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Weather in India in July
Weather in India in July

AN OVERVIEW OF JULY WEATHER IN INDIA

In July half of the year has passed and India has seen all possible climates already: from snow to heat to rain, from dryness to humidity and from cold and hot temperatures. By end of June the monsoon covers the most of the country with a thick and wet blanket of clouds and weather in India can be called nothing else but wet. From Kerala in the south to the Himalayas in the north, from Rajasthan in the west to Sikkim and Darjeeling in the east, it rains regularly and heavy in all regions. Find out more about the effects of the rain season and how it can impact your travels in this blog.

Most locals will be still quite happy with the weather as the hot summer months are finally over and the rains provide a cooler and fresher air to breathe. Temperatures drop between 5 and 10 °C on a monthly average. Rivers, waterfalls and lakes fill up and therefore the agricultural industry becomes busy. It is a great time for farmers but also for trekking and tropical nature enthusiasts.

SOUTH INDIA IN JULY

Kerala faces slightly less heavy rain showers in July compared to June but it rains more often and long-lasting in this month. It is a great time for trekking and national park visit but we aware of the blood-sucking ledges. But if you prefer less wet holidays with lots of sun July might not be the best time to visit Kerala.

The constant rain can also cause interruptions for travels and activities. In Goa many resorts, restaurants and shacks will be closed from May to September, similarly at the beaches of Kerala. If you find a resort that stays open though you can catch great discounts on stays, even at luxury stays. And both Goa and Kerala offer lush greenery in the countryside.

If you still decide to travel despite the humid and wet weather we would recommend to concentrate on the Western Ghats, a 1600km long mountain range listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site parallel to the coast of the Arabian sea. The region is covered with national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, forest reserves as well as charming hill stations. You can’t just find various wild and unique flora and fauna species in those hills but also endless fruit, tea and coffee plantations. And in July they offer cooler temperatures and less stuffy air than in the cities and plains of India. Wayanad, Munnar and Thekkady are such places but also the Dudhsagar Waterfall Hike in Goa. Ooty in Tamil Nadu is very popular amongst domestic tourists to flee the annoying conditions of the cities in the monsoons.

Tamil Nadu doesn’t face the entire power of the rain season in July yet as the monsoon hits this region later from August to November with the wettest month being November. But even here it can be quite cloudy and therefore cooler in July. Tamil Nadu tends to be very hot in the rest of the year (except winters) so it might be a great time to visit, especially if you come mainly for the sightseeing of temples and religious monuments.

NORTH INDIA IN JULY

By end of June and beginning of July the monsoon has also hit Rajasthan and the other central and northern regions with full power. All the popular cities of the North like Jaipur, Agra, Delhi, Varanasi, Rishikesh and Amritsar face the highest precipitation and number of rainy days in July and August.

Even though the sun doesn’t shine often through the heavy clouds the temperatures just drop slightly and the humidity increases. Travelers who prefer humid heat to dry heat should come to Rajasthan now but it will leave you feeling exhausted if you are physically active.

The cooler regions at the foothills of the Himalayas seem like a good escape but don’t underestimate the power of the monsoon when it hits the mountains and cloudburst appear. The regions of Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarkhand have experienced many such extreme weather events when suddenly a huge amount of water was dropped in very less time. In 2013 thousands of residents, tourist and pilgrims were killed near the holy temple of Kedarnath when a landslide caused by such a cloudburst came from the mountains and carried away everything in its way. Even though that happened in June, cloud bursts and landslides are more common in July so keep this in mind if you want to travel and trek in the mountains despite the rain.

If you want to escape the heat and the monsoon all together and enjoy stunning landscapes in the mountains, Ladakh or Lahual Spiti might be the best destination in India in July for you. The state in the most northern part on India in the midst of the high mountain ranges of the Himalayas offers breathtaking views and great opportunities for hikes. Ladakh is also called the cold dessert for a reason as the precipitation is very low up here. In July the temperatures are at its maximum high for this region but rarely reach higher than 30°C. But it is also the main tourist season for this part of India so be prepared that it won’t be as tourist-free as the rest of India.

