India is widely considered as one of the most spiritual places on Earth and it’s easy to see why. It is home to several of the most sacred sites in the world like the Taj Mahal, Varanasi, Rishikesh or the Ellora and Ajanta Caves; there is a huge number of people professing all major religions in India; it is the birthplace of Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism; and of course, it is where yoga started.
That’s why it’s not surprising that many highly influential personalities have come to India looking for a spiritual awakening. Steve Jobs, Mother Theresa, Mark Zuckerberg, or even Jesus (according to some debatable theories) are some examples of people who have been touched by the exceptional mystique of this country. And that’s why it’s not surprising either that India is the most popular destination for yoga holidays with hundreds of retreats all over its territory; from Goa to Chennai, from Delhi to Kerala.
So, if India is so wonderful and spiritual, how come there is this joke that India is an acronym which stands for “I’ll Never Do It Again”? Well, it might very well be due to the fact that there are many differences compared to the western world, which could be overwhelming for new visitors.
But if you’re well-informed before your trip to India, you won’t be surprised by the differences and you’ll be able to focus on the lots of positive aspects that this country has to offer.
Check out these 5 tips to know before going to India and get ready for a one-of-a-kind experience!
1. Have an open mind
Even though many people come to India to find inner peace, it is important to be aware that it is not a magical place full of yogi unicorns and peaceful bald gurus meditating under the rainbow. India has a huge diversity and lots of different traditions that can catch you by surprise if you’re expecting to encounter the typical western yogi culture.
This might be obvious, but stereotypes can be tricky; there are Indians who don’t practice yoga, just as there are Germans who don’t drink beer or Italians who don’t eat pasta. Be respectful of all religions and their habits; most importantly, don’t judge and keep an open mind.
2. Dress conservatively when visiting religious sites
India has many sacred places, and these sacred places normally have a dress code that you should always follow even though it might not align with your beliefs. Women should cover up and dress modestly while men should also wear proper clothes.
Do not wear provocative clothing in rural areas where people can be more conservative. You may not agree with their way of thinking, but you’re not there to change it.
Always remember: When in Rome, do as the Romans do; when in India, do as the Indians do.
3. Don’t drink tap but do drink a lot of water
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Some regions in India can reach temperatures as high as 123 °F (51 °C) during the hot season. Be careful of dehydration! But don’t drink tap water, as it isn’t safe. You might be totally fine if you do drink it, but it’s better to prevent the risk of an illness that can completely ruin your trip.
Always carry a bottle of water and consider drinking mineral water to get the salts your body needs. Mineral water bottles are easily available everywhere. Water can also help take off the heat you will find in spicy Indian food
Coconut water is a good alternative to stay hydrated too.
4. Be assertive and direct rather than too polite when talking to people on the street
Due to the conservative culture in some parts of India, you don’t want to send the wrong message when talking to people on the street. It’s better to be assertive, show confidence and don’t try to make small talk. This doesn’t mean that you should be rude, just be as direct as possible in a polite way.
Also, avoid asking leading questions that can lead to inaccurate information. Do not let people answer with a yes or no, they might try to be nice and just give you any answer. Let’s say you decided to explore the place during time off at your yoga retreat in Rishikesh, instead of asking “is the yoga retreat center this way?”, change it to “how can I get to this retreat center?”
5. Carry cash and be careful with it
Credit card terminals are almost everywhere in the world, but there are many street markets too where you most likely will depend on cash. Be prepared and bring enough money in your pocket. Shopping in India can be quite an experience; don’t be shy of bargaining, it’s a normal thing to do. Some sellers even give higher prices to tourists testing if they will immediately purchase their goods.
India is a safe place as long as you take the normal precautions. Be careful with your cash, there are pickpockets everywhere in the world.
Don’t miss out on watching at least one Bollywood movie. If you’ve already traveled all the way to India for a yoga holiday, get the full experience and truly immerse in the culture!
And lastly, trust the organizers and teachers at your yoga retreat, they probably have better advice than anything you’ll read online.
Ready for your spiritual awakening surrounded by the Indian mystique? Book your meditation and yoga retreat in India now!