The Ultimate Guide to Studying Abroad in India (for the modern student)

By Sunaina

study abroad india map

So you think Studying Abroad in India sounds awesome?

We agree!

India is a rising star with a growing middle-class and modernizing culture. You will find rich culture in all aspects of your daily Indian life.

We promise you will learn at least 5 things from this guide you will not find anywhere else.

This Ultimate Guide assumes you have or will have a student visa for your stay in India.

Your definitive Guide to an India Study Abroad

Find everything you need to have fun and be safe when in India.

  1. How to get to India and then to Campus
  2. How to get a Mobile Phone & what Apps to install
  3. How to buy stuff using Indian money
  4. What to Eat & Drink (and what not to)
  5. Getting around India & Sightseeing
  6. List of No No's
  7. What items to bring to India

how to get to india

1. How to get to India and then to Campus

You will most likely be traveling to India on a plane. You can get to the country by bus or car but this is rare for exchange students.

Flights will be long in most cases. The average student will be traveling 17-24 hrs. Make sure you stand up, stretch and walk around the cabin on your flight.

Major airlines fly into all major cities. Use your local travel websites (Expedia,, etc...) or (India) to book your flight.

Once you arrive in India follow the directions from the airport that your school has supplied you.

Some schools will have transportation waiting for you. If you are staying with a family they may come to pick you up.

What if no one's there to pick you up?

In the event you need to take a taxi we recommend using Ola or Uber (taxi / cab booking mobile apps). This way you pay a fair rate.

To use Ola or Uber install the mobile apps before you arrive. When in the airport use the free or paid wifi to book a cab with the app.

how to get an indian mobile phone

2. How to get a Mobile Phone & what Apps to Install

India is a mobile first society with 60-70% of Internet use happening on mobiles.

Indians use their phones for messaging, payments, booking trips and anything else.

Here's the deal:

During your first week in India you should explore either getting an Indian SIM card or an Android phone. Airtel is the most popular carrier.

Getting a SIM card can be tough in India: Follow this helpful guide (you will need at least 2 passport size photos).

Mobile phones will be available at many stores around. Ask your teachers/counselors or host family the best place to get one in your area. They may also have to buy the phone for you.

We recommend an Android phone as they are cheap and most popular. All major Indian tech companies support their Android apps better compared to iOS apps.

Tip: Call your current Mobile Carrier as they may have international options. They may just enable it for your plan before you arrive.

Here are the apps we recommend installing:

  • Facebook
  • MakeMyTrip
  • RedBus
    (Bus Tickets)
  • Whatsapp
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Ola
    (Taxis & Rickshaws)
  • Uber
  • Flipkart
    (online shopping)
  • Amazon
    (Online Shopping)
  • Paytm
    (Mobile Wallet & Recharge)
  • Freecharge
    (Mobile Recharge)
  • Airtel
    (if Airtel is your new Indian carrier)
  • Money Exhange rate app
    (you choose)

Download the apps from this post: Mobile Apps for India

how to use rupees

3. How to buy stuff using Indian Money

Before you leave for India ask your bank if you can get some Rupees. Get a couple small bills and few large ones. You will most likely need some cash when you arrive and during your first week.

Also, download a mobile app with real-time updates for the current Rupee exchange rate. This way you can relate to how much you are spending.

Why does this matter?

Knowing the current exchange rate will tell you if you are getting ripped off or not when getting cash. In general, get your cash from an ATM, Bank or Hotel. Do not trust individual shops to get cash from.

Many students like to setup a local bank account so it's easier for parents to wire money if needed. You may want to do this the first week you are in India. Choose one of the major indian banks that have many branches.

When getting cash keep in mind you will want small bills if traveling or going to the market.

Tip: Keep your small bills and large bills in separate parts of your travel pouch. This does 2 things: 1. Makes it so you only show small bills to vendors - 2. Makes it harder for a thief to get all your money.

You can also use your phone for many ways to pay now. One of the most popular new ways is a mobile wallet app called Paytm. We recommend you install this app and load it with some funds.

You can use Paytm to pay for movie tickets, bus trips, recharge your minutes or data and much more. It is a modern, secure way to pay for things.

