When we planned our trip we planned two chunks of three weeks each. Three weeks in the south, three in the north. We had three weeks to explore Kerala and then three weeks to do Delhi, the Golden Triangle and Rajasthan. I planned to write down my impressions of the difference of the north v south for other travellers, particularly women. Please bear in mind that this is based on my experiences alone, and that we visited very different places.
Attitude towards women
This has been the big one. We already anticipated it from what we’d read and heard from other travellers but the difference really was astounding. In Kerala I could get away with walking down the street with a vest top but in Delhi, where you’d expect the city to be a bit more metropolitan and used to seeing women’s shoulders they could not stop staring! They wouldn’t stop until Ben looked at them dead in the eye, they didn’t care that I noticed. They also constantly tried to take sneaky selfies with me. We were told by a friend that guys often did this to post on Facebook and boast about their ‘western girlfriends’. I’m not sure that they all do that but it was definitely unnerving.
The attitude towards women can be summed up by my experience of having my bum grabbed in broad daylight by a 10 year old boy, while I was walking down a quiet street with Ben. If you’re in the north you need to be prepared for the stares, the selfie requests and the need to cover up.
We found Kerala to be an extremely friendly state. On my birthday the hotel owners rushed out to get me a birthday cake. Even the tuk-tuk drivers would happily direct you to where you wanted to go even without using their tuk-tuk. Hotel owners were always really obliging and generally we found they were more genuine to tourists. This was different in the north, although there have been some lovely locals we’ve also been subjected to staring and sadly scams.
Unfortunately scams exist everywhere and even more unfortunately we fell for one on our first full day in Delhi. After the
friendliness of the south and being in India for 3 weeks we were overconfident that we actually understood India. But India is quick to show you up whenever you start to think you might have cracked the way of life. People in the bigger cities, especially Delhi make their living off unsuspecting tourists, feeding them chai, getting friendly with them by chatting about getting high in the Himalayas and persuading you that you couldn’t possibly organise things yourself. If they catch you on a particularly exhausting day when India has been unkind to you it’s hard not to be taken in by it.
Although we were overcharged a few times for tuk-tuks in the south, it was nothing compared to the north. Every day has been a battle against being scammed out of money. We even got to the point of walking several kilometres rather than have to negotiate a fair price for a tuk-tuk!
We actually found that hostels around the Golden Triangle and Rajasthan were generally a lot cheaper than in Kerala. This is probably because the areas we were targeting were much more touristy and had to compete with each other. Tax however seemed to be a lot higher in the North, particularly Delhi and a lot of restaurants would suddenly add on a service tax and city tax to our bill which meant we kept breaking our budget until we could get used to the calculation.
Three weeks in the South and the worst we got was mosquito bites. Although they were super irritating neither of us felt ill as we expected to. However fast forward to the North and Delhi belly hits us like a brick. Despite being careful to eat in hygienic restaurants and staying veggie it still managed to get both of us. I don’t think it’s to do with the food rather the standard of general hygiene of the places we’e visited. In Kerala we did tend to go to smaller towns and villages whereas the North has mainly been cities which could be a major contributing factor. All I can say is take hand sanitiser and use it liberally in any Indian city.
One of the main thing that put people off coming to India is having to face the poverty. It’s a powerful thing and it’s not easy to see, you have to develop quite a thick skin to turn away beggars especially those who suffer from disabilities and often missing limbs. Although I accept that we didn’t really go to many big cities in the south so can’t really compare accurately, we noticed a lot more begging in Delhi and the other cities in the north and Rajasthan. In Delhi particularly you can see the extent of the slums from the train and are faced with a lot more children following you around demanding 10 rupees. Interestingly Kerala used to be a communist state which has actually promoted literacy and seems to have had an effect on the level of begging.
So these are the main differences I’ve seen between the north and the south of India.
Have you visited both? What did you think of them? Do you disagree with me? Let me know in the comments!
Read more about our trip to India: