Ultimate India Backpacking Travel Guide 2020
India at a Glace
INDIA is a shopper’s paradise. There is an astonishing variety of dazzling clothes, shoes, jewelry, spices, and Indian souvenirs to buy in India, plus a lot more. There is only one rule when shopping in India, bargain, bargain, bargain. Merchants will try and sell you items
Top 5 Things to See and Do in India
Other Things to See and Do in India
The best places to visit in India are the ones that call you. They may or may not be the most well-known. Many people feel they have to visit the Golden Triangle – Delhi, Agra for the Taj Mahal, and Jaipur – on their first trip to India. But you don’t. India has amazing places all over the country, some of which are not well publicized.
1. BandhavgarhIBandhavgarh was once a popular hunting ground for the Maharajas and it is now one of the last few tiger habitats in the world. Seeing tigers in the wild is tricky, but this national park is one of India’s smallest, with the highest concentrations of these big cats. If you don’t spot them, you may well see leopards, deer, wild boar, sloth bears and a bevy of birds to boot.
2. ChhattisgarhFew tourists are aware of this central-east state with tribal communities such as the Baiga, Gond, Maria, Dhurwa and Bhatra who are starting to share their traditions and lifestyles, many of which haven’t changed for thousands of years, with visitors. Combine with a visit to the nearby state of Odisha to meet the Kondh and Paraja people too. Trekking in the Maikal Hills just adds to the magic.
3. DelhiNew and Old, it is the latter that still pulls the punters. And it is seriously old, going back 5,000 years. There are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Humayun’s Tomb, the extraordinary Qutub complex with its elegant 12th century 72.5 m minaret, and The Red (sandstone) Fort. Walk from here to the Jama Masjid Mosque, take in the views from its minaret, and you’ll have earned lunch at Chandni Chowk market.
4. GoaIndia’s smallest state has so much more than its reputation for backpackers and boozy beach gangs would suggest. Stay clear of raucous resorts of Calangute, Candolim, and Baga and head to spots like Kerim, Ashwem and Anjun for beach bliss. For real action on Goa, not of the party kind, kayak through flowering mangroves of the Sal backwaters, down the Nerul River or cycle along this Konkan coast.
5. GujaratGujarat is a state of dichotomies. As well as having coast and desert in close proximity, it also has one of the most industrialised landscapes. Explore the Kutch Desert, home to the nomadic Mir tribe or head to Poshina with its nearby tribal villages of Garacia, Adivacyi and Bharad. And although there are 1,600km of coastline, there are hardly any developed beaches. Yet.
6. JaipurMade famous again after the success of ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, set among the flower markets, bazaars, Palace of the Winds and Amber Fort of this more than pretty in pink city. Its old town is a place to let the reality of India seep in. With camels and carts in the streets, monkeys climbing the city walls, fortune tellers, snake charmers and a Maharaja’s palace. Pity there isn’t an Oscar for ‘locations’.
7. KashmirKashmir has long been a disputed area and is now administered by India, Pakistan and China. India’s section is the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Following years of violence, the FCO lifted its ban here in 2012, although still only advises travel to Ladakh and the cities of Jammu and Srinagar. So it is early days for having tourists back into the state as a whole, but a great time to get in there.
8. KeralaBest known for beaches and backwaters, houseboats and home stays, Kerala is best explored on foot, hiking through the splendid Western Ghats mountain range. Or by bike, cycling through spice and coconut plantations or along the backwaters. Avoiding the rash of resorts around Kovalam, head north to Malabar for beach bliss. Hop over the border to states of Karnataka or Tamil Nadu for full on southern Indian trail mix.
9. RajasthanRajasthan is like walking into both an artist’s palette and imagination. With the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur and all its palaces and prettiness, the devastatingly beautiful dunes of the Thar Desert, the multi-coloured Brahma Temple at Pushkar , all blue desert city of Jodphur and Udaipur’s Lake Pichola with its purple Aravalli Hills, it’s the whole gamut of gorgeousness.
