India Travel Guide & Information
I had already travelled to more than 30 countries by the time I reached India, and yet it still culture shocked the hell out of me! I felt like I did back in the days of my first ever trip by myself; lost, confused, nervous and excited. India is a very challenging destination even for experienced travellers, you should really be prepared for this or you may end up hating it. But if you embrace its uniqueness you will leave with a wonderful feeling that you have experienced a completely different world, and a memory of something that felt like a weird dream.
India should be a very cheap country when you consider that the average wage is less than €100 per month, but it can be very difficult to live like the locals here. For example the Taj Mahal is just 20rp for the locals, but if you are a foreigner the price is a whopping 750rp, that’s almost 20x more expensive! And it’s not just the Taj, most tourist attractions have a similar pricing system, so try and focus your money on the main places you want to see, and always check prices online before you leave the house. Accommodation is also extremely expensive when compared to other parts of Central Asia, even a bed in a shabby little dorm can put you back 500-800rp(6-10 euros) a night in a city like Mumbai. Luckily couchsurfing is quite easy here but find yourself a host well in advance, and maybe even a backup host to make sure you don’t get stuck paying these prices.
Once you get out of the city though it is a totally different story, suddenly you will see more warm friendly smiles than you will dollar signs in people's eyes. The best way to find cheap accommodation is to just ask the local shops, they will usually know someone who knows someone who can make you a nice deal, you may even be invited to someone house as a guest!
Transportation in India
Getting around in India can be challenging, and sometimes bloody frustrating! The massive population of India means moving around in the major cities can take hours, buses are confusing, trains are hilariously over crowded and even if you take a taxi you will get stuck in traffic! Try to avoid the obvious rush hours in the morning and evening, if possible plan to return home after 9pm.
The best way to get from city to city is by train, the only problem here is that the cheaper tickets are always booked up several days, or even weeks in advance. There is a special quota for tourists but this also books up so you will need to have your trip well planned out in advance, something I really hate to do.
Hitchhiking is also not such an easy option either as towns and cities often run back to back so finding long distance rides can be hard, and if a car is going more than a few blocks it will probably already have 3 people on each seat! If all else fails I actually found buses to be quite useful, despite never hearing this ever said in any other travel guide. I took 3rd class buses on a few occasions, and while they were late every single time and play ridiculously loud Bollywood movies all night long, I did get to my destination in the end and for a reasonable price. I think the cost was around 550rp for an 800km trip. This was with help from a local friend haggling at 3 different agents though.
There is one last option for travel... General class, also known as “cattle class” . Don’t worry, there are no cows involved. If you really want to see how the locals travel then I recommend you try this at least once in your trip, but maybe just for a short journey. Basically you book a ticket on the same day of the train without any reserved seat and just try to squeeze onto the over packed general class compartment. I’m used to some rough journeys in my time but I will say that this one probably tops them all. I was actually really lucky to be offered about 10 inches of a wooden shelf to sit on raised 5ft above the ground watching everyone else below me standing back to chest with each other for 8 hours. I’ve heard stories of people booking general tickets and then asking the conductor to upgrade your ticket once you are on the train but I’ve never tried and not sure how much you would need to pay for that.
Food in India
Not many people enjoy eating as much as the Indians do! Everywhere you go in India, people are eating! On the train, on the street, in restaurants, in houses. The smell of curry or fresh parathas just keep coming from every direction! And across the country there must be hundreds of different regional dishes and styles influenced by the differences in religion and climate. So no matter your taste there will be something for you.
Spice doesn't equal spicy! Indian food is famous for its huge array of spices that are used, but it is generally only chilli which makes food spicy, and most restaurants seem to cook food to taste so just tell your server how spicy you would like it and you should be fine!
Avoid meat that is not served hot! India definitely doesn’t have the best condition toilets in the world, believe me, so unless you want to be spending a lot of your time in them try to avoid meat or seafood that isn’t well cooked and served extremely hot.
This place really deserves it’s own page, one of my favourite places in the world Goa really has everything! Good food, good parties, beautiful beaches and nature, lots of cultural events, markets, the best sunsets I have ever seen and generally every day will be full of surprises! I only planned to spend 2 or 3 days in Goa but ended up staying for almost 2 weeks, partying all night, relaxing all day, and cruising from beach to beach on a rented Royal Enfield (classic Indian motorcycle).
Climate in India
The climate of India varies greatly from the deserts of Rajistan to the rainforests of Assam. Though generally speaking the summers of India are extremely hot and wet so should be avoided if possible. The best times to visit are during the winter from November to March.
India is one of the hardest places I have ever travelled, it can be very mentally and physically tiring at times and I’m sure everyone who goes there asks them self what the hell they are doing there at least once. But it is every bit as rewarding as it is challenging, and despite all the hardships ended up being one of my favourite places I have ever been. Try to stay positive, look at it as a chance to experience another way of life, see its beauty and indulge in its foods, and I’m sure after a few weeks of leaving it you will already be wanting to return for another rough and wild journey there.