India (also known as Bharat) is a tropical nation nestled between the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. From a tourist’s eye, India is an exotic land filled with delicious food, temples, colorful festivals, yoga, mysticism, and spiritual gurus.
Note: We recommend you visit our Indian Region, State, and City Travel Guides and then explore what attractions you may want to cover during your visit.
Just click on any hyperlink on this page or narrow down on a geographic region and then get further specific.
Read: Explore the 13 Intangible Cultural Heritage of India
India Travel Guide
India is a large country, in fact, the seventh largest country in the world by land area. Like any large geographic landmass, India is divided into several regions which are all worthy of a visit.
Photo: The Art of Travel Partners
The country can be roughly divided into six cultural regions. These would be:
- Himalayan North
- Northern India (including Hindi-speaking Central States)
- Southern India
- Western India
- Eastern India
- North-East India
The Himalayan North constitutes:
Beautiful hill stations such as Shimla, Manali, Kullu, Dalhousie, Dharamsala (the home of Dalai Lama), Mussoorie, and Nainital grace the Himalayan North. Pilgrimage and Yoga sites such as Rishikesh and Haridwar attract millions of visitors each month from within India and abroad.
The Northern region consists of states such as:
- Uttar Pradesh
- Delhi – the capital of India
The northern region abounds in tourist destinations, which makes it the epicenter of tourism. Sites like the Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Varanasi, Pushkar, and much more are found here.
Central India, geographically and culturally speaking, has:
- Madhya Pradesh
- Parts of Eastern-Maharashtra
Southern India has beautiful states of:
Hampi, Tirupati, and Madurai are sites which have historic importance. Ooty and Munnar are beautiful hill stations.
Photo: Beautiful backwaters of Kerala / The Art of Travel Partners
Western India has the states of:
Tourist sites like Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Mumbai, and Goa lure tourist from all over the world.
Photo: Gateway to India, Mumbai / The Art of Travel Partners
The five states that make the Eastern region appealing are:
Puri, one of the Char Dham sites makes Eastern India a pilgrimage destination as well for many (Hindu) Indians.
North-Eastern India, aka the Seven Sisters, includes:
These hilly regions are a delightful respite from the tropical weather of India.
Photo: Rhinoceros / The Art of Travel Partners
Things To Do In India
Not an exaggeration, but even a book series will not be enough to write about what to do in India. Because India is a huge country with extreme cultural diversity. Almost each of 29 states of India has something unique to offer, be it cuisine, festivals, wildlife, or scenic beauty.
From religious pilgrimages to ancient forts, from flower gardens to waterfalls, from fun festivals to some of the tallest mountains, there are plenty of things to keep you engaged for 6-12 months.
Furthermore, India is the Yoga capital of the world. Not only that, but it is also home to one of the seven wonders – The Taj Mahal.
Read Next: All India 29 States Road Trip
Photo: The Art of Travel Partners
Not just that it has the famous Jagannath temple where the Rath Yatra takes place. Once you decide to visit India, you will discover there is more to it than the temples and saffron flag.
Top Cities in India
- New Delhi
Top Attractions in India
Monuments like Taj Mahal in Agra, Amber Fort in Rajasthan, Qutb Minar in Delhi are just pieces of royal art. They are all a must visit.
Pilgrimages to Golden Temple, Jama Masjid, Venkateswara Temple, and Jagannath Temple are places packed with religious vibes.
Jaipur, the capital of the western state of Rajasthan, is incredibly rich in forts and palaces, including the tremendous Amber Fort, beautiful Jal Mahal (Water Palace) and unique Hawa Mahal.
Nalanda in Bihar has the remains of a University of Buddhism that was established in 450 AD.
The Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, founded by the Mahatma himself, is a repository of all things Gandhi.
Although the history of luxury train traveling in India dates back to the time of maharajas during the days of British Raj.
At present, there are 5 trains offering 12 luxury sightseeing journeys across major tourist destinations in India. Journeys on board these trains are all inclusive of accommodation, dining, sightseeing, transportation, and porter charges.
Each of these luxury trains is equipped with state of the art amenities such as live television, individual climate control, restaurant, bar, lounges, and cabins with attached bathrooms.
Palace on Wheels
The Palace on Wheels offer 7 nights/8 days itinerary starting from US $520 and carry the guests on a weeklong voyage across royal destinations in Rajasthan. All destinations included in the itinerary happen to be former princely states of Rajputana.
