The Best Way to Travel India.
India is such a huge country, there is no way to cover all of it in one trip. (Unless of course you're going for months on end, which would be fun, but also probably pretty exhausting.) India is full of life, culture, lots of honking horns, animals roaming the streets, and the best food you could ever ask for. It's chaotic and exhausting, but also beautiful and exhilarating. There's really no way to describe it. It feels like you've been transported to a completely different world, and you can't truly understand it until you've been. But believe us, you won't regret it.
Apply online for your Visa: Make sure to get an e-Tourist visa online. It's the fastest and easiest way to get your visa. You can't start your application process until 34 days before your arrival into the country. But no need to worry, because we got our application approved and our visa sent to us within 12 hours. You fill out all the information on the website, upload a copy of your passport along with a photo, and within a few days you'll receive a "visa" in the form of an email. Print that out and bring it with you, and you're good to go! You can either get a one-time visa or a multi-visit visa. We suggest getting the multi-visit visa, because it is good for 10 years and chances are you're going to want to go back.
Make a Plan: The Golden Triangle is the perfect trip for first-timers and one of the most popular travel routes in India. This is what we did (with a few more stops added on), and it was wonderful. The Golden Triangle includes New Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra. You can fly into New Delhi and spend a few days there going to Humayun's Tomb, Jama Masjid, and Ghandi's Memorial site. Then spend a few days in Jaipur, the Pink City, going to Amer Fort, Hawa Mahal, and City Palace. And finish your trip off with a day in Agra at the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Don't try to fit too much into one trip. It's better to make various trips to India than to try to fit it all in at once.
Get a driver: And get one through our friend Alison (reach out to us for her information). Honestly, she was our little Indian angel (even though she's from England). Finding her saved us a ton of hassle and made our entire trip completely smooth and enjoyable. Having a driver will completely change your experience traveling India. Our driver helped us with everything. He took us to all of the cleanest restaurants, so we never got sick. He brought us to all of the best tourist locations at the best times, so we didn't have to fight the crowds or research and create an itinerary all on our own. He made sure we got the best deals at the markets. And he was basically our own tour guide. We would 100% recommend that anyone going to India get a driver in advance. It's also incredibly cheap and you pay per day, so it doesn't matter how far you drive, it costs the same.
How to Avoid Getting Sick:
There's nothing worse than getting sick while you're traveling. Especially because you're generally only there for a limited amount of time, so getting sick means missing out on once-in-a-lifetime experiences. And from what we've heard, getting sick in India is a pretty common theme. We managed to make it through two weeks in the country without getting sick there or upon our return home, and we totally attribute it to these tips.
Only eat at restaurants that say their food is made with R.O. water.
Bring Dr. Christopher's XCeptic and Super Garlic Immune herbs. Take half of a dropper full of each every morning. It's definitely gross, but it will clean out your system, and we never once got sick during our stay or after we got home (which is very rare for first-timers to India), so we are big believers. These are actually probably essential for traveling to all foreign countries. Also, bring activated charcoal in case you do get sick. Take one and it will clear your system of all toxins and you'll be back to normal faster than you know.
Only drink bottled water. Like don't even brush your teeth with tap water. Bring your own water bottle, and fill it up with bottled water from your hotel in the morning, and then carry it around with you for the day.
Be aware of your surroundings: Generally, you should probably avoid street food, but sometimes eating street food is part of the fun. So be sure to check where you're stopping for food. Make sure there aren't flies buzzing around or the food doesn't look like it's been sitting out for hours. Only eat fruit that you can peel yourself and pick foods that are fried right in front of you. Avoid eating salads or drinking juices.
Dress modestly and conservatively. I even felt out of place wearing a short sleeve t-shirt. The culture in India is pretty conservative, so bring long pants, long sleeve shirts, and use a scarf to cover up.
They drive on the left side of the road: So if you're from the UK this might not be a big deal, but it takes some getting used to. Also, be prepared to drive into oncoming traffic. It's normal. There aren't any actual lanes (or at least no one stays in one lane). So basically the entire road is free game to any direction so long as there is space. It can be a bit terrifying and overwhelming, but the drivers are very alert and know what they're doing.
Be aware of aggressive people: People will try to haggle you and get you to buy things constantly. Little children will run up to you and ask for money or pens. Just be prepared to say no and keep walking. At most tourist stops, there are people who will offer to be your tour guide or watch your stuff, but if you accept any of these services, they're going to charge you and charge you a lot. So either set a price up front or just say no.
You might get a lot of stares: This is probably the most uncomfortable part about India. People stare at you all the time, but their stares aren't normally malicious. Don't read too much into it or stare back and keep going about your day. That being said, be aware of your surroundings, make sure no one is following you, and keep your pockets empty, so you aren't a target for pickpockets.
Be respectful at religious sites: Take off your shoes and put on their cover ups. Follow their guidelines so you don't offend anyone during your stay. Most temples and holy sites won't even let you go in if you have your shoes on or if your top is too low or your knees are showing. You don't have to pay to put your shoes away, you can just leave them outside the temple, but make sure to put them in a spot that you'll be able to find them once you come out.
Go to the Taj Mahal first thing in the morning. Wake up early and get in line before it even opens. The lighting is wonderful, and there are wayyy less people, so you're more likely to get that perfect picture. You don't need to spend to much time in Agra, because there isn't really anything else to do there other than see the Taj Mahal. We would recommend getting in the night before, sleeping there, spending the whole morning at the Taj Mahal, and then heading off to your next destination.
Play with the animals: You can't just wake up one morning and play with elephants in every country, so take advantage of the unique animal experiences India offers. If you want to spend the day on an elephant sanctuary, book a day with Elefantastic. If you're obsessed with monkeys, go to the Monkey Temple in Jaipur. But be careful, because they're pretty aggressive.
Venture out of your comfort zone and really embrace the culture. For us, that was going to Rishikesh. The drive there was definitely unlike anything we've ever experienced in our life, but once we arrived, it was such an incredible break from the hustle and bustle of the golden triangle. We stayed in an ashram, practiced yoga, and participated in various Hindu religious practices. It was incredible. We even went to the Beatles Ashram where they used to go to write their songs. We decided that Rishikesh is like the California of India, because the area is focused on health and wellness. A lot of the food is raw and vegan and really delicious. (There are a lot of places in India that are strictly vegetarian). If you want to do your Yoga Teacher Training in India, we suggest doing it here or in Goa.
Plan a safari at one of the Tiger Reserves: Even though there are hundreds of animals everywhere--monkeys, cows, pigs, dogs, camels, water buffaloes, chickens, horses--one of the most unique parts of India are the tiger reserves. We went to Jim Corbett National Park, but you could also go to Ranthambore National Park. We weren't lucky enough to actually see a tiger, but we did hear them growl, which was pretty terrifyingly awesome. But we did come across a family of wild elephants, and it was truly one of the most incredible experiences of our lives. If you go to Jim Corbett National Park, make sure to book your safari with top-rated guide Ramesh Suyal, because he made our entire experience so unique, and he is for sure the only reason we saw all of the incredible animals we saw.
Most importantly, remember to relax and have fun! India is such a special country, and it definitely holds a special place in our hearts. Sure there are a lot of things about it that can make it seems like it's too complicated to go to, but that's part of what makes it so unique and beautiful. So have fun finding beauty in the unique culture. And eat alllll the naan and paratha. We can't wait to go back!
Put on your comfy shoes, and have a blast!
What to Pack for India: