India Travel Guide
The guide to the best things to do and see in India
India’s national tourism organization uses the slogan “Incredible India.” It’s not very often that a marketing promotion perfectly encapsulates the identity of a place, but in India—it works. India conjures up a lot of different images, words, and ideas, but it’s still hard to describe. The Indian subcontinent is huge and home to a diverse amount of cultures and identities—so many distinct features for a single country. It’s that mishmash of culture and language under a unified flag that makes India so fascinating for explorers and travelers. It’s that specialness which makes people come back again and again. There’s always something more to see in India. Start here with my basic India travel tips, or jump down below to read my latest India travel blogs.
When to Visit
India is big. It stretches from the Himalayan mountains in the north to the tropics of the south. And with coastal beaches and inland mountains & hill stations, the country covers just about every type of terrain and climate. Pay attention to the monsoon season which generally lasts from July to September (though longer in the southern regions, including Goa’s beaches: from April/May to October). The monsoon (or rainy) season isn’t really great for traveling—and especially backpacking. Beaches often close during the season. In the north, some of the harder-to-reach mountainous regions aren’t accessible in the winter (November-February) due to snowfall, so if you’re planning a trip to North India—visit in the warmer months. Peak season in Goa (famous for its extended-stay beach holidays) is during December-January. You’ll be able to find accommodation somewhere, because in India there’s always a solution, but note that prices will go up.
Top Things To Do in India
There are so many different cities and regions in India, each with their own merits. But here are a few favorite itineraries and things to see in India.
Golden Triangle – India’s most famous tourist route is the so-called Golden Triangle which includes New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. Delhi is one of the country’s two main entrances for foreign tourists and offers a number of important historical sites and forts. Agra is home to the Taj Majal (don’t miss it!) and Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is one of India’s most beautiful cities. The typical Golden Triangle itinerary lasts for about a week, though additional cities along the route can be added to make it last longer. Regardless, all three cities have their merits so even if you don’t follow on a strict itinerary, they’re great for tourism.
Goa and the southern beaches – One of my favorite experiences traveling in India is to take in the countless beaches of Goa. A small state a few hours south of Mumbai, Goa was once a Portuguese colony and the settlers’ laid-back attitudes seeped into the Goan culture. Not to mention the famous “happenings” and hippie travelers from the 1960s that made Goa the place to be. Today, Goa’s beaches keep some of that chill-out, hippie vibe, while the beautiful beaches and relatively clean accommodation makes it perfect for a truly budget beach holiday. A few hours further south and you can head to the beaches of Karnataka in Gokarna—an equally beautiful and even cheaper alternative to Goa.
Kerala – India’s other top touristic location is the region of Kerala—in the very far south of the country. The Kerala backwaters make it tourist-friendly and the region has pushed heavily for it to be a popular destination. You can rent houseboats to take through the rivers and backwaters, or plan day trips through the picturesque jungles.
Many big-name travel companies from around the world offer India tours and full-on experiences from 5-day packages to one week, 10 days, or even two week & more package holidays. Backpacking in India is a whole other experience. Personally, I’ve found India to be a great destination for solo travel because there are countless other solo travelers.
Women and LGBT travelers may report occasional hassles and news out of India isn’t always the most positive for marginalized communities, but all-in-all, India is a safe and enjoyable destination for tourism.
When booking a tour in India, be mindful of the local culture to haggle for prices. Many things can be booked in advance from the online tour booking agencies, and local guides are always available for hire at just about every tourist attraction. Oftentimes you’ll find a sign posted at the attraction clearly stating (in English) the government-approved pricing for guides.
Explore some India tour options below for pre-booking.
LGBT – Gay India Travel Guide
India has a complicated relationship with its LGBTQ rights. The country previously legalized same-sex marriage but recently the court system overturned this. Societally, most of the India population still has a ways to go in supporting LGBTQ equality.
You’ll find big cities are more open to LGBTQ rights and individuals. GayBombay.org is one of India’s most accessible sites for discovering LGBTQ things to do across India. The GayBombay website organizes semi-regular parties and events—usually announced on the website and then the location revealed through WhatsApp groups.
India does host annual gay pride parades. Bangalore and Mumbai seem to be the biggest and most recognized. India’s best gay cities for travelers include Mumbai, Bangalore, New Delhi and other places like Goa and Pune.
For more about gay India, check out the LGBTQ English-language blog, gaylaxymag.com, or the website lgbteventsindia.com both of which feature useful guides on gay, lesbian, and queer things to do in India.
Also notable: in India, there are three legal genders and on all forms (even buying airline tickets), transgender is just about always an option.
More gay travel resources here.
India Hotel Deals
Finding hotels, guest houses, and accommodation in India’s cities can be hit or miss. It’s hard to judge sometimes without first viewing the room. Many budget hotels and guest houses will always offer to show you the room before you pay so you can decide on the spot. Personally, I’ve used Booking.com the most when traveling in India and wanting to book in advance, but Agoda.com or Hotels Combined can also be really useful.
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