- 1. Go south
Visiting busy cities in the north is a must, but without a trip to the south your journey is simply not completed. India is a huge country; full of diversity. You can’t get a taste of real India without traveling around the country. From what I’ve experienced north was very different from the south; different scenery, people, food and mentality. I would recommend visiting northern cities (New Delhi, Agra and my favorites Jaipur and Varanasi) and than flying south (train ride might take even 2 days). My favourite place in the south was Kerala, beautiful beaches, exotic nature and more relaxed vibe. Definitely one of the most beautiful places I ever seen in my life (make sure to see the backwater and visit Kochi).
- Think twice (always)
The most important things to always keep in your mind in India are the ones that can affect your health. Trust me, I experienced it myself after having a vegetarian wrap from KFC, not a good idea at all… There were some fresh (uncooked vegetables) in my wrap and only few hours after eating it I got really sick. So to avoid it:
- don’t drink tap water
- don’t buy water bottles on the street or from small local shops and even when buying water at a supermarket always check if its been open before (you can easily see if the little plastic thing around the bottle cap was used before)
- don’t drink anything with ice cubes in it and in restaurants don’t accept bottles which have been opened before
- don’t eat fresh fruit, vegetables or salads (only cooked) and avoid street food
- use boiled water while brushing your teeth
- Always carry on you:
Your cell phone, a small bottle of hand disinfectant, soap and tissues (or toilet paper, and trust me you will need this one).
4. Think about transport before you arrive
One of the biggest difficulties I experienced while traveling in India was the transportation. There are plenty of options but it’s good to know and plan them before you arrive. If you’re on a time limit booking a train in advantage is a good idea (especially in the North) due to India’s huge population some train tickets might get sold out very quickly. Keep in mind that trains can often be about 2-3 hours late, but still they are often safer than buses and in the cities rickshaw are often better options than taxis. Although negotiations with rickshaw’s and taxi’s drivers might be unpleasant, especially around the tourist destinations. If you want to sightsee but you’re on a time limit, a great solution is ranting a driver. It’s not very pricey and it gives you the possibility of seeing a lot of attractions in one day. If you decide to rent a driver, it’s important to know a trusted tourist office or car service in advantage.
5. Safety issues
I guess these can be used in any country, but some of the most useful tips especially while backpacking are:
- have a number to your embassy (also the emergency embassy number)
- write the important numbers on the piece of paper in case if your phone would be stolen
- put your money in different places in your bag
- have copies of your passport/id
- while on train (even day time) use a bike lock to fasten you bag (easier to carry around than a chain)
- India is crowded, so put a rain cover on your backpack to make it harder for anyone who would want to take something out or put something in your bag
- never tell you real destination to random people you meet while traveling. My friends and I had an agreement that we would always say the next place we were heading to in order to avoid any misunderstandings between us.
6. Mix luxury with adventurous (aka cheap)
That’s what we did and I really liked it. We obviously made sure that the places we were staying in were not dodgy, but by saving money on our hotels in the north we could stay in some really nice hotels by the beach in the south. Staying in a nice place for a couple of days will let you relax, get some energy for the rest of the trip and enjoy India in a different way. In Goa we stayed in Park Hyatt for a couple of days, and that was the only place where we could actually eat some fresh fruits and veggies (without getting sick).
- Arrive with an open mind 🙂
See my full India Photo Diary