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IT'S NOT FOR EVERYONE: If your idea of a 'vacation' is a cruise or a Caribbean beach, then you might want to reconsider visiting India. The air is polluted, the streets are dirty, the traffic is crazy and the salesmen are particularly aggressive. However, if you're the type of traveler who likes to explore new cultures and experience a way of life well out of your comfort zone, there is no better eye-opening experience. 

A TOUR IS (HIGHLY) RECOMMENDED: I cannot imagine trying to navigate my own way to all the places we went without experienced tour guides and drivers. I had an incredible time on my GAdventures Tour, but Intrepid and Wandering Earl Tours also go to India frequently and come highly recommended. Your best bet is to figure out what it is you want to see and how long you have to see it, and select a tour that fits your personal parameters.    


DELHI BELLY IS A REAL THING: I was fortunate to have gotten through three weeks without it, but a good 1/3 of our group did experience some intestinal, um, 'discomfort' despite being careful. Water is the biggest issue (brush your teeth with bottled water and keep your mouth closed in the shower), but also make sure that your food is served piping hot and that you're eating in well-traveled restaurants. If you go for the street food, go to the places with people in line. From the markets, only eat fruit that you can peel, or wash thoroughly with bottled water. In any case, bring the meds you'll need if you do get sick, and you should be OK after a day or two. There are many articles on avoiding and getting over Delhi Belly, so just Google the term for more safe eating and drinking tips.  

VEGETARIANS REJOICE: There may not be a better place in the world to go if you're a vegetarian. 100% of the restaurants I went to in both India and Nepal had a large variety of vegetarian options, and the ones I sampled were actually very good. For the carnivores out there, chicken and lamb seemed to be the most frequently served options.   

CURRENCY IS (NEARLY) INTERCHANGEABLE: India has the rupee, Nepal has the Nepalese Rupee. If you're crossing the border, know that you can use Indian currency in Nepalese businesses, but that you'll likely get Nepalese currency as change. At this writing, the Indian rupee is worth about 1.6 Nepalese Rupee, so keep that in mind when pricing your purchases.    


SAVE SOME (PRISTINE) DOLLARS: If you are headed to Nepal, a basic tourist visa will cost you $30 USD. Here's the weird thing: the ONLY accept American dollars, and that currency must be COMPLETELY PRISTINE. No tears, no marks, no blots. An otherwise clean $100 bill was rejected at the border due to a very small ink blot on the back. It's truly bizarre to me that the visa process is done this way, but it is what it is, I guess. 


NEPAL IS BEAUTIFUL, BUT THE ROADS SUCK: Despite being neighbors, the difference between India and Nepal is stark. The air is cleaner, the traffic less confounding and the sales men slightly less aggressive. The scenery is amazing as well. However, the roads outside the major cities are in very rough shape. If you're going anywhere by land, prepare for a bumpy ride. 


VARANASI IS AN INTENSE BUT AMAZING EXPERIENCE: Varanasi, India (pictured above) is one of the oldest cities in the world and a sacred place for Hindus, as it sits on the banks of the River Ganges. As such, it is an intensely beautiful experience for the outsider. Hindus will travel from all over the world to Varanasi to die, or are sent there after death to be cremated on the banks of the holy river. I highly recommend visiting Varanasi if you go to India, but know that you will see cremations taking place in the open. But you will also see life, in all its beauty and sadness, it's ceremony and ritual, and its unmitigated chaos, played out for you.


SPEND SOME TIME IN POKHARA: The biggest pleasant surprise of the trip was the town of Pokhara, Nepal. It's nestled up against the foot of the Himalayas and sits on the shore of a beautiful lake. It's smaller and more laid-back than Kathmandu, has a good food and nightlife, and a big variety of outdoor recreational activities (paragliding, sailing on the lake, etc.) to indulge in. If I could have added another day to the trip, this is where I would have wanted to spend it. 

DON'T ANNOY THE MONKEYS: Seeing wild rhesus macaque monkeys roaming around markets and temples in India and Nepal is quite a unique sight to us westerners, but don't get too close! As cute as they are, they are not very, um, friendly, and have been known to attack humans who annoy them and steal phones from amateur photographers getting too close for comfort. However, they won't bother you if you don't bother them, so just give them a wide birth and both human and monkey will be just fine. 


Walkabout XIV: A Passage to India & Nepal

Why India & Nepal

My India & Nepal Itinerary

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