Americans Traveling To India: What You Need To Know

India sounds so exotic to most Americans. This is why so many of them try to visit the country at least once in their lifetime.


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And the country definitely deserves the hype. There are so many captivating and alluring sights. The natural wonders are stunning and some of the manmade creations are quite intimidating.


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Of course, so many Indians live in squalid conditions and that aspect of the country is difficult to ignore. But that only makes India more interesting. You can’t describe it with ease because it has so many dimensions.

That being said, so many Americans fail to enjoy their vacation in India because the cultural shock is so jarring. They also never prepare. They do not realize that you need to ease into life in India.

If you try to rush things, if you try to see everything there is to see, the experience will overwhelm you. Every Indian tour guide you meet will encourage you to prepare adequately beforehand.

You need to take a moment to learn about the culture and the language. You don’t have to know everything. The goal is to have a basic idea of what you might be in for.

For instance, when it comes to touring the sights and sounds, you need to make a list. Yes, India has so many attractions. But a number of American tourists fail to enjoy their trips to India because they want to see everything.

However, that isn’t possible. There are simply too many alluring attractions. You cannot see all the monuments and taste all the food and visit all the parks, not if you only have a few days or even a few weeks.

Accept that you will never see everything and then make a list of the specific things you have to see and do. Use the internet. Get recommendations from people who have been to India.

They will tell you all the ancient temples that must be visited and every bazaar that will blow your mind. You will make it that much easier to enjoy all the tradition and the culture if you have a structure guiding your visit.

You are also encouraged to avoid major cities. It isn’t just a matter of escaping the crowds, though that also matters. The sea of people can become overwhelming. However, the quieter corners of India are not less attractive.

You will have more time to interact with the locals and to enjoy a more distilled encounter with their culture. Your perception of India changes with your setting. After you have seen the country at its loudest and most chaotic, a serene setting will give you a moment to ponder your tour so far.

Of course, your ability to enjoy your visit to India isn’t just determined by your itinerary. You can’t forget about your health. As with most journeys to foreign lands that you have ever taken, there are quite a few vaccines that you will be expected to get before flying to India

Hepatitis A is probably the most prominent. But you must also protect against typhoid and tetanus. Even the locals will tell you that India has a problem with hygiene. So you need to take every precaution that modern medicine affords you.

Talk to your doctor. Find out if there are any pills you could carry with you to counter all the hygiene-related illnesses you are likely to find. Malaria medication is definitely mandatory.

Then again, just because you have been vaccinated and you managed to carry every pill your neighborhood pharmacy had to offer doesn’t mean you can forget to apply common sense when you touch down in India.

As has been mentioned above, India is a dirty country. For that reason, you are expected to watch everything you eat and drink. Do not drink any water you haven’t boiled. Ignore any fruit and vegetables offered to you on the streets.

Basically, avoid street food. You don’t want to come down with a serious illness midway through your visit.

Of course, this assumes that you successfully flew to India.

Keep in mind that there are specific Indian Visa Requirements for US Citizens. India introduced the electronic visa in 2014 to simplify the process of applying for and utilizing visas to India. But there are so many people who are still quite confused about the electronic visa and what it is supposed to do. This is why exists. Their purpose is to provide guidance on this issue. And if you visit the website, you will learn that all US citizens need an electronic visa to travel to India. But the requirements are not particularly stringent. You just need to present some personal IDs, passport details, and a credit card.

Most Americans shouldn’t have a problem securing an electronic visa. The document permits you to stay in the country for sixty days. And you can apply for one over the internet.

Do not wait until the last minute to get one. If you can get the E-visa out of the way, you can focus on your packing. While the weather that time of year should affect the clothing you choose to pack, don’t forget to consider the culture.

Indians are very conservative. So you must be careful about the attire you choose to bring.

Some of the social etiquettes might catch you off guard. For instance, there are places that expect you to remove your shoes before entering. You should also watch where you stop. You could cause anger by touching certain items with your feet because they are considered unclean.

The importance of money remains unchanged. Keep as much cash on you as you can. Cards are convenient but they make you vulnerable to theft and scams. ATMs are also much rarer than you think.

You don’t want to be caught alone on an abandoned street trying to take cash out of a machine. Someone will attack you. So keep all the money you need on your person. You must also keep the bills small.

Certain stores won’t even bother dealing with you if they determine that they can’t successfully get you the change you need. India is a difficult country to tour. But you can make your experience more pleasant with adequate preparation.

About the Author

Ankur Shah
Ankur Shah is the founder of the Value Investing India Report, a leading independent, value oriented journal of the Indian financial markets. Ankur has more than eight years of equity research experience covering emerging markets, with a focus on India and South East Asia. He has worked as both a buy-side investment analyst for a global long/short equity hedge fund and a sell-side analyst for an emerging markets investment bank. Ankur is a graduate of Harvard Business School. You can learn more about his latest views on global markets at the Value Investing India Report. -- He can be emailed at