As part of my Ask Me Anything series, I answer common questions I get from readers. You can read other AMA posts here. In this article, I want to answer the question of how in shape do you need to be to travel India or if age is really a factor in coming here. I also will touch on traveling India with disabilities.
It’s no secret that India is known as a difficult place to travel, so much so that many of the top travel bloggers I know have publicly said they wouldn’t come to India because of the pollution, safety concerns, and corruption. I actually have never thought much about how in shape you need to be to come to India but after having quite a few people ask me about this, I thought I’d take the time to talk about the difficulties you might face if you are out of shape or if you have a disability that prevents you from walking up stairs or long distances as well as if you are in a wheelchair. I am not saying I know how it would be to travel in India with a disability but I am simply doing my best to answer this for those who asked, based on my observations here.
In general, no you do not need to be in shape more than usual to travel to India. India doesn’t have to be any different than traveling to Europe in terms of your daily acitivies unless of course you do something adventurous – which you can always choose not to do.
Here are some things that you might find challenging if you are out of shape in India:
- Long sunrise and sunset hikes in popular tourist places like Pushkar or Hampi
- The hot days cause dehydration and can be physically challenging as sightseeing in India often involves a lot of walking
- Trekking in the Himalayas is okay for a day trek but if you plan to do something more hardcore, you might want to prepare
- Adventure tours are popular here like camel rides, rafting, hiking, kayaking, and more.
- Most temples are located at the top of hills and some can be a very long walk up tiny and uneven steps to get to the top
Things to consider with age while traveling in India
I do not think that age is much of a factor, but then I am 29 and don’t know what it’s like to be 79. I do know that I see many older travelers here and my advice would be if you are older and want to take things slower, to do just that. Some tours will be very fast-paced so either travel on your own or join a tour which has a slow-travel itinerary. Rather than seeing the top attractions of Delhi in two days, spend a week there and make time each day to relax and recharge.
My parents came to Mumbai, Goa, and Hampi for two weeks – they are around 60 years old and they did get tired in Hampi after so much sightseeing. They also had a lot of jetlag in the beginning.
I also don’t think there is an age that is too young to come. I have friends who travel with their infants and children and see 18-year-olds backpacking here. I do think that a young inexperienced traveler should not attempt to travel here on their own.
If you are traveling India with a disability here are some things to keep in mind:
If you are not steady on your feet, you might have difficulty with the fact that in crowds in India, people do push. There is not a lot of personal space in some instances like when standing in line or on public transportation so just make it clear that you want some space and you can physically put your hand on the shoulder of someone who is too close and motion for them to move back.
Some of the most famous iconic landmarks in India do not have wheelchair access. There are not often ramps or any way for people in a wheelchair to enter some famous temples and palaces. This is slowly changing and even in the 6 years I’ve traveled here, I have revisited places that have added ramps.
You might find it strange, but in places that do not have ramps and have hundreds of stairs to get to the top of a hill to see a temple – there are men who carry you up. This is not just for people who cannot walk, but for the elderly or the people who choose to not walk for any other reason. They will have a sort of cot or chair that has rods off the end which they will carry – similar to how kings and queens were carried back in the day.
You also won’t find disabled toilets except in airports where there is usually one stall with a bar on the wall to help you hold onto it. You won’t find braille on the elevators and you won’t hear beeping sounds to help you cross the road if you having a sight impairment.
Getting in and out of rickshaws might be difficult for you if you are using a cane or have trouble bending as it can be a tight squeeze. You might find that taxis will not be helpful to you or not want to be patient for you as people are sometimes treated differently in a negative way or even in a too sympathetic way as that article explains that even in 2017, people with disabilities are not seen as part of society.
Another thing I found surprising here is the language used – which isn’t meant to be derogatory but isn’t the same words we use in the USA. For example, a mute person would be called “dumb” and a person who cannot walk is “lame”. At first, I thought this is to do with the ways things are translated but then I found out actually in England, they use the term “dumb” as well in some cases. I met some textile workers who were weaving cotton and one could not speak – my tour guide said he was dumb and I was in shock. I was a little angry before I realized he did not mean he was illiterate but that he was mute and that “dumb” was the word they used for mute.
Because of the lack of infrastructure for people with disabilities traveling in India, I do suggest that you take a tour that is suited to your personal needs. If you google that, you’ll see that there are dozens of companies that offer unique specialized tours. I haven’t worked with any that are for special needs, so I cannot vouch for a particular one. Definitely, do some research, read reviews, and ask the company questions before you make a booking.
I hope that this was helpful for you. To sum it up, I don’t think you need to be in some kind of special shape to travel in India, nor does age really play a huge role as long as you travel slowly if you need to – however, traveling with disabilities here can be difficult, therefore I recommend trying a tour in that case.
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