Backpacking India Travel Guide

Backpacking India… It’s a hell of an experience. I have visited India five times now, spending nearly two years backpacking across this crazy sub-continent.

When I was nineteen, following a life-changing injury, I threw all of my shit into a battered pack and caught a one way flight to Delhi, I had just $2700 to my name and was able to make this last over a year whilst backpacking in India.

The wonderful thing about backpacking India is that pretty much anybody can afford it, especially if you don’t mind being a little uncomfortable. I jumped off the deep end and hitchhiked, couchsurfed and slept rough a lot to make my travel dreams a reality but, to be honest, backpacking in India is so cheap that you don’t really need to do this… A budget of just $500 a month will go a long way when backpacking India and it’s possible to do it for far less.

beautiful destination to visit in India

Since I was nineteen, I’ve been coming back to India again and again. Often I promise myself that this will be the last time… Like many India backpacking veterans, I have a love/hate relationship with India!

A lot of backpackers visiting India end up spending almost all of their time in the traveler hubs of Goa, Hampi, Manali and Rishikesh but, to be honest, this is not the real India…

The real India can be a challenge but, for adventurous backpackers, India offers some of the most incredible exploring in all of Asia…


backpacking India

Slow travel is cheap travel.

Arriving into India

There are multiple international flights to dozens of cities in India but most backpackers arrive via Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore or Kolkata. You can also cross the Wagah border from Pakistan, cross from Nepal and Bhutan or with the correct permits, cross from South East Asia via Myanmar over the recently opened Tamu-Moreh border.

backpacking India


Entry requirements for India

Important update for Indian Tourist E-visa, April 2017: The Indian government has rolled out new visa conditions for their E-visa scheme starting April 2017.

These changes include: extending the visa length to 60 days from 30, the possibility of receiving multiple entry and a widening of the window for visa usage. For further information visit the Indian Government E-visa website . Getting into India can, sometimes, be a real pain in the ass… It’s gotten easier over the last few years and most nationalities can now get a sixty day E-visa online, prior to arrival but even sixty days travelling in India is simply not enough. Really, you want at least three months – assuming you can take the time!

Six month tourist visas can be arranged in advance but it can be tricky to get them outside of your home country; the exception is Nepal where it is still very easy to get a six month Indian visa. I managed to get an Indian visa whilst in Pakistan and oh boy… I would never try that again.

Indians like bureaucracy, for some reason, and applying for a visa from a country such as Pakistan can prove very tricky indeed. I recommend iVisa for sorting your visa ahead of time – these guys are quick, efficient and not too expensive – a good shout if you are low on time and want to get your visa sorted in advance.

backpacking India

My six week visa, issued in Pakistan


Money in India

There are lots of international ATMS but they can be tough to find once you are outside of the cities and are in more remote areas. It’s advisable to avoid small ATM transactions and get out a bunch of cash at once – just make sure you hide it well. If you need to transfer money internationally, use Transferwise, it’s the fastest and cheapest way to move money around when travelling.

You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.



Getting around India

One of the biggest challenges facing backpackers in India is simply getting around! India is a truly vast country and sometimes the travel distances are absolutely massive. I once spent thirty two hours crushed into a third class steerage carriage on a long-distance train, it was an interesting experience…

The most comfortable way to get around India is usually by internal flights but for backpackers on a budget, the trains are usually a better bet. There are also VIP tourist buses, super cheap local buses and, of course, hitchhiking is always an option.

Transport in India has suddenly got a LOT easier! Rather than just rocking up at the bus stop in the hope they will have space to fit you on, you can now book tickets in advance using 12Go.

Powered by 12Go Asia system

Read this article for more tips on how to save money while travelling in India. When you are in the cities, try to avoid catching taxis or rickshaws as this is where you are most likely to get ripped off.


Train Travel in India

When backpacking India, most travellers opt to make use of the trains (you don’t have to go third class!). In general, most backpackers in India go for the 3AC class; these are six bed cabins with air-conditioning (which is usually fucking freezing; avoid the top bunk!).

You can also opt to go for the non air-conditioned coaches but these are often rammed full of people; for short journeys it’s OK but for longer, overnight, train journeys I recommend going for 3AC. To book your train tickets, you should register online with IRCTC – avoid booking your train travel through an Indian travel agent; they will rip you off for sure.

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Train tickets tend to sell out really fast; book in advance if you can. When travelling on trains in India, take a padlock and chain to lock your backpack to something; you can usually buy one on the station from a tout for 100RS. Keep valuables in a day pack and use it as a pillow. Often when you book a train you will be put on a waiting list – provided you have booked a couple of weeks in advance and are in, say, the top fifteen you will almost always get a seat.

You must book in advance though. If travelling alone I recommend booking a ‘side upper’ berth as it has a curtain and you won’t be bothered as much. When you book your train make a note of the train number, the time it leaves, arrives and the PNR number, you will need this to get your ticket off of the PNR machine at the station or from a mobile phone.

UPDATE: 12Go is now a much better way to book train tickets.


Travelling by bus in India

In general, buses tend to have fixed prices and you buy your tickets on board. There is a ton of VIP sleeper buses set up for tourists and these are the most comfortable way to travel when there are no rail-links; beware though, due to the hairpin bends, crazy driving and shitty roads, a good night’s sleep is rare unless you have a Valium to hand.

If you’re heading off on a proper backpacking adventure and leaving the tourist zones, local bus is often the only way to travel in India. Travelling by local bus is one hell of an experience; it can be frustrating, rewarding, enlightening and sometimes simply damn hilarious.

You will meet a lot of Indians on local buses who will try to befriend you; it’s not every day they meet somebody travelling in India… Be mindful for some common scams that you might get pulled into.


Tuk Tuks in India

In general, it makes sense to get tuk tuks rather than taxis for short distances as they are usually cheaper. You must ALWAYS haggle when getting a tuk tuk or a taxi in India, otherwise you really will be taken for a ride; check out my haggling guide to learn how. I drove a multicoloured rickshaw across India, this is the best way to travel in style…

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Travelling India by Motorbike

One of the best ways to see India is from the back of a motorbike and if you have a tent with you your options vastly expand… Suddenly it’s possible to get pretty much anywhere, to live off the beaten path and to camp out in some truly stunning places. The iconic Royal Enfield is the bike of choice for most backpackers in India and you can normally buy one for around $2000. If you are travelling India by motorbike it’s well worth taking a good backpacking tent.

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Cruising through misty mountains


Hitchhiking in India

I’m a huge fan of hitchhiking and have hitched rides in over seventy countries, India can be a great place to hitch a ride but it’s not recommended if you’re a solo female traveler. It helps to have a sign and a map so you can make it 100% crystal clear where you want to be dropped. Before you get in the vehicle, make sure you clarify that you are not going to pay for the ride – some Indians will expect payment as you are a ‘rich backpacker’.


Backpacker Accommodation in India

When I first went backpacking in India, hostels did not yet exist. Instead, there was mostly cheap hotels and guesthouses available. This is still largely true but there are now some backpacker orientated hostels popping up across the country, especially in Rajasthan and around Goa. Guesthouses and commune-style accommodation can be a great experience as well; I’ve stayed in some amazing places and ended up enjoying it so much that I stayed for weeks at a time.

There is a lot of commune-style accommodation around; it tends to attract plenty of wannabe hippies but don’t give up if your first experience isn’t great, try a few of them to see if you can find a place with a vibe to suit you. Zostel is a decent backpacker hostel chain worth checking out.

Book Your India Hostel Here!


Where to Stay in India

LocationAccommodationWhy Stay Here?!
DelhiMadpackers Hostel, Jugaad HostelsMake your way to the Panchsheel area; this is where you can find the widest array of backpacker friendly accommodation. You can get a room for around $9.
VaranasiZostel, Stops Hostel, Roadhouse Hostels  If you want to be close to the action, stay in the kickass Stops Hostel in Bhelupur. For a more chilled pace, check Roadhouse Hostels over at Assi Ghat. It should cost you about $5 a night.
KhajurahoYogi Sharma Ashram, Zostel  Both are pretty awesome places to stay at for $5 a night.
AgraBackpacker Panda, Big Brother Hostel  You can get super cheap acco in Agra for close to $3 a night!
JaipurZostel, Roadhouse Hostels, The Moustache  Again, get really cheap accommodation here. If you're lucky, for under $3 a night. And you can meet a ton of fellow travellers as well.
PushkarZostel, Pappi Chulo  Pushkar is a hippie paradise so you'll find a lot of cheap and chill places in Pushkar for like $3 a night!
BundiRajmahal Guest House  I stayed in a lovely little guesthouse called  The Lake View Guesthouse - it's not online and you should try to find it. Rooms were at $6 for a huge double with bathroom.
JodhpurCosy Guest House,Royal Heritage Guest House   At around $6 a night, the brightly painted Cosy Guesthouse is definitely worth staying in as it’s a backpacker institution.
JaisalmerDylan Cafe and Guesthouse, Hotel Renuka  Get a bed in a 6 bed mixed dorm at a dollar a night! Yup, this was easily the cheapest place I stayed at, and pretty comfortable too!
UdaipurMoustache Hostel,The Journey Hostel   Shop around for accommodation as it’s possible to find good rooms for $4. You could stay at Moustache Udaipur, which is a pretty cool hostel.
BombayAnjali Homestay, Bombay Backpackers  Its a nice little hostel to stay at especially if you're using Bombay as a transit point between places. The dorm beds are priced at $10 a night.
AurangabadHotel Avon International  This is a decent property to stay at. They can also help you with figuring your transport to Ajanta and Ellora caves. You can get a room for $12.
Nashik  DS Group Serviced Apartment and  Guest House, Bramhagiri Resorts  DS Group Serviced Apartment and  Guest House, Bramhagiri Resorts
BidarHotel Mayura  There are very limited accommodation options here – I stayed in the Hotel Mayura, right next to the bus station.
BijapurHotel Pleasant Stay The cheapest accommodation is next to the bus-stand – it’s fairly horrible so I recommend staying at Pleasant Stay.
HampiMurali Homestay  Most of the best backpacker accommodation is found on the far-side of the river. So cross over and shop around a bit for great deals. You can get a bed for as cheap as $5 a night.
GoaRoadhouse Hostel, Zostel, Backpacker PandaAll good hostel chains in India have a hostel in Goa and give out dorm beds for as cheap as $4. Beware of backpacker assholes though, Goa hostels are full of them!
RishikeshBonfire Hostel Rishikesh, Zostel  You can get dorm beds for $6 but I would advise you stay at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram which is built right on the ghats.
AmritsarJugaadu's Hostel, Wow Backpackers Hostel  For roughly $5 a night you can find comfortable accommodation in a hostel in Amritsar - I like Wow Hostel.
DharamsalaBackpackers Inn, HosteLaVie You can also find tons of really cheap Tibetan family run places if you shop around a bit. We stayed at one of these for $4 a night.
ManaliThe Lost Tribe Hostel, Born Free Hostel and Cafe  The Lost Tribe is a pretty chill hostel and a great property to just kick back and chill at.
VashishtBlue Heaven  I recommend the simple rooms at Blue Heaven – a double, with bathroom, is just $4 and the views are some of the best in town.
KasolNomads HostelA pretty chill place, this is the only hostel I found in Kasol. You can look around for home stays and guesthouses for really cheap as well- sometimes for less than $2 a night.
Leh and LadakhEcology Hostel, Tsetan Guest houseGet a comfortable bed for $4 a night and wake up to misty mountain views!
SrinagarThe Shelter Group of HouseboatsForget hostel beds, rent a houseboat for $15 a night!!
BangaloreCuckoo Hostel, Electric Cats B&BGood vibe, cheap hostels at $5 a night, where you can meet a ton of fellow travellers.
KodaguHomestay KodaguThe best thing about Kodagu is arranging a homestay, I recommend Homestay Kodagu, and simply heading off into the hills on a hiking adventure
MysoreSonder, Comforts HostelStay at one of these cheap hostels at about $5 a night and do short day trips to places around Mysore.
CochinMaritime, Adams WoodhouseYou can find a lot of really nice Dutch style hostels around Fort Cochin for about $5 a night.
AlleppeyThe Wind n' Waves, Artpackers lifeYou can either check these lovely hostels around $5 a night or check into the YMCA.
MunnarNakshatra InnThere are not too many backpacker friendly places in Munnar, you'll probably have to head there and look at homestays. The hotels start at about $26 a night.
VarkalaSherin CottageThis is a really great place to stay in Varkala! Very chilled atmosphere, it's affordable, quiet & cosy.


Best Time to go Backpacking in India

Below is a general guide to India’s weather patterns, but India’s massive size means you need to closely investigate the weather patterns for your specific destination at the time of year you plan to visit. For example, some careful planning could see you travelling just in front of the monsoon as opposed to travelling in it, it could see you hitting the hill stations in the heat and the plains in the cooler months….

The “best” time to visit India is generally October to March when the weather is warm, dry and sunny. The Himalayas are cold but clear. This is peak tourist season and the time when most backpackers visit India. Around April to May, the temperatures and humidity start to increase along with periodic thunderstorms so this part of the year is when it makes the most sense to head up into the mountains. From June to September the Indian Plains are scorching and many locals retreat to hill stations to escape the heat, eventually, the cooling monsoons sweep across the country.

