Backpacking India For Two Months: The Good, The Bad & The Ridiculous
Backpacking in India for two months has been one hell of a ride. From amazing to frustrating and from sampling delicious foods to being ill for almost a week; we've seen it all. When we decided to start our trip around the world in India we didn't really know what to expect. We read some amazing experiences but also complete horror stories before we set off. My sister loved her trip to India while some travelers go back home with —let's say— not the best travel memories...
For us, even though sometimes traveling in India was frustrating and exhausting —especially when on a budget— it wasn't like those horror stories at all. We saw some amazing things and even ended up staying a few weeks longer than intended and now that our time in India is coming to an end, we can share with you what we liked and didn't like. It might help you to mentally prepare for your trip to India...
What we liked about backpacking in India
1. The history, palaces and temples
The history and culture is definitely the main reason why you should visit India. From epic palaces and forts built on rocks to ancient temples that are still being used by thousands of locals today. We told each other at least a dozen times while visiting another fort or palace: “It must have been an impressive sight a hundred or more years ago.”
And wandering around in big temples —Meenakshi and Ranganathaswamy— was one of our favorite things to do in India because people still use them today as they did a hundred years ago. Definitely the highlight of traveling in India for us...
2. It's not as difficult to travel India as they say
Okay, it's exhausting and sometimes frustrating to backpack India on a budget. Let's face it, a 7-hour ride on a local bus makes your tailbone beg for mercy and a train that's four hours late when you had to get up for it at 2:30 in the morning might make you bash your head against the wall but all in all it's not that difficult to travel India.
The best advice we can give you is to take your time and be flexible. Things don't always go as expected and you might have to come up with a plan B when you miss that one train in Delhi that was so hard to book because 99% of them was fully booked. (Yes, it happened to us.) But even then you'll see that things will work out. Most places are well connected by trains, buses and taxis and even a flight won't kill your budget right away. Backpacking in India is easier than people will tell you...
3. From pawn to queen
This could go in the “What we didn't like” section too but I like it more here. So what do I mean by it? Well, most Indian people won't respect your personal space... at all! A queue in front of a ticket booth in the subway for example, doesn't mean the first person in line will be next to be served. Oh no, people cut the line like there's no tomorrow and shameless. If you leave 2 inches between you and the person in front of you, someone will squeeze in. I'm not even kidding, it's super annoying.
Or, if it's your turn, they will just come from the side and put their arm with money in hand in front of your nose to give it to the person behind the desk. It's one of the most crazy things you'll see in India as a Westerner. Every queue is a like a game of chess and you're either a pawn or the queen.
In the beginning, their sneaky moves always took us by surprise and we froze but after witnessing it a few times, we learned how to anticipate their moves. At the same time we would make our own moves to block invaders from the sides in order for us to conquer the booth...
Two months of traveling in India will make you stand your ground and speak up for yourself. Now, nobody can mess with us anymore and we won't take shit from anyone...
4. The food
The food in India is delicious. Not as good as Thai food for me, but close. There's a million things to try and most of it is spicy so in the beginning it can be overwhelming. We recommend a basic vegetable curry or dahl fry with a butter naan or rice to start with and after a week you'll be mixing and matching different dishes like a local.
But be careful. Chances of getting an upset stomach are pretty much 100%. We decided to go vegetarian for the entire length of our stay and we washed and cleaned our hands before every meal but still we had to suffer the infamous Delhi Belly for almost a week. We think it might have been from not washing our hands one time while eating popcorn and samosas on a train.
Don't let that make you nervous to try out the food, though. Even street food is acceptable if you pick out the right stalls...
5. It's cheap
When you want to travel on a budget, India is the place to be because food is cheap and delicious. In most places, for around $4 we got a filling meal for the two of us, including drinks and without having to eat the same thing every day. A lot of times we would do a breakfast/lunch, lunch/dinner because the portions were big enough.
What about accommodation? We always stayed in a double room with private bathroom for an average of $12 per room and all of them were clean and comfortable enough... Some were even worth double the money if you ask us...
Public transport is dirt cheap too. A 6 hour train or bus ride for around $2 per person or a taxi ride for $1 to most places if you stay around the city centre.
After two months of backpacking in India we spent an average of around $45 per day for the two of us.
What we didn't like about traveling in India...
I love cities but... oh... my... God! Absolutely, incredibly annoying; the constant honking of cars and motorcycles. And after two months of backpacking in India, we still haven't gotten used to it. The honking is constant and everywhere:
• When you're walking on the street and a motorbike is coming up right behind you with all the space in the world to pass; they would still startle you with a loud honk.
• When someone has to stop for an obstacle on the road and the person behind them has to stop too but with the same obstacle clearly visible; they still find it necessary to start honking like a maniac.
• When someone has to wait for three seconds behind another car, they won't ever do it patiently. Even when it's absolutely positively clear that it will only take three seconds for the car in front of them to move out of the way, they will honk the crap out of their horn... It's the most annoying and frustrating aspect of backpacking in India for us.
So much that we often say: “If someone honks again so close behind me, I'll punch them in the face!” Needless to say we're not violent people and we never do but five seconds later someone always honks behind us...
2. People have no respect for personal space
We already had this one in the “Like” section but I'll put another example here. When you're sitting somewhere and it's already cramped, people in India will come up to you, shoo you away with a hand gesture and squeeze in. Now, most of the time we would be fine with that if they would politely ask us to move a bit but like that, no! We stubbornly refuse to budge...
India is dirty, there's no other way to put. There's trash everywhere and it's the mentality of most Indian people to throw everything out the window that makes us angry and sad. They're literally making their own country dirty and try to blame others for it. We've written a whole article about it.
4. Ridiculous fees
We get it. Most tourists have more money than the average Indian and we're OK with paying a little bit more... a little bit! We always check the internet for entry fees when we want to visit a place and we've noticed that in the last five years those fees doubled, tripled and even quadrupled for foreigners. We've visited places where Indians have to pay 30 Rps and foreigners 500 or more! Do you want to take pictures? That's another 200 Rps or even more...
We try to avoid the extra fee for pictures if we can but sometimes we just decide not to visit a place because the fees are ridiculous. After two months of traveling in India, we realize we've decided not to visit a place because of the ridiculous fees quite often and I have the feeling it will get even more expensive in the years to come...
5. The stares
We're not blonde and our skin tone is more on the dark side so I think we're still OK with the amount of stares in comparison to other people but it's something you'll have to get used to if you go to India. Indian people like to stare and sometimes it's uncomfortable. We've gotten used to the “normal stares” but one time I had to confront a guy that was staring way too much at Joanna. He turned away with his tail between his legs...
Of course there's much more that we liked and didn't like while traveling in India for two months... Is there anything you'd like to add, let us know in the comments!
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