From its rich history to spectacular natural and cultural sights, India is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. It can definitely be more of an adventure than other getaways but if you take the time to discover its secrets, India might just be the most unforgettable trip you’ll ever take.
Remnants of India’s imperial past – from the Mughal Empire to the British – still litter the landscape, telling an epic story of past rulers. The country also has a wild side, with dense jungles, sandy beaches, and the Himalayas extending ever upwards. Plus, the country’s growing economy means there are many major cities where you can experience all the cosmopolitan flair of New York or London with an Indian twist
The primary mode of transportation in India is public, especially the most widely used rail system in the world. So you shouldn’t have a problem finding good rail routes to get you where you need to go. Exploring India by train is also a great way to see the surrounding countryside and meet some interesting people. Driving is also an option, though the state of roads and congestion is mixed throughout the country as they work to modernize the network. You can always fly within India if time is of the essence but it will, unsurprisingly, cost more.
When to go
Since India is a large country, there are a wide variety of climates throughout. This means that depending on where you plan on going, you can realistically visit the country any time of the year. Overall however, late October or early March are the ideal times to visit. April and May can be hot and humid but the mountains are nice during this time of year. But be wary of monsoon season as well which begins in the south around May and works it way north for the next 6 weeks. On the other hand, December is often the cheapest time to visit and the easiest to find empty hotel rooms if you’re on short notice, so it’s up to you how you want to balance price versus choice weather.
Where to go in India
It’s big, a financial behemoth, and perhaps a bit confusing, but India’s largest city is still a required stop for any visitor. It is a city of extremes. While there are large slums, there are also opulent palaces and estates. For all the increased urbanization, a tropical forest of sorts also resides within its borders. Beyond that, Mumbai has everything you would expect from a global city, with a very cosmopolitan and diverse feel. There’s also great nightlife that the city’s residents enjoy after a busy week. Once you spend a bit of time here, you might just get lost in the Mumbai way of life.
This small but rich state on the west coast of India is one of the most popular destinations for tourists who flock to its gorgeous beaches and ideal climate. Goa was under Portuguese rule for centuries, and this European influence can be still be found within Goa’s architecture. The laid-back atmosphere and great cuisine along the white sand beaches is worth the trip to India alone. Venture inland a bit and you’ll find a gorgeous interior full of rivers, cathedrals, and more. Plus, Goa also is home to some of the best party spots in the country to let loose in after a day in the sun.
Located in the city of Agra, this mausoleum is the most famous landmark in the country. Translated to ‘crown of palaces’, the Taj Mahal is one of the most prominent examples of the diverse history and civilizations that have settled in the country. Commissioned in 1632 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, the Taj Mahal is an example of Islamic, Persian, Ottoman, and Indian architecture. Described by poet Rabindranath Tagore as “a teardrop on the cheek of eternity”, you can’t miss a chance to see one of the most beautiful structures in the world. The Taj Mahal is closed on Friday for Muslim prayers but any other day of the week it’s absolutely worth a trip.
Delhi is one of the finest examples of ‘old meets new’ in the world. Remnants of the old empires can be found throughout the city. Other parts of the capital are much newer, with the British founding the aptly named ‘New Delhi’ in 1911. Delhi is packed with people and things to do and see. While checking off the various historic sites is certainly a worthwhile endeavour, take some time to explore the city and wander off the beaten path. If you need to get from place to place, a cheap and well-maintained metro is available.
In a country full of ancient history, Rajasthan stands apart as any history buffs must see destination. This is the land of empires, maharajas, and all types of royalty. The harsh Thar Desert covers a large portion of the state but the fortresses and palaces that rise out of the inhospitable land make it well worth the trip. Make sure you stop by the capital Jaipur and see how the Pink City got its name. Beyond the imposing buildings, there are sand dunes aplenty, jungles, camels, and even tigers in India’s largest state.
This hill station located in the mountains of Lesser Himalaya has become a quintessential gateway to the (even higher) mountains of the region. Stunning views, Buddhist monasteries, and more are all within a stone’s throw here. Darjeeling has a unique history that is tied to Nepal, the British, and the local Indian population. By far the most visited getaway in eastern India, tourists from all over the world have been enjoying the famous and distinctive tea that has been produced here for over a century and a half.
The go-to city in the south of the country; this cosmopolitan metropolis is one of the most progressive cities in India. As the home of the country’s IT industry and a large student population, Bangalore is one of the most familiar (or Western) feeling destinations you can go to. There isn’t as much history here, but instead you’ll be able to enjoy everything you would expect from a modern city – with just enough of the exotic.
How much does it cost?
With most far away countries, getting there is the most expensive part – and this is especially true with India. A round trip flight between Pearson and Mumbai will generally cost at least $1000 Canadian, though it could be slightly more. Be sure to adjust your arrival and departure dates, as well as your airline if you can, to see who is offering the cheapest fares and when.
Once you get to India, you can actually get by without spending a lot of money depending on what you’re doing. An average day’s expenses will run about $34, including $17 for accommodation and $9 for food. If you want to save as much money as you can, it could be possible to spend just under $13 per day if you’re thrifty. However, many parts of India are on the rise and if you want to experience some of this burgeoning luxury, you should save at least $95 per day (which, all things considered, is still much cheaper than most other destinations). Obviously, these prices will fluctuate greatly depending on where you are and what you’re doing.
Health and Safety
There is no nationwide advisory for India, however the Government of Canada still recommends caution at all times. That being said you should not travel to Manipur or the border areas of Arunachal Pradesh for any non-essential reason due to insurgency in the area. In addition, avoid Jammu, Kashmir, Assam near Bangladesh, Nagaland near Burma, or the immediate border with Pakistan.
Beyond these areas, there is a threat of terrorism throughout the country. Be vigilant and monitor local news reports. Be especially aware during Indian Public Holidays. Petty crime is also a problem so be sure you don’t leave your belongings unattended at any time.
Reports of violence against women have been on the rise recently, so be sure to avoid travelling alone – especially at night. For foreign women, it is better to dress conservatively to avoid extra-unwanted attention and respect local customs. If you feel threatened, dial 100 (or 112 from a cell) to reach the police.
If you plan on trekking into the mountains, be sure you are traveling with someone else and you have a reputable guide. Register with the nearest Canadian government office. Most of all be sure you are prepared for dangers such as altitude sickness, among others. Make sure you are in top physical condition before you attempt a long trek, as mistakes can be potentially fatal.
India can be a bit overwhelming and different to some. However, if you take the time to really explore, this could be one of the most memorable trips you’ll ever take. There’s tons more to see and do so if you think somewhere else should be on the list of where to go in India, let us know in the comments. Check out our Country of the Week for more general information about the history and culture of India.
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