India to many travelers is the
most fascinating country on earth. A big country offer a huge variety of
sights, cultures, traditions and experiences. It is a cheap and generally
easy country to travel in, although every visit has it’s fair share of hassles,
and you should have some traveling experience before attempting a visit to
India. To experience India properly one needs considerable time, but short
trips in small areas are equally rewarding.
India is deeply grounded in time honored traditions and at
the same time ploughing forward into the modern world. India embraces diversity
like no other country on earth. Home to a widely varied
population of over one billion people, it is a land of astonishing contrasts, as
colorful as it is filthy, flat and featureless as the Himalaya are high, from
deserts to perfect tropical beaches and with religious practises as complicated
as they are simple.
For the traveller, India presents an astonishing and
remarkable mix of things to see and do. From dipping into sacred sites and
temples, spiritual encounters, hidden historic gems, visions of the former
British Raj, battle scarred forts, endless country paddocks, the warm waters of
the tropical beaches of the south, the backwaters of the further south, and the
incredible elephants, wild cats and other animals found throughout the country.
India is a place to expect the unexpected and your
journey through it is ultimately going to be exactly what you make of it.
This mystifying country isn’t a place you merely ‘see’; it’s an assault on all
senses. It’s full of hassles, but around every corner is something
magnificent to experience that you wont find anywhere else on earth.
India is somewhere you experience long after you have left. Most travelers
return as soon as they can, recommendation enough?
Essential India Sights
India is a massive country and few people visit all the
states. Below is
list of India’s very best sights
- Agra – Taj Mahal & Red Fort
Khajuraho – ancient, preserved, erotic temples
Orchha – abandoned palaces
- Varanasi – visit the Ganges at
one of India’s most holy cities
- Mumbai – so cosmopolitan that, combined with the
architecture, you might think you’re in Europe
- Goa – excellent beaches and Portuguese history
- Hampi – a once mighty Hindu empire with a stunning
- Kerala –
backwaters, hill plantations and wildlife sanctuaries
- Mumbai – so cosmopolitan that, combined with the
A short list doesn’t do India justice though, so I also have
a big list of India sights
for lots more to think about.
India is a cheap country, but it has high inflation due
to a vibrant economy. Prices in old guide books will be wrong. A
basic or guesthouse room will cost INR200+. Food is cheap, especially from
street side stalls. You can get by on INR500 per day, but expect to spend
INR1,000 in cities and touristy areas.
When to visit India
The north and south of India are very different in
climate. However, the same three seasons affect most of India
- The Cool –
October to January is the coolest time for the whole of India. This is also
the busiest time for tourists. Himalaya regions such as Ladakh are not
accessible during this time due to the snow (May to Oct is best there).
This is the time to visit the far south. But the north, including Delhi,
can become quite cold during this period.
- The Hot – The
heat starts to build up in February, peaking in June. In May the
monsoon starts to appear.
- The Wet – At the start of June in the
extreme south, and around July for the north, sees the humid monsoon
conditions. It rains virtually everyday.
Essential India experiences
- Eating the Thali or daal curry
meal – at a local eatery, sitting amongst the locals and
seeing real India being lived.
- Take an overnight train – in the morning hang your
head out of the open doors and see the word rush by, hang on tight
Hassles and scams
India has more than it’s fair share of scams and
hassles. Always keep your wits about, anything too god to be true always
is. Here are some common hassles:
- Agree taxi prices before you get into the taxi.
If the taxis have meters, like in Mumbai, ask that they use it.
- Taxi drivers may claim they don’t have the correct
change, especially when dropping you at train stations. Change is their
currency, so don’t have any of it. Demand your change, if they resist
make them get some.
- On the beaches in Goa a guy will approach saying you
have something near your ear. If you stop and check he will pretend to clean your ear and
show you the ear wax. Don’t stop for these guys, unless
you want your ears cleaned, but I would question the cleanliness of their
tools, and their training.
Transport in India
Trains are the backbone of transport in India. They
are the best way of traveling long distances, and the night trains are
particularly good. They are cheap, expect to pay INR1,000 for a 12 hour
overnight trains in 3AC.
Read more about trains in India
Buses are good for getting between smaller towns, but not
for long distance journeys. The roads are
Taxis and autorickshaws are fairly cheap and
Buying a motorbike is a cheap option in India (INR35,000
for a new Indian bike) and a great way to get off the beaten track. This
is for experienced riders only though, as the roads require considerable
skill. You’ll also need plenty of
Most hotels, especially larger ones, will be able to make travel arrangements
for you. This includes public and tourist buses, domestic and sometimes
international flights, trains, local taxis and autorickshaws. This saves
the hassles of finding reputable travel agents, but be careful of the
commission the hotel charges for this service.
Overland trips across India
Overland trips and tours can make traveling in India a much easier experience, and will often allow you to see more of the country. Here are several recommendations.
- Dragoman – Various tours around India, transport is
in their own all terrain buses. Kathmandu, Nepal to New Delhi is a great trip
taking in Varanasi and the Taj Mahal in Agra.
- Kumaka – Various trips around India, using public transport.