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Why I’ll Never Go Back: 5 Reasons Not to Go to India

I’ve put off writing these reasons not to go to India because most of the time, people don’t want to hear about negative travel experiences. And most of our experiences are amazing, even when they can be difficult. Even with India, there was so much that I loved and you can tell because I took about 1 million pictures while we were there (I’m the type that doesn’t take pictures if I don’t like it).

BUT… India was something that I wouldn’t recommend for MOST travelers. In fact, if you meet me in person, this is exactly what I’ll tell you: “India is for very experienced travelers who have prepared themselves for certain things that will most likely happen.”

I’ve had families ask me if I thought it was appropriate to bring children or young girls to India, and although I’m no expert and I understand that they may have a different experience than I did, I told them no.

Again, this is not what everyone experiences, but I have asked A LOT of people (mostly because a part of me needed to talk to people about what happened) and most women who have been to India shared similar experiences.

If you are wanting to go to India, but you’re not sure what to expect or maybe you aren’t sure if India should be on your bucket list.. this post could help you make up your mind.

5 Reasons Not to Go to India

1. Chaos & Noise

Unlike what most people probably believe about Jake & I, we aren’t always traveling, and when we are, we need time to rest and decompress after running around all day. This is definitely not something that was easy to find in India.

girl in a tuk-tuk in India

Even when we were inside our Airbnb, there was constant noise. Car horns blaring, music, yelling, etc.

I almost didn’t even realize why I felt so strained or tense until we actually left India and there was actual silence.

2. Possibility of Molestation

A huge reason why I started a blog is that I read them so often. So when I went to India, I knew that being molested was something that most likely would happen and I wanted to be mentally prepared for it.

Even though I went prepared, it still shook me quite a bit to feel so unsafe even with Jake right beside me.

Basically, there are millions of people in India, and in any type of crowd, it can be hard to pinpoint who is touching you. Jake could be right beside me, but the man who touched me would be gone in seconds and I wouldn’t be able to find them in a giant crowd.

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Normally, my favorite travel experiences are going towards where the locals are. In many cases, these were street markets, temples, or street food, but in India, neither of us felt safe enough to hang around those places for very long.

3. The Holi Festival

This was my fault, I was warned about this festival, but I wanted to do it in the more traditional way in the most traditional city possible. I figured that I had been around the world already and I wanted to do this right.

Holi festival inside of a Temple in India

The Holi Festival, usually known as the Festival of Colors, is celebrated once a year (although it lasts more than one day) by throwing color powder in the air and onto others. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but that’s the gist.

Unfortunately, this experience did not turn out as I had expected. This is not a festival that I would recommend any traveler do.

Although I knew this and still decided to do it. Jake and I went to Vrindavan the city famous for the way it celebrates Holi.

We had planned to go to multiple temples and parts of the city to watch and participate in the celebration, but we headed first to the most famous temple celebration at the Banke Bihari Temple. I was already uncomfortable just outside the temple.

I had originally thought that the colors were thrown in the air, but instead, I was surrounded by about 15 young Indian men trying to shove color into my nose and mouth.

chalk colors for Holi Festival in India

I couldn’t breathe and was surrounded by so many people. If you have any claustrophobia or anxiety, you can understand.

I went into the temple anyways, with my husband who wasn’t being as targeted as I was, and had one of the scariest experiences of my life. I was molested multiple times, separated from my husband, and barely could move.

After that experience, we decided to skip out on the rest of the Holi festivities, which meant staying inside at all times. Even when we went out to just grab something to eat and head back, a man shoved powder directly into my mouth and nose.

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Maybe some people can have fun in a situation like that, and I honestly wish I could have, but for me, it was not fun at all.

4. Intrusive Selfies

In India, if you look different (basically if you are white and young, but that’s just what I saw) hundreds of people are going to want to take a selfie with you.

At first, I thought this was a hilarious and super unique experience. I was at a temple in New Delhi and a line started to form around me and pretty soon I was taking selfies for almost 30 minutes.

I didn’t mind at first like I said before, but it started to get a bit scary. Men would use the excuse of a selfie to get a little too close, or they would start to tell you to smile or look a certain way in the photo.

