Disclaimer: these facts and travel tips are based on my observation while visiting Mumbai for my friend’s wedding. They may not reflect all of India.. but here goes:
1. Beef is banned in Mumbai.
Before coming to India, I had the knowledge that majority of Indians are vegetarian. Still, I did not expect that beef is banned in Mumbai. Being an avid beef eater, I could last around 4 days being a vegetarian. Every food I had was delicious, but my cravings for beef started on my last two days in Mumbai and I was soooo happy to found beef burger in Singapore’s Changi airport during my transit. Hahaha. Oh one other thing, I found it interesting that some restaurants use water buffalo meat as a substitute for beef. I did not dare to try it out though.
2. As a tourist, It is not that easy to buy a SIM Card.
I never activated my network’s roaming when I go abroad. Mainly because I believe that we can easily buy pre-paid SIM Cards everywhere. In some places I’ve been in Asia, like Taipei or Kuala Lumpur, I could find SIM Card sellers in the arrival terminal at the airport. But not in Mumbai. Plus, from what I’ve heard,you need a permanent India address or a letter of guarantee from a resident to be able to purchase one. If it’s hard for you to get such things, I’d recommend for you to activate your network’s roaming prior coming to India, because wifi is not that easily to be found anyway. But, maybe don’t do so if you are traveling to India to find peace and get disconnected for awhile 🙂
3.Not everyone you meet on the streets can speak English.
Contrary to popular belief, English is not the official language of India. Though a lot of Indians (especially those with higher education and the youngsters) speak English very fluent, when I was in Mumbai it was rather hard for me to speak with a cab driver or store assistant without the help of my Indian friends. So if you would like to travel there, perhaps keeping a cheat sheet of basic local language might be beneficial for you.
4. Keeping safe – the basics
I have to say that I felt safer walking at the streets of Mumbai rather than some parts in Jakarta. I know I always had my Indian friends as company, but at least we were free from any kinds of harassment, embarrassment, and the likes. No one gave me “the look” nor calling me names. I may not be blond and not have blue eyes, but one of my friend does. But still, when we were walking it felt like we were invisible, no one actually paid attention to us, and I felt safe.
But still, remember the basics – dress properly. Contrary to western world, it is not appropriate to show cleavage. But feel free to show your belly! (as most Indian women do when they wear saree, hehe). Always be alert of your whereabouts and don’t go out alone at night. Don’t follow strangers, trust your judgement.. ah, you know the tips, right? 🙂
Oh one other thing.. carry your water bottle and hand sanitizer everywhere, they will be handy.
5.Come with an open mind!
India is incredible. Even though I’ve only seen so little, but I definitely want to come back. I’m amazed with the culture, the people, and the mix of modernization and culture that I saw in Mumbai. I can’t imagine what it feels like to visit the rural parts. I believe it will be even more amazing!
But… come with an open mind! Prepare to see what you have never seen before. Cow on the street? check! Constant honking? check! People meditating? check! good music? check! good food? check! There are just so much to see in India.
Until my next post on my friend’s Indian wedding! stay tune! hehe 😀