Five Things First Time Travellers To India Should Know
- The tap water in India is not safe to drink. It's also best to avoid ice, and eating fresh fruit and vegetables that have been rinsed with tap water.
- Don't eat with your left hand. It's considered disrespectful. When eating, use your thumb and first two fingers to pick up and push food into your mouth.
- Book your train tickets in advance. Travelling India by train is one of the best ways to get around, and it's great value for money. However, it's also one of the most popular forms of transportation. To avoid disappointment and being forced to take the far less comfortable night buses, don't book your tickets last minute.
- Don't pet stray dogs. Many of the street dogs in India have rabies, and it's best to avoid tempting fate by not interacting with them too much. It's also advised to avoid feeding them as it attracts large packs of hungry dogs looking for their share of food as well.
- Avoid pointing your feet at people. Indians believe that feet are unclean and it's considered rude to use them to touch people or point at objects.
Best Time To Visit India
Before booking your flight to India, you need to spend some time taking the weather into account. With such extreme variations, you risk ruining your trip if you aren't prepared for that time of year.
The best time to visit India is during the dry season. From November to March, temperatures are comfortable and ideal for exploring tourist hot spots like Goa, Delhi and Agra.
As this is a popular time for travellers, you will need to book your train tickets and hotel reservations at least three months in advance.
From July, the humidity starts to rise as the country heads into monsoon season. While you will find lower prices during this time, the weather could ruin some of your travel plans.
But if you want to get the most out of the rainy season, head to the mountains. August to September is peak trekking season and the best time for exploring the Himalayas.
For culture vultures, India has a slew of festivals to coincide your trip with. Book your flight for October to experience Diwali, March for Holi or come in September and experience the many harvest and religious festivals.
Delhi is the capital of India and the country's cultural hub. With a population bigger than Australia, the city can be a bit of a culture shock for first-time travellers.
Luckily, there are tons of things to see and do that will draw you in and help you appreciate the chaotic madness that is Delhi.
It's the epicentre of India's food, fashion and art scene, and is home to some of the country's most beautiful temples, mosques and forts.
Goa is one of India's most picturesque cities and attracts thousands of visitors each year. Located on the Mandovi River, this former Portuguese colony is full of cathedrals, plazas and the country's best beach parties.
It's home to almost 100 kilometres of golden-sand beaches and boasts accommodation options that will suit any budget. Plus with all the adventure, history, culture and nature activities available here, you'll be hard-pressed to have a dull moment in Goa.
Jaipur, together with Agra and Delhi forms part of the famous Golden Triangle. Each year, thousands of tourists flock to the city to explore its City Palace, Rajput forts and the many temples.
The city is also home to the largest and best-preserved observatory, Jantar Mantar. Built by the astronomer prince, Maharaja Jai Singh II, its design and construction took eight years to complete.
The city of Varanasi is one of the oldest inhabited places in the world. Its first human settlements date back to the 11th century, and it's since become a sacred place to both Hindus and Jains.
Considered the holiest city in India, thousands of pilgrims flock here each year to enter the river Ganga and purify themselves before the rising sun.
Varanasi boasts over 2,000 temples as well as an ancient library that holds more than one million books.
If you're a fan of yoga, a visit to India would not be complete without a stop at Mysore.
It's one of the cleanest cities in the country and the cultural capital of Karnataka with a history that dates back over 1,000 years. But what it's most famous for is its acclaimed yoga schools that attract hundreds of practitioners from around the world.
For history buffs, Mysore's royal heritage is something not to be missed. Spend a day exploring the World Heritage-listed palace and you might even catch a glimpse of the royal elephants.
Top Attractions in India
India's most iconic attraction is the Taj Mahal. Located in the city of Agra, this revered symbol of architecture and love took 22 years to complete.
A stunning example of Mughal design, it took 20,000 workers and over 1,000 elephants to finish the mausoleum complex. Today, it's one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and each year over 2 million people make their way to this site.
If you want to avoid the crowds on your trip, visit the Taj Mahal at sunset or sunrise. Not only will you get some of the best photos (like the monument's reflection in the Yamuna River) but you'll experience this historical attraction in relative peace.
The city of Amritsar is home to the Golden Temple. Founded in 1577, it's considered the spiritual capital of the Sikhs and attracts pilgrims from all over the world.
The temple is also a symbol of brotherhood and equality. Everybody can seek spiritual solace and religious fulfilment here, with many spending a night at the foreign dormitory.
There is also a vast communal dining hall where you can share a free meal with 60,000 of your closest friends. Just be sure to leave a small donation to show your gratitude for the hospitality.
The Golden City
Rising from the dunes of the Thar Desert is the Golden City of Jaisalmer. It's one of the most famous cities in the state of Rajasthan, and it's not hard to see why.
Jaisalmer is full of beautiful old mansions, temples, a 1,000-year-old library and the magnificent Maharaja Palace. But its most popular attraction is the Jaisalmer Fort. Located high up on Meru Hill, this 12-century structure is steeped in history.
Inside you'll find over a quarter of the city's population as well as exquisite architectural pieces like the Taj Mahal and Jain temples.
Mecca Masjid is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. Located in Hyderabad, construction began in 1614 and took almost 80 years to complete.
The holy site gets its name from Mecca, the holiest spot in Islam. It is where Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah sourced the sand to make the bricks for the central arch in the mosque.
Mecca Masjid's main hall is large enough to accommodate 10,000 people, but non-Muslims are forbidden from entering. Luckily, visitors can still appreciate this architectural wonder from the outside by exploring the grounds free of charge. Just be sure to follow the dress code to show your respect.
Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary
If you want to get out of India's bustling cities and appreciate its natural beauty - head to Periyar National Park.
Established in 1934, it's one of South India's most popular tourist attractions. It's home to more than 20 Bengal tigers, a large herd of wild Indian elephants, boar and tons of other interesting critters.
The best way to explore this oasis is to take a guided jungle walk or lake cruise. You'll be able to observe the animals from watchtowers and viewing platforms, getting you in a prime spot for some beautiful wildlife photos.
Major International Airports in India
- Indira Gandhi International Airport
- Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport
- Kempegowda International Airport
- Chennai International Airport
- Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport