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Backpacking India: 11 Things You Should Know Before Your First Trip

Are you thinking about traveling to India, but not sure what to expect there? Then you should read on here. In this article I try to answer any questions you might have before your first trip to India.

I have had a love-hate relationship with India for over 15 years: On the one hand, the incredibly diverse country is one of the most exciting travel destinations I have ever been able to visit - and with all the historic cities and wonderful temples probably also one of the most beautiful. On the other hand, the crowds, all the noise and dirt and the rigid bureaucracy can rob me of the last nerve.

It is probably precisely this area of ​​tension that has prompted me to visit India four times - and I can well imagine exploring the country in more detail in the future. With each visit I notice the negative sides less, with each visit I discover more facets that began to interest me more and more.

In the following lines I answer any questions i have before my first trip to india have had. Now my questions are not necessarily your questions. So if you want to know something else, feel free to leave a comment. I will try to answer as soon as possible and may work your question into the text.

 

1. What can you see in India?

If you are going to India for the first time, I recommend one to you Round trip through Rajasthan. In the north-west Indian desert province you will mainly find opulent palaces and richly decorated havelis (houses of wealthy traders). Rajasthan can also be perfectly combined with a visit to the world-famous Taj Mahal. Here you can find my personal ranking of the most beautiful travel destinations in Rajasthan.

If you like it more tropical and relaxed, then they are Goa beaches a good start or end point. Since there is little to see in small Goa, you should also go on excursions into the wider area. Boat tours through the Kerala backwaters and a visit to the ruined city of Hampi are popular. I also really liked the fishing town of Kochi, the palace of Mysore and the ride on the narrow-gauge railway to Ooty.

You will find another completely different India in the mountainous north of the country. Here you can trace the past in the British hill stations Shimla or Darjeeling, experience Indian spirituality in holy places like Rishikesh or let the mountains work on you in villages like Manali. North India is also a wonderful destination for anyone who enjoys hiking. I especially liked the area around Sikkim.

This is a region with an insider tip character Northeastwho often reminded me of Myanmar more than the rest of India. This area captivates less with great sights than with the exciting culture of the local minorities. If you only have time for a single destination in the corner, then I recommend Cherrapunji with its unique living bridges.

 

2. How safe is India?

India has a tarnished reputation as a travel destination. Several gruesome gang rapes, which have caused waves around the world, are to blame. How great the danger for tourists actually is and how much the media hype influences the perception is difficult to answer. Women traveling aloneI have met answer questions about their experiences very differently. However, it is certainly not wrong to exercise particular caution.

As a man I have myself in the country overall very safe felt. Most of the people I met were friendly and courteous. Although one is often confronted with extreme poverty in India, on all of my trips to India I have never met anyone who told me about thefts or even robberies.

In different regions there are ethnic and religious tensionsthat occasionally degenerate into overt violence. Northeast India and Kashmir in particular should be mentioned here, but rebels are also active in peripheral areas in West Bengal, Bihar and Chhattisgarh. The tourist destinations are usually sufficiently safe.

Probably the greatest danger for travelers comes from traffic. Badly maintained vehicles, the breakneck driving style and the chaotic road conditions are a particular problem here. The infrastructure, which has gotten much better in recent years, enables dangerously high speeds. In the event of an accident it is medical supplies inadequate in many places.

The poor hygiene leads to stomach problems for many travelers. Therefore, it is best to avoid meat and only drink water from sealed bottles (or prepare the water yourself). In India there is also a certain risk of malaria or of getting sick. Consistent mosquito protection is therefore mandatory. See here my comparison of different mosquito sprays.

As a foreigner, you should be prepared for the fact that you will be heavily defrauded in the tourist areas. Tuktuk drivers in particular are known for multiplying the agreed price while driving. I have summarized here why you shouldn't accept that and negotiate hard in such cases.

 

3. What does a trip to India cost?

India is one of the cheapest travel destinations in the world. As an economical backpacker, you can come along 15 euros per day easy through. However, even a slight increase in the budget leads to a much more pleasant travel experience. In other words: India is so cheap that it is hardly worth saving.

A simple double room can be found practically all over the country from around 10 euros per night. Sometimes even for less. Even luxury accommodations often don't cost much more than 100 euros per night. Note that many accommodations offer guests generous discounts if they do not book through online portals. Therefore, it is best to compare the walk-in prices in the reception with those on booking.com * and Co.