Be aware of the very real possibility of heat stroke and dehydration particularly if landing in Delhi. Ladakh in the far north is generally only accessible between June and September by road, but careful monitoring of conditions is necessary if you are headed that way. Road closures due to weather changes can be instant, and last for weeks. My overland journey between Manali and Leh took a horrific 35 hours when an avalanche washed away part of the road.

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Where to go Backpacking in India

After nearly a total of two years backpacking in India, I reckon I’ve only seen about half of this truly incredible, truly massive, country. The country is so big that is really does make sense to plan your backpacking route before you rock up and to focus on seeing one part of India at a time. There are plenty of amazing spots to explore but you need to be sure you choose the right spots at the right time – you don’t want to be travelling in the Great Thar Desert during summer! To make things a bit easier, I’ve popped together five different itineraries for backpacking India; these can easily be combined or added together to create a truly amazing longer trip.


Backpacking India itinerary # 1 – Spiritual Extravaganza

Duration: 3 – 5 weeks

Best time to go: November – March

Suggested route: Delhi –  Varanasi – Khajuraho – Agra – Jaipur – Pushkar – Bundi – Jodhpur – Jaisalmer – Udaipur     (3-5 weeks).

backpacking India

Rajasthan is a great introduction to backpacking India! This is an area that checks most boxes – There are plenty of chilled out sites well on the backpacker radar but if you dig a little deeper you can find isolated villages and hidden temples rarely visited by travellers. One important thing to note is that Rajasthan is damn hot… This means that you really, really want to try and explore this part of India during November to March; outside of these months it can be fairly unbearable.

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Backpacking Delhi

Many backpackers arriving in India for the first time will start their adventure in Delhi, which is unfortunate. Delhi is probably my least favourite city in the world and whilst it may have some hidden charms, I have yet to find them despite visiting the city over half a dozen times. The traffic is crazy, and driving my multicoloured rickshaw through the streets was a truly nutty and hair raising experience.

Delhi is not one of the friendliest places in India. When you arrive into Delhi’s main airport, catch a metro into town and make your way to the Panchsheel area; this is where you can find the widest array of backpacker friendly accommodation; I recommend Madpackers Hostel. In general, I recommend getting the heck out of Delhi as quickly as possible… There are plenty of much lovelier places within India to spend your time.

Check out my ultimate guide to the best hostels in Delhi.

Book Your Delhi Hostel Here!

backpacking India


Backpacking Varanasi

No trip to India is complete without a Varanasi experience… I say experience because Varanasi is totally nuts and will leave you reeling as you navigate through twisting alleys, passing holy men and funeral processions, stray cows and colourful stores selling silken saris. Make your way to the river and catch a sunset boat ride on the Ganges, the most holy river in Hinduism. On the way, make sure to pick up one of the best lassis in all of India at Blue Lassi in the market.

If you want to be close to the action, stay in the kickass Stops Hostel in Bhelupur. For a more chilled pace, check Roadhouse Hostels over at Assi Ghat. Varanasi has to be seen to be understood… I recommend spending three or four days here. There are good train links between Delhi and Varanasi and I recommend catching a sleeper train – go for 3AC class.

Book Your Varanasi Hostel Here!

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Backpacking Khajuraho

From Varanasi you should be able to catch a train directly to Khajuraho. As always you should book your ticket in advance and try to get a night train to save on accommodation. This area is famous for its hilariously erotic temples. The Yogi Sharma Ashram Lodge is a lovely place to stay. Hire bicycles as some of the main sights are spread out and it is a great way to explore.

Try to catch the temples at sunrise, they are amazing. It is possible to arrange a tuk tuk to take you to a lovely river where you can swim, ask around. Touts are persistent here and like to target fresh backpackers. I recommend staying for two to three days so you can get a well deserved break before heading onwards to Agra…

Book Your Khajuraho Hostel Here!

backpacking India


Backpacking Agra

There’s only three things worth seeing in Agra. The first and best is ‘Jonie’s Cafe’ – it offers the best, and cheapest food in all of India. The second is the Taj Mahal, it costs a whopping 1500RS to get in and this will probably continue to rise for foreign visitors in the coming years. Finally, 26km outside of Agra is the ruins of Fatehpur Sikri which is interesting if you have time but is unfortunately filled with very pushy touts.

Agra itself is a true shit-hole of a city and not to be dwelled in… From Agra you can catch a train to Jaipur but may have to change at Delhi. Two days in Agra is more than enough. You can stay at Backpacker Panda, another pretty cool hostel chain in India.

Book Your Agra Hostel Here!

backpacking India



It is often said that there is as much history in the state of Rajasthan as there is the in the rest of India combined. For sure, you could quite easily spend a month backpacking Rajasthan and never get bored and still not see everything. The main attractions are the mighty, ancient fortress’ and the lively festivals that take place. We have set out the main sites and cities in Rajasthan below. You can either visit them yourself using guesthouses and public transportation or you can find a Rajasthan tour package that will cater to all of your needs.

Backpacking Jaipur

My second least favourite city in India is undoubtedly Jaipur. Try to spend just a day here. Ajmer Palace, 12km outside of the city, is stunning. Do not miss it. The Monkey Temple (Galtaji) set beautifully into the side of a hill, make sure you go all the way up and over to the other side of the hill to find it, is also really worth a visit. There’s little else worth seeing within the city itself.

Jaipur is a great place to be during the festival of Diwali. Stay at the wonderful Zostel hostel. From Jaipur, you can catch an overnight train to Jaisalmer and work your way backwards towards Delhi across Rajasthan or jump to Pushkar.

Book Your Jaipur Hostel Here!


For more awesome places to stay during your travels check out my best hostels in Jaipur post. 


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Backpacking Pushkar

Finally, somewhere to relax now that you’ve done the obligatory sights of India! You could happily spend a week in Pushkar, exploring the many temples and the gorgeous lake within the centre of the town. Pushkar is renowned as a town of religious importance and you can’t drink or eat meat here… meaning that, of course, you can but your beer will be disguised in a teapot and will cost more. Pushkar is a shoppers paradise and is filled with thousands of stores selling pretty much everything…

There’s a strong backpacker community here, the town suffers from many a hippie-wannabe, and there’s lots of yoga and meditation classes available. Whilst exploring the lake, avoid the priest like the black plague – they are extremely skilled scammers. Do not let them place a wristband upon you, they will ask for a ridiculous payment. For a truly striking sunset, climb one of the nearby hills surrounding the town. Zostel is a great place to meet other backpackers in India or, if you want something a little less hostel-ey, check out Hotel Everest run by the friendly Bunty.

backpacking India

Pushkar has great but, very strong, Bhang (marijuana) lassis; these will knock you out if you are not careful. Every year, the famed Pushkar Camel Festival comes to town – this is a totally insane event but well worth seeing if you happen to be in India at the time; book your accommodation in advance as everything tends to sell out.  Four to five days is about right for a visit to Pushkar although its possible to linger for weeks. To get to Pushkar you must first catch a train to Ajmer and then catch a forty five minute bus onwards to Pushkar itself. From Ajmer you can catch a bus to Bundi, a logical next stop.

Book Your Pushkar Hostel Here!

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Backpacking Bundi

I loved Bundi. It’s well off the tourist radar and definitely worth visiting. I stayed in a lovely little guesthouse called simply The Lake View Guesthouse. Rooms were cheap, just $6 for a huge double with bathroom. The guesthouse is run by a lovely old man who reminded me of Yoda. You could also stay at Shivam Tourist Guesthouse – a nice and clean little place. Definitely visit the palace and the fortress atop the hill (take a stick to deter the monkeys) as well as Kipling’s house. Hire bicycles to go exploring outside the city, you will be utterly alone and this is a great chance to do some real exploring. Stay for at least three days in Bundi. For more information on Bundi, check out my Bundi destination guide.

Book Your Bundi Hostel Here!

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Backpacking Jodhpur

Although there may not be a great deal of tourist sites to visit, Jodhpur is an excellent example of a Rajasthani market town, a good wander through streets to soak up the busy vibe and colours is a must during your stay. In the state where every town has a fort Jodhpur is no exception and it’s definitely worth visiting.

It’s one of the most amazing fortresses in the world. Take the audio tour to find out plenty of awesome history about this amazing place. The brightly painted Cosy Guesthouse is definitely worth staying in as it’s a backpacker institution. I would stay for one or two days. You can catch a bus from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer.

Book Your Jodhpur Hostel Here!

backpacking India


Backpacking Jaisalmer

A giant sandcastle rising out of the desert, Jaisalmer fort is one of my favourite places in all of India and the starting point for the annual rickshaw race across India. Even better, if you’re keen to go camel trekking and to spend a night camping out in the desert with fellow backpackers, this is the place to do it! Haggle hard… The prices vary wildly!

The legal Bhang shop sells shakes and cookies – they can get you very  high and are a fun way to while away an evening; as always, be careful if you’re experimenting with drugs on the road. Not including time for a camel trek, you only need two days to explore Jaisalmer. There are good train links out of Jaisalmer. Check out this guide to Jaisalmer for more info.

Book Your Jaisalmer Hostel Here!

backpacking India


Backpacking Udaipur

What a truly wonderful place. I lingered here for almost a month when I was on my first backpacking trip to India at the age of nineteen. There are wonderful restaurants, interesting cycle rides, captivating lakes and atmospheric temples. Try to stay somewhere near the central Jagdish temple. Shop around for accommodation as it’s possible to find good rooms for $4.

You could stay at Moustache Udaipur, which is a pretty cool hostel. ‘Savage Garden’ and ‘Paradise Cafe’ are both worth visiting for top notch food. Five days is a good length of time to spend in Udaipur before catching a train back up to Delhi or travelling onwards to Goa or Mumbai. A train to Goa, via Gujurat, takes around 46 hours and I strongly recommend that nobody ever attempts this again… It was one of the most god-awful journeys of my life!

Book Your Udaipur Hostel Here!

backpacking India


Backpacking India itinerary # 2 – Off the beaten track adventures and chilled Goan parties

Duration: 2 – 4 weeks

Best time to go: October – March.

Suggested route: Bombay – Ajanta and Ellora – Nashik – Bidar – Bijapur – Hampi – Goa – Gokarna.   backpacking India Backpacking India and keen to escape the crowds? India is a big place and full of untapped adventures… This is one of the best itineraries for explorers keen to see a bit of the real India before diving into the heady parties of Goa and Gokarna. This part of India is often ignored by backpackers due to the poor transport links and very limited accommodation options. For some backpackers however this is the real deal; this is real exploring and if you persevere you will be rewarded with holy ghats, cave temples and ancient citadels; all of which you will have totally to yourself. Unless you have already been travelling in India for a while I do not recommend starting with this itinerary. Consider exploring Hampi or Rajasthan first. backpacking India


Backpacking Bombay

let’s start with the name. Nobody calls this sweltering city Mumbai anymore; the city is very much Bombay. Now that the name is out of the way, let’s get onto the city. Bombay is, in a single word, intense! If you survive Bombay you have done well! Bombay is not only dirty, crowded and full of touts, it is also the most expensive city in India and can quickly drain your bank account on account of the wild nights out… Tinder works well in Bombay. If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out this post on things to do in Bombay. 

I loved Bombay and spent over 2 weeks hanging out but I was couchsurfing and had some great friends to show me around and help keep my costs low. I highly recommend trying to make a friend in Bombay as they will show you a side of the city that most backpackers in India simply are not aware of. You should definitely brave the local trains at some point, they are packed to bursting but are a quintessential Indian backpacking experience.

Be careful with the police in Bombay, they are surprisingly hard to bribe. From Bombay, you can easily catch a train to Aurangabad; your next stop. I recommend staying at Anjali Home Stay.

Book Your Bombay Hostel Here!


Searching for more options for places to stay? Check out my guide to the 15 best hostels in Mumbai!


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Backpacking Ajanta & Ellora

The famed cave temples and dwellings of Ajanta and Ellora rival those of Petra… Huge temples and structures have been carved into the rock and occupied by holy sects for centuries, the history here is absolutely fascinating. To visit Ajanta and Ellora, you will need to make a base in Aurangabad; a quintessential middle-of-nowhere Indian town. The Hotel Shree Maya is a good place to crash and to eat, it’s a five minute walk from the train station. You’ll need a full day to visit the incredible cave temples of Ellora, travel by tuk tuk for 600RS. Be sure to make a stop at the truly awesome ruined fortress of Daulatabad, a place with a bloody and fascinating history. On day 2, take a taxi (1200RS) if in a group or a bus (150RS each way) if you are on your own to the Ajanta Caves; a collection of thirty Buddhist monasteries carved into a shoehorn of rock sitting above a lush green forest. On day 3, get the heck out of dodge (there really is fuck all to do in Aurangabad) and catch a train (6 hours) to Nashik.

Book Your Aurangabad Hostel Here!

