5 Common Mistakes Travelers often make when Visiting India for the First Time

Don’t Make These Common Mistakes When Visiting India for the First Time

India really is one of the most exotic, colorful, crazy and captivating destinations on the planet but traveling in India, and especially visiting India for the first time, is no walk in the park – India is one of the last remaining places on earth that you can still get a real dose of culture shock and traveling in India can be challenging and frustrating for even the most experienced globetrotter.

Still, the incredible sights, experiences and rewards of visiting India for the first time totally outweigh the hassles, dirt and scams if you do it right.

Many first time visitors agree that their first trip was difficult and develop a love/hate relationship with India but then return again and again to this mind blowing country.

Paraghanj in Delhi - where many travellers start their Indian expereince can be a little overwhelming when visiting India for the first time but once you get used to it Delhi can be fun
Paraghanj in Delhi – where many travellers start their Indian expereince can be a little overwhelming when visiting India for the first time but once you get used to it Delhi can be fun

I’ve visited India 5 times now and each time traveling here gets easier because I understand more about the culture, I’ve adapted the way I travel to suit India and learned from the mistakes I made when visiting India for the first time. Here are my tips to make it easier for you…

Don’t make the same mistakes – Here are 5 things to avoid when visiting India for the first time:


Everyone seems like they are rushing to get somewhere in India but that doesn’t mean that you should be too. Trying to cram too much in and traveling too quickly in this massive country is the biggest mistake that many people make when visiting India for the first time. Long distances, poor roads and infrastructure and a massive population mean that getting around, or getting anything done, always takes longer than you think.

Plus, India is so diverse it feels like many different countries and each region will take some getting used to. Rushing around India will only result in being tired, stressed and frustrated and also missing out on the surprises and local connections that make for the most Incredible India moments! So be patient and take your time, India is not a place to be rushed. 

If you only have a short time focus on seeing one state or region in detail rather than trying to rush around the whole country in a few weeks and ruining your trip.

The flower market in Calcutta - colourful and exciting but overwhelming at first!
The flower market in Calcutta – colourful and exciting but overwhelming at first!

Underestimating the culture shock

Perhaps you’ve travelled to many countries before and think you’ve seen everything but don’t underestimate the culture shock of India!

Visiting India for the first time really can be a challenging assault on all the senses at first and it would be a mistake not to allow a couple of days to adjust to avoid feeling overwhelmed and ruining your trip to India as soon as it’s begun.

India is one of the most crazy countries in the world and it is so different from anywhere else. Although nothing can really prepare you for visiting India for the first time it can help to learn as much as you can about the rich Indian culture before you go to ease the culture shock but most importantly be open minded, accept that things work differently and be prepared to adapt the way that you travel to suit India.

See my top 10 tips for making your first time traveling in India easier.

There's more to India than just the Taj Mahal
There’s more to India than just the Taj Mahal

Heading straight for the Taj Mahal

Many people arrive in India in the capital, Delhi. Of course it’s tempting to want to rush and tick off the most famous sights like the Taj Mahal and travel the Golden Triangle.

While the Taj Mahal lives up to the hype as the most beautiful building in the world and there are many amazing sights to experience on the Golden Triangle route these touristy places and big North Indian cities are where you will find the most dirt, chaos and hassle which you may find hard to deal with when visiting India for the first time and could end up ruining your trip to India.

I usually suggest to my friends that are visiting India for the first time to start their trip somewhere easier like Goa or Kerala and then work their way up to the North. South India feels cleaner, less chaotic, less hassled and safer which will get your trip off to a much better start than tackling the Taj Mahal straight away.

See My Perfect Itinerary for 3 Months Traveling Across India for the perfect route to take or if your short on time check out the top 5 must see places in India that you really can’t miss.

The backwaters of Kerala - a complete contrast to the chaos of India's cities and a great place to get acclimatized to India!
The backwaters of Kerala – a complete contrast to the chaos of India’s cities and a great place to get acclimatized to India!

Trusting too easily

Unfortunately there are a lot of scams and hassles that travellers need to contend with. After a while you can spot them easily but when visiting India for the first time you do need to be on your guard to avoid getting scammed and ripped off – a sure fire way to ruin your trip!

