Not everyone feels called to travel to India, but those who do feel it strongly and tend to have a huge desire to explore India. Traveling to India can be incredibly life-changing but it doesn’t come without its struggles. While there are travelers who feel called to India, there are others who feel it’s too difficult to travel; it’s true – India travel can be intense.
Read these few tips, maybe they will build your thoughts of coming to India.
When to come:
When to come to India should be your first consideration before you start planning. Peak season in India is October to March. For MOST, peak season is going to be when you want to come. Although there are more tourists at this time, India is a crowded country in general and it’s going to feel crowded no matter when you come.
In the off-season the weather is not as nice (it gets very hot in May then June brings the monsoon), and in areas where the monsoon hits hard like Goa and Kerala, pretty much everything is shut from restaurants to hostels. Another downside of traveling off-season is that there will be fewer tourists to meet along the way which could be potential travel buddies.If you can only come in the off-season, don’t fret. A fantastic place to go in the off-season is the mountains, like Manali, Rishikesh, McLeod Ganj, and Leh where the monsoon doesn’t hit and the weather is fantastic! In fact, during peak season you can’t really visit those places at all as they close the roads due to snow. I stay in Goa in the monsoon, and you can read more about what it’s like here
How long to stay:
Most people who come on tourists visas get the six-month visa. You can get longer than that but you will have to exit and come back in as you cannot stay in India longer than 180 days on any type of visa no matter how long it is.
Six months is ideal for a backpacking trip in India although it could be hard to get that much time away, and if you need to condense it (but want to see a lot) you really do need at least 10-12 weeks.
India has a lot from the Himalayas to the Thar desert, and the beaches of Goa to the busy cities of Calcutta, you have tribals in permit zones of Northeast India and jungles hidden in the dense jungles. It’s take people years to see so much of India, so you have to make some tough choices!
Flights are the first thing you might want to start looking into once you when you want to come and how long you want to stay. You’ll likely fly into Mumbai or Delhi as that is where many good priced international flights come in from. Then you can start your trip from there or interconnect to where you’d like to start
Safety & Culture:
I know a big concern for women traveling here is safety. I won’t say that it’s not a real concern; it is. There is an inequality in India toward women to a big extent and while there have been cases of attacks/rapes of foreigners, this is small compared to what local women deal with all the time here.
Indian culture is confusing and exciting all at the same time and it’s the culture than makes India so interesting to visit. If you try to shelter yourself from it, you’re missing out. Most people have a real love/hate relationship with India but the more you accept India’s ways the more you’ll end up loving it.
Packing for India is not as hard as you might think. I always tell people “it’s India, not the moon!” but there are some things that you really do need for India that will help your trip.
If you are on a low budget and want to travel by lowest class sleeper trains, you need to have a mummy liner and a travel pillow. The ones linked there are the ones I have used for years. You’ll also want a 4-foot chain to hook your bag to the bottom of the train beds so no one steals it. People get on and off all night long and theft is common. Another thing that helped people immensely was traveling with a headlamp. Power outages are common so it’s good when you have to get up at night and use the bathroom or when you are on sleeper buses.
Currency and Budget:
It’s possible to budget 1200 Rs per day (around $20). You can try for 800-1000 but you will be seriously struggling to keep that budget – I’m talking hitchhiking, worst guesthouses, and dal with rice every meal.
Yes, it’s true that Indians do eat with their right (clean) hand. It is part of their culture and one that you will probably enjoy adapting to. Most tourists places will have silverware so you don’t have to if you don’t want to. PLEASE keep in mind that if you get sick, it could be because India is dirty and you haven’t washed your hands; try not to blame establishments as you really don’t know what could have been the cause.
Food in the North of India is totally different from that in the South! While you travel, you’ll notice differences in the dal, curries, bread, and even flavors of rice. The North has rich, creamy, buttery curries that they eat with roti or naan. Tandoori is very big in North India. The North is quite vegetarian in areas though, and even have places that are strictly veg (you can’t even have an egg, like Pushkar). The South has more coconut milk based curries, they tend to be lighter and maybe healthier.
Taxis and rickshaws:
Other than using trains and buses (or flying) to get from town A to town B, you will also need to get around within the town. In most towns the cheapest and easiest way is to hail a rickshaw which are the funny little buggies with three wheels. In some cities they still have bicycle rickshaws but there are far less than there used to be. When you catch a rickshaw or taxi it is the law in most cities that they should turn their meter on. This doesn’t always happen. If they say no, you can try other rickshaws and if you have no luck then you need to negotiate a price before you get in the rickshaw.
Top tourists love:
I am going to list out some of the top tourists town and then a few words on what they are known for. I’ll start in Northern India and work my way down then wrap up the East side. There are more amazing places in India than this, but I would guess about 90% of first time travelers to India stick to these places.
Leh – ultimate Himalayan experience, trekking
McLeod Ganj / Dharamsala – the Dalai Lama, Tibetan culture in the mountains
Manali – base for trekking, hippie zone
Shimla – cute hill station, looks straight from a movie
Rishikesh – the Beatles ashram, yoga teacher training, spiritual experiences
Delhi – chaos and the real India!
Agra – Taj Mahal
Jaipur – amazing palaces, shopping, “pink city”
Udaipur – most romantic, white palace in the lake, the “Venice of India”
Jodhpur -the “blue city”, incredible fort
Jaisalmer – camel safaris in the Thar desert
Pushkar – holy lake, sunrise hill, spiritual place
Amritsar – the Golden Temple and the Wagah border
Madhya Pradesh – jungle and tiger tours
Mumbai – Bollywood, hectic amazing city, Gateway to India
Goa – trance parties, beach chill time, laid-back
Alleppey – houseboat on the backwaters
Kochi – Chinese fishing nets
Varkala – surfing
Pondicherry – French colony, surfing
If you found my article helpful, let me know in the comments below.