Culture Shock. Many travelers are not prepared to experience certain elements during their trip to India and beyond. Their visions of palaces, colorful saree's and a vibrant culture are interrupted by poverty, crowds, noise, and pollution. Over time, most travelers settle into the surroundings and become captivated by the people and the land, but we recommend easing into the culture slowly. Please be prepared for the following:
Crowds: India has 1.13 billion people residing in 1/3 the size of the United States. Streets, markets, and bazaars are often crowded with people, cars, bicycles, and animals. Personal space is considered a luxury. If you are uncomfortable being with many people in close quarters, please plan ahead and let your guide know, if applicable.
Pollution: Dust and exhaust contribute to India's high pollution levels, particularly in the dry season. Travelers who suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions may consider planning their trip during more favorable weather. Though the pollution is worse in larger cities, it is fairly evident is many Indian destinations.
Poverty: Poverty in India is widespread. Although the country has seen an impressive gain in technology, education and economic investments, more than 40% of the country still lives on less than $2/day. Beggars are also common. Many cities have homes that teach this craft as a scam, especially by manipulating children. If you feel compelled to give, we recommend donating money to a reputable charitable organization that will disperse the funds to the community. Please ask your guide or representative about recognized places to donate.
Attention: As a foreigner, be prepared for people to stare. However, this is not out of rudeness but instead curiosity. They are interested in your body language, clothing, and ways of communication. Try to not feel uncomfortable and instead engage in conversation. Indians are some of the friendliest people in the world.
Cows: Cows are sacred in India and they roam freely on the streets. If a cow is sitting in the middle of the road, the vehicles will go around the animal and perhaps cause a traffic jam. And be prepared: If a cow is in labor, it is considered a grand event and everyone will stop to assist with the birth.
This and more information is available in our comprehensive Destination Guide, available to all Sodha Travelers.