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Backpacking Nashik

The ghats, stone steps leading down to the river for washing and praying, in Nashik are truly mesmerising and, unlike in Varanasi, there are no pushy touts looking to make a quick rupee from backpackers. If you are into your photography, Nashik is one of the best places to visit some truly untouched Ghats and to capture scenes of Indian rural life. One day in Nashik is enough; besides the ghats there isn’t much to see. I couchsurfed here and found myself in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class in the evening… such is travelling in India! If you fancy spending a second day in Nashik, there is a pleasant day hike to Trimbak which is worth checking out. From Nashik you can arrange a sleeper bus towards Goa, or if you are feeling adventurous catch a train to Gulbarga and then onwards to Bidar and Bijapur, you may have to go via Bombay. I Couchsurfed in Nashik. backpacking india


Backpacking Bidar

The epic fort in Bidar is probably one of the most untouched forts in all of Asia and, best of all, if you visit you will probably have it all to yourself. From Gulbarga, a bus (three hours) runs to Bidar, there is very limited accommodation options here – I stayed in the Hotel Mayura, right next to the bus station. Bidar Fort is filled with hidden, locked, passageways and epic buildings. If you find an attendant, you can tip him 100RS to wander around with you or, even better, simply give you the keys. The fort alone is well worth coming to Bidar for but the city itself does have some other interesting sites and is one of the most important places of pilgrimage for the Sikhs. From Bidar, it’s a seven hour, ass-bruising, bus ride to Bijapur. backpaacking india


Backpacking Bijapur

Palaces, tombs, gateways, temples and minarets, all carved from solid basalt and covered in twisting vines and flowers. The architecture in Bijapur is simply stunning and it is widely renowned as one of the most important historical cities in India, despite this it attracts very few backpackers and you are likely to have it all to yourself.

A couple of days is adequate time to see all of the sites, it could be done in one single day if you are tired of the heat and are keen to hurry on to somewhere a tad more relaxing. I recommend staying in Hotel Pleasant Stay, the cheapest accommodation is next to the bus-stand – it’s fairly horrible. From Bijapur, catch a bus to Hospet (3 – 4 hours) and from Hospet catch a thirty minute rickshaw to Hampi… backpaacking india


Backpacking Hampi

Hampi is hands-down my favourite backpacker hub in India. I’ve been a total of five times and, every time, it’s changed drastically as greedy Indian officials try to steal local land to cash in on the tourist boom here.
Local buses from Hosepur to Hampi begin running at around 7 but expect usual Indian delays. The ride takes 30 – 40 minutes and costs about 15 rupees. Tuk Tuks are available and will charge you between 200 – 400. Tuk Tuk drivers will also lie and tell that you that the busses to Hampi start at 8.00, 9.00 or even that there aren’t any at all to try and get your custom. As a rule distrust all Tuk Tuk drivers at all times in India.
Once you reach Hampi, you can stay on the main land or on the “island” which  is actually a peninsular. The main land is where the temples and shops are but is more hectic and doesn’t have the boulders. I therefore suggest doing the main land as a day trip from your base across the water. The ferry starts at 08:30 and costs 20 – 30 eps depending on how the crew feel that day.
Before 8:30 there are round, straw boats who charge 100 per person. Whilst they will take 1 person for 100 ops they will not take too for 50 each or 4 for 25 each. You can try to haggle or reason all you will but man, these fuckers are obtuse and would rather sit on their asses all morning than take you for less than 100. In the dry season you can cross the river on foot by following the locals but after monsoon, you can’t.
There are a lot of guesthouses on both sides with private shacks with shared bathroom from 300 – 400 rps. The ones nearer to the river are best avoided as they are dirty and lack any kind of soul.

The guest houses along the main drag show movies most nights. All serve the same menu (Indian, Italian, Israeli, Chinese) to a reasonable standard.

The best accommodation is however found across the fields and into the trees. When you walk up from the river go straight up, passed Sunny Travel Agency & the Ayuveyudic centre and then take a right. Follow either the dirt path, forest or paddy fields for about 5 minutes until you hit a collection of buildings.

Goan Corner is currently the most popular and booking ahead is advised. Its also however the most expensive and you will pay 250 rps simply to sleep on the roof and up to 1000 for a private. It isn’t really worth it so I therefore recommend the neighbouring Manju’s (very peaceful) or Bobbys Place where you can get a private room for 400 – you can still hang, eat and probably take a dump over at Goan Corner if you like.

Scooters can be rented cheaply in Hampi (300-400 rps), but aren’t actually necessary unless you plan on doing some serious miles around the outskirts as the main sights are in walking distance. Bicycles can also be obtained on both sides for 100 – 150 rps. I recommended joining a bike tour around the temples and ruins of the main island – they can be joined for 300 including bike, last 4 hours and cover about 9km with lots of stops – bring sun cream and water.

Hampi is famous amongst backpackers in India for its stunning paddy fields, incredible bouldering and climbing opportunities, sandstone temples and chilled vibes. It’s also a good place to settle down and meet other backpackers over a cheeky smoke. To find out more about Hampi, check out my Hampi backpacking guide. It is well worth taking a tent to Hampi; check out this post for a breakdown of the best backpacking tents. While you’re exploring Hampi you might also want to check out some other kickass places to visit in Karnataka that are off the beaten track.

Book Your Hampi Hostel Here!

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Backpacking Goa

Probably the most famous place in all of India and a magnet for hippie wannabes and all kinds of backpacker assholes, Goa is a complicated, chilled, paradoxical place that is well worth a visit no matter what you hear. The trick with Goa is making sure you find yourself upon the right beach! I’ve checked out almost every beach in Goa and my two favourites are Palolem and Patnem in the South… I recommend staying in Roadhouse Hostel on Palolem.

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Both Palolem and Patnem are pretty relaxed and, assuming you have a motorbike or a scooter, within easy reach of some of Goa’s parties. You can arrange fishing, dolphin watching and kayaking from the beach. There is a huge range of accommodation options on offer – the nicest beach huts are at Roundcube Patnem but they are a tad more expensive.

Another beach well worth a visit is Arambol beach in the North; be sure to check out the Cheeky Monkey Restaurant and, if you dig this kind of thing, catch the nightly yoga and tai-chi sessions on the beach. The Green Garden Restaurant in Arambol is super friendly and a great place to meet people – there’s lots of super cheap huts behind it.

Arambol is now very busy and the beachfront stretches on for about 4km with restaurants and bars. Many of the signs are now written ONLY in Russian. The clientele is a mixture of ageing first generation hippies, wealthy Russians and young families. However, get just a few blocks sway from the sea front and the true backpacker scene is still vibrant with dreadlocks, excessive hash and pierced gypsy chicks.

There are loads of yoga classes and meditations, there are jam nights every night and shops selling some genuine boutique items as well as the standard backpacker stuff.  If you shop around you can still get a beach front shack for 300 – 400 rps though prices spike between Christmas and February. – I suggest walking the beach from “Cliffisde” near sweet lake all the way down to Mandrem and asking door to door for prices.

Most restaurants along and around the beach are very similar and do perfectly decent Indian standards as well tantalisingly fresh fish tandooris. The best breakfast & coffee is to be found at Cool Talk cafe and Relax Inn does excellent Italian classics for when the the spicy food get too much.

The same stretch also has a great bakery called Nepali sandwich and Shimon Falafel who not surprisingly does falafel. You can also find a lot of roadside Schwarma stalls but they are so poor & inauthentic that the Middle East should really declare a Day of Rage in protest. Away from the beach and near the town, Organic Vibes does an experimental vegetarian menu and the Raw Vegan cafe does very healthy, raw, vegan food.

Other cool places to hang out & eat are Laughing Buddha, Revolution bar, or you can simply chill out at your guesthouse.

There are no big parties are Arambol itself. Morejim however is a short ride from Arambol (don’t drink/drug & ride) and has a number of club nights featuring all minds of music. That said, Arambol itself has numerous happenings every single night until around 10:30pm (midnight if its away from then main drag).

“This Is It” does tedious cover nights but the best performances are usually found at Ash, Twice in Nature and Organic Vibes (no drink or drugs). Also check out The Source as they have all kinds of wonderful & weird, hippy, dippy lets get trippy stuff going on including a twice weekly, sober afternoon rave.

Read our ultimate guide to the best hostels in Goa and our other guide on Where to stay in Goa!

Book Your Goa Hostel Here!

Backpacking Goa can easily take up several months in itself and it is a place where travellers tend to get lost, especially if they get drawn into the Goan trance scene down in Anjuna.

Backpacking Gokarna

For a taste of ‘Goa before the tourists’, many people backpacking India head to Gokarna. The main beach is quickly catching on and becoming more touristy, much like Goa, but there are plenty of smaller beaches which are only accessible by boat and are home to small communes of hippies.

Gokharna is a short way from Goa and its relatively quiet. Beaches generally act as either a warm up for or come down from the madness of India’s tourism capital. Gokharna itself is classic Indian small town with a few temples, some dirt roads and lots of cows. There are plenty of guest houses, shops, travel agencies and ATM’s to be had here and its worth a look.

However, people come here for the quiet, secluded beaches which are 6km and 150rps in a Tuk Tuk away. My personal nickname for Om Beach is Jaffa Beach as its firmly established on the Hummus trail.By day, play volleyball, explore the temples in the old town or fish upon the high seas. By night, discover the real reason that many hippies have moved to Gokarna; a better supply of mushrooms and weed.

The guest houses here range from 300 to 500rps and the quality differs drastically. Shopping around and checking them all out is strongly advised as many don’t have WI-Fi or reliable electricity and are frankly depressing. The absolute pick has to be Mooksa with its extensive grounds at the back of the cafe. Dolphin Bay is to be avoided.

Some of these places don’t even have electricity so if you’re looking for something a bit more out there – this might be it. I would recommend staying at the Zostel hostel
Kudle beach is similar again except with less Israeli’s. A beach is a beach after all right?

The necklace sellers on the beach are mostly young and pleasant but do get annoying. If you don’t intend to buy anything then make it very clear and be firm without been rude. If you say “I may buy later/tomorrow” then they will try to hold you to that.

Snakes are also very common here. I found one, 2 foot long, in my room and saw several small snakes in the jungles immediately surrounding the beach. The local staff told me they’re not poisonous but Google tells me there are some cobras around. The beach dogs are very friendly and the beach cows are generally harmless, but may try to eat your belongings. Remember, these animals are sacred in Hindu culture so respond accordingly if this happens.

Book Your Gokarna Hostel Here!

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Backpacking India itinerary # 3 – Mountains and Yoga

Duration: 4 – 6 weeks

Best time to go: May – September

Suggested route: Rishikesh – Amritsar – McLeod Ganj – Bhagsu – Manali – Vashisht – Kasol – Leh – Srinagar – Jammu.  backpacking India

The Himalayas are unlike any other part of India, mountains have always held a special place in my heart and the Indian mountains are some of the best in the world… although not quite as incredible as neighbouring Pakistan! The welcoming Sikh province of Punjab, the mountaintop temples of Leh and the war-torn meadows of Kashmir are worlds apart and yet they are all easily accessible if you journey into India’s Himalayan provinces. Be warned; travelling in the Himalayas is uncomfortable, tiring and sometimes dangerous. It is worth getting to grips with your route before you go travelling in India, planning on the road doesn’t work so well in the Himalayas as the roads have a tendency to get washed away!

I suggest heading into the Himalayas when the rest of India becomes too hot to handle, I prefer to hang out in the lower Himalayas between May and June. July to August is the best time of year to travel in Ladakh and Kashmir. There are many, many more spots within the Himalayas that I strongly recommend checking out, this itinerary just covers some of the best options…

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Backpacking Rishikesh

Famous since the Beatles first rocked up here and got stuck into an Ashram, Rishikesh is a popular stop with yogis backpacking India and is well worth checking out, even if you are not into yoga. Catch a train from Delhi to Haridwar and then catch a bus (one hour) onwards to Rishikesh bus station – from here, you will then need to get a tuk tuk to drop you near Lakshman Jhula, cross the bridge and find a place to crash.

There are lots of cheap backpacker accommodation options around, I recommend staying at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram which is near Ram Jhula. You should definitely eat at the awesome Beatles Cafe, Ira’s Tea, and Ramana’s Café. Check this list for more recommendations.

Whilst in Rishikesh, hire mopeds for 300RS a day and go exploring. The foot-traffic within Rishikesh of thousands of pilgrims can be quite intense but once you are over the bridge and happily zipping along the mountains roads it’s a lot of fun. You can also arrange to go white water rafting in Rishikesh.

I recommend three or four days in Rishikesh. There are loads of Yoga and Meditation courses available ranging from a matter of days to entire months. Oh, and “The Beatles Ashram” is now an urban art museum which is well worth checking out. From Rishikesh you can reach the incredible Valley of Flowers. I recommend taking around 3 days to make stops along the way. Trust me, it’s so worth it. From Haridwar you can catch a train to Amritsar.

Book Your Rishikesh Hostel Here!

