Q. Are there seriously cows on the streets?
A. Yes! They’re sacred to Hindus in India and hang out wherever they like. You’ll see some on the beaches in Goa as well. You’ll also see stray dogs.
Q. Do they speak English in India?
A. The cows? No. The people, yes. India was a British Colony 65 years ago. We still suffer from a “Colonial Hangover.” You’ll meet a lot of “Pukka Sahibs.” English is widely spoken in India though the level of fluency may vary. And, you’ll hear some unique phrases and idioms.
Q. How expensive are the cities in India like Delhi and Mumbai, how much money do I need?
A. The metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai are not as cheap as the rest of the country, as smaller towns and villages are much much cheaper.
Here are some common benchmarks for Delhi:
A meal at a fast food restaurant (yes, McDonald’s is in India) should cost you about $6 - $8
Beer @ pub approx $7 (but most have happy hr till 7pm)
Meal at a restaurant would be approx $7-12 (more if at a fine dining establishment)
Accommodation is approx $100 - $130 per night in boutique hotels/guesthouses. Of course there are cheaper options available for bag-packers and budget travelers.
Note: Your expenses decrease 25-30% once you are out of Delhi/Mumbai
Q. Are credit / debit cards accepted everywhere?
A. Cards accepted at most bars/restaurants, and at shops within shopping malls. The street markets, cabs etc are cash only.
Insider tip: Avoid using cards where possible.
Q. Are ATMs and Money Changers easy to find?
A. Most ATMs are within a 10 minute driving distance. Money Changers are in all main shopping precincts. Exchange Rate is approx. $1 USD to INR 58 and this rate fluctuates often. For current rate click here.
Q. Is tipping customary?
A. Tipping is customary for good service, but not always expected.
Tipping ($1= Approx Rs 58)
At Restaurants: 10% for good service.
Bigger restaurants usually include service charges, You can tip 5% above this.
Busboy/Porter/Driver - $1-2
Short cab ride: $2-3
Driver (long trip -4-7 days): $8-25
Guides - full day: $7-20
You can go above (or below) these depending on the quality of your experience.
Q. Should you give money to beggars?
A. Your call – though we recommend against it. Although you will see folks asking for money at most tourist spots and major intersections, begging is illegal and giving them money propagates a host of social issues.
Q. Should you feel sorry for beggars?
A. Yes. But keep in mind that begging is a scam run by organized groups (The Begging Mafia) with women & children being exploited. Half the money you give them goes to corrupt local authorities who allow them to solicit people despite it being against the law, and the most of other half goes to the group higher ups.
If you’d like to contribute to the welfare of the poor or stray animals we have a host of suggestions.
Q. What are some gestures/symbols unique to India?
A. The most prevalant ones are:
Namaste: joining your hands in front of your chest.
Matha Tekde - Touching of feet: at auspicious occasions, it is customary for the young men in a family to bow and touch their elders feet to get their blessings.
Tika: a red mark placed by priests (or elders) on your forehead at the completion of a prayer ceremony. Expect to see this happen several times over the wedding.
Swastika: the swastika symbol is an ancient Indian Aryan symbol you will find at the front of Hindu temples or places of worship. (Hitler borrowed it from India and gave it slant to make it the Nazi symbol)
Q. Is it just me or do people alongside the streets stare blatantly?
A. You are not alone. Locals are not immune to this either, it’s anyone who basically stands out!
It’s purely out of intrigue or interest, so please don’t feel intimidated or unwelcome - Indians are amongst the most hospitable people in the world. In spite of an abundance of western tourists, there still is a strong sense of curiosity around westerners, going back to the different worlds residing in India.
What should you do about this? Nothing. Go about your day and don't pay attention to it.
Q. Are public toilets easily accessible?
A. When within a city, there are public toilets around most busy streets etc. Also, shopping precincts, and of course inside malls, and hotels have open access toilets.
Insider tip: Avoid public toilets on streets as they’re not very well maintained.
Instead, don’t feel uncomfortable walking into a hotel lobby or shopping mall to use toilets if close by (of course pretend that you’re there to buy something like the locals do)… they are cleaner & user friendly. Also, you will see a ‘paid toilet’ service around some parts of town, these are better than generic public toilets.
When travelling interstate by road, you’ll find toilets at railway stations, airports, and at highway retreats which are essentially places when you stop to stretch, eat etc. (They aren’t many exits / rest areas off highways at regular intervals so ensure you take care of business when you stop at a retreat).
Q. Why do people keep asking me to eat or drink something?
A. It's the Indian way of having a good time.
Q. Can I say NO?
A. When visiting someone’s house, it’s customary to accept whatever you are offered and say Thank you. Refusing politely is always an option - but since feeding a guest is held in high regard, you could take a tiny bite or a tiny sip and say, "I'm so full. I just ate." On the street, you can just say “No, Thanks.”
Q. Who can I consult in Delhi about shots, appropriate dress, Indian customs, gossip, food, feuds, questions about life?
A. Send us a message – we’ll be happy to get back to you
Q. How do I address people in India?
A. Disregard if you are over 50 as you can call everyone by their first name.
We refer to people older than us as Uncle, Aunty, Bhai (Brother), Didi (Sister)
This makes it easy for you, if you don’t know someone’s name, just call them Uncle/Aunty or should you feel uncomfortable, then Sir/Ma’am or Mr. ____ Mrs. _____ is best at introduction.
Q. What is appropriate attire?
A. Generally speaking, Indians dress more formally when compared to the US. If you think you’re overdressed, you’re NOT. If you think you’re underdressed, you are.
Western clothing is widely popular and accepted in India.
As you will find, India has two parallel worlds: one with educated, worldly folk and the other who are unexposed to the West, and are more conservative. The latter are best kept in mind when choosing appropriate attire to avoid any uncomfortable moments on the street.
Sub Q: What does this mean for young girls and women in Delhi?
Sub A: In the confines of private areas such as parties / clubs / hotels, they wear whatever they like, and so can you.
When heading for a day out in town visiting markets etc, recommend: T-shirt with knee length skirts or shorts or jeans. T shirts are recommended over tank tops.
In Goa, you can wear whatever you like.
Q. Should I bargain at the shops?
A. Yes, unless you’re at the Louis Vuitton store or at one of the malls with listed prices.
At all street markets and bazaars, as tourists you will be quoted prices that can be 50% more than what they will take.
Insider tip: Don’t flaunt big bills while bargaining. Try not to get too excited and act disinterested. Pay what you would like to pay rather than what is being offered. If you think you’ve paid a fair price - then that was the right price!
Q. What are usual meal times in India?
A. People in India eat dinner late into the night. At weddings and parties - there will be passed hors d'oeuvres till dinner. 10 pm is usually when buffet is served and it stays on for a few hours. You will be eating and drinking a lot!
Q. What are some common Hindi words I should know?
A. English is mostly spoken/understood. However worth noting below:
Shukriya (Thank you)
Ahcha hai (It’s good)
Kitna (How much)
Nahi Chahiye (Don’t want it)
Jao (Go away)