The east stream of the monsoon winds hit the north east of India by beginning of June and some regions like Meghalaya get an intense amount of rain. Rather plan a visit to this region after October.

July certainly offers a rather difficult weather in India. It rains a lot, it is humid and it might get hot. The sun shines rarely and flooding and landslides are common. But while the cities might be less hospitable due to the dense infrastructure and lack of drainage systems, in the rural areas and especially the hill stations will welcome you with lush greenery and strong impressive waterfalls. . The very north of India in the Himalayas offers the best choice of travel destinations in June as the temperatures are moderate and the precipitation low.

Plan your trip to India in June with us now and we will suggest the best places to enjoy during this travel time.


Goa during off-season and during the rains
Goa during off-season and during the rains
Should we visit Goa during off-season?

We would say Yes!, but go with the right expectations. Goa during off-season is very different from what it is like during the cooler months.

  • Fewer parties
  • Choppy seas, not perfectly safe for swimming
  • No water sports on offer

But,

  • The countryside is mesmerizingly pretty, rice paddies and streams
  • If you are on the right beaches, there is still enough activity
  • Alot less tourists
  • Great deals on hotels, especially the upper-end of boutique hotels

Which months are considered off-season months?

The months May to September are considered off-season. May is usually unbearably hot. The monsoons hit Goa by early or mid June. It starts cooling down once the rains arrive and the countryside starts turning green.

Which beaches/areas should we visit in Goa during off-season?

Generally speaking choose a beach in North Goa. (or a resort in South Goa)

We’d say in and around Baga-Calangute if you want to be walking or a short-ride distance from shacks/resturants which are still open. Baga-Calangute tends be open all season. A bunch of beach-shacks would be open, a number of shopping stalls would be open too.

If you like the quiet, then you can stay aroung Anjuna and Vagator. However, expect most resturants and shopping in and around to be shut. On the other hand it is really nice and peaceful.

Avoid the very North of Goa, Arambol/Mandrem/Ashvem would be very desolate.

What about the beaches in South Goa?

We love the beaches in South Goa. Palolem, Patnem and Agondi are really peaceful and pretty beaches. However, they would almost completely empty during end of May onwards. You can still pick a nice resort in South Goa or stay in North Goa and go for a drive to South Goa.

What about the night life?

Minimal, but if you are lucky and get the news from the right people you might still find some parties. Few shacks on Anjuna would occasionally have parties during off-season. Most of the major clubs, like club Cabana are shut during off-season

Which cool/really nice hotels would you recommend staying at in Goa during off-season?

Goa has innumerable five-stars, equal number of really cool and hip/boutique hotels to stay at. Get in touch with us and we’d love to help you plan your trip to Goa and beyond.


Feeling Like Royalty in Udaipur
Feeling Like Royalty in Udaipur

Thank you India Someday for putting me up like royalty for these first couple of cities. The air-conditioned bus (with plush reclining chairs) from Ahmbedabad to Udaipur dropped me on the outskirts of town and I proudly negotiated a 50 Rupee rickshaw ride to the Old City.

My room (or shall I say rooms) at the Madri Haveli, in the master suite, made me feel like a queen. With multiple seating areas to choose from, nooks and crannies with beautifully shaped windows looking out onto the charming old city, a separate regal bedroom, and an eye-catching stone bathroom, larger than my NYC bedroom, replete with a giant tub, two sinks and a great supply of adorable Colgate toothpastes and other toiletries.

I made my way to the rooftop and was awe-struck by the stunning views of the lush mountains, beautiful lakes and enchanting city. I knew I’d be more than content if I never left the grounds and treated myself to some laptop time in what became one of the world’s prettiest offices.