The destinations covered in Palace on Wheels train itinerary are Jaipur, Ranthambore, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur, Agra and Delhi and includes sightseeing of forts, palaces along with a dash of wildlife, heritage and cultural interactions.
Dubbed as the most luxurious train of Asia, Maharajas Express is an internationally acclaimed and award winning luxury train in India. Maharajas’ Express also happens to be the latest luxury train to be introduced in India.
It is the only luxury train which offers accommodation in presidential suite spanning over an entire carriage. Redefining the art of elegant travelling in India, Maharajas’ Express train offers 5 rail journeys across tastefully selected tourist destinations in India.
The journeys offered by this Indian luxury train are:
- The Heritage of India
- The Indian Panorama
- The Indian Splendor
- Treasures of India
- The Gems of India
Second luxury train to be introduced in India after the Palace on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey train journey covers destinations across two Indian states of Maharashtra and Goa. The Deccan Odyssey train offers a weeklong journey which crisscrosses through the fascinating terrains of the Western Ghats and the Konkan Coast.
Included in the itinerary is the trip to the coastal fortress town of Sindhudurg, Ajanta and Ellora rock cut caves, Tarkali Beaches, and Old Goa and Vasco among others.
The Golden Chariot
The Golden Chariot is the only luxury train offering two train tour itineraries in South India. The itineraries are named the Pride of the South and The Splendor of the South.
Whereas the Pride of the South tour itinerary covers destinations in Karnataka along with a halt India’s most prominent beach destination Goa, the Splendor of the South Itinerary offers tours to tastefully selected destinations across South India.
Destinations covered during the 8 days itinerary of the Splendor of the South aboard the Golden Chariot include Bangalore, Chennai, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram, Alleppey, and Kochi. Both journeys include a dash of cultural sights, World Heritage Sites, local interactions and wildlife.
Royal Rajasthan on Wheels
Equipped with modern amenities such as Wi-Fi internet, direct dial phones, Spa and satellite television, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels offer royal ride across destinations in Rajasthan along with stops in Varanasi, Khajuraho, and Agra.
The Indian Maharaja
This train happens to be the India’s first privately managed luxury train. Winner of the coveted World Travel Awards in the category of Asia’s Leading Luxury Train, the Indian Maharaja takes guests on a weeklong adventure through several exotic destinations covering the vast expanse of Western, Central and North India.
Destinations included in the itinerary of this luxury train are Mumbai, Aurangabad, Udaipur, Sawai Modhopur, Jaipur, Agra and Delhi.
The train is equipped with two dining cars serving fine Indian and Continental cuisine and catering and hospitality on board is managed by the prestigious Taj Group of hotels.
Popular Hill Stations
If the heat of the Indian Peninsula is intolerable for you, then there are hill stations as a respite from the high temperatures.
Photo: The Art of Travel Partners
Major Festivals Of India
India is a land of religious and cultural diversity. Therefore there are many regional festivals. But from a tourist point of view, if you are looking for a unique Indian experience, the below are the ones you should try to attend.
- Holi – the festival of color
- Diwali – the festival of light
- Durga Puja
- Pushkar Mela
Popular National Parks
India is famous for its wildlife, including the Bengal tigers, Asiatic lions, Elephants, and Rhinoceros.
- Bandhavgarh National Park (in Madhya Pradesh, known for Indian tiger)
- Ranthambhore National Park (in Rajasthan, known for Indian tiger)
- Gir Forest National Park (in Gujarat, dedicated to the preservation of Asiatic lions)
- Sundarbans National Park (in West Bengal, the largest mangrove forest and delta in the world and home to the Royal Bengal tigers and estuarine Crocodiles)
- Kaziranga National Park (in Assam, hosts two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhinoceroses and is a World Heritage Site)
Read More: Visit all 36 UNESCO Heritage Sites in India
Best Time To Visit
India experiences four seasons: Summer, Rainy, Winter, and Spring. Summer starts from End of March and continues till the monsoon rains hit in the second week of June to the first week of July. The rainy season continues until October.
Then comes the temperature drop in November, the winter season continues from November to January and is probably the best time to travel to India. February is the month of spring when deciduous trees shed their leaves, and the temperature is not cold but pleasant, good time for beach visits.
Photo: Holi festival / The Art of Travel Partners
Do not decide on India unless you are ready to get surprised every day. Across the country, you will see cultures different from another part of the country.
