Planning a trip to India

Since I moved to Ireland I’ve made some Indian friends. Some of them were my flatmates. We shared many experiences and I learned a lot about Indian culture. I was lucky to live with an Indian guy who cooked very well and introduced me to Indian cuisine. I also asked a few questions about issues that are seen as taboos in other societies, such as arranged marriage and castes, for example. Curious as I am, I also asked some questions about issues that are seen as taboos in other societies, such as arranged marriage and castes etc.

Of course, over time I became very keen to go to India, but I wanted to go at a time when we were all together there. And this happened when one of our friends got married in Jaipur. That’s how our trip to India started…

Couple and friends trip

Topics on this post:

  • How to Apply the Online Visa
  • Required vaccines
  • Driving or not driving in India
  • Tour book with guide and driver (company tip to close the package)
  • Survival Tips & Important Items to bring with you
  • Food: The delights of India. Must try food.

Online Visa

The visa is required for almost all nationalities and fortunately, India provides an online visa system. So you can apply for the visa from anywhere, without having to go to the embassy. I love countries that do it! Thanks, India.

The whole process is straightforward and can be done through the official website of India. Just take a few days to get an answer by email. If the visa has been approved (Application Status: Granted) you must print the visa and keep it with you the entire trip.

Be aware: The visa must be applied at least 120 days before your landing in India.

Required vaccines

The vaccines required for your nationality will be described together with the approval of your visa. Read everything carefully.
As Brazilian, vaccination against yellow fever was required together with an international certificate of vaccination translated into English.

Driving or not driving in India

I am from São Paulo, the fourth largest city in the world, that is, I am used to chaos. At least that’s what I thought until I was convinced by my Indian friend that driving in India would not be a good idea

First rule of transit in India: There are no rules

The horn is used as a means of traffic communication for everything: to change lanes, to communicate with pedestrians, if you have a money or a cow on the street, to make a conversion, legal or illegal, if there is any there, or even for any reason.

The Rotatory is like an obstacle that they put there in the street and that has to be to pass. How? Just the way the driver wants it. Right or left, above or below, whatever, just pass.

Road markings delimitation of the lane, banned conversion plates, prohibited honking, and traffic lights are ignored entirely. We saw cars and motorbikes driven in the wrong hand on large motorways.

Bus stop? WHY? We saw a passenger crossing three lanes of a motorway to get on the bus.

But despite all the mess everyone seems to understand and get to the destination.

Tour with driver and guides

After being convinced that I should not drive in India, we need to find a tour companies that offer tours with a driver. But how do you look for a service like this in such a different country?

We contacted some companies before finding the one we closed the deal: Times India Travel. The whole deal was made with Vijay. All of our questions were answered quickly and he helped us to find the best package according to our flexibility. Our tour had to end in Jaipur before the wedding.

We chose to do the Golden Triangle – Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur – package with 3-star hotels with guide and driver. An option that we highly recommend.

The payment terms were: 50% of the total value of the tour and the rest in India. I was worried since found the company online, but everything happened as agreed and Dineshi, our driver, was waiting for us with a welcome sign at the airport!

We had a different guide for each city. The tour began in the morning and ended before night. The guides were very helpful and friendly. We felt very safe by having a local guide with us and sure we did the best with our time just going in recommended places. Our driver was the one who stayed with us longer and he was always very nice and friendly.

The hotels were great. The only bad point was the fact that the internet was paid and the connection was very poor. The only exception for the internet issue was the Holiday Inn Jaipur, which is an international chain hotel. However, all the hotels had breakfast included, services excellent and rooms were very quiet.

We were delighted with the service of the travel agency and indicated the company to those who wanted to visit India.

Survival Tips & Things to Pack

First of all, go with an open mind and see all the differences as a unique experience in a country of rich culture, very spiritual and with many customs different from those we are accustomed to.

Rule no. 1 and most important: Drink only bottled and sealed water. Check the bottle seal. All foods that may have been made/washed with tap water should be avoided, this includes juices, salads, and ice. Believe it or not, we saw bottled bottles sold as bottled water, but with the seals violated. Indians drink tap water because they are already resistant to local bacteria.

Getting sick after traveling to India is so common that there is even a specific term: Delhi belly (Delhi is the capital of India)

Bring toilet paper. There is the possibility of not having toilet paper in more local places. Something that will not happen in tourist places. In any case, better be cautious.

Not every place has a toilet. This tip holds true for several countries, not just India. And if we stop to think for a minute it seems much more natural indeed. So I take the time to be healthier. Again, it will not happen in tourist places

Bring some safe food with you. Most of the foods found in India are curries – which is a typically Indian food. It is delicious, but after some time, all we want is some food that we are used to and not very easy to find. Therefore, it is advisable to bring some dry foods inside the checked bag, such as cookies and biscuits.

Do not pay attention to street vendors. Being with a guide helps a lot to keep people from insisting that you buy something. If you pay the slightest attention they will insist very much on you. Despite being very sad the tip here is: Ignore street vendors.

For locomotion, use Uber. That way, it is possible to get around without having to interact with the driver who can or can not speak English. In addition to the fact that the value of the service is discounted directly from your account.

If you want to order food, use Zomato (app).

The delights of India. Must try foods.

India is the vegetarian’s dream, so much so that there were even restaurant advertisements with this slogan. There is even an entirely vegetarian hotel option <3. And surprisingly, the main product of Mc Donalds there is not the Big Mac but the Mac Maharaja Veg!

MC Donalds (3)

And here’s the list of what you have to prove in India:

Masala Tea / Chai

Masala means a mix of spices. Chai is an Indian version of the English tea with spices such as ginger, anise, cardamon, cloves, and believe it or not, pepper. Although the combination is not the most usual it is DELICIOUS! Have to prove it!

Paneer

Panner is a cheese that I have been a fan for a long time. India is the land of Panner. Even Mc Donalds sells a panner burger, everything has a paneer. It is a dream!

Naan

Another favorite one, the naan is a delicious bread that they eat with just about everything. And there’s Naan with and without stuffing. Has Naan with garlic and bread with Paneer. Panner and Naan = heaven.

Gajar Ka Halw

Favorite dessert,  made with carrots, spices and condensed milk. A treat and another food made to cheer me up when I needed to.

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