Tuesday, 18 August 2015

5 things every traveller should know about India

1. Watch out for the Indian paparazzi!
As a (white) westerner travelling in India and particularly when visiting sites that are popular with Indian (rather than foreign) tourists, you will at some point become a tourist attraction yourself. 
So it starts ... with one baby

Mostly, the interest is harmless. Families want to come and say hello, welcome you to India and have their photo taken with you. It can get a bit annoying though, particularly when you're just trying to take in the scenery, you're being handed the fifth confused baby and the queue to stand next to you for a photo doesn't seem to be going down! 

Then gradually I am surrounded!

And don't let it go to your head. Repeat after me you are not really a celebrity!

2. Cows!
Yes, the rumours are true, there really are cows roaming free in the street in India. They sit in the middle of the road and despite being beeped at and causing traffic jams, they won't move until they are ready. 
Its a hard life!!
It really is quite a sight to see cows sleeping in the middle of the road while, tuk-tuks, scooters, motorbikes, cars and buses whizz around them. Given the craziness of the traffic in India, its surprising that they don't get hit more regularly!

3. You will get ripped off at some point
But it will probably only be by about 50 rupees (50p), so you really shouldn't worry. 

As in any country, chancers (and particularly tuk-tuk/taxi drivers) will try and overcharge tourists who don't know what a reasonable price is (or how far away something is). 


In some places in India, we found that the tuk-tuk drivers stuck together and will all quote the same (inflated) price. As much as you can, stick to your guns and be stubborn about the price you think it should be. But also know when to give in - sometimes for the sake of 50 rupees, it's not worth the argument on a hot sweaty day.  

4. Annoying additional entrance fees
One of the most annoying things at tourist sites in India is the additional entrance fees you are expected to pay not only for visiting as a foreigner visitor, but also for using your camera. 

Now, as long as the charge for visiting an attraction whilst foreign isn't ridiculous, we don't really mind paying a bit more, particularly if that money means that locals can visit a historic site in their own country that they couldn't otherwise see. 

Shhh ... we didn't pay to bring our camera in here!
However, the camera fee is irritating. I don't always know if I want to take pictures, before I've visited a place. And if I take pictures and share them, isn't that a good thing of the attraction as I'll be encouraging more people to visit? If they want more money, I'd rather they just charged a bit more up front than try and squeeze that bit more out of me, after I've paid for the entrance. I have to admit, we didn't always pay.

5. The confusing head shake
Indians and particularly southern Indians have a particular head movement, a wobble from side to side, that they use in different situations to mean different things. For a head wobble newbie, it can be quite baffling trying to work out what it means. 

At the bus station in Pondicherry, when I asked if the bus that was pulling away was going to Mamallapuram, I really wasn't sure if the headshake from one of the bus station staff meant yes or no! We took a risk and got on. Luckily we were right to do so - it meant yes. But it is very confusing. Make sure to watch this YouTube clip if want to decipher the different meanings of the head shake.

Have you been to India? What would you add to this list? Did you experience the Indian paparazzi? What do you think about the foreigner and camera fees to tourist sites? (I know you got ripped off, so no point in asking about that!)

Related posts:
Highlights of Bangalore
Introducing Pondicherry
24 hours in Mamallapuram
Destination guide: Snooty Ooty

Eff It, I'm On Holiday


  1. Thanks for the great tips for visiting India. Paying extra to use your camera is a bit annoying alright. If you take a good photo and share it, that makes people want to go there. Maybe they should be paying US to take photos and share them... now there's a concept! :-)

    1. Great idea - let's start getting attractions paying us for sharing our photos! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. The camera fee is an interesting one...as you say, surely folks' photos are a good promotional tool and should be encouraged by being included in the admission fee. Great tips here.

    1. It mostly wasn't a great deal of money, but just quite annoying to have to pay extra on top of the entrance fee. There was usually extra fees for videoing too - which is a bit nonsensical now so many have iphones with both capabilities for taking film and photos. I would have been happier just to have been charged a bit more.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I am an expat living in Taiwan, and while the attention is not as bad as what you experienced in India, it's always there. My friend likes to play it up and pretend like she is a celebrity. Sometimes I get really annoyed, like when a person on the metro was taking a selfie with me in the background. But, what are you going to do?

    1. We were only in India for a short time, but I can imagine it would get really annoying to get that type of attention all the time. We had the selfie thing too and I did find that really irritating. I guess if it's a regular thing, it's helpful if you can find a way to enjoy it or at least deal with it in some way - maybe carry round some signed photos to give out?!

  4. Haha, I laughed so much at your description of the "Indian paparazzi". Why do they do that though? I agree with you, I hate photo fees, but I usually end up paying them. What's more annoying is when they have a photo fee, but say you can't post the photos anywhere without their permission.

    1. Ha ... it really did feel like the paparazzi, particularly when we were descended upon! And had people lining up to have their photos taken with us - really weird.

      Not seen anywhere say you can only use photos with their permission. That's really annoying! Where was that?

      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I've totally experienced the Indian Paparazzi. One guy in Jaipur took the sunglasses off my husband's face and posed with him for a selfie. I generally found it charming and also generally said that people could take our picture if we could get one in return.

    1. That's a fair exchange! It was when people didn't even ask that I found it kind of annoying. Did you end up with lots of photos with you and random strangers?