Is India safe to travel? I felt safe enough but only because I was with a guided tour. I would say that a reputable local guide is essential when visiting India. It’s not so much for the facts and figures of the sights, which are readily available online, but for the protection against persistent beggars and hawkers and help across the busy roads!
Is it safe to use public transport in India? From the viewpoint of someone who is not young or intrepid, I would say no. The concept of road discipline and safety seemed non existent. People piled on mopeds and three-wheelers weaving in and out of the crazy traffic. Buses were jam packed as were the back of lorries. I even saw people lying on the luggage rack of a coach!
Are local people friendly and helpful? Generally speaking people in the hotels where I stayed were friendly and helpful, especially at Jayee Palace Hotel, Agra. Everyone was charming. But be warned about helpful people at tourist attractions. They would offer to take photos for you not to run off with your camera, but they would expect to be paid. And as with traders and beggars, once you gave money to one person, you could be immediately surrounded by others.
Is local food and water safe for consumption? I had no problem with local food. I loved the authentic curry dishes served up at the hotels. However I did choose the tour that offered accommodation and meals at 5* hotels as a safeguard since food poisoning was common amongst tourists. I also used bottled water for cleaning my teeth. It was definitely not worth taking the risk trying street food, however interesting it might look.
Do people speak English in India? Well, after a fashion. Although India is supposed to be the second largest English speaking country after USA, the reality is that it’s pretty hit and miss. Generally speaking, people in contact with tourists do understand English but to a varying degree. For instance at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jaipur I asked a waiter for some hot water. He nodded and smiled, then he went away to do something else!