India Travel Guide
Atualizado: 4 de jul. de 2018
India is located in South Asia and it is the seventh-largest country by area and the second-largest country in terms of population (1,2 billion people). It is composed by 29 states and 7 union territories. According to Census of India 2001, India has 122 major languages and 1599 other languages. Hindi is the most spoken language, followed by English. The Indian rupee (INR) is the official currency (1€=76,72 INR as of November 30th 2017).
It is mandatory to apply for a visa to visit India. If you are a Portuguese citizen, you may apply for an e-visa some time before your trip (at least 4 days before the trip date). For the online application use this link. The steps are the following: 1) answer to a long online questionnaire; 2) upload a profile photo and a copy of the passport; 3) proceed to the online payment; 4) in 1 or 2 days you should receive an email with the visa approval, called Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA); 5) print this document and present it at the airport when arriving in India. A touristic visa valid for 60 days allows double entrances and the cost is of 50 USD. In case you want to stay for a longer time, you can apply for a 6-month visa at the Indian Embassy in Portugal and it costs 52€.
India is a huge country, so weather conditions may vary substantially from one place to another. Check further information about the best time to visit specific regions of India in this link.
A SIM card is very useful in India (anywhere actually). Data is every day more and more important and having constant access to internet can solve you several problems you might have. On top of that, the fact that Data is cheap in India, we recommend you to get your hands on a SIM card, even if you are in the country for a short period of time. We bought one from Airtel and it had 1GB/day for one month. As it was the first thing we bought in India, and at the airport, we got a bit overpriced. However, it is possible to purchase a SIM card in any Airtel shop for 800 INR/10,42€. If you are staying for more that one month, you can always recharge in any shop for much less than this price.
It is very common to travel by train in India. Alternatively, you can use the bus, the plane or even a private taxi. To know much more about transportation in India read our article.
From our experience, Indian people tend to be friendly and nice. Moreover, generally we found it as a safe country for travellers. Of course you should always be careful while travelling, and avoid situations that, to be honest, you normally avoid in your own country. Nonetheless taking photos, view your phone, asking for directions, or even start conversations with local people is okay and even appreciated. Finally, and especially in crowded cities such as New Delhi, it is quite common that local people will try to approach you and try to scam you. In order to avoid that, try to be the best informed as you can possibly be, so that you do not overprice your travel.
We spent only one and a half month in India. You can travel for a much longer period and still leave several places to visit. India is diverse, huge and takes time to travel.
Nonetheless we were able to see several parts of the Indian culture and landscape. Our plan was the following:
(A) New Delhi
(C) McLeod Ganj
Detail city by city
New Delhi (2,5 days)
New Delhi is the capital of India.
According to 2011 census, Delhi's city population was over 11 million, the second highest in India after Mumbai.
It is a perfect place to get the typical Indian experience. It is extremely crowded, chaotic and polluted city.
Arriving time: since we were coming from Portugal, we obviously arrived by airplane. If already in India, it is also possible to reach the city by train or bus from many other cities, since this is the capital city.
Sleeping time: we stayed in TG Tashkent Hotel, in the area of Paharganj. It was a good experience. Simple and clean room, good breakfast already included in the room fare and nice staff. We highly recommend it!
Eating time: since it was our first days in India, we avoid exploring traditional restaurants, especially during dinner time. For that reason we had most of our meals in our hotel and the food was delicious and not expensive.
Visiting time: three days are enough to have an idea of Delhi. On the first day we went to visit Akshardham Temple. It is a bit far from city center, but reachable by subway. From our hotel we had a direct line and it was a good experience travelling by the Delhi’s Metro. Modern, clean, safe and with air conditioning. We really enjoyed visiting Akshardham. Close to sunset time, we visited the Main Bazar. A chaotic street that fully represents Delhi’s environment. We spent the second day exploring the city in a tour drive. It was a bit expensive (1500 INR/19,54€), but really worth it, as it is a quick way of exploring both parts of the city: Old Delhi and New Delhi. Do not miss a visit to Old Delhi markets (spice and silk markets), Jama Mosque (300 INR/3,90€ for each entrance with a camera/phone/tablet) and Red Fort (500 INR/6,51€ per person). We did not enter but we stopped by for some photos. In New Delhi, we visited the Gandhi Garden, India Gate, the Parliament and the Lotus Temple (free entrance). The last one is a must go! On our last day, we spent some time in Connaught Place. It is a modern area of the city, with a nice garden surrounded by more luxurious shops and restaurants. We missed the visit of Humayun's Tomb. Some people we met told us this was a nice place to visit, although there is an entrance fee of 500 INR/6,51€ per person.
