- Travel Topics
We spent an average $27 each per day in India over the course of 15 days. Here is a collection of our impressions, travel tips, and the cost break down.
Varanasi was our first stop in India, so naturally we fell prey to a couple scams (nothing too damaging though), and to be suspected upon getting to India I suppose. We spent our days exploring the areas along the Ganges river, walking along the various ghats and getting adjusted to the bustling Indian city environment. The city gives off a bit of an odd vibe. On one hand the buildings along the river are discrepant and in a terrible state of disrepair, on the other hand they almost signal that this is a city that once was great. This city is holy for Hindus and the Ganges river is sacred for Hindus, so you will seem them practicing traditional rituals, as well as cremating their dead and bathing in the river, daily.
How could we go to India and miss seeing the Taj Mahal? We spent a full afternoon there and loved it. There are several other attractions within and nearby Agra but we only had time to see the Agra Fort as well and will have to save the rest for next time.
We were in Vrindavan mainly to finally meet our virtual assistant Preity in person with her family. On top of that we also got a tour of the Vrindavan temples by her husbands and learned all about the holy Hindu city and the Krishna faith that is centered there.
Jaipur was our gateway city into the Rajastan State. Jaipur is the largest city in the state and is nicknamed the Pink City after it’s colored buildings. We spent a full afternoon exploring the Amber Fort which is truly impressive and grandiose. Other activities included seeing the Jal Mahal, a palace in the center of a lake, the Hawa Mahal, an extension of the palace allowing royal women to observe everyday life, and the Jantar Mantar, an astronomical laboratory built in the early 1700s. In Jaipur just on the street we met a few friendly Indian men who chatted with us and gave us advice on what to do in the city, asking for absolutely nothing in return, which really put a smile on our face.
Jodhpur is known as the Blue City and I suspect you can see why from the photo above. We spent our time here exploring the Mehrangarh Fort and going on a foodie tour of the city. We had some great meals here and I took an amazing cooking class at Spice Paradise, which I highly highly recommend.
Jaisalmer, coined the Golden City is located in the west of the Rajastan state close to the border of Pakistan. The city feels pretty laid back and is a great place to stroll around admiring the incredibly intricate architectural designs. Make sure to spend some time in the Jaisalmer Fort, which unlike some of the other forts is still a living, breathing fort with it’s own set of residents and community. Also set up a desert safari to at least be able to see the sunset.
We only had one day in Delhi because we took an 18 hour overnight train from Jaisalmer and had a flight back to Nepal at night. We left our bags at Smyle Inn for the day and asked the manager there for a recommendation of how to spend the day. He suggested going to see the Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple so that’s what we did. The temple was built recently in 2005, and really is incredible. Hands down one of the most impressive temples we have ever seen. Unfortunately all we have is this smog filled photo of the temple from a distance because you’re not allowed to bring cameras into the complex (or any other electronics for that matter). Definitely worth a visit. We’ll have to see all the other Delhi attractions next time we’re in town.
Would we do it the same way?
Since we only spent 15 days in India we really only had time to see a small portion of the country and we limited our time to the North. We liked every place we went and feel like we spent an appropriate amount of time there. Don’t move through places in India too fast, that will quickly exhaust you. You will need buffer days to recover from long train journeys or just from being out in the cities.
We’ll need a lot more time to see the whole country but feel like in 15 days we saw a lot, but didn’t feel so rushed, that we were only spend a day in each place.
India is intense. There is no other way to say it. Some people love it, others hate it, but you pretty much are bound to form some sort of opinion on the country after visiting.
Where do we stand? Sometimes we loved it, other times we hated it. When you’re standing on the street just looking at your map trying to get oriented and over a dozen people come up to you offering a ride or some other technique to pull money from you, yes sometimes you just want to scream. Or when you’re standing on the platform waiting for you train to arrive and it’s late, by 30, 40 60, 80, 100 minutes, yes your patience started to grow thin. Or when you’re walking along the street minding your own business and you are constantly constantly accosted by people inviting you to their shop, to take a tour, to sell you a trinket, anything and everything imaginable, yes these instances are frustrating. When you see the trash and litter everywhere you will truly be horrified.
But then you get to hold a baby goat and all that’s been bothering you instantly dissolves (yes this actually happened to me in Varanasi). Or a family asked to take a photo with you and then tells you this will be their greatest asset, yes those moments are wonderful. Or you get some life advice from the man who works at the information desk at the Varanasi train station, and you simply want to hug him. And then you have some delicious Indian food that makes you float up to foodie heaven.
India is a place of high highs and low lows. But with the bad comes the good, and you really just have to be patient and take a deep breathe if you feel your blood pressure starting to rise. It’s the kind of country you need to just take it easy and accept that things will not happen on your time and that that’s ok.