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Backpacking Amritsar

The Golden Temple, the most sacred temple in the Sikh faith, is simply breathtaking. Sikhism welcomes all and you can stay for free in the golden temple dorms. Wander around until someone shows you where to go. Ask the temple guards if unsure. Keeping with the spirit of Sikh hospitality, you can also get free food at the temple all day long. You should visit the Wagah border ceremony in the evening and have a giggle at the ridiculous flag ceremony performed by soldiers from the Indian and Pakistani armed forces… It’s better from the Pakistani side! You can, if you already have your visa sorted, cross the Wagah Border from India to Pakistan. One full day in Amritsar is enough as it’s very hot. After a night in the temple dorm you can catch an early morning bus to McLeod Ganj. For more info, check out my amigos guide to Amritsar.

Book Your Amritsar Hostel Here!

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The Golden Temple at night


Backpacking McLeod Ganj

Home to the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan’s in Exile, McLeod Ganj (or little Tibet) is a chilled place to spend a couple of days among the Tibetan people and is a great place to pick up souvenirs. There are many interesting day hikes around the area. I would recommend staying at Backpackers Inn but you can find tons of really cheap Tibetan family run places if you shop around a bit. We stayed at one of these for 250RS a night. McLeod is pretty small and a few days here should be more than enough unless you are doing yoga or choose to get involved with a charity. There are several projects for volunteers here working with Tibetan refugees, be sure to check out Tibetan World where you can sign up for hour long language exchanges with the Tibetan monks, who are always keen to improve their English. The Black Tent cafe does a great Tibetan breakfast, for evening drinks check out Carpe Diem.

Book Your McLeodGanj Hostel Here!

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Backpacking Bhagsu and Dharamkot

Just a short twenty minute walk from McLeod Ganj is the backpacker hub of Bhagsu. Lower Bhagsu is pretty modernised and my advice is to keep going up the hill. Bhagsu is an Indian backpackers paradise with hand made crafts, tie-dye clothing and Didgeridoo lessons at every turn. The area is very popular with Israeli’s and there is even a Hebrew book exchange. In the evenings, head along the stone paths into the hills and follow the music and the scent of ganja, there are many little cafe’s and lodges along the trail where musicians jam into the early hours of the morning. Bring a torch as finding you way back after dark could be a challenge on a night with no moon! There are some great treks that can be done from Bhagsu without a guide; the most popular is Triund which only takes about three or four hours and is manageable even for newbie trekkers. You can rent a tent to sleep in at the summit, it gets cold so bring layers if you have them.

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Backpacking Old Manali

Arriving into Manali, you will be dropped in the main bus station in the modern part of the town, whatever you do; don’t stay here! The real Manali is still a couple of kilometers away and you can choose between basing yourself in Old Manali or Vashisht. Old Manali is far busier than Vashisht and definitely the place to base yourself if you want to party. In Old Manali, The ‘Blue Elephant Cafe’ is a great place to catch breakfast. ‘Dylan’s Toasted and Roasted’ does great deserts and has a movie room. The marijuana in Manali is amazing and freely grows everywhere. Manali is an adventurer’s paradise and you can arrange white water rafting, paragliding, zorbing and canyoning… or, you could just get blazed all day. If you have plenty of time, it’s worth checking out both Old Manali and Vashisht, if you’re short on time, you’ll have to choose…

Book Your Manali Hostel Here!

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Backpacking Vashisht

If, like me, you prefer to simply chill with a cheeky smoke and watch the mountains, Vashisht is the place to go. Old Manali is great but, recently, it’s become overrun with large hordes of party-orientated backpackers, usually from Israel. Vashist is just a fifteen minute, 50RS tuk tuk ride from Old Manali.

Vashisht is roughly set across the valley opposite Old Manali and is kind of like its little brother. The small town is much quieter than Old Manali and therefore a fantastic place to stay if you want some peace and tranquility. There is a hot spring at the top of town and daily religious processions where you can watch devout locals fall into a state of trance. The Rasta Cafe is a great place to hang out and is famed for its Special Lassis (be warned, they can be very strong). Accommodation can be found from between 200 – 400RS for a double room if you are willing to go door to door and haggle and you can sometimes even bag a room with a stunning mountain view. I recommend the simple rooms at Blue Heaven – a double, with bathroom, is just 250RS and the views are some of the best in town.

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From Vashisht, you could consider getting hold of a Royal Enfield and exploring the Spiti Valley or, if you are short on time and funds, you can begin the epic journey to Leh in Ladakh. The overnight minibus is supposed to take at least eighteen hours but when I did it, it took closer to thirty six hours due to landslides… It was an awful journey but, ultimately, was so worth it. You can fly to Leh but, well, the bus journey is a rite of passage when backpacking India so you should do it, the views can be stunning if there is no cloud cover. Remember to take diamox with you to combat altitude sickness. Alternatively, from Vashisht, you can head to Kasol for some easy treks within the lower himalayas.

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Backpacking Kasol

The town of Kasol can be reached by a five to six hour bus ride from Manali for 200RS. Kasol has soared in popularity in the last few years and is now rivalling Manali as the backpacker hub for Himachal Pradesh. Depending on how long you spent in Manali, it is definitely worth heading here for a few nights if you have the time. Kasol itself is largely popular with Israeli travellers and you will see many a hippie wannabe, from all nationalities, clad head to toe in hilariously impractical gear they have bought from the many stores selling hippy dippy shit upon every corner.

If you’re into shopping, you will probably love Kasol. It’s a good place to pick up quality clay chillums – 120RS – anyway. Kasol itself is, like Manali, famed for it’s marijuana and it’s laid back backpacker vibe. There are many day-hikes and longer multi-day treks that can be attempted from around Kasol. For a full run down of chilled out places to visit in the area have a good look at the Kasol and Around guide by Drifter Planet.

Book Your Kasol Hostel Here!

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Backpacking Kalga and Kheerganga

From Kasol, you can catch a minivan up into the mountains and trek for forty five minutes to reach the truly serene village of Kalga.  It’s well worth spending a couple of days here, hanging out in the very chilled Sunset Cafe (RS 250 for a double) run by the unendingly friendly Nepalese manager, Hans – he is a man of many names.

From Kalga, most backpackers head off on the six hour hike to Kheerganga where you can bathe in a hot spring said to be one of Lord Shiva‘s favourite places to relax after a hard day’s destroying. Kheerganga itself has, sadly, been hit with rapid unchecked development and is not a particularly nice place to stay – accommodation is crowded, dirty and overpriced. If you have a tent, bring it. Kheerganga might have some of the most disgusting toilets in all of India, no easy accomplishment. Despite this, it’s well worth spending one night in Kheerganga to see the stunning night’s sky at elevation; the lack of light pollution makes for some soul stirring star watching.

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Backpacking Leh and Ladakh

Arriving into Leh’s main bus stand, make a beeline for Upper Changspa, home to the best value backpacker accommodation in Leh, I recommend crashing in the Samba Guesthouse. There is a huge amount to do in Leh; start off by visiting the striking palace and the massive Stupa and be sure to check out the Donkey Sanctuary as well. There is a lot of trekking in Ladakh although there is very limited information in the backpacking India lonely planet. There are many Buddhist sites around Leh that can be visited as an easy day-trip. Ladakh and Kashmir are truly fantastic places to have your own transport, i.e. a motorbike, but if you don’t, it’s possible to hitchhike in Ladakh relatively easily.

Book Your Leh Hostel Here!

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Two day hike from Leh

Keen to see some of the Ladakhi mountains, I thumbed a lift to Zingchen (which took forever because nobody was going that way) and spent six hours walking into the mountains towards Rumbak, crossing the river many times as I followed the frequently weaving, sometimes disappearing, path. Rocking up to Rumbak, I was able to arrange a homestay in a matter of minutes for 450RS per person which included plenty of food. The next day, waking early, I took some diamox and assaulted an endless switchbacking trail up to a 4800 metre pass. I spent a few frozen moments on top, watching the prayer flags flap fiercely in the wind and then made my way down the other side to Stok where I caught the 5pm bus back to Leh. I carried warm clothes, chlorine tablets for purifying water, diamox for altitude sickness and emergency food… Rumbak to Stok took me seven hours, I didn’t have a map and I was fairly lost on a couple of occasions.

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Backpacking Srinagar

From Leh, you can take a jeep for a whopping 2200RS per person to Srinagar or you can fly. I would recommend flying… or avoiding Srinagar all together! I visited Srinagar as one of the very last stops on my first fourteen month adventure in India and by the time I got there I was totally broke… Unfortunately, without cash, it’s pretty difficult to see Kashmir as you really do need your own transport or to book yourself onto jeep tours which tend to start at around 2000RS a day. In Srinagar, the one must-try experience, in my opinion, is to explore the lake by shikara. The lake is truly gorgeous and a peaceful place to spend an afternoon exploring. From Srinagar, you can catch a bus down to Amritsar or fly to Delhi.

Book Your Srinagar Hostel Here!

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Backpacking India itinerary # 4 – Exploring the South

Duration: 3 – 5 weeks

Best time to go: November – March

Suggested route: Bangalore – Kodagu – Mysore – Fort Cochin – Alleppey – Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary – Munnar –  Varkala.

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Southern India is, for the most part, super laid back… The people are fairly relaxed and less interested in taking advantage of ‘rich foreigners’ backpacking India. There is a huge amount to see in Southern India; from elegant cities and backpacker beach communities to old colonial towns and teeming wildlife reserves. I recommend spending at least a month in the South of India, if you only have a short while in India you may want to consider flying into Bangalore and exploring the south for a couple of weeks before heading up towards Hampi and Goa.


Backpacking Bangalore

It’s big, it’s dirty, it’s expensive but heck, it’s fast becoming famous as a crazy place to go on a night out whilst backpacking India.

Bangalore is something of a boom town in India and has firmly established itself as the centre of the sub-continents mega tech industry. If you live in the UK, Europe or the US there is a good chance your telecommunications provider is based here, and it’s only polite to drop in and vocalise your complaint in person right.? That doesn’t mean that they have good Wifi in Bangalore though because they don’t!

Bangalore was chosen as a regional administrative centre for Karmakata by the British who found that the lush scenery and year round pleasant climate reminded them of an English summer. There are however, relatively few colonial buildings left and the city is something of a typical modern Indian city; unplanned, chaotic and ugly.

That said it is for me, much more tolerable than Mumbai and Delhi; you will get far less hassle and meet with less scams. Because of its booming tech and business scene, the city also has a young, educated, enterprising crowd who are in many ways the cream of India’s youthful crop. There are lots of micro pubs, some great places to eat, and a few clubs putting on gigs and electronic music nights.

For a kick ass Mutton Biryani, check out the ever busy and beautifully basic Shivaji Military kitchen in Banashankari and for a classic South Indian breakfast of rice cakes head to Sree Krishna Cafe in Koramangala.

For nightlife, Indiranagar area is the best. Humming Tree does gigs, techno nights and even serves food on its top floor.
If you’re exploring South India then you should consider flying into Bangalore instead of the disappointing, punishing shit hole that is Mumbai. International flights are regular and affordable and the taxi drivers outsider less thieverous. Hampi is reached by an overnight bus ride (400 – 800 rps) and Mysore is only 4- 5 hours away (300rps).

Book Your Bangalore Hostel Here!

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Backpacking Kodagu

A six hour bus journey from Bangalore lies the largely unexplored Kodagu region. Although Lonely Planet claims to have been to Kodagu the information in the book is so point blank wrong that I find this hard to believe. This is real exploring territory. It is easy to arrange a homestay once you reach the administrative capital of Madikeri. From Madikeri it is worth taking the hour long bus to Bylakuppe to visit a Tibetan colony. Nearby to Bylakuppe is the Dubare forest reserve  where you can feed and bathe elephants. The best thing about Kodagu is arranging a homestay, I recommend Homestay Kodagu, and simply heading off into the hills on a hiking adventure…  A bus to Mysore from Kodagu takes about four hours. It is one of the most romantic destinations in India. Read this article for the top romantic destinations in India.

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Backpacking Mysore

Mysore is a truly ancient city and it still has a real feel of the British Raj about it. You should definitely visit Chamundi Hill, climb the thousands of steps if you fancy a workout. The imposing Mysore Palace is well worth an afternoon and, if you can find them, there is word of underground parties in Mysore by night. Srirangapatna makes a great day trip from Mysore. Mysore is, hands down, my favourite city in all of India… Saying that, it’s still a city, in India and so you might want to do a runner after a few days to the more chilled out coast.

Book Your Mysore Hostel Here!

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Backpacking Fort Kochi

Famed for the ancient Chinese fishing nets lining the short, Fort Kochi is a great place to chill out for a couple of days. To get away from Fort Kochi, you must first travel to Ernakulam so that you can catch onwards transport (two hours by bus) to Alleppey.

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Backpacking Alleppey

There’s only one real reason to come to Alleppey when backpacking India… to arrange a trip on a houseboat and explore the backwaters. A three day, two night jaunt is the standard and when haggling for the rental make sure food is included in the price. There are hundreds of houseboats so take your time choosing and make sure to haggle. Check out this list of awesome Houseboats on the backwaters. If you do end up having to stay in the town there is a YMCA. Just outside of Alleppey is a little known but very beautiful stretch of beach and some interesting villages easily explored by bicycle.

