This was my first real trip to India, and I certainly learnt a few things;
1. India is nothing like Nepal. I had expected there would be a lot in common, but there is basically nothing in common. The Indians do not understand Nepalese, so all the words learnt on my trips to Nepal where of no use in India.
The Nepalese are always smiling and friendly. The Indians are busy and do not smile and say hi. We met a lot of great people, but the overall atmosphere is very different.
2. It is very hard to get around india without a local guide. It might be fun if you are young and only have a backpack to carry around, but otherwise pay the money for a local guide, whether it is a guide for a trek, a taxi driver around tour, a tour guide for an attraction, or simply a rickshaw driver. It is well worth the money.
3. Every town, street and city is busy. There are cars, trucks, bikes, cows, dogs, and people everywhere. There is garbage everywhere. It is dusty and dirty everywhere, and there is an overall pervasive smell of urine everywhere. India is amazing, and it has a great history and culture, but there are a lot of people, and you need to be ready for the mass of humanity.
4. The overnight busses are painful.
5. The train is good, but getting a ticket can be interesting.
6. Book your hotels ahead of time, and research online carefully.
7. If you are going to climb there be aware that peaks over 5600m are full blown expedition peaks requiring a permit, liaison officer, guide, cook, etc. Below that you don’t need anything, although I would hire a guide and a few horses.
8. The trekking in northern india is beautiful. There are large forests and Meadows to camp in. You can trek over passes for weeks. Take a guide.
9. The beer in India tends to be weak, and most of it is not good.
10. The Cappacino is good. The coffee is instant Netcafe and it is bad. The tea tends to be good, but is often sweetened.
11. The food is good. Lots of flavors, and not too hot (spicy), but they do give you spices on the side if you want more heat.
12. The only way to get a quiet nights sleep is to hike well up into the hills away from any towns.
13. Unless you are in the hills, you will not see the sky through the pollution.
14. We felt safe everywhere we went. People often approached us offering directions and advice when they thought we were lost. There were happy to talk to us and we’re interested in Canada, although most of them were familiar with Vancouver and Calgary.
15. Driving is a nightmare. Just hang on for the ride, or close your eyes (unless you are doing the driving).