The real experience of being the first time in India was something I could not conceive in my mind. I wanted to go and explore India, and of course, you have to start somewhere. There must be a moment which will be the first time and this was that for me. It was India for the first time.
Before actually being there, and experience India for the first time, I heard stories. Of people I did not know, hoe they traveller around India, how some hated it so bad, that they got back into the airport the minute they stepped outside. How some were left without their wallets, their belongings, how locals try to cheat you in unimaginable ways. I heard it all, seen tons of videos on YouTube, read blogs. I said to myself “This is the readiest I will ever be.” So I went.
Packing was the first challenge, as I wouldn’t have imagined myself carrying a wheeler on the dirt streets of India. That I knew. So I took Edi on a expedition to the local Decathlon store to buy ourselves some backpacks. After changing our minds and returned one of the, we ended buying the same model for each of us.
The backpack was supposed to have 10kg or less, because that was the limit with the super economy light or how-its-called ticket that I bought through KLM, operated by their low-cost partners. Bleah. At least I got some miles from that. Still, don’t have enough to go anywhere.
As a personal item, lady handbag, I took my smaller backpack to carry my laptop inside. I’m not going anywhere without it. That’s why, as a traveller and a blogger, I need a thin and light laptop. Actually, I need everything to be light. I only buy stuff that is suitable for travelling. That’s why I don’t buy a lot of stuff. Or clothes. I have the same clothes in all my pictures, on all my trips. I always pack almost the same stuff. Most of the times, my devices and their accessories are heavier than my personal stuff.
The second challenge (when travelling on a budget)
This was a great one. AS I said, I bought the super mega cheap tickets to Delhi. Bought them 1.5 months in advance and cost 450 Eur per person. Why? Because it had two stops. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was.
Going Bucharest to Paris, to go back to Mumbai and finally to Delhi seems like a complicated thing, BECAUSE IT WAS!!!
Tired as hell, took us forever to get the stamp to get into India, from the Mumbai customs, which we later discover to be very strict with paperwork. They handed us an immigration form (like most countries outside Europe do request) and I had to write the address of the hotel in Delhi. Which I had in an email somewhere, so I just wrote New Delhi.
That was not good enough, and after trying to communicate in a language that none of the other knew, we were taken into a room, with more non-English speaker to try to sort this out. The problem was that I couldn’t connect to the free WIFI from the airport because I had a foreign sim card. What did they do? The serious guy from the office used his really old computer to find our visa application (you need to apply online for the e-Visa to get to India prior to your arrival and it costs $80) and found the address I wrote there.
I confess that that address was of some random hotel in Delhi that I found online when applying for the Visa. He wrote that on our tiny sheets of paper, as I was getting nervous about catching our connection to Delhi.
He let us go, went back to the customs office, skipped the 1h long queue, in which we already waited the first time, and we got the entry stamp.
That airport is big and getting from the international part to the domestic flights was a pain in the bottom. By the time we made it to domestic, I had already learnt some stuff. How not to try to explain stuff. How to keep your spot in a queue (because others might just try to squeeze in front of you), how women and men have different security queues. That you have to keep your passport and boarding pass in your hand at all times, especially when passing through security. There were so many checkups, I was feeling like I was about to fall asleep right there and then.
Got on the Jet Aiways plane. Things were feeling shaky. Discovered we had no snack, although my ticket info said otherwise. Edi was nervous about the entire situation and the shakiness of the place. Truth to be told, it was feeling a bit shaky.
When we landed, it was still night. We travelled for more than 20h, and it felt like forever. I don’t know if I could do this again, it was terrible.
I arrived in Delhi, it was 5 am, and we realised we have no internet. I wasn’t expecting this. The shop selling sim card at the airport was a bit more expensive than the ones outside. But we couldn’t go anywhere. And even so, it took 8h for the sim card to be activated. They need to fill out an application (handwritten!!) with all your details and your picture (you need to give them a passport picture or some shops, like this one from the airport, take your picture and print it to stick it to your application).
There were 3 people in the shop. One was taking your money, one was talking to you and taking the picture and making a copy of your passport. There was a 3rd guy, writing the application, one by one.
Outside looked scary at that point. Many people waiting for people to get out of the airport. So we decided to have a coffee, by the window, watching them. For 3h. Until there was some light outside. You can get money from the exchange offices or the ATMs. You will need some until you find a better exchange.
So these were our first moments in India, and it got us all panicked. But later on, we realized that you can adapt and see a different side of India, of people with amazing stories, wonderful places and breathtaking moments.
To be completely honest, it took me around 1 week to get used to the way India works, to how people think and react, to get used on how to ask questions.
And once you adapt to that, there are endless possibilities to experience yourself in this ever-moving land.
I wouldn’t say it was easy and definitely travelling to India isn’t an experience for everyone, but then again, that’s why different experiences are meant for different people.
India is not comfortable or fast. Sometimes (to be read often!) there’s a language barrier and sometimes you just end up in the middle of a construction site full of dust and debris. Google maps won’t help much here, and even the local service won’t reach your phone all the times.
Train tickets are hard to get, and you better plan in advance if you want to travel by train (at a standard you are willing to accept).
But the bright side of India and the one that intrigues us and a lot of others before us isn’t about all of that. It’s about the unknown and unpredictable. As the world progresses, and it gets more connected, it’s becoming easier than ever to travel almost anywhere on the globe, but all places start to look the same. The capitalist era will soon have covered all countries and having the opportunity to travel in just a few hours to a country where things work as they used to 50 or 100 years ago (or more in some cases) is just a curiosity for some and an experiment for others.
India is not a place where you go and take your phone out of your pocket and take a picture to upload on your social media. It’s a place which you have to feel. Hopefully, it will be a new feeling, and it won’t make you run away.
I tried my best to film parts of my adventure in India and you can find my India vlogs on YouTube. Watch it or skim through it if you are curious about India or if you consider travelling to India. I did my research before travelling to India and it really helped me.
And most importantly, enjoy the adventure. Because travelling will make you grow as a person.