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You have decided to travel to India! You are about to go on a trip of a lifetime. Do you know where in India you are going? If you are just beginning to explore the options, you have opened the perfect guide book to help you narrow down your options. The subcontinent of India is vast with diverse landscapes, culture, religion, peoples and climates. It is important to first figure out what kind of vacation and experience you are looking for during your stay in India.
Are you an urbanite looking to discover the flavor and rhythm of the world’s most crowded cities? Or are you traveling to India for a deeper connection, healing and rediscovering yourself? If you are an adventurer, what exactly is the adventure you are looking for? Do you crave to be around the peoples of another culture, another time and look deep into the past or do you need a remote location? It does not matter what category you fit into, India has something for everyone from north to south and east to west. You can customize the ideal vacation to satisfy all your expectations and more in India. It just takes a little research.
Get out some paper and a pen and write out your list. It helps if you have a map at hand and maybe grab your highlighter and some strips of paper to keep the pages in this book which interest you the most. India is impressively complex, grand and mysterious. There is no way you can keep track of it all without a little assistance.
One of the first tips anyone can give you if you are planning a trip to India is to pick a region; North, East, Central, the Himalayas of India or South. It goes without saying that India is an enormous country and getting around from region to region is not the easiest. A lot of what you want to see and do, as it is with travelling to most countries in the world is dependent on the time you will have. Each region will have its highlights and things to see and a lot of what you want to see and experience depends on each type of traveler. But to get you started, here are just a few reasons why most people come to India to see and experience.
• Delhi and the Jama Masjid (Great Mosque), the Chandi Chowk market and Sikh Temple. We will delve into this city a bit more in its own separate chapter.
• Mumbai. Likewise, we will have a separate chapter on Mumbai as well in a bit.
• Agra on the outer part of Delhi is known for the ‘Great Mosque’, the Masjid-i-Jahan Numa.
• The beaches of Goa are a great retreat for those in search of meditation and yoga retreats.
• The temple at Tirupati and royal tombs in Andhra Pradesh.
• Jammu and Kashmir are a bit controversial for most tourists and not everyone is comfortable visiting these areas. Here you can find more Buddist monasteries and the Shiva caves that are a popular pilgrimage destination. If these areas make you feel uneasy, you can head to Leh, the Buddist Ladakh region or Srinagar for some house-boating.
• The beaches of Karnataka in the south of India are often overlooked and Goa is typically the favored, however there are ancient ruins and a rich royal heritage. If you are looking for a yoga retreat, you can find it here, national parks, beaches and coffee plantations.
• Visit the abandoned cities of Madhya Pradesh of central India away from the congestion of the larger cities that India is recognized for today. Here you can visit national parks and see the wildlife in this side of the world and the erotic temples of Khajuraho.
• Another coastal state to see is Maharashtra, neighboring Mumbai, attracts visitors for its cave temples, mountains, forts, beaches, tribes and even wineries.
• Orrisa is another less frequented area, but it is known for its temples and dance festivals attracting an ever-growing interest. Spoil yourself at the markets with their specialty of silver jewelry.
• The Golden Temple is located in Punjab and is one of the most prosperous areas of India and home to bhangra music. To really experience Punjab, head to the rural areas.
• In the western part of Bengal there is a variety of things to see and do for all types of tourists; arts, urban life, mountains and some lovely countryside.
• If you head to India, it might only be suiting to see the Taj Mahal found in Uttar Pradesh and other historical and spiritual destinations of Varanasi and Fatehpur.
• The sights of Tamil Nadu are one of the iconic sites of India with its ancient Dravidian architecture, rock carvings and crafted temples.
• Some of the most beautiful images of the colorful side of India is of Rajastan and is one of the most visited areas. There are plenty of things to see, forts, palaces, the desert, camels, and elephants.
• Everyone knows Delhi. As mentioned earlier, there is plenty on this colorful city a bit later.
• The birthplace of Buddhism in Bihar.
• If you came to see some elephants, head to Kerala in the south as well. This area is more popularly known as ‘God’s Own Country’. The tropical beauty is lush and virgin-esque. Come here if you are looking to slow down a bit on the peaceful backwaters.
India for Nature-lovers and Adventure Seekers
• For those seeking thrills and adventures, the foothills of the Himalayas in Hamachal Pradesh are a top location.
• Visit the remote Sikkim, one of the last Shangri-las of the Himalayas. A permit is required, but it is worth the effort and will be a site to refresh one’s energy and sooth your soul.
• If you cannot get enough of the mountains, Uttarakhand is another popular destination to catch the breathtaking views of the towering Himalayan peaks and the natural beauty of northern India. Visit holy places, the national parks and have your fair share of trekking here.
• The most tribal area of India is in the north east. The mountains here are incredible and this is the least visited region and perfect for those looking to get off the beaten tourist route. Visit the tea plantations, Buddhist monasteries and natural caves.
• Andaman & Nicobar Islands for scuba and snorkeling.
