India is one of the most fascinating countries I’ve ever visited. Awe-inspiring, ancient, enchanting and somewhat overwhelming, India is a place that every traveler should visit at least once in their lifetime. It’s one of the top must-do backpacker destinations yet equally as popular with luxury travel operators for a good reason.
India really does have something for everyone and caters to all tastes. With stunning landscapes, vibrant colors and delicious cuisine, India has so much to offer. Don’t be put off by the stories about India being crowded, stinky and intimidating. Sure, it is all of those things on occasion but so much more besides. Focus on the awe-inspiring temples, beautiful beaches and cultural charms of the Indian people and let the magic of India cast it’s spell over you, like it did me.
India Travel Info
Language: Many languages are spoken in India but Hindi followed by English are the most common.
Currency: Indian Rupee.
Visa: Apply for an E-visa at least a week before you leave and this will be valid for 60 days (but can’t be renewed) and will cost you about $75.
Electricity: 230 Volts AC electricity. Power sockets are two or three pronged round plugs (type C, D, or M). Americans will need to bring an Adapter plug. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to buy a new one for other countries you visit in future.
Holi: ‘The festival of colors’ is possibly the most famous (and photogenic) Indian Festival due to all the colored powder that gets thrown around. If you experience Holi then expect to get covered in color! Holi, like Diwali, celebrates the triumph of good over evil as well as welcoming the arrival of Spring. The festival is held around the middle of March each year and is so much fun.
Diwali: ‘The festival of lights’ Diwali celebrates the return of Lord Rama and the triumph of good over evil. Expect to see lots of bright lights, burning candles, street markets, fireworks and other celebrations. Diwali is held between the middle of October and the middle of November.
Ganesh Chaturthi: See huge intricately designed Ganesha statues paraded through the streets and then at the end of the ten day festival get dunked under water. The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrates the birth of Ganesha, the Hindu god with the elephant’s head.
Safety In India
Safety is a concern for most people traveling to India. The usual pick-pocketing, bag-snatching and other scams to take advantage of travelers are common here so always keep your wits about you. Women travelers should take care to dress appropriately and be extra careful when walking alone or at night. Some parts of India are dangerous so do your research before you go and avoid these places. Based on many years of solo travel around South Asia I would never leave home without travel insurance. I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you before you leave.
Amazing Things To Do In India
Golden Temple (Amritsar)
This shockingly stunning, shimmering Golden Temple is also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib and is in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. It’s the holiest Gurdwara and the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism placing it top of the list for amazing things to do in India. An endless stream of pilgrims arrive here daily and it’s a great place for tourists to visit too. While here visit the Langar Hall which is the community dining hall and typically feeds up to 100,000 people per day. All visitors, Indians and tourists are able to enjoy a free meal here.
The Beaches (Goa)
Well of course! I’ve written a lot about Goa and I’m a huge fan of the beaches too. The most popular spots to visit in Goa are the many beaches, particularly those in North Goa. Anjuna, Baga and Calungute draw the largest number of tourists. Low-key Palolem Beach is my favorite as it offers an affordable mix of beach huts in a cosy village setting. White sand, palm trees and perfect calm water to swim in make this a must visit slice of paradise in India.
Read more: Top 10 Things To Do In Goa
Find inner peace
India is a spiritual supermarket with so many different religions and customs. Why not use a trip to the holy land as an opportunity to ‘find yourself’. Do this by staying in one of the hundreds of Ashrams dotted about India. Or dip your toes into the Ganges while in Varanasi or in front of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Your options for spiritual enlightenment are endless. Let the Sadhus in India lead the way… if you dare!
Catch a train
Sounds so simple but train travel will actually be one of the most memorable things you can do in India. No train journey is ever the same and each carriage is a microcosm of India – chaotic, noisy, stinky (depending on your ticket class) and exhilarating. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway in Tamil Nadu is a steam locomotive railway that passes through 26 miles of land over about nine hours. Travel over 250 bridges and experience the steepest train track in Asia.
This is one of the most impressive temples in India made with the carvings of several thousand Indian artists. Inside you’ll get to learn about the story of Hinduism from the pillars to the walls to the domed ceilings high above, in intricate drawings and adornments.
The Taj Mahal (Agra)
Nearly 4 million tourists arrive at the Taj Mahal every year, and it’s the most famous and visited attraction in India. Built between 1632-1653 in honor of Mumtaz Mahal who the wife of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the Taj Mahal is one of the Wonders of the World and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Blue City (Jodphur)
Blue is the signature color in Jodhpur and it’s everywhere you go making this place a photographer’s dream. This ancient city also known as the Blue City is famous for it’s 6 miles of beautifully pigmented azure and indigo buildings that run along the historic walls of the Old Town. The 15th century Mehrangarh Fort offers a great view of this ‘Blue City’. Other amazing things to see in Jodphur include Jaswant Thada (the royal tombs) and the Umaid Bhawan Palace.
