India is a huge South-Asian country with ancient history, rich culture and tradition, and diversity in every aspect. With a marvelous diversity in its geography, religion, culture, food and everything in between, India is a perfect getaway destination for backpacking in 2019.
Brimming with cultural aesthetics, breathtaking natural terrain and the bustling metropolitan cities add to the charm of backpacking in India. And what more could one ask for if it comes within your budget? Cool right!!
With a few tips and tricks, you are good to go backpacking India at a relatively low budget.
Before you set off to backpacking India, knowing certain things about the country itself would be beneficial. Here is the list:
- About India | A brief introduction
- A cultural segment of India
- The weather of India / Best Time for backpacking India
- Visa for India
- Backpacking India budget
- Haggling tips and tricks
- Backpacking India route
- Backpacking alone in India
- Traits of a responsible backpacker
1. About India | A brief introduction
India is a South Asian country which is also known as the Republic of India. With a total area of 3,287,263 square kilometers, India is the seventh largest country in the world. This country is home to more than 1.3 billion people. This makes India the second most populated country in the world after China.
This country shares land borders with China, Nepal, and Bhutan (to the North-east), Bangladesh and Myanmar (to the East) and Pakistan (to the west) respectively.
Divided into 29 states and 7 union territories, India is one of the fastest developing countries in the world.
2. A cultural segment of India
India is a secular country with its religious diversity as the main highlight. India has major followers of Hinduism (79.8%) followed by Islam, Christianity, and others.
India is a country with the largest Hindu population and the third-largest Muslim population in the world. A brotherhood bond and respect for cultural diversity is the basic character of India.
India celebrates unique festivals like Holi, Dussehra, and Diwali among a multitude of others. It can be said that this country is a blend of peace, harmony, and brotherhood.
3. Language in India
There are many languages spoken in India. But Hindi is the official and more prominently used language. Locals also speak and understand English to some extent. you might have some issues in communicating in the rural parts of India,
We recommend learning some basic Hindi. This will help you get acquainted with local people and also make new friends.
Hello – Namaste
My name is … – Mera Naam …. hai
How are you? – Aap Kaise ho
Help me – meri madad karo
Where does this way go? – Ye rasta Kaha jata hai
How much for this? – Iske Liye Kitna
Thank you – Dhanyabad
4. The weather of India / Best time for Backpacking India
India’s vast geographical scale and the varying landforms make the weather prediction uncertain. But in general, India has four climatological seasons.
December – February: This is the winter season. Coldest months of the year are December and January when the average temperature ranges between 10-15 degree Celsius. But even during winter, the temperature rises as you proceed towards the equatorial areas.
March-May: Summer season. The temperature intensifies to 32 – 40 degrees Celsius. April is the hottest month in Western and Southern part of India while May is the hottest in Northern part.
June – September: Monsoon season. Southern India receives the highest rainfall throughout the country. Cherrapunji of India receives the highest rainfall in the world.
October – November: Post Monsoon season when the weather is less cloudy.
A question might arise, which is the best time for backpacking in India?
Well, we recommend the time from October to early March. The weather during this time is clear and dry. Sceneries are clearly visible and this is also a peak season of tourism in India.
India experiences scorching heat waves during the summer season. Also, the winter is warmer than in other countries. Thus, Heat Stroke and Dehydration are common. Foreigners are more prone than the local inhabitants. Use precaution!
5. Visa for India
There are 5 sub-categories of visa in India:
- E- Tourist visa
- E- Business visa
- E- Medical visa
- E- Medical Attendant visa and
- E- Conference visa
The backpackers should apply for the e-tourist visa. It is an online process.
The step-by-step process for online visa application is very simple. All you need to do is fill in the personal and passport detail in the online form. Upload a recent passport size photo (size on disk – 10 kb to 1mb) and you are done.
You have to pay the fee for the e-visa online through your debit card or credit card. Fee for the e-tourist visa is normally USD 80 and USD 2 is charged as visa processing fee. This fee is non-refundable in case of cancellation, withdrawal or rejection.
This tourist visa is valid up to 60 days, is non-extendable and non-convertible. With the visa, you can enter 25 designated airports and 5 designated seaports. This includes the major tourist cities including Goa, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Jaipur, and Pune.
Click here to know more details regarding the visa system of India.
Apply for the visa 120 days prior to your visit to India.
The currency of India is Indian Rupees (INR). This roughly amounts to USD 1 = 77 INR
Click here to check the current exchange rate.
Although there are many ATMs in the country, you might have a hard time finding one outside the city or in the rather remote part of the nation. Take cash in hand instead of debit/credit cards.
