12 guidebook myths about India

12 guidebook myths about India

What we wish we'd known before we went to India
guide to india
The Taj Mahal, best experienced on a postcard.

1. If you see one thing, see the Taj Mahal

No offense to Shah Jahan and Mumtaz, but there are dozens of sites in India that are guaranteed to mesmerize.

If Mughal architecture is your thing, then definitely make the somehow-always unpleasant journey to Agra.

Otherwise, Udaipur, Ranakpur or even Munnar should be the highlight of your journey.

guide to indiaThe art of haggling = don't be a jerk.

2. Unless you’re in a government-run shop, you need to haggle 

The first problem with this myth is that it can be confusing how to determine what is truly a government-run shop, if there even are such official things.

Depending on where you are, you may not need to haggle on prices at all, particularly if items are marked.

In tourist areas, buying tourist-marketed goods, there's a high likelihood you may need to break out your bargaining skills.

3. You can find a great yoga experience anywhere in India

While this may be true to some extent, don’t depend on the place you're traveling to have the exact style of yoga you’re used to or even a style that you'd identify as yoga.

The yogic practice is widespread and diverse. If you find yourself in a room with an old man leading you in finger-bending exercises and visioning for an hour, you may have to maintain "flexibility."

4. Rajasthan is India's “must-see” state

As with myth number one, there's something for everyone in India. If you enjoy lakes, palaces and sweet food, Rajasthan may be your best bet.

If you want a big city, undisturbed jungle or snow-capped peaks, it might be worth skipping Rajasthan, especially if you’re pressed for time.

guide to indiaCan we get a plate of non-spicy? Probably not.

5. Most restaurants will adjust the level of spice in their food to suit your palate

If you don’t like spicy food, you're making a bold choice by even showing up in India.

You can always ask for milder food, but failing that you can temper your food with dahi (curd) and lots of tea.

6. Women should only wear pants or ankle-length skirts

Dressing respectfully and appropriately means different things in different places.

While hotpants will be extremely inappropriate pretty much everywhere other than Goa, we've yet to see anyone look appropriate in an ankle-length skirt in a nightclub in Mumbai.

 

guide to indiaNo gender divides when it comes to clean panipuri.

7. Only buy street food prepared by women -– it’s more hygienic

If you find a female street food vendor in India, please let us know.

The hygiene at some street food stalls may be dubious, but it can be just as bad at fancy restaurants.

Locals are concerned about hygeine, as well. Places with queues that reach around the block are good bets.

8. If you're unclear about bathroom habits, just ask

Follow this advice only if you want to have the most awkward conversation of your trip.

If you're at a rest stop or small establishment whose bathroom procedures are unclear to you, don’t involve anyone else in that adventure.

9. Locals are friendly -- you'll likely be invited to their family celebrations

Indians aren’t actually that crazy about inviting strangers to their personal events, regardless of their skin color. Don’t get your hopes up.

guide to indiaThe Pashmina, judged like a superfino Panama hat.

10. A real pashmina will fit through a ring

So will a Kleenex, but that doesn’t mean you should pay extra for it.


11. Rent an Ambassador to handle the potholes and road bumps

Do not rent a car here unless you already have extensive experience with the road conditions.

And even then, an Ambassador, while charming and probably a phenomenal photo opportunity, is probably not your best bet.

guide to indiaIndian trains are good for local flavor.

12. The train is the best way to experience India

Well … unfortunately this one might be true, but there are definitely a lot of other ways to go about it.

Two-wheelers, cars, helicopters, boats, planes ... there are lots of ways to get around. The trains can be quite convenient until you get harassed, waitlisted, delayed.

 

Hilary Fischer-Groban is a freelance writer based in Mumbai, with a background in corporate social responsibility.
Read more about Hilary Fischer-Groban
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