5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Traveling To India
Updated: Apr 15, 2018
1) You need a paper copy of a confirmation of your flight to enter the airport.
Frantic, scared, and confused barely describes how I was feeling trying to enter the airport in New Delhi, India. We had a flight to China for our next leg of our adventure. Normally, you enter an airport and go up to the boarding desks to check in and receive your boarding pass. Nope, not in India. You can’t even get through the front gates without a hard copy of your confirmation of flight of departure from India. We were trying to show the guards our payments and ticket information from our phone, but they just weren’t having it. We paced the the length of the airport twice trying to find a kiosk stand with “Air China” or an American airline to get help from. No Luck. We finally found a small hallway at the end of the airport where you could log into your email and print off a confirmation copy. One computer, one printer, and one huge line full of foreigners that were in the same boat as us. As patiently as we could, we waited our turn to use the computer, and print off our expedia itinerary. Thats literally all they wanted. It just had to be a paper copy. Of course there is a service fee as well, only a couple bucks though. We printed our papers, turned to the security guard, and he let us into the airport with not much more than a glance at our papers. Navigating the rest of the airport check in process was a breeze. Just had to get in! I guess the rule of thumb of getting to an international flight 4 hours early is definitely worth it. Whew.
2) Dogs. So many dogs.
I knew that I would see some stray dogs, but I couldn’t have imagined the packs of them running around. I am an animal lover and grew up with a dog. It breaks your heart. Completely breaks your heart. Wanting so bad to just bend down and pet the ones running by. Just to give them an ounce of love. But “you’re not supposed to for health reasons” as doctors would say. I was just shocked to see hundreds, even thousands of dogs. Running together in the streets, huddling outside restaurants looking for scraps and laying on top of cars. The TOP of them - that was strange.
3) It’s a damn sausage fest.
The only thing that there is more of than dogs, is men. I would say 9 out of 10 people I saw were men. Yes, with a county of a billion people, you will see plenty of women, but there is just an overwhelming amount of men. It’s just a cultural norm for the women to say in to cook and care for the children. Most were very nice, but any Western looking female is going to get quite a few looks. Just be prepared for that.
4) Yes, people will ask you for your picture.
If you are not of Indian descent or heritage and look just remotely different than the “typical” Indian, you will be asked if you can have your picture taken.
Warning - If you are in a crowded area and you say yes to having your picture taken with someone, that gives the “all clear” for everyone else to get a photo with you. Tye and I were at the Taj Mahal and I agreed for a gentlemen to get a friendly selfie with me. Before he could even finish taking the photo, there was a freaking line of people! Men, women, children - they all wanted a photo with the weird looking foreigner. And don't just think it was because I am a female. Tye had a line too! If you are uncomfortable with taking strangers just politely say "no" and they will respect that.
5) The culture shock is real.
I have a few places in the world before coming to India. I thought I would be well accustomed to observing a new culture I haven’t seen before. But that slapped me in the face real quick. I will say, it was the first categorized 3rd world country I have been to, and that played a factor.
Immediately exiting the airport you are first hit will a heavy, sticky heat. Even at 11:00pm when we arrived. You then see people laying in the grass outside of the airport, people sitting on sidewalks, the dogs running around. New Delhi has an energy. Its chaotic, busy, loud, always moving. Nothing is stagnant. Its dusty and dirty, but full of life.
Drivers do not use their blinkers. They honk when entering and exiting a lane, they honk to get your attention, they honk when mad, they honk when passing you so you know they are there. It only adds to the loud chaoticness. So when you get into your first taxi, don't think he’s crazy. He’s just like everyone else. And just know that your nose will be touching the back seat windows, trying to get just one more glimpse of that crazy life of India.