Having been in this gloriously beautiful country for almost 2 weeks now, I thought I would reflect back on some of the things that have stood out. India is so large, so unique and so wonderful that I think everyone should make it a goal to get here at some point. There is just so much to do and see, the culture is so rich with history and if nothing else, you will hopefully have endlessly delicious meals while the sights and sounds stimulate your other senses.
What I have learned here is that even for the most experienced traveler, India can quickly test you and your comfort zone. Everyone hears and reads about the poverty, filthy streets, and potential for “Delhi Belly.” Although it exists and is apparent, especially in the cities, there are some other things that I wish I would have known before I came and below I will go over them.
- E-Visa Particulars
This likely has more to do with human error on my end than being a general oversight, but I do feel as though the E-Visa to India is unique. I have traveled to quite a few countries and there are a few where you need to get your visa worked out ahead of time, but I have never found a visa that limited you in how you are allowed to enter the country. With this visa and at the time this blog is being written (Nov 2019) you are not allowed to enter India BY LAND with the E-Visa. You are allowed to fly in or arrive via port. There are also some restrictions on precisely where you can fly or ship into, but generally speaking you can arrive to any major city. Be sure to check this out before coming if you are doing as we did and going from Nepal to India (or any other land border country) or if you are flying into a smaller airport just to be safe.
- The smog and pollution in Delhi and Mumbai cannot be overstated
This was simply not on our radar. I think deep down I knew that it would be smoggy in the major cities, but not to the levels we saw. Delhi was so bad that the locals who could, were leaving the city. We stayed one day, got some info about the health risks and decided to hop on an overnight train to Mumbai. When we got there it was better, but still prominent. The same haze that makes for such soft and colorful sunsets is also a reminder of the dirty air that surrounds you. We spent just under a week exploring Mumbai and grew to love it and it’s different neighborhoods, but once we left and flew to Goa, it was apparent that the air was still pretty dirty. This does not deter us, we plan to make our way back to Delhi later in the trip once it has cleared out from the extremely high levels of pollution we originally found there. This is just something to be aware of and look into before heading to the country.
- Queues in India
I’m not sure that everyone has the same experience, but our flight into Delhi showed me quickly what to expect in India in terms of lining up. Once we landed and taxied to the gate, they took the seatbelt sign off and you would think that there was a prize for being the first one off the plane! People from the way back seemed to be ready with their bags and ran up the aisle to get ahead and try to get off the plane faster. Even though the door to the plane was not yet open and nobody was getting out, people who were sat by windows or in middle seats were in a frenzy to get their stuff and get in the line in the aisle. In all my years of flying, I have not seen anything quite like it.
This uniqueness to queues in India has continued. I have noticed that order is not as important here as in western countries and it seems that as long as everyone is ok with that there are no issues. One example happened when we were at the train station, I was in a line waiting to speak with someone and noticed that people would just come up, ignore the line and start asking questions to the worker. This particular employee kept order and made people aware of the line so that was not an issue in the end. What struck me was how virtually everyone who came into the room did the same thing. One thing to remember when trying to make an orderly fashion here is ‘Ya snooze…ya lose’.
The 2nd example I have happened to me recently, I was heading into a general store to grab some random house stuff and was looking around to make sure they had what I needed. There were 2 other groups of people that were there before me talking to the store owner. When he saw me looking around he asked what I was looking for and then proceeded to drop everything for the other people and helped me to finish my shopping. I looked at the other people, shrugged and they didn’t seem fazed in any way. Just something that is unique and different here that I felt like sharing.
- Going to crowded, touristy areas as a foreigner
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be a celebrity who gets noticed in public? Having a slight resemblance to one of the world’s most famous soccer players, I have had a taste of this in the past, but nothing compared to Lianne and I showing up for some sunset photos at Mumbai’s Gateway to India plaza! As soon as we walked in we could see the people staring at us, but then the chaos began. As we were trying to find the right place for photos for ourselves, we started getting groups of people coming up asking for photos with us, with their groups of friends and even with just their children. The pursuit for these photos was relentless and simply saying no did not seem to be working. We were astonished at first and sort of flattered, but as the mob grew and the persistence came with it, we started to feel uncomfortable. We ended up cutting our time at the plaza short and pondered this phenomenon over a beer nearby. We never felt in danger and would have been happy to indulge some of the photo seekers, I think for us, it was just the persistence, sticking the camera in our faces, and the sheer amount of people along with how unexpected it was.
With this being said, coming to this amazing and unique country is something you will be sure not to regret. The beauty, the colors, the tastes and the warmness of the people will stay with you for a lifetime. So prepare your senses, take a step back (except when queuing), and enjoy the trip of a lifetime, in beautiful India.