A warm Thank You to Lyndsey Biddle of Brief Cases Direct for this informative guest post on taking a family vacation in India.
India is an exotic, spiritual, and beautiful country with countless sites, festivals, and experiences that are utterly incomparable to anything one witnesses in the West. Some travelers will describe this majestic country as an overload on the senses, but I must side with those who see India for its beauty, mystery, and charm. Traveling as a family to India will certainly bring with it some stressful situations and you will have to make some difficult decisions; like how best to get around, how to react when people stare and even approach you and your children, and most importantly, how to ensure your family’s safety. But this country will offer your family a unique and unforgettable journey with memories you can all share.
India is a very crowded country and traveling with little ones can be extremely nerve-racking, especially when in a crowded area. To avoid crowds look for alternative routes, like alleys, rather than main streets, when out walking. Rush hour is sheer madness on local buses, trains, and metros. Avoid traveling during these times because roads will get jammed. Taxis are certainly the most convenient form of local transportation. Be sure the driver starts the meter before starting off on your journey.
If you are traveling between cities, flying is the best option for families. All major cities, and even many small cities, are linked by flights. Remember to bring a printed copy of your e-tickets with you to the airport as many security checks will ask to see them before granting you entrance.
Traveling by train can be a great adventure. It gives you the chance to view the countryside and to socialize with other travelers. However, I would suggest taking the train only with children who are at least teenagers. The reason for this is simply that train journey are often long, up to a few days, and some Indian trains are not what I would call “spic and span”. Don’t be completely turned off though. I, a western female, have traveled on Indian trains numerous times and I love it. The atmosphere on board and the vendors who pace up and down the aisle ways selling anything imaginable make for a unique experience.
Relax and Mingle:
Unlike in the West where it is impolite to stare, Indians see no problem with fixing their look on someone who appears different. Don’t be put off by the stares you and your children will get. Unless you happen to have an Indian appearance, you will naturally spark curiosity. Indians are truly warm hearted people and their looks are simply that, curiosity, and nothing more. If you have very young children, they will most likely be approached from time to time by inquisitive passersby. The best way to react is to smile and chat, try not to get frustrated.
A great way to get the most out of your visit to India is to interact with the locals. Getting a better understanding of the local culture and customs is not only interesting but will be a great lesson for your children. One way to do this is to volunteer some time to help those in need. Volunteering has a number of benefits but most importantly it will be an important family bonding experience, you and your family will get to interact directly with locals, and your children will learn the importance of helping others. Every city in India has NGOs (non-governmental organization) which cater to locals in need. Do a little research before your trip and arrange to visit a suitable NGO during your trip.
Your Family’s Safety:
Speaking from my own experiences living and traveling in India, I can say that India is a relatively safe country. The most common type of crime is petty theft. Always keep a close hold on your purse and keep an eye on your wallet. If you do decide to travel on the train, keep a small bag with your valuables by the head of your bed. Other than pickpockets, you and your family can feel safe. Just be smart; don’t stay out late at night and don’t do anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable doing in your own hometown.
As far as money is concerned, try not to be the typical spend happy foreigner. Travelers who willingly pay far too much for an item mark themselves in a way that scars foreigners’ reputations and could draw more attention to you and your family than you would like. Giving money to beggars is your choice, but keep in mind that where there is one there are many more who will come out of no where and demand more money. Try to think like an Indian when paying for items and don’t be intimidated by haggling on prices, it is the Indian way!
Planning out where to stay and which activities your family would like to do in advance will make your travels in India go smoother. Pack conservative clothing (no shorts or revealing shirts for ladies), any special medications, and toys and games to entertain the kids on long trips. If you plan your trip well and don’t let yourself get stressed out by things that are different from what you are used to, you will have an amazing and memorable family adventure.
Lyndsey writes for Brief Cases Direct, a website that offers luxury briefcases direct from the manufacturer. Lyndsey is an avid traveler and has lived in the US, France, China and India. She currently resides in Kolkata, India where she is studying the Bengali language.