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12 Things You'll Find Difficult in Northern India

Deb Corbeil is one half of Canada's Adventure Couple. She has just finished traveling with her husband, Dave through Nepal, Sri Lanka and India where she climbed to Mount Everest Base Camp, joined a pilgrimage to Adams Peak and participated in Holi, India's most colourful festival. Deb is quick to tell you that travelling in south India is not as extreme as the northern part of the country and it definitely was far easier there. You can read more about this couple's adventures at http://theplanetd.com/

So you want to go to India? It's been calling you for years and you're feeling ready to explore this fascinating, thrilling yet frustrating country. I'm writing this article while on my first trip to Northern India. For someone travelling from North America the culture shock you feel will be intense and you'll need time to acclimatize yourself.

I know you'll find what I have to say harsh but don't be put off by it. It's meant to prepare you so that the 'shock' in your culture shock will not be as intense as mine was. That said, this is an experience you'll savour for the rest of your life. I would not have missed the markets in Delhi, the splendour of the Taj Mahal, Agra's Red Fort, the holy city of Varanasi, Rajasthan's camel market, and the beautiful people who live here for anything in the world.

Safety...

Safety is an issue in any country and India is no exception. Most of the time you won’t have any problems, however there will be occasions when you will face some annoyances. In India many local women don’t travel alone period, especially in the more rural areas. Many men don’t respect a woman traveling solo and will feel that this gives them license to harass you. That doesn’t mean that a western woman can’t travel solo, just be smart and follow your judgment.

Solutions that have worked for me:

(1) Don’t travel alone at night if you can help it. Hire a taxi or rickshaw to take you to your destination safely. Try to hook up with other travelers if you feel uncomfortable.

(2) Ignore the men that harass you. Don’t even look at them or if you do, give a very quick shake of the head with a stern look on your face and keep walking. Don’t smile or give them any reason to pursue talking to you. If you look like you have been traveling in India for a while, you will get less hassle.

(3) Don’t accept a hotel room that doesn’t lock from the inside. It should have some sort of deadbolt from the inside. Also, bring your own combination lock as many places don’t offer locks. You can lock your door from the outside while you are away sightseeing and have peace of mind about your belongings.

 

Lack of Privacy...

Accept it. You will be an attraction to many local people. It can be a little unnerving having people stare at you. Men especially will stare at you for long periods of time without smiling, saying anything, or even caring that they are making you uncomfortable. It seems rude, but it is what they do. Others may ask you for photographs, want to touch you and constantly want to converse with you. With the invention of cell phones, the tables have now turned and you will have just as many locals wanting to take your photo as you wanting to take theirs.

Solutions that have worked for me:

(1) Ignore the stares. There is nothing you can do about it and although it may seem rude to you, it's just what they do. It's harmless.

(2) Have fun and accept that you are going to be a minor celebrity. Most people just want to know where you are from, shake your hands, stand beside you and take home a memory of your meeting through photographs. The majority of the time it is innocent.

(3) Use your better judgment though. If a group of male kids or men are too aggressive, just give them a strong look and move on.

(4) Don’t lash out, they will just laugh at you and enjoy the reaction that they got out of you.

 

Toilets...

It is the age-old struggle for travelers of the world. Especially women. You won’t be finding too many shining porcelain thrones in India. Most times you won’t even want to enter the stall due to the filth and stench in the public restrooms. But sometimes it can’t be helped when you stop for a quick break in the middle of the night on a long haul sleeper bus. Here, you may be faced with a squat toilet that won’t flush and hasn’t seen a scrub brush for decades.

Solutions that have worked for me:

(1) Carry a wad of toilet paper with you. It has two uses, one is obvious since you will never be supplied with toilet paper, but the other reason is to cover your nose while doing your business to keep you from gagging.

(2) Loose clothing is a must; even a long skirt can make things go more smoothly. Bunch everything up in one hand to keep it from dragging on the floor and never bring anything with you into the toilet. A scarf can easily fall on the floor or worse into the toilet and you don’t want your spare change or wallet falling out of your pocket and into that mess. Keep it all in a bag, zipped up and securely slung over your shoulder.

(3) Work on those quad muscles before leaving your country because squat toilets mean just that -- you squat.

 

Hygiene...

India is dirty, that is a fact. You can count on just about everything having some nasty bacteria on it. Light switches in your hotel room could be be dirty -- doorknobs, walls, anything that you touch is questionable. Remember, you eat with your hands in India and you don’t want to be transferring all of that to your stomach. Delhi Belly didn’t get its name by accident.

Solutions that have worked for me:

(1) Carry handy wipes at all times. While they supply soap at most restaurants, many don’t and often you only wash with cold water. A good antibacterial wipe or hand sanitizer can come to your rescue.

(2) Bring along nail clippers to keep your nails short so that bacteria won’t grow under them. Don’t be afraid to wash your hands as often as possible.

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