Dos and Don’ts
Dress to Impress: You’ll be better received if you dress modestly—leave low-cut shorts, singlet tops, and ripped clothes at home. For women, loose non-revealing attire or a salwar kameez (Indian tunic and trouser combination) are recommended.
Sacred Matters: Whenever visiting a place of worship (e.g. temple, mosque) dress and act respectfully—no kidding around, cuddling, smoking, or loud talking. Shoes must be removed. Some holy sites require men and women to sit separately. Refrain from touching carved deities and from directing the soles of your feet at religious images or worshippers. Women need head-cover for mosques, while both sexes require it for gurdwaras (Sikh temples). Leather items (e.g. belts, wallets) aren’t allowed in Jain temples, and menstruating women are requested not to visit. If you’re unsure about protocols simply watch or ask locals.
Table Manners: It’s considered good manners to wash your hands before and after eating. Protocol advises that the right hand be used for eating (the left is used for dirty chores such as taking off shoes, toilet duties, etc.). If invited to dine at a private home, it’s nice to take a gift (e.g. sweets, flowers) and to remove your shoes before entering the house.
Photography: Photography may be prohibited at temples and other sacred sites or religious events (ask if unsure); if permitted, flash photography inside shrines may not be allowed (again, ask). Apart from general crowd scenes, it’s polite to ask permission before photographing people, especially women. Photography is banned at areas of military significance, which can include bridges and train stations.
Namaste: Hello/Goodbye. Pronounced Num-uh-stare.
Shukriya: Thank you. Pronounced Shu-kree-yar.
Aap kaise hai: How are you? Pronounced Arp-kays-air-hay
Ji ha: Yes. Pronounced Gee-haar.
Ji nahi: No. Pronounced Gee-nay-hee.
…kahaang hai?: Where is the…? Pronounced Car-har-hair?
Acha: I understand or OK. Pronounced uch-are.
Ruko!: Stop! Pronounced Rroo-core!
Chai: Tea. Pronounced cch-eye.
Pani: Water. Pronounced par-knee.
Lakh: 100,000. Pronounced lack.
Crore: Ten million. Pronounced craw.
Subscribe to Nat Geo Traveler
Available in print and for iPad®! See destinations come alive with 360-degree photos, videos, and more!