Traveling in India: A Guide

Authored By:

Ashley .

Resources for planning trips in India

  • General Travel in India:
  • Flights: Indigo and Vistara (note: both of these offer student discounts on their websites).
  • Buses: I personally didn’t mind the buses, I found that they were a lot cleaner than the trains. BUT if you are booking a bus, make sure to only buy tickets with ratings that are in the high 3-point range or above. Also, a semi-sleeper is a chair that reclines and a sleeper is a full bed.
  • Trains: Cleartrip is my favorite website and phone app for checking and purchasing train tickets. Some decent classes to try would be AC Chair Car,Executive Chair Car, Tier 1, 2, or 3. I don’t recommend Sleeper class. This is the class where you famously see it being packed with people. There won’t be AC in this class and is a seat not a bed, even though it is called sleeper class. Also Tier 1, 2, and 3 refers to the number of beds stacked on top of each other, like bunk beds. For example a cabin in Tier 3 will have three beds stacked on top of each other on each side. I recommend the upper bed in Tier 2 and Tier 3. You won’t have strangers sitting on your bed and it won’t be folded down when you get on. Don’t have open snacks lying around, especially in your bag if you are keeping your bag on the floor. Some of the trains have rats!
  • NOTE: plan and purchase your tickets far ahead in advance – especially flights! You can get really good deals when booking in advance.

Traveling outside Hyderabad

Bangalore: I liked the ISKCON temple and a lot of things are accessible by public transport here (i.e. metro and buses). I recommend staying at the Little Blue Window Hostel. Roshan owns the place and is a wonderful host. Rishikesh: Famous as the Yoga Capital of the World. There are a LOT of tourists here and people who come purely for the yoga training. I’ve heard whitewater rafting, hiking, and camping are some other activities outside of yoga and meditation that one can try. You can stay at ashrams for nominal prices, but look into the daily activities and schedules to see if this is the right thing for you. Parmarth ashram is the biggest and most famous ashram in Rishikesh and performs evening aarti on the ganges every evening. If you stay here you are expected to participate in the activities. I stayed at Sadhana Mandir Ashram for a meditation retreat, which was a little removed from the busy center of Rishikesh. 

Varanasi: spiritual capital of India and is situated on the Ganges. I enjoyed staying at Banaras hostel in Assig ghat. Assi ghat is not the most popular ghat, but still big enough to have really nice religious ceremonies. Morning aarti is around 5:30 and evening aarti is around 7. The other really popular ghats were way too crowded even though they may have had bigger ceremonies. Make sure to visit Manikarnika ghat when here. This is where they hold cremations. The market here was also really nice, but when shopping, check out the shops throughout the alleys. The shops on the main road may be overpriced.

Agra: The Taj Mahal! There are actually quite a few incredible monuments to see in Agra with beautiful architecture, but the city itself is quite the tourist trap, considering some people just come to India to see the Taj Mahal and then leave. There are a lot of scams in Agra because of the wealthy tourists that come here. 

Delhi: Delhi is one of my favorite cities I visited in India. But there were definitely some things that I wasn’t a fan of. Delhi isn’t the safest place for women and you seriously need to watch out for scams. However, the food was really incredible. The museums are great, but pretty expensive for tourists. Old City is very cool, especially the Red Fort. On the top of the front of the Red Fort is where the first speech was given on the day of independence for India. Hence, there is a speech given here every year on Independence Day and the country’s largest Independence Day parade is here. Karim’s on Side Street in Old City had the best tandoori I’ve ever had in my life. I also had the mutton korma and mutton badam pasanda with butter naan and all of these were incredible. Delhi is famously known for its street food and milk products like lassi and rasmalai. Try north Indian thali for a selection of great north Indian dishes.

Goa: famous for the most beautiful beaches in India! My favorite part of Goa was exploring other beaches. Ashwem and Querim beach are really beautiful more isolated beaches in North Goa. I stayed in Arambol and really enjoyed it there. There is a decent market in Arambol, but I thought a lot of items were a bit overpriced because Arambol is mostly Westerners. Arambol is famous for ecstatic dancing, ask around and you’ll find an event going on one night. There is also a Sweetwater (freshwater) lake around the cliff at the north side of the beach.

Munnar, Kerala: Munnar can be reached by taking a bus from Fort Cochin. Munnar is a beautiful town nestled in tea plantations. I bought the best green tea
I’ve ever had from here. Make sure to rent a motorbike here, it’s the best way to explore the landscape in the surrounding areas. There are also many beautiful
parks in this area. If you can’t rent a bike then you can rent tuk tuks and jeeps. Sharing is the best way to go for good prices.
Mysore: the home of Ashtanga yoga! Many yoga retreats, teacaher trainings, and meditation retreats/intensives take place here. Mysore is accessible from Bangalore by bus. 

Amritsar: Go for the golden temple and to see the Wagah Border (border of India and Pakistan!). I stayed at Jugaadus hostel. Dharamshala: the home of the Tibetan government in exhile. If you’re lucky enough, maybe you can visit when the Dalai Lama is in town. You can check online when he will be visiting and could potentially listen to a lecture by him. The mountains here are beautiful and it’s a great place to learn about Tibet and Tibetan culture.

When shopping…

Bargaining/bartering: never buy from a seller for the price they say, always bargain! People will try to charge you 2x, 3x or even more than what the actual cost should be. Never feel bad for saying a low price because they certainly won’t feel bad about ripping you off. But also don’t feel bad about getting ripped off or scammed by a seller. This happens to Indian folk too. My Indian friend wanted to purchase a pair of sunglasses and the seller was trying to tell him they were real ray-bans and was selling them for 2,000 rupees. No brand-name item is going to be real at a market, the price of the sunglasses should have been around 100 rupees. But if you want to pay a certain price for something, always start lower. They won’t take your first offer and you should never take theirs, especially if they insist that they are giving you the ‘friend’ or ‘local’ price.

Price Examples:

  • Anklets: 100 for two anklets (not silver or gold)
  • Cheap earrings: 10 to 50 rupees
  • Sunglasses: about 100 rupees

Do’s and Don’ts

DO: make an effort to befriend locals! You may find a great friend and they can give insight on Indian culture. Also, it is helpful to ask Indians how much you should pay for certain things before making that move.
DON’T: bring too many things when packing for India.
DO: use Ola. Some parts of India do not accept Uber and I had to use Ola for these places (i.e. Varanasi and Agra)
DON’T: buy anything at markets that are comprised of mainly foreigners or westerners! More than likely the prices are way overpriced and it will be harder to bargain prices down in these places.
DO: get your phone unlocked before you come. It is essential to have data on your phone so that you can access maps and Uber or Ola when traveling.
DO: try the street food! Of course, proceed with caution, but if a lot of locals are buying it’s probably safe and tasty.