Amritsar (2,5 days)
Amritsar is an Indian city in north-western part of the country, situated in the state of Punjab with a little more than 1 millions inhabitants. It is mainly known for the Golden Temple which is the most visited religious place in India.
Being a Sikh temple it offers food and shelter for free and feeds up more than 100 thousand people every day.
Arriving time: we arrived from Delhi by train on a 6 hour-trip that we opted to do during the day in CC class. It was our first trip and it could not gone better. We were offered several typical dishes and it was delicious.
Sleeping time: we stayed in WOW Backpackers Hostel, which we do not recommend. At all. Dirty and hot rooms with no windows and disgusting bathrooms. Moreover the manager tried to scaled us in the last day. We were told about another hostel which was better. It was called Green Backpackers Hostel.
Eating time: we had an amazing experience in a local Indian restaurant called “Kesar Da Dhaba”. Surrounded by Indians, you have to “fight for your seat” at the table but then enjoy the best Thali in town!
Visiting time: Golden Temple is the main attraction in Amritsar and it was one of the most amazing places we have been so far. It is worth a visit during the day but also at night time. We regret not have eaten the famous free meal in the Golden Temple facilities. We were told the food is delicious! Wagah Border Ceremony is one of the other attractions of this city and it happens every single day. The Pakistan border is about 40 kilometres from Amritsar. We took a rickshaw (200 INR/2,60€ per person) to reach the border and then we watched the ceremony for two hours. Although quite strange, it was a funny experience.
McLeod Ganj (7 days)
McLeod Ganj is a suburb of Dharamshala in the district of Himachal Pradesh. It is known for its large population of Tibetans, being in fact a refugee place for Tibetans who left their home after China’s invasion. Moreover it is home to his holiness Dalai Lama. Due to the surrounding mountainous landscape it is a good place to have a soft trekking experience in Triund or Snowline.
Arriving time: we went to McLeod Ganj by taxi, since we had the chance to split the cost with three fellow travellers we met along the way with a cost of 1000 INR/13,03€ per person. It is also possible to go by bus and the price was a slightly cheaper (700 INR/9,12€).
Sleeping time: we stayed in Hotel Backpackers Inn. Although we were not lucky with WiFi connection, it is a place we recommend to stay. Staff and particularly the owner were very kind. The reception and restaurant were at the rooftop of the hostel with an amazing view. The rooms were spacious and nice but can be a bit cold once the external finishes are somehow rudimentary.
Eating time: at McLeod Ganj we had some good food experiences. We recommend a visit to Four Seasons Cafe, with Nepalese and Italian cuisine. Good environment and relaxing music. For a sunset we suggest a rooftop called M Restaurant. Finally, Moonpeak Espresso is a good place to have breakfast (the toasts were delicious!). As a bonus all those places have excellent wi-fi.
Visiting time: if you are fond of trekking, McLeod Ganj is a great place to visit. Triund trekking (almost 3000 meters high) or Snowline (3300 meters high) are excellent alternatives. We did a two-day trekking to Triund and we spent the night camping at the top (we rent a tent for three people for 600 INR/7,81€). In the village, Dalai Lama Temple is a must see, as well as the Tibet Museum. There you can watch several interesting videos about Tibet for 10 INR/0,13€ per person. In case you have time you may also visit the Bhagsu Waterfall, which is very close to McLeod Ganj (about half an hour walking). Moreover, we have heard that is possible to do a meditation/spiritual retreat in the near area.
Jaipur (3 days)
Jaipur is the capital of the largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan in Western India and the 10th most populated city in India. It is known as the "Pink City of India" and it forms a part of the west Golden Triangle tourist circuit along with Delhi and Agra.
