India makes a strong, lasting impression on its visitors. Traveling to India is on many backpackers to-do list, but it's a country that has much to offer to all kinds of travelers. Obvious contrasts, bright colors, spirituality, a diverse population, a tortuous history are just a few reasons why this country could be your next travel destination.
This vast Asian country is home to 1.2 billion people, and though chaotic, visitors will be pleasantly surprised. The most popular tour in India is the Golden Triangle that introduces tourists to Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. There's an abundance of religious sites and Muslims architecture. You can explore temples, join in on the festivals and even hiking trips.
A Quick Glance at India's History
From its early beginnings, India has been ruled by a series of dynasties and has endured foreign invasion on many occasions. Since India's independence in 1947, the country adopted its own constitution on January 26, 1950.
There are fossil records that prove that India was inhabited as early as the Middle Pleistocene period. The Indus Valley civilization is recognized as the region's first civilization. Toward the second millennium BC, the Aryan migrated to India. During this period, the most ancient Hindu scriptures were written and the caste system came into being. Many empires ruled India including the Maurya, Satavahana, Sunga Dynasty, Kushan and the Gupta.
During the Medieval period of India, several clans from Central Asia entered Indian soil and established the following dynasties: Delhi Sultanate, Vijayanagar empire, Mughal empire, Maratha empire and The Sikh empire. Mughals worked with existing leaders and let them rule over their kingdoms in exchange for loyalty and tax collection. Following the Mughal, the Maratha empire rose to power under Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The Maratha played an important role in shaping India's history from 1674 to 1818. Hindu, Sikh and Muslim dynasties grew at this time too.
The British began a brutal colonization in the mid-1800's. Many parts of India were controlled by the British East India Company up until the mid 19th century. The first Indian rebellion took place in 1857, however, the British remained and all British provinces were administered by the British Crown. While infrastructure quickly developed there was economic decline and major famines. The people of India wanted independence and during the first half of the 20th century, there was a struggle to gain back its freedom.
The British Indian territories finally claimed independence in 1947 after being separated into the Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan. Following the division of Bengal and Punjab, riots broke out throughout the country.
In 2017 India's economy was the sixth largest by nominal GPD and third largest by purchasing power parity. As of 1991, India's economy has grown rapidly and exponentially. However, it is a nation of strong contrasts and disparities. Perhaps corruption is at the root of many issues like poverty, inadequate public healthcare, and education. Resources are unevenly distributed and the caste system persists to this day.
As a visitor, you should be aware that you will encounter poverty and inequality. Nonetheless, India has a wise heritage and beautiful traditions and customs. Head to the south to enjoy India's finest beaches and spot a tiger at the Madhya National Park. Apply for your visa online and explore the country with an open mind and an open heart.
India Basic Information
Indian Rupee (INR)
- Time Zone:
When to Go
Planning your first trip to India? There’s much to see in this grand country and weather varies depending on the area you want to visit. Here’s a general outlook on India’s climate
High Season: From December to March, the weather is mostly pleasant. Days are warm but it cools off when the sun sets. It is peak season and this means more people and higher prices. The northern part presents chillier nights.
Shoulder Season: Starts in July up until November. Moonson rain is persistent in the month of September. Generally, the south sees heavy rains from October to December.
Low Season: April through June. When April arrives, temperatures rise. May and June are extremely hot. Accommodations may offer special prices. The hills are cooler but crowded.
India is a good destination for:
India Entry Requirements
When traveling to India you must have a valid passport for at least six months, an onward or return ticket and a visa. Your passport should also have two blank pages to receive a stamp. You’re advised to have copies of all your travel documents including your passport, hotel details, and travel tickets.
With the exception of citizens from Nepal, Buthan, and Maldives, everyone needs to apply for a visa when traveling to India. About a hundred nationalities can get a 30-day e-tourist visa or visa on arrival. Applying online prior departure of your trip is highly advisable. Those who wish to travel to India for longer periods must obtain a tourist visa that is valid for up to six months.
If you leave India, bear in mind that you cannot re-enter the country unless two months have passed. This is a law that applies to all nationalities with a few exceptions to Asian countries.
Once you land in India, you should declare if you carry larger amounts of money than 10,000 USD. You cannot import more than one laptop, two litres of alcohol and 100 cigarettes.
India Country Atractions
Visiting India promises to be quite an experience, and there are plenty of reasons to travel to this wonderful nation. Unless you’re planning on spending several months in India, it will be a challenge to see it all. We’ve chosen to highlight India’s most popular attractions. Some people travel to India to join their festivals too, keep a calendar at hand when researching your trip.
- Taj Mahal: A bit obvious, but there’s no way we could leave it out. Perhaps the most-known building in the world, it might be the most beautiful. Shah Jahan built it as a memorial for his third wife Mumtaz Mahal, who was devasted after this loss. It is believed that 20,000 people worked on it. It is a must-see, but be prepared to face large crowds.
- Amber Fort: located in Amber, this large and exquisite fort was built from yellow and pink sandstone. The fort is divided into four sections, each with a courtyard.
- Golden Temple: this Sikh temple is situated in Amritsar. The temple is part of a much greater complex known to Sikhs as Harmandir Sahib. There’s a wonderful combination of Hindu and Islamic architecture and the decorations feature delicate flower and animal motifs.
- Brihadishwara Temple: a Hindu temple that honors Shiva. Located in Thanjavur. It is one of the largest temples in all of India with fortified walls and a temple tower with 66 meters.
- Udaipur: This city is famous for its lakes and palaces. A most romantic city, visitors can appreciate splendor and beauty all around. It’s a good value city and accommodation offers competitive prices.
- Varanasi: if you would like to experience spirituality while visiting India, Varanasi is the place to go. This holy city reveals India’s most ancient traditions.
India is an astonishing, colorful, vibrant country with its own share of conflicts and overwhelming issues. Before traveling to India there are a few things you should consider.
- Plan an ideal route. It’s impossible to see all of India’s wonders in one trip, even if it’s a long one. Pick what inspires you, intrigues you and think about how much time you have. Be realistics about your time and budget.
- Take your time. We’ve already established that seeing everything on one trip is not possible, therefore don’t cram your trip too much to the extent you don’t actually have time to enjoy it. Try to spend a few days at every stop and make time to connect with locals and absorb the experience.
- It’s crowded. With a billion people this shouldn’t be a surprise. You might enjoy the lively crowds on a festival, but it can also be overwhelming. Luckily there are plenty of places in India where you can retreat, for instance, the beaches of Kerala in the south.
- Never, ever drink tap water and stay away from food that might have been washed in tap water too. You don’t want to get sick right? Beware of ice, ice cream, fruits, and salads.
- Be careful with the food. Yes, you might be an adventurer and a food connoisseur, but you need to think about how it was prepared. If it’s street food, how long has it been sitting out? Is it fresh? Many travelers avoid eating meat altogether while in India, remember that cows are sacred animals. Undercooked veggies might not hurt you as much as undercooked meat.
- Take anti-bacterial wipes and gel with you just in case. They might come in handy when using public bathrooms and before you eat with your hands.
- India does have a bad reputation for scams. As unfortunate as this is, stay calm when approached. Beware of taxi drivers and agree on a specific location and a price.
- Women should be more careful. Assaults on women in India sadly aren’t rare. Women-only rooms or floors can be found in many hotels. Dress conservatively and don’t travel alone during festivals.
- In large cities, you can get around by hopping on a taxi or an auto rickshaw. Arrange your transport from inside the airport rather than just taking a random taxi outside. We advise against taking the train for long distances and you may want to rent a car and a driver for longer journeys.