India- a country that is emerging as a great nation. Here I am, taking you through the India travel guide made from extensive research from travellers point of view. This travel guide will provide you with all the information needed for your India trip. The main goal of making this travel guide was to make it easy for travellers to know about India and have an idea of the places and play accordingly.

Some facts about India:

  •  7 largest country by land area
  •  area of around 3287263 square kilometre  
  • population of around 135.26 crore
  • Consists of 28 states and 8 union territories
  • Currency: $1= ₹73-76 approx (₹= Rupees)

India’s Strategic importance for travellers

India is considered  as one of the  top countries in Southeast Asia to start your trip. Why? Lets get the answer in this travel guide. The country shares its border with Pakistan, China, Nepal and Bhutan in the north and Bangladesh and Myanmar in the East .It has its water borders with Sri Lanka and Maldives but there are no services to cross the borders through ferries.

Nepal and Bhutan are some of the quiet and peaceful countries in SouthEast Asia. The quietness of Bhutan will definitely calm your mind and soul. Nepal is a cheap country to visit for foreigners and has a lot of adventure activities.

If you wish to travel to South East Asian countries by land, India could be a great choice to start your trip. You can start with crossing the land Border from India to Myanmar, then from Myanmar to Thailand, from Thailand to Vietnam, from Vietnam to Laos and finally to China. One should not forget visiting Nepal and Bhutan which are often missed by the tourists.

Packing List for India

backpack-packing

India is fairly a humid country. So pack light! You will not need puffed jackets or very warm clothes. You can pack a few t-shirts, shirts, jeans, shorts. Most urban cities in India follow the western trend. Some small towns are still following the traditional way. Revealing clothes are all right in Goa or similar funky places. But I suggest you dress proper in towns to avoid stares. Always carry a travel guide, at least in your phone. Medical stores are available in bulk in every city. So there won’t be a problem finding pills if you get sick. If you are on a real low budget, having a travel pillow and blanket would be good as it is not provided in most low cost buses and trains.

Best time to travel India

Manali hills

October to  March is considered as the peak season for tourism in the country.  After March, it starts getting hot. The middle and southern India is much hotter at this time and it becomes really difficult to travel. Rainy season is from June to September.  And rain may spoil your travel itinerary. So plan accordingly!  However, you can travel to the northern part of the country and visit the mountains, where the weather is relatively good. Then as it starts getting colder you could move towards the southern part of the country.

Time required to visit India

taj mahal

India is a vast country. And on top of that, it has a variety of incredible landscapes. So also known as Incredible India. To explore the whole of India you require at least three months. You cannot cover India in a single visit. A month in India would cover most of the significant places but if you like to wander around the country and see the unseen, you will need at least three months. One thing you can do is visit northern India on your first trip and I guarantee you will come back again for the left out part.

Budget for India

money

$1=₹73-76 approx

India isn’t an expensive country, but it’s neither free. You can easily travel for ₹1000-1200 per day ($14-16). Some can even do with ₹800-1000. And the luxury travel budget will be more than ₹5000 per day($40). We will get to stay and travel soon. One time food can cost ₹100-200. Transportation is not that costly too.

Stay In India

hotel-hostel- stay

India has everything from 5 star hotels to cheap b&b’s. A good option for budget travellers would be hostels and are the best way to meet new people. Travel hostels are booming in India! You can get a bed in a hostel for as low as ₹300 per night. It may vary for different areas. Some popular hostel chains in India are Zostel, GoStops, Hosteller and many more. You should definitely stay at least once at a guest house/ homestay in India. They are not as costly as a hotel and will also give you a feel of Indian culture from your host. Luxury hotels range from ₹5000 and go on forever as per your choice. Best booking sites for stays are booking.com, agoda, makemytrip, etc. Sometimes you even get low rates on-site rather than booking online.

Tip: A lot of hostels also have volunteering programs, where you can work or exchange your skills for a free stay. Always ask them if they have one.

What to eat in India

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Check the Udaipur travel experience here

India is a land of cultural diversity. Each state has its own different taste. While in the northern part you get the best aloo paratha and as the southern part is a coastline, you get seafood and rice related food. You also get international cuisines at most touristy places.

Yes…Indian eat with their hands. It’s part of our culture and I urge you to try it once. You will enjoy it. 

