India has offbeat trek routes, virgin beaches, unexplored villages, and pristine valleys that make this country perfect for backpackers! The locals are welcoming and you’ll be accepted warmly whether you know their language or not! If you’re genuinely interested in India’s cuisines, history and culture, you’ll easily gel in.
While India is pretty safe, you need to keep your senses alert all the time. You can tour India like Julia Roberts from ‘Eat Pray Love’ but don’t be disillusioned by the rosy bits alone, pack carefully, and always do your research! We say pick one destination and then slowly start hitchhiking across the country! Here are some backpacking tips that will help you along the way.
1. Plan According To Destination And Climate
2. Do Your Research
3. Eat Like A Local
4. Watch What You Eat And Stay Safe
5. Consider A Travel Insurance
6. Travel Like A Local
7. Participate In India’s Festivals
8. Make Safety A Priority
9. Be Prepared For A Culture Shock
10. Book A Hostel Or A Homestay
11. Camp Safely
India has a diverse topography and varied climates across different states. You need to do your research about your backpacking destination in India. You also need to understand the seasonal patterns of the country, while there’s no fall season in India, the monsoon season is insane. Most southern parts of India flood during the monsoons so it’s best to avoid backpacking in the south during this time.
On the other hand, the best time to visit southern India is during winter since the region is hot and humid during the summers. If you’re visiting northern India, it’s pleasant most of the year but gets cold in winter. Pack waterproof jackets, thermal wear, and gloves if you’re backpacking in Himachal Pradesh.
If you’re backpacking in coastal India, carry cotton clothes, casual sneakers, and light flip-flops. The humidity and heat can really get to you so it’s best to pack sachets of glucose and some energy bars.
Some backpacking destinations in India, especially the mountainous ones are prone to landslides, storms, and avalanches. You need to do prior research about dangerous regions, seasonal changes, and weather conditions. But there are some things that you won’t know before your trip, like sudden road closures or closed mountain passes. To be aware of matters like such, keep tracking local news and talk to other tourists.
You also need to get certain permits because not all places in India are accessible to tourists. Some places near India’s border are restricted unless you apply for permits beforehand. Things are easier if you’re an Indian citizen backpacking near India’s borders, but if you’re a foreigner, you need special permits. If you’re planning to backpack in offbeat places in Leh Ladakh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, etc, check for permit requirements.
We don’t even have to elaborate on this tip if you’re a seasoned backpacker. The best way of exploring a new place is by trying the local food! By local food, we don’t mean you reserve a table at a five-star restaurant. Walk the streets and eat at a roadside thela (food cart) if you want the raw taste of local street food. Try to eat at a place that’s crowded with locals as this is where you’ll find the best authentic food.
Choose to eat at places that are constantly cooking fresh food, so it’s safer. From the momos of Delhi, vada pav of Mumbai, puchkas of Kolkata to the pazhampori of Kerala, try it all! If you want to eat local meals, head over to homestays, the home-cooked food you find here beats any continental dish at a restaurant. Eat a local thali every time you’re at a new place, you’ll notice how the curry, spices, and way of cooking change from one region to another. Also, the real experience of eating like a local is by sitting and eating like them. Like eating with your bare fingers from a banana leaf or sitting cross-legged on the floor for your meal.
Also Read: 7 Unusual Foods In India That You Must Try
Make sure you eat hot freshly cooked food, something that’s kept uncovered for long and is stale can mess with your system. Also, try to eat vegetarian food since it’s safer and easier to digest as opposed to meat. Badly cooked vegetables won’t harm you as much as ill-cooked meat can, so choose vegetarian if you’re eating on the streets.
Drinking contaminated water can also make you sick. Ask for filtered water or carry your own bottle of water. Fill your water bottle before you step out of your hotel/homestay/hostel so you don’t have to worry about clean drinking water. We won’t suggest you buy bottled water every now and then since it pollutes the environment. But if you do buy bottled water, check if the seal is in place because some shopkeepers refill used bottles with tap water and sell them again for profit.
