1.27 BILLION people | 79.8 % Hindu | 53 cities with million+ people | 36 states | 2 official languages
Use our Visa Tool to quickly find out whether you need a visa for India.
SHOESTRING TRAVEL BUDGET
Bare minimum – US$20 per day or less*
*if you are cool with cramped train carriages for long periods and diarrhea inducing food.
Comfortable India backpacker budget – US$30 per day
India Mike – Excellent India travel forum
Seat 61 – Great info on Indian train classes and routes with useful pics and maps.
World Nomads – Specialists in providing travel insurance for backpacking trips.
Clear Trip – Probably the easiest way for foreigners to book train tickets online.
Indian Rail PNR checker – Check the current PNR status (waitlisted/confirmed) of your train bookings.
VFS Global – The official India Visa Service for UK residents.
WORTH A READ
Life of Pi – 2001 novel about the adventures of a young Inidan boy, a tiger and a boat. You may have seen the film!
Shantaram – Remarkable novel about an escaped convict in the underworld of Bombay.
Holy Cow – An Indian Adventure – The prophecy of a palm-reading beggar comes true as Sarah returns to India and finds love 11 years after here unpleasant backpacking experiences.
Railonama – A collection of short stories and poems about experiences on Indian railways.
The Backpacker – When plans for a ‘holiday’ fail, John meets the enigmatic Rick and is soon embarking on bizarre adventures in India.
Indian Summer – A fascinating insight into life during the transition from British rule to Indian independence.
INDIA IN A NUTSHELL!
21st Century India has many faces from the glitz and glamour of Bollywood, T20 cricket and a burgeoning middle class to the slums of Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai, where life remains a struggle for survival. Much has changed since India gained independence from the British in 1947 but the immensity of the Himalayas, cultural delights of Rajasthan and the wonder that is the Taj Mahal remain as grand as ever.
India though is incredibly diverse and there are large variations as you go from state to state and meet different people often with their own distinct languages, religions and cultural habits. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about India given the enormous religious and cultural diversity that exists, is that it has remained so peaceful over recent decades and can still proudly claim to be the world’s largest democracy. India works in its own often mind-bendingly frustrating way and while many challenges lie ahead, does seem to be on the path to a brighter future.
THE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
Travelling around India is not relaxing and it certainly can be frustrating. Almost every street is crowded and teeming with life and activity (and cows) in even the smaller cities and exotic sounding places you’ve never previously heard of, frequently turn out to be manic places where you barely get a second alone. Travelling in India is a very intense experience but that is what makes it so memorable. Almost everywhere you go, seems like a giant attack on your senses and the sights, sounds and smells both delight and shock in almost equal measure.
India is full of surprises and almost every day you will see something you’ve never witnessed before which is surely the hallmark of a great travel destination. The size and variety of the country means there are always new places to discover and new experiences to be had. It is not without its hassles of course but the image of widespread poverty is not entirely true any more and the notion that there are persistent beggars on almost every street corner is simply a myth.
The enormous rail network, which remains the world’s largest makes it easy and cheap to get around and riding the trains alone is a fascinating experience. Although they are frequently late, once you get used to the somewhat complicated booking system you will find the wide choice of classes gives hardcore shoestring types the chance to cover large distances for next to nothing while the better classes are still good value and with an emergence of budget airlines in recent years, despite its size, India is very easy to get around.