Seattle Travel Blog

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On the flight from Delhi to Newark, I sat next to a young Indian bride who was dressed in a fine pink sari with much gold embroidery.  She wore (she said) about thirty pink and gold bangles on each arm, stacked from her wrists to her elbows, and she had heavy gold earrings as well as a nose ring.  She came from a village in Rajasthan, and described for me how her marriage had been arranged by her parents and her in-laws.  First her parents had gone through the matrimonial ads, selecting potential grooms for her.  Later on they met with her future in-laws and discussed the terms of the marriage.  Then she was introduced to the groom, who flew over from the States to meet her.  After a few days thinking about it, she decided that she would accept his offer.  She had just gotten married a few weeks previously, and was now flying to the States to join her new husband (who had returned earlier than her to get back to work).  I was especially struck by the fact that this was her first time outside of India, first time even away from her family, and that it was to join her new husband (a man she barely knew) in a totally new country, to forge a new life for herself.  If that isn’t bravery, I don’t know what is.


I am very glad that I went to India, and it was just fine traveling on my own.  It was probably one of the most intense journeys that I’ve had:  intensely beautiful, intensely strange, intensely confusing, intensely crazy, intensely enjoyable.  Of course, in the two weeks that I was there, I barely scratched the surface of anything, but it was worth it just to get a taste.


The tricky things about the journey weren’t so much to do with me being alone, but were more about traveling in India in general.  Here’s a random list of advice based on my trip, in no particular order.


  • Wearing a salwar kameez (i.e. loose tunic over trousers) was a good idea.  It helped me blend in a little bit, making me feel less conspicuous (which was a good thing a lot of the time, as you can really be harassed by touts wanted to sell you goods and services in a lot of the tourist places) and helping me to stay cool in the stiflingly hot weather.  Also, it just seemed more appropriate, as most Indian women that I saw in Delhi and Jaipur wore them.
  • Anytime you take a rickshaw, auto rickshaw, or taxi, always negotiate the price beforehand.  You can ask the driver to use the meter, but I was frequently told that the meter was “bad” or “broken.”  It’s often helpful to ask some neutral party (like a shopkeeper or a passerby) what they’d pay from that point to your destination, just to give yourself a general idea of what a fair price would be.  I almost always ended up having to pay a bit more, but not much more.
  • Drivers will often offer to take you to a really great shop that they know, but avoid this, as they get a commission (which is passed on to you in the price that you pay for the goods) on whatever you buy.
  • I took malaria pills, but in retrospect I feel this was unnecessary, as I was mostly in Delhi where I hardly saw any mosquitoes at all.
  • There are loads of fun things to do and see in Delhi – enough for a week or more.
  • I never got sick, and never got the infamous “Delhi belly,” but I was really careful about what I ate and drank, and stayed with simple, bland foods for the first few days of my trip.  I did have ice and iced drinks at coffee chains like Barista and Café Coffee Day, and never had any problems with that.  I think you should just be vigilant about only eating at trustworthy places, especially if you are visiting for a short time.  (It would have been a big loss for me to be out sick for a couple of days, given how short my trip was.)
  • Touts are unavoidable at the big tourist spots, like Red Fort in Delhi, the Taj Mahal, Amber, etc.  Usually I had my sunglasses on and just ignored them, looking straight ahead and proceeding on, trying to look confident about where I was going and what I was doing.  This wouldn’t necessarily put people off, or stop them from dogging you, but it seemed the easiest and least stressful course of action.
  • In general, the people whom I met on this trip were genuinely nice, friendly, and welcoming.  I never felt unsafe on my trip… except, of course when we were driving anywhere!
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photo by: diisha392