How to Use this Guide
Now you have an idea of all the things to see, do and experience in India. You just have to figure out what you want to do. That might be the hardest part. But, you do not have to decide yet. Do read on in this travel guide for a more in-depth look at the many different and diverse regions of India from north to south and east to west.
Chapter 2 is going to help you plan your trip and offer guides showing examples of travel routes and sample itineraries for your trip to India depending on more specific time frames for each tourist, whether you are planning a week or even a month in India. Following this section we offer themed itineraries for those looking to experience the urban life, spiritual routes, retreats or if you want to get away and hide out in the mountains. This chapter will also explain when it is the best time to travel to India depending on the regions as well, how to budget your travel and many other handy details. Get out your highlighter!
In Chapter 3, we want you to feel at ease when you travel to India. This chapter will help you to get a better understanding of India’s culture, mannerisms and language from region to region. As each region can be just as diverse in language, religion and customs, there are different traveling need-to-know points on what to wear, the food and where to stay, even where the nightlife is. An added bonus for this chapter is helping you plan out your packing needs depending on where you are visiting.
In chapters 4 through 10, we explore the different regions and what each has to offer in a little more detail. India is not all about the iconic, average tourist attractions, temples and mosques. There is so much more to explore and consider and these chapters will help those who might have a longer visit, or even shorter visit to experience a more diverse and unique side of this massive and beautiful country.
India Travel Routes and Itineraries
A Few Days: It is well-known that India is a vast country with more than enough to see. If one were to spend a year in India, this might not even be enough to see every region and take in the full experience. If you only have a few days, the best is to pick a region and then pick a specific city or area of that region. There is plenty to choose from but the iconic city of Delhi is known for its markets and temples and then there is Mumbai too. For an easy beach retreat, there is Goa, Maharashtra or the less-frequented Kanartaka. You can visit the mountains, but they are a challenge to get to and your travel time getting to your destination in the mountains might end up being more than your stay.
One Week: In one week, you can choose one of the main cities to visit, one suggested of course being Delhi. From the urban centers you can travel to another destination for a day, perhaps a beach or the outskirts, to see more remote temples and mosques. Just as you might do for only a few days, it helps if you pick a more specific region and narrow down your originating destination from there.
Up to Two Weeks: If you are planning a two week stay to India, you will have time to possibly visit two main attraction or iconic areas of India. Once again, however, it is best to pick a region, one preferably with a few destinations and attractions for one or two-day trips.
Up to Three Weeks: If you are lucky enough to be able to stay in India for up to three weeks or even a month, you will be able to explore one region fairly closely and even pick two regions. A big city with cultural and religious highlights is a good place to start maybe followed by some time on the beach or in the mountains. There are plenty of yoga and meditation retreats in India as well that might interest many who are looking for some healing or another level of relaxation. Your entire trip can easily revolve around this as well. Making a list of what you want to experience will help to organize your itinerary.
There are many things to consider when visiting India and the type of experience you want to have. As it has been summarized in the last section, much of this will depend on how much time you can visit. It is a country of much diversity, culture, religion, landscapes and depth. It will be virtually impossible that upon your visit, India will not change your life, whether you are there to see the immense and concentrated city cultures of the markets and mosques or if you are looking for adventure. You may not go for any spiritual reasons, but it will touch your soul. However, that is another subject and one to speak on in depth. For now, let’s talk about your travels and lay out some sample itineraries based on different themes and what you can see and do in India.
A few days…
Pick an urban center, Delhi, Mumbai or Kolkata and tour the city, the various holy sites and eat out to experience the regional food. There are plenty of markets, restaurants and nightlife to make the days fly by.
> Pick a beach resort that is easily accessible like Goa and enjoy a mix of sunbathing, shopping and nightlife on the sand.
Pick an urban center, and plan a day trip into the suburbs. There are plenty of historical sites to see in and out of the metropolis areas. Be sure to visit the markets. To get the full Indian experience in just a week, get a homestay.
> A week to experience the diversity of India is perfect in South India to visit palaces, ancient ruins, eclectic cities and have some time on the beach all within a close proximity.
Fly into Delhi or Mumbai and tour the city for two to three days. In two weeks you can visit both cities with one- or two-day trips to the suburb and rural areas for some quiet time.
> If you need a vacation to regroup, check out retreats and healing centers of Goa and other beach resorts. Some are as short as one week and you still have time to visit one of the grand cities.
> For the adventurer, two weeks is enough time to head to the north for some trekking and time in nature among the world’s highest peaks and visit remote tribal areas.
Up to Three Weeks…
Fly into Mumbai, Delhi or any of the main cities you have on your list to see. There is plenty of time to see the other cities even traveling by train. Check off the cultural city lists of things to see and go to the shores in the south to unwind and experience another side of India.
> Go for a long retreat in Goa and later spend a long trip on a houseboat on the backwaters of Kerala in the south. There are plenty of city centers along the way, but you are close enough to get out of the way and back to peace when you want it.
> For the heart of an adventurer and explorer, go get lost in the north of India in the foothills of the Himalayas. There are kilometers of trails to hike, temples to visit and sights to see if your idea of an Indian vacation is to get out of the way and visit the very remote and unique places of the globe.
