What NOT to do in India

What not to do in India

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THINGS YOU SHOULD AVOID

What not to do in India

Namaste. Are you going to India and want some guidance on what to expect there? Let me help you. I will give you my top tips and advice on what not to do in India. It’s important to be prepared before you go and knowing the things you shouldn’t do, and the things you should avoid, when visiting India will help you fit in with the locals and keep you out of trouble. I have recently spent some time in India and my husband has travelled there many times for business. Hopefully, my knowledge and insight will help to prepare you for the culture shock that you will undoubtedly experience.

India is home to some stunning architecture

Firstly, don’t question why things are the way they are in India, just accept them. India is a peaceful country of huge contrasts and rich diversity, with much to appreciate. Many centuries of different influences have created a society of such varied religions, languages, customs and traditions, which have been coexisting harmoniously together.

1. Food & Water – What not to do in India

Unfortunately, in most parts of India, the water is untreated, which means it is unfit for drinking. We, as foreign travellers will most likely get sick from the water, unless eating in a 5-star hotel, where proper water filtration has taken place for drinking and food preparation.

Please follow these tips so you don’t risk getting ‘delhi belly’.

  • Absolutely do not drink the tap water!
  • Don’t use the tap water even for brushing teeth.

Snazzy Tip: Only drink ‘sealed’ bottled water, and use it to brush your teeth also.

  • Don’t have salad or cut fruit or fresh fruit juice, as these foods will probably have been washed in the unfiltered tap water.
  • Having ice in your drinks is as bad as drinking the water.
  • Avoid eating food that isn’t fully cooked and served to you HOT!
  • Don’t eat street food, even though it looks very tempting. You WILL most likely get sick from food poisoning, as proper hygiene is lacking in food preparation and handling. Stick to hotels and reputable restaurants.
  • When eating around locals, don’t use your left hand to put food in your mouth, only use your RIGHT hand.

2. Clothing – What not to do in India

  • Females shouldn’t wear revealing or tight fitting clothing in public, especially in temples and mosques, which require conservative attire at all times, that covers upper arms and upper legs.
  • Always remove shoes before entering a premises. Socks are ok indoors.

Snazzy Tip: When visiting a public venue, wear an old pair of shoes in case your shoes get stolen.

  • Nudity in public is a crime.
  • Indian women generally don’t seem to wear white. I have been told it is reserved mainly for funerals.

3. Language – What not to do in India

As English is widely spoken in India, don’t think the locals can’t understand you.

  • Swearing is unacceptable.
  • Do not talk about sex in public. It is a taboo subject.
  • Talking about the caste system is also not recommended.
  • Don’t be surprised if you hear some unusual English being spoken, such as, “my head is paining”, “what is your good name?”, “do the needful”, and “prepone”. These are Indian English terms that are common in India.
what not to do in India

4. Behaviour – What not to do in India

Indian people are very religious, conservative, polite and well behaved in public.

  • Whistling at women is not allowed.
  • Screaming at people is not done.
  • Violence in public is not tolerated.
  • Drinking alcohol at home is considered disrespectful to the family. So drinking is usually done away from the home.
  • Most Indian women don’t drink alcohol or smoke, although women are starting to drink more now.
  • Only use your left hand when passing things. Alternatively, using two hands is ok.
  • Men and women do not shake hands with each other when greeting, or touch in any way.
  • Definitely no public displays of affection are acceptable. No kissing and cuddling in public as it may lead to imprisonment and/or a fine. Holding hands is also not recommended, although I have done this and had no problem.
  • Being gay was against the law in India until 6 September, 2018 when it was legalised.
  • However, don’t be surprised to see two heterosexual men walking down the street holding hands, as it is a sign of good friendship.
  • Queueing up for things in an orderly fashion won’t happen. You have to be prepared to push a little or you won’t get served.
  • Avoid giving money to beggars. They are often at tourist attractions. Instead you can give them food.
  • Try not to be shocked by the poverty you will see here. It is very distressing, but many of them have not known any different and accept it.
  • Don’t be alarmed when you see men urinating in public. It is quite common.