Book Your Alleppey Hostel Here!

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Backpacking Munnar and Periyar

By now, you’re probably a bit stressed and need some time out, never fear; simply get your ass to Periyar wildlife sanctuary. To get to Periyar you must first head towards the town of Kumily. Once there head to the Klaus Guesthouse, it’s a bit expensive but wonderfully relaxing and the lovely German owner, Klaus, will offer you a joint quite frequently. Alternatively, stay in the backpacker friendly Artpackers.Life. Bank to spend a week between Periyar and nearby Munnar as you cycle, hike and drink way too much coffee. There are buses to Periyar from both Ernakulam and Alleppey.

Book Your Munnar Hostel Here!

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Backpacking Varkala

The very tip of India, Varkala is reachable by train from Alleppey (three hours) and the train line does in fact run all the way to Bangalore. Varkala is a lovely stretch of sand and restaurant shacks but sadly suffers from a crowd of rather pushy shop owners. Vedanta Wake Up is excellent value. If you have your own transport, you can explore some of the surrounding, quieter, beaches where it’s possible to camp without being bothered…

Book Your Varkala Hostel Here!

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The Best Travel Backpack?!

Pssssst! Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Our favourite carry on backpack is the Nomatic Travel Backpack.

Check out this post to read our full review!


Must try experiences when travelling in India

India is a truly weird and wonderful country, travelling in India is totally unlike travelling anywhere else – this is a subcontinent comprised of 29 states, each of which could be, and once was, it’s own country. When backpacking India, you will be assailed on all sides by mind boggling sights, sounds, smells and tastes… Here are a few must try experiences whilst travelling in India…

1. Try the street food backpacking India Eating plenty of street food is one of the best ways to stretch your budget and you can pick up meals for as little as 10RS in some places… Indian street food can be truly fantastic; I highly recommend Masala Dosa. Try to pick a vendor with lots of Indian customers, they usually have the best food. If you are a vegetarian, check out this article for top vegetarian street food to try in Delhi.

2. Visit a Hindu temple backpacking India India is absolutely full of stunning temple ruins, my favourites are in Khajuraho and Hampi, but it’s not just the ancient temples that should appeal. For a taste of something a little bit different, check out a Hindu temple that is still running; some of the best ones are in Udaipur.

3. Couchsurf with the Sikhs backpacking India Couchsurfing in India is a great way to keep your costs down and to get to know the local people. The Sikhs are some of the most hospitable people in India and whilst travelling in India I was frequently invited to stay by turbanned fellows sporting mighty fine mustaches. These guys were almost always unbelievably hospitable and kind. Turn to Couchsurfing to help keep your costs down whilst backpacking in India.

4. Attend a festival backpacking India India is world famous for it’s truly amazing festivals, my favourites of which are Diwali, the festival of light and Holi, the paint throwing festival. There are tons of festivals in India, check out this timetable for more info, so be sure to catch one whilst backpacking India.

5. Travel India with your own transport backpacking India The best way to see the real India is to travel with your own transport. I’ve motorbiked extensively across India and, more recently, drove a rickshaw 2500km across the country. Even if you just hire a scooter for a day, travelling with your own transport in India is the best way to peel back the layers and get to grips with this amazing country.

6. Try a real adventure

backpacking India

Off beat trekking in India

The backpacker enclaves of Hampi, Goa and Manali are always full of backpackers chatting shit about how much they love India… the only thing is; this isn’t the real India. The real India can be tough, it can be challenging but it is also one of the most rewarding budget travel destinations in the world and, if you take the time to get off the beaten track, to hit the road and to go on a proper adventure you won’t regret it.

Best of all, when the real India has tired you out, then you can make a run for one of the backpacker enclaves… Click here for more ideas on awesome places to visit whilst backpacking India. India is a good place to have a tent as it really opens up a ton of off the beaten path options… If you really want to head off into the wilderness; take a backpacking stove. 

6. Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurvedic medicine has been practiced in India for over 5000 years. The underlying principle is to treat a patient as a whole rather than merely addressing symptoms and to obtain the full benefits a patient should adapt the Ayurvedic lifestyle suited to their body. Ayurvedic medicine uses a combination of diet, herbal remedies and treatments ranging from massage, induced purging and bloodletting!

The ancient practice is becoming increasingly popular amongst westerns disillusioned with conventional medicine and you can now find many Ayurvedic clinics and pharmacies all over India. If you are considering trying some treatment, please make sure you find reputable clinic with fully qualified, MD, Doctors. We visited one such Ayurvedic clinic in Goa where the Doctors trained for over 8 years.


Wildlife in India

India has an amazingly rich variety of wildlife. Apart from the endless hordes of cows, buffaloes and goats lining up on busy crowded streets, you can also find monkeys gallivanting around many cities. There are a ton of wildlife intensive national parks, the most popular being Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan and Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh which is where Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book was inspired from. Ranthambore is one of the best spots in the world to spot tigers – India’s national animal.

At Kaziranga National Park in Assam you can spot giant Indian elephants, deer, tons of birds and if you are lucky, the super rare one-horned rhinoceros. Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand is home to tigers, sloth bears and peacocks, which are absolutely magnificent birds! If you’re feeling adventurous, you could also plan a trekking trip to Agumbe which is about 7 hours from Bangalore and spot giant king cobras- one of the world’s most poisonous snakes. B

e mindful of blood sucking leeches while trekking anywhere in India. Please respect the animals and do not litter when you go to any of the national parks. You could also take up volunteering in one of the National Parks if you want to stay a little longer or bring your camping hammock and sleep for free …


Backpacking Travel Costs in India

So how much does it cost to go backpacking in India? The good news is that India is one of the cheapest countries in the world to go travelling if you’re smart with your money it’s possible to travel in India on a budget of just $10 a day, even less if you haggle like a pro. The trick to super cheap backpacking in India is to travel slow. The faster you travel, the more it will cost. In general, it’s likely you will spend between $15 – $35 a day depending on how comfortable you want to be. Average room cost: $2 – $5  Average meal cost:  $1 – $3 (less if you eat street food) Twelve hour train journey in 3AC sleeper class: $16.50  Entrance to a site cost: $3.50 for foreigners These prices are based on the current exchange rate of 68 rupees to the dollar.


What to Pack for India

On every adventure, there are five things I never go traveling without:

AR Security Belt

1. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.


2.Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!


AR microfibre towel

3. Microfibre TowelIt’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.


Headlamp4. HeadtorchI would never travel without a headtorch. Even if you only end up using it once, a decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must. Currently, I’m using the Petzl LED headlamp with red light (which insects can’t see).


Hammock for backpackers5. HammockTaking a tent backpacking is not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy (chicks dig hammocks) and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colorful and tough.


For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out my full backpacking packing list.

Also see this helpful list of what to bring and what to wear in India

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Top tips for broke backpackers in India

Normally, my top three tips for budget travel are to hitchhike, camp and cook your own food but in India, food, transport and accommodation are already so cheap that this is not really necessary unless you are backpacking India on a budget of just a couple of dollars a day. Don’t get me wrong – it is totally possible to travel in India with almost no money, I’ve done it, but it’s also possible to go travelling in India on a modest budget and still travel in relative style.

Local Transport: India is home to over one billion people and since this is a highly religious country and there are plenty of pilgrimages going on, many of India’s people need to travel great distances on just a few rupees. Indian local transportation is some of the best in the developing world and although journeys can be long and uncomfortable it is possible to get from the top of India to the bottom on the cheap. The sleeper trains are a great way to travel around India cheaply and the buses are a decent second option. Avoid buses and train carriage that are specifically for tourists; they will always cost more.

Couchsurf: Accommodation in India varies wildly in quality and cost but, in general, you can find a quality room for just a couple of dollars – especially if you are in a backpacker hub. It can be harder when you are out exploring the wild side of India but, as always, Couchsurfing comes to the rescue. I couchsurfed in India about twenty times and it was a great way to cut down on costs – just be careful when picking a host; you want somebody with plenty of positive reviews.

Haggle: India is the worst country I have ever been to from the point of view of people trying to rip me off… Even when the price of an item is clearly printed on the packaging, some unscrupulous motherfuckers will try to charge three times as much. India is a country where you simply must haggle for almost everything – accommodation, tuk tuks, street food, souvenirs… All can be haggled down. Check out the haggling section for more info.

Become an expert: Learn the secrets to unlocking sustainable long term travel.

Pack a travel water bottle  and save money every day! 

Check out this post for some more India travel tips. 


If you are in North India, here are a few phrases that will help you get by:

Hello – Namaste (When talking to the younger generation, I would suggest you stick to a simple ‘hi/hello’ as these are used colloquially instead of a stiff, formal namaste which i usually reserved for the elders)

My name is ___________- Mera naam __________ hai.

How are you? – Aap kaise hain?

I’m fine. – Main theek hun.

I don’t speak Hindi – Mujhe hindi nahi aati.

No plastic bag – koee plaastik kee thailee nahin

No straw please – nahin puaal krpaya

No plastic cutlery please – koee plaastik katalaree krpaya

Cold = Thanda/ Hot = Garam          

Where is the bathroom? – Bathroom kidhar hai?/ Bathroom kahan hai? (Your stomach will thank you for knowing this.)

How much does this cost? – Yeh kitne ka hai?  

I want water- Mujhe paani Chahiye  

This is too expensive – Ye bahut mehenga hai        

Make your price less – Bhaav (or daam) kam karo                   

Help! – Bachao!

I do not know – Mujhe nahi pata

Idiot/ Dumbfuck – Chutiya

Stop – Ruko

Okay/good/whatever – Theek hai

Please/ Sorry/ Excuse me/ Taxi/ Train/ Bus/ Plane are all things you can say in English and people will get you just fine!


Female Travellers in India

Time to touch on a touchy topic… Backpacking India can be challenging. This is a country where foreigners are perceived to have a lot of money and in some parts of India ripping off tourists is almost a national sport. This comes with the territory; India is one of the cheapest countries in the world to go travelling and it can’t, unfortunately, all be sunshine and rainbows. backpacking India

One of the biggest problems with India is the attitude of many Indian men towards women, especially foreigners. I’ve met many female backpackers who have encountered some sort of problem at one time or another whilst travelling in India. A lot of Indians are simply fascinated by tourists and, for many, the ultimate dream is to snag a western girlfriend who can get them out of the country. Sadly, the average Indian’s seduction techniques appear to be limited to awkward conversation and the occasional attempted grope.

Having some self defense skills when you’re on the road, or off it, is always worthwhile and in my opinion everybody should have a go at training in martial art at least once in their lives. I’ve met many kick ass ladies who have travelled India by themselves and I’ve asked a whole bunch of them for their advice on the matter… For even more tips on how to travel the world fearlessly as a kick ass solo female, check out my mate Teacake’s Top Tips for How to Travel Safely as a Women – she is a legend and I have a huge adventure crush on her.

Check out Emily’s post on the most lady-friendly destinations in India for solo female travelers.


Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in India

backpacking India

Marijuana is widely available across most of India and it’s also possible to pick up psychedelics in places like Goa. Tinder works in India and is a great way to meet people, especially in some of the bigger, more modern cities. Read up on drugs on the road before getting stuck in. Check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst backpacking.


Volunteer in India

Long term travel is awesome. Giving back is awesome too. For backpackers looking to travel long-term on a budget in India whilst making a real impact on local communities, look no further than World Packers. World Packers is an excellent platform connecting travelers with meaningful volunteer positions throughout the world.

In exchange for a few hours of work each day, your room and board are covered.

Backpackers can spend long periods of time volunteering in an awesome place without spending any money. Meaningful life and travel experiences are rooted in stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world of a purposeful project. World Packers opens the doors for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, NGOs and eco-projects around the world. Broke Backpacker readers get a special discount of $20 – just use this discount code  BROKEBACKPACKER and membership is discounted from $49 a year to $29.


Living in India

Perhaps one of the best options for backpackers wanting to explore India long-term and experience living in this truly incredible country is to get a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course online. TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching english abroad.

Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Alternatively, if you want to find a cheap way to stay in this incredible country for as long as possible, check out Workaway – for just $29 a year you get access to literally thousands of projects around the world where you can volunteer in exchange for food and accommodation.


Useful apps to download before travelling to India

There’s a few apps which I absolutely swear by when travelling the world. Almost all backpackers these days have a phone and you can make your travels that little bit easier by installing the following adventure friendly apps… Hand’s down the best offline maps app on the market, and it’s free! I’ve used this baby in the mountains of Pakistan, the deserts of India and the jungles of Thailand; it works when all over map apps tend to fail.

VPN: Surfing the web with privacy is important and, in some countries, the government is watching your every move. In countries like Iran or China a VPN is actually required just to be able to get on to sites Facebook. I’ve used a whole bunch of VPNs around the world and I recommend Hide Me which is one of the fastest and most reliable options out there. This particular VPN allows for up to five connections which is handy for keeping all your devices connected without having to purchase multiple VPN packages.

Airbnb: Stay somewhere a little bit classy with Airbnb – here’s a cheeky code to get you $35 off your next stay. If you’ve stayed with Airbnb before, it’s still possible to use this coupon and get $35 off – read this article to find out how.

