If you’re planning a trip to India, I hope this brief insight will help you.
Looking back I can’t believe that at the age of 20 I went travelling around India alone. All I had was a backpack, my passport, and a return ticket home 3 months later. No plans, no tour, nothing! To be honest, what I really can’t believe is
that my friends and family let me go. I am so glad they did because I had an amazing experience. Zero regrets.
If you are thinking about a trip to India, the following might help you in your decision.
TIP NO 1: IF YOU'RE CONSIDERING GOING, JUST GO!
I know what you’re thinking.
Yes, I was 20. Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I went alone. . .
When my plane landed in Delhi, I was not ready to get off the plane. I felt scared, alone and very apprehensive. I had a million questions racing through my head.
What will it be like? What if I get lost? What if I get ripped off, or worse?
With uncertainty and apprehension clouding my head, I was forced to pull myself together and do my best to get to my hotel safely. I knew at the very least I would be safe there.
My trip to Madpackers was seamless. I really didn’t have to worry at all. Once I arrived I grabbed some supplies and whipped up my grandmother's Dahl recipe. Before I knew it I had loads of new friends, and we were sat with a beer in one had a chapatti in the other making plans to visit the Taj Mahal together. My first night couldn’t have been better.
TIP NO 2: BE SOCIABLE IN YOUR ACCOMODATION; BECAUSE THE PEOPLE YOU MEET MIGHT JUST BECOME YOUR TRAVEL BUDDIES!
The next day it was off to the train station! We were going to Agra! Riding on a train in India is a struggle at the best of time, let alone travelling in the lowest class of carriage there is. Of course, this is what I ended up doing. By this point there were about 10 of us going to the Taj Mahal so we figured we would be fine in such a large group.
The best way I can describe general class is a battle ground. It’s a battle to get a space, be it on the floor, standing up, or in the bunks; just a space to be is hard to come by. I ended up on the floor with a small child resting her head on my arm. Of course, the attention was on us. I unfortunately was getting stared at a lot, in hindsight it was my own fault. With my grandmother being Indian, I often was mistaken for being fully Indian myself, namely Punjabi. I realised this later during my trip and wore only Indian clothes, which helped a lot. Unfortunately, I was unaware of this so early on.
TIP NO 3: AVOID TRAVELLING GENERAL CLASS ON THE TRAIN
We are at the Taj Mahal at 5am the next day. It is early enough that there is hardly anyone there, and there is still a cool breeze before the scorching summer sun completely drains you of all your energy.
A month or so later, I have explored the ancient sights of Uttar Pradesh, experienced a cremation ceremony along the Ganges, toured the British Raj Palaces of Lucknow, explored the Rajasthani desert on camel back and camped under the stars (to name a few). I needed a break from the Indian summer sun, so I got on a bus and headed north into Himachal Pradesh where the air is cooler and less humid. Here, I hiked the famous Mcleodganj and some how managed to twist my knee in the process, so had to be carried back down the mountain by some helpful tourists.
TIP NO 4: GO TO RAJASTHAN, IT WAS ONE OF MY FAVOURITE STATES
After this, I needed some well deserved rest from the backpacker life. I flew to Kolkata and stayed with some long lost relatives who nursed me back to health, and fed me far too many sweets! This was a fantastic experience for me personally because I got to see where my grandmother grew up and experience the life that she had back in India. I also had some friends from university who live in Kolkata. They showed me a side of India that the average backpacker doesn’t get to see. Their privileged upbringings highlighted the stark poverty gap that India faces. The difference between rich and poor is beyond drastic. I am honestly grateful that I was privileged enough to see both sides of the country. I like to think I now have a more rounded perspective of what the country is really like.
TIP NO 5: MAKE SURE YOU TRY BENGALI SWEETS. THEY’RE FAMOUS FOR BEING SO DELICIOUS
My final stop was Punjab. Acting has always been a hobby of mine, and I found a 2 week Bollywood film course at one of the major Universities in the state. Honestly speaking, the idea of it was better than the reality. Having travelled around India alone for the previous two months, I felt like I had got to know the country pretty well. However, the University felt a responsibility towards their international students, so my movements were heavily restricted; which I did not receive well. As a woman I had to be in the University grounds by dark, and also was not able to make my own plans for the weekends. Looking back, I can totally understand it, but I really struggled with how restrictive it was at the time.
TIP NO 6: IMMERSE YOURSELF INTO THE CULTURE AND WAY OF LIFE!
Right! Enough complaining from me!
My trip was amazing overall and I would most definitely want to go back and experience more of the South. It was monsoon season down South whilst I was there, so I stayed mainly North to save myself from the bad weather!
If you’re planning a trip to India, I hope this brief insight helped you!!
Happy Travelling Everyone!!
Written by: Sasha Rae