I meandered the busy colorful crooked streets and worked my way towards the quintessential boat ride around Pichola Lake. I entered at Lal Ghat (where all tourists were Indian) and took the 250 Rupee ride around the beautiful waters, staring out onto City Palace and Jagmandir and Jagniwas Islands, quickly gaining a sense of the regal life of India.

Drawn to the green park space nearby, I wandered the windy paths, checked out some sculptures and spotted my first monkey hanging out.

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Working my way back to the haveli, I stopped to visit the Jagdish Temple, all dressed up with lights, streamers and statues, and packed with folks celebrating Janmashtami; Lord Krishna’s birthday.

I slipped off my shoes and joined the packed line of exquisitely dressed women in colorful saris to enter the temple, built in 1651. A clay pot dangling high above the open public square, I grew excited for the community celebration that would happen the following eve. For now, it was teeming of people, lots of music, and in the evening, a midnight procession marking the birth of Krishna.

I was thrilled to meet Udaipur artist, Rajesh Soni. In addition to photography, he does beautiful work hand-coloring, in fine detail, others’ digital pictures, many of which were on display in the Madri Haveli Gallery. We drove in his car to the new part of Udaipur, passing the famous Fateh Sagar Lake (or FS as they call it here), where droves of locals go to hang out in the evening, sitting on the waters’ edge and eating at the plentiful food stands across the road. He brought me to a typical Indian thali place where unlimited vegetarian dishes are served by eager waiters. I’m so loving the yogurts and delicious aromatic flavors of each meal more than the next in this country!

Our drive back was insane, his small car in competition with the motorbikes, bicycles, rickshaws, people, cows, goats and who knows what else. The streets are windy, super narrow and barely have room for one car to go by. He had an impeccable sense of the car-size and magically finessed his way through the tightest of squeezes, at impressively high speeds.

I retreated to my royal room and woke to a rooftop breakfast fit for a king. Fresh fruit, black tea, cheese omelette, banana crepes and four pieces of toast with an assortment of jams and that delicious Indian butter. I enjoyed learning that the Amul brand of butter I’ve been loving, started out as a women’s cooperative. Some women started a milk society, collecting milk from everyone’s house, which eventually developed into a large established company.

Ayurvedic Massage

I spent the day having my first Ayurvedic massage, meandering the Udaipur streets and lap-topping atop my glorious shaded rooftop. Struggling to find the place listed in Lonely Planet and overwhelmed by the plenitude of choices, I decided to go with a place in the Lal Ghat area where I was sold on having a woman provide my massage.

Loving a good massage and having experienced some of the best throughout my travels but never an Indian Ayurvedic treatment, I was curious. Throughout my hour of being gently massaged, I was curious if this woman’s work was indeed a good sampling of Ayurvedic massage because if so, I was going to exchange my rupees for bahts and head to Thailand!

Thankfully, the guy who ran this questionable operation, wanted a genuine debrief and had offered earlier to return my money if I wasn’t satisfied. Dissatisfied though I was, I didn’t intend to ask for a refund. We spoke at length about Ayurvedic massage and I much more enjoyed the next half hour of treatment he gave me. Moral of the story is make sure you go to a reputable place, especially if having a woman is important for you. It became clear to me that this woman had no idea what she was doing.

Overall, a restful day in charming, well-touristed Udaipur, the City of Lakes. I loved hearing the sounds of the Krishna celebrations and staring out at those beautiful hills.

Thank you India Someday.

Thank you You Wander We Pay.

Namaste.


Getting from Goa to Hampi
Getting from Goa to Hampi

How get from Goa to Hampi

You are in Goa, the land of sun, sea and inexpensive alchol, an ideal life for a hedonist like myself. Where do you go next? What can possibly keep up with the beautiful life that is Goa?  Where could still hold your interest? You should go from Goa to Hampi.