Skype: The cheapest way to get in touch with friends back home or your bank when they mistakenly cancel your card because you’ve been using it at 3am to buy a bottle of Rum in Absurdistan.

Xe: The best currency conversion app around.


Books to read when travelling to India

You will get so much more out of your backpacking trip to India if you read up a bit whilst out there… Luckily, India has to be one of the most written about destinations in the world and there are some fantastic books out there, here are a few of my favourites.

The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free! Get your copy here. 

Shantaram: The first book I ever read on India, Shantaram inspired me to book a one way flight to Delhi and travel around India for 14 months. The book follows the possibly true, possibly exaggerated, story of an escaped Australian convict who finds his way to India where he falls in love, works for gangsters, fights the Russians in Afghanistan, gets imprisoned in Bombay, becomes a professional forger and an amateur doctor and experiences life in an Indian slum. The book is extremely well written and paints an accurate, although somewhat rosy, picture of life in India.

Last Man in the Tower: 21st Century Mumbai is a city of new money and soaring real estate, and property kingpin Dharmen Shah has grand plans for its future. His offer to buy and tear down a weathered tower block, making way for luxury apartments, will make each of its residents rich – if all agree to sell. But not everyone wants to leave; many of the residents have lived there for a lifetime, many of them are no longer young. As tensions rise among the once civil neighbours, one by one those who oppose the offer give way to the majority, until only one man stands in Shah’s way: Masterji, a retired schoolteacher, once the most respected man in the building. Shah is a dangerous man to refuse, but as the demolition deadline looms, Masterji’s neighbours – friends who have become enemies, acquaintances turned co-conspirators – may stop at nothing to secure their money. This is a really poignant read which I read in India, it changed how I viewed the country irreversibly.

The White Tiger: One of the first books I read whilst backpacking India, this is a really useful, often amusing, sometimes horrifying, tale which will help you better understand the caste system.

On a Shoestring to Coorg: This is the first travel book that tested the idea that a five-year old daughter makes for a decent travelling companion. A really interesting read on the now-defunct Indian state of Coorg, this book gives a fascinating insight into the origins of backpacker travel in India.

Nine Lives: A Buddhist monk takes up arms to resist the Chinese invasion of Tibet – then spends the rest of his life trying to atone for the violence by hand printing the best prayer flags in India. A Jain nun tests her powers of detachment as she watches her best friend ritually starve herself to death. Nine people, nine lives; each one taking a different religious path, each one an unforgettable story. William Dalrymple is one of the best writers when it comes to offering an insight into Indian culture and I highly recommend reading everything he has written.

Siddhartha: A travel classic, Siddhartha is perhaps the most important and compelling moral allegory our troubled century has produced. Integrating Eastern and Western spiritual traditions with psychoanalysis and philosophy, this strangely simple tale, written with a deep and moving empathy for humanity, has touched the lives of millions since its original publication in 1922. Set in India, Siddhartha is the story of a young Brahmin’s search for ultimate reality after meeting with the Buddha. His quest takes him from a life of decadence to asceticism, from the illusory joys of sensual love with a beautiful courtesan, and of wealth and fame, to the painful struggles with his son and the ultimate wisdom of renunciation.

Are you experienced: An easy read and a funny satire on the whole concept of student travel and the backpacking India trail.

Full Tilt, Ireland to India with a Bicycle: Shortly after her tenth birthday, Dervla Murphy decided to cycle to India. Almost 20 years later, she set out to achieve her ambition. Her epic journey began during the coldest winter in memory, taking her through Europe, Persia, Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan, and into India.


Staying healthy whilst backpacking India

Travelling in India and totally avoiding traveler’s diarrhea is pretty impossible. Be sure to completely avoid the tap water, even when brushing your teeth (use purified water!) to improve your chances of escaping… Many backpackers travelling in India tend to go vegetarian for the duration; not a bad idea considering Indian’s suck at cooking meat. Eating street food is fine; just make sure the food is well cooked and is cooked in front of you – you don’t want something that’s been sitting out for hours. Potato and egg dishes tend to be the safest.

backpacking india You will need some vaccinations for India, speak to a travel nurse to find out what they recommend. Many doctors suggest you take anti-malarials in India but considering that the side-effects can be truly horrible and that the only risky malarial zones are Goa (30 reported cases a year) and Sikkim I personally don’t think it’s worth taking expensive anti-malarials whilst backpacking India. Use bug spray, something with over 40% deet, and a mosquito net if necessary. Craghoppers have a great line of mosquito-repellent clothing that I highly recommend investing in. Whilst travelling in India, be sure to carry and frequently use hand-sanitiser. Check out these travel workouts to stay fit.


Staying safe whilst backpacking India

India can be a real assault on the senses but this is a country with many lessons to teach. The main danger with travelling in India is traffic… Be extremely careful when driving or crossing the road, especially in big cities. You also need to keep an eye on extremely friendly strangers appearing out of nowhere, backpackers in India are often perceived to have a lot of money and whilst forceful muggings are uncommon, pickpockets are not. Avoid leaving valuables unattended at all costs, they will go missing. A simple padlock is well worth taking with you and if you want to go all out, I recommend the PacSafe to protect your gear.

backpacking India Recently, a friend of mine, veteran adventurer Justin Alexander, went missing whilst trekking around Kheerganga with a Sadhu of dubious intent. Justin was a real mountain man and a big inspiration for me, if he couldn’t get out of whatever situation it was that arose; nobody could. The Sadhus, wandering Hindu holy men of India, are a fascinating group of people but can be extremely dangerous, I do not recommend interacting with them if you are alone. Hiking into the mountains with them is not a good idea. Be careful with the police in India, getting arrested is not fun – trust me. You can bribe your way out of most situations fairly quickly but the trick is to do it fast; the more police become involved the more expensive it will become – get your ass out of the situation before you arrive at the police station.

Usually, it’s smoking weed that will get you arrested so be subtle to avoid problems in the first place. Avoid buying weed from tuk tuk drivers. Dogs can be a problem, especially if you are alone at night and walk through a pack’s territory; clapping your hands, making loud noises, retrieve (or pretend to) a rock to throw from the ground in front of you. Standing your ground is your best bet and although dogs may bark and appear to go nuts they are unlikely to actually attack. Do not let any of the above perturb you, India is, in general, a very safe country and there are a million reasons to visit; now that you know the risks, you are less likely to find yourself in any trouble. Backpacking India is an experience that easily outweighs these small dangers.

Check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst backpacking.

Pick yourself up a backpacker security belt to keep your cash safe on the road.

Check out this post for plenty of ideas on ingenious ways to hide your money when travelling.

I strongly recommend travelling with a headlamp whilst in India (or anywhere really – every backpacker should have a good headtorch!) – check out my post for a breakdown of the best value headlamps to take backpacking.

Want to save the world? Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to Marine Life – Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle.

The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. Whether you need to purify the water from a hostel sink in Kathmandu or a stream trickle in the Andes, the Geopress has got you covered. Check out our full review here for more convincing.


Insurance for backpacking in India

Check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst backpacking.

I strongly recommend travelling with a headlamp whilst in India – there are power outages, especially on the beaches, pretty frequently plus a lot of dark temples, caves and mysterious places to explore – check out my post for a breakdown of the best value headlamps to take backpacking.

Whenever you hit the road and go travelling, you need insurance. I have been backpacking for nine years and have had to claim a total of three times; if I didn’t have insurance I would have been utterly screwed on all three occasions. I recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance – they hands down have the best support and if you do need to claim they will help you get it sorted quickly.


Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.


Make Money Online Whilst Backpacking in India

Traveling in India long-term? Keen to make some cash when you are not exploring? 

Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.

Learn what it’s like to be a VIPKID teacher, a top company in the field of online English learning.

Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.


Being a Responsible Backpacker in India

Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough travel water bottle.

Go and watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix – it’ll change how you view the plastic problem in the world; you need to understand what we are up against. If you think it doesn’t matter, get off my fucking site.

Don’t pick up single use plastic bags, you’re a backpacker – take your daypack if you need to go to the shop or run errands.

Bear in mind, that many animal products in countries you travel through will not be ethically farmed and won’t be of the highest quality. I’m a carnivore but when I’m on the road, I only eat chicken. Mass-farming of cows etc leads to the rainforest being cut down – which is obviously a huge problem.

Recently, my gear-venture, Active Roots has started to sell water bottles. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, whether you take an Active Roots bottle or not – TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your plastic footprint, don’t be a dick. 

Need more guidance? – Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.

Backpacking India can be one hell of a crazy party at times. Take it from me, it can be easy to get carried away. It is important to keep in mind that you are an ambassador for your country, which is awesome. We can make a positive impact on people when we travel and get rid of any ugly stereotypes that may be associated with your country.

If you visit indigenous villages or small communities in the rural areas always ask before taking photos. The people who live in these villages are not exhibits in a museum. They are normal folks just living their lives.  Always show them the complete respect that they deserve.

When buying a local craft, do not haggle so low that the price is unfair to the person who spent countless hours crafting it. Pay people what they are worth and contribute to the local economies as much as possible.

I know it can be hard, but do your best to use the least amount of plastic water bottles that you can. Refill the ones that you do buy! Use a Steripen. Refill at your hostel! There are plenty of ways to reduce plastic!!!

Backpacking India or any region for that matter often illuminates some of the great socio-economic inequalities of the world. Never take it for granted that you are healthy and financially able to go traveling. Show the world around you some gratitude and help to make a positive impact on it. Most of all have the time of your life and spread the love!


Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Bible for FREE!

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going. 

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Backpacking India? I've spent two and a half years in India and this eclectic, incredible, frustrating, beautiful and surprising country is a backpacker rite of passage. Get tips and tricks on where to stay, what to see, how to get around and where to trek. Our 2018 guide has itineraries and maps!

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  • Avatar Henry says:

    India is one my favorite countries to travel in for it’s beautiful photo opportunities! Thanks for this guide!

  • Avatar Camille says:

    Hi Will,

    Amazing guide thank you so much!!

    I am planning on travelling to India for 10 days which I know is not a lot but unfortunately I dont have any more time. I will be in Sri Lanka before that so I want to stick to the south of India. In your opinion, what are the best places to see in the Southern part of India? I’d like to see as much as possible but I’d rather see a couple places really well, instead of many places very fast and spend ages traveling between places. I was thinking potentially Kochi-Munnar-Kumily-Alappuzha but I would love to get your opinion

    Thank you!

  • Avatar Mike says:

    Hey Will,

    Immense website, thanks for the effort, a huge leg up for me planning my trip, hope you still check these posts. Ive got just over 3 weeks to have a look around India in feb/march, my plan was to first visit a region in the himalayas then travel south but this is not looking practical in feb weather. So was thinking of flying into delhi, then checking out Bundi, Pushkar, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer then heading to Goa for the last week to fly out while stopping off at Ellora on way. How would you prioritise this, how flexiable can I be with trains, I don’t really want to commit X amount of days to each place booking trains in advance as I’d rather wing it, would I need to book the train south in advance though, Any recommendations?


  • Avatar Sneh Meghlan says:

    Hi Will. Loved your blog, relieved to have read it at the right time. I am planning to travel Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in the coming month. I do not have any limitation in time but money yes. Can you advice me on below question:
    1. What are must visit and must do (both in Himachal and Uttarakhand)
    2. How do I find budget stay (Considering I am a solo female traveller)
    3. Is there any community to connect with other travellers

  • Avatar ryan says:

    Wow the great post with nice tips for all traveler…

  • Avatar Zarina Wasim says:

    Travelling is important as it helps to keep us fresh and encourage to work. It helps us to learn many new things and culture of India. There are many amazing places to travel solo, these are some amazing places of it. I have visited some, will plan soon for next of the given list.

  • Avatar Maya says:

    Hi Will. Loveddddd your blog post on India. Going in Jan. Did you travel to Sri Lanka after? If so do you recommend the best way to get there from Goa, is it ferry or plane and if you did travel there can you travel on the same visa you get for india?
    Thanks Maya

    • Ana Pereira Ana Pereira says:

      We haven’t been to Sri Lanka yet, but a flight is going to be the easiest! As different countries, the visa process is different and depends on your nationality too.

  • Thanks for sharing such an amazing article. After reading the article, I feel it your article will definitely help me a lot in my next journey.

  • Avatar Theresa says:

    Thanks for the great post! Absolutely inspiring!
    I’m going to travel in India from February till July. So far I booked my flight to Kochi and the first 2 nights in a hostel. In beginning of march I’ll be at a wedding in east India (Vijayawada). That’s all I planned so far. I don’t want to have an exact itinerary, but a rough idea where I can go at all due to waether conditions.
    So I guess I’ll do Kerala in Feb. After Vijayawada, I guess it might make sense to do something like your Delhi-itinerary, so I can see that area at all before the great heat arrives. (Originally I thought I’d do that last, because my flight back is from Delhi, but weather apparently doesn’t like that plan. 😉 )
    Than in April I kind of have to escape to the north, I guess? Do you think it is worth spending 3 months up there, or would it make sense to go to a neighbouring country at some point?
    Thanks for your advice!

