Authentic India: 5 experiences you won’t forget

Whether you're visiting India for the first time or planning a more authentic experience on your next trip over, here are a few novel ideas to make your travels even more memorable.

Be an extra in a Bollywood film

Be a Bollywood extraYou don’t need to live in India or have an acting background to be part of a Bollywood film: one of India’s biggest exports.

Foreign tourists are often in demand as extras in Mumbai, India’s home of Bollywood.

Hang around Colaba Causeway – a melee of street stalls, shops and cafés – and you could end up being scouted by an agent.

If the limelight isn’t for you, head to the cinema with the locals for a lively night of entertainment.

As the locals sing and dance in the aisles, you’ll be compelled to clap and cheer with them as their favourite stars appear on-screen.

Jaipur’s world famous Raj Mandir cinema – with stars, curves and zigzags set into its pink façade – is well worth a visit.

Learn to cook authentic Indian cuisine

Bring a taste of real India homeIndian takeaways at home are never quite the same after a trip to India. Local curry houses just can’t seem to reproduce the flavours, colours and smells of authentic Indian cuisine.

So, while you’re there, why not take up a cooking class and learn how to bring a taste of real India home?

Cookery classes are in abundance across the country and a short course in the basics shouldn’t set you back more than 400 rupees (£5).

Classes at The Spice Box in Udaipur, Rajasthan are a great way to understand local Indian cooking and you can buy all the spices and utensils you’ll need from their own shop just across the road.

After you’ve mastered the art of cooking authentic Indian cuisine, it’s worth stocking up on fresh spices before you catch your flight home. Roopak Stores in Karol Bagh, New Delhi is a real find and has everything for your spice cupboard at home.

Stay in a mansion, for less than you think

Hotels in IndiaWhy stay in a bland, soulless hotel when you can sleep like a prince or princess by staying in one of India’s opulent, heritage retreats?

Rajasthan is famous for its ornate havelis: private mansions that are often hand painted with stories of the Gods to the Karma Sutra.

Many havelis have been converted into guest houses, which are popular in small towns such as Mandawa and Jaisalmer.

Nachana Haveli in Jaisalmer is bursting with character and has charming rooms appointed with traditional carved furniture and relics – some with curved ceilings and private balconies.

Explore the sweltering deserts… on a camel

Camel tour in IndiaJaisalmer is the starting point for camel safaris into the Thar desert, with overnight trips allowing you to dine and sleep under the stars.

Watch the sunset over a cup of chai (Indian tea served in a pottery cup), then tuck into a traditional desert meal of vegetable curry, chapatti, poppadoms (the locals call them ‘papads’) and mutton curry.

Some tours include a night in modern air conditioned tents, or you can sleep on blankets under the stars.

On a crystal clear night, look out for shooting stars and the Milky Way stretching across the desert sky.

…and if you don’t like camelsIndian busses

India is home to so many tourist attractions, it’s easy to miss some of the quirks of daily life in India.

Travelling on a public bus is an adventure in itself and an inexpensive way to see the real India as you pass through towns, cities and deserts, meeting locals along the way.

The horns are long, loud and frequent, and the drivers seem crazy. The whole experience is hectic but exhilarating, especially if you join the locals up on the roof.

What are your favourites?

If you have your own suggestions for novel and authentic things to do in India, let us know by leaving a comment below.

Things to remember when travelling to India

Bargain as hard as you can; if you don’t, locals can get offended.
Dress code:
Cover knees and shoulders in temples and places of worship. Women should be aware of wearing any clothing that could be considered ‘promiscuous’.
Tipping is expected and locals aren’t often afraid to let you know. There is no set amount but 15 to 20 percent is considered a generous tip.

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