I had a man follow us out of the temple and ask for his 5th + selfie. I turned around and told him “No, I remember you and you’ve had enough.”

He wouldn’t stop coming after me and asking, then an elderly Indian man came up with a walking stick and started whacking him and telling him to leave me alone.

5. Getting Followed by Strangers

Multiple times in India I was followed, including that experience I just shared about the temple. In Agra, Jake and I went to a famous lookout point to see the Taj Mahal. We had heard that it could be difficult to get to and that you might need to bribe someone to get in.

girl standing in front of Taj Mahal

Once we got there, a man and his family were there waiting. There are certain times when traveling that I get a really gross feeling and I don’t know why. This was one of those times.

He led us up to the viewpoint where there were about 15 other travelers waiting to see the sunset behind the Taj Mahal.

For some reason, even after he showed us where to go, he wouldn’t leave us alone. He asked for selfie after selfie and kept getting closer and touching me more with each one.

I told him I wasn’t going to take anymore, but Jake and I both had a very uncomfortable feeling and didn’t want to anger him any more.

He started to get more aggressive and had me take selfies with his children and another man who he had come up to the viewpoint.

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It might sound like an innocent experience, but the fact that both of us felt so uneasy made me think otherwise. He finally left but stayed at the bottom of the viewpoint, where we’d have to walk by in order to get home.

I ended up asking another traveler if he could walk with us, which he did. But even as we were walking home on a busy road, a man pulled his motorbike over right in front of us. He finally left after the boys yelled at him enough.

india or somewhere else? How to Visit India Safely

I have met a lot of people who love India! Although they shared the same experiences as I listed above, they found a way to overcome them or the positives outweighed the negatives in their case.

girl standing in front of the Taj Mahal in India

For me, India was something I always wanted to experience. It was different than anywhere else I’ve ever been and I still think it was worth it to go. However, I do think that if you are someone who goes on few trips or doesn’t travel as often, maybe leave India at the bottom of your list until you feel ready.

Visit India in a Tour Group

While we were in India, there were a lot of older travelers who were traveling as a group. I’m a bit of an eavesdropper, so I overheard a lot of them talking to each other about their experiences, which were all positive. However, I don’t travel this way since it is so expensive.

girl jumping in front of temple in Agra, India

If you could afford it and just can’t go without seeing India, maybe that would be a good option for you.

Since I’m a budget traveler and I love my autonomy, especially on trips, it would never be worth it for me. But something to think about in case you really want to see India safely!

Either way, everyone has different experiences in the places they’ve been.

I have a million good things to say about India as well and I plan to write about that too. I gained about 10 pounds while there because of how INCREDIBLE the food was and I never got sick!

Thali and Naan in India

But I wanted to share my honest opinion about why I will most likely be choosing to visit other countries I haven’t been to yet than heading back to India anytime soon. Let me know what you think!

What to Know Before you Travel to India
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Zohan

Monday 19th of July 2021

Really sad to hear your experiences in India but can't deny it as I'm an Indian myself and I know of this. There are about 300 million illiterate people here in India and a lot of them are tribals by nature, jobless, hence their odd behaviour. Don't reject the whole of India though, stick to the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Rajasthan, Goa, Maharashtra, Meghalaya and Sikkim. These will definitely be completely opposite of what you had experienced, I guarantee you because these states have high literacy rates and are more tourist friendly compared to the others. Cheers.