Weather & When & Where to Go
The time of year you plan your trip to India should be made around certain weather patterns. However, a lot of your planning might also depend on where you want to go. In general the time not to travel to India would be between the end of May and onwards for about a month and a half. During this time, the monsoon season starts on the coast of Keralan and can go into the northwest areas and the lower areas of Bengal. During monsoon season, it is not uncommon for communication lines to be completely disrupted, heavy flooding will ensue and even in the Himalayan foothills landslides are very common.
During this time, the humidity can be very intense with maybe some rare parting of the clouds for a little sunshine. Coming September most of the storms will recede from the northern part of the country, but the clouds will not disappear completely for another few months. Along the east coast, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to the south of Kerala will get more storms from October to December. December most of the lower-half of the country will have cool temperatures and clear skies.
Throughout the mid-winter months this large country has a wide array of weather patterns from region to region. Delhi experiences chilling winds from the snows of the Himalayas and the plains of Tamil and the coast on Kerala about one-thousand kilometers south will be extremely humid and hot with post-monsoon sun. By spring the lower part warms up around the 90 degree mark (33 Celsius) on the plateaus of Deccan and the Gangetic Plains.
So when do you visit? Head to Agra, Rajasthan, Varanasi, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh from November to March. It is the most comfortable time to visit the beachside city of Goa and central India. As for the south, it is never that comfortable and is always hot, so do where some nice airy, light clothing. The locals can show you where to shop for that. Kerala and Nadu are perfect to visit from January to March and this is when the Himalayas become more accessible with ideal trekking at the peak in only a narrow part of the year from August and September. This is a good time to be in the north when the rest of the country is being pummeled with rain.
Travel Costs and Organizing Your Money
One of the big perks of traveling to India, that although from some parts of the world, the ticket to get there can be expensive, but once you are there, it is more than affordable. It is the perfect destination of all pocket sizes, for budget backpackers and those who truly want to feel and be treated like royalty, with plenty of options in between. Costs do vary nationwide and it is safe to assume that you will pay much more in big cities than you would on the outskirts, as it is most places where you may travel. So do plan a little more in your budget if you plan on spending time in Delhi or Mumbai and of course the popular tourist destinations in high season. Do check prices of certain regions if it is during peak season or festivals.
The price of admission for visitors will be higher than the locals’ price and expect an additional charge for use of our camera and/or video cameras of some tourist attractions.
The rupee is segmented into 100 paise, designated as ‘p’. The paise coins are becoming rare, however if you come across any, they can be found in 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 50. The rupees, designated as ‘R’ are in coins of 1, 2 and five with notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000. The value of the rupee is linked to many currencies and the value is usually fairly stable. If you need to change money, you must always have your passport.
You can access ATMs that are linked to international networks in the larger towns and cities, but just in case, it is always a good idea to have cash with you in the event of electrical outages, if you are traveling to outer areas where ATMs maybe out of service or inaccessible or if you have the unfortunate occurrence of losing your card or breaking it. In larger towns and the main cities there are twenty-four hour ATMs available, however, be aware that the price you may get at these machines may not be the same rate as the main bank branches. All major credit cards are accepted; Mastercard, Visa, Maestro, Cirrus and Plus. The banks that accept foreign credit cards to rely on are Citibank, HSBC, ICICI, UTI and HDFC, the State Bank of India and the Punjab National Bank.
Regarding the use of credit cards, it is increasingly easier for some shops to accept them along with upper end restaurants and mid- to high-range hotels and you can even use them for internal flights and train tickets, but of course it is always best to have enough cash on hand.
*As for a little traveler’s tip, many people have reported that the ATMs like to ‘snatch back’ money, meaning in thirty seconds it may be sucked back in the machine. So stay on task and pay attention when taking money out of an ATM. Some machines may actually take thirty seconds for the money to come out from the machine, do not panic.
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The India Traveler's Guide to Make The Most Out of Your Trip. You have decided to travel to India! You are about to go on a trip of a lifetime. Do you know where in India you are going? If you are just beginning to explore the options, you have opened the perfect guide book to help you narrow down your options. The subcontinent of India is vast with diverse landscapes, culture, religion, peoples and climates. It is important to first figure out what kind of vacation and experience you are looking for during your stay in India. Are you an urbanite looking to discover the flavor and rhythm of the world’s most crowded cities? Or are you traveling to India for a deeper connection, healing and rediscovering yourself? If you are an adventurer, what exactly is the adventure you are looking for? Do you crave to be around the peoples of another culture, another time and look deep into the past or do you need a remote location? It does not matter what category you fit into, India has something for everyone from north to south and east to west. You can customize the ideal vacation to satisfy all your expectations and more in India. It just takes a little research. Get out some paper and a pen and write out your list. It helps if you have a map at hand and maybe grab your highlighter and some strips of paper to keep the pages in this book which interest you the most. India is impressively complex, grand and mysterious. There is no way you can keep track of it all without a little assistance.