Most of Indian food consists of curries with bread(we call it chapati or naan), some rice, salad and sweet dishes. You should try a Thali, which consists of all the items in a single plate which would be enough for 2 people. Also don’t hesitate to try some local street food. I bet you will love it. One thing to keep in mind is to eat at a place with good hygiene and that has many people eating there. There are a lot of options in Non Veg too. So, don’t worry about it. Last thing you want is to eat bad food and get sick and spoil your trip. While in Mumbai you can try the world famous Vada pav, whereas in Delhi you can try the Masala Chat and Golgappas. 

Also India does not have drinkable tap water. So you will need to purchase water bottles while travelling. You can drink the water provided in your hotels as it is filtered. Quick tip to save cost on water, many places such as temples, monuments, touristy places have a water filter nearby. You can refill your bottle at such filters as they also have a cold water option. You can also refill your bottles at any restaurants or hotels.

Transportation in India

India-train

Roads

India is well connected though railways and roadways. But most of the small roads are not well maintained and have some potholes.National highways are well maintained and maybe a good option. Highways have tolls in India. A road trip in south India would be a good option with lots of greenery around the road. You will find restaurants(called dhabba’s for roadside restaurants) every 50kms. Regular state transport buses connecting most of the cities are available every day. One can check the schedule and fares at the particular State Transport website. Roads are the only mode of transport in the mountain regions.

Railways

Railways are the best way for transportation. But, most of the trains are fully booked in advance. You may have a tough time to get a booking. However there is a tourist quota in railways where you may get a ticket even at the last minute if you are lucky. There is online bookings for trains at irctc.co.in. Indian railways is divided into three classes

  1. 2AC class: This is by far top class for some trains. Here there is a seating of 2✕2 people in one cabin.It is air conditioned. Pillows and blankets are provided.
  2. 3AC class: It has seating of 3✕3 people.It is open and does not have a cabin. It is air conditioned. Pillows and blankets are provided.
  3. Sleeper class: It is similar to 3AC class, but it does not have AC and no  pillows and blankets provided. It is almost 1.5 times cheaper than the 3AC class. But here, the doors are open, people may come and seats at an empty seat and there is noise around you.

Only in few premium and express trains like Rajdhani, Duranto, Satabdi, etc food is served as complimentary to the passengers. While in other cases, you have to bring your own food or purchase inside the train. I suggest you avoid the train food as it is not good or tasty and may make you sick. You can try the snacks on the trains though.

Full guide to trains in India: coming soon.

Water ways

There’s not much to visit by ferries. One can visit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, also known as Maldives of India. Ferries run from Chennai, Kolkata and Visakhapatnam. There is also a cruise from Mumbai to Goa which has started recently. Kerala has some public ferries operating through the backwaters.

Transportation in cities in India

transport-india-tuktuk

Most of the cities have government buses plying from different places. In India, you have to purchase a ticket from the conductor after you board a bus. The ticket cost changes according to the distance of your destination. All cities have taxis which can be a fast mode of transport. Rickshaw (tuktuk) are also available in most parts of the country. Some cities like Mumbai, Delhi have a meter on rickshaw which shows the price as you travel. For non-metered rickshaws, you will have to bargain with the driver. Uber and Ola(Indian alternative for uber) are available in India. Urban cities also have metro and local trains within the city which can be cheap mode for transport. South India also has state ferries running as backwaters are used for local transportation too.

How to stay safe in India

Believe me, India is safe! Just remove whatever fear you have before landing at the airport. You will have won half of the battle. Yes, there are some things you will need to keep in mind. Most of the urban cities in India are very safe and you see people chilling till 3am. While some of the small towns close early, you need to plan accordingly.

Some tips from a local:

  • Try to avoid shady regions. You should stick with the main roads with people around you.
  • Keep emergency numbers in your phone in case of emergency. (Police- 100, ambulance- 102 )
  • If you don’t feel safe with some person, try to get away from them.
  • Most of the teenagers in India speak good english. You can always ask them for directions if you are lost.
  • Don’t eat food where hygiene is not maintained. You don’t want to fall sick.
  • If someone is trying to convince you, just start speaking your home language. They will not understand anything and will finally leave you. Yes, it worked with me!
  • Careful with the water you drink. Always ask for filtered water.
  • Try to avoid unbelievably cheap stays. They are untidy and don’t provide proper facilities.
  • If you really want to travel to the interiors of the country, research beforehand which states are safest to do so. But once you meet the people at these places, you will know they are the purest people you met!
  • Always bargain while purchasing from the local market. Indian’s are the best at bargaining. Start with a very low price and don’t purchase for more than the half price.
  • ATM’s are available everywhere. Don’t carry more than ₹10,000 at a time. Also most of the big shops accept credit and debit cards.
  • Try to read about scams at your next destination so that you are aware about them.