If you see people chewing pan (beetle leaves in Odisha), then you will see free Alcohol stores in Darjeeling; If you see the nude beach in Goa, you will see the religious beach in Puri. Keep your mentality Flexible, in this way only can you learn to enjoy Indian culture.
Many visitors expecting maharajas and fabulous palaces are shocked when their first impressions are dominated by poverty instead.
Prepare for the following:
- Attention: Some people will unabashedly stare at foreign tourists, who can also be magnets for persistent touts and beggars. People may shove their mobile phone in your face and take pictures; just turn your head.
- Beggars: especially malnourished children and the badly deformed, can be particularly disturbing.
- Filth: Dirt and garbage abound in the cities. The roadside can sometimes be a urinal.
- Noise: Drivers lean on horns, radios and TVs blare Bollywood tracks, and even temples, mosques and churches use loudspeakers to spread their message.
- Pollution: All Indian cities suffer badly. Exhaust combined with dust can make the drier seasons a nightmare for asthma sufferers.
- Crowds: Indian streets, markets, and bazaars are jam-packed with people, vehicles and at certain times, animals, and streets tend to be narrow.
Most visitors quickly get inured to these things and start seeing the good sides too, but take it easy on your first few days and schedule some time to get away from it all.
What To Wear
Photo: The Art of Travel Partners
No matter the season in India you need to be prepared for all type of weather because India exhibits a variety of climates in different parts of the country. In summers you need clothes with cotton fabric.
The stores in India sell the traditional wear for women called Kurti (a long tunic) pair it with jeans, trousers or leggings. It is a comfortable outfit to be in all over India, in winter couple the Kurtis with jeans and layers of clothing like cardigans and sweaters.
You can also choose jeans and t-shirts, but the more you dress like local, the less trouble you will get into. Guys can wear t-shirts and jeans, but sometimes when the heat is too much, you can wear shorts.
India is a land of diversity, and such is the case with languages here as well. In different states, there are various languages used as a mode of communication. But you need not worry as English will help you get around in all the touristy places. But it will be better if you learn a few Hindi phrases.
The rupee is the currency used in India. You can change your money at the airport or banks. SBI (State Bank of India), ICICI Bank, and HDFC Bank all have ATMs around the country which accept international cards at a nominal charge.
There are a variety of notes and coins in India. But make sure you have the 5 rupee coin and ten rupee notes in abundance. It helps you to get around on a bus, autos, and buy water, drinks, or street food.
Note: All the old 500 and 1000 rupee notes (printed before Nov 9, 2016) are banned in India. Do not let anyone trick you into accepting those as a change to your newer higher denomination currency notes.
Local Indian Cuisine
Like the languages, Indian cuisine also has a type of diversity which is unrivaled. You must think Indian food spicy but think again, the food from Gujarat is mildly spicy whereas the food from South India is laden with coconut and five spices.
The first thing you must try is the variety of bread (roti, parantha, puri, naan) with daal. Then move on to the spicy curries and if you want your tongue to cool down, then curb the heat using the yogurt mix called “raita.”
Free WiFi & SIM Cards
There are free Wi-Fi zones in Airports and Railway Stations in India, but you need a valid Indian Phone number to register with it. An OTP will be sent to your number, and you need to verify it.
The free use of Wi-Fi will be up to a certain time limit, say 45 Minutes to 1 Hour after which you need to pay a nominal charge. Many hotels and cafes also provide free Wi-Fi. So, once you sit inside one, you will have no problem surfing.
It is better if you buy a local SIM Card. If your stay in India is for 3 – 6 Months then please do buy a SIM Card, as it will be helpful in many ways. You can buy a SIM card at the Delhi Airport (it is where most of the tourists arrive).
You need to have the required documents – Original passport, Photocopy of your passport, photocopy of Indian Visa, Local Indian Address( hotel or guest house), proof of Home Address ( driving license, etc.), passport photo, Local Reference name.
If you are staying at a place in India, then check which network is best in the area and buy that SIM Card, like in NorthEast Aircel is the best, whereas in North India Airtel works awesome.
You can ask your travel agent to get you an activated SIM Card, they will charge some fees but its worth the hassle. Your SIM Card expires in 3 months or when your VISA Expires.
All the important metro cities have airlines services joining them. And the price is also not so high. If you want to save time, then the best way to get from city to city is by using airlines rather than the train services.
