India is an incredible, colourful, inspiring but totally overwhelming country. After two months exploring a seemingly small part of the country, we experienced what felt like a few lifetimes worth of memories and experiences. We have compiled our five favourite tips for ‘surviving’ India.
One: Probiotics and Activated Charcoal are your friends.
We have probiotics to thank for making our time in India a lot less painful than some of the horror stories we heard. We use the brand Herbs of Gold – Probiotics + SB; they are fantastic, dairy free, 100% vegetarian, don’t have to be refrigerated and best of all, they are Australian made and owned. By taking one capsule a day we were able to regulate our stomach bacteria, helping it stay healthy and support our immune system. Thankfully only once we were graced by a bacteria bad, enough that even our probiotics weren’t able to stop the dreaded ‘Travellers Tummy’, or as it’s called in India the ‘Delhi Belly’ – this is where activated charcoal tablets come in. Instead of swamping your body with the cocktail of chemicals that is in a drug such as Gastro Stop, we were suggested by a friend to use activated charcoal tablets and gave us a couple of ‘Norit Carbo Activatus‘ canisters (Thanks, Ashan!). I now swear by it, I have never used a product that works so quickly and effectively. I will admit that the dosage scared me at first when it suggested taking six to nine tablets three times a day or if you have food poisoning to take 20 tablets as an initial remedy and to seek medical advice. I must say now I have moved past the shock of that and used the product a few times it is incredible stuff and I can’t recommend it more!
Just keep in mind, if you are taking any other medicines you should take them at least 2 hours before or after taking charcoal as there is less chance of it being totally absorbed by it.
Two: Dress Like a Local
Okay ladies don’t stress, I’m not saying to rush out and buy a sari (they are a nightmare to put on if you don’t have the first clue on how to tie one!), but do invest in a salwar kameez (kurta) which is a long top, leggings with matching scarf, a cheap outfit will cost around 200-400 rupees if you buy it from a street market. I’m going to bring up a topic that has been bugging me – the appropriation of culture. I am in no way supporting this, but in my experiences over the past two months, I have spent in India, as a young pale skinned woman I found myself more comfortable in the ‘local’ clothing. I received fewer stares and just felt more comfortable. I was actually worried I would be accused of appropriation, instead I got compliments and even had a few women stop to thank me for respecting their culture. One lady explained that her teenage daughters only want to dress ‘western’ and seeing more westerners dressing in the traditional clothing was encouraging for them. So, yes there is probably a fine line somewhere but I didn’t seem to cross it.
Men, the men all wear long pants or jeans – I think I could count on one hand a number of Indian men I saw wearing shorts. Drew said he felt comfortable in a pair of Jeans and a button down shirt, as he constantly was feeling underdressed when we would go out for dinner or for a beer at a bar. Just something to keep in mind.
Three: Getting an Indian Sim Card.
This turned out to be a nightmare for us as we, unfortunately, we could only visit on E-Visa’s, which is apparently what ‘terrorists’ use according to a merchant in Pushkar and hence no one would sell us one. We were told if we kept searching there would be a way of getting one, and lucky for us, a good friend had a spare we were able to borrow. So just remember if you come in on an E-Visa it will be tough to get an Indian number.
Four: Uber Taxi’s
Uber is freaking awesome and we became pretty much solely reliant on them once we realised that the ‘No Refusal’ that is written on the side of all the yellow taxi’s is total rubbish! Of course, if you have no sim card this won’t work, but if you do, it is the way to get around. Thankfully you can pay via cash and it’s generally cheaper than a regular cab, plus they are much more comfortable newer model cars.
Five: Remember just how big India is!
Don’t try and cram everything into one trip – it is literally impossible. Do accept before you even get to India that it could take multiple trips to see and do everything. Also remember India doesn’t always go to plan, trains run late or book out fast, you get stuck in a lot of traffic, you may fall sick or there might be an election happening which can cause a risk of unrest (that was the case when we went to visit the beautiful hills of Darjeeling and we were advised it could be quite difficult and dangerous to travel at that time)
As the beautiful old lady, we met in Old Kolkata said to us “We believe in reincarnation as it will take multiple lifetimes to see all of our country”
Extra bonus tip:
Take everything with a grain of salt. India, as incredible as it is, can and will wear you down and if you’re a woman don’t let yourself feel defeated. That was something I struggled with. I hated the attention and the constant stares and the feeling of always having to be on high alert, but I learnt to accept it and get on with experiencing all the amazing things instead of dwelling on the negative!