Gregory and Sarah from Canada are travelling with their children aged 12, 10 and 5 for a year across Europe and Asia. They used our help to plan parts of their India trip and are guests authors for a series of blogs on travelling in India with children.
In India there are many ways to get from point A to Z. We have been on two sleeper buses so far and one was newer and comfier (blankets and pillows) and one was well past its prime without these amenities. There was no toilet on either and so training kids on how to “nature pee” is not a bad idea. Our almost teenage daughter went from being mortified by peeing at the roadside to just asking for the toilet paper and peeing near a garbage pile where wild pigs were rummaging around. I taught my son how to pee in a bottle in one case where the driver seemed peeved at the suggestion of stopping YET again. Bringing child-friendly snacks (chikki, sesame balls, bananas and oranges) is also helpful given that there is not always a great deal of choice at the pit stops. Ear plugs are definitely a great idea and we also had a tablet with movies and headphones which were invaluable because they won’t sleep the whole way. Why? The roads have many curves and speed bumps and the drivers have to be aggressive to get you to your destination, so be prepared for some back and forth and side to side. Our 2 little ones both clunked various parts of their anatomy on the shelves in the sleeper when the driver slammed on the brake for a speed hump or in deciding not to attempt to overtake a slower vehicle. Paper and crayons, card games and the aforementioned tablet have saved our sanity on numerous occasions.
Our experiences traveling by train have been almost all positive. Our kids will forever remember buying numerous small cups of chai masala for 7 rupees each. There is room to sit comfortably and stow bags overhead and you can get up and walk around. Tickets are quite inexpensive and you can travel in an air conditioned car if it is too hot otherwise. We took a train from Mumbai to Aurangabad and I met a lovely engineer from Delhi taking his wife and two kids to see the caves. Their girls adopted our five-year old and entertained her with their tablet. The food available was simple and reasonably priced and snacks and cold drinks came through the cabin with startling frequency. It is worth taking the kids in to an “Indian toilet” to show them how to squat the first time they need to go as the “Western toilets” would require extensive sanitizing before anybody would want to even contemplate sitting down. We took one overnight train too and it was supposed to leave at 7:20pm from Margao and arrive at 10am in Ernakulam, but it was coming from Delhi and was delayed by 5 hours due to fog. There is a waiting room, but after our daughter injured herself sitting on a broken chair that fell and crashed her into the wall, we paid 25 rupees/person and moved into the AC waiting room, where the children were able to get comfortable and fall asleep. We had booked non-AC sleeper class to save $75 and this would have been fine (it was really cool to be amongst Indian travelers) had we not had the delay. The fans kept us comfortable all through the night, but given that we were now arriving at 3pm, we arrived boiled, baked and fried.
We also took a great number of tuk-tuks or rickshaws and they were really our preferred method of travel. They ranged from short 30 rupee rides to keep the kids cool around Kochi to an 800 rupee ride from Hampi to Hospet (all five of us with 5 big and 5 small backpacks) and all were greeted with great enthusiasm and the breeze provided welcome relief from the heat.
In Aurangabad, we took a bigger jeep which was part of a tour company to go and visit the Ajanta and Ellora caves. It was riveting to watch how the road, which never changed size, went from being two lanes to four. I really wouldn’t recommend renting a car on your own in most parts of India. It seems that people choose to honk as a substitute for following common sense or traffic rules: “Beep, beep I am passing on a corner up a hill – beep, beep – watch out, this could be dangerous for both of us – beep, beep!” It really was interesting to watch traffic; somehow the cars, bikes, scooters, buses and cows do seem to keep moving, but the more aggressive drivers are often rewarded by their disregard for other people waiting to get ahead.
Two wheelers, always super exciting for children
One vehicle which you does allow you to travel independently and we did feel was safe was scooters. For 250-350 rupees plus gas, we could dart around places like Hampi, Patnem Beach (Goa) and Varkala (Kerala). We did this numerous times and the kids loved it. I had my five-year old in front of me or behind me and my ten-year old behind me or sandwiching the little one and my wife had our twelve-year old behind her. If you have never driven a scooter, it would be a good idea to get a little lesson and maybe practice before transporting your precious children around. But they really are easy to drive and a great way to sightsee and stop where you want on your schedule.
More Blogs from Gregor and Sarah on travelling India with children
- Dispelling the myths of travelling in India with children
- If you seek fame go to India
- More trips for India travel with children