Do research before on the common scams that happen in India and be careful who you trust especially around popular tourist attractions and places like airports, bus and train stations where you may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people who will try to get your attention and make you part with your money in some way.

Once you’ve been in India for a while you will be able to tell who is genuine and recognise if someone is trying to cheat you but always trust your gut instinct and don’t be naive. It might seem rude but it’s often best just to ignore hassle from touts, don’t even engage with a polite ‘no thank you’ as it will be taken as a sign of interest. Don’t be afraid to be assertive and stand up for yourself if you feel you are being taken for a ride or made to feel uncomfortable.

Read More: Tips for women traveling in India.

At Devaraja Market in Mysore - not everyone is out to scam you in India although at first it can seem like it
At Devaraja Market in Mysore – not everyone is out to scam you in India although at first it can seem like it

Letting the little things get to you

Traveling in India can be stressful, tiring and frustrating if you let it, but it doesn’t have to be.

India is so different from anywhere else and sometimes things don’t go to plan, sometimes you will get overcharged or ripped off but sometimes you just have to give in and not let the little annoyances get to you and ruin your trip. Sometimes it can be hard as it can be overwhelming, especially when visiting India for the first time, but if you travel slowly it makes everything much easier.

Just keep it in perspective, don’t sweat the small things, know when to give in to save your sanity – is worrying about a few rupees worth ruining your day and do you really need to haggle over an small change when that could go toward feeding a whole family?

Also, be cautious but don’t get too paranoid about trusting people, the majority of Indian people don’t want to harm you or rip you off and are some of the most open, friendly, wonderful and amazingly hospitable people I’ve ever met.

Visiting India for the first time may seem a bit daunting and while it is more challenging than some other countries it’s totally worth it. Don’t let the hassle put you off, you will learn to deal with it, become a stronger person and be rewarded with the most amazing experience.  Don’t let fear and worry ruin your trip or stop you from experiencing things.

India can be a transformative travel destination if you go with an open mind and a positive attitude – it might just change your life!

Despite the challenges, I loved visiting India for the first time

Despite the challenges, I love traveling in India

More Tips for Traveling in India:

10 Tips to make your first time traveling in India easier

My top tips for women traveling in India

How to prepare for your first trip to India

Top 5 Places you must visit in India

The perfect itinerary for 3 months traveling around India

30 Unique and amazing experiences you can only have in India 

21 reasons I love India

7 reasons why traveling in India is easy!

Pin Me and help other travellers! 🙂

Don't Make These 5 Common Mistakes When Visiting India for the First Time

5 Things NOT to do on your first trip to India

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Megan July 29, 2016 at 7:46 am

These are great tips. I am in India now (first time) at Rao Bikaji Camel Safari in Bikaner, Rajasthan and I am happy that I have come across this blog so that I don’t make these mistakes. My senses have definitely been assaulted, but I would not have it any other way. The immensely different experience I am getting from India is exactly what I needed and then some. Thanks for your wise words!

Anna July 31, 2016 at 11:48 pm

Hi Megan! Great to hear that you found my tips useful and that you are enjoying your first experience of India! I love how you put it that your senses have been assaulted but you wouldn’t have it any other way! That’s the joys of India! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Happy travels and hope this is the first of many happy and meaningful visits to India! 🙂

Art Travel Eat Repeat September 1, 2016 at 5:15 pm

Great post! India is definitely on my bucket list so this was a great read. I’ll have to refer back to this and your other great posts about India when I go to book my trip there.

Anna September 15, 2016 at 12:02 am

Thanks so much! Really glad you liked the post and hope the tips help! Happy Travels 🙂

Shweta September 16, 2016 at 8:37 am

Very well said, Anna. While travelling to India, 1st thing is to pay attention to clothes. In Mumbai/Delhi, you may use western attire. But not just outsiders, we Indian girls too take lot of care while travelling alone. And South India is best to start knowing India. It is much different and safer than north.