Take a bunch of cash out in each withdrawal, but be careful where you keep it. Pickpockets are lurking around the busy centers of the country.
7. Transportation in India
India is a vast country and the traveling distances are very long and exhausting. The most comfortable way of traveling long distances are internal flights but for the budget backpackers, it might not be an option.
Traveling is a problem but not the one that has no solution.
There are many cheap options available in the country:
- Local train
- Local buses
- Renting car
A. Local train
It is the fastest and the cheapest mode of transportation in India for long distance traveling.
Railway connects most of the parts in India. Plus traveling on a train will give you the sights of fascinating Indian sceneries and landscapes. However you have to book the train ticket in advance, a few days ahead of your travel as the tickets tend to sell out very fast.
You can book your train tickets from either of the links below:
Most backpackers book for ‘3 AC class’. This cabin has six beds and AC. For longer or night travels, this is personally recommended.
But if you really want to save some money then go for ’Sleeper class’ or the ‘Second class’. These might be uncomfortable or to some extent, even stressful as they are generally unreserved seats. But for very low budget backpackers, saving money is the prime concern.
Prices of train tickets vary according to your cabin, train type and the time of train departure.
Stations are always jam-packed with people. You, as a traveler, might get exhausted in such crowded places if you are not used to it.
Keep your calm, be patient and flexible with time. Well, you need to, because, in such a busy country, everything might not go on schedule. You might have to wait a long time for the train arrival and departure at stations.
B. Local buses
Sometimes local trains might not be available to the place you are traveling especially if it is a mountainous area. So your next best shot for low budget long-distance travel might be local buses in India.
Bus travel might not be as comfortable and convenient as compared to train travel due to road turns, road conditions, and bad driving.
There are commonly two types of local buses. One that provides short route travel and the other one that provides long-distance travel. Usually, they have fix prices of the bus fare and you have to buy the ticket onboard.
For the long-distance bus travel, you might want to book the ticket. Else you might have to squeeze your way in at bus stops.
Prices may vary depending upon the route, bus seat, type of bus and time of travel. Of course, there are some other luxury buses, VIP sleeper buses and double-decker buses for more cozy travel but for the budget backpackers, it might be inconvenient.
It is the most commonly used travel option to get around the city area and short distance tour. Cheaper than a cab, rickshaw ride can be a unique experience that is fun and cheap way of traveling too.
Make sure you agree on the fare cost before taking the ride. Sometimes, the rickshaw drivers tend to charge you more knowing that you are a foreigner and you will wind up paying extra.
Know few haggling tricks and you are good to go.
D. Renting car
If you are up for comfortable traveling on your own, renting a car might be the best option. You can drive yourself up to your destination in remote places or around city areas.
However, the roads of India might be tricky for a foreigner. The road infrastructure, direction, and busy road might come to a surprise. If you are renting a car, you might also consider hiring a driver as well.
Rent your car here among the following popular sites:
Another effective way of transportation and saving money. When you are at some remote place with no means of transportation then, hitchhiking might be a lifesaver. Even in city areas, many people are helpful.
8. Accommodation in India
India welcomes a large number of tourists from around the world annually. It has NO limitation on the hotels. You can find a number of hotels that will fit your needs and budget.
From peaceful spots to busy areas, every place has decent hotels you can stay at. Even the remote areas will have hotel services or the teahouses to the least.
For low budget accommodations, we have listed some of the hotels at major tourist hubs in India:
A. Hotels in Delhi
This hotel is one of the best value for money. With the pricing of USD 14 per room per night, this hotel provides comfortable accommodation with a terrace view. You can also enjoy continental complimentary breakfast. Rated for the best value in Delhi, you can also visit the famous tourist spot – Mahipalpur near this hotel.
Located 20 km from the Delhi International Airport, this 3-star hotel has an outdoor pool, complimentary continental breakfast, and good hotel services.
Tourist places near this hotel are Red Fort – 4.1km and National Gandhi Museum – 4.3 km.
Just at a price of USD 19 for a night stay, who wouldn’t want to stay at this 3-star?
III. Hotel The Oakland
Located at Nehru Place district, this lodge offers comfortable accommodation. Friendly staff and quality food are their specialties. Situated 20 km away from Delhi International Airport, a night stay in this hotel will cost you USD 38.
Nehru Place is famous among backpackers interested in local food, architecture and shopping clothes.
B. Hotels in Mumbai
This could be the best place for socializing and meeting other backpackers. With AC rooms at just USD 11, be sure to give it a try if you want to save some bucks.