Our practical guide explains the different travel options between Hampi and Goa, the pros and the cons of each mode. It is not exactly a hop-skip and jump away, but Hampi is truly worth the travel effort.

A village in the Vijaynagara city of North Karnataka, Hampi means champion. It is located in the ruins of the ancient city of Vijaynagara. The ruins of Hampi are a UNESCO World Heritage site. A place unaffected by time and the onward march of civilization, Hampi is a delightful, picturesque idyll. It’s stuck in the 16th century and positively oozing with old world charm. There are a lot of things for a young backpacker to do. It should definitely be on your itinerary if you are not willing to end your vacation in Goa.

By flight

The distance from Goa to Hampi is 344 kilometres. There are no flights from Goa to Hampi. You can either take the train or bus.

By bus

There are state transport buses that run from Goa to Hampi, we have not tried them. They tend to take much longer and can be uncomfortable.

We frequently use Paulo Travels which provides bus services to and from Goa and Hampi. They provide two buses a day. You can choose between a Volvo Sleeper and a Non AC bus. Both buses are scheduled for the evening. One leaves at 18:55 PM IST and the other leaves at 19:04 PM IST.  It takes between 7 to 8 hours to reach Hampi by bus and should not cost you more than INR 600-800.

Tickets can be purchased directly in Goa, or purchased online.

Side note: Paulo Travels is usually a reliable bus in terms of punctuality and comfort. They frequently ply between Goa and Mumbai too. VRL is our favourite and Neeta is another good bus service.

By train

Getting from Goa to Hampi by train is our preferred option. We suggest you take the Howrah Express (does not run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays). You can board this train from Vasco De Gama station at 7:20 AM in Goa and reach Hospet (closest station to Hampi 20kms away) at 2PM. From there you can take a rickshaw. We suggest this train because it’s fast and you reach Hampi by noon which leaves you with an extra evening to spend in Hampi.

The journey is pretty beautiful, full of ghats and the mesmerizing Dudhsagar waterfalls. The Mandovi river making a leap in all its grace (looks like milk flowing from a mountain) hence named Dudhsagar waterfalls (sea of milk).

By Car (and driver)

One can hire and a car and driver and drive from Goa to Hampi. It is a long drive and on the expensive side. Expect the drive to take seven to eight hours (even upto nine). A car and driver would cost you anywhere between INR 9000 to INR 11000 (including fuel costs).

Some tourists opt for Hampi as a day trip. They rent a car to take them to Hampi and back. Honestly, we think that is tortuous amounts of driving and stunning Hampi deserves more time! A sunset or a sunrise in Hampi may well be one of your most memorable Indian experiences. The entire red granite city glistens in the soft rays of the sun.

Getting from Hampi to Goa

You can use the bus services of Paulo travels or The Howrah Express to travel from Hampi to Goa. When travelling from Hampi to Goa we suggest you take the bus. The reason we suggest the bus over the trains is the trains originate from Kolkata (36 hours away from Hospet) so they often late and at times can be very dirty too.

If you have reached Hampi and wondering where you should go next we suggest you give ‘Gods own country’–Kerala a try.

Here are travel options between Goa and Kerala.


Dealing With Touts in India
Dealing With Touts in India

Imagine you were travelling to a place, let’s say Delhi. The capital of India, a land of historic value and great energy, the kind of city that gets your heart pumping. Weeks, maybe months of planning have finally reached their fruition. You have arrived. You can’t wait to explore Delhi and make this another memorable trip. But the minute you step off the train, someone runs up to you, clings to your sleeve and smooth talks you out if your hard earned money. What a way to start the trip.

Sadly this is an unfortunate aspect of travelling to India, the touts. They are people  who will do anything to make a quick buck out of vulnerable first-time travelers (the experienced ones usually learn from their mistakes or read up enough so they know how to deal with it).

