While on a tour through Karnataka, I met Siobhan Carrick and Chandell Kelly. I’d briefly spoken with them on Instagram, and I knew they followed my blog. We had some amazing times together on the Chikkamagalur loop of the goMowgli tour & they kept me cracking up telling me stories from their last two months in India. Backpacking India two months in one go is tiring but you can see and do so much in that long amount of time.
By far the best (and worst) was when Siobhan shared how sick she was on a local bus that after puking out the window, she actually laid on the floor of the bus with her cheek on the ground. It was a new low. Even I hadn’t been that sick! Although it sounds terrible, these stories are things travelers love to share with one another…. and it got me thinking, why not share their trip with you? So I’ve asked them about their highs and lows, booking advice, and what they wished they’d known before coming to India.
If you are coming for just a month, I have a similar post from friends who break down their month here in India in huge detail. You can read it here.
Before coming to India do not forget these three very important things:
- Travel Insurance. I use World Nomads which is what Lonely Planet recommends
- a VISA. You would be surprised how many people email me saying they showed up without one and got sent home. If you’re staying less than 60 days, here’s how to get a tourist e-visa for India. If you’re staying longer than 60 days, I have step by step guides to get a visa for India from the USA and get a visa for India from the UK.
- Your phone needs to be unlocked to add a SIM card. Many USA phones are not. You can buy a SIM card in India. Trabug is a travel phone that you can have shipped to your hotel in India. This phone has the internet and all kinds of India travel apps on it. It’s more expensive than a SIM, but SIM cards are sometimes a huge hassle for foreigners in India. You don’t want to be in India without access to the internet.
- Start with this post to see how to plan a trip in India from scratch step by step the easiest way possible.
PS: stayed tuned to the very bottom, because this post is FULL of great photos all taken by them.
at the river Ganges, Varanasi
relaxing in Hampi on one of the many boulders
touring around in a Kerala houseboat
Backpacking India Two Months Itinerary & Tips
- Dates in India: Sep 19th – Nov 20th (this is just before peak season and the PERFECT time to travel India)
- The flight to India was booked through Kayak on Air India (they flew Toronto, NY, to Mumbai)
- The flight home was actually from Colombo, Sri Lanka and booked via Skyscanner on Sri Lankan Airlines
- Flight cost: 700 to India and 450 back
- When booking, they didn’t have a set plan therefore didn’t book a round trip. In the end, they got a better price than I ever have (da fuk!?).
- Budget: On average about 1000-1200 bucks per month. They weren’t on a typical backpacking budget with a few splurges like: Hostels (new and can be a splurge in India compared to a cheap guesthouse), safaris, Elefantastic in Jaipur, and a GoMowgli tour. All in all, they were pleased with the amount they spent.
with a Sadhu in Varanasi
camel safari in Jaisalmer
playing around in front of the Taj Mahal
2 month India itinerary
These chicadees saw SO much in their time in India! It’s amazing. They traveling at a nice pace being sure not to wear themselves out, but also continuously sought out unique experiences rather than just wandering aimlessly. Here is the cities they went to in order (with links to articles I’ve written about them):
- goMowgli tour in Karnataka
So, I asked them some more questions…
When asked which place was the worst: Agra. See Taj Mahal and leave same day.
Which place could you have spent less time: Jodhpur no more than a day. See the fort and get out if possible. Also, a week was too much in Goa. It was too westernized and they missed the chaos of “real India”.
Which places were favorites and needing MORE time: Hampi and Udaipur
Where they wished they could have gone but didn’t make it: Ladakh (parents worries kept them away)
the blue alleys of Jodhpur
painting elephants with Elephantastic! in Jaipur
Backpacking India Advice
I asked them quite a handful of questions about their time in India including their highlights and low lights. If you’re considering coming, I’m sure you realize it’s not always an easy place to travel. This whole post is filled with photos from their trip which I think serve as excellent inspiration to plan your trip to India.
Highlights of traveling India:
Friendly people, culture shock (the good and the bad!), experiencing and learning about spirituality and religion, camel safari, Dharamsala, Varanasi, elefantastic! in Jaipur, Udaipur, Chandell loved the food while Siobhan didn’t as much, and “gaining perspective on how much we have in the western world and appreciating it while also reflecting on how we sometimes forget the simple and important thing in life.”
