India fascinates....yet ....India can be a challenging place to travel for the uninitiated. Fortunately, the reward is well worth the time it takes to adjust to such a vastly different place. You can save yourself some additional stress by knowing what to expect and a few India travel essentials before you land.
A chaotic pace of urban life in India can be overwhelming. Don't despair, although it could take a lifetime to fully understand India, you'll quickly catch on enough to get into the travel groove. If time permits, consider getting out of the busy city where you arrived and go to a quieter place to collect your wits.
With well over a billion people calling the subcontinent home, India is the second-most populated country in the world. You will be keenly reminded of this fact after you arrive, particularly in cities where overcrowding is a problem. The overcrowding problem is especially prevalent on the streets, and a constant soundtrack of horns will accompany you while walking. Overindulgence of the horn is not considered rude in India, it's actually blown as a safety measure and even out of courtesy to hopefully prevent accidents.
Unfortunately, the infamous 'Delhi belly' is a reality and locals will attest that they get it, too. The tap water in India is generally unsafe to drink. Even if you stick to bottled water, you may still get a bad stomach from dirty ice, fruit and vegetables washed with dirty water, or water droplets on plates and utensils. Unsafe food handling and exposure to new bacteria cause many travelers to develop the dreaded "Delhi belly" within the first few days of their trip. While tourist restaurants are sometime safe, you have no idea what goes on in the kitchens.
You'll encounter beggars of all varieties -- particularly in urban and tourist areas -- throughout India. Unlike other parts of Asia, the beggars in India can be extremely persistent, sometimes even grabbing your arms. Although the children are heartbreaking, you need to avoid giving them anything to avoid encouraging them to beg.
Female travelers often receive a lot of extra attention from men in India. Sometimes boundaries are pushed beyond staring and flirting with shameless groping and touching. You can reduce some of the unwanted attention by dressing extremely conservatively.