When you’re backpacking in India, you won’t find soap and water everywhere. It’s better to always carry hand sanitizer, face wipes, and tissues. If you’re backpacking during summer, pack a face mist for yourself since Indian summers can be ruthless and dehydrating. Spray a generous bit every time you feel tired on your trip or if you’re unable to find a washroom to wash your face.
Carry an SPF 50 sunscreen so you get the ultimate protection from the sun. Apply sunscreen generously so you keep the tan and the harmful rays away because as a backpacker, you’ll be mostly taking local transport and exploring on foot under the hot sun.
Backpacking through India exposes you to many risks like medical emergencies, lost belongings, canceled flights, or delayed luggage. Traveling in local trains and buses in India also exposes you to the risk of theft. You must get travel insurance so you can explore India with peace on your mind.
With travel insurance, you can be sure you’ll be covered in case of an unlikely emergency. This saves you from unseen expenses and prevents burning a hole in your pocket. Backpacking also means you’ll be carrying a decent amount of cash since not all places in India accept digital payments, so just get insurance!
Try to always choose public transport over a private vehicle while backpacking in India. It gives you a close brush with the real India. You start seeing people, cultures, and places that you’ll never see if you travel in a hired cab. Download suburban railway apps, metro apps, and travel apps so it helps you in case you aren’t familiar with the language of that place.
Ask your hotel desk to chalk out an itinerary that includes local transport and make it a point to do your research in advance. While booking long journey passenger trains, don’t book an AC compartment. You get to meet mixed cultures when you’re in the non-AC or general compartment. People you meet on such trains are friendly and offer you the food they carry, one more way to explore home-cooked local food!
Go ahead and take the local bus, tram, ferry, tum tum rickshaw, and the like. Another way to explore India like a local is by exploring its markets and streets on foot. Wherever you are, just start walking and you’ll find interesting sights on every corner!
The most interesting thing about India is its cultural diversity. The country is constantly celebrating different festivals in much pomp. You can join in any festivities, it’s like an open concert! As a backpacker, you have more days in your hands, which means you can witness the entire course of such festivities. You can go festival hopping in different Indian states if you’re backpacking in India for many months.
Visit Udaipur in Holi to see people playing in colors and devour the sweets made for this festival, visit Mysore during Dussehra to see the Mysore Palace deck up in all splendor, visit Varanasi during Diwali and see the Ganga lit up in thousands of lamps, or visit Goa during Christmas to witness elaborate cribs and carols, the options are endless!
You can also check out offbeat festivals like the Bihu festival in Assam, the Hemis Festival in Leh Ladakh, the Hornbill festival in Nagaland, or the Khajuraho dance festival in Madhya Pradesh! If you’re planning to attend these celebrations, better carry extra memory cards!
While Indians are friendly and welcome most tourists generously, you can never take your safety for granted. Store your mobile, wallet, and bank cards separately so that not all three get in the wrong hands together. If you’re carrying cash, store it in a secret compartment in your backpack and keep only some cash in your wallet for daily expenses. Set up a GPS tracker on your mobile phone and write emergency numbers in a physical diary.
If you’re a foreign tourist backpacking through India, get an Indian SIM card to make calls and keep some copies of your passport. Avoid dimly lit lanes at night and check in at your hotel during the day. Explore unknown places during the daytime and don’t be hesitant to call for help in case you sense danger.
If you’re a solo traveler, keep updating your family or friends about your plans and share your hotel’s location with them. It’s better to go for a hostel since you’ll have security and roommates, making your solo trip much more enjoyable and safe.
If you’re a foreigner visiting India for the first time, things are going to be a little rough. The moment you step out of the airport and onto the streets, you’ll meet crowds, cows, and potholes. You’ll meet people who charge you twice as much just because you’re a foreigner. You’ll also meet tour guides who are waiting to con you dry. But most seasoned backpackers can handle all this and this doesn’t happen in India alone.
What can come as a surprise is the culture. Yes, be prepared to see women going to beaches in sarees and be prepared to see locals eat everything with their bare hands. If you’re visiting a temple, remember to leave your footwear outside and respect religious sentiments. You’ll welcome stares if you engage in public displays of affection since people in the Indian suburbs are pretty conservative.