Survive and thrive in Varanasi
As a traveler you’re unlikely to thrive (at first anyway) but if you can survive more than a few days here you should give yourself a pat on the back. Varanasi is possibly the most intense place to visit in India. Witness open cremations on the banks of the river Ganges and get lost in the narrow suffocating lanes. Do yoga or just observe the religious ceremonies and everyday chaos. Whatever you do, a visit to this 3800 year old city will never be forgotten.
Kick back and experience rural India on a Kerala houseboat river cruise. Kerala is most famous with travelers for it’s houseboats and there is no better way to slip into the laidback rural Indian way than by gliding down the river taking in the sights of villagers going about their day. Stop off in Kerala’s cutest city Kochi (or Cochin as the locals like to call it) and watch the Chinese fishing nets get cast early in the morning.
Ride a camel into the Thar Desert
Do a 2-3 day camel safari and sleep out under the stars when in Jaisalmer. A place worth visiting anyway for the oldest still-inhabited fort in the world, the camel safari is just the icing on the cake. Riding a camel in the Rajasthan desert is one of the most memorable things you can do In India. There is nothing quite like being perched between the gentle rocking of a camel’s humps.
What To Eat In India
India is famous for it’s spicy and delicious cuisine but it’s also famous for giving travelers Delhi Belly. When you eat in India avoid raw foods like salads and fruit (unless they can be peeled), don’t drink tap water and avoid ice in drinks. Street food in India is so tasty you must try it but make sure you go to a popular place where you see the locals eating too. If it’s good enough for the locals then it’s probably safe enough for you. Still, it may be worth packing some probiotics to help yourself digest food you’re not used to.
Rumali Roti: If you want to eat something abit lighter than a naan then a Rumali roti will hit the spot. The word “rumal” is Hindi for handkerchief and this bread is as thin as cloth and served folded up like a napkin, hence the name. Watch in awe as they toss the dough into the air and spins it in circles.
Pakora: Comfort food! This is a fritter native to the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh which is dipped in gram flour and deep fried. Pakoras come with one or more basic ingredients such as onion, eggplant, potato, cauliflower or chili peppers and are delicious!
Dohkla: A light but very flavorful breakfast food from the state of Gujurat. Dohkla is made from fermented rice and chickpea batter.
Bhelpuri: Puffed rice fried with vegetables, in a spicy and tangy tamarind sauce make a tasty savory snack.
Dosa: A crispy, flat bread similar to a crepe or pancake made of rice batter and served with a lentil sauce (sambar) and a variety of chutneys. Perfect for a light lunch.
Pani Puri: When you’re craving a thousand flavors all at once then you need a Pani Puri. A small crisp hollow round bread filled with spiced water, tamarind paste, potato, onion, and chickpeas.
Papri Chaat: A multi-flavored and healthy snack of crispy, fried dough wafers served with boiled potatoes, tamarind chutney, boiled chick peas, yogurt, chilis and spices.
Idli: Fermented batter of ground rice and lentils, steamed in little circular moulds make a perfect South Indian traditional breakfast.
Where To Stay In India
Finding a place to stay in India is really easy because there are so many great options no matter what your travel budget. Hostel dorms are only just catching on in India but even without the budget dorms India is still an incredibly affordable place to visit.
If you’re traveling to India during peak season or wish to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have already been snapped up. India is a popular year-round destination.
If you’re traveling to India during peak season it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Jetset Bunny loves Booking.com for this.
If you’re backpacking in India or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Asia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Read more: Kooky Places To Stay In Kerala
India Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit India
The best time to visit India for warm, dry and sunny weather is between October and March. If you’re planning to visit India’s southern states then November onwards when the monsoon has ended will be your best time to go.
As India heats up in April and May travel prices begin to drop and you can get some excellent value trips if you don’t mind the high humidity and thunderstorms. Monsoon season arrives in May and ends in September and if you’re visiting India during this time expect a lot of torrential rain. The hottest time of the year is in May and June when temperatures can reach 100 degrees, most travelers choose to visit India during the winter between October and March.
India Travel Budget
India is a highly affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to India depends on the comfort level you want while there. If you’re backpacking in India and planning on staying in hostels and eating street food then budget between $20 and $35 a day. If you’re looking to stay in private rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $35 to $100 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in India then budget about $100 to $250 plus a day. India caters to all travelers no matter what the budget.
- Budget: $2-10
- Mid-range: $10-$30
- Splurge: $30+
Meal For One
- Budget: $0.50-$2.00
- Mid-range: $3-$8
- Splurge: $12-$30
India Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to India, like most other places in South Asia, is a breeze because it’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates. In India’s larger cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Goa you’ll see a lot of young Indian women wearing western style clothing however people in smaller towns and villages still dress traditionally.
So if you’re traveling to India then it’s necessary to pack clothing that’s lightweight, breathable and conservative. Women travelers in India who choose to wear revealing or figure-hugging clothing may receive unwanted attention and stares. Read What to wear in India: Style Guide for Female Travelers for more information about how to dress while in India.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to India include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to India check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate South Asia Packing List For Women Travelers.