Top tips for visiting India for the first time

India is a huge and diverse nation – the world’s seventh largest, in fact. Which means planning a holiday here can be a little overwhelming. We’ve compiled a list of top tips for visiting India for first timers.

By Saga team

Published 4 May 2024

India is a huge nation – the world’s seventh largest, in fact. So, planning a holiday here can be a little overwhelming. Before you visit, take a look at these top tips.

There isn’t really a bad time to visit India, but from October to March the weather is at its most pleasant, with temperatures averaging between 19 and 29 C. Be warned if you want to go in the summer – the monsoon hits most regions from June to September. That said, while we’re not particularly partial to rain in the UK, the forests, paddy fields and tea plantations are at their most vibrant this time of year, so the scenery is spectacular.

Packing for a trip to India means lots of light layers; breathable fabrics like linens and cottons are best. India is still relatively conservative, so light long trousers and skirts are a good option. Pair t-shirts and sleeveless shirts with long-sleeved cotton shirts, so you can dress up or down depending on the location. We’d also recommend bringing at least one pair of closed-toe shoes, and a pair of sandals.

Mosquito repellent, good sunglasses, a swimsuit, sun cream, a hat and hand sanitiser are all incredibly useful items to take with you on holiday to India. Because of the tropical location, there can be mosquitoes, especially in the backwaters. Carrying hand sanitiser is a top tip if you’re out and want to use the bathroom, as sometimes there isn’t access to running water.

Vaccinations are usually required when travelling to India. Make an appointment with your doctor at least eight weeks before you travel to ensure you get the shots you need.

The food in India varies according to where you visit. But wherever you go, the street food tends to be delicious. Some tourists steer clear of street food, but it can be fresher than the food you’ll find in the restaurants. Just avoid anything that uses water as an ingredient, like pani puri (crispy shells filled with a spiced mixture) and fruit juices or drinks with ice in them. The same goes for salads and cut fruit, and other items washed in water that isn’t from a sealed bottle. Food that’s fried or roasted should be a safe bet.

Delicious treats might include samosas, pakoras, aloo tikkis (fried potato cutlets), roasted corn (bhutta). In north and northeast India, look out for momos (steamed and fried dumplings). In southern India, try dosas (giant pancakes made from fermented rice and gram flour, with various fillings). Wherever you go, delicious flatbreads and various forms of fritters (vada), often made with lentils or chickpeas, are a tasty street food treat.

Bottled water is a must in India – ensure that the caps are sealed when you buy it. Tap water is the biggest culprit for digestive illnesses on holiday, so if you want to keep your system in top shape, be vigilant about your water (and ice) consumption.

Ayurveda is one of the oldest traditional forms of medicine in India. It comprises of treatments that are supposed to soothe both body and mind. The most popular of these is massage, and the Malayali (the people of Kerala) masseuses are famous around India for being the best, but you can experience it all over the country. So much of India is about embracing the experiential, and starting your trip by balancing your mind, body and spirit will equip you to open your heart to India while you’re there on holiday.

Time for an adventure in India? Choose from our range of independent and escorted tours – click here to find out more.

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