Backpacking in India is super cheap if you book accommodation at a hostel or a homestay. You get to find cheap stays, eat diverse food and engage in thrilling activities. Hostel managers arrange local tours, biking trails and history walks for their guests, this is more fun when you’ve great company with you.
Staying at a hotel doesn’t really help you meet new people. The interesting people you meet at homestays and hostels make your backpacking trip more exciting. You get to hear crazy travel stories and learn from the travel mistakes of other backpackers. You can also ask your newfound friends to help you chart your itinerary and include some off-beat places in it.
Hostels are also hubs where young backpackers hang out, curate events, and come up with impromptu music jams. There are youth hostels and family homestays spread all over India. These places have open kitchens so you can experiment with dishes you just learned. They are also pet-friendly if you’re backpacking in India with a furry buddy!
If you’re planning to camp on your backpacking trip in India, make sure you don’t stray away into the wilderness. Places like these have no reception, there are no locals around and you’re at risk of being attacked by wild animals. There are many national parks in India, you can camp on the periphery of such sanctuaries but still expose yourself to danger. It’s better to camp with a group of backpackers rather than camping solo in places like these.
India has many campsites and it’s better to camp in one of them so your food, sanitation, and shelter are sorted. The best part about camping in India is that there are locals always willing to offer you homecooked food. You can stay near local villages and learn about different cultures, just remember to respect certain boundaries!
Also Read: 6 Interesting Camping Experiences In India
Backpacking in India as an Indian citizen is easy because you know the local language and customs. If you’re a foreigner, you need to get your vaccinations, local SIM cards, and currencies. There will be hurdles in your way, like locating ATMs that accept international bank cards. But in the end, that’s the beauty of backpacking in India, you learn a new lesson every time you backpack in this lovely country. We’re sure once you backpack in India, you’ll keep coming back for more!
Is It Safe To Go Backpacking In India?
Yes, it’s completely safe to backpack in India. There are hostels, homestays, and guesthouses that provide you with great security. The urban streets of India are often safe after dark excluding places like Delhi. India is also very affordable when it comes to accommodation and food which makes it a perfect place to go backpacking.
What To Eat In India?
Every region in India has something new to offer when it comes to food. The same dish you eat in North Goa will taste different when eaten in South Goa, that’s how diverse the spices and curries are. You should go on a food trail and explore local dishes yourself to discover your favorite cuisine. As for cuisines that are mass favorites, here are some mentions- Chole Bhature, Idli Dosa with Sambhar, Chicken Biryani, Aloo Parantha, Pav Bhaji, etc.
Which Are The Best Backpacking Destinations In India?
Darjeeling, Varanasi, Ladakh, Pushkar, Hampi, Munnar, Pondicherry, Goa, etc are some of the best places to go backpacking in India.
Is India Safe For Foreign Tourists?
Yes, you can be sure to be totally safe in India since instances of violent crimes against foreigners are fairly low. You should be wary of petty thefts in crowded places and local transport but apart from that, there’s not much danger.
Which Are The Best Treks In India?
The Hampta Pass Trek in Himachal Pradesh, Beas Kund Trek in Himachal Pradesh, Markha Valley Trek in Ladakh, Valley of Flowers Trek in Uttarakhand, and Dzongri Trek in Sikkim are some of the best treks in northern India. Chembra Trek in Kerala, Kudremukh Trek in Karnataka, Kolli Hills Trek in Tamil Nadu, and Nagalapuram Hills Trek in Andhra Pradesh are some of the best treks in southern India.
What Are Some Offbeat Places In India?
Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh, Halebidu in Karnataka, Lunglei in Mizoram, Urakam in Kerala, Pali in Rajasthan, Gokarna in Karnataka, and Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh are some of the best offbeat places in India.
What Is The Best Currency To Take To India?
It is fairly easy to get foreign currency exchanged in India, with several exchange facilities accepting both US Dollars and British Pound. However, it would be better to carry currency in Dollars as that would be more convenient.
Where Is The Golden Triangle In India?
Mapping an equilateral triangle between 3 cities in India is the Golden Triangle route. This route connects cities like Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi, and is one of the most popular routes taken by tourists.