General Warnings, Delhi
The Holi festival of colours is held in early Spring (2014 - 17th March) and is a riotous disorganised ritual of throwing coloured water bombs over anyone and generally making merry, which in some places means consuming huge amounts of alcohol too. In the hotel where we were in Delhi the ground floors were awash with water and it became impossible to leave our rooms before 14h00, with some students water-bombing from the 6th floor. In our case once outside we found that most people were respectful and just initiated us with a Bindi, but my wife did get caught by two youngsters on a scooter that squirted her with blue colouring from a pistol. Result : skirt and t-shirt in the bin, impossible to get the colour out. So either stay in your room or go out in clothes you were going to chuck out anyway and take part in the fun.
1. Double-check all hotel and restaurant bills for errors.
2. Don't leave cash and valuables in your hotel room. Use room safes where available.
3. Keep daily cash in separate pockets.
4. Don't flash jewelry or large sums of money.
5. Never pay for anything upfront - including drivers.
6. Avoid touts!
7. Don't exchange money on the black market.
8. Get a receipt when changing money at an authorized establishment.
9. Carry small bills (Rs 10, 20, 50, 100) for tips, public transportation, etc.
Indians adore children and you will see (and hear) children all over - at all times - of the day and night. So your children will be welcomed warmly. But if your infant/toddler is new to travelling or is not a good traveller, India may not be the best place to visit. As difficult as India may be for some first time visitors, it will be much more so for a very young child.
My daughter spent the first 11 months of her life in India. While things were diffifult then, we were able to control alot of the situations. All baby items - formula, diapers, wipes, baby food, etc. were easily available, although formula in particular, was 3 times the price as in the U.S.
When we returned to India when my daughter was 19 months old, things were different. Mostly because SHE was now much more mobile. It was a very toddler un-friendly place in that there are few or no facilities for children that age.
With the exception of 5 star hotels and Western food chains (McDonalds, Pizza Hut, etc.) you won't find high chairs. Sometimes cribs are available - although once we got a hospital crib sent over to our hotel. Car seats are almost unheard of - even if you bring your own, most taxis don't even have seat belts to hold them in. Roads and sidewalks are full of cracks, potholes, etc. - and traffic is chaotic - making using a stroller a bad adventure. Short rides in rickshaws meant breathing in the pollution coming from cars, trucks, buses, and other rickshaws. The only changing table I came across was in Mumbai's domestic airport's new "family" room, making changing diapers anywhere else generally difficult. I had to continuously watch what she touched, what she walked in, etc. On top of all that, even with eating in good establishments, she got a stomach bug twice in 2 1/2 weeks. Hardly ideal for very young children.
In addition, Western children attract alot of attention. You will have people wanting to take photos/videos, pinching cheeks, and physically trying to take the child from your arms to hold him/her. When trying to get the child's attention people will click and snap their fingers loudly
wihin a few inches of the child's face (most annoying!!). All of it can be very overwhelming for both the parents and the child. I was never comfortable about the photos and if asked would politely decline. We were not always asked though and it was annoying to turn around and have a camera in her face. I was not comfortable with anyone touching my daughter either. She was once pinched so hard, she had a mark on her cheek for an hour afterwards!
Although there are parks and some (mostly not so good) zoos, children this young are inevitably going to be bored with seeing temples, markets, and forts. Throw in heat and humidity (and any or all of the above issues) and you have all the makings for a miserable time for all.
Of course, India is likely a fascinating place and totally different experience for older children. However, if you're bringing an infant/toddler to India, I'd recommend doing the following:
Contact your child's pediatrician regarding necessary vaccinations. (You may need to contact the Center for Disease Control/whatever agency is appropriate in your country first.) In particular, find out about malaria prevention and mosquito repellent (as some are not appropriate for young children).
Bring plenty of disinfectant hand wipes and/or hand gel. Wash your child's hands frequently.
Eat safely (no street stall foods, no buffets, eat fruits/veg that can be peeled and well-cooked food, drink sealed bottled water).
Use sun screen/mosquito repellent, put a hat and sunglasses on your child.
Wear closed shoes, not sandals.
Bring a first aid kit including (at least): Band-aids, antiseptic wipes/ointment, tweezers, thermometer, age-appropriate pain/fever medicine & stomach/anti diarrhea medicine (check with your doctor for perscription meds), appropriate antibiotics for common childhood infections (such as middle ear infections), diaper rash ointment.
Bring a favorite blanket and stuffed animal.
Keep your child very close in crowded places.
Beware of stray dogs and monkeys!
Most of all realize that your child needs to take breaks - for naps, a swim - so work around your child's schedule - including possible jetlag. Avoid hours on end on public transporation (buses, trains, even taxis). There are many budget airlines in India - no charge for children under 2.
If your child does become sick, seek out a doctor immediately. Most hotels can recommend a doctor, medical clinic, or hospital.
You will come across monkeys in many places in India - everywhere from temples to forts to jungles. The monkeys in the jungles are not used to interaction with humans and there is less chance they will bother you.
The monkeys that have been fed by humans are more likely to become aggressive - especially when they want more food. While the monkeys may look really cute, you have to remember that even though they'll take food right from your hand, they are still WILD animals.
