I visited India for 10 days with my mum and brother in September. The trip took a considerable amount of planning, as we were travelling around a bit and needed to organise accommodation, trains and flights. Here’s an A-Z (minus a few letters) of what I learned before, during and after my trip to India…
A – ANIMALS / AIRPORT
India is a place like no other. It is here you’ll see a cow casually crossing the street like an ordinary person and monkeys wildly running around trying to tear down lampposts. Only here you’ll find a dedicated monkey temple (Galta Ji), where you can get up close to the simian creatures and feed them, if you’re brave enough. If you want to take a ride and bathe with one of the world’s friendliest giants, then India is your place (see E).
We arrived into Indira Gandhi airport, Delhi and were surprised how civilised it was (even more so than London Heathrow!). It is no secret that India is a busy and chaotic place, so we had a completely different idea of how the airport would be before arriving. There were clear signs showing us where to go if we had our e-visas and there were hardly any queues. We got our passports stamped, picked up our bags super quick and were on our way.
B – BOOKING
We didn’t have to book many things in advance other than the trains and domestic flights. You can find out how to book trains by referring to T for trains. As for all the monuments we visited, if they required an entrance fee then you could purchase them at the gate. Foreigners always seem to get charged more than locals, which is a little extortionate on our part, but the cost is so minimal it’s not worth complaining.
C – COPIES
We made copies of our passports just for extra measures.
D – DOMESTIC FLIGHTS
We used skyscanner to look for flights from Delhi to Jaipur and Delhi to Goa. We flew with Air India to Goa and IndiGo to Jaipur. If you can afford this option, it will save you a considerable amount of time. In fact, our return flight to Jaipur was actually cheaper than getting the train, not to mention saving ourselves a 5-6 hour journey and doing it in only 30 minutes!
Delhi airport has two terminals – 1 and 3 which carries out domestic and international flights. Security is a bit longwinded, as you are required to show your boarding pass at least 5 times or more! When getting your bags screened, women go into a separate queue where they are checked behind a screen.
Our Indigo flight from Delhi to Jaipur ran on time and was very efficient. Not the best in terms of legroom, but for such a short time you can’t really complain.
I wasn’t impressed with our flight from Delhi to Goa however. We used Air India this time and again it took quite a while to get through security and once we went to board, one of their staff said my cabin luggage had to be checked in as they were full. Bearing in mind we were like the first ones to get on the plane, I didn’t see how this could be the case.
E – ELEFANTASITC
During our short stay in Jaipur, we visited an elephant farm run by an accommodating man named Rahul. Please click HERE to find out more about our experience.
F – FOOD
If you aren’t a fan of spicy food – fear not, there are various restaurants in New Delhi especially between Connaught Place and Hauz Khas. You will feel right at home with KFC, McDonalds, Nandos, Pizza Hut and Dominos, but don’t be a bore and just eat at restaurants you can find at home, the local cuisine is just as appealing. Try avoid eating from street stalls, as it is very common for foreigners to develop a stomach bug from eating something unpleasant. You can get Indian sweets and snacks from Haldiram’s.
In Goa we were a little bit stuck for choice when it came to food, as there was only our hotel restaurants and two other restaurants adjacent to our hotel (not connected to the hotel in any way).
G – GETTING THERE
Most of my recent long-haul trips have been booked using Best At Travel. As we were splitting up our trip between Delhi and Goa, we managed to get what I believe to be an exceedingly good deal using them. Our trusty agent arranged our flight to Delhi where we stayed at Le Méridien hotel. From there we booked our own flight between Delhi and Goa (see D for domestic flights). In Goa we stayed at Alila Diwa before returning home from Mumbai – also arranged by our agent.
Click the links above for more on our stay at each hotel.
H – HEALTH
Water purity is an issue in India and it is advisable to only drink bottled water to save yourself from any unpleasantries. We decided to take extra precautions and bought Oasis Water Purification tablets, as we read positive reviews on Amazon about them.
I – INSURANCE
It is important to take out travel insurance before you set off on your travels. This will protect you against loss of baggage, airline cancellations and more. You can use comparison sites such as money supermarket to find out the best options and for a breakdown of what’s included.
