Two fellow travel bloggers were recently backpacking in India for five weeks and I met up with them in Goa to hear their stories. I love hearing other people’s experiences in India and the routes and transportation options they choose to take. I ask them to share that experience here.
I’m breaking down Tempesst and Allison’s trip in India with some questions and they’re sharing with you when they went to India, the best route for 5 weeks in India, what to expect with the food here, and the ups and downs they faced throughout their journey.
hostel common room
One Month Backpacking India
Dates in India: 8 November through 18 December
Airline & Booking site: one way flight from Yangon, Myanmar to Mumbai for $180 USD through Expedia. When leaving India, flew Goa to New Orleans for $600 one way (booked last minute) also booked on Expedia.
What was your daily budget during one month in India?
My daily budget was $30/day. Some days I was under, spending only $15/day, and other days I was WAYYY over.
The splurges were mostly on food because, due to the currency crisis, we had to eat at places that accepted cards. This ended up being overpriced Indian food cafes or Western chain restaurants. Allison thought that the trail wallet app was useful because she has a tendency to go over her budget. She said that it kept her on track by having to enter in every single purchase.
How did you book hotels and hostels while in India?
I recommend booking through the hostel’s direct website because it ends up being a little cheaper as you are not being charged Hostelworld’s commission.
“I don’t think booking ahead is necessary–we booked the day before we planned to arrive and that proved to be sufficient.”
How did you book transportation in India?
We booked our train tickets directly at the station.
When we arrived at a new city, we went directly to the foreign ticket counter (or regular ticket counter if there was no foreign line) before even leaving the station to book our tickets to the next place.
Our itinerary was basically at the mercy of which trains had seats available. Before reaching the ticket attendant, we would come up with a list of our top three places we wanted to go next and then we would book tickets to whichever place had available seats.
We took 3rd AC class on all of our train rides and it was SO NICE! I was surprised to see how nice and comfortable the trains were. 3rd AC even has charging ports and the blankets were nice to have when it was colder.
Of course they tried Bhang lassi! and loved it!
Do you have any tips about the trains and buses in India?
Request the top tier bed at booking because then you’ll be able to sleep in.
Make friends with your seat mates, especially if they are a couple or family. They’ll look out for you.
PS: if you don’t have a phone which is unlocked you cannot put in a SIM card. You need to purchase an unlocked phone. If you would rather, Trabugsends a phone to your initial hotel in India ready to go.
Tell us your exact itinerary for one month in India (5 weeks) and the hostels you stayed at.
The hostels in India are really on the come up. The majority that we stayed in were clean, secure, well-located, and had spacious and comfy common rooms.
I would say that they are on par with the hostels that one would see on the Southeast Asia backpacker trail, minus the alcohol buckets of course. Also, hot water isn’t always available.
A lot of the hostels offer daily activities for guests to socialize. The Zostel in Jaipur even runs a pub crawl. A common theme among them was daily free chai and cookies around 5 PM.
Drinking alcohol was not allowed in any of the hostels we stayed at (except in Goa), but it’s so easy to meet other backpackers and go elsewhere to get dinner and a drink. I noticed that a lot of the hostel employees were Indian backpackers who decided to stay put for a while before they continue traveling.
We paid anywhere from $3-$8 USD/night.
tour with hostel crew
Of everywhere you traveled, which was your favorite place in India?
It’s a tie between Udaipur and Amritsar.
Udaipur is a favorite because, after Mumbai, it was great to be out a city and be in a place that really felt like India: intensely colorful, loud, delicious eats, etc.
Our hostel there, Bunkyard Hostel, was run by a group of young, chill Indian guys and it was perfectly located right on the lake.
Amritsar is a favorite because of the AMAZING hostel we stayed at, Jugaadus Eco Hostel. We went on the hostel tour to the Wagah border and also ate our faces off at the food tour. The night shift employee knew of a wedding going on in his village and was nice enough to invite us! Also, the Golden Temple at night is a magnificent sight and moving experience.
“On a superficial level, Delhi is also one of my favorites due to the high amount of hot hipster Indian guys that populate the city. The Starbucks in Connaught Place seems to be their main stomping ground.”
Which was your least favorite place in India and why?
I found there was not much to do or see beyond the camel safari and the fort. I didn’t do the camel safari, but Allison did and highly recommends it.
Is there somewhere in India you wish you had gone that isn’t on your list?
Hampi, for sure. Kerala, too. We just ran out of time.
Is there a place that you liked but think you should have spent less time?
We could’ve spent less time in Mumbai.
We had only planned to stay there for two days, but the demonetization announcement was made the night we landed. We had to stay in Mumbai until we had enough cash to book train tickets.
Is there a special memory from India that you’ll always remember?