Lowlights of traveling India:
Couchsurfing (from rachel: I wrote about my experience with Couchsurfing in Delhi), train stations/bus stops…essentially transportation is by far the biggest challenge, as well as lack of cleanliness and lack of respect for the environment. Particularly the Agra train station was difficult with many children begging and there were lots of adults really invading space.
crammed on a sleeper class train
the photo to the left is a time when a man sat his baby down without a word and wanted a photo so before he left they asked for one themselves. The second one is what it looked like out the bus door when arriving in Hampi -chaos!
What they wished they’d known before backpacking India:
“You’ll never be clean, “Anything is possible!”, and you will be riding the emotional roller coaster of india (the struggle is REAL!), and you should have a well rested day before you venture on the sleeper train- your patience WILL be tested!”
The mosquito net they packed went unused. Other than that, they feel they packed well. Here’s a backpacking India packing list which they saw before their trip.
Staying in Hostels in India
Hostels are new and exciting here in India. Over three years ago when I backpacked, I didn’t stay at one and couldn’t even find one online. The girls are keeping me hip, explaining that there are brand new ones popping up! Since they told me, I check out Zostel Goa which was very cool. They stayed at a few and LOVED it. Editor’s note: for all you need to know about Goa, check out my ebook, the Insider’s Guide to Goa! Click here to buy it.
- Jugadus Eco Hostel in Amritsar. Amazing! So friendly and organize all tours
- Stops Hostel in Varanasi. An awesome refuge from the craziness, organized tours to avoid the bad bits of the Ghats
- Jungle Hostel in Vagator. Bare bones, full of hippies, was okay
- Vedanta Wake Up Varkala & Allephuza. Both were great
They say hostels were the main way they met other backpackers. When I traveled, I rarely met other friends, so it seems hostels may be the new way to go! They didn’t stay at Zostels Hostel but they said they heard good things from backpackers.
Food In India isn’t for everyone.
While Siobhan didn’t love Indian food as much, Chandell was obsessed and had about 3 thalis a day! Lucky for us, she photographed them. Here you go!
More of a Sneak Peek into these girls’ Indian Adventures!
monks in Dharamsala
cows and pigs eating trash
sunset on the camel safari, Jaisalmer
kids in Kerala
a common site in Rajasthan
goat in a blanket, not so common!
I spy the tourist
when I finally was lucky enough to meet these gals at Jog Falls
sometimes, this is what you have to work with.
Highest peak in Karnataka
Happiness all around!
Laundry Ghats in Bombay
Chai & Henna… perfect day!
a view across the river, a burning at the Ghats
giving a cow water?
a sign on Om Beach, Gokarna
To end, a sunset in Karnataka, near River Tern Jungle Lodge
Huge thank you to Siobhan and Chandell for letting me share your stories and photos with my readers! We appreciate you and you’re helping other people get to experience India!
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I loved reading this! Great photos too, they really document the trip and those food pictures have made me so hungry!
Having my personal space invaded was one of my biggest challenges in India, and some of the train stations really tested me, jolly good job I love a good train journey!
I’m really glad to hear backpacker hostels are becoming more popular, that would sure make travelling around India easier, much easier to connect with other travellers. I feel that rarely happened on my trip in 08.
I love the trains in India as well, although did have two people sit on my bed which I didn’t see until I woke up haha. I feel ya on the hostels, it was so hard meeting people when I first traveled India.
India, many great places to travel like Taj-Mahal!
I really liked this post Rachel and the colourful photographs bring back so many memories… Ha! I think 2.5 months would be waaaaay too much for me. After a month, I needed a very long respite from India. Short phases are the way to go I think LOL!
I too would have liked to spend far more time in Udaipur and less in Delhi. I spent a week in Delhi and it was far too long! I remember well, the Indian sleeper train with compartment space that was very very tight! I love train travel and I quite enjoyed the overnight train in Vietnam. The Indian train on the other hand, was a challenge. I might travel via 1st class next time or just fly!
p.s. I loved the thali’s. I still do!