10. Ranthambore National ParkRanthambore feels so much like waking up in Rudyard Kipling’s head, you almost expect Baloo to appear. It is one of the ‘bear necessities’ of a trip to India. And there are indeed sloth bears here, on which Baloo was based, as well as being the habitat of the Bengal tiger, nilgai, sambar and jungle cat, plus crocodile in the lake. All living among a magical mixture of tropical forest and ruined temples.
11. Taj MahalThree words. Don’t miss it. You can’t fail to fall in love with the white marble mausoleum, built by grieving Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his late wife. It is the icing on the cake of this period of Mughal architectural period. Although Agra is pretty ghastly, stay overnight to see it at sunrise. Don’t miss the Agra Fort and ‘ghost town’ of Fatehpur Sikri .
In India, there are plenty of travel options from tuk-tuks to trains and buses. Buses run all over the country and there is a specific bus network for tourists as well. Auto rickshaws or tuk-tuks are also a great option. It costs less than $1.00 for a kilometer and an extra change to transport the luggage. If you have a valid license, you can also rent a car and explore the area like a pro.
India offers a range of accommodation options of which the best one is backpacker hostels. Most of the cities have backpacker hostels where you can get the dorm bed for almost $6.00 /night. You can also get private rooms but they charge more, of course. There are guesthouses as well which charges around $15.00 per room with or without air conditioning. And if you are in the major cities and like to splurge, you can get a nice room for almost $25.00 –$30.00 per night.
Indian cuisine is regarded as the most colorful, diverse, and tasty cuisine in the world. The cost of the meals greatly depends on your choice. Opting for local small eateries is the best way to enjoy delicious Indian food while being light on your pocket. You can eat a three-course meal at a local eatery for almost $3.00 along with a beer costing $2.00 .Also, you can shop for groceries costing you almost $5.00 per week.
Obviously, all the things you see and do will add up to your trip’s costs. No matter how much money you’ll save in other ways, sightseeing will take a huge chunk of your budget. Most of the attractions in India costs between $5.00–$20.00, for example, the Taj Mahal’s entrance fee is $17.00 and Qutub Minar will cost around $10.00. And, if you want to enjoy adventure activities, it will cost even more.
India is a quite affordable destination to travel, depending upon your choice of accommodation and activities. If you are thinking how much does it cost traveling around India, take a look at the following suggested budget table:
|Travel Style||Accommodation (per night)||Food (3 Meals)||Transportation||Activities (Per activity)||Daily Cost|
$6.00 - $10.00
$2.00 - $4.00
$3.00 - $6.00
Mid - Range
$15.00 - $20.00
$6.00 - $8.00
$12.00 - $15.00
High - End
As always here are some tips to save you some money.
1. Eat Local
Don’t go for national chains, try and eat some street food. One of the best meals I had was butter chicken from a street vendor.
Be ready for delays, transportation isnt too costly but can be slow.
3. Take a water filter
Water isnt safe to drink, so either take a filter or buy bottled water.
4.Take it slow and easy
You will see more of the country this way, my favorite memory was taking train and just sitting on the edge of the car, looking at the country side.
Where To Stay
When it comes to Indian accommodation, you can spend as little or as much as you like – from $2.00–$2,000.00 a night and beyond.
Budget options are generally OK, but mid-range is where you get the best value for money, though if your budget can stretch you’ll find the luxurious five-star hotels of the Indian-owned Taj group (tajhotels.com) to be world class.
With AirBnB exploding all over the world, it’s no surprise that you can find some pretty nice apartments in India. Options are great in the country, with many beautiful 1 and 2 bedroom places going for just $30.00–$50.00/night.
Whether you choose to stay in a dorm bed (from $3.00/night), or you splurge and get a double room for you and your partner (from $10.00 , there’s pretty much a bed for all budgets in India’s hostels.
Hostels are generally clean and comfortable (read the reviews to be sure), and they come with the added bonus of having fun common areas where you can meet other travelers.
How To Get Around
The most popular way to get around, and not for the faint of heart. Make sure you agree on a price before getting on.
