Volunteering in India can be one of the most rewarding and enriching experience. You not only get a chance to work at the grass root level and help the deprived communities but also at the same time experience the charm of India. It’s a country like no other with ways of working like no other. One of oldest living civilizations, India is progressing towards been one of superpowers of the 21st century but still holds holding onto its past and Culture.
India is a country of contrasts. It’s the Country, which gave birth to the most number of religions, home to 417 different languages with an Economic growth rate of 8%, 3rd largest growing economy in the world, where the 80% of the development funds gets vanished and 41.6% of the population still lives under the poverty lines. A country where, a women of Catholic origin steps aside for a Sikh be sworn in as the Prime Minister by a Muslim to govern a country with 80% Hindus. A country with 5600 newspapers and 35000 Magazines published in 22 different languages but still has the largest illiterate population of any nation on earth. India has the second largest army in the world but it has never invaded any country in her 10000 year past.
We cannot stress enough on the importance of coming prepared to India both physically and mentally. We try and help our volunteers prepare for India in every way possible through our program guides and orientations upon arrival but we recommend volunteers to educate themselves about India before they start from their home country.
Books on India
Start reading as much as possible on India, there is many books written on India. Some are guidebook’s for Backpackers where as some are stories of travel through India. Some of the books we recommend are:
- Culture Shock! India (Culture Shock! A Survival Guide to Customs & Etiquette) By GitanjaliKolanad
- Holy Cow by Sarah Mc Donald
- Travelers’ Tales India: True Stories
Visit our Facebook page and connect with fellow and past volunteers. Post questions, queries and let us or our past volunteers answer them. It’s good to ask questions. They would be best source of advice as they have been there and experienced it.
Follow Our Blog
Register yourself to our blog page and follow it regularly, we constantly post updates about India, tips, stories etc. that can come in very handy.
Indian News sites
Follow some of the top new sites in India.
This will help you keep updated with the current affairs in India (Which sometimes can be very interesting).
Travellng abroad as a volunteer in a foreign country is an amazing experience but there are also dangers and risks. Although travelling across unknown locations is relatively safe, here are a few tips all volunteers should keep in mind:
- Wear minimal jewellery
- If you carry a handbag keep it in front of you. If you carry a wallet, keep it in your front pocket.
- Be cautious around street kids, beggars, or crowds
- Do not accept food or drink from people on public transportation as they might be drugged
- Do not eat food from unknown sources
- As a general guide for food: “boil it, peel it, cook it, or forget it.”
- Drink either boiled or bottled water
- Make copies of all your travel documents
- Keep your passport, debit, and credit cards in a waist or neck belt under your clothes
- Keep a reserve of cash
- Alert your country’s department or ministry of foreign affairs of your travel plans
- Stay in contact with family and friends so that someone knows where you are and what you are doing
- Take out private health insurance/travel insurance.
- Avoid political demonstrations
- When hiring a taxi, agree on the price before you set out and pay when you reach your destination. This way the driver will have no reason to take you on a detour and no reason to drop you in the wrong spot. If he demands more money when you reach your destination simply pay the agreed upon price, ignore any swearing or threats, and walk away.
- Beware of unofficial tour guides and tourist offices selling accommodation or train and bus tickets: they often charge much more than you would otherwise pay and what you receive may not be what you pay for.
It is also a good idea to talk to other travellers, learn about their experiences, and ask for more tips. And above all: Be Alert!
Culture and Customs
Being aware of, and following, the local customs and culture can help volunteers to avoid some potential problems and to show respect. Here are a few tips:
Although you will find it is a lot less necessary in India, you will have to say No quite a lot in India. From people offering services such as taxis or rickshaws or to act as guides, to vendors and merchants beckoning you to their stalls or into their stores, or pressuring you to buy something once you do approach, to people on the street asking for money or food, many demands will be made of you. The best course is to be polite but firm, even in the face of persistence. Above all, don’t lose your cool and remember to treat always people with respect.
Always ask permission to take pictures of people and religious ceremonies. If in doubt in other circumstances, just ask.
Casual but modest dress is recommended for Bangalore, as for the rest of India. Bangalore can get cold during winter, so it is advisable to bring warm clothes. But not to worry if you don’t bring enough: there is plenty on offer once you arrive.
Tips are not required or expected at restaurants, but most places have a tip box for the staff and a tip is always appreciated.
