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12 Things You'll Find Difficult in Northern India
Clothing...

India is hot. You may have the urge to wear tank tops and shorts, but it is not acceptable in this society. You are asking for unwanted attention and men will see it as an invitation to come on to you.

Solutions that have worked for me:

(1) Dress as the locals dress. That doesn’t mean that you have to go out and buy a sari but go to the local market and buy some lightweight long sleeved shirts, trousers and skirts. The material that they use in India is far lighter than anything you will find at home and you will actually feel more comfortable in their loose fabric than your shorts and t-shirt. While blending in better with the local people, you will feel beautiful wearing India's vibrant colours and flowing fabrics.

(2) Check Journeywoman's Clothing Guide to India to see what other women travellers have worn on their visits.

 

Dealing with Touts...

India has made selling tours, jewelry, guides and trinkets an art form. These men can sell anything and many times will not take no for an answer. Wannabe tour guides will walk with you on the street asking your name, where you are from and then go in for the kill by selling you a tour. They will have an answer to every reason you have for not needing a guide.

Solutions that have worked for me:

(1) Ignore them. You will start to know what a tout looks like from a mile away. Don’t answer their questions, don’t smile at them, and don’t even look at them. It sounds harsh, but the quicker you let them know you are not interested, the quicker they will be harassing another tourist instead.

(2) I have found that a stern look, quick nod and brisk walk work most effectively. This tells everyone, “I know what I am doing, and I am not interested.”

(3) If you are interested, don’t accept their first offer. Bargain for everything. Bargaining doesn’t have to be a chore, have fun with it and settle on a fair price. Cut their first offer in half and eventually find a middle ground that will be beneficial to the both of you.

 

Poverty...

Women are a compassionate breed and the poverty in India can be overwhelming and upsetting to us all. Starving children beg for money, blind and legless men ask for change and mothers sing with their children in their arms. India has over a billion people and this sheer volume amplifies the amount of poverty that you see everyday.

Solutions that have worked for me:

(1) Understand you can’t save the world. Your instinct will tell you to give your spare change and food to everyone. This does not help the situation. Many people take advantage of young children forcing them to beg while they collect the spoils. If you give to a child, you can’t be sure that he/she is actually getting the money. In essence you might be supporting a criminal organization.

(2) Many people self mutilate or were mutilated by these criminals to gain your sympathy. It is hard to believe, but true. Although some people are legitimately handicapped and can’t get a job and have to resort to begging, you are much better off to give to a reputable charity that you have researched.

(3) Or volunteer while you are in India, there are many organizations that are doing great work and looking for help.

(4) All this advice is easier said than done. Sometimes your entire body is telling you to give, but understand it only perpetuates the problem.

 

Filth...

We have talked about toilets and hygiene, but the filth and dirt in India is not only found in bathrooms and on buses. It's not uncommon to see garbage, feces, urine, cow dung and open sewage in the street. Sacred cows roam the streets relieving themselves on sidewalks and roads. Men urinate openly on walls and in ditches and people throw their plastic bags and water bottles on the ground.

Solutions that have worked for me:

(1) Unfortunately India is highly populated, overcrowded and they don’t yet have the infrastructure for their waste. You are going to have to get your mind around it. Accept the fact that you will have to deal with degrees of garbage and cow dung no matter where you are in India. Yes there are places that aren’t as dirty as others, but even some of the cleanest towns are not up to western standards. The sooner you accept that this is India, the better your trip will be.

(2) Set an example and hold on to your garbage until you find a garbage can, don’t contribute to the problem. And maybe, just maybe someone will follow your lead.

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