What’s your favorite Indian dish—and what do you recommend for first-time visitors?

My favorite Indian dish is kathal ki sabzi, a spicy dish made of young jackfruit. It’s got a bit of a chicken-like texture and is popular with vegetarians. You don’t find it much in restaurants, but it’s worth a try if you can get someone to cook it for you. I think all first-time visitors should try masala dosa, a South Indian crepe-like dish stuffed with seasoned potatoes and served with coconut chutney and lentil stew.

—Margot Bigg

Where is the best place to go for a taste of traditional Indian life?

Anywhere in rural Rajasthan will give you a good idea of what traditional Indian—or at least Rajasthani—life is all about. Pushkar is touristy but is also a major religious pilgrimage site, and it's a good place to learn about Hinduism. If you're visiting Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra by car, make sure to stop off in some of the smaller villages in between your destinations.

—Margot Bigg

What advice would you give female travelers to India?

Dress modestly and be wary of your behavior with men. In certain circles, especially in big cities, women sometimes hug their male friends, but this is more the exception than the norm in India. Short skirts and cleavage-bearing tops are perfectly fine in most Delhi nightclubs but are inappropriate in Rajasthan. Finally, be very careful after dark and don’t be afraid to tell someone off if he or she is behaving in a way that makes you uncomfortable.

—Margot Bigg

What should travelers always remember to pack when visiting India?

Remember to bring comfortable shoes and clothing. If you can get your hands on bug spray with DEET in it, bring some of that, too; the local mosquito repellent, Odomos, doesn’t work very well. Most over-the-counter medicines are widely available in India, but it’s a good idea to bring an adequate supply of prescription drugs with you if you need them.

—Margot Bigg

What strikes you most about the people and culture of India?

The diversity. Although India is a single, unified country made up of states and federal districts, it's difficult to compare it to somewhere like the US. Despite regional differences, Americans share a common language and macro-culture. India's more like the European Union; languages, customs, worldviews, and practices can change every few hundred miles.

—Margot Bigg

What are a few handy Hindi phrases to remember when traveling in India?

Bus, which means “stop” or “that’s enough,” is one of the most useful Hindi words I know. You can use it to halt a rickshaw at your final destination or to tell a waiter that you don’t want a second helping of curry. Theek hai is another phrase that people pick up quickly—it means "okay." Kitna, or “how much,” is also useful if you're shopping. However, most people in Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra speak English to varying degrees, some with native-level fluency.

—Margot Bigg

The Taj Mahal is obviously a must-see tourist attraction, but what other historical sites should visitors not overlook?

Delhi's Qutb Minar complex is one of the most interesting historical sites in town and contains centuries' worth of structures, some dating back to as early as the fourth century. In Jaipur, don't miss the City Palace, the home of the city's royal family and an interesting mix of Mughal, Rajasthani, and European architectural elements. Pushkar's Brahma Temple is another must-see, and is one of the only temples dedicated to the creator god in the world.

—Margot Bigg

Do you recommend visiting India by train? Any tips for train travel?

I think the train is the best way to see India, and Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra are well-connected by rail. If you’re traveling by train, bring plenty of drinking water, as it’s not always readily available onboard. Hand sanitizer and toilet paper are also a must. Note that the air-conditioned carriages can get very cold, so it’s a good idea to bring a shawl or sweatshirt with you.

—Margot Bigg