India is very multicultural and many languages are spoken. Basic English is common, but it is always well received if you can say a few basic phrases in someone’s native language.
Your electrical equipment must be able to accept 240 Volts at 50 Hertz for you to use it in India. If it doesn’t, you will need to purchase a voltage converter. There are different types of voltage converters so it is important to make sure you purchase the right one for your electrical devices. You will likely also need an adaptor to plug your electrical equipment into India’s wall outlets. The following three types of wall outlets, and corresponding wall plugs, are found in India.
- Type C
- Type D
- Type M
There are several communication options available to volunteers in India. You can get Indian SIM card to access internet, receive and make phone calls at your convenience. Kenosis staff will assist you in this process.
Internet is widely available in India. There are several cyber cafes, which charge Rs30 for an hour of internet, and which have backup generators in case the power goes out. Many restaurants, cafes, and some hotels also offer free Wi-Fi with for patrons.
Several internet cafes offer phones for international calls, at rates of ranging from Rs. 5-15 per minute depending on which country you are calling and whether you are calling a landline or a cell (mobile) phone. Purchasing a phone and/or a SIM card in India is relatively easy and inexpensive. A very basic phone may cost between Rs. 1000-1500, and a SIM card without credit usually costs Rs. 100. All SIM cards must be registered, which requires an address and an individual to act as a reference to verify your identity and address. It is a good idea to register your SIM card in a spot where you will stay for several days, as sometimes the store will not immediately follow through on the registration and several follow up visits and reminders may necessary. If you will be volunteering in McLeod Ganj for a length of time, it is the best place to register your phone.
The post office is located in most of places across India, about a two minute walk from the main square, and just after a vegetable market. It is easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled. But if you don’t see it, just ask a local and he or she will be able to direct you.
Most places in Kenosis are accessible within a ten to fifteen minute walk. Even places a bit farther away, such as Majestice railway station, Bangalore Airpot, Majestice buss, Kalasipalaya Market, MG road, Cricket stadium, can be reached on foot or Try cycle (Tuck-Tuck). The respective walks, moreover, provide a great opportunity to explore the surrounding area and many of the views of the mountains and of the valley below are well worth the walk. If you do require transportation in and around India, or to destinations farther afield, there are several options. Be aware that the prices quoted are as of a specific date, and are subject to change, and that the destinations are by no means exhaustive of your options.
From the taxi stand in anywhere in Bangalore and other cities, four-person taxis can be hired, at USD 10 one way and depends on the distance and waiting duration, the prices can change. The airport pick up on way can cost up to 25 USD day time and night services charges varies little hire than the day services. You may be able to negotiate a lower price with individual taxi drivers.
From the auto-rickshaw stand in India, some representative destinations and costs are: Majestice railway and bus station, (Rs. 130) and MG road (Rs. 80). As with taxis, the cost of hiring an auto-rickshaw may be negotiable with the individual driver.
There are regular buses between one places to other, which take approximately 30 minutes and which costs 1 USD or more one way. From the bus stand in Bangalorej, regular buses travel daily to, anywhere in the city.
The closest rail station to India is Majestic railway station in Bangalore city, and Bangalore international Airport 26 km away, but it is a heavily trafficked station. The closest main rail station is Majestic or East station or Cantonment station, 26 km away to Bangalore international Airport, but a bus can take you the rest of the way to Airport to major Railway stations in Bangalore or across cities in India.
Living costs, of course, vary from person to person. As a general guide, however, volunteers can expect to pay 25-50 USD per night for accommodation and Rs. 5-10 USD for 3 meal a day in a decent restaurant. A coffee will usually run you less than a dollar and a bottle of water less than a dollar.
You will be able to find most personal items, toiletries, and food stuffs at various small stores in either Bangalore or Delhi. There are also smaller fruit and vegetable vendors throughout the town and many stores selling outdoor clothing. As in the rest of India, while the price of some goods is fixed and non-negotiable, the price of any other goods can be bargained over. Menus in restaurants are almost always fixed, as are most packaged food items in stores, with the cost in rupees on the package. The initial prices quoted for clothes in many stores are, however, often negotiable.
There are two options for washing your clothes in India: volunteers can take their clothes to a laundry service, or volunteers can wash their clothes by hand and hang them to dry. Note that some hotels do not allow you to wash clothes in your room.