Solo travelers rated this hotel with 9.2 for its cheap price and services. This hostel features bunk beds. With just USD 11, you can stay for a night and get a complimentary buffet breakfast the next morning.
Located at the heart of Mumbai, this hotel has the cheapest pricing of USD 24. And this price includes breakfast and dinner along with one night stay. Staying could not get any cheaper than this, CAN IT?
C. Hotels in Goa
This is a 3-star hotel offering its hotel service at Porvorim. With a night-stay price of USD 19, who wouldn’t want to enjoy the comfort of a 3-star.
II. Hotel Maharaja
Located 3.4 km from Goa International Airport, this is a 3-star property in South-Goa. Providing a 24-hour service, this hotel offers its guests a cozy accommodation at just USD 27 per night.
This resort is in Cansaulim. This resort features a refreshing outdoor pool, quality services, and comfortable stay overnight at the price of USD 43.
Rated 8.3 for solo traveler stay, it can be a splendid choice for budget backpackers.
D. Hotels in Agra
Providing you a homely environment, this place is at a distance of 1.6 km from the iconic Taj Mahal. You can get a terrace-featured room providing you a delightful scene of Agra for the cost of USD 12.
Situated just 500 meters from the world famous Taj Mahal, you can put your day to rest at this highly rated hotel of Agra. Relax in the sauna or take a quick swim at the rooftop. USD 27 for a night does not seem much, DOES IT?
III. Trident Agra
Rated 9.3 by solo travelers, this hotel is quite lavish for a backpacker. Located at 1.5 km from Taj Mahal and 7 km from Agra Fort, this hotel provides upscale customer friendly services. One night stay at this hotel will cost you roughly USD 57.
E. Hotels in Rajasthan
This hotel is at one of the best locations in Jaipur. It is only 400 meters from Hawa Mahal and 15 km from Jaipur International Airport. This hotel provides luxury like the ancient kings of Rajasthan. You would definitely love your stay at this hotel flaunting a palace-like decor. The package starts just at USD 10.
This is a 3-star accommodation at 1.6 km from Jal Mahal. You can enjoy a quick and cozy stay at this hotel. The places you can visit around this hotel are Hawa Mahal – 3.8 km and City Palace – 4.4 km.
One night stay for this hotel is USD 11 only.
If you adore traditional arts and craftsmanship, this hotel would be best for you to stay. With beautiful carvings in the hallways and balconies, this hotel will give you a Maharaja vibe. Open terrace, lovely garden, fresco miniature paintings, and rooftop restaurant are the features of this hotel. One night stay will cost about USD 43.
For more hotels and bookings, check on the followings :
9. Food in India
Backpacking in India can be a great expedition for your tastebuds too. Food in India varies greatly according to the geography, landscape, culture, religion and numerous other factors, creating a great medley of taste and flavor. Expect taste variance throughout your trip.
Northern India specializes in spicy food and meaty curries. Southern India is famous for its sweet coconut dishes. There is no rivalry to the desserts and sweets of eastern India and Western India would be a great delight for the vegetarians.
From spicy dosa to sweet coconut platter, every food is exquisite and unique. We have listed some of the must-try food items while backpacking India:
Dal roti: Roti is a classic Indian food item consumed throughout India. It is a flatbread made from the ground wholemeal flour. To the side item, you will get a soup of dried split pulses known as ‘Dal’.
Dosa: It is a popular south Indian dish made from ground rice and black lentils, cooked into thin flat-bread. A popular version is ‘Masala Dosa’ with fillings of spiced potatoes. But there are other fascinating choices too like ‘Paneer dosa’ and ‘Palak dosa’.
Papdi Chaat: It is the most famous north-Indian snack. Thin deep fried wafers topped with chickpeas, chilies and other Indian spices. A must try dish!
Pani Puri: A famous Indian street food item. Every Indian prefers this food item to excite their taste buds. Pani puri is small deep fried hollow dumplings with spicy potato inside and filled with spiced water. Try it once. You will be craving for another plate.
Naan: Indian plate would be incomplete without Naan as main or side dish. It is an oven-baked flatbread brushed with butter or ghee and served with soup or curry.
Food items in India are delectable and cheap. But as a foreigner, you might not be familiar with the number of spices Indians use in their food. You might be prone to food sickness and even diarrhea.
Pay great attention to sanitation. DO NOT drink tap water. Always drink water after boiling or buy sealed water bottles.
Avoid local street foods as much as possible. While eating at a local place, pay attention to detail. Observe the utensils and the method of food preparing. If they are not sanitary, move on for the next place.