The problem is, no matter how much you may have heard from friends, you can never be too prepared for these fraudsters. They’ll come at you from all sides offering everything from hotels and taxis at ‘Cheap’ ‘Special’ or ‘Discount’ rates to hats, sweaters and keychains

You may think you will find touts only at crowded stations or monuments, but it’s much more widespread than that.

A tout could be just about anybody, your taxi/ auto rickshaw driver or your hotel manager, anybody who is earning a commission or even a direct profit from getting you to part with your money.

You will find people trying to charge you extra for entrance at monuments and even at temples and mosques. The key is to avoid or ignore them, though your patience will be sorely tested. They just want you to respond to them once and they’ll dive straight into their sales pitch and bait you into buying something.

They will cling to you doggedly if you try to walk away, but if you ignore them long enough, they’ll eventually turn their attention to somebody else. Make sure you buy your tickets at designated counters with prominent signs displaying entrance fees, and whenever possible try to dish out exact change.You would be surprised at how even the employees working for authorities like the railways or the bus services will try to short-change you. If you take a cab or an  auto from the railway station there is a good chance that the driver will tell you that your hotel is already fully booked or in some cases even shut down to try and entice you toward a ‘cheap’ hotel of his choice.

Delhi

Delhi is a city of warm generous people who are very upset by their city’s reputation as a haven for touts. You will find a lot of people who genuinely want to help you without asking for anything in return, and being too cautious might keep you from connecting with some truly lovely people.

Be careful when boarding a train from Delhi, your tickets are NOT cancelled, unless your tour operators tell you so! If anyone tries to tell you otherwise just laugh them off and carry on with your journey.

Pushkar

 

Pushkar is a holy city, home to place of worship of great importance to Hindus. You’ll find the place packed with travellers, both explorers and pilgrims making their way to ‘Tirth Raj’, the king of pilgrimage sites. The irony is that this land of goodness, godliness and devotion, has become a hotbed for mischief makers.

The most common scam you will encounter is the paid blessings. When you wander across the town, or the small lake, you will come across smiling priests (touts, yes that’s what they are, touts). They will ask you if they want to be blessed, and then they will pray for you, make you chant a few words and then demand outrageously large sums of money.

The best way to avoid them is to say upfront exactly how much you’re willing to pay and then watch how they don’t want to give you ‘special blessings’ anymore.

Agra

 

Agra: The land of the Taj Mahal, drawing in tourists from around the world and quick on their heels, the touts.

The touts in Agra have a very mindblowing capacity for being irrtating. Yes, all touts are irritating, but these guys are damn good at pestering people. They will want to sell you little Taj Mahal replicas, ‘authentic’ pashmina shawls, and will tell you that your hotel or the Taj is far away and ask you to take the Tanga rickshaw (carriage) to a place that is literally 500 meters away.

The best way to deal with touts in Delhi, Agra or any other part of the country is to just ignore them, never run out of patience, and do a little bit of research about the place you are visiting. Just to reiterate, you will find a lot of genuine helpful people who will help you. Indians are very welcoming people. Some might even help you negotiate with the touts!

If you want to avoid a sticky situation, feel free to contact us!


Travelling to North East India
Travelling to North East India

North East India is one of the most remote regions of India and relatively untouched by the overbearing tourism industry. It consists of the seven states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The North East is a part of the second largest biodiversity hotspot in the world, with more than 60% of the area under forest cover. Although the cultures of this area are often banded dismissively together, they are in fact incredibly diverse and very well worth discovering.

How to get around in North East India?

Being a remote and hilly area, infrastructure is not well developed. With the exception of Assam where they have 4 lane cemented highways, the roads can be pretty bad. In Arunachal and Nagaland roads are continuously winding and poorly maintained restricting top speed to 30 kmph, making journeys between two places long and arduous. Having said this, the views are spectacular and will keep you spellbound almost all the way.

Accommodation in North East India

Accommodation is pretty basic in most places. Hotels often do not have geysers or showers so hot water for bathing is provided in buckets. Some places may not even have western style toilets so be prepared to squat. Assam, Sikkim and Gangtok do have some extremely comfortable places for travellers, and a growing interest in the area promises newer options.