At the wedding near Amritsar, there was a point where I was dancing on stage with both the wedding guests and friends from the hostel. I was just the right amount of tipsy, the music was great, and it was one of those perfect travel moments where everything comes together to create a moment where you don’t think you could ever love life as much as you do right then. I felt thankful and proud of this life of travel I have built for myself.
Did anything bad happen to you in India?
How did you find the people there? Did you have issues with staring or harassment?
I found Indians, especially the ones around my age, to be friendly and really wanting me to enjoy my time in their country. Some can be very, very shy so it may take a while for them to warm up.
There was lots of staring but we got used to it after a while. We didn’t have any issues with harassment other than a truck full of men yelling at us as they drove by in Agra.
What is the worst thing about traveling in India?
It can be a real hassle because they book up so far in advance. If you’re on a tight timeline, I would suggest booking everything when you get to India because not being able to get the train you need can really throw off your itinerary.
Also, if you have to go back to the station for tatkal, you have to pay for two extra rickshaw rides which add up.
How does India compare to other places you have traveled?
India is unlike any other place I’ve traveled to. It is loud, stinky, and dirty. But it is also stunningly beautiful, colorful, spiritual, and modern. I like the extremes.
One day I was eating dirt cheap street food and haggling for a $2 bracelet in a several hundreds year old fort, and the next I was cruising around Delhi in a brand new Mercedes with my Tinder date. Anything can happen in India and I loved literally not knowing what each day would bring.
Did you encounter any racism in India?
While I was In Tanzania earlier on this trip, I had three other travelers tell me how racists Indians were. Before we went to the wedding, the hostel owner sat me down and told me that Indians are “extremely racist” and advised me to be prepared.
I decided to go to India with an open mind so that I didn’t subconsciously close myself off. I never encountered any racism during my time in India or felt that I was treated differently than any other foreigner based on my race. Of course, there were some people who didn’t believe that I was American based on my skin color, but that has happened in almost every country I’ve traveled to in Asia.
If anything, being a black girl with blue braids helped me to meet more people because they would come up to ask questions or ask for a picture and then we would get to talking. At the wedding, everyone was accepting of me and, if I can toot my own horn for a little bit, I was a hit!
What do you wish you’d known before coming to India?
We wish we would’ve known about the demonetization before we arrived so that we could have gotten some USD. We were both on planes when the announcement was made so we literally had no clue what was going on until we landed.
We also wish that we knew how nice 3AC was so that we wouldn’t have wasted space in our packs with sleeping bags.
Is there anything you didn’t pack you needed?
More long shirts and tunics that covered my bum.
What that you DID pack ended up being really helpful on the trip?
Headlamp for the times the power went out, wet wipes, and first aid kit.
How did you like the food and what food do you recommend people try in India?
The food, especially up North, was amazing! We were always looking forward to our next meal. My favorite dish was bhindi masala with garlic naan. Along with that, we recommend butter chicken, galub jamun, keer, jalebi, baati, and anything tandoori.
Did you find the bathroom situation easy enough or was it a hassle?
“The bathroom situation was easy enough. Do some squats before you leave to prepare your quads haha. Also, carry toilet paper or baby wipes in your purse because there will never be any.”
Did you feel safe while in India and do you think the media makes it out to be worse than it is?
I actually think that the media here doesn’t cover a lot of what goes on in India as it relates to crimes against women. As long as you keep your wits about you and follow female safety travel tips for India you should be okay.
How did you feel about Goa’s party scene and Goa in general?
I do not like trance music, and since most of Goa’s nightlife scene revolves around trance parties, a lot of our nights there were spent just drinking at whatever restaurant we had dinner at.
We went to Lilliput one night to listen to reggae music, and that was a cool vibe. As a last India hoorah, we went to ladies night at Club Cubana. This place is great if you want to dance to rap/hip-hop and on Wednesdays, there is no cover for girls AND they can drink for free.
I didn’t love the beach in Anjuna. It was a bit dirty and we felt like we couldn’t relax because the girls kept coming up to try to sell things to us. I heard that South Goa is more chilled, so maybe I will check that out next time.
Do you think you’ll come back to India or was one time enough?
As my family and best friend at home are probably tired of hearing, I am obsessed with India and will definitely be back and hopefully very soon! There is so, so much left to explore.
I am so happy that the girls shared all their tips for India in this post! If you are considering coming to India, it’s important that you keep reading and learning about how to prepare for this trip. You’ll need a visa (there is NO visa on arrival here). You’ll also want travel insurance and start by reading these FAQ about India travel.
Heading to India on a big once in a lifetime trip? Don’t forget to get my India Guide ebook, which has 6 years of India travel all wrapped up into the perfect guide to India – it covers everything from preparing with health, visas, and WiFi, but itineraries with custom maps, experiences, monuments, and things to do, places to eat, etc in each place I recommend in the book! Check it out here.
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Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Hippie in Heels, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.