10. Backpacking India Budget
India is one of the affordable backpacking destinations in the world. Many budget backpackers visit India every year. And if you come across any, they will tell you they had a wonderful time in India in the least of price.
Hotels: You can easily find a hotel that will charge you less than USD 10 per night. Many come with a complimentary breakfast as well. Explore around and you can find various hotels, from price ranging from cheap to super-expensive.
Click here for finding budget hotels in India.
Food: With an average of USD 5 – 10 you can get heavy meals that will keep you going through the day. The food here is exquisite in taste and also cheap, even for a budget backpacker.
Transport: The daily budget estimation for transport would totally depend on the place you are traveling to. Long distances are obviously gonna cost you more than short distance travel. Expect anywhere between USD 1 – USD 10.
Of course, the mode of traveling will also play a major role in the cost. The recommended mode would be a train ride for long distances and for a tour around the city, choose rickshaws.
Entry Fees: Tourist spots in India charges an entry fee to the foreigners for sightseeing. Historical site visiting will cost you more. Each site will have separate entry fees.
Click here to check the entry fee.
On an average, USD 60 – 70 would be enough for you to get through the day with ease.
12. Backpacking India route
There are endless possibilities in India owing to its vastness and natural and cultural aesthetics. India has many places worth visiting. A very welcoming place that India is, it would be unfair to limit the possibility of exploration in this country.
But the sad thing is: Budget backpackers are in the limit of time AND budget.
So to your ease, this article has covered a one-month itinerary while backpacking India.
Day 1 – 2: Delhi
Land in the capital of India on the first day. Traffic in Delhi is insane, so it is better if you keep your cool. Take a cab, metro or rickshaw to the Panchsheel area. Here you will find lots of backpackers friendly hotels and lodges.
Delhi is a busy city with lots of humdrum going on. Traffic fills the roadways almost every time of the day. Explore your way around the city and roam around the old alleys of Delhi.
Make your way to the Chandni Chowk, which is the heart of the city. This place has many market stalls of spices, clothes, and souvenirs. Take a tour of the Red Fort- historical place in Delhi. Another striking spot of Delhi is Jama Masjid famous for its architecture.
Day 3 – 6: Agra
After a 2-day stay at Delhi, head 206 km south for Agra. Visit Taj Mahal – one of the seven wonders of the world. The other recommended places to visit in Agra would be Agra Fort. These places belonged to the Mughal empire. And have a historical significance. Also, walk around the market areas of Agra and head for the ruins of Fatehpur Sikri – 26 km southwest of Agra. Take a full day tour of this city cast in sandstone.
Day 7 – 10: Jaipur
Book a train ride and head further west to the extravagant Rajasthan. Jaipur is the capital of the state Rajasthan. This city is also famous as ‘Old City’ or ‘Pink City’ because of its signature color of the buildings. The artistic decor and the royal architecture of this scenic city are very captivating.
There are tons of places to visit in Jaipur. First of all, make your way to the ‘City Palace’. This place has a history as old as the city of Jaipur itself. Your next stop can be ‘Hawa Mahal’ which sits at the edge of the City Palace. Built from the red and pink sandstone, it is the most noticeable monument in the city of Jaipur.
Jantar Mantar is another pride of Jaipur. Built from 19 architectural astronomical instruments, this monument features the world’s largest stone sundial.
Located at a distance of 11km from Jaipur, Amer Fort is a major tourist attraction in Rajasthan. Constructed from red sandstone and marble, this fort is at a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake.
It is best to visit Jaipur during the festival of Diwali.
Day 11 – 12: Sawai Madhopur
Take a train ride from Jaipur to Sawai Madhopur in the North. The famous tourist center here is the Ranthambore National Park. This National Park is native to many animals in India. You can take a break from the crowded city centers into exotic wildlife. Enjoy a safari through the wildlife and spot tigers, leopard, hyenas and more.
Day 13 – 17: Pushkar
After a refreshing break into the wildlife, take a train to the town of Pushkar. This town lies in the northeastern part of the state of Rajasthan. Explore the beautiful lakes and temples of the town.
You can also hike in the desert, try camel riding, horseback riding or motorbike trips. A hot-air balloon is another famous attraction for tourists.
Pushkar Fair is a famous carnival of this town that features camel races and folk performances. In 2019, this event will take place on November 1. Make sure to be there and witness the unique tradition of this place right before your eyes.
Day 18 – 21: Udaipur
After your week stays at Pushkar, you can now move to the western part of Rajasthan. There are 3 ways you can travel from Pushkar to Udaipur – via Train, Bus or Taxi. The recommendation for budget backpackers is a train ride.