J – JET AIRWAYS
This was my first time flying with Jet Airways. It is the second largest airline in India and operates international and domestic flights. On both flights, I would say that the seats could have done with an update, as they were a bit tired looking. However, for a short person the legroom is quite good and so is the recline. The onboard entertainment is reasonable, with a selection of Hollywood and of course Bollywood movies.
They offer three types of food selections – the Indian option, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. I chose the Indian option on the way out, which consisted of chicken masala with naan. Overall, Jet is a rather standard airline with a no frills feel.
K – KEEPING SAFE
Although many parts of India are quite cosmopolitan, there is also a lot of obvious poverty, so you’ll have to be careful of pickpockets. You’ll want to keep your items close in a moneybag for example, but thieves know you keep your most valuable possessions in this, therefore making yourself an easy target.
Most places you go, you will be hassled by shop owners wanting you to come in and shop as you walk along the street. If you do decide to go into one of them, be prepared to be followed around by the keen shop assistant wanting you to buy something. Do not be pressured into buying anything and haggle where you can.
All in all, we felt pretty safe in India but were mindful of how we handled our money.
L – LANGUAGE
Learning a few basic phrases before you go to any foreign country is always helpful and makes you seem less touristy. We learnt the following words in Hindi –
“Thank you”, Dhanyavaad
“Yes” and “No” Haan & Nahin
£1 = roughly 90 Rupees
P – PACKING
Packing during monsoon season isn’t that difficult, as the weather is still pretty warm. Goa did get cooler in the evening, so we took a shall out with us. Delhi is quite a contemporary city but it is advisable for ladies to not wear too revealing clothes so you can avoid unwanted male attention. Cottons and linens are good materials to help keep you cool.
R – RICKSHAW
Whilst in the North, we relied heavily on rickshaws as our transportation. In Agra, we pretty much used one for the whole day. There are two types of rickshaws – the push bike and the motor operated rickshaw. Like many things in India, the rickshaw is a very inexpensive mode of travel and generally you pay between Rs.50-100 a journey. Not necessarily the most comfortable but a nifty way to navigate the disorderly Indian roads.
S – SELFIE
Indians love a selfie with a foreigner, so don’t be alarmed if you’re getting a phone on a selfie stick shoved in your face. In popular tourist areas, such as the Taj Mahal, we were subject to this. It can be annoying especially in 37°c heat, but out of courtesy it’s polite to oblige a few, HOWEVER be careful not to attract too much attention while doing so, otherwise you’ll never get onto your next destination.
This isn’t the easiest process, as you can imagine, but by doing our research we found a very helpful website called seat 61. Here you’ll find out how to sign up for an account and buy tickets directly from Indian Railways – www.irctc.co.in. It took 1 day for customer services to properly activate my account enabling us to purchase tickets. You are allowed to book 6 tickets per calendar month and because I was booking for my mum, brother and myself, a return journey to Agra quickly used up my allowance.
The Gaatiman Express is a relatively new train service that takes you from Delhi to Agra in less than 2 hours. It runs twice daily (except on a Friday) to and from Agra.
The experience – the train ran on time, we were offered food and drinks and the seats were even reclinable (much better service and quality than travelling first class on Virgin trains!).
U – UBER
Uber works pretty well in Delhi and Jaipur and it was dirt cheap! A 20-40 minute journey to the airport cost us no more than Rs. 200 (like £2!). You can also pay by cash, which I found to be incredibly helpful. The drivers were professional and arrived within 10 minutes. Unfortunately it wasn’t available in Goa.
V – VISA + VACCINATIONS
Yes you do need a visa when travelling to India. We applied for a e-Tourist visa via the official site https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html. It cost $49.20 (£39) and entitles you to a 30-day stay.
I received boosters of the following – Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid. They are recommended by Fit For Travel, which is a website provided by the NHS.
W – WEATHER
During monsoon season, the weather in India varies. We were lucky to have great weather in the North but when we headed to Goa, we were met with heavy showers. The weather was much cooler as well in the South, with temperatures of around 28°c, in comparison to the North with sweltering temperatures of around 37°c. Saying this, if you are travelling during monsoon season, you are still able to pack light clothing but maybe a rain anorak is advisable.
Z – (TIME) ZONE