Tiina

Sunday 13th of June 2021

I agree totally with the experience in this post. There is something else though: Indians for me, of all possible social classes, seem to show as well a lack of empathy and compassion hard to understand. Families living in the street, beggars, abject poverty are met with total indifference which makes it specially hard to walk around. People would simply step over a person laying in the curb without checking if the person is sleeping or worse, or needs any help. This includes laying women with small children clinging to them. Be prepared for the smell as well. Indian men urinate everywhere. This will include the INSIDE of the airport. When I say Indian men I don't mean the creepy ones that are going to molest and grab you. As I saw it, this includes business men carrying a briefcase and hipsters on their way to a Kanye West concert (or wherever). Everybody defecates in any available corner as well,. This means that with the impossible heat, the stench is overpowering anywhere you go. It doesn't matter that you find this amazong restaurant and have this fantastic Indian food. or see this fantastic Shiva statue or whatever; as soon as you step out, you are most likely going to want to gag and vomit with the urine stench. This really cancelled out anything positive in any city. And last but nor least, the streets are literally full of rubbish. Everywhere. No matter the street. All paper bins and containers are empty and surrounded by litter everywhere but inside them. This includes around temples, around palaces.... everywhere. Be ready to wear something else than sandals because you WILL step on faeces and food rests and mysterious plastic bags all the time. Dayna was very kind in her post, but that above plus the molestation plus the stalking plus the evident feeling of danger all the time are something to think about as well. This is beyond anything found in any other country of the world, including very poor african countries. India is in another level altogether. My impression is that it is mostly due to the lack of empathy, because I can't fathom any other reason. India is not for everybody and for the money there are spiritual experiences, exotic countries, or whatever a traveler is looking for that are a much better experience about anywhere else.

Chandrabali Mukherjee

Tuesday 2nd of March 2021

If you want to travel in India on a budget, it is best to go to Government owned hotels, who arrange cars, local guides and tour itineraries. We are Indians, residing in Kolkata. We too know it can be very unsafe. We have traveled all over India with kids, and even when they grew up. We made it a point to always go through the Government travel programs and we had really great experiences. We always hired Government cars, took the guides recommended by them, and did not have to spend a lot. You must know that the Government alone has guest houses at the best locations. Local tourist bureaus of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan,Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh are really good. Foreigners should go through them like domestic tourists, and have a really great experience. Also remember to dress yourself like Indians, which are taken as a compliment, never be too friendly, and never encourage strangers. Even we as Indians take care never to go out during festivals where there are huge crowds , as there are pick pockets on the prowl. These are some tips which I am sure will be of use to foreign travelers.

Keosha Shroff

Tuesday 9th of February 2021

From a reader based in India, this was very disheartening to read. Sorry for all you had to go through, and I’m so sure a lot of tourists have gotten this cultural shock in India! But I think, not visiting India, on the basis of some experiences would be wrong, especially when India has so much to offer to all kinds of people. A few things I would like to point out here.. I am really surprised when you said you visited Vrindavan for Holi! This is because, me being an Indian, and having lived here all my life would not visit Vrindavan on Holi. In such areas, where there is no knowledge of foreign cultures, the people treat you like locals, and these Holi traditions are very shocking for some! If you ever change your mind and revisit India, I suggest you get in touch with some locals who know have travelled internationally and would understand what kind of experiences you would enjoy ( say Rishikesh, which is a peaceful yoga capital and is very accustomed to foreigners).. Also, travelling with some locals will help you get rid of those people who ask you for selfies! People like us would be more than willing to help you experience India like never before!

admin

Wednesday 10th of February 2021

I definitely agree that India has a lot to offer. I don't want to discourage people from visiting but rather to just warn and prepare others for what might happen. Also, it was very naive of me and my husband to go to Vrindavan for Holi and I really discourage anyone from doing that. I honestly underestimated what would happen and that is all on me. If it were only that experience, I wouldn't have said anything, but since I was followed and sexually harassed in every city we went to, I felt like I needed to say something. It's unfortunate, but I have spoken to many women who experienced the same thing. I definitely think there's a side of India that I haven't experienced yet and although I struggled while I was there, I think I will return and visit the Himalayas or some of the lesser-known cities. Thank you for your comment, I think that traveling with a tour group or with locals is the best way to avoid situations like this, so that is a great point. Although I had a hard time in India, I also had a lot of wonderful experiences and met some amazingly kind people. We were treated well in general and the food was incredible. It was a very beautiful country and I don't regret my visit there.

Rahul

Friday 30th of October 2020

I am ashamed of what you experienced, and yes I have seen a couple of people who do irritate a lot by taking selfies and all. But Yes I totally agree with Rashmi, that these people don't represent India. Even I stop such people who do such things if I find someone is uncomfortable. Dude let me know about your next visit or anyone who is reading this blog, I will assure you about a better experience and will recommend much more places to travel to. You can text me on Instagram _.mister_mystery._