The Meal prices vary greatly. In tourist places you have to reckon with around 5 euros for a curry including rotis. Where mostly locals eat, you can get through with half. A thali (daily menu with different curries) costs around 2 euros. Street stalls are unbeatably cheap, but you should avoid them if you have a sensitive stomach.

Since foreigners usually pay a multiple of locals, they are Entrance fees comparatively expensive to the sights. The forts in Rajasthan cost around 10 euros. Admission to the Taj Mahal has been 17 euros since the last price adjustment. Temples, on the other hand, are often free to visit.

 

4. How do I find a cheap flight to India?

Of course, that costs the most Flight from Europe to India. Direct flights from German-speaking countries almost always go to Delhi or Mumbai. Depending on the season, charter flights to Goa may also be an option. Calcutta and other destinations are comparatively seldom served from Europe. The cheapest connections are via the hubs on the Arabian Peninsula. With a little luck you will find that Bargains from around 400 euros.

If you want to get hold of one of these cheap tariffs, you should be as flexible as possible and book early. Usually prices hit rock bottom two months before departure. If you don't know the best way to find a bargain, you should take a look at my 13 tips for finding cheap flights.

 

5. What is the best way to get around India?

For several years there has been a well-developed network in India cheap domestic flights. Unlike in Europe, with Indian low-cost carriers, luggage is almost always included in the price. For the research I use Momondo * or Skyscanner *. Attention: Be sure to print out the e-ticket, as you have to show it to get to the check-in counter.

One is also pleasant Round trip with a private chauffeur. You can either hire this on a daily basis as required or for the entire trip. Since public transport is generally inefficient, having your own driver is particularly worthwhile if you want to see as much as possible in a short period of time. The prices depend on the region, the distances and also the vehicle. We paid around 30 euros for a 300 kilometer day trip from Udaipur. See also: Everything you need to know about traveling with a driver in India.

Perhaps the most Indian way of exploring the country is this railroad. Some trains have up to 6 different car classes with different prices and levels of comfort. I usually book the sleeper class. The non-air-conditioned wagons have 6 bunk beds per compartment and are mainly used by Indians. When it's very hot, the AC 3 Tiers can also be an inexpensive option. The cheap train classes are often booked out well in advance. You should therefore always buy the tickets as early as possible. If you have more time than money, the best thing to do is to get the ticket at the train station, otherwise you can book it in advance, for example via 12go.asia *.

The most uncomfortable way to travel are buses. The lovingly decorated vehicles are almost without exception uncomfortably narrow and loud (constant honking). In addition, the buses barely make headway on the bad roads and can therefore stretch over short distances endlessly. The advantage: buses are inexpensive and rarely full, which is particularly attractive for spontaneous travel.

Tired of organizing your trip yourself?

If you don't feel like organizing your trip to India yourself, India Someday can be done for you. The German-speaking company from India will put together a route tailored to your personal needs and reserve hotels, train tickets and / or drivers. Advantage: WRF readers receive a price reduction of 5% with the code "weltreiseforum05".

Note: This infobox contains advertising for India Someday

 

 

6. When is the best time to travel to India?

The winter months from October to March are considered the best time to travel to India, because then most regions will have pleasant temperatures and you will experience little rainfall. However, there are strong regional differences on the huge and geographically diverse subcontinent.

In the North there is a subtropical climate with large temperature differences between summer and winter. In December and January the temperatures drop to freezing point, while it becomes unbearably hot by April at the latest with over 40 degrees. Heavy rainfall falls in northern India between mid-June and mid-September.

South india is tropically warm all year round with temperatures of around 30 degrees. There are restrictions here mainly due to the monsoon, which brings heavy rainfall. While the rain falls in northern Goa and the greater Mumbai area between June and October, Tamil Nadu and Kerala only experience the heaviest rainfall between October and early December. Travel is possible during the monsoons, but many hotels are closed, especially on the beaches.

A trip to the Himalayas is especially useful when it is too hot in the rest of the country. The optimal travel time is May to October. Then it gets uncomfortably cold (many cheap hotels are poorly insulated or have no heating at all) and in my experience it is often foggy.

Best time to travel to India by region

North IndiaOctober to March
South indiaDecember to February
Himalayan region
July to October

 

7. How do I get on the Internet in India?

Forget everything you've ever heard about India being an IT nation. At least that's not true what that WLAN in the hotels concerns. Also in 2019 there are still many accommodations that offer their guests no internet at all. And even where hotels advertise free internet, you have to be prepared for the fact that it may only really work for a few hours a day.

