Backpacking around a country is the only way to get inside it and truly experience it. If you have a sense of adventure and are prepared to go with it, you will for sure see more of the country and get a truer picture of it than staying in comfortable hotels and going on guided tours.
One of the absolute classic backpacking destinations, has to be India. In fact, I once even wrote a whole post about why India is the ultimate backpacking destination in the world! India is also where Broke Backpacker founder Will mastered the art of travelling long by living cheap. It is one of our very favourite countries and we know it pretty well intimately.
For many travellers, backpacking is the best way to travel and it is certainly the cheapest. I mean, how else our sites founder Will Hatton able to travel the world on $10 a day for so long?!
Most travellers do need a Visa to enter India and you need to arrange these in advance, before you go. If you are entering by land, planning on staying more than 2 months or need multiple entries, then you need to obtain a full visa. You will need to make an appointment with either your Indian Consulate, Embassy or their appointed agent, pay $150 and be very patient.
If on the other hand you are flying in to a major airport and staying less than 2 months, then you can get the Indian e-Visa. The application is pretty quick, it is approved in a few days and only costs $85. To check whether you are eligible for the e-Visa, On that note, check to see if you meet the requirements of an Indian e-Visa. The e-Visa is a quicker and more convenient to obtain than the full visa.
Now that the gushing introduction and Visa formalities are out of the door, let’s get down to it and see what this exotic land offers.
Despite being India’s smallest state, pretty Goa features 130 kms of coastline and as such there are plenty of places to relax on the beach and get some sun. The place also features plenty of water-based activities as one would expect and you can find wind-surfing and boat trips up the Chapora delta.
If you want a more livelier, party vibe head towards North Goa and lose yourself at once of the states legendary Goan Trance parties. If you’re looking for a quieter space then head south to Agonda.
Scooter hire is relatively cheap in Goa and you do not need any kind of licence. Rent one and hot the backroads. Along the way, you will discover hidden beaches and ensure you call in at visit Dudhsagar Falls, Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Basilica of Bom Jesus and Fort Aguada.
As well as beaches Goa’s colonial past is evident in the buildings in the town. Your whole visit is an enlightening experience. We have published a full Goa itinerary elsewhere on this site.
Pushkar in Rajasthan, is the site of many religious temples and as one of India’s oldest cities, it simply has to be explored and uncovered on any backpacking trip. It is the home to one of the few Brahma temples in the world so it goes without saying you have to visit it. It also has Varaha Temple, Savitri Temple, Pap Mochani Gayatri and Shri Sawai Bhoj Temple.
A popular pastime here is the Pushkar Camel Safari which is held all year round. If you’re traveling in October/November than make sure you attend the Pushkar Camel Fair.
Pushkar is a budget backpackers haven and many travellers linger for months on end in the little town. It is also one the few places in India where you can legally buy “Special” lassis – a milk drink made with cannabis.
Varkala is a quiet beach destination in the southernmost, sleepy state of Kerala. Varkala is about 50 kms from the city of Thiruvananthapuram and reached by a shortish train journey. The beach is not like most beaches as it is made from black sand. Here, you will find people swimming in the cool ocean, sunbathing or watching the sun rise and set. If you’re in the mood for something more adventurous then why not try paragliding from the nearby cliffs.
When you’ve exhausted the beach or want a break from it, then visiting the nearby temples for a cultural blast is a good option. Here you will find Janardana Swami Temple, which is said to be about 2000 years old. Other temples include Sarkara Devi Temple, Sivagiri Mutt and Kaduvayil Juma Masjid.
Around 1500 meters above sea level is the beautiful hill station of Shillong. Based in Meghalaya it is a wonderous backpacking destination. Some refer to it as the ‘Scotland of the East’ thanks to its rugged yet scenic beauty and men in skirts.
From Shillong Peak, Elephant, Crinoline or Sweet Falls you will experience awe-inspiring views over lush valleys Other places you should visit include the Botanical Museum, Lady Hydari Park, Air Force Museum, State Museum, Umiam Lake and Wards Lake. This is a fantastic place to come and relax and plan your next adventure.
Dharmsala is another Himalayan hill station in the Northern state of Himachal Pradesh. Dharmsala is usually reached by a long, winding bus ride up front Delhi. Dharmsala is now the home of the Dalai Lama and the entire Tibetan government in exile and as such has a uniquely Tibetan flavour. The town of McLeod Gange is often referred to as “Little Lhasi” and is the closest many will ever get to seeing the real Tibet.
The village of Bhagsu is a proper backpacker enclave with beautiful hippy chicks, hang drum jam, sessions and long, days of “shanti”.
India is so big, vast and multi-faceted that it would be easy to spend several lifetimes exploring it so its just as well that the Hindu’s in the nation believe in reincarnation right?! The suggestions here are only the beginning.
If you are going to India be sure to check out our India Survival guide for some essential advice on staying safe!