Searching for the diamonds in the rough – the realities of travelling in India

India was really tough for us and we are pretty sure that we will not be backpacking there again in a hurry , except perhaps on safari because there is little that we won’t suffer to see tigers again, one of the best moments of our trip so far. As you can see, we will be the first people to say that India has many incredible draws and we are so glad that we have been to see even a handful of them. However, the day to day grind of being there was hard work and not an experience we are keen to repeat. Please note that we were backpacking, we are sure a luxury travel experience will alleviate, though definitely not all, of these stresses.

Below are the biggest issues we faced during our time in India.

  1. Litter – it is everywhere and probably the worst littering we have seen. Be it city, countryside, waterways or ocean, litter is present. You go for a swim and a plastic bag wraps around your legs, walk on the beach and you have to avoid glass and plastic. It is truly disgusting. The only place this was not true and it is a credit, is inside the national parks we visited. The people also appear to not understand (We hope it is this rather than lack of care) that by littering they are impacting the resources which provide them an income. For example: we watched a fisherman throw rubbish and bits of discarded fishing gear in to the sea and shop keepers throwing rubbish on to the beach. 08
  2. Noise – the north of India was worse for us, but you cannot escape the noise of horns and traffic anywhere. It can really begin to grate, as Caro said, if you lived here you could not escape hearing damage. It was definitely less of a nuisance in the south.
  3. Dust and Dirt – The streets are dirty and with the volume of traffic in most places you cannot help but have dust kicked up over you. It does become wearing being permanently dirty and not just standard backpacker dirty.
  4. Fumes and smoke – traffic volumes in the cities and towns are enormous so you are always surrounded by fumes, this is not helped by people burning rubbish. It is really hard on the lungs and throat. 10
  5. The smell of Urine – Indian men appear to pee anywhere at any time of day. Combined with the heat this can result in an eye watering stench.
  6. Constant sales pitch – The nagging from shop owners/drivers/etc. – we have generally responded to all the attention with a polite no thank you.
  7. The constant fear of being ripped off – we have not been ripped off beyond paying a bit more than the going rate for a rickshaw but it is exhausting constantly worrying that you are going to be overcharged, or conned in some way. We were probably our own worst enemies in this case but being overcautious is definitely better than being complacent.
  8. The constant worry of getting sick – having probably done too much research we were very conscious of the risk. We had read endless stories of travellers getting Delhi Belly and it can make you a bit paranoid, through a mixture of luck and liberal application of hand sanitiser we escaped lightly, Caro was sick for a couple of days but that was all.
  9. Animal Welfare – it has been really hard work for two animal lovers to see stray dogs, people riding chained elephants, pigs, cows and donkeys eating and sleeping in litter and the general poor treatment of animals. For a country where cows are sacred there is a complete disregard for their welfare which for us is unacceptable.
  10. 05

Despite all the negatives, India is a country with endless treasures and we are very glad we visited. It has probably given us the biggest highlights of our 9 months travelling to date but you do need to be realistic about the wider expereince. We have concluded that our ideal way to visit India would be to be taken from sight to sight in a clean airconditioned car with blacked out windows, if you’ve read any of our other posts you will know that this is not our style!

All of the above having been said, our entire 5 weeks was worth it for this moment:


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