How to Plan a Trip to India for First Timers
This article contains important tips for planning a trip to India including the best places to visit in India, the best times to go to India and advice for travelling around India on public transport.
Most travellers make the mistake of trying to see too much of India in too little time. Travelling around the country takes time and too much travel from one place to another in India will leave anyone exhausted. It is impossible to see everything in a few months so some planning is required.
India Tourist Attractions & Places to See
South India has tropical beaches, Hindu temples, vibrant cities and spicy food. Rajasthan in the West of India offers beautiful old palaces and forts as well as camel safaris in the desert. Many travellers spend months in the gorgeous Himachal Pradesh valleys, surrounded by the magnificent Himalayas. For those who really love the mountains, Ladakh is the place to go for stunning mountain scenery, high-altitude lakes and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Few want to leave India without seeing the Taj Mahal in Agra, and the holy cities such as Varanasi attract Hindu pilgrims and tourists. But between all these amazing destinations is thousands of miles of bad road, and some very slow trains.
There are so many places to see in India that it can be difficult to decide where to go. If time is limited, it is best to stick to exploring one region. One can easily spend months travelling around South India alone and still only see a small part of it. Most tourist visas allow a maximum stay of six months, which gives enough time to see a little bit of the North as well as a little bit of the South.
Travelling in India is an experience in itself but can be hard work, and although it is good to have a plan, any schedule should not be too tight. In India anything can happen and it can happen very fast, from violent political demonstrations to a statewide strike that stops buses and trains for a day or two. There are areas in India that might be unsafe for tourists from time to time, especially in Kashmir.
Best Times to Visit India
The best time to visit South India is from November to March. The southwest monsoon starts from the Keralan coast in June and moves up to cover most of the country by July. It finishes by November, but the northeast monsoon still rains on the east coast and surrounding areas from October to December.
Those who don't mind some rain can get great discounts in India's hotels during the rainy season. Many beach resorts close for the monsoon but some, such as Palolem in Goa, are open around the year.
In November and December nights can still be cool even on Goa's beaches but daytime temperatures are pleasant. Further north, however, winters get cold, and Delhi can be a surprisingly cold place to arrive to in December.
Around March it starts to get hot again and by May temperatures have become almost unbearable in south and central India. April and May are the months when most visitors move north to the mountains and hill stations, and this is the start of the high season in Himachal Pradesh and surrounding areas. The northernmost part of India, Ladakh, opens for tourism in May and the road from Manali to Leh is only open between May and October.
Best Ways to Travel Around India
Domestic flights cover many destinations although airlines are raising flight prices in India blaming increased fuel costs.
Train travel in India can be either an interesting experience and a great way to see the country and meet local people, or a complete nightmare in a hot filthy carriage filled with twice as many passengers as should be humanly possible. Tickets for cheaper classes are very cheap but travelling in the pricier air-conditioned classes makes a long train journey much more enjoyable. First class tickets can be almost as expensive as flying.
The Volvo Bus network connects many cities and is a comfortable, fairly fast way to travel by coach in India. Local buses are cheap but uncomfortable and stop every couple of minutes. There are also private buses that connect many cities and tourist destinations.
For shorter trips and sightseeing it makes sense to rent a car with a driver. And of course there is the possibility of renting a motorbike.
Good insights and helpful info for international tourists. The article should've covered tips for solo travellers tripping to Kashmir and pan India tours.