Most of the Indian Population uses Railways to get around. Download the IRCTC Railway app so you can book your tickets online. Traveling via Railways is a perfect way to know about India and its culture.
There are various classes in the railways, and the A/C is the best for tourist (safe and comfortable). For short distance travel, you can book a Second class chair car (2S).
Next most sought out option is bus travel. Booking bus tickets in new places can get tiring. So book your tickets from the online bus portals. The state of Indian Highways is not up to the mark, once you get out from the cities. So be prepared for a bumpy ride.
If you stick with the cities, then download the apps OLA and UBER. These apps help you book your ride, and are safe for everyone. The cheapest and most used way of getting around in India is Auto- Rickshaw. Fix a price before you jump into the auto-rickshaw, as the drivers can trick you to pay more.
How Much Will It Cost
For Backpackers India is a dream come true. You can get hotels and guesthouses with prices as low as 300-400 INR/night. A meal will cost you 120-150 INR. And keep 200-300 INR aside for getting around in that day.
It costs approximately $25- $30 for a backpacker to survive in India. But if you want a little bit of comfort and safety, then $50/day is enough to ensure you have a good stay in India. (The cost is excluding the entrance fees, airfare or train expenses of the traveler).
How Many Days To Travel
Even a year is not sufficient to travel the whole of India. But we suggest a three months tour will take you to most touristy places in India, and you can have an overall idea of India. To visit all the major attractions of North India- You need 2- 3 weeks (the golden triangle).
Then move to a quiet trip to the North East- 2 weeks here is also enough to visit the Himalayas and monasteries. For visiting Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bengal, and Odisha, you need three weeks time. As soon as your tour here is over, then exotic South India awaits you.
There are plenty of hill stations here to soothe you from the India Heat and enough temples to give you a taste of Indian Religions. 15 Days in South India will be enough if you plan on visiting the significant tourist sites.
Road Conditions In India
There is no way we would recommend you drive in India. The Roads in India are not well kept nor are the drivers responsible. And the number of road accidents will strike terror in your heart.
You will be safe if you keep your driving skills to yourself in India. Unless you know how to ride a bike, then you can go on a bike tour of Leh and Ladakh.
Rent Vs. Public Transport
Public transport is far safer than Renting a car. There are a few rental companies in the Metro Cities. But there is no need renting cars when you can use Ola or Uber to get around in Cities. For long distances, you can take flights or trains. The prices of renting are too high, and unless you are loaded, then you can’t afford to pay the high rental fees of vehicles.
Right Or Left Driving
In India, the driving is on the left side of the road. But the drivers have little to no regard to the rules. The driving is rash, so unless you have a death wish hire a car with driver. In this way, you will not have a problem being hit by anything as Indian Drivers have their way around busy, unkempt roads.
Ask your hotel desk for help if you want to hire a care with Driver. The cost of the driver is minimum, and the vehicle charge is per kilometer. Most of the Indian drivers will only understand a few words in English so use short sentences to communicate.
Electricity & Plug Type
The standard voltage used in India is 230 V., And the socket types are C, M, and D. The plug types that fit are Plug E, F, and M. You can bring a universal adapter with you. And you also need a voltage converter.
How To Reach
Most of the tourists take flights to Delhi, as it is the part of the tourist triangle. There are also major airports like Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Bengaluru which deal with flights from North America, Australia, and Europe as well as some Middle Eastern Countries. There are also non-stop flights from Delhi to New York and vice versa.
An important thing to note is the India VISA is valid from the day it gets issued not the day of Entry. And the validity of a Tourist Visa is six months.
Where To Stay
In India, you can find accommodation according to your budget. There will be rooms available at $ 5- $10, and there will also be rooms that cost $100. Download apps like Goibibo or MakeMyTrip.
These apps will help you book hotels at specific locations according to your price range. You can also book trains, buses using these apps. We advise you double or triple check the hotel location, its authenticity and price before you book it.
How Safe Is India
India is not safe for solo female travelers. The heinous crime of rape and abuse has taken its ugly turn in the main cities like Delhi. Before you arrive in Delhi, we recommend you check each and every step you take. When you will arrive, how will you get to your hotel, who will be your guide, and where will you eat? You need to be extra careful while you are here.
Many other parts of India are safe. You need not worry about anything more than pickpocketing in South India or the Northeast. Do not trust anyone easily, keep your things close and always be alert. In this way only can you get along in India.
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May 5, 2016 12:00 am 6 Comments
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