  • Avatar Miguel says:

    Amazing guide, Will! Super comprehensive.

  • Avatar Matthew says:

    I’m so happy I found this guide — Amazing!!

    Curious: you’ve mention Workaway for volunteering, which I’ve been looking into. I’m also looking at WOOFING and others. That said, I’m curious what your experience with this is in relation to visas? Do you travel India on the longer 6 month, 1 or 10 year TOURIST visa and are still able to volunteer? Or have do you recommend getting a volunteer visa?

    Everything I’ve read, says that volunteering is illegal on a tourist visa, yet the volunteer visa is for the duration of work? I wouldn’t know this if travelling from project to project.

    Am I overthinking this? Are backpackers just working on a tourist visa and the Workaway hosts don’t care/ask?

  • Adi

    Gujarat is great great great…..the best food in india

    and kassardevi after December the Beit Habad is empty from israelis that time and the weather is great, hot and cold at night.

    le hishtamea
    Alex Sternick on he way to Gujarat

  • Avatar Simon Weiser says:

    Hi Will,
    First of all, it’s amazing how much heart and effort you put in this blog. I’m planning to travel india and nepal via backpacking next autumn and your report was really inspiring to me. The limit I set myself is about 6 weeks and I am asking, do you have any suggestions, which places are really worth travelling, if I wanted an impression of not just small parts of the country?

  • Avatar Mickayla Ennis says:

    Hi Will! This page is honestly amazing. So so happy I found it. A friend and I are doing Asia for 4 weeks and never really considered India till now. If you only had 2 weeks to do India, what would you recommend. I would love to go back one day and do a bit more but I only have a 2 week window before I have to start work in London. I’m from Australia 🙂

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      With 2 weeks in India – I would go: Delhi overnight train to Jaisalmer – Jodhpur – Pushkar – Bundi – Agra / Dharamasala – Back to Delhi… Or Hampi – Goa – Gokarna Or Delhi – Rishikesh, Manali and surrounding area, Dharamasala 🙂

  • Avatar Flongology says:

    I am so thankful that I found this super duper helpful post about India, sadly, most of the Itineraries that you provided are rougly for a month/months, sighs…I got 10 days only to visit India…probably I will stick in Delhi.

  • Avatar Adi Koren says:

    Wow…. never seen before such a rich and helpful guide!

    I’m from Israel and as you could have saw, many places had become little israel with hebrew signs everywhere
    this route is known in israel as the “hummous route” haha and there is not many info about places out from this route in israeli website

    I want to visit again and to be honest I want to keep distance from my fellow israelis….I see them every day here 🙂
    in Kasol and Old manali I didnt saw 1 tourist from other countries !!

    wich places in the northen india are you recommand?far from israeli menu in resturants
    for 3 weeks second visit in India

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Hey brother, there certainly are many Israelis in India, that’s for sure – as for where to go to escape the crowds, that’s tough to answer – India is SO massive and easy to get off the beaten track. My advise would be to head to Ladakah – still MANY tourists – and then to do a 5 – 7 day hike from there, lots of options around 🙂

  • Avatar raheem qadi says:

    I did a 2 month south india tour, and I plan to do a north trip soon. Thanks for the amazing list of places and things to do, I have added few more things after reading this.
    I agree with all the things you mentioned, except for non vegetarian food part. I got to taste some really good meat dishes while I was here, especially in Muslim/Christian dominated regions, and in state of kerala and tamilnadu. Meals in hyderabad was one of the best I have had, you should try hyderabadi haleem next time you are there.

  • Avatar Allen Madzen says:

    Hi Will,

    I read your blog post and it was amazing there are full of information about your backpacking experience. I would like to go to India someday. I have a question? The locals from there? Are they taking advantage to a foreign tourist? I mean, when it comes to fare, food, and others?


  • Avatar Gary Cullen says:

    Great blog Will – many thanks.

    If you had to recommend one place in India which fits the bill for being a relaxing place to hang out and chill for a week or so (looking for a recharge), where would it be? Ideally, somewhere with a few Western comforts and other travellers to meet. Cheers G x

  • Avatar Iddo Hamani says:


    Traveling to India has never seemed more appealing than after reading your stuff! great work!

    I am planning on traveling from end of August to mid October but not sure where to go within India and outside of it (Nepal, Sri Lanka…)

    Could you recommend a good itinerary that contains a bit of tracking in the beginning and some relaxing stuff at the end (plus good weather of course)?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Avatar Jean Pierre Maciel says:

    Hey Will,

    Great advice on India from all perspectives. Loved the details, tips and tricks you describe accurately!!! I have been there done that and will go back again this year. Thank you very much and please keep posting inspiring travel stuff!!! Namaste 🙂 JP

  • Wow! The great places to visit once in a lifetime. I stayed at Jaipur Zostel & Moustache too. These are indeed the best travel guide to the budget.

  • Avatar Nishith says:

    The statement ” Indians suck at cooking meat ” is generalized. Being the home for curries, there are many great non vegetarian food in India ( except beef ). If you avoid meat, you’re missing a lot of really good dishes there. It really depends on where you buy meat or consume it. Most Indians know the best places to find quality meat and dishes, and the tap water in India is not for drinking. Indians buy 20 litre water cans for drinking, so packaged water is a better option. Like Anthony Bourdain, Indian food won’t give you troubles.

  • We are heading to India from Thailand next month. We will be landing in Chennai. My wife works remotely and needs reliable internet Wednesday to Saturday. We have give 0r take 6-8 weeks. what would you suggest for an itinerary that would let us see and experience as much as we could based on this time of year. We are not big into trekking as we are just barely on the better side of 50.

  • Man what a great post! We are coming to India via Chennai in about a month. we are looking to spend about 6-8 weeks. Based on the time of year how would you maximize your time. My wife works online so reliable wifi is important and we have wanted to come to India for years! Is the whole currency thing pretty much sorted out? Cheers!

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Currency situation is now sorted 🙂 With 6-8 weeks, I would definitely 100% go up to the mountains -Dharamasala, Manali, Kasol, Ladakh as it’s gonna be seriously hot everywhere else in the country.

  • Avatar Fred says:

    Thanks again for this blog mate, its my go-to for info for my trip at the moment
    Do you have any experience/advise on getting hold of a Royal Enfield in India, and if so would you advise rent or buy?
    and from which city?

    Thanks a million

  • Avatar kankana saha says:

    reply to will :
    It’s always to book trains whatever through IRCTC official website. 3ac for a caucasian tourist would not be a very good idea as it would not provide them desired comfort and privacy.

  • Avatar Stuart Dickson says:

    Hi. This is a very honest informative article. I’ve just started my search of destinations. I plan to leave in 2 days time and go for 2 weeks. Oh, where to go, where to go. I like the idea of a 3 day boat trip, fishing, a chilling on rustic beaches

  • Avatar Tristan McCarthy says:

    Hi Will, his was so helpful, thank you for sharing. I’m hopefully going to follow your northern route for a while as I need to escape the heat during June-July. I was wondering if you could advise me on whether or not I need to pre-book rail and bus tickets around the Rish-Amr-Mcl-Bhag-Man-Kasol areas or if you were able to buy on arrival?

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      It’s always worth pre-booking trains in India. Buses not so much but train tickets sell out weeks in advance on some routes, especially for 3AC – which is probably the class you want.

      • Avatar Tristan McCarthy says:

        Thank you, relevant trains booked, taking a gamble with the buses. Have read and reread this post more times than I can count now. You’re a star, not only for providing this info but ditching your desk too. Hopefully I can join one of your trips to Pakistan in the future!

  • Avatar Andy Mc says:

    Loved this blog Will. I did a 6 month tour of India back in 1992 and have been back on many shorter trips since. My Mum and Stepfather have a small villa in South Goa on an incredible stretch of beach called Velsao, so i visit them twice a year. I live in UAE so its only a short flight. I just turned 50 and plan to move to Philippines in a couple of years with my Filipina wife to take things easi(er). Before that i plan to do a 3 month tour of India – some places ive been to before, but many ive read about and missed out previously. That may hopefully get the country “out of my system”. Trouble is ive got about 40 places on my list already and your blog gave me another 10 at least. I am looking at Pondicherry in the South to Srinagar in the North…. so i think 3 months is cutting it a bit fine, might need to add another 6 weeks at this rate. Back in 1992 i was really on a tight budget, probably 50 quid a week, this time i will have more money, im not sure i can handle too many overnight bus journeys any more. Cheers. Andy

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Hey Andy! Sounds like an epic adventure dude – traveling in India is always different, that’s why I love to return! 🙂 Hope to catch you on the road for a beer sometime 🙂

      • Avatar Andy MacGregor says:

        Yep should be a good one. Trying to get the Mrs excited about joining me. She is trying to persuade me instead to back pack from South to North Philippines. I think there might have to be some compromise, or better I save harder now and we do both. Cheers.

  • Avatar Fred says:

    Hi Will,
    Me and a friend have 6 weeks in india in June/July, we fly into Delhi and out of Kulcuta. As its high summer we are staying out of Rajesthan. However do you think we have time to head north out of Delhi into the mountains for 2 or 3 weeks before heading east towards Kulcuta? if so how would you alocate the time?
    I was thinking a few of the places of your itinery #3 before heading east.


    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Hey Fred, I would definitely recommend going up to the mountains – it’s gonna be fucking hot around Delhi and Kolkata. Swing up to Manali, visit Kasol for sure, you could swing up to Ladakh if you want to do some hiking… Honestly though, going at that time of year; I would try to spend MOST of it in the mountains, it’s going to be sweltering everywhere else.

      • Avatar fred says:

        Thanks for the advise Will,
        How does this look as a rough itineary, will it be possible in 6 weeks?
        Delhi- Paliala- Amristar- Dharamshala- Manali(and Vashisht)- Leh(Ladakh)- Rishakesh- Agra- Varanesi-

        Many thanks in advance

        • Avatar Will Hatton says:

          Ambitious but do-able – if you go at the right time of year! I would recommend flying back down from Leh, to Delhi, and possibly skipping Rishikesh – you’ll save some time that way.

  • Avatar AnnYan says:

    Hi Will,
    I get new piece of info everytime re-read your article! Thumbs up for the superb insight of your baling in India. Any recommended website to book the houseboat accommodation in Srinagar?

  • Avatar Renee says:

    Hey Will!
    Really appreciate your website, its hugely helpful when planning a trip to have advise from someone like minded!
    My partner and I are off to India in September for two months to kick off our big travels. Im working through a rough itinerary, enough to know the areas that we will go so we can book the trains in advance.
    So far we have Delhi – Varanasi – Khajurajou – Agra over 12 days then a 10 day Vipassana course in Pushkar.
    After that Pushkar (4 days) – Bundi (3 days) – Udaipur (5 days) – Jaisalmer (3 days) – Jodhpur (2 days) – maybe Bikaner.
    It looks we have 12 or so days free after that Im wondering what you would recommend. Is this enough time to head up to Manali or somewhere up there and if so where would you recommend? We are kiwis and into hiking but dont want to be taking a crap load of hiking gear so cant really do any huge hikes. I also dont want to be a tick box tourist jumping from sight to sight, would be better to just stick with what we have and space it out more to get more involved with the places we are at?

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Hey Renee, you are going to have an epic time in India and hell yes; book those trains in advance! AC3 all the way! Your itinerary looks solid and yes for sure, with 12 days left it makes sense to head up to Manali for a few days and explore the area around Kasol – there’s some great hikes you can do, and I strongly recommend taking some chill time at Kalga – go visit Hans and stay in his Sunset Guesthouse. Kheerganga is a popular trek destination but personally, I loved the hike and was less keen on the end destination – crowded and litter everywhere. Vashisht is a chill place to spend some time. RE Hiking gear – you won’t need to carry much, just be sure to have proper hiking shoes and you should be golden. You can buy waterproofs and warm clothes easily once in India and you won’t need camping gear unless you want to do something more ambitious. Have an epic trip!

  • Avatar Ian says:

    Great info Will, this will definitelycome in handy as a great source of info for our travels later this year where hopefully I will be one step behind you. You never know, I may be able to buy you that beer finally.
    Happy travels Dude

  • Avatar Will says:

    Hi mate,

    Two friends and I are planning on traveling to travel India in late February for a month. We are al 18/19. Our initial plan is to fly into New Delhi then travel to Varanasi, Khajuraho, Agra, Jaipur, Pushkar, Bundi, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and back to Delhi. Is there anything you would recommend doing or not? We are also considering Udaipur? We are looking for a mixture of a proper Indian experience and a relaxing/spiritual time. We all enjoy a good smoke etc but don’t have the biggest budget. Any thoughts? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Hey buddy, That’s a pretty fucking good itinerary, it’s actually similar to the first itinerary I did myself! I would cut Jaipur and make the dash down to Udaipur. Make sure you spend enough time in Bundi, it’s the highlight! India is cheap – but, you have to haggle! If you don’t, it ain’t cheap at all.