Here is the end of the Ultimate India travel guide. Not let’s move towards the itineraries.

Travel Itinerary

North India 

Don’t forget to read my travel guide to get the best of the places.

You can land at New Delhi international airport or Mumbai international airport. Delhi and Mumbai are the biggest cities in India. Landing in Delhi -the Northern part of the country, it is a mountainous region. You can start by visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar and then visiting the India Pakistan border, where every evening, a closing ceremony takes place.

Further on, you can visit Dalhousie which is a snow capped hill station during winters. You can also proceed towards Srinagar which is in Kashmir. But keep in mind, sometimes these areas are closed due to some conflicts occuring there. Kashmir is  indeed a heaven for humans. I highly suggest you visit Kashmir once, if you get the opportunity. You can proceed to Dharamshala and Mcleodganj, considered as one of the Hippie towns in India. You can also go paragliding in Bir, which is considered as the best spot in India for the same.  Further on, move towards Manali which is a popular tourist destination in India.

India also houses the world’s highest motorable road- Leh Ladak. A lot of adventure travellers dream of riding bikes across the highest motorable road in the world which can be a good option too. You can also spend some days visiting the famous Spiti valley because this place will hold enormous memories in your heart. India’s last village, Chitkul lies in this region. You can also send postcards to your loved ones from the world’s highest post office which also lies here. Note that this region is not accessible during winter. So summer would be a great time to visit. Keep in mind, foreigners need permits to enter some parts of these regions. Indians too need permits in some regions as these areas lie close to China borders.

Read: Celebrating new year in the mountains

Then you can move towards Shimla and then move down towards Rishikesh, one of the holy cities in India that has a lot of backpacking options for travellers. Rishikesh is considered as a yoga town for most of the foreigners. Many people come here to practice yoga. The holy river Ganga also flows through this town. One of the great places for river rafting. After visiting Rishikesh you could either head towards east to Nainital, which is in the Uttarakhand state- one of the most beautiful mountainous states in the country.

Uttarakhand also has a lot of opportunities for trekkers. Or you could head back towards New Delhi and spend some time in the chaotic environment. Then proceed towards Agra which houses one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal. Agra is also a historically important city. Some tourists also like to visit Varanasi which is also one of the holy cities in India  which is close to Agra. 

Then you may either take a long train journey towards Rajasthan or head East towards Kolkata and Northeast India.

taj mahal

Northeast India

Let’s assume we move to Kolkata in West Bengal state. This old trading port city has some great colonial architecture, art galleries and cultural festivals. You can then start your journey towards the Northeast. First visit Darjeeling which is famous for its tea estates. Then travel to Guwahati and explore the Northeastern states of Meghalaya, Mizoram Nagaland & Manipur and Tripura. 

A different part of India, hidden for many years, with totally different culture, boon of nature. This area of the country has recently become familiar to travellers. Although there is not much good transportation, people have started to go on trips to NorthEast for the breathtaking landscapes and waterfalls it has to offer. Some unique food, unique traditions and much more.

Note that Northeast has recently come in light for tourism and there is not much proper transportation here. Private taxis can be a great option for tourists, especially foreigners.

Central India

OR lets  just head towards Rajasthan from Varanasi. Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Jaisalmer are some of the  top cities to visit. Jaipur also known as the Pink City is closest to New Delhi. Jaisalmer, the city where you will find the sand dunes and the real dessert. Jodhpur also known as the Blue City has one of the beautiful fort. Udaipur is famous for its vast palaces and lakes.

Check out Udaipur travel Guide here

Coming towards Maharashtra, Mumbai also the financial capital of the country has a lot to see. You should definitely spend some time in the chaotic city for its beautiful people and not to be missed, the street food.  Maharashtra is also known for ancient caves and carving paintings – the Ajanta and Ellora Caves in the city of Aurangabad. It is UNESCO heritage site too. Most of the tourists miss this place as it is not that known to the world.

