Equip yourself with preventive medicines and basic first aid equipment before you leave home. Having these supplies will save you the trouble of going in search of a doctor or drugstore if you get sick. Always carry a water bottle with you. Either boil your own water, or make sure to buy bottled water from a reliable distributor (Bisleri, Yes!, etc.). Indian drinking water contains many forms of bacteria that cannot be filtered out by using a simple filter. If you have to drink soda, avoid bottled sodas since they may be watered down with the same contaminated water that you are trying to avoid. If you eat on the street, consume only fresh fruit or food that is boiled or fried.Food that hasn’t been cooked at high temperatures could make you sick. The one time that I decided to eat out and didn’t take care to make sure that my food was fresh and properly prepared, I ended up in bed for four days with a bad case of diarrhea—you don’t want this.
Always keep your passport and any other important papers close to you. Don’t leave important documents in your luggage. Also, keep two photographs and your passport information in a safe, separate place in case your passport is lost or stolen. Contact the state ITDC (Indian Tourism Development Corporation) or the state tourism office (usually located in the capital city) for travel information. Travel brochures and advice can be acquired at these centers. The ITDC location information can be found in a local phone book. Use STS (Station-to-Station) phone booths to make intra-country and foreign calls. The cost of calling from these booths is less expensive than calling from a house or hotel, and they can be found virtually anywhere. Look for movie theatres to stop at when you’re on the road and need a bathroom break. Theatre bathrooms are usually the cleanest you will find while on the road. You may also want to carry toilet paper with you. Don’t give money to beggars; offer to buy them a meal instead. Pulling out money leaves you open to being robbed or mobbed by beggars. Also, be prepared to see many, many people begging for money—especially in train stations and outside temples.
Realize that personal space doesn’t exist in India. On any Indian city bus people sit three to a seat, and there are usually three orderly rows of people standing in the aisle. With this many people in one bus, you’re bound to get pushed around, which, although unintentional, is disconcerting for people who aren’t used to so much body contact. However, women should be very careful—for them, sometimes the jostling and pushing by men is intentional. Nevertheless, a city bus ride is definitely an experience worth having at least once—just so you know what I’m talking about.
Avoid putting your luggage on the top of the bus when travelling. If you do so, it may not be there when you get to your destination. Even if it is a little uncomfortable, try to keep your luggage with you on the bus.
Only carry as much luggage as you can handle without looking weak or helpless. As a girl travelling alone in India, I was often accosted by eager porters wanting to carry my luggage. Carrying only one small bag helped me to demonstrate that I didn’t need help. Also, on the one occasion when I was followed by a strange man who seemed to have bad intentions, being able to handle my luggage alone helped me to move quickly and stave off any problems that might have arisen.
If using a taxi or rikshaw, make sure the meter is at the lowest rate when you begin the trip. Drivers may rip you off if they think you don’t know any better. Negotiating prices beforehand can also help you avoid being cheated.
Confirm your return flight at least two days in advance in order to avoid getting bumped. Indian airport computers aren’t always reliable; confirming your flight ahead of time could save you grief at the airport.