  • Avatar Jeremy says:

    Hey Will,

    This has been the most helpful thing I’ve read leading up to my trip–thanks! I’d love a bit of advice. Right now what’s set in stone for my trip are stops in Delhi, Jaipur (for a wedding), and a variety of stops in the south. What’s up in the air is another stop in Rajahstan. If you had to pick just one stop inbetween Delhi and Jaipur what would it be? I was most interested in Varanasi and Udaipur I think but would love your take. Thanks man!


    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Hey bud, between Jaipur and Delhi – there isn’t much to stop at to be honest. You could swing to Ajmer Fort, 11km outside of Jaipur but you would be better off making a dash down to Bundi.

  • Avatar Laura Vrieswijk says:

    Hi Will! This is such an amazing guide, I’m going to take all of your tips into account on (and while planning) my trip!

    In November I’m flying to Delhi and then the plan is as follows: Agra – Fatehpur Sikri – Keoladeo National Park – Jaipur (might scrap this after reading your post) – Pushkar – Bundi (after reading your post ;)) – Chittorgarh –
    Udaipur – Jodhpur – Jaisalmer – Bikaner – Nawalgarh – Mandawa and then back to Delhi.

    I’d like to do this in about a month. Do you have experience with Chittorgarh and Udaipur? I’ve read good stories on these locations, but am not sure yet. Also, are you familiar with Bikaner, Nawalgarh and Mandawa? Then last but not least, do you think the Keoladeo National Park is worth a visit?

    Thanks in advance for your answer!!

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Hey Laura, I actually lived in Udaipur for a month – loved it there, amazing city! I’m stoked you are heading to Bundi, definitely one of the highlights of Rajahstan! I have no tips for Bikaner, Nawalgarh or Mandawa I’m afraid! Have an awesome trip.

  • I see these blogs looks very useful,but manali and shimla is also great places for travelling.these are perfect for the tourist.December and January tourist can enjoy a lot .so we have to go in these months.

  • Avatar Anna says:

    Wow Will this is such a detailed and useful guide! It must have taken you ages 🙂

  • Avatar Amrinder says:

    Great Article Will. I am in early phase of my planning to travel whole of India. I was born and raised there but have been living in US for last 15 years and working in the corporate world. I love the diversity of culture and being a photographer want to capture the true essence of the country. I am planning on following the route Guru Nanak (1st Sikh Prophet) took during his 5 travels around India and world. I believe this will give me good structure and allow me to explore some historical sites as well. I can also stay in these historical gurudwaras and visit other local locations nearby or enroute. I want to get your feedback on what would be an ideal loop and whether there are any concerns from your experience, carrying camera gear around. I have home in Chandigarh and will probably travel out from Delhi. Here are websites showing the different locations Guru Nanak visited. Appreciate your feedback with this. I am planning to account around 3 months for this and if needed can rent my own vehicle as well. Money is not an issue but I would like to get the best experience.

  • Avatar Francesca says:

    Okay, we’ll scratch Jaipur off the list! 🙂 I found a sleeper bus from amrit to bikaner via Neelam Travels (10hrs) and it made delhi-dharam/amrit-bikaner doable. I also read about Indian Himalayas and I think that part including Leh and Srinagar and Rishikesh should be a whole another trip for another time. I would really love to include Nepal cause I heard that the atmosphere and the people are more pure. Is that true? We also plan on trekking in the himalayas from Kathmandu(?) for 3 days. Do you think I should trade Nepal for Manali and Kasol? Thanks soooo much! 🙂

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      So Ladakah and Srinigar should definitely be saved for another whole trip but you can get up to Manali relatively easily, I recommend staying in Vashisht for a more chill vibe, with less people, or Old Manali if you want to party. From Manali, head to Kasol – You don’t need to spend any time here and can instead transfer from Kasol up to Kalga; Kalga is awesome and has a very chill, somewhat Tibetan, vibe – go and stay in the Sunset Cafe and say hello to my friend Hans! Sunset Cafe in Kalga is just a gorgeous place to soak in some mountain views and from here you can do a relatively easy two day round trek up to Kheerganga. Nepal is amazing – I would hesitate to say the people are more pure, you have good people and bad people in every country in the world, but there is certainly less hassle in Nepal. Saying that; if you get yourself up to Manali, and especially Kalga, you won’t have any hassle up there – plus the hash is awesome. Nepal is great but my gut instinct is that you should save it for another trip and trade in Kathmandu (a fascinating place but a city all the same) for some time around Kalga; Manali and Kalga is a great place to end a trip 🙂

      • Avatar Francesca says:

        Wow! Sunset Cafe is beautiful! Will definitely include that in our itin. So, we decided to stick with our route but added Manali and Kalga before going to Dharamsala. We traded Jaipur for Bundi and moved some days to spend a 4-day trek in Pokhara and 2 days around Kathmandu. Thanks so much for all your suggestions! 🙂

  • Avatar Francesca says:

    Hi Will! Many thanks for this meaty post! My friend and I (both women) are planning to backpack India for 3 weeks and Nepal for a week in July. What do you think of this route?

    Any tip/advice/suggestion would be much appreciated! 🙂

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      For three weeks, that’s a truly massive amount of ground to try to cover… I would probably cut Varanasi and to try and see India and Nepal in three weeks just isn’t possible, unless you simply want to spend a couple of days in Kathmandu, this look like a very tiring itinerary to me though to be honest. It’s gonna be hot! Especially in Rajahstan… Do not miss Bundi in Rajahstan though, epic place. Maybe go Delhi – Agra – Jaisalmer (via Delhi, skip Jaipur it’s shit), Jodhpur, Pushkar, Bundi, Delhi – from Delhi you could then make a dash to either Varanasi, Kathmandu or up to Dharamasala and Amritsar, but not all three. Not unless you want to spend like a day in each place anyway because the distances are absolutely massive and you’ll lose a lot of time travelling. Amritsar will be hot, you should maybe make a break for Manali or go trekking around Kasol instead; doable from Delhi in six or seven hours I think, bus, and will be cooler, well worth it. Good luck!

      • Avatar Francesca says:

        Thanks for your response! ? Why is jaipur shit? ? I thought the pink city is a must see. Anyway, we’ll do 2 days in delhi, 2 days in dharamsala, 1 day in amritsar (golden temple), 2 days bikaner; Jaisalmer is too far so we won’t be able to do it. We opted for Bikaner (just for the overnight desert safari) instead. Then 2 days jodhpur, 1 day pushkar. And maybe skip Jaipur and do Bundi for 2 days then agra for 2 days and varanasi for 2 days. From varanasi we’ll take the bus to sunauli (1day) then 3 days in pokhara and 3 days in kathmandu then fly back to delhi. 23 days all in all. We’ll take sleeper buses/trains to save on accomodation costs. What do you think? Many thanks! ?

        • Avatar Francesca says:

          Sorry for the unnecessary question marks; those are emojis that apparently didn’t work. 🙂

        • Avatar Will Hatton says:

          Jaipur just isn’t so great; if you have to skip somewhere that’s on your list, I would skip Jaipur. I guess it depends what you want but it’s possible to do an overnight train from Delhi to Jaisalmer and then work your way back through Rajahstan via Jodhpur, Pushkar, Bundi. I would definitely not miss Bundi. I would also spend 2 nights in Pushkar and one night in Jodhpur, there’s more to see and do in Pushkar. Pokhara and Kathmandu are both nice – your trip is totally doable, just bear in mind that it’s a lot of long journey… like, a lot! I would consider cutting Varanassi and spending a week in the Indian himalayas; around Manali and Kasol is great trekking and it’s really chill; which you might want towards the end of your trip. Pokhara is pretty nice but it’s still a city and Kathmandu is amazing but far from chill. Do whatever works for you for sure, just throwing some stuff out there 🙂 – they are all great destiantions, but to get them all in to 3 weeks will be tiring.

  • Avatar Saumya says:

    The most racist blog I have ever read about backpacking in India. Indian men want white girlfriends who can get them out of the country? Most white female travellers I have met date Indian men who literally pay for their entire trips including flights, accomodation and experiences. Maybe you can cut down on the racism next time you visit an Asian country or you might as well stay in your little bubble of white privilege and spare us the torture of such racist blogs.

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      You’re an idiot – most white female travellers you have met date Indian men? That is clearly wrong. If you don’t like my blog, fuck off and don’t read it – problem solved.

  • Avatar Shiatsu Dave says:

    salivating at the thought of masala dosa. Fuck it, I’m back there next year. There’s also a plant that only flowers every twelve years up in the Tamil hills, so that alone makes it worth the effort.

    Cheers for the rump-kick.

    Shine on, Dude.

  • Avatar Gavin says:

    Hi Will, I’m an Indian living in Mumbai. I have travelled the coastal areas of Gokarna and Goa on the bike several times. However I’ve always been fasinated with the Himalayas, and your article would make a dead man want to backpack. Im Planning to ride from Mumbai to rishikesh – manali – khirganga – kasol – leh and the places youve mentioned next month.
    Thanks again for everything you do. This is pretty awesome.

  • Avatar Nastasya says:

    Waouh just thank you for doing such an amazing post on this country !! I’m planning to visit India by the end of the year for the first time, and you litteraly answered every single questions I have !!! Bouddha bless you ^^ I’ll definitely start with the easy itinerary for a first 🙂 especially as I may be travelling solo, I prefer to play it safe first ! Thanks again. This is Amazing content !!!

  • Sharing your experience like these will definitely help a lot of people, including myself. It’s a great advantage to know what to expect so travelers can prepare themselves properly!

  • Avatar Josh says:

    Great post man. Currently travelling around India with my Girlfriend for the first time. Absolutely incredible place and we echo everything you have said!!

    Any recommendations for Rajesthan?


    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Bundi is my favourite place in Rajahstan. Don’t miss it out. Go up into the fort early on in the day and take a staff to ward off the monkeys; it’s an amazing experience and view up there. Indiana Jones-esque shit!

  • India always a romantic land! I have backpacking to a lot of places, perhaps I will planed to India! Your post so clearly! Thank you!.

  • It has always been a dream of mine to travel along the original hippie trail and end up in Goa. Fingers crossed, I get to actually do that one day! Thanks for all the details about India 🙂

  • Hi Will,
    Just found your this post and your blog – great advice here!
    I’m thinking about going to India from April-September this year and was wondering if you could help me out with a few queries. I want to slow travel through the south of the sub-continent, or at least start off doing this, though it will be ‘off-season’ for the months that I’m hoping to go. Have you had much experience travelling during the off-season? Would I be better off travelling the north of the country where it will be much cooler?



    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Hi Dom,
      India is so big that even in off season you will still find places to go and things to do. When the heat arrives (and in some places it does get damn hot) head for the hill-stations, or to the mountains in the north. If its monsoon season, try and plan head, check local weather forecasts, often info is pretty good on where and where it going to rain. Try to keep out of its path.


  • Avatar Jess says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences about India. Have couchsurfed through the US but wouldn’t have imagined doing it in India, have heard so many bad things and it seems like a risky country but also equally fantastic. I didn’t realise it was such a cheap country either. What would you recommend in terms of carrying currency? Is it dangerous to have cash on you? Someone told me i might be better with an“>Indian Rupee Travel Card but wondered what your experience was. Thanks.

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Hi Jess,

      Thanks for your comment! You definitely can couchsurf in India but I have to say I would be very careful as a woman – when I was surfing and I had female surfers with me, even when I was there, we had to be on our guard 24/7. It is safe to surf if you have a male companion but otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it. The CS boards are great ways to find travel buddies though! I simply took my debit card and got out the maximum amount of cash – 10,000 rupees ($200) – once every two weeks, it was always absolutely plenty. I usually had about 500 rupees on me and the rest in my day bag which came with me everywhere; I got pickpocked once (whilst drunk) and lost about 3000 rupees ($60) – really not too bad for over 14 months in the country. If your careful and avoid flashing your cash you will be fine; muggings are extremely rare in India; it certainly is not like south america! Let me know how you get on and definitely give India a go; currently the rupee is weaker than it has been in thirty years so it really is wonderfully cheap! 🙂

      • We traveled across India on bicycles for 5 months. We finished less than half a year ago. And all this time I felt safe there. Talking about the money. We always had cash with us just because outside bigger cities it’s not possible to pay with credit card and the same way it’s almost 100%, that you will not be able to pay with credit card for those cheap hotels, even if they will be in big cities. Taking out cash is not a problem, as there are a lot of ATMs, many with security guards. I would suggest to have two credit cards. One with small amount of money on it, used for cash withdrawals. And second one, hidden, with all other money.

        • Avatar Will Hatton says:

          Hi Kaspar! I would love to do some long-distance cycling adventures, I have a buddy who cycled from Australia to the UK via most of the ‘stans – a seriously epic adventure. To be honest when I was in India I never really had many problems with money – it certainly helped to have cash on me where possible, I got the best exchange rates but I mostly just used my debit card to make cash withdrawals. Although I was robbed a couple of times, without my knowledge, in my 14 months in India I never felt particularly threatened – then again, I met a lot of female backpackers who did.

    • Avatar tuining nicky pertin says:

      Hi Will !.just found your post and found it absolutely helpful. I am from northeast india and always dreamt of backpacking through the country. .After reading your detailed information i just want to jump onto next train available..hopefully i get to do it someday.

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