For all the scammers you meet who intentionally lead you astray and try to suck money out of you, you’ll also meet a kind friendly person with no hidden agenda.
India is an incredibly poor country and the poverty alone will break your heart over and over again. It will make you realize how truly lucky you are to be able to travel and to lead the life you do. It really is a difficult country to travel through emotionally.
Our two week trip was too short to really get into the heart and soul of India so we’ll have to come back again (potentially several times) to really form a true and honest opinion of the country.
I am intrigued though and I will definitely be back.
The food in India is seriously incredible. It is amazing. So full of spices and rich flavors, it really blew my mind. I ate strictly Indian food while we were there, realizing I only had 15 days to sample the dishes and I tried to order different items each time, to really get a good feel for the food.
So many great meals it’s really hard to choose from.
One of my favorite meals though was at the cooking class I took in Jodhpur at Spice Paradise. During the class we made lassi, vegetable biryani, garlic naan, chapati, yogurt raita, palak paneer, masala chai and rava kesari. Everything was finger licking good but I particularly love love loved the garlic naan. Though garlic naan is a simple Indian bread, this one was out of this world. Perfectly garlicy and full of flavor I was ready to eat one after another. Oh and when you did that in the palak paneer curry, you simply drift off into foodie heaven.
Though we were only in Northern India we found an awesome little restaurant in Varanasi called Dosa Cafe, serving South Indian food – my favorite being the masala dosa.
Our best experience was being able to meet Preity, one of our virtual assistants, and her family. We had been working with her for months so it was just a great opportunity to finally meet in person. We spent two days with her and her family and it was wonderful getting to know her better and really have a local to show us around.
We didn’t take any local buses in India.
We used trains to get around from city to city. The journeys can be long and the trains are usually delayed by an hour or more. We tried out several classes of trains starting from the sleeper class (cheapest berth compartments) to 3rd class seats, to 2AC (second best sleeper class). Sleeper class is the most crowded but 6 berths on one side of the aisle and 2 on the other, no sheets or blankets, no AC and no curtains. 2AC is more comfortable and only has 4 berths on one side of the aisle and 2 on the other, with the conductor passing out sheets and blankets, curtains to separate the compartments and AC in the car. 3rd class seats is a car with cushioned comfortable chairs.
Instead of cabs we took a mix of auto and bicycle rickshaws to get around. The bicycle rickshaws are cheaper but generally slower, since you are basically in a carriage with a man biking you around. The auto rickshaws are more expensive, roomier (so better if you have you luggage) and quicker since it’s basically a cart with seats attached to a motorcycle. Make sure to bargain with the drivers for the price.
We didn’t take any long distance buses in India.
Bring your student IDs with you, in a few tourist sites they will give you a discount if you are 25 or under with a student ID.
We had trouble finding public bathroom in India. Use the rest room at the guesthouse, restaurant or major tourist attractions. In India you will also notice men peeing randomly just about anywhere. Very strange to see and we saw this at least once every day if not more.
We generally felt safe in India though people do stare at foreigners which is a bit unsettling. I was glad to have Dave at my side, it seemed to me that men stared particularly more at women and this made me very uneasy. We did not go out late at night so can’t say anything about how safe it is to wander around the cities at that time.
There are tons of different food options in India, from street side stalls to fine dining options. We stayed somewhere in the middle – sticking to simple restaurants or eating at our guesthouse. We weren’t too adventurous fearing an attack of Delhi belly, so tried to be careful about where we ate. We didn’t have any stomach problems luckily. We found some good places to eat on TripAdvisor, so if you are more of a planner and trying to be more careful look there. Also many guesthouses have their own restaurant as well and we usually found the food there to be delicious. If you’re feeling adventurous by all means try to street food (we did only once or twice but felt fine afterwards)!
Credit Cards And Money
We were not able to use credit cards in India and actually had a lot of trouble with the ATMs. On several occasions we walked around trying ATM after ATM (and they’re not easy to find) only to have our cards not work at them. Not sure why this happened, but make sure to have cash with you and take money out at every ATM you see.
Internet is available at most guesthouses though the speed is quite slow and sometimes due to blackouts or government problems internet will not be working. We were there before election time and several of the guesthouses said something about the government cutting off the internet (something like that).
We stayed in a mix of hostels and guesthouses. A good mix.
We did not couchsurf in India
We kept track of every cost we had down to the purchase level and categorized it into 5 groupings:
So where did we end up? $27 per person, per day.
Would we go back to India? YES but not right away. India is an enormous country with so much to see and do that there is no way we did anywhere close to everything in the two weeks we were there. We must go back to explore the other regions in the country and hopefully get immersed in the culture more. On the other hand India is a difficult destination to travel through and really tests your patience so we will have to plan the visit accordingly.