Inte alla känner sig kallade att resa till Indien, men de som känner det starkt och tenderar att ha en enorm önskan att utforska Indien. Att resa till Indien kan vara oerhört livsförändrande (jag vet att det var för mig) men det kommer inte utan dess kamper. Det finns resenärer som känner sig kallade till Indien, men det är andra som tycker det är för svårt att resa. det är sant - resor i Indien kan vara intensiva. Jag reste först till Indien för fem år sedan och har bott här i fyra och ett halvt. Jag kommer att sammanfatta allt från början till slut i denna resa till Indien-guide för att förenkla allt för dig.
1. Travel to India: Planning for Your Trip to India, What to know before you come to India
1.1) When to Come to India
When to come to India should be your first consideration before you start planning. Peak season in India is October to March. For MOST, peak season is going to be when you want to come. Although there are more tourists at this time, India is a crowded country in general and it’s going to feel crowded no matter when you come.
In the off-season the weather is not as nice (it gets very hot in May then June brings the monsoon), and in areas where the monsoon hits hard like Goa and Kerala, pretty much everything is shut from restaurants to hostels. Another downside of traveling off-season is that there will be fewer tourists to meet along the way which could be potential travel buddies.
There are some places you should avoid in the most “peak” times of peak season, which are around Christmas and New Year, and that would be Goa (partiers come in droves) and Agra.
If you can only come in the off-season, don’t fret. A fantastic place to go in the off-season is the mountains, like Manali, Rishikesh, McLeod Ganj, and Leh where the monsoon doesn’t hit and the weather is fantastic! In fact, during peak season you can’t really visit those places at all as they close the roads due to snow.
1. 2) How Long to Stay in India
Most people who come on tourists visas get the six-month visa. You can get longer than that but you will have to exit and come back in as you cannot stay in India longer than 180 days on any type of visa no matter how long it is.
Six months is ideal for a backpacking trip in India although it could be hard to get that much time away, and if you need to condense it (but want to see a lot) you really do need at least 10-12 weeks.
Later on, in the itinerary section, you’ll see more about what there is to see and do so you can plan your itinerary and see how many days will work best.
India has a lot from the Himalayas to the Thar desert, and the beaches of Goa to the busy cities of Calcutta, you have tribals in permit zones of Northeast India and jungles hidden in the dense jungles. It’s taken me years to see so much of India, so you have to make some tough choices!
If you have less time, it’s cool – still come! My parents came just for two weeks and we toured Mumbai, Goa, and Hampi. It was great and they still talk about how cool the trip was. You can visit about 3 places in two weeks. If it’s your first time to India and you have 1-2 weeks, consider a “Golden Triangle Tour” which I’ll talk about later.
Flights are the first thing you might want to start looking into once you when you want to come and how long you want to stay. You’ll likely fly into Mumbai or Delhi as that is where many good priced international flights come in from. Then you can start your trip from there or interconnect to where you’d like to start.
India’s airports have been revamped and it’s quite modern, but you do need to have an idea what to expect when you arrive. On your first day arriving, it’s best to have a hotel booked and ask them to send a driver. It’s worth it to avoid the culture shock and chaos. But, if you are up for it, it’s also easy to get a pre-paid Government taxi, or if it’s a city with Uber, that’s a great choice. Make sure you have the exact address of where you are staying, not just for the taxi driver but for immigration.
You have to have one! There are a few ways to get one and I have massively detailed posts on my blog about it, which I’ll link to below.
When the e-visa first came out in 2014, it was for 30 days with double-entry allowed. They increased it to 60 days in 2017 and in 2019, they have increased it even more. It is now a year-long visa with multiple entries. This does NOT mean you can stay in India for one year. If you are from the UK, USA, Japan, and Canada you can stay for 180 days maximum. You can then exit and re-enter. If you are from other countries that are able to get the e-visa, you can stay for 90 days.
Visas are valid from the date of arrival but you cannot apply for this visa too far in advance. The maximum is 120 days before the date you plan to arrive in India.
It is a multiple entry visa. This means you can go to somewhere like Nepal or Sri Lanka (anywhere, really) and come back within the validity of the visa.
If you are coming for longer than one year, you need to do the full visa application online which can be a little time-consuming and you either need to mail in your passport with the application or you can go to an embassy.
I wrote two full step by step guides with screenshots that show you how to get this tedious visa paperwork finished without making mistakes (if there is a mistake you have to do it all over again). I did the two guides one each for the USA and UK (well, Ben did the UK one).
1.6) Health & Wellness
People always worry about the Delhi Belly, which to be fair, is a legit concern. It definitely has happened to me more than once.