You usually can purchase bananas, etc. near wherever there are monkeys. We've never had a problem feeding monkeys when there was a group of people around who were also feeding the monkeys. But we've had a few unpleasant encounters with monkeys when no one else was around.
Keep track of all the monkeys around you. If you get distracted with one monkey, another may run up to you and try to grab the food.
Don't carry food in the open and don't carry any plastic bags.
If you're walking through a wooded area/forest you may want to carry some kind of walking stick. Be vigilant about the monkeys overhead in trees.
Hold tightly onto your purse, camera, etc. because they are very mischievous - and fast - and
will grab your belongings and run.
Monkey bites are very serious and diseases can be passed through their saliva. If you do get bitten, clean the wound and see a doctor immediately!!
1. Within India dial 100 or 108 for police.
2. Within India dial 101 or 108 for medical or fire emergency.
3. Be aware of your surroundings. Report any suspicious activity/packages, etc. to police.
4. Although it is common in India, do not offer bribes. If anyone asks for a bribe tell them you will report them to the Anit-Corruption Bureau or the nearest police station.
5. Always carry your passport with you. Put a sticky note inside with the local telephone number of your Consulate.
6. Do not buy, sell, or use narcotics. You do NOT want to end up in an Indian prison!!
7. Be aware of travel warnings. Some areas are considered unsafe for foreigners.
8. Never accept a ride if there's someone accompanying the driver in a taxi or rickshaw.
9. Chain-lock your door when inside your hotel room.
10. Don't flash jewelry or large sums of money.
12. Be particularly careful with your belongings (including wallets/purses) in crowds.
11. See my separate Warnings for Women.
1. Learn at least Hello, Thank you, Yes, No, and Goodbye in Hindi (at least).
2. Turn your cell phones off inside churches, temples, museums, etc. If it rings and you must take the call, do it outside!
3. If there’s a running commentary (live or recorded) or you're on a guided tour, be polite and be quiet.
4. Dress appropriately and be respectful in temples, churches, mosques. ALWAYS remove your shoes (it's a good idea to carry or wear socks so you don't have to go barefoot). It's a good idea to carry a cover for your head as well.
5. If you’re traveling with children, don’t let them disrupt others around you. If they cry or throw a tantrum, take them outside.
6. If you have a complaint, do it reasonably without yelling and cursing.
7. Please use dust bins/garbage pails!
1. Drink bottled water (check to confirm seal has not been broken). Do NOT drink tap water or any water served in a restaurant in a glass unless you saw it being poured from a sealed bottle.
2. Mind what you eat. One of my great joys while travelling in India is eating street foods. If you're not used to the food or have a sensitive stomach, eat only food that is cooked (and hot), fruit that can be peeled, etc.
3. Bring stomach medications from home that you know work, just in case.
4. Contact the health center in your home country for information on vaccinations and medications. This should be done several weeks before your trip as some medications need to be started weeks before your trip.
5. Avoid eating at buffets, even at 5-star hotels.
6. Wash your hands before eating, after using the bathroom, and other times as necessary.
7. Carry wet ones or hand sanitizers.
8. Be careful of "duplicate" liquor.
9. Don't eat in an empty restaurant. Food may not be fresh. Follow the locals to the good (and usually inexpensive) restaurants.
10. Avoid ice.
1. If there are signs saying “No photos”, don’t take pictures! (Some airports & bridges, Military Bases, etc. are off-limits!)
2. Learn how to use your camera before the trip. If there are signs saying “No flash”, make sure you know how to use the camera without it.
3. If you see a couple or family where one person taking pictures of the other(s), offer to take a picture of both/all of them. Maybe they’ll reciprocate.
4. Don't take pictures of worshippers.
5. Ask BEFORE you take a photo of someone. (It's easy to gesture with your camera if someone doesn't understand english.) Most people will say yes. I've rarely come across anyone that doesn't want to have his/her photo taken. Share the photo in your playback screen - children especially love this and it's a good way to make new friends! I've had alot of fun with people and their reactions to being photographed and then seeing themselves.
6. You'll be visiting alot of caves, forts, temples, etc. that may be hard to identify when you return home. Before entering, take a photo of a sign with the name of the place (each! cave, etc.).
7. Keep an eye on your camera equipment all the time!
8. Bring more digital photo cards/film than you think you will need. Bring an extra battery.
9. Charge your camera batteries every night.
** Delhi is known for its harassment of women (both Indian and foreign) or "eve teasing" as its called in India. Take extra care and be especially aware here.
1. Unless on the beaches of Goa, it's best to dress conservatively. No shorts, short skirts, or shirts displaying too much cleavage. You will have to endure uncomfortable stares, and sometimes comments and even "accidental" touching. (Capris & t-shrits are fine.)
2. If someone does touch you or becomes aggressive, yell LOUDLY. They will likely run away and you will attract the attention of others who will come to your rescue.
3. Avoid walking in deserted areas at night or odd hours.
4. Avoid drinking alcohol in excess.
5. Never accept food or drinks from strangers.
6. Carry tissue/toilet paper. You never know when you'll need it!
7. Where available, use women's only areas/compartments on public transportation. NEVER ride in the general men's compartment.