Arriving time: we went to Jaipur from Delhi and by train. It lasted for 6 hours and we traveled in 2AC class. It was quite comfortable!
Sleeping time: our hotel was the Backpacker Panda Emerald. Clean room, in particular the bathroom, and nice staff. Being close to one of the main roads it tends to be a bit noisy. We also spent one night in Lazy Mozo Backpackers Hostel. Much cheaper and offering good conditions, so it a good alternative for a low budget trip.
Eating time: we recommend you a visit to the Peacock rooftop at the Pearl Palace Hotel. Nice place to take a drink during sunset time. To have a fantastic view of Hawa Mahal and take some nice pictures, Wind View Cafe is the perfect spot! For a complete Indian cuisine experience, you should try a place called Sri Shankar Bhojnalaya. An All You Can Eat Thali buffet for 300 INR/3,90€ per person. In case you want a break from Indian food, Home Cafe by Mr Beans is a wonderful place to try an Italian dish, although it was a bit pricey.
Visiting time: as a foreign tourist, it is possible to buy a composite tickets that allows you to enter in the main attractions of Jaipur: Hawa Mahal, Amber Fort, Nahargarh Fort, Jantar Mantar, Albert Hall Museum, Sisodia Rano Bag, Vidhiyadhar Bag e Gargasul Risarlat. It costs 1000 INR/13,03€ or 200 INR/2,60€ for students. We visited all the attractions, with the exceptions of the Sisodia Rano Bag and Vidhyyadhar Bag (two gardens quite far from the city center). Hawa Mahal is an interesting place, but the best is the view from the outside. Jantar Mantar is a good place to visit if you are interest in astronomy. Gargasul Risarlat is a tower with an amazing 360º view of the city, including the forts that are quite far. We highly recommend it! Regarding Albert Hall Museum we did not like. It is a museum and without a guide it lacks on impact. Finally, the forts are worth the visit, although they are quite far from the center. To visit them you will need a tuk-tuk or taxi to get there. Between the both, Nahargarh Fort is worth for its long walls where you can have a walk, while Amber Fort is an astonishing place with a beautiful palace inside.
Jodhpur (2 days)
Jodhpur is the second largest city in the Indian state of Rajasthan. This city features many palaces, forts and temples, and it is known as the "Blue City" due to this blueish colours that decorate many of the houses in the old city area.
Arriving time: we reached Jodhpur by train and we took it from Jaipur. The trip took about 6 hours.
Sleeping time: we stayed in the Castle View Home Stay. One of the best hotels we stayed during our trip. The rooms were very well decorated and the rooftop had an amazing view to the blue city and the amazing Mehrangarh Fort .
Eating time: in Jodhpur we had a good experience in a rooftop called “The Curry’s”. Nonetheless, there are rooftops everywhere in Jodhpur where you can get not only drinks but also good food.
Visiting time: it is possible to have a reasonable idea of Jodhpur in one day. The Clock Market is a must visit. Just wander in the streets of the blue city. After that, visit Jaswant Thada Temple. The entrance fee is 50 INR/0,65€. Finally, the Mehrangarh Fort is a very interesting attraction. It is possible to visit the museum and had an audioguide tour for 600 INR/7,81€. At this place one could also enjoy a zipline with 6 paths. We would have liked to do it but it was too expensive for our budget (1900 INR/24,76€).
Udaipur (1,5 days)
Udaipur, also known as the "City of Lakes," the "Venice of the East," or the "Kashmir of Rajasthan," is a major city in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It is a very popular tourist destination, for its history, culture, lakes and palaces.
Arriving time: we reached Udaipur by bus from Jodhpur. It takes about 5 to 6 hours and we booked our tickets online using Red Bus for an AC bus.
Sleeping time: we spent our night in Udaipur in Banjara Hostel. It was (again) one of the best hostels we stayed in! We highly recommend it specially the rooftop with has an amazing view and restaurant.
Eating time: to have a meal with a lake view, do not miss the Banjara Hostel rooftop, which is called Moon & Sun. Try to take a seat at the top of the rooftop, just amazing! You might have to book the only table in the last floor of the rooftop and it is a must!
