even your pashmina can also be of good service when visiting certain temples and holy buildings where they require you to cover your head.
2) Another part of getting through India, and enjoying yourself, is understanding that you WILL be stared at. The people of India are not used to seeing North American women very often. They will stare, take photos, point at you, follow you, pop their kids in your arms, and more. We are not used to this practice unless we are doing something ridiculous like wearing a chicken costume to work on any other day besides halloween. The people are not malicious, or ill willed; they are just not used to seeing people like us.
If I noticed people staring at me, I would smile and wave. If I noticed them taking photos of me, I would pose for the photo. If I ever felt unsafe I would notify my guide Abhi, and he would acknowledge the situation and do anything necessary to help me feel safer. At the end of the day, I tried to embrace their curiosity and culture as much as possible.
3) Always remember to be a smart traveller; on your toes at all times. Don’t walk through markets on your own. Try not to be on your own very often; have a buddy with you to ensure your safety.
4) My last recommendation, go on a guided tour! My tour was amazing, but it was made amazing by the incredible guide that we had. G Adventures employes local guides who know the language and the culture. There is no better way to be navigated through a country than with a local.
Our guide Abhi negotiated tuk tuk rates for us, translated anything we needed to communicate, and all in all, took care of us. As a women, knowing that I was travelling with a local man, who if I needed something, was no more then 10 feet away was very reassuring.
Final Things To Remember:
-A tour with a local guide
Remember these key things, and India will be as magical as I found it to be.
For more information about G Adventures or travelling to India, contact one of our Travel Consultants at 1-866-502-4605 or find your closest store.