We have just spent the past 2 months travelling India from North to South. Starting in Delhi, then onto: Agra, Varanasi, Jaipur, Goa, Kochi and finishing in Madurai. India is a vast country and we have only seen a small part of it. Here are 10 Things Expect Backpacking Through India!!
India is a huge country, and each state feels like another country with its own laws, customs, food and tradition. Although neighbouring states usually are very similar. When comparing North India to South India they are extremely different. For example, expect to be eating a lot of thali and roti in the north, and a lot more rice and dosa in the south.
Bud tip: Alcohol licensing laws vary in each state. For example, Goa is cheap and easy, but in Kerala expect some hassle finding a place to buy beer – they’re more like prisons than shops!
India is a developing country and some parts are extremely poor. This is something most people expect before hopping on the plane, but nothing can really prepare you for the slums and beggars. India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The wealth on show in some places is ridiculous. In Gurgaon we saw million pound apartments on one side of the road, and slums made from corregated iron on the other. Its hard to see such poverty, in a country that has a fully blown space program! Do not let this put you off however.
India is the second most populated country in the world with 1,266,883,598 people living there. This is a staggering number, the UK only has 64,000,000 people in comparison. Therefore expect it to be busy, very busy! The roads and markets in towns and cities are mad, especially in Delhi. The best thing to do is just embrace it. For example we took the Delhi Metro at peak hours a few times, sure we were packed in like sardines. But it was an experience, organised chaos best sums it up. The system works, everyone queues in a semi orderly fasion, and even helps each other out. Like pushing us and our bags out of a packed train when we needed to get off. This is something to be embraced rather than feared. However, if you are clostrophobic or dont like big crowds, maybe avoid the large markets and stations at peak times.
The stories you hear about how filthy India is are true (mostly), the amount of litter is staggering, especially in Delhi and Agra. Whole streets and neighbourhoods end up looking like landfill sites. However, this is isn’t the case for the whole country. Our experience in Goa and Kerala was very different, these places are much cleaner. In fact, the beach we stayed on in Goa (Agonda) was the cleanest beach I have ever been on, due to the fact it is a turtle nesting site. And we found Kochi and Alleppey (Kerala) to be much cleaner. Litter is one thing, but by far the worst problem is smog. After week in Delhi my snot had turned black. There is a permanent grey yellow fog around, which spoils any views most of the time. I can only compare the feeling to smoking a cigarrette, the whole time you are outside. My advice would be to stay the shortest amount of time in Delhi and the other large cities.
From my experience, the Indian people are lovely and very hospitable. Its hard to tell the difference between someone being friendly or just so they can sell you something. But most of the time they just want to help you and want to know where you are from, and how long you are staying etc. They will always try to help, even if they have no idea what you want! But the intent is there. The generosity we felt was amazing, for example we got invited to a birthday party of our WorkAway host’s friends. They had never met us before, but they welcomed us into their home and fed us delicious food and beer until we were stuffed!!
The national dish of the UK is chicken tikka masala, so as Brits we were very excited to try curry from the source!! India didn’t dissapoint, the food is incredible! Albeit differnet from the Indian food you would get in a curry house back home. Typically its less saucy and has more ingredients, and served with roti a wholewheat version of naan. Our favourite dish in the north is Thali, which is a large dish with 3/4 different curries, with yoghurt, rice and roti. Its a great way of trying everything. As mentioned above, the food varies across the country. In the north there is a lot of roti and thali. The south has more rice and rice based breads and pancakes (dosa). And in Goa you can get anything, its very touristy, which offers a nice break from all the curry!
Trains are largely regarded as the best way to get around India, and for good reason! They are cheap, easy and comfortable. Not to mention a great way to see the rural areas and experience the culture. Simply dont travel by any other means unless you have no other choice! Check out Kyle’s comprehensive Indian train guide for more details!
From the bright yellow and green tuk tuks of Delhi, to the multi-coloured bazaars and markets of Jaipur. India is full of life and colour. Around every corner is another great photo opportunity. Not only is the man made world colourful, the nature is beautiful colourful as well, from the turqoise and orange Kingfisher to the national bird of Inida, the peacock.
Despite all the pollution and litter, India is a beatiful country. As previously mentioned train travel is the best way to see the rural areas, the train from Varanasi to Jaipur, we saw lush green arable land and rocky outcrops. Inside the towns and cities, temples and palaces offer a break from the choas of the city. The beaches in Goa are the best I have ever seen, and the backwaters of Kerala are like nothing I have seen before.
This is linked to the poverty of the country, you can definitely tell it is a developing country. Expect frequent power cuts, some places have back up generators and some run purely on generators. Wifi speeds vary vastly from place to place, but don’t expect any fast speeds, the fastest we had was 6Mbps and slowest was 0.01Mbps. Bud top tip: get yourself a sim card ASAP, it takes a bit of a paper work to get one, but its cheap once you get one! The 4G and 3G is coverage is pretty good too, and filled in the gaps of Wifi pretty well. But dont expect any wifi or mobile data in remote areas. The roads are terrible, congested and full of pot holes, another reason to take the trains!!
This is just my top 10, if you have any other ideas, let us know in the comments below!!