The Eat Smart series from Gingko press is attracting well-deserved attention. A pocketful of tips to the world’s hottest destinations is just the thing serious travelers need to make the most of their trips abroad. India (one of the hottest “exotic escapes”) has its own special flavors and experiences. Here are a few tips outside the books!
– Indian cities are vastly different from one another and rely on many modes of transportation. Keep a fare card handy or atleast know the fares before you hail a cab or a rickshaw (the two modes of travel most tourists will rely on in the absence of public transportation).
– If street-food is a complete no-no, restaurants are not all alike either. Look around carefully for clean, spacious interiors and take a peek at the kitchen as you wait. Avoid the ice and water in restaurants too (just as in America!)
– It can take several hours to commute in busy cities. Start very early or late to avoid peak-hour traffic and pollution.
– Tipping is still an unestablished practice in India. The occasional tip is, however, greatly appreciated. Tipping at restaurants is more commonplace. Waiters generally don’t make effusive conversation as they take orders or deliver them (unlike in the US).
– Expect to stand in line. Long queues and lengthy wait times are a fact of life. So is bureaucracy and red-tape. Online access is still neglible. If you need to get online, check with your hotel beforehand or find a local Internet cafe.
– Vegetarian in India usually means no meat, fish and eggs (no chicken in ‘vegetable soups’ and no pork bits in yellow fried rice!). Indian cuisine offers an excellent variety of vegetarian dishes. Stick to cooked foods.
– India is home to ayurveda and yoga. Fitness enthusiasts and alternative healing practioners have plenty to take home and learn from. Medical tourism is a rising trend in India.
– Shopping for friends or families back in India? Make sure the label says “Made in the USA.” India has a healthy fascination with all things American-made (perfumes, laptops, cameras, ipods, cosmetics).
– The only language you will use to get around is English. Both Hindi (the national language) and the local language (which can be 1 out of many, depending on the city you’re in) cannot be learnt in a day.
– And finally, the rains come in whiplashing downpours and can disrupt normal life. If you don’t like the pitter-patter that NYC occasionally enjoys, you’re unlikely to enjoy knee-deep water, stalled trains and dark, grey skies for days on end. Even a major city like Bombay takes days to limp back to normalcy every monsoon! The best time to visit India is during dry weather – October through May (just before the onset of the rains).