Ayesh Karunaratne: Full-time traveler, freelance software architect and security researcher
Fri, 2015-03-06 16:07
I canceled my return flight ticket two times and still staying in India with a tourist visa. There is one thing I learned while in India:
You cannot explore 100% of what India has to offer you.
This is actually applicable to any country. Not even a local can explore everywhere and say "I have been to everywhere in India".
India is a huge country, with a huge variety of people and sights to see.
We, the travelers visit India in two ways:
- The typical "tourists" who go to the golden triangle in a guided tour in a comfy Volvo and take the return flight that they decided the return date.
- The others who make their own plans and go wherever they want.
In the following route: I'm taking the trains for all routes, buses in some paths. Sleeper class is much cheap if you can handle a lot of people at the same time. I'm in my early twenties, strong, and I can push a man with my left pinky finger. I couldn't handle the crowd.
- Start from Delhi (find a good hotel that you can book with short notices).
- Go to Mumbai: You can take Rajdhani train to meet your first "real" Indian people (pro tip: 3A is the best balanced economy and depth in to people wise).
- Goa: Taste what India has for alcohol (if you are into that), and take a real good feel of a beach. You aren't going to see beaches for a while.
- From Goa, take a train to Delhi or Jaipur. If you go to Delhi, Jaipur is only 4-5 hours away.
- Jaipur can mesmerize you with the best architectural wonders of India...
- ...until you see Taj Mahal. Take a bus (Or drive: it's the perfect NH-11) to Agra. There come the photographers asking you to take your photos while you hold the Taj Mahal from your fingers. Go for it -- they are good photographers. Certainly better that your selfies.
- While on the road, from about 100km from Jaipur, you could stop and the step wells, which is the deepest and largest in India (probably in World too, unless Mexico, Peru, China or Egypt has no such large ones).
- We didn't see a river in a while did we? Take train to the spiritual city, Varanasi.
- There you can enjoy the Ganga Aarti, swim across the Ganga (~200-300m, takes half an hour for the weakest swimmer). Take a boat ride (hand-driven ones better) through Assi Ghat to Dashashwamedh. Don't forget to ask the boatman to allow you to ride that boat.
- Keep your phones and stuff in the hostel (yes, hostels!), and go to the Golden Template (Kashi Vishwanath temple).
- If you are Buddhist, or would like some Buddhist culture, go to Sarnath (~1 hour from Varanasi), and then take a train from Varanasi to Gaya. Bodth Gaya that is.
- The Mahabodhi temple, and other temples from different Buddhist countries can calm your mind down a lot.
- You will have to go back to Varanasi, or take a train from Gaya to New Delhi. (Varanasi has a more trains going through there to Delhi).
- **If you would like to experience Chennai, Madhurai areas, you can go to Kolkata, Chennai, Madhurai (Don't forget Thirupathi temple). It's different from the northern India (different food, Tamil being the widely used language). Bangalore is the Silicon Valley of India. Geeks: This is your time to make good friends and network.
(Pro tip: There are many meetups for technologies there. Check for such events for the best use of your days).
- Go back to Kolkata, and then train to Delhi.
- From Delhi, you can walk 50m, and there is a very good chance you can see travel agents. Compare prices from a few others, realize yourself that all prices are usually same (because they get the same cut), and book your bus to Shimla (or Dharmashala).
- From Shimla, remember those English-influenced buildings you saw in Mumbai (near Churchgate), and find a bus to Chandighar or Manali.
- Manali is literally freezing these days (I was there last week), but you can expect roads to be quite hard to travel with Snow.
- Beas river: This is more playful that the Ganga you saw at Varanasi. Do some sports (from a scale of bathing in hot water springs with 10 other people to Paragliding).
- Rohotang Pass, and/or Leh-Ladhakh. In the summer time, take a nice Royal Enfield bike for yourself and drive in the world's highest motarable road.
- You can get some entry permits and go far north/east in Jammu Kashmir.
- With confidence that you took and entire itinerary that random guy from the Internet (with a user name that refers to the favorite beer brand mentioned in The Simpsons series), go back to Delhi.
I did this route, and it took me good 2 months to complete this.
- In each city, stay at least 3 days. If you walked across at least a dozen of street, met at least a 12 local people, and if could manage to go for lunch or dinner with a local, you are done with that city so you can move over.
- I traveled from AC 3 trains. I could avail myself for the Foreign Tourist quota, so I didn't have to buy Tatkal tickets (which are INR 100-300 more).
- I took Volvo buses in Himachal, Jammu and Kashmir. All semi-sleepers. They are easier to book. There are non-A/C buses too, but they are hardly survivable for a 12-20 hour bus ride.
- I stayed at Hostels in Mumbai and Jaipur. There are no good variations of hostels in India (Kudos to China for having many hostels with kitchens and game tables). You can save a lot by choosing a better stay, for the cost of less cozy rooms and a little bit inconvenience.
- Not including food and drink prices. Mumbai is probably the most expensive, but there are many street food if you are into that for the cheapest price you can find in India. (A glass full of lime juice = Rs. 500. One Chai/Tea: Rs. 6).
I have spent about Rs. 50,000 for the period if I counted the bare minimum. I met some friends, participated in some events, etc, so my expenses are actually much higher. Includes train tickets, buses, hotels/hostels, three wheelers, and taxes on them.
So summary: The bare minimum, I would say:
- 2 Months
- 50,000 INR.