Get your books and school supplies from the campus store or online. You can also use or

When buying items in a market or traveling make sure you barter. Bartering is a sport in India and it's expected you take part. Even if you see a posted price you may still negotiate down. Be respectful but try to get the best price.

how to get to eat in india

4. What to Eat & Drink (and what not to)

India has a lot of delicious, flavorful food. It is also a great country for Vegetarians with many restaurants being "Veg-Only".

Different regions have different food and spice levels. If you do not like spicy food make sure you tell your server. You can order sides of white rice to help mitigate the spiciness as well.

In general, you want to stay away from raw foods like salads or juices.

You also want to stay away from a lot of street vendors. Sometimes it's fine but a lot of the time it's not. To decrease risk of getting sick you may want to forgo street vendor food.

Your best bet is to go to restaurants where a lot of people are eating.

Our foreign friend's favorite dishes are usually Butter Chicken (aka Chicken Makhani), Rogan Josh (lamb) and Saag Paneer (Vegetarian). Tell us your favorite Indian food in the comments below.

best places to see in india

5. Getting around India & Sightseeing

Studying in India is fun but traveling in India is better.

To start planning where you want to go you will want to buy the Lonely Planet India book.

Lonely Planet books have reviews, maps and travel plans. Their book will help you see everything great in India. You should read it before you even leave for India ;)

You can also use Lonely Plant to decide the best time of year to visit places. The seasonal weather is not something to ignore. Verify it is the right time of year while planning.

How do you get around?

Traveling around India usually takes three forms: Plane, Railway, or Bus.

Your vehicle will depend on your destination. Riding a train is something we recommend. Indian train rides are a great cultural experience.

Full Indian train guide: Backpacker's Guide to Indian Trains

Buses will take a long time but depending where you are going may be your only option. We would recommend Buses as a last resort.

Planes are fast and convenient if you can afford the luxury. Use one of the many Indian websites like or for tickets.

Tip: Print out your plane itinerary and bring it to the airport. It might be required.

Use Ola or Uber (Taxi / Cab apps) to get around within cities as well. You can also just hail a ride on the street.

In some cases you might want to explore hiring a private driver. The travel blogger Sonja recommends this in her Indian Travel Tips

what not to do in india

6. List of No No's

  • Don't eat salads, juices or anything raw
  • Don't eat at places that are empty (go to popular places)
  • Don't drink tap water (drink bottled)
  • Don't brush your teeth with tap water (use bottled)
  • Don't give money to beggars
  • Don't take items that people try to hand to you
  • Don't get ice cubes in your drinks
  • Don't drink from an unsealed bottle of water
  • Don't let strangers handle your baggage for you
  • Don't raise your voice when upset in public
  • Don't pack too much
  • Don't eat airport food that has been sitting out
  • Don't carry only big bills (carry some small bills)
  • Don't carry passport/money outside your clothes
  • Don't disrespect temples
  • Don't worry about staring
  • Don't use your left hand when eating OR passing food
  • Don't touch the opposite sex in public
  • Don't drink alcohol in public
  • Don't shake hands unless the extend theirs
  • Don't take pictures in a temple

what to pack for india

7. What items to bring to India

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Trail Mix or dried fruit)
  • Toothbrush
  • Floss/Dental Picks
  • Toothpaste
  • Travel First-aid Kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Lock (for your door)
  • Suitcase Lock
  • Mosquito Net
  • Sun Hat
  • Headlamp
  • Photocopy or your passport
  • Lonely Planet India Book
  • Backpack
  • Bug Repellant
  • Mobile / Cell Phone Tripod
  • Laptop (school work & calling home)
  • Indian Plug & Power Adapter
  • Hiking Boots (if treking)
  • Passport and money pouch
  • Water Purifier (like a steri-pen)
  • Charcoal Tablets (stopping Diarrhea)
  • Multi-tool / Pocket knife
  • Pollution / Dust Masks
  • Toilet Paper
  • Female Urination Device (if female)
  • Mobile Phone (aka your camera)
  • Credit/ATM Card
  • Clothing Line & Pegs
  • eReader / Kindle
  • Travel Shampoo & Soap
  • Passport & Visa
  • 4 extra passport size photos
  • Prescription medicine
  • Proof of Travel Insurance
  • Gift for your host family

Enjoy your study abroad! If you have anything we should add please leave it in the comments below.