‘The shopping is incredible!’: Top 10 tips for visiting India

When author Deborah Moggach wrote The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, she never dreamed that her novel would go on to inspire two hit movies, a BBC series, and our best-selling Real Marigold Hotel tour of India – and reveal the country’s magic to people all over the world.

After visiting it on countless occasions, here she shares her advice for getting the most out of your India holiday – from how much to tip, to where to find the best clothes shops and tailors…

1. The food is fantastic

Don’t believe the people who tell you Indian food is bad. It’s gorgeous, as is the beer. Indian wine is expensive and pretty ghastly – so you’ll probably want to drink beer and G&Ts.

You’ll have lovely curries, but if you want something plainer just ask: there will always be the option for milder dishes or omelettes. Obviously don’t drink the water or have ice in your drinks, and don’t eat raw or unpeeled fruit and vegetables. Clean your teeth with bottled water, too.

2. Be generous

There are beggars, and it is heart-wrenching, so keep some Rupees handy if you want to give to them. Despite the poverty, there is also a wonderful resilience and cheerfulness in India – it’s extraordinary. I wouldn’t bargain with rickshaw drivers either: just give them what they ask for, because they make so little money.

“Even if it’s just for an afternoon, don’t be afraid to go off to explore on your own” –
Deborah Moggach

** Meet Deborah Moggach and hear the story behind her best-selling novel on our exclusive Woman & Home holiday in India – which includes a pre-departure talk from Deborah, a night at the real Marigold Hotel where the hit movies were filmed, and a visit to the Taj Mahal, Jaipur, Udaipur and more… See the details **

3. Take your favourite clothes

You’ll find amazing tailors all over India, especially in the cities – and they can rustle up clothes from scratch in just a few hours. You can choose your material and get measured up for something new, or have clothes copied – so if you have a favourite dress or jacket then bring it with you! And don’t load yourself with shopping before you get to Udaipur – because the shopping there is incredible!

4. Getting lost can be fun

Even if it’s just for an afternoon, don’t be afraid to go off to explore on your own – without your guide. You’ll meet some really lovely people, and see some amazing things.

It’s really the most magical thing, to be wandering around on your own. And if you get lost, you can just get a rickshaw back to your hotel. People are so incredibly friendly. It puts our London streets to shame.

The beautiful lake-side city of Udaipur… where the shopping is also “incredible”!

5. Stay in a ‘haveli’

Havelis are old merchants’ palaces – many have been converted into fabulous hotels, and it’s a real privilege to stay in them. Staying at the Ravla Khempur hotel – which is where the Best Exotic Marigold movies were filmed – is a marvellous experience. The hotel has sunk back to somnolence!

It’s blissfully ramshackle, but nobody minds because it’s such an extraordinary place and so characterful – just like it is in the film. Its owners are horse breeders, and the hotel has stables around the swimming pool. The horses are completely divine.

6. Get up early – at least once

At dusk and dawn, India is its most magical.

7. Be polite to hawkers

People will try to sell you stuff, and some are very persistent, but be nice to them even if you don’t want what they’re selling – they’re just trying to make a living. Don’t feel that they’re all out to rook you, because they’re not. If somebody runs after you in the bazaar [market], it’s probably just because you forgot your change. If a hawker is being persistent, just say “no thankyou” and walk away.

** Meet Deborah Moggach and hear the story behind her best-selling novel on our exclusive Woman & Home holiday in India – which includes a pre-departure talk from Deborah, a night at the real Marigold Hotel where the hit movies were filmed, and a visit to the Taj Mahal, Jaipur, Udaipur and more… See the details **

8. Watch the world go by

India is never boring – you can live your whole life just watching the world go by. Have a beer or a glass of chai [tea] and just look around you: there is so much to see. It’s just endlessly fascinating.

9. Don’t forget to tip

You can’t exchange Indian money at home, so you’ll have to use all of your Rupees – which means lots of shopping! And tipping. Don’t take your cash home: give it to the beggars who need it so much more than us. If anyone does you a favour, tip them with a small note: Rs 50 (50p) or Rs 100 (£1) is fine. The big shops do accept credit and debit cards, and ATMs are everywhere.

10. Go with the flow

In India, nothing is hurried so don’t try to fight that. Everything will get done in its own time!

 

All images from Alamy

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