Uber & Ola Taxi are the two most used services. Pull out your phone, install the app and get ready to go!
India has an amazing railway network that literally connects the whole country except mountain areas. In my opinion, a train is a great option for journeys under 24 hours. For longer journeys consider a flight or split the trip into a few days while visiting destinations on the way.
Consider that trains do get late (sometimes by many hours) Sometimes there is just one track connecting many places in the state. Hence, if one train is late, all the trains after it are late too because the track is going in the same direction.
To avoid unnecessary frustrations, check the train reviews online and use train apps to track the train during the journey. Some apps give you live updates. It also helps to know when you need to get off as no one announces the stations.
Intercity buses in India: there are private and government buses in India. Private you can find on RedBus.in and state buses you can search at Bus India or on individual transport websites of each state (e.g. Karnataka buses, Rajasthan bus network, etc.)
Government buses can be either very cheap if it’s a local non-AC simple bus or very expensive – if it’s AC bus with comfortable seats. If you travel by local non-AC bus $1.50 can take you far in India. The longer the distance, the cheaper the tickets.
India currently has over 120 airports. As passenger traffic is continuously increasing, India plans to build 100 more airports around the country within upcoming 10-15 years.
Budget travel is booming. If you book tickets in advance, you can find really cheap fares (e.g. – Bangalore – Delhi –$42.06etc.) on budget airlines. Despite the fact that I’m in favor of road transport whenever possible, overall, it does make sense to fly between long distance cities (to save 2-3 days inside the train).
It is possible but very slow. I personally have no experience with this.
When To Go
You can’t generalise about anything when you travel to India. Certainly not the weather. In December you can bask on the beaches of Kerala or burn at the Taj Mahal, yet head into the mountains of Ladakh for temperatures plummeting into the minus teens. There is a monsoon from July until September, but the sun can be shining in the north. You can hike in Kerala’s Western Ghats in winter, but head to the Himalayas and it’s skis, boots and crampons.
The best time to visit India for sun lovers is October to February, when the sun makes glorious weather, especially in the south.
February until May are also lovely, although a lot more humid. Tiger and elephant watching is best during the hottest, driest months,
April, May and June, as tigers come out in search of water .Delhi and the Golden Triangle are best visited during
February and March, October and November for tolerable temperatures, but you will get the crowds at popular sites. The weather is scorching from
April to June, with temperatures soaring over 40°C. It is like the whole place is weeping with relief when the monsoon rains come in July, lasting through August and September. Roads can flood then, making for one big mucky metropolis. It can be foggy and freezing in December, January and February. The Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays.
There are lots of wonderful celebrations in January, from the Kite Festival in Gujarat, Bikaner Camel Festival in Rajasthan to countrywide celebrations for Republic Day on 26 January. New Delhi festivities in particular are wonderful to witness.
If you want to go hiking in Kerala’s Western Ghats, it is best to do so outside the monsoon peak in July and August.
How To Stay Safe and Aware of Scams
Safety in India is not as bad as you might be led to believe, and issues vary per region.
1. Petty Theft
Petty theft is the most common, so you need to protect yourself from that. Padlock your luggage and keep valuables close by.
This region is known for its civil unrest and turmoil, be careful when travelling here.
3. Credit Card Fraud
You might think you have a strong stomach, but let me tell you from experience, you dont.
4. Dont drink the Water
Traffic conditions in Thailand are not very safe especially for inexperienced drivers. Traffic rules are also not enforced very seriously. Try not to drive and hire a car with a driver instead who is familiar and experienced in driving the country roads. Always carry your license and international drives license.
5. Medical Insurance
This is always a must, medical treatment is cheap in india but it’s always good to have a safety net.
6. Cover up
Women are advised to keep the body covered as much as possible, and not to walk alone in tourist cities at night, as sex crimes have occurred. Also, women have been accosted during Indian holidays when street parties become drunken chaos.
Depending on the length of your stay your list may be a little different but here is a small outline of what items you may want to pack.