Earlier this year I went back to India for the first time in 20 years. I’d visited a twice before as a child and teenager with my family, but this was the first time I planned a trip myself. It wasn’t exactly ‘roughing it’, but it definitely wasn’t a luxury trip either. We stayed in average mid-level hotels so we could be close to the action of the city we were in, traveled by auto rickshaws and trains, and at some questionable roadside eateries. Of course with any destination I picked up some tips for new visitors to the country. Here are my top 5 tips for travelling to India
Pack Comfortable Shoes and Clothing
Real India lives in the bazaars and tight alleyways, and walking those requires some seriously comfortable shoes. Thankfully I packed great footwear, unfortunately it was open-toed. India is a dusty (sometimes dirty) place, do your feet a favour and pack closed-toe flats. You’ll also likely be getting in and out of cabs and autorickshaws fairly quickly so comfortable loose fitting clothes are your friends. I basically lived in leggings and kurtis.
Stay in an “Active” Part of Town
Most of the hotels that are geared towards attracting tourists seem to be located outside of the major cities, but my favourite experiences were right in the heart of the city. I loved staying at the Hotel Savera Grand in Amritsar, which put us walking distance from the Golden Temple, and staying in the heart of the classic Karol Bagh neighbourhood of Delhi. There’s something to be said for walking out of your hotel and finding yourself in the heart of a bazaar!
Ask Locals for Recommendations
This is one that is not often promoted for India, but we got the best foodie experiences from recommendations. When I was on the hunt for authentic Amritsari Kulche, it wasn’t the suggestions on travel forums that came through, but a street side juice vendor that sent us off the beaten path for an amazing experience.
Leave Time for Wandering
India is not a place where you can pre-plan every experience. Having some breathing room in our schedule allowed us to discover the most amazing chai in Agra, an unexpected World Trade Mall in Jaipur, and the most peaceful Gurudwara in Dehli. Spend half a day just walking and wandering around, and really take in the sights of India.
Carry Paperwork, Documentation, and Local Cash
I took a couple of copies of our itinerary, train reservations, and some Indian rupees with me and they all came in handy. Lucky for me my family had some extra rupees from a previous trip, but next time I go, I’ll definitely be using CIBC’s Foreign Cash Online service. It is an incredibly convenient and secure service that allows you to order the currency you need online before you travel, and the best part… it’s delivered free, straight to your door or your branch, anywhere in Canada. It can also be picked up at Toronto Pearson Airport location (T1 international departures, post security) before you take off!
India is definitely a place where you want to land with a little bit of local currency in and. I was thankful to have some rupees so I could call home and tell my family I had arrived safely, tip the bathroom attendant, and secure a taxi to the train station. (And of course, buy myself a cup of chai!)
If you are dreaming of a trip to India soon, the folks at CIBC have an amazing contest going on that you could give you a little travel fund boost! You can enter here to win $1000 from CIBC Foreign Cash Online.
*DISCLAIMER: This post is brought to you by CIBC Foreign Cash OnlineTM. All thoughts, opinions are my own.