Planning a Trip to India | Things you should know
To say India is a huge country, is an understatement.
You can travel the country and you’ll always find something a little differet- mountains, deserts, beaches, rivers, etc.. you can find all types of terrain there, which is why even Indians will travel their own country. 29 states and 7 union territories. Population of 1.2 billion. Language wise, Hindi and English is secondary are the main languages, but there are 21 official other languages and non-Hindi speaking states,, so I believe there’s certain states in which Indian’s don’t quite understand each other. Also, India doesn’t just have one cinema industry, but something like eleven!
Planning a Trip to India | Top 5 Things to Know Before you Go to India
1. Planning a trip to India
Plan at the very least one day’s worth of travel time when going from city to city. You’ll want to pad your travel time as sometimes, transportation can break down. The only way you can plan a tight schedule is by hiring a driver/car or taking a tour.
Best Travel Sites with information on India- India Mike.
Travel Apps: Olacabs.
Olacabs is the Indian version of Lyft ridesharing. You can hire a car/driver to take you to where you need to go)
Booking Trains in Advance: As of May 2016, the Indian Railways (aka IRCTC) allowed foreigners to book train tickets in advance online. However, there’s always been a bit of a snag in the past. In the past, the workaround was to open an account on the IRTC website and then open an account on either, MakemyTrip.com or Cleartrip.com and then attempt to merge the two together. Both sites are frequently used by Indians to book travel; they show you the bus, airplane and train schedules.
Booking Onward Travel is easier when you’re already in India if you use local tourist agents and agencies. Often the commission fees you’re paying is similar or less than an online credit card fee.
2. Getting around
International/Domestic Air Carriers: Kingfisher (recently closed), India Airlines, Indigo, SpiceJet, Jet Airways, Air Asia
Train & Overnight Train: India Railways
Best Train Seats/Class: Most travelers reserved anything from 1st class to 3AC (ceiling fan and open air). Overnight trains can run at irregular hours, leaving or arriving at either late at night or early in the morning. Depending upon the class you may arrive late to your berth to find someone sleeping in it. In that case, you would need to wake them up and tell them to move. Most Indians are good about that. If you’re booking an overnight train, avoid the bottom berth if you want to go to bed early or sleep until late. This is the seat/berth that everyone sits on and your sleeping times will be determined by other passengers who either want to stay up late or wake up early. However, usually by around 10am, the overnight train has few passengers as many have gotten off on stops in the morning.
Train Bathrooms: Keep in mind most train bathrooms will have a squat and if there’s a western, you might still prefer to use the squat toilet. There’s also seldom any running water for flushing or washing hands. There’s no toilet paper. Tip: Take baby wipes, toilet paper and your hand sanitizer.
Takal | Foreign tourist quota tickets: With train travel, it’s best to book tickets in advance especially for travel during holiday/ festival times. You’re competing with 1.2 billion people. Train seats can get filled quickly. If you need to travel and seats are all sold out, foreign tourists have the opportunity to get a foreign tourist quota ticket (or takal). Each train has a few reserved seats for foreign travelers. You might pay a little more, but if you can get a takal, then it’s worthwhile if you are cutting your schedule tight. You would need to go to the train station and the office for International or foreign travelers. There is no guarantee you will get it, but it’s chance worth taking if you urgently need to get to your next destination.
Long distance bus, VIP bus, government bus
Of the three options, the one that gets my least recommendation is VIP bus, which offers options of a sleeper berth or reclining chair. I found this bus the least comfortable.
Read my guide to taking the bus in India .
Internet speeds are pretty good and quick.
Getting your Indian SIM and a data plan and using it as a mobile hotspot is a way to get consistent internet . The data plans and internet speeds of mobile providers are usually pretty good. Read my post to see what carriers I recommend.
Internet Cafes still exist. But they may be slow and they usually charge per minute. By no means will it break your bank, and you can always print out your flight tickets and reservations here.
STD shops allow you to make phone calls. Read more here.
4. Food & Health
India is a country known for its medical tourism, so medical facilities in urban/metropolitan cities can be decent to good. Small towns/villages and hill stations might have less facilities, than a big city hospital. However, they are often certain to have a doctor and pharmacies.
Pharmacies in India are pretty good. The carry anything from mosquito repellent to cold and flu medicines, first aid and you can get medicines that you might normally need prescriptions for in the country you’re from. Additionally, many small towns I’ve been to, they’ve had at least one or two if not more. They can be abundant.
Ayurvedic Medicine is a science and practice that originated in India hundreds of years ago. It can cure some things that western medicine can’t. I met a Japanese yogi with a skin ailment. She tried many treatments in Japan and it could not be cured. But she researched Ayurvedic options and was able to find a practitioner who was able to find her a cure for her skin. Today, she’s still happy with the results.
It gives travelers peace of mind to be insured when traveling India (or any country). However, as I said India is known for medical tourism, which means it’s a country with some good doctors. While I wouldn’t be too relaxed about keeping an eye on my health and food/physical safety, there’s no need to freak out about it either. Read more about travel insurance.
5. Where to go potty?
If there’s one country I haven’t mastered the art of finding a good tiolet, India is it. India is one country where the public toilets don’t smell too fresh. You’ll find them disregarded often. Nice shopping malls and hotels are best places to find them. You can also find them at train stations. Public toilets might be available but they might not be maintained well. Paid public toilets are preferred if you have to choose.
For squeamish female travelers: Check out my post on Feminine Urinary Devices
Tip: Take baby wipes, hand sanitizer and toilet paper. There will probably not be toilet paper or a working wash basin.
6. Budget in India
Accommodation prices and standards range but this will be one of your more prominent travel costs, next to transportation.
For budget backpackers visiting metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Delhi, expect to pay roughly $15-20 for a decent room in a budget hotel. Outside of the cities you’ll find cheaper accommodations, such budget hotels and guesthouses. They all range starting at 100 ruppees and higher.Keep in mind, many accommodations might be older and lack a fresh coat of paint. I like to research Agoda.com, travel blogs and TripAdvisor.
Hostels weren’t a term in India, but recently, a hip and boutique hostel chain opened up for modern travelers (wifi available). I’ve seen a couple of their hostels; book in advance as spaces fill up fast! It’s easier for travelers to feel safe in them, but local guesthouses/hostels are good too. India is probably one country I wouldn’t couch surf as a woman.
Long Distance Transportation
Domestic flight costs can range from $30-100+ . Train and VIP/Overnight buses can occasionally cost around the same. Government buses will be the cheapest.
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