Visiting time: Udaipur is the city of lakes and palaces. City Palace is a must visit, not only during day time but especially at night. It is possible to have a day-ticket for only 30 INR/0,39€ to see the building from the outside and enjoy the lake view. There you can also take a boat ride on Pichola lake. If you have time, Moonsoon Palace is an attraction on the hills. We did not had the chance to go, but we were told it is worth it. Also to get lost around the streets near the lake is always a good ideia.
Jaisalmer (4 days)
Jaisalmer, the “Golden city", is a city in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It lies in the heart of the Thar Desert (the Great Indian Desert).
Arriving time: we reached Jaisalmer by train from Jodhpur, a 6-hour journey.
Sleeping time: we stayed in Hostel Fort Side Jaisalmer. Value for money option and the common area is very pleasant, especially in the morning time when the wind creates a cool atmosphere. It is an excellent place to do laundry as you can dry your clothes in the roof and they become dry in no time.
Eating time: if you want to try typical and cheap non-veg Indian food, you should go to the local restaurant Rajasthani Dhaba. There is also another alternative inside the Jaisalmer Fort, a restaurant called The Surya. Very chilling place, delicious food and nice view of the golden city.
Visiting time: the main attraction is Jaisalmer is, of course, the camel safari in Thar Desert. It is possible to find a great variety of alternatives for the safari in the streets of Jaisalmer. We ended up doing it with our Hostel for 1500 INR/19,54€ per person, and it was an amazing experience. We visited an abandoned village in the desert and also a lake, we rode the camels twice and we camped for one night under the stars! The guides also cooked for us and the food was very tasty! Apart from the safari, the Jaisalmer Fort is a must visit. It is quite different from the other forts we have visited in the Rajasthan, since there is people living inside the fort and also a several shops and restaurants with amazing views. The entrance is free and you only pay of you want to visit a temple and a museum inside. If you have time, the Gadsisar lake is a very quite place, especially at sunset time, and it is a 10-minute walk from the Fort.
Agra (2 days)
Agra is located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and it is a major tourist destination due to the Taj Mahal and secondly the Agra Fort.
Arriving time: we went to Agra by train from Jaipur (6-hour journey).
Sleeping time: our accomodiation in Agra was the Zostel Agra. Chill and relaxed place. Zostel is a nice group but a bit pricy.
Eating time: for typical and cheap Indian food we recommend a place near Zostel called Landit Ji Bhojnalya. To have the perfect view for Taj Majal during sunset the Saniya Palace rooftop is also a nice place.
Visiting time: of course the main attraction in Agra is the famous Taj Mahal. We went there very early in the morning (the entrance is opened about 6 am). It is the best time to take pictures without so many people around. However, due to the usual fog, the best time for the pictures with the best light conditions is around 10 am, although the place is already quite crowded during that time. The foreign entrance fee is 1.000 INR/13,03€. Apart from Taj Mahal, we also recommend a walk on a boat in the lake to enjoy the back side view of Taj Mahal during sunset time. Finally, Agra Fort is another attraction. We did not had the chance to go there, but it is an interesting place (entrance fee is 550 INR/7,16€).
Varanasi (3 days)
Varanasi is a city on the banks of the Ganges in the Uttar Pradesh state of North India, A major religious hub in India, it is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism, and played an important role in the development of Buddhism.
Arriving time: we took a flight from Delhi. It is the best convenient way, although more pricy. It is also possible to use the train or the bus (there is a night bus from Agra, for instance). For the trains you should book in advance as they tend to become sold out.
Sleeping time: we stayed in Zostel Varanasi. The environment and the staff were good, although it was a bit far from the ghats (20 minutes walking). If you prefer to stay near the ghats, there are plenty of alternatives nearby. We recommend you to research for a place.
Eating time: The Keshari Restaurant is a good restaurant to try the typical Indian Thali. The food is delicious! To try South Indian food, Dosa Cafe is the place. Finally, to have an amazing and diversified breakfast go to the Brown Bread Bakery.