Anna September 20, 2016 at 12:06 am

Hi Shweta, thanks for your tips, yes I agree that it’s best to go to South India first, I think I said that in the post and I mention clothing in my tips for women but its a good point to make here as well. Thanks so much for your advice 🙂

Liz November 12, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Hi Anna, I am looking forward to my next trip in Dec 16/Jan 17 (my third time to India) I have found your articles very concise & easy thank you. We are basically taking your Goa itinerary as gospel. I’m also now following you on Insta, very jealous.
I understand you are now living in India? I/we are thinking of moving for a couple of years, I would love to speak with you about this further.

Safari N Culture India November 20, 2016 at 7:41 am

Your 3 Months First Time India Itinerary looks good for a 1st time visitor !

Anna November 21, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Thanks, yes I had so many emails and questions about where to go so I thought it would be helpful 🙂

Global Gallivanting November 23, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Thanks, yes that was the intention. I get alot of questions about itineraries so thought it would be useful 🙂

Katie Foster November 23, 2016 at 1:10 pm

Steve Hand read basically everything on this page

Heather January 18, 2017 at 6:21 am

Excellent tips! Been travelling and living in India for 8 years now and this advice is spot on. Especially the not rushing and landing in South India. South India is such a gem, I cannot recommend it enough! I live in Bangalore so I might be (totally am 🙂 prejudiced in favor of the South, but my best travel experiences have been down here, too. Especially for solo women travellers, please, please land in South India and start here. It will make your trip that much better!

Anna February 3, 2017 at 4:23 pm

Hi Heather

Thanks for commenting – glad that you agree with my tips from your experiences. I love South India and find it less hassle traveling there.

Thanks for sharing your tips and experiences 🙂

Caren January 25, 2017 at 12:58 am

Great tips! My first time traveling to India was actually my first time traveling EVER and I definitely underestimated the culture shock! Once I was able to take a deep breath though, India stole my heart away.

Anna February 3, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Hi Caren

Thanks for commenting! It’s cool to hear about your experiences – India sure is a culture shock at first but it’s worth it!

Glad you feel in love with India too 🙂

Simon - SiDash Travels March 12, 2017 at 9:49 am

A fantastic post. Were off to India for the first time in April and we really don’t have any idea what to expect. This post has been very helpful to us and we will take your advice with us. Thanks for sharing 🙂

Anna March 15, 2017 at 7:53 am

Hi Simon, glad to hear you liked the post and hope you have a great first time in India! 🙂

Ravinder Murthy May 4, 2017 at 10:01 am

Respected Anna ji,
A good article indeed. India is a very friendly country. Try to look at it from an indian’s eyes. I have aptly kept an email miliye.mujhsey@gmail,com. meaning meetme at gmail.com. I suffer from hearing loss but i write a lot. Do be in touch with me. I am sure my family and you can be great friends.

Anna May 9, 2017 at 6:59 am

Thanks for getting in touch Ravinder and thanks for your tips 🙂

Susan Rosario May 22, 2018 at 10:07 pm

Going to visit friends,however im in a wheelchair am I crazy? I relize its not a handicapped ass. Country.susan

Anna June 26, 2018 at 9:13 am

Hi Susan. You’re right, India is not the easiest place for wheelchair users but I have a friend who backpacked India solo in a wheelchair so it is possible! Good luck and I hope you have happy and safe travels! 🙂

Susan rosario June 26, 2018 at 5:22 pm

How did your wheelchair friend get on the plane and off,do you have to walk only 1 good leg on me.most airports here pull up to terminals and roll you in.but don’t they embark a plane by steps???this info could change my life.thankyou so much, for taking the time to answer me.I would be flying into Bangalore.thanks SUSAN

Anna August 16, 2018 at 9:22 pm

Hi Susan, sorry I only just saw your comment. I’m not sure to be honest I didn’t ask him. I guess they would lift you onto the plane if there were only steps – there’s always plenty of people to help you out in India. Sorry I can’t help much more but hope you have a safe and good trip!

Vipin Gaur March 18, 2019 at 7:37 pm

Hi Anna,
These are really nice and well thought tips about India.
Being an Indian I’m seeing how relative these tips are such as trusting your instincts. I hope your reader have safe travel after reading these tips.

Anna April 21, 2019 at 1:44 pm

Thanks Vipin! Coming from an Indian that means alot. Glad you liked the article! 🙂


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