Tips to surviving India

- Beware the water. In terms of health, if anything gets you, it will be this. Insist on bottled water (not "filtered") and make sure the bottle is new and properly sealed. I only shower from the neck down and wash my face in bottled water. Avoid any food washed in water.

- Make sure your first-aid kit includes something that will handle serious stomach upsets, just in case this fails. (I'm careful and have never been sick in India.)

- Carry hand sanitiser and, better still, adopt the Indian greeting of holding your palms together and bowing.

- Where a service fee is added to your bill, there is no need to tip. But where it is not, tips are expected. A porter expects 10R (22 cents) to carry bags. Hold the money in your hand and transfer it during a handshake.

- Take long-sleeved, light- coloured shirts and mosquito repellent.

- Pack a small torch. Electricity is a flexible concept in some hotels.

- Buy and read the Indian papers. They are in English and their use of the language and take on the world is delightful, naive and sophisticated.

- Buy and read local books. Khushwant Singh, Githa Hariharan, V.S. Naipaul, Rabindranath Tagore. Indian storytelling is often not linear, like Westerners'.

- Also read Christopher Kremmer's Inhaling the Mahatma and Colonial Cousins by WA writers Joyce Westrip and Peggy Holroyde.

- Learn to appreciate sitar and tabla (drum). Having this on your music player will make sense when you are there.

- Pack patience and a sense of humour.

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