Like the United States, India is a massive country. The difference between north and south and east and west is huge. We spent about 6 weeks in India at the very end of our RTW trip, and it’s a country we’ll never forget.
History piled on top of more history. A culture that will punish all 5 senses at once (which is both good and bad). Food that is among the most incredible in the world. People who test your every bit of patience yet also prove how wonderful humanity is. A place of amazing sites, horrific poverty, and people everywhere.
India will test you, no matter how seasoned of a traveler you are. It will have you screaming for home at times, it will have you begging to stay at others. India truly is a place like no other. Once you’ve been, you will never be the same.
What to Expect
In a word, CHAOS. I write this not to scare you, but to warn you. You MUST be realistic and honest with yourself about what you’re going to encounter in India. When we arrived, we had been on the road for 10.5 straight months. We thought we were seasoned. We thought we were ready. We were wrong.
Again, I write this not to discourage you from traveling to this amazing country. While chaos is to be expected, there are so many things that make India wonderful. The Taj Mahal is a shrine like no other. The Indian Himalayas tower above the rest of Earth and provide natural beauty seen in few other places. The deserts of Rajasthan are a delight.
Then there’s the people. While you have no doubt heard and read about the in your face aspect of India (all of which is true), you may not have heard of how joyful, welcoming, generous, and warm the Indian people can be. Expect to be offered chai at every turn, whether it’s a storefront, a hotel, someone’s home, or even the bus station.
How to get around
If traveling on a budget, then trains and buses are the way to go. For as backwards as the country is at times, we had very little issue getting around (save for one bus journey, story to come later).
Train- If taking trains, I have one and only one suggestion for you. Bypass buying tickets at the train station. Save the hassle of having to deal with Indian railway stations and just book online. It’s simple and easy, while train stations are just a hassle. Food is usually served (and it’s not half bad), and seats are comfortable. There are different classes and prices of trains, so do your homework.
Bus- Buses are a little more complicated, but signs are in English and most everyone speaks English as well. We only took a few buses, and the conditions weren’t exactly what I’d call comfortable, but hey, this is India. We definitely preferred train travel.
Air- Obviously if you’re planning on seeing a lot of India or don’t have much time, look into airfares around the country. There are many sites that offer cheap flights to India as well.
Like with any country the size of India, costs vary from city to city and state to state. By and large, India is a cheap country for westerners to travel in. If you’re willing to rough it more than usual, it becomes even cheaper.
But even if you’re a couple, like us, who prefers private rooms with bathroom and air conditioning, you can easily get by on $15-30US/day for accommodations. Larger cities, especially Mumbai, are more expensive though. If you’re only looking for a bed, you can have one in most places in India for about $5 on the low end. You do get what you pay for though.
Transport is also pretty cheap. A 5 hour train ride can cost anywhere from $2-$15, depending on what class and what type of train you take. Buses are dirt cheap, costing only a few dollars for about a 5 hour journey.
As far as food, as long as you’re willing to eat Indian (which you should as it’s some of the best in the world), you can easily eat for $10/day, including a few meals in restaurants. If you’re brave enough to try to the street food, you can have meals for under $1. While we had no stomach issues in India (remember, we were on the road for nearly a year at that point), we were definitely in the minority. Like with all street food, keep an eye out of large crowds and quick turnover. Those places are the safest.
All in all, if you’re a couple looking for decent, private rooms, eating out at restaurants for most meals, while taking 2nd class trains around, expect to spend about $60-70US/day while seeing pretty much every site you want to see.
Despite being in India for 6 weeks, we only saw a small portion of the country. In the coming months, I will publish more and more pages and posts regarding travel in India. Once anything is published, the link will become live on this page and on the navigation bar at the top of every page.
- Kuari Pass Trek in the Himalayas
- Taj Mahal