India is one of the most amazing places to visit. With breath-taking landscapes, bustling cities full of friendly locals, extraordinary sites and temples, this country has it all. There is so much to see in India that unless you have a couple of months to spare, it is difficult to see it all in one trip. So, to make the most of your time there, whether it’s two weeks or two months, I’d definitely recommend backpacking to visit as many places you can during your trip.
(Source: Tom Maloney, Flickr)
For a first time backpacking trip to India, I’d suggest starting with the Golden Triangle, a popular backpacking route in northern India consisting of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. These three cities are full of beautiful landmarks and will give you an unforgettable experience of Indian culture. It is really easy to get from city to city by train, which is also a great way to see the Indian countryside.
Before you go
When first planning your trip, I suggest booking openjaw flights, perhaps landing in Delhi and returning from the city in which you want to end your trip. This means you won’t have to visit the same city twice, giving yourself more time in each place. Make a rough plan of how long you want to spend in each city, but there’s no need to book your trains before you leave, as most hotel/hostel receptions are happy to help you book a few days in advance.
Before flying, you need to get an e-tourist visa online, which you can do a few days before arriving in India, however it’s best to get this sorted as soon as possible in case you have any problems with your application.
I really recommend downloading the Hostelworld app before you go. Book your first two nights or so in advance, but after that this app is amazing for booking last minute hostels or hotels, which allows for changes in your route/time you want to spend in each place.
For any backpacking trip, your life will be much easier if you pack light. For India particularly, it is important to pack lightweight trousers or long skirts, as you are usually required to cover your legs when visiting religious sites. It is also useful to have some kind of scarf or shawl to cover your shoulders, especially for women, to respect the Indian culture of not showing too much skin.
How to avoid getting sick
To avoid the notorious “Delhi belly”, do not drink any tap water. It may be ok for the locals as they are used to it but it is likely that you will get ill if you drink it. Make sure the lid on any bottled water you buy is properly sealed.
Definitely eat the Indian cuisine; the food is amazing and very affordable! Just try to visit restaurants that are busy and seem popular, and avoid street food unless it looks fresh and is prepared in front of you. Only eat fruit that you can peel in case it has been washed in untreated water.
It’s also worth taking some probiotic tablets with you (and start taking them a week before you leave) for extra protection for your stomach!
I highly recommend getting a guidebook, such as the Lonely Planet, which suggests sites, hotels, restaurants etc. These are so helpful for deciding how to fill your days. In the mean time here are a few suggestions to get you started!
In Delhi, go to the Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb. Both are immensely beautiful with so much history.
In Agra, the Taj Mahal is an obvious must-see. Set your alarm and get there just before sunrise to get the most amazing photos and avoid the crowds. It will be worth the lack of sleep, trust me!
Jaipur is famous for the incredible Amber Fort, which honestly looks like something from a fairy-tale and has amazing views as it is situated on a hill above the city. A less well-known but also unforgettable experience is Monkey Temple. A guide will show you around and help you feed the hundreds of monkeys who live there. For dinner, head to the Peacock Rooftop Restaurant for delicious local food and beautiful views.
Backpacking around the Golden Triangle will give you an unforgettable insight into this unique and intriguing country. If you have time, add more cities to your trip such as Jodhpur, or get an overnight train (a really authentic Indian experience!) to Mumbai. Wherever you go, I guarantee you will want to go back and explore India some more!