9 Things You Should Know Before You Go to India

I found exchange rates to be decent in airports, and one advantage of exchanging in person as opposed to an A.T.M. is that you can ask for small bills. You don’t want to be walking around with a fistful of purple 2,000 rupee notes. Whenever you can make change, do it. Fast food restaurants are particularly good for this. You’ll need small bills when you’re buying a cup of tea on the street, or taking a tuk-tuk ride — do not expect your driver to be able to make change.

There are plenty of opportunities to attend movies, events and concerts in India. The website Book My Show is quite useful for this, and is widely used throughout the country — I booked a concert in Mumbai with no issues. For tours and guides when in a new city, I tried to book directly with a company whenever possible, but also used larger aggregator sites like Viator and Klook simply for the convenience.

There are also plenty of opportunities to find tour guides on the ground in a new city. In Mumbai, for example, there are quite a few on the street right outside the Gateway of India. A trusted home stay is also a fantastic way to get suggestions for things to do and places to go — I had a lot of luck with this when I rented a room through Airbnb during my stay in Kolkata.

I had no safety issues while traveling in India — I avoided conspicuously displaying money, didn’t walk around too late at night and generally used common sense. But I understand that the experience for female travelers, particularly women traveling alone, might be quite different. Much has been written on the topic, including this National Geographic piece by Neha Dara and this piece by Candace Rardon. I recommend reading personal accounts of women who have traveled to India, or speaking with friends who have gone, if possible, and then making your own assessment. Travel should be an adventure, but it shouldn’t make anyone feel unsafe or compromised.

Haggling is an art form. And while some people truly don’t like doing it (I don’t particularly, either), it’s worth trying to get in the spirit of it, especially if you’re planning to do any shopping. In general, decide what the particular thing — a shirt, or a handbag — is worth to you. Set a mental ceiling on what you’re willing to pay. The first price the seller will throw at you, particularly if you’re visibly foreign, will likely be very high. Come back with half of that price, or possibly even less, depending on the circumstances. The seller will dramatically dismiss your reply and come back with a slightly smaller number.

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