12 things that no one tells you about backpacking in India
Why live a boring life when you can be an escape artist? I discovered the mantra behind travel in my late teens, and ever since, I have been a wandering soul. Literally, everything inspires me to travel. The landscapes, food culture, behaviour, transportation, language, literature, history, and the list doesn’t end there. I feel it is necessary to take a breather from time to time to detox your mind from all the hatred we see on social media. So why India for a detox? Honestly, there are many things that no one tells you about travelling solo in India.
Without further adieu, I will share my tips that no one tells you about backpacking in India. With time, we all step into different roles in our lives. As much as you travel and see the world, you will find the calm in you. And what is a better destination than India, land of love, beauty, and spirituality?
1. Pocket friendly
Yes, you heard it right. You can ideally spend your entire day under US$45! It includes your accommodation, transportation, shopping, food, and basic amenities that you have to carry along. In all the metropolitan cities, hostels and Zostels are available that you can book even at cheaper rates.
For travelling, I will advise taking Metro as much as you can as it is safe, affordable, and has great connectivity. Mobile apps for booking cabs like Ola and Uber are available in almost all the cities of India. It is also an economical and viable option.
You can stay as lavishly or as budgeted as you want because there are plenty of options if you’re backpacking in India.
2. Historically Wow!
Being born in India, I always took my country for granted. With time only, I realized how culturally and historically rich we are. I will stand by what I just said now and personally urge you to visit the incredible India.
Every state/city in India has a history behind its existence. I travelled to Rajasthan, the land of Rajputs and Mewaris. Thar desert in the Western Ghats of Rajasthan is the largest desert in India where you can find solace in the dunes. You can see the royalty and forts at every turn. On the other hand, I practically relived the Mughal Era during my trip to Taj Mahal, Agra. From grand tombs to lavish Mughal gardens, and from seeing age-old architecture to marble sculptures, I had the time of my life!
India is truly incredible!
3. A beautiful mayhem
Is it not amazing to embrace peace and chaos at once? Girls, this will be your one adventurous trip. You will develop the patience to bear the honking on the street, walking into crowded streets, using a crammed public transport, eating from the roadside vendors, and ah waiting, waiting in the traffic jams. There are is so many more to the list!
But let me tell you, I had an opportunity to witness the other side of my journey in India while being stuck in the Mumbai traffic. I saw how people survive in hardships, in what extremes people work to make a living, and how your fifty-cents can give someone the most innocent laughter. It was like the best of both worlds.
I know you will have your clouds of doubts about how safe the backpacking trip to India will be. Wave them goodbye by reading my guide, 12 Reasons Why India is Safe for Solo Women Travellers.
4. Zen for Yogis
Patanjali, Yoga, and Ayurveda are originated from India. There are ample Ashrams, retreats, yogic clinics, and therapy sessions in many parts of India. Haridwar, Rishikesh, Kerala, Goa, and Pondicherry are a few of the top destinations for Yoga. Read more about it here.
Yoga and Ayurveda have worked like a miracle for people across the world. Its benefits and power have been explained and backed up with science, historical figures, medical treatment, and transformation in modern-day lifestyles. The energy that oozes from within after Yoga is unbeatable, and you will begin appreciating the little nuance of life. In my own experience of being in the Yoga camp for a couple of days, I realised that it is food for mind and soul. Much to my surprise, I began to treat my body as a temple and learned to live non-materialistically.
So yes, pack your bags and visit India to be on this spiritual journey instead of watching documentaries about it on the National Geographic channel.
5. Can’t say no to shopping!
Come on ladies, are we even having fun if not shopping? You cannot resist the bright colours, fabrics, handicrafts, antiques, and authentic spice that you will find here. You ought to be cautious, as shopkeepers tend to overcharge the foreigners. Read my guide How to Bargain Like a Local on Your Solo Trip to India | 25 Pro Tips.
No one will tell you that backpacking to India will open doors of comfort and satisfaction for you. You feed your heart by purchasing things that are close to your heart. In other words, every Indian state has a speciality and something unique to offer. Clothes, Spices, Paintings, leather goods, pottery, essential oils, raw fabric, and musical instruments are a few things from my long list that I always find attractive while travelling in India.
Trust me. You, too, will become a fan of Indian souvenirs. I think India has got some of the best souvenirs in the world. Maybe you can try your hand at these and share your list of favourites in the comment section below.