You can then take a road trip to Goa from Mumbai  across the cost of roads through the Konkan region. 

Goa is known as the party heaven for travellers. The Vibe in this small state is just different.  After a long journey from north to the centre, here’s your chance to relax. Visit the churches, chill at a beach, have a drink, party and make new friends. Most of the people just visit beaches in Goa but the important beauty lies in the interior of Goan villages. The Green paddy field and Portugal architecture will definitely inspire the art within you. Rent a two wheeler and go where the road takes you. You will land up in one of the prettiest villages of Goa. 

Central South India

After having a ball of time in Goa, it’s time to move ahead. You can either take a detour to Hampi which is a very well known heritage site in Karnataka state. It is also a hippie town and has some breathtaking ancient temples and huge rocks. Not to miss this place! If you are still missing with Goa’s vibes, head towards Gokarna which is a coastal town in Karnataka. It has a similar culture like Goa.

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You can then go to Chikmagalur which is a quiet and peaceful hill station Or go little further towards Mysore. Mysore has the traditional different styles of palaces of ancient kings. A good place to know the history of Karnataka. If you are missing the city vibes, the city of Bengaluru is the closest one. Also known as the IT hub of India, Bengaluru has a vast number of IT companies and would be a great place to pause your trip and complete all of your pending work. Nothing much to see in the city. 

South India

You can either choose Ooty in Tamil Nadu or Munnar in Kerala to visit as both are famous for tea and coffee plantations. If you have less days left, you should opt to visit one of them. Then head towards Kochi, which was once a Portugal city. A glimpse of Portugal culture can be seen in the small lanes of the cute city which houses a number of small cafes. Spend an evening at the coast overlooking the famous Chinese fish nets with sunset in the background.

If you want to see the national park, you will need to take a detour from Kochi towards Vagamon which is one of the less explored hill stations, closest to Periyar National Park. You can either take a one day trip from Vagamon or can spend a night at the National Park itself. Now comes the best part of our south India Trip! Head towards Alleppey (also Alappuzha) for the world famous backwaters. It’s best known for houseboat cruises along the rustic Kerala backwaters, a network of tranquil canals and lagoons. Spend a day exploring the backwaters. You can either opt for a kayaking tour or take a tour boat which takes you around the backwaters. There are also government run boats just like our buses which can be a cheap option to explore.

Then it’s time for some surfing. But, don’t forget to explore the non touristy, hidden treasure of Kerala, the Monroe Island. With only a few options of accessibility, this small and hidden village has a lot to offer. With some cleanest backwaters, people with pure souls and unseen nature, stay at one of the local guesthouses to indulge in their culture. Now, head towards Varkala, a cliff town with much to offer. Also famous for surfing, the town has some cleanest beaches and backwaters too. Sit at one of the cafes on the clip and enjoy the sunset. Also, visit the Jatayu Earth Centre which has a giant bird statue surrounded by jungle. It takes around one hour to drive to reach the place, but it is worth visiting.

Top 10 workation places in India

Then head further south to the town of Thiruvananthapuram to blow your mind with the ancient, minor carved symmetrical huge temples. Also the capital of Kerala, it houses all the major facilities you need. Next you can visit Kanyakumari- the southernmost tip of India or Rameswaram-in the southeast Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which is an important ancient mythological town and has importance from the great Ramayana. You can skip these if you wish to.

Next on moving upwards along the southeast coast, a famous French town of Pondicherry (also Puducherry) is a great place to halt. This town, once was under the French control and has a lot of French influence. Cycle along the lanes of this beautiful town, take some instagram pictures with the French architecture, eat a pizza at a local cafe and enjoy life. Just half an hour drive from Pondicherry, is a small settlement of Auroville. Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. A must place to visit.

Coming to the end of our trip, the last city being Chennai. Chennai being the capital of Tamil Nadu state, has a lot of transportation options. Enjoy a last South Indian meal in Chennai, visit a few churches, temples. Take a flight back to Mumbai or Delhi and fly back with some unforgettable memories. This country will always hold a place in your loving heart.

Conclusion

Finally, Indians are friendly and some of the most interesting people to gossip. You will find some rude, bad, unmannered people who try to spoil your trip. But that doesn’t mean all people are the same. Give others a chance! Leave all your fears and just come to this beautiful, colourful, diverse country. There’s a lot to learn from here.

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