You have never been to India, but you want to go to the Taj Mahal, Goa or the colourful Rajasthan? Then you will find the start-up help to start planning.

Tips for the first India trip

Many travellers feel overwhelmed when organizing their trip to India. It’s not that hard to do it step by step. Below I have put together 15 tips that will make your planning easier.

Take care of your India visa in time!

To enter India, a visa is required. German citizens may, under certain conditions, receive an electronic tourist visa (e-Tourist Visa – e-TV), which must be applied for no later than four days before the planned date of entry. With this visa, you can usually stay in the country for up to 60 days and travel up to twice. Up-to-date information and regulations can be found on the indiavisaonline. Also, the visa can be applied for via the embassy.

Take time for travel planning!

India is a huge country, the seventh-largest state on earth. Accordingly, you have to think about where you want to go. So, take your time planning, read a guidebook or travel blogs, and make a list of places that interest you. This alone makes sense because you probably cannot remember many of the complicated names the first time around. Just write everything down, you can still swipe behind. For example, make a map on Google Maps and put a flag there for every possible target. So you get a sense of distances and connections. Never forget: Traveling is fun!

You can find some of the most beautiful destinations in my backpacking guide in Southeast Asia.

As just described India is big, not to say: very big. Therefore, at some point, you have to decide where to go. To accept the following may help you:

“It does not matter how much time you have, it will not be enough for everything!”

So do not stress the first time and just come back. And keep in mind that everything takes a long time in India. Whether waiting at the ticket counter or in the post office, patience is always in demand. Besides, a stomach problem or an air-conditioned cold can throw you off the track at any time. Good, if you have scheduled time buffers. In my opinion, you should have at least three weeks for a self-organized trip to India, with no more than seven locations, preferably only five, if recovery is important to you.

If you have less time …

You cannot wait and you want to visit as many sights in India in a short time as possible? Then maybe a study trip is the right thing for you. It costs a little more, but you have a well-organized compact program in which you have to worry about anything else.

Choose the right travel time for India!

The best travel time in India is from October to March, the high season runs from December to the end of February. During this period the temperatures are most comfortable. In the off-season from April to June, it is crispy hot, since the visit to a temple is sometimes torture. Many national parks are then closed. From June, the monsoon brings plenty of rain into the country. You can experience it even in the midseason from July to October extensively.

Also important for your travel planning: In India, there are many big festivals worth visiting. Therefore, compare the dates with your itinerary, maybe you are lucky and you can join one. However, a look at the Indian diary makes sense even if you do not want to visit the festival, as many trains and accommodations are booked out in the days around it.

Take care of your vaccinations!

The World Health Organization recommends vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, polio, hepatitis A & B, typhoid fever and possibly chickenpox. Depending on the itinerary and length of stay, vaccinations against Japanese encephalitis, meningitis, rabies and tuberculosis are also recommended.

The best advice is to consult a tropical institute or a doctor specializing in travel medicine. Although much is still possible at short notice, you go best three to four months before the trip to the office hours. Because not all vaccines are always in stock and for some vaccinations several appointments are necessary.

Incidentally, most health insurance companies pay for the vaccinations recommended by the doctor for a trip.

Here you will find detailed information about vaccinations and health care for India.

Do not let them make you crazy!

Only a few years ago, in some guidebooks, the dangers of diseases or poisonous animals were on the first pages. Luckily, these lists of horror have moved backwards in most of the guides, because it is more pleasant to first get to know the beautiful sides of a planned destination. This is not about trivialization, because some dangers are quite real. However, you do not have to go crazy. With a little caution and common sense, you can avoid the most dangers and minimize risks.

Note as a woman the special safety tips!

There have been repeated reports of rape and sexual harassment in recent years. And indeed, it does not matter if you are a woman travelling to Thailand or travelling in India.

But again, you can avoid many dangers with proper preparation. Valuable tips for women travelling (alone) by India, the journey blogs have Brave Bird, Pink Compass and globetrotter together.

Make yourself a packing list for your trip to India!

A good trip planning is also in the question of what you want to take with you to India, necessary. In the end, it’s usually too much, and yet there’s always something missing. In my packing list, I have put together what I think are the most important things, also concerning the first-aid kit. I think it is helpful to you.

Clarify your finances and your budget!

Before you travel, you should know how much your budget is. Include an appropriate buffer so that unexpected expenses do not spoil your journey. You should also think about how you can get cash in India. What you have to look out for, I have put together in my article on credit cards on the road.

Do not waste too much on the accommodations!

In India, you can live very cheaply almost anywhere. A bed you get in part already for one to two euros per night. But remember that India is (very) exhausting. If you’re out and about all day and thousands of impressions are on you, you might be happy to have a retreat in the evenings.

Then it’s an advantage to live in a room you like to be in, and not in a rancid broom closet. Many hotels around the 15-20 euros offer great value for money. Treat yourself a little more, if you feel better in India.

Travel cheap by train through India!

The money for the accommodation you can save here because one of the cheapest ways to get around in India is the train. Thanks to the second-largest route network in the world, you can get there almost anywhere, and it costs almost nothing. Although driving over 300 kilometres often takes ten hours, you only pay around 5, – Euros in the Sleeper Class. Of course, you can also drive in the air-conditioned 1st Class.

As the train is used a lot, it happens again and again that trains are fully booked in advance. Just going to the ticket office the day before the trip is not a good idea. There is often only the waiting list. The easiest way is to book your tickets on the internet. This starts 90 days before the trip. On the email you will find a list of all trains. To buy tickets, you need to register with IRCTC , but it will require an Indian mobile number. Alternatively, you can book the tickets at  Cleartrip a small fee. You can cancel your tickets later. The money, minus a processing fee, will then be returned. 

Use domestic flights as an alternative!

The ecological aspects ignored, it may be worthwhile to book a domestic flight to save time. There are many (cheap) airlines in India, such as Air India, GoAir, indigo, Jet Airways and Spicejet. Platforms like Skycanner compare prices.

Restaurants: Eat where the Indians eat!

Indian cuisine is among the world’s best cuisine. Unfortunately, many vacationers in India dine out of fear of destroying their stomach, only in upmarket restaurants. But this will miss you a lot because often the food is there adapted to the Western audience. Most of the unique taste experiences are in simple restaurants. And they are also much cheaper. Sometimes you get sick of it for a euro.

And because of the worries: I’ve eaten in India almost exclusively at street stalls and in small restaurants and had rarely problems. At the same time, I always paid attention to whether (many) locals eat there as well because that’s a sign that the food is good. Of course, you can spoil your stomach there too, but that can happen to you in any other restaurant as well. Caution is especially required in poorly frequented restaurants with the Western menu.

Take a deep breath!

India is exhausting, a land of contrasts and not an easy destination. Maybe you’ll fall in love with India and spend a wonderful time there; maybe you’ll be disappointed and never come back. Be prepared for tedious locomotion, overstimulation and the fact that you do not understand much. Take your time and take it. Taking a deep breath instead of getting upset will make a lot easier. And it will help to enjoy the fascinating sides of this country. Good Trip!