6. Multi-Cuisine Bonanza
My dear friend, you are in for a treat. Indian cuisine varies in tastes, aroma, texture, ingredients, and style of cooking. As you travel north to south or east to west, the change will be the only constant! I am a big foodie and always in search of finding the next best traditional snack or a curry. So be prepared to get your hands drenched in the hot gravies, sweat awfully a lot, and eat on banana leaves. You will not have the taste of India until you do it the Indian way!
You will get to eat delicious local dishes such as kebabs, chaats, stuffed paratha, biryani, dosa, etc. Download Zomato, an Indian food delivery mobile app. It lets you find information on the best food in every locality.
Alerting you in advance about traveller’s diarrhoea, read my guide How to deal with the infamous Delhi Belly | Solo Female Travel.
7. Natural Paradise
See the delight in India yourself. The enchanting beauty here will you take you places you never imagined. It is just beyond words! As you get to feel the pulse here, you will extend your trip longer than you expected. I have been there and done that.
You will get to see waterfalls, mountain ranges, deserts, forests, valleys, and whatnot. Architectural heritage, dams, Havelis, and forts will leave you enchanted in their mystery. In short, India has got the best of everything! While planning a backpacking, it is also important to visit remote/unexplored places with the help of a local guide. Like the elders say, the real gems are hidden.
India is the second-largest country in Asia, and, yearly, ten million foreigners visit here for a trip. What makes it more special than its people and culture is its geographical location. You will also get to experience all the climatic conditions if you stay long enough. You cannot help but fall in love with the Winters of North and summer of the east, autumn of the south, and Rain of the Western Coastal Ghats.
8. Cultural fusion
India is the melting point of various backgrounds, ethnicity, and religions. When they say India is the biggest democratic country, they mean so. There is no intrusion in your privacy, and no one dominates your choices. People are also free to follow and learn anything they want, be it a language, religion, lifestyle, or occupation.
Don’t be surprised if Indians touch their elders’ feet, distribute free food, or flaunt their traditional clothes. These qualities are all part and parcel of their upbringing.
India has 32 world heritage sites, making it a more desirable destination for travel. It helps you know about the cultural differences and history in their making. So if you are a history nerd, what are you still waiting for?
9. Festivity at its peak
No month of the year goes without a celebration. In India, festivals are a significant part of every days’ lives. People celebrate to honour their culture, religion, and nation. Read my guide Exploring Diwali in India | Solo Female Travel.
The serenity and timeless treasures make India an ideal destination for backpackers. Since India is so culturally diverse and religiously inclined, each festival is celebrated with great pomp and show. Even being from a foreign land, you will not feel excluded. During your visit, you will have plenty of opportunities to experience it, and it will leave you awestruck how people unite with nature to pay their devotion.
‘There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won’t go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colours, smell, tastes, and sounds. I had seen the world in black & white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolour.’ — Keith Bellows, National Geographic Society.
10. Experience Thy Humble Abode
India is known for its hospitality, warm welcome, and for being a wonderful host. Since most locals live together in joint families, it is in their blood to adjust and give others the same comfort. So your Airbnb accommodation in a local home will be the most memorable part of your trip.
I bet even a stranger will not be rude to you. There might be some differences in understanding. However, there is no such language barrier, and it will be comparatively easy to find help.
During my trip to Goa, I stayed in a Zostel and AirBnB, and I cannot begin to tell how lovely it was. My hosts were a married couple who stayed in a treehouse with a puppy. In such a short while we became good friends that even till date we keep in touch. We still send each other postcards and souvenirs from our trips.
11. Taste tea of different origins
I survive on tea! My day begins and ends with a cup of tea, and I have had my special moments over teatime. The taste and the style of preparation varies across different cities. I will recommend you trying Cutting-Chai of Maharashtra, Darjeeling tea of Assam, and Kehwa of Kashmir. Also, don’t miss having Butter tea in the Himalayas, Nilgiri tea in Munnar, and Irani tea in Gujarat.
During my trip, I have bonded with different kinds of people over a cup of chai. It is a common tradition in many parts of India that people drink tea throughout their day. You will understand the emotion attached to a cup of tea only when you experience it. So do not let your hesitation rip off the whimsical experience that you will have over a cup of chai!
After travelling to a couple of countries in the last few years, my heart still comes back to India. And the secret is its people.
During my trip to Jodhpur, I was invited to a 60th Marriage Anniversary celebration. It was for the grandparents of my AirBnB hosts. That evening restored my faith in humanity. As I saw the old couple raising their glasses to announce their partnership for life, I realized how much the people around here value their bond. It may sound cliched, but you will find some of the best stories of love and sacrifice in India. I also think Indians wear a transparent cape of optimism and spread happiness around.
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.