The connections with are relatively reliable local SIM cards. However, applying for one is a bureaucratic nightmare. One of the many hurdles is having a local vouch for you. From what I've heard from other travelers, buying SIM cards almost only works without problems at the major airports. So if working internet is important to you, it's best to take care of it as soon as you arrive.

I use mine in India myself GlocalMe. This is a small device that simulates a virtual SIM card in almost every country in the world and allows you to surf the Internet at prices that are only slightly higher than a local SIM card. If you are interested in the device, you can find out more about it here: GlocalMe.

 

8. Do I need a travel guide to India?

It is not absolutely necessary. Neither a human nor a book. India has a large blogger scene, many of whom write in English in detail about their country or even just their region. If you have enough time, you can find one or the other “insider tip”.

A printed travel guide is a bit clearer and shows its strengths especially when the internet is not working. Personally, I would strongly recommend taking a good travel guide with you for India. See also my article about the common prejudices against travel guides.

I myself traveled with Lonely Planet India * because over the years I have got used to the look of the publisher and I can quickly find my way around the books. If you are looking for a German-speaking travel guide, the Baedecker * band is a good choice. It is relatively detailed and highly topical with its publication date January 2019. The alphabetical sorting takes some getting used to.

 

9. Can I communicate in English in India?

One of the great advantages of traveling in India is that you hardly with language problems are faced. In the former British colony, English has developed into a kind of lingua franca in which Indians from different language regions can communicate with one another.

Regardless of whether you are somewhere in the country or negotiating the price with a shoe shine in the city: the probability that you will be able to communicate more or less without any problems is very high.

In the few cases in which my English didn't work out, I was always able to go along with it Hands and feet communicate. If you feel unsure, I recommend taking a look at my tips on how to communicate without language skills.

 

10. How can I change / withdraw money in India?

The official currency in India is the rupee. At the time of research, there was about 80 rupees for 1 euro. The largest banknote has a face value of 2000 rupees (around 25 euros), but is of limited use in everyday life, as smaller shops in particular do not have enough change. The next smaller 500 note is more practical.

Both in the big cities and in smaller urban centers is the ATM density quite high. If you go to rural areas, however, you should withdraw money beforehand to be on the safe side. The purchase limit is 10,000 rupees, but it is possible to purchase this amount several times in a row. I also recommend that you have a nest egg in dollars or euros with you.

The Indian economy is based on Cash. Apart from hotels and flights, you won't be able to pay much with credit cards. That is why it makes sense if you have a credit card with you that charges little or no fees abroad. Please also note my credit card comparison.

 

11. Do I need a visa for India?

Swiss, Germans and Austrians need a visato enter India. You have the choice between two different tourist visas: The first is a classic embassy visa. You can order the second one online.

The classic embassy visa iis valid for 6 months from the date of issue and allows an unlimited number of entries, which makes it attractive for everyone who would like to stay longer in the country or visit several neighboring states. Another advantage is that you can enter all border crossings open to foreigners with this visa. But you buy these advantages at a higher price of 120 euros.

The E-Visa allows you a maximum of two entries within two months - whereby the deadline continues while you are abroad. Unlike the embassy visa, its validity does not begin when it is issued, but only when you actually enter the country. Disadvantage: The first entry is only possible at certain border crossings (usually international airports). The advantage of the e-Visa is that you can apply for it online with relatively little effort and that it is significantly cheaper with a price of 80 dollars.

Where to apply for an e-Visa?

You can apply for the electronic visa in two ways. Either through the official visa section of the Indian embassy. Or for an extra charge through special agencies. The advantage: Your details will be checked again by Visa experts to ensure that they are correct. Apply here for an e-Visa for India through the agency.

Note: This info box contains advertising for visum application.de

 

Final remark

India is chaotic, loud, dirty and all too often extremely annoying. At the same time, however, it is also an incredibly diverse travel destination with nice people, delicious food and grandiose temples and beautiful cities. Depending on which of them is more important to you, you will either love or hate India.

For me, India is a country that I would like to put on everyone's bucket list. Because as exhausting as traveling can be at times, you will certainly grow personally in the land of maximum culture shock. And that alone is worth a lot.

Note: The article contains affiliate links. They are marked with an * asterisk. If you buy something through them, I get a small commission, the price is the same for you.

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