5. Roads – What not to do in India

  • Don’t drive in the big cities. Traffic congestion is the worst you can imagine, especially in Delhi. I noticed most cars are dinted. Everything is on the roads, as footpaths are virtually non-existent in most areas.
  • To avoid being late to things, make sure you allow a lot of extra time on the roads for delays due to traffic jams.
  • Don’t be alarmed by all the honking of horns. It is constant and part of the road etiquette, to let other drivers know they are passing.

6. Pollution – What not to do in India

  • Don’t stay outdoors for long periods of time. Air quality is extremely poor in most cities. Take necessary medication with you.
  • Try not to be overwhelmed by the rubbish on the streets, but it is a bit hard, when piles of waste are everywhere in the cities. This is one of the things that really shocked me about India.
  • Don’t swim in the rivers in India, especially the holy Ganges River and the Yamuna River, which are two of the most polluted.

7. Holy Cows – What not to do in India

  • Do not harm cows. They are sacred throughout most of India and much loved and revered.
  • Don’t be shocked to see them wandering freely around the streets and highways. Cars just drive around them.
  • Never give leather-made goods (or any cow or pig products) as gifts to Indians.

8. Holi, Festival of Colour/Love – What not to do in India

The Holi Hindu festival in certain parts of India has become a big tourist attraction, which is held in February or March (time varies each year). It’s a fun and vibrant celebration of Spring and love and kindness, where bright colours, wet and dry, are thrown at everyone as part of the activities. However, if you are going to participate, don’t be uninformed and ill-prepared.

  • Be aware that some of the coloured powders used these days aren’t very safe and can cause harm to skin, eyes and breathing.
  • Protect yourself as much as possible and cover up.
  • Avoid wearing good clothes because they will get stained.

Snazzy Tip: If you have to use your camera/phone during Holi, protect it with cling wrap.

Tours of India I recommend

I hope my tips on what not to do in India help prepare you for the cultural differences you will incur. Being aware of what to expect will make your time in the country a more pleasant one.

Overall, I enjoyed my stay in India and found it to be a valuable and enlightening experience. The country has tonnes of amazing places to see and many wonderful people.

We have to remember there are good and bad aspects about every country. We, as privileged tourists, might find certain things disturbing, but the locals accept as normal and have often not known any different.

What do you think? Leave me your comments below.

Thank you.

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7 thoughts on “What NOT to do in India

  1. Jas says:

    I definitely would’ve gotten a delhi belly from brushing my teeth with tap water hahaa. Great tip about leaving extra time on the roads. I always forget that traffic jams are super common in Asia!

  2. Catherine says:

    Such a great post and so helpful! I believe it’s always so important to familiarize yourself with what not to do when you’re a tourist visiting a new country for the first time.

  3. Carol Colborn says:

    Great tips. India has stunning architecture and culture. Thus, it will have some restrictions based on that culture. I have not been to India. This will be kept for that special time when I do go.

  4. April says:

    It’s like 50-70% of the things you listed here applies to the Philippines. Thanks for sharing and putting this altogether. It’s great for everyone to know and learn this things before visiting the country. So insightful!

  5. josypheen says:

    Goodness this must have taken ages to write up!

    Great tips about being careful with water, salads and ice. Although I don’t really agree with the point about not eating street food. We had some fantastic street food in India – but tended to eat (cooked) vegetarian options.

    Your tip about holy cows did make me smile. I was surprised to see so many cows wandering around on the roads and in cities in India, but I have never considered harming a cow anywhere in the world! The “don’t harm cows” tip works everywhere. 😉

  6. Lisa says:

    I have been to India twice but it was to speak at conferences and I didn’t get time to explore. I really want to get back. Your tips will be very useful for when we get back there.

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