India aka Bharat or Hindustan are various names given to the tropical nation nestled between the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. From a tourist’s eye, India is an exotic land filled with temples, colorful festivals, yoga, mysticism and spiritual gurus.
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.
The country can be divided into 6 cultural-regions. They are:
- Himalayan North
- Northern India (including Central Hindi speaking states)
- Southern India
- Western India
- Eastern India
- North-East India
The northern region consists of the states, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and the capital, Delhi. This 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.
Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are the states in Southern India. Hampi, Tirupati, and Madurai are sites which have historic importance. The beautiful backwaters of Kerala are just an added bonus.
Western India has the states Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Goa. Tourist sites like Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Mumbai, and Goa lure tourist from Northern India to the West.
Chattisgarh, West Bengal, Odisha, Sikkim, and Jharkhand make the Eastern region appealing. Puri, one of the Char Dham sites makes Eastern India a pilgrimage region.
North Eastern India, aka the Seven Sisters, includes Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura. These hilly regions are a delightful respite from the tropical weather of India. Plus, Kaziranga National Park and Namdapha National Park are fabulous destinations for a safari ride.
Central India, geographically has only Madhya Pradesh. But culturally Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh rule Central India.
Things To Do In India
A book series will not be enough to write about what to do in India. There is a lot of scope for traveling in India. From religious pilgrimages to Forts, from gardens to waterfalls, from festivals to the mountains there are plenty of things to keep you engaged for 6-12 months.
India has the Yoga capital of the world – Rishikesh; It is also home to one of the seven wonders – Taj Mahal, 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.
Monuments like- Taj Mahal in Agra, Amber Fort in Rajasthan, Qutb Minar in Delhi are just pieces of royal art. Other than that pilgrimages to Golden Temple, Jama Masjid, Venkateswara Temple, and Jagannath Temple are also places packed with religious vibes.
If the heat of the Indian Peninsula is intolerable for you, then there are hill stations as a respite from the high temperatures. Manali, Shimla, Ooty, Gangtok, and Darjeeling are the most popular Hill Stations in the country.
India is not just about temples as we said earlier you could have a beach day in India. Goa has plenty of beaches for tourists, and it has the most laid-back beaches in India. Puri and Visakhapatnam also have gorgeous beaches as they are on the Indian Coast.
The forests in India have a variety of wildlife. In the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, you can see Snow Leopard, pandas, and alpine wildlife as you will not see in Sundarbans National Park(which is world’s largest mangrove forest).
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.
What To Wear
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 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) and ICICI Bank 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 and have some drink. Next in the range of notes are 50, 100 and 500 and 2000. All the old 500 and 1000 rupee notes are banned in India since November 9, 2016. Do not let anyone trick you into accepting those.
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.
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.
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 the 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. Like any traveler. 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