For most travelers, a business visit or a vacation to India will be one of the most memorable experiences of their lives while at the same time being something of a culture shock. Be prepared for the contrast between the modern face of the thriving commercial India, and the abject poverty of some of the population that you will see all around you as you travel. You may well be shocked at seeing beggars in the streets. That having been said a visit to India can be a rewarding and a remarkable experience. I have been twice now and I would recommend a visit to anyone. India is vast, with a very large population, and lives up to its reputation for being extraordinary in many ways. Wherever you choose to visit in India, your trip is sure to be filled with exotic flavors, colors, sights, and sounds.
Preparation and safety tips
When you travel to India you are visiting a culture that is exotic and alien to you, and the trip will require some preparation if it is to be a success. Book your accommodations in India well in advance and check the local weather for the time of year to avoid the monsoon season if possible.
Once you arrive it is necessary to remember that, even though many hotels are modern and attractively decorated, you should still take some precautions with regards to health and hygiene. The tap water in particular should not be trusted; bottled water is generally easy to find, and should be used for drinking and brushing your teeth.
As a general rule of thumb, it is best to avoid the food sold by the street vendors. Additionally, as is the case elsewhere, the water in restaurants should be bottled and should be opened at the table. It is also a good idea to carry a supply of disinfecting wet wipes to use before eating. One interesting side note: the local custom is to use only the right hand for handling food, as the left hand is considered unclean and therefore unsuitable.
There are a number of things to do and experience in India that will help to make any trip to this enchanting land a memorable one. Here are just a few suggestions:
Visit the Taj Mahal
Perhaps the most famous and iconic destination in all of India is the Taj Mahal. Located in the city of Agra, a visit here is well worth the effort regardless of the part of the country you spend the majority of your trip visiting. Visitors walking in the grounds will admire the beauty and symmetry of this massive marble tomb. It was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, and was completed in 1653. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Taj Mahal lives up to its reputation as one of the Wonders of the World.
See the Golden City
When visiting western Rajasthan, heading through the sand dunes on a camel-trek will eventually bring you to the city of Jaisalmer. Known as the Golden City, Jaisalmer is home to a spectacular walled fortress that dates back to 1156 AD; the sunset over its centuries-old walls is a feast for the senses.
If you like elephants then you will need to head for Jaipur, where these giant creatures are trained to ferry visitors up the hill to the castle. The ride is unforgettable, and the castle itself is well worth the visit. It is also quite common to catch sight of a local mahout – or elephant rider – riding an elephant through the city center. There are a number of other areas in India where elephants are ridden through the streets, including in the south-west state of Kerala.
Visit the Golden Temple
For adventurous travelers the Golden Temple, or Harimandir Sahib, which is located in Amritsar in the Punjab, is a rewarding and awe-inspiring sight. Located in a distinctive and enchanting part of the country, the current incarnation of the Golden Temple was finished in 1764 and is known for the gold plating and marble of its exterior, and the massive frescos and assortment of gemstones that decorate the interior.
Attend a festival
India is home to hundreds of festivals, and regardless of when you visit; the odds are that some of the locals will be celebrating a local deity or an historic event. For example, Diwali is a five-day festival that takes place in late October or early November each year; called the “Festival of Lights”, it is known for its spectacular fireworks. Holi is known as the “Festival of Colors”, and is celebrated in March each year.
This article has been written by Sam Black, a freelance travel writer.