Visiting time: the main attraction of Varanasi are the Ghats, the margins of Ganges river, the holy river. The boat ride is mandatory, at 5 pm for the sunset and at 5 am for the sunrise. From the boat it is possible to enjoy all the spiritual activities. Also a walk in the ghats is highly recommended. Cremation places can be seen 24/7. If you have time, there is a tuk tuk tour to the most famous temples of Varanasi. We booked it in our hostel for 150 INR/1,95€ per person.
Goa (5 days)
Goa is a state in India within the coastal region known as the Konkan in Western India, and Panaji is the state's capital. Goa is a former Portuguese province, since the Portuguese overseas territory existed for about 450 years until it was annexed by India in 1961. Goa is visited by large numbers of tourists each year for its beaches, landscapes and party attractions.
Arriving time: we reached Goa by plane , since we were coming from the north of India, Varanasi, and therefore the journey would be too long and demanding by train or bus.
Sleeping time: we explored two different areas of the North Goa beaches: Anjuna Beach and Arambol Beach. In both places there are plenty of guesthouses very close to the beach, although prices tend to be higher when comparing to other cities of India. In Arambol Beach we stayed in La Cayden’s Guest House and it was a very good value for money accommodation.
Eating time: in the beach areas, the offering of restaurants by the sea is incredible. Breakfast, lunch or dinner can be taken at anytime. All of them offer similar food experiences, based on fresh fish and seafood. For instance, in Anjuna Beach we recommend Sunset Bar & Restaurant and in Arambol Beach the Mangoe’s is also a good alternative. During a visit to the capital of Goa, Panjim, do not miss a meal in the restaurant Viva Panjim, located in the area of Fontainhas, in an old Portuguese house from the colonial epoch. Try the Lemon & Honey Garlic Prawns or the Prawns Chili Fry!
Visiting time: Goa is the perfect destination to relax and have some party and the beaches from North Goa are a must visit. Apart from the ones we visited (Anjuna and Arambol Beaches), Baga Beach and Kiri Beach are also good alternatives to consider. To know more about Old Goa and the Portuguese influence in Goa, we highly recommend a tour to South Goa. Aguada Fort and Reis Magos Fort, Panaji (Church of Immaculate), Fontainhas (area full of streets with Portuguese names), and Old Goa (Bom Jesus and Church of Sao Francisco de Assis). If you are traveling for a long period and can stay more than one week in Goa we recommend you to rent a scooter (around 250 INR/3,25€ per day) and explore the area according to your preferences and pace. We did not had time to do it and highly regret it.
Munnar (3 days)
Munnar is located in Kerala and is known for the tea plantations, amazing green landscapes and trekking paths.
Arriving time: the railway system does not reach Munnar, so the bus is the best option. From Kochim, in particular Ernakulam, there are plenty of direct buses to Munnar. We took one AC bus at 9 o’clock and it took around 5 hours.
Sleeping time: we opted for Smm Cottage and we were lucky enough to have one of the best rooms. Very comfortable stay and we had the chance to meet amazing people there.
Visiting time: to enjoy the tea plantations landscapes a trekking is a must. We went on a half-day guided trekking through our Hotel and the price was 600 INR per person. There are also organized tours, by tuk-tuk, jeep or taxi, in different directions from Munnar. We recommend the Mattupetty direction, in which you can visit a tea museum, elephant park, Matuppety Dam, and the Top Station View, one the most famous attractions of Munnar.
Madurai (1 day)
We just spent 1 night in Madurai and some hours on the following day before catching the flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka. For this reason, we did not explore Madurai very deeply. We just had the chance to visit the Meenakshi Amman Temple, an Hindu holy complex that really worths a visit.
Best of India
In case we had to choose our top 3 in India, according to our experience in this country, we would vote for:
Amritsar - for the amazing experience we had in the spitirual Golden Temple;
Munnar - for the mesmerising landscapes;
Varanasi - for being so different of any place we have ever visited.
What we will not miss next time
Spending 45 days in India is certainly not enough to entirely know this huge country. Here some places we will not miss in a next visit:
Pushkar - a small town Rajasthan know for its lake, the temples and the good vibes;
Manali - to explore better the north mountains of India;
Mumbai - more than a crowded city, a place full of history and culture.
Hope you enjoy this guide we created based on our experience in India. In case you have any questions, please contact us by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).