The city of Udaipur has a series of artificial lakes and royal monuments. City Palace is a must visit place here. This palace overlooks the serene Lake Pichola. It is a wholesome composite of 11 palaces, gardens and terraces. You can take a relaxing boat ride in Pichola Lake. This tour takes you through the Lake Palace and Jagmandir Palace. Five days in the soothing city of Udaipur will be more than enough to get acquainted with the city’s artistic taste.
Day 22 – 26: Mumbai
Previously known as ‘Bombay’, Mumbai is the largest city in the west coast of India. Take a train ride or fly from Udaipur to Mumbai.
Visit the iconic ‘Gateway of India’ on the Mumbai Harbour waterfront. Other famous monuments of Mumbai are Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Elephanta Caves. You can take a tour of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. This museum magnificently displays a collection of ethnography and history of India. In the evenings you can take a peaceful walk in the Marine Drive by the coast. While you are at this busy city, you should take a stroll down the Chor Bazar. You can buy mementos and souvenirs here at a very cheap price.
Day 27 – 30: Goa
Now that you have visited the cultural and historically rich places of India, it is time for you to relax. Take a flight or train ride from Mumbai to Goa.
This place is very famous among the Indians as well as foreigners. You can find many other backpackers at this hub. The major attraction here is the beaches ranging from the popular Baga to the indigenous village of Agonda. Taking a walk, bike ride or a scooter ride in the Palolem and Patnem can be relaxing. Other major attractions of Goa are Dudhsagar Falls, Fort Aguada, Basilica of Bom Jesus and Anjuna Beach.
Enjoy the beaches and the coastline stay at Goa. Also, take a walk around the flea market of Anjuna and Mackie’s seasonal night bazaar. You can shop for cheapest souvenirs and clothes.
13. Backpacking alone in India
Many backpackers travel solo to other countries. If you too are planning a backpacking trip to India alone especially for a female backpacker, READ the following very carefully:
A. Staying safe in India
India is generally a peaceful country for backpacking. But yet, foreigners are prone to robbery and fraud once in a while. And if you are a female backpacker, you might be even more susceptible to such activities. If you are a solo traveler, you definitely need to practice some precautions while traveling.
- Before you travel anywhere, the first thing you should do is getting travel insurance.
- Download some essential apps on your phone or tab. Recommended ones are Airbnb, Maps.me, Google Translate, Express VPN, XE currency. They can come really handy in the worst of the situation or just living through India
- Always be careful with your belongings, especially when you’re in busy cities and areas.
- Never show all the cash you have.
- Make copies of all your important documents.
- Dress up as the locals do.
- You don’t want to be grabbing unwanted attention.
- It is better to learn basic self-defense skills. They can come handy in unexpected times.
B. Health Tips
Staying healthy in your backpacking trip might be quite challenging. Especially in India, traveler’s disease (Diarrhoea) is most common among tourists.
Follow the health tips below to stay healthy during your trip to India:
- Get vaccinated before your trip to India
- If you have allergies or certain medical conditions, always carry your medication with you
- Make sure you always avoid tap water. Waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery are very common in India.
- Make sure that the food is well prepared and cooked while eating at local vendors or street stalls. Though tempting, the food can be stale or contaminated.
- India is a hot country. Malaria spreads can be a threat. So always carry antimalarial spray with you. Use nets while sleeping. Contact your doctor if necessary.
- Carry a hand sanitizer
- Pursuing fitness exercises will be an asset.
14. Traits of a Responsible Backpacker
Travelling introduces you to new places and people, but also bounds you to some responsibilities as a traveler.
A responsible backpacker is:
- Respectful towards the people of different nationality, religion, and language
- Follows the ethics and etiquette of the place you are visiting
- Adheres to the laws and regulation of the place you are visiting
- Is humble and helpful
- Does not conduct unsociable act
- Practices proper waste disposal
- Reduces own plastic footprint
From its varying geography and landscape to a myriad of ethnicities, from its art and architecture to its complex social structure, there are millions of reasons to visit this marvelous country.
Going through this article will definitely help you get past the troubles you might come across while backpacking in India.
Have a great backpacking trip to India!! Cheers
- 1. About India | A brief introduction
- 2. A cultural segment of India
- 3. Language in India
- 4. The weather of India / Best time for Backpacking India
- 5. Visa for India
- 6. Currency
- 7. Transportation in India
- 8. Accommodation in India
- 9. Food in India
- 10. Backpacking India Budget
- 12. Backpacking India route
- 13. Backpacking alone in India
- 14. Traits of a Responsible Backpacker
- In conclusion