India is the place to experience thousands of years of culture. Everything about India invokes your senses. As you walk out of the airport you discover the fragrance of exotic spices, the sight of busy locals going about their everyday life, the feel of the different fabrics that make a gorgeous sari, shopkeepers shouting in fast quips, engaging intensely with customers over some kind of deal.
Places to go in India
Mumbai, New Delhi, Jaipur and Uttar Pradesh are the most popular places.
Formally known as Bombay and with an estimated 20 million people, Mumbai is filled with history and culture. Colonial style buildings dating back to the British Raj fused together with ancient Mausoleums fill this incredible city with amazing culture. The streets are packed with people, market places selling everything under the sun. The stench of sweat and humid temperatures only add to the experience.
Known as the capital and heart of India, New Delhi is filled with the history of its country and exquisite structures such as the Lotus temple, Humayun’s Tomb, Coonaught Place, Akshardham temple and of course India Gate.
In northern India, Jaipur is a must see city. It is the home of the Diwali festival and the Gangaur festival. There is a great deal of India’s proud history to experience here. Uttar Pradesh, which is also in northern India, has great access to the Ganga, but most importantly it holds one of the most iconic images of India, the Taj Mahal.
Where to stay
There are hotels everywhere in all the major cities and have great prices attached to them. The average price for one night’s stay in Mumbai can vary. For modest budgets expect to spend $63 to $195 USD staying at The Taj Mahal Palace.
In New Delhi you can get a great hotel room for as low as $40 USD per night at the Hotel Krishna or for around $230 USD per night you can stay at the Fraser Suites.
In Jaipur, accommodation can cost as little as $53 USD per night at the historic looking Umiad Bhawa Heritage Style Hotel or if you have deeper pockets you can stay at the Lebua Lodge for only $228 USD per night.
If you are visiting the Taj Mahal area, Uttar Pradesh, there are plenty of rooms on offer. For $75 USD per night you can stay at the Mosaic Hotel or if you want a good deal try the luxury Oberoi Amarvilas Agra, which offers rooms at $843 USD per night.
Food to try
Experiencing the flavours and spices of Indian cooking is a must, so some of the dishes you need to try are:
- The Punjabi favourite, Sarso Da Saag with Madke Di Roti, a dish made of mustard leaves and ghee which is served with corn bread.
- Dal-Baati-Churma is a Rajasthani speciality. Made from lentils, which are best known as dal, is accompanied by hard bread.
- One of the most popular Indian foods which is found everywhere is Tandoori chicken. Roasted in a traditional tandoor and marinated in yoghurt and spices, the combination makes the chicken moist and flavoursome.
- A great vegetarian dish to try is Bisi Bele Baath. This rice dish is prepared with lentils and a range of vegetables and tamarind pulp, asafoetida, curry leaves and a great many other spices.
- Another tasty street food to try is Masala Dosa. This very thin pancake which is made up from lentil and rice batter and has a potato filling.
- Rogan Josh is a Kashmiri cuisine that consists of lamb, spices and yoghurt.
- The must have dessert to try is Gajar Ka Halwa. Made from carrots, ghee, milk and sugar this delicious dish is served with plenty of dry fruits and almonds.
How to get around
There are plenty of ways to make your way through India. Buses, taxis and boats are the most common.
If you’re looking for a bit of fun, take a cycle-rickshaws. Cycle-rickshaws are a great way to get around the cities. Prices vary with cycle-rickshaw as it’s up to the driver, so 10Rs for every 10 minutes is a rough estimation. If you want to take an auto-rickshaw ride on your holiday you will be looking at 19Rs for the first 2km and then it will be 6.50Rs per km after that. Always remember to negotiate the price before the trip.
Catching a train ride in India is a whole new experience. Travelling on the largest network in the world won’t be an easy ride, but it is guaranteed to be fun and an eye-opening experience. If you are a budget traveller, be prepared to battle and fight for a seat on the train. The train will overload with passengers. If you don’t get a seat, sit in the corridors with the hoards of other passengers.
Some even hang off the side of the carriages or enjoy the view by sitting on top of the carriage. This can be quite exiting to see India this way, just remember to hold on tight. Loads of accidents happen each year so be careful if you plan to ride this way. You are also able book your ticket in advance to avoid a battle at the ticket line!
What to do
A great way to truly experience India is to get immersed in some historical visits, markets and festivals. If you’re in Mumbai during Diwali get ready to have day worth of fun. This festival of lights illuminates the city with everyone lighting small oil lamps. The light is to represent the triumph of good over evil. Diwali, a time spent with family, visiting Diwali markets, concerts, and a lot of fireworks and plenty of praying.
When in India, you must visit the Taj Mahal found in Uttar Pradesh. This iconic monument which was built in 1631 to 1648 was built for the wife of Shah Jehan. Sitting next to the river bank of the River Yamuna, the Taj Mahal is a great place to discover one of India’s treasures.
Holi is one festival you cannot miss. Roughly five and a half hours from Jaipur, Udaipur is the place to celebrate Holi. Full of singing and dancing throughout the streets, performances at local temples and huge bon fires, you also get to throw coloured powder and water at everyone! Known for people going absolutely crazy, Holi is a festival to have fun and celebrate love.
Full of traffic from rickshaws and motorbikes, street vendors and food stalls, Chandni Chowk is one market you need to go visit and get lost in. Found in Old Delhi, which is only minutes away from New Delhi, Chandni Chowk is filled with crowded lanes and the strong smell of spices. The hustle and bustle of the market will give you an insight into the real India, and its rich cultural heritage.