Basic Etiquette while Visiting India

By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: May 15, 2017
Basic Etiquette while Visiting India

India is chaotic, colorful and a strong follower of tradition. With this tradition comes customs which can make you feel lost at times, even if you are a seasoned traveler. With more than 1 billion people and 18 different languages, simply navigating the nation can seem to be a challenge sometimes. Using basic etiquette during your visit can help in bridging the gap and earning an appreciation among the locals. Here at, we will make you aware of the basic etiquette while visiting India.

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Use of hands

Indians typically use left hand for bathroom related activities only. You are not supposed to serve, accept or eat anything with the left hand. If you are accepting or giving a gift, use both hands and bow your head a little. Men can shake hands with men, but you cannot shake hands with a woman. Folding hands in front of your chest and saying ‘Namaste’ is a gesture of greeting in India.

Table manners

Table manners are somewhat different in India than other parts of the world. If you are served a cooked vegetable with roti, the Indian bread, you have to pinch a piece off the bread with your forefinger and thumb, fill the bite with the curry, and put it in your mouth with your right hand. Indians usually eat with their hands, but you may ask for a knife, fork and spoon if you want.

Basic Etiquette while Visiting India - Table manners

Clothing style

Indian people like dressing modestly, and respect travelers who respect their culture. Women should dress in such a way that their shoulders, knees, stomach, upper arms and bosom are covered completely, while avoiding too tight clothes. A loose shirt and long skirt are fine, and same are trousers, jeans and other full-length garments. If you are invited to an Indian wedding, read our tips on male outfits for wedding guests.

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Basic Etiquette while Visiting India - Clothing style

The touch

Cuddling, kissing and hugging between men and women are considered a part of sex, and should not be done in front of others. In some rural areas, men and women are not even supposed to hold hands in public, even if they are husband and wife. However, men may hold hands and place arms around other men as an act of friendship. While sitting, do not point the soles of your feet at a person or a worship idol placed in the room. If you accidentally touch your feet with someone, they expect an apology from you. As an act of honor, Indians touch feet of elders, and the elders touch their head in return as a form of blessing.

So, if you are planning to visit India, follow these basic etiquettes and become an acceptable foreigner in the country, where people say that ‘Guest is God’ and don't forguet to book the perfect hotel.

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