India’s medication is inexpensive, but the hospitals are not and something like a UTI turning into a kidney infection will easily run you $2-3,000 so you MUST get travel insurance before you come. It’s so cheap and will give you a huge piece of mind. I spent time in the hospital twice my first trip to India, once with Dengue Fever and once with severe food poisoning. I only use World Nomads when I travel and it’s the only travel insurance I’ve ever recommended (it’s what Lonely Planet recommend to. Add getting travel insurance to your to do list, right up there with visas. You can check a quote in the box below and you can read this article about what is and is not covered with World Nomads.
You can bring a little medical kit with you, but you don’t really need to as pretty much everything is accessible here that you’d throw in (and cheaper) like Imodium (which I don’t recommend anyway), band-aids, cortisone cream, Neosporin, and such. The one thing you might have a hard time finding in some towns in birth control pills, so do stock up on those before you come.
Let’s just talk a bit about the toilet situation: it’s usually okay – but there are times when it’s just a hole and a bucket there. Indians, in this case, would use their left hand to wash themselves then wash their hands. You will encounter this, in fact, most guesthouses I stayed in had this setup. You can just simply carry toilet paper or wet wipes with you and use that instead of your hand. If you’re lucky, there will be a sprayer (aka bum gun) instead of a bucket (in nice places, hotels, restaurants, airports) and that will become your new bestie! It’s much cleaner than TP and I hate traveling to places now that don’t have one.
1.7) Safety & Culture
I know a big concern for women traveling here is safety. I won’t say that it’s not a real concern; it is. There is an inequality in India toward women to a big extent and while there have been cases of attacks/rapes of foreigners, this is small compared to what local women deal with all the time here.
I really think those posts will give you an idea. I also think that you should check out my series This is India all the way back from the first one. This is a series that I write most Fridays where I share stories about life in India and if you check these out you’ll get a much deeper understanding of the culture on so many levels! The stories range from funny to sad and even ones that will anger or scare you.
Indian culture is confusing and exciting all at the same time and it’s the culture than makes India so interesting to visit. If you try to shelter yourself from it, you’re missing out. Most people have a real love/hate relationship with India but the more you accept India’s ways the more you’ll end up loving it.
Packing for India is not as hard as you might think. I always tell people “it’s India, not the moon!” but there are some things that you really DO need for India that will help your trip.
If you are on a low budget and want to travel by lowest class sleeper trains (what I did) you need to have a mummy liner and a travel pillow. Thes ones linked there are the ones I have used for years. You’ll also want a 4-foot chain to hook your bag to the bottom of the train beds so no one steals it. People get on and off all night long and theft is common. Another thing that helped me immensely was traveling with a headlamp. Power outages are common so it’s good when you have to get up at night and use the bathroom or when you are on sleeper buses.
You’ll also need to think about a cell phone for India. You will need an “unlocked” phone to insert an India SIM (which are quite the process to get). If you want the easier way and don’t have an unlocked phone, check out Trabug which sends you a phone to use to your hotel the first night you arrive.
2. Lodging in India
India is seriously evolving for tourists in the past 3 years, now that hostels are starting to pop up more and more. While hostels are the best way to make fellow travels, they are not always the cheapest or “most unique” option. One great thing about backpacking in India compared to Europe is that you can stay in “guesthouses” which are one double bed with a private bath for very cheap (like 500 Rs per night in many places). A hostel is usually 500-1000 Rs per night and that’s for a shared dorm with way less charm than cute guesthouses!
But you’ll find it all: hostels, guesthouses, boutique hotels, heritage houses, Airbnb, 2,3,4 star hotels, and over the top amazing 5 star hotels that literally trump the hotels elsewhere in the world.
Hostels in India are on the rise and try to replicate the way they are in Europe but it’s not quite there yet. Guesthouses are often very basic. If you wait until the itinerary part, I link to each town I stayed and link to the inexpensive guesthouses I stayed at.
If you’re interested in hostels, the best prices are usually on Agoda and you can look for brands like Zostel and Stops which are nice chain hostels. It is best t book ahead at least a week or so, although I don’t recommend booking your whole trip at once as in India things change and your plans could get all mixed around by just a train cancellation.
3. Food in India
Yes, it’s true that Indians do eat with their right (clean) hand. It is part of their culture and one that you will probably enjoy adapting to. Most tourists places will have silverware so you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
Food in the North of India is totally different from that in the South! While you travel, you’ll notice differences in the dal, curries, bread, and even flavors of rice. The North has rich, creamy, buttery curries that they eat with roti or naan. Tandoori is very big in North India. The North is quite vegetarian in areas though, and even have places that are strictly veg (you can’t even have an egg, like Pushkar).
You’ll find American, English, and general European food on menus at restaurants that cater to tourists, but unless it’s a fancy restaurant, run by foreigners, or a place like Goa, it’ll likely be far from what you’re expecting (think a pizza with ketchup as the sauce and yak cheese on top). It’s best to stick to Indian food for the reasons that they know how to make it so it’ll taste better, it’s made fresh often so you won’t get sit, and it’s cheaper.