As international travel goes, a backpacking trip to India is unique for several reasons. Economy is chief among these: For an average cost of about $15 per day, you can enjoy incredible local cuisine, travel comfortably between sites, and even get access to attractions. Many backpackers are able to find affordable lodgings while sticking to this budget too, and by adding a mere $5 per day, can enjoy access to AC2 trains and better hotel rooms. Besides budget, though, what can you expect? Enjoy a brief escape with our quick guide to planning your Indian backpacking trip.
Plan Carefully, But Expect Surprises
Once you arrive in Delhi, you’ll be immediately immersed in the sights and sounds of India. Do prepare for your trip by learning about the railway and bus systems. Be sure to choose some main destinations like the ones highlighted below, but try to make time to wander since many of the nation’s cultural and architectural treasures aren’t well-publicized. Save money on planning by using Viber for your international calling needs; at 2 cents per minute, it takes much of the expense out of the planning phase.
As a backpacker, you’ll want to get away from the sprawling metropolis that is Delhi; however, India’s capital city is well worth exploring. You’ll find 17th century ruins, temples, and tombs throughout Old Delhi, which is also home to colorful bazaars. New Delhi offers contemporary contrast, with plenty of shopping centers. If you’d like to visit museums in India, then be sure to spend time here in New Delhi, where you’ll find art galleries, the famed National Museum, and more than 20 specialty museums.
Visit Rajasthan and Jaipur
If your vision of India includes wizened snake charmers, ancient forts, and powerful tigers, look no further than Rajasthan, India’s “Land of Kings.” Situated along the nations northwest border, it is home to Indus Valley ruins, Mount Abu, Keoladeo National Park, and three tiger reserves where you have an opportunity get a closer look at India’s big cats. Of the three, Ranthambore National Park offers the best chances; tigers here boldly hunt during daylight hours, happily posing for visitors who look on from the safety of jeeps.
Wildlife is abundant in Rajasthan but contrasting city scenes make for unforgettable days and vibrant nights. Rajasthan is just a short distance from Delhi, making for easy access. While you’re there, be sure to take the well-known trek between Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, and Udaipur, four ancient, colorful cities with incredible architecture and friendly, fascinating local people.
Enjoy a Camel Safari
If a visit to Rajasthan is on your list of “musts,” consider adding a camel safari to your itinerary. Trips lasting between one day and two weeks are available, complete with camping under the stars. The longest journeys take visitors all the way to the Pakistan border and back, across a long stretch of desert.
Lounge on the Beach
If you feel India’s beaches beckoning, be sure to check out Goa, which offers an exciting nightlife and long days spent lounging in the sun. For a more adventurous option, head further south to Gokarna, which offers sandy beaches but less activity. Gokarna may be off the beaten path, but as an important pilgrimage destination, it offers festivals, ceremonies, beautiful temples, and more. Restaurants and lodging are available.
Located in Uttar Pradesh on the banks of the Ganges river, Varanasi offers an intimate view into India’s Hindu, Sikh, and Shaiva cultures, complete with magnificent architecture and nightly rituals and frequent festivals. Populated since about 800 BCE, the site offers fascinating legends as well as history and traditions.
Visit Rishikesh and Detox at an Ashram
If you’re interested in a once-in-a-lifetime experience and you enjoy yoga, consider spending some time at one of the many Ashrams located around Rishikesh, which is also known as the Yoga Capital of the World. Renowned as the “Gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas, it offers incredible views, ayurvedic centers, and beautiful forests to explore. The river Ganges is at its cleanest here, far upstream from Varanasi and other heavily populated sites. Besides plenty of backpacking, the Rishikesh area offers bungee jumping, kayaking, rafting, rock climbing, zip lining, mountain biking, and many other adventures, all in a stunning setting.
Take Time to Visit the Taj Mahal
No trip to India is complete without a trip to the Taj Mahal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Commissioned by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 and completed in 1653, it is located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Stunning archways, intricate pierce work, detailed incised painting, and incredible jail inlays warrant close inspection.