Amber Sawyers

India is one of the few countries I’ve travelled to that really opened my eyes to a different world. Its ability to create such a deep and long lasting impression really took me by surprise. Its vivacious colours and sounds are all the things that make India so unique, even when they can be quite overwhelming at times. Once you learn to embrace the culture and way of life, you will truly see what India has to offer.

Dress to respect

This one is very much common sense when travelling to a foreign country, especially one rich in so much culture and conservatism.  Indian dress traditions stray far from typical western clothes, so keep your denim short-shorts and crop tops at home. To show respect for locals, it is recommend dressing as conservative as possible. Keep in mind that temperatures in India can reach 50 degrees in summer so things like loose fitting Harmen pants and baggy t-shirts are a good way to cover up while staying cool. Another thing to keep in mind is that in certain places like temples, you may be asked to cover your hair out of respect. So always carry a scarf or dupatta just in case!

Ignore the staring

If you’ve travelled in South East Asia before this one shouldn’t bother you. But if you haven’t, this is something that can be unnerving at first. No need to be alarmed though! It’s because unlike many other tourist destinations, India isn’t overly westernised so the locals are just curious to know where you are from and why you are there. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, try to avoid eye contact and cover your hair with a scarf, as this is a common tradition that symbolises modesty and marriage and can often take the focus off you. 

Carry toilet paper everywhere

This is an important one! Although personally, I did not have to brave a squat toilet, I did find that even the western style toilets weren’t up to our usual standard. You’ll notice soon after arriving into the country that it’s not uncommon for toilets in India to be without toilet paper.  However, you can pay around 10 Rupees to get some in touristy places. It may just be easier though to carry some tissues or a little toilet paper in your bag for peace of mind!

Here’s a little FYI for you: They use their left hand to wipe so be mindful of that when accepting things from locals.

Get used to bargaining

Bargaining can be a tricky thing to get used to, especially because sometimes locals will just laugh at you. For me personally, I’m not a big fan of bartering because I find it pretty uncomfortable. One thing I did find helpful was setting a price in my mind that I was willing to pay and sticking to it. Eventually, you will get the price you want but prepare to walk out of the shop several times before they agree. So stick to your guns!

Image from Flickr user: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra 

Organise a driver

I’m not sure what else I can say about driving around in India other than brace yourself. Driving there is like nothing else I have ever experienced - and I’ve driven mopeds around Vietnam and Bali so I think that’s saying something! There seems to be no road rules in India and when you’re driving you are amongst pedestrians, cows, donkeys, dogs and camels, along with all the other vehicles. One night in Udaipur, I even witnessed an elephant walking down a street that was meant only for rickshaws. To make your trip a little less stressful, I would highly recommend hiring a driver. You’ll certainly need someone from the area to be able to manoeuvre around the local streets. Don’t stress about doing this before you go though, as it’s really easy to get your hotel to organise this on your behalf.

Go vegetarian

This really is a personal choice, but I think you may be more likely to get food poisoning from a dodgy piece of meat than you are from eating an ill-prepared vegetable. I found it hard at first to come to terms with the fact I wouldn’t be eating meat for 2 weeks, but I promise you it is way easier than you think it will be! Vegetarian food in India is so different to western vegetarian food - it’s full of flavour and unlike anything I have experienced before. Plus, a lot of restaurants only offer vegetarian food due to religious beliefs so you’ll be sure to find something delicious. I highly recommend Panner Tikka Masala!

Ask questions and embrace the culture

This is a point I cannot stress enough. Keep an open mind, embrace change and ask questions! This is what really made my trip so memorable. The locals love chatting and are more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Be warned though, the long winded responses can leave you with more questions than you began with. It seems in India, the more you learn, the less you actually know but this is all a part of what makes it so remarkable. 


Amber Sawyers is a marketing and journalism student on a mission to become the sassiest weather girl in Australia.  When she's not at uni or interning, you'll find her planning her next holiday, hunting for chocolate and looking at dachshunds on Instagram.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Wording available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.