India is the worst country is the world….if I see it through your eyes :)
Actually, what these two girls saw and photographed is what I see in India as well. Some bad some good. I love India, but unless you live there and no which areas to avoid, you will see the bad of India as well.
wonderful post..the pictures speak a thousand words and speak the truth..the food..the garbage in Bombay ..
information on hostels is great..didn’t know about those..
Yes I think this paints a very accurate picture
If one is a traveler or not a traveler still when sick it is the worst. Recently during one of my trip I was very unwell and it was the worst to happen. I can understand what others feel when they are traveling and they fall sick and if they are specially in an unknown city/town and knows nobody.
It’s a horrible feeling.
I think all too many people don’t like Agra because all they do is go there for the Taj. They go in, see it, are slightly unimpressed and then leave disappointed. I was so glad we didn’t just jet in and out and were able to take in everything else that was in Agra as well.
I also agree that more time can always be spent in Udaipur! It was like a glass of fresh water in a land where all that was available was dirty polluted river water (quite literally and metaphorically!)
Udaipur was certainly an amazing destination !
Rachel, thanks for this post. It made me laugh audibly a few times, mostly because I can relate in so many ways. I haven’t been to India yet, but I do recall the first time I saw squatty potties without any doors for privacy. I suddenly didn’t have to go to the bathroom that badly anymore. I, got used to it, of course, but definitely prefer a Western toilet and a door…it’s the simple things in life. I’ve also experienced my fair share of traveler’s sickness and many sources tell me Buddha Belly in India is the worst of them all. I hope these girls can look back and laugh about it!
I’m glad you loved the post! I think it’ll help lots of people travel to India and plan out their trips. I guess we can’t ever forget seeing our first squat toilets lol
I’ve just come across your blog and im sitting here in awe & completly inspired ♡ I have been dreaming of doing what you & these girls have done & i’m taking the first tiny steps to making it happen..even just by reading this & feeling the joy of your experience. Thank you so much for sharing. Love, Sarah ♡
Thanks for commenting Sarah! I hope you get to take a big trip or have an adventure soon :)
Oh God, so many memories… getting violently sick in Chennai (I had to be carried into the hospital), and the hell that is Agra away from the Taj Mahal. Also so many beautiful moments too – colours, fun, beauty – LOVE the chai and henna pic :)
I feel like getting violently sick in India is like a badge of honor lol
Love the photos! I can relate to the getting sick on a bus. Traveling from Palolem to Baga (to meet up with a travel buddy) I got sick on a local bus. When the bus was able to pull off to the side, the passengers basically through me off. I was lying on a sidewalk in a pile of my own vomit in front of a storefront. The owner of the store was not amused and started pouring a bottle of water around me to wash away the puke. He then kicked at me and told me to get up and clean up his sidewalk. I was so sick, I was in and out of consciousness. Finally a passerby called an ambulance
and I was taken to a small local hospital that had only one nun/nurse and one doctor.
I had a terrible reaction to the IV solution It burned and itched up my arm (they said I I was allergic to it). I was put in a room full of groaning aunties on gurneys who stared at me the entire time. I ended up with a huge hematoma on my hand under the needle. The nurse took no pity on me and took no action to remedy it, so I ended up removing the needle myself. When they mentioned admitting me into the hospital for the night, I took one look at the bars on the windows (without screens) and the lovely thick jungle view outside and pictured the mosquitoes that would be flying in at dusk. With that I deliriously checked my self out of the hospital. Found out months later that I had parasites. Still, despite it all, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Goa and will return again.
holy cow!! what a story! i’m sorry you were treated that way. they may have thought you were drunk and were angry, as many locals think thats all foreigners come here to do. happy to hear you love goa stil & will be back!!
Beautiful post. Thank you
How long would you recommend staying in each place then?
I just love this!
I’m doing my tourism management course here in India…
This information is very useful to me..
Thank yu very much!
A great read. We arrive in India 15/9 so this was really timely for us! Just going to put my mosquito net into the car booting pile now, and not pack it! :)
Was that 1000/1200 per person a month? That’s still pretty cheap for being able to do all of the things they did. I’m thinking of visiting in December after my contract finishes in China.
How is the internet in India? I’m planning on prepping most of my online work before hand, but I’ll still need a bit of access. Do you think I’ll have much luck staying in mid range hostels and / or midrange private rooms? I know that’s hard to tell, but generally is the internet okay while traveling in India?