8. If you do go out to clubs/bars, NEVER leave your drink unattended and always make sure you have transportation back to your hotel pre-arranged.
9. If travelling alone on the train, request to be accommodated near other women travelers.
10. Never accept a ride if there's someone accompanying the driver in a taxi or rickshaw.
11. Chain-lock your door when inside your hotel room.
12. If you happen to come across a street party or a festive procession, it is best not to take part. Crowds such as those will likely have agressive and/or drunk men. You can watch from a distance and move on when it has passed you.
13. If travelling with a boyfriend/husband it's best to avoid public displays of affection, which can attract lewd remarks and gestures.
14. Use common sense and trust your instincts.
1. If not taking a prepaid taxi or a metered taxi/rickshaw, negotiate the fare before taking off.
2. If spending alot of time with a taxi driver (or any driver), it helps if he speaks and understands basic English.
3. Don't drive on highways at night.
4. When travelling by train, chain and lock your luggage under your berth. Don't keep anything valuable near the window. Carry plenty of water and fruit, and don't eat or drink anything offered by a stranger.
5. Be aware of travel warnings. Some areas are considered unsafe for foreigners.
6. Always carry your passport with you. Put a sticky note inside with the local telephone number of your Consulate.
7. Keep a copy of your passport/visa separate from the original.
8. For women, where available, use women's only areas/compartments on public transportation. NEVER ride in the general men's compartment.
9. For women, if travelling alone on the train, request to be accommodated near other women travellers.
When going to buy train tickets at the New Delhi Railway Station, don't let anyone tell you that you can't. It is true that the ticket offices outside are for Indians, but there is an International Ticket Office upstairs - just go inside, and take the stairs to your right. Several people will try to tell you they have moved, possibly somewhere near Connaught Place, and they'll probably even try to put you in a rickshaw to take you there: it' s a scam to get you to a more expensive travel agent.
The Lonely Planet guide mentions a scam involving someone placing excrement on your shoe then offering to clean it off for a small sum. This didn't happen to me, but something similar did. I was walking between the train station and my hotel, at the start of Paharganj bazaar, when I felt a tap or tug on my shoe. I yanked my foot away, and yelled at whoever it was, and they scarpered. I believe they were trying to undo my shoelace; luckily they were foiled by my double knot!
Do be careful about this sort of thing in crowded areas, especially in places where there are lots of tourists.
When I visited Delhi last week, I hired a taxi for local sight seeing. The taxi driver took us to few places (India Gate, Lotus Temple, Red fort etc) and after lunch, he took us to Delhi Haat Craft Cottage Industries, 95, Shamboo Dayal Bagh, Ohla, New Delhi-20. When we were dropped near the shop, a guy came to us and invited us to the shop. He also told that the Shop is owned by the Government of Delhi!!! When we inquired more about his claims, he told that it is a Co-Operative society.
He shown us many products and we purchased few dress materials (Saree, Children Dress, Bangles etc). While billing, the shop keeper told us that we have to pay only 40% at this time and they will deliver the materials by VPP and I can pay the rest to the Postman. But they took approximately 50% money upfront. Since we were heading to Shimla from Delhi, we prefered that VPP service as we do not want to carry the extra load with us to Shimla.
And after almost a week, today I receive the VPP. It was little over the charge quoted by the Delhi Haat.... After paying for the VPP, I opened the parcel and got shocked. It had only one single Children cloth and all over the parcel was only waste papers and few books from Chartered secretaries.
The phone numbers listed in the Bill and in the advertisements are also not picked up by anyone.
It looks like the Delhi Haat people scam like this as the drivers of cabs are taking us to the Delhi Haat without even asking our desire...
Please be careful.
I had very bad experience with food from roadside stalls in Delhi and I would like to beware tourists of the same. Being an Indian, I have had never had this problem anywhere before. Delhi was the first and only time.
DO NOT GO TO MERRYGO TOURIST AGENCY in Connaught Place - near H Block. They will swindle you. They told us they were taking 25% commission, they took 45%. They set us up with a personal car and charged us 7 rupees a kilometer. The driver took us to destinations we didn't want to go to, he was rude, and then when we returned to Delhi, a bit smarter, we demanded our money back.
The men at the office yelled at us, called us stupid, and we refused to leave until they refunded some of our money. They pretended to take us to the US Ambassy and then turned the car around and agreed to refund us 3000 rupees. Then they made us sign something that said we were "satisfied with the exchange."
I'm sure most tourist agencies will pull this kind of nonsense. We were not smart about it, but try to only use the trains in Delhi - NOT A PERSONAL CAR - and check all of the expenses if you do book trips with a tourist agency. They'll most likely swindle you. We lost about $250 because we were not prepared, not smart and not willing to argue them down to a reasonable price.
One more time: MERRYGO Tourist Agency - the signs on the door say Government Approved Tourist Agency. They will be very nice to you, and the workers will tell you their philosophy, "Good service makes happy customers." It's upsetting, but it's all lies.