Who is it for?

North East has a very raw and rugged beauty, bearing a closer affinity to South East Asia than to the general perception of India. If you like to travel rough and honestly experience the lives of other cultures then this is the place for you. Expect the unexpected when travelling in this region. Despite the idea most people have of the North East being incredibly primitive and and backward, they have the most widespread rock music scene in all of India. Look up college festivals and local concerts and competitions to get a chance to experience something terrific. They also play host to quite a few music festivals that draw in crowds and bands from across the country.

 

There are very few luxury hotels in the North East and those which exist are found only in selected places like Kaziranga, Shillong, Jorhat and Dibrugarh. So if you are a luxury seeker and like to be pampered on your vacation then you might want to look elsewhere.

Cost of travel in North East India

Being a remote area the cost of trips to North East works out nearly 20% higher than a similar trip in any other place in India. The main reason is the transportation cost which is quite high due to roads being steep and in poor condition. Hence it is most economical to travel in groups of 4 or above. Hotel charges are also higher than other places in India. A big bonus is that the cost of living is low, and you’re unlikely to come across touts whose only aim is to fleece foreigners.

Seasons in North East India

Generally speaking November to May is a good time to visit the North East, but depending the the kind of trip and places you would like to visit certain months might be more favourable than others.

Food in North East India

While sticky rice is the staple diet of almost all the tribes in the North East, they compliment it with a dazzling array of meats, pickles, vegetables and beans cooked in endless variety. They love meat; pork being the favourite but vying among several other contenders ranging from chicken and fish to snail and smaller game. The residents of the North-East are famous for cooking anything that moves, a topic you should probably not bring up directly if you don’t want to offend your host but definitely something to look forward to if you really want to dive into a new culture.

 

Alcohol goes well with all the meat they eat. Rice and millet make the base for delicious local brews.

Permits for North East India

Foreigners do not require permits to enter any of the North Eastern states besides Arunachal Pradesh. For visiting Arunachal foreigners need a PAP (Protected Area Permit) which costs US$100 for 2 people and is granted for a duration of 30 days. The permit has to be applied for through a tour operator recognised by the Government of Arunachal.

In conclusion we at India Someday would recommend that you keep at least 10 days for a trip to the North East since the region is pretty remote and has so much to discover, but with slow internal travel. Road journeys are long and tiresome so it is best to have more days at hand to see the region in a more relaxed manner. Most circuits in Nagaland and Arunachal would need around 15 to 20 days if you wish to properly experience the varied culture.

 


Visiting India in December
Visiting India in December

An overview of December weather in India

With December the winter arrives in India. This can mean different things depending on the region you plan to travel to in India in December. While South India gets pleasant temperatures and weather it can be very cold in the North – so cold, it’s likely to snow in the mountains to even ski!

The tourist season also kicks off in the most popular regions like Rajasthan, Kerala and Goa in December. Since international and domestic travelers have no issues taking an off around Christmas to travel and the constant sunshine in India and fantastic climate is too tempting to refuse, India experiences every December a huge influx of tourists. But as long as you book in advance and have a strong travel partner like India Someday on your side, you can manage to stay within your planned budget to travel in India.

North India in December

December is a fantastic time to travel in Rajasthan and the neighboring states like Gujarat, Madya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Since those areas tend to get very hot from March to June and September to November it would be better to come in the winter to be able to use the entire day for sightseeing and explorations. However, you need to be aware that it can get very cold at night and in the morning hours. Temperatures below 10ºC (50ºF) are not rare. Hotels have no heating systems but often warm blankets. We definitely recommend an over-night safari to the dessert, possible in Jaisalmer and other places, as you can experience the beautiful landscape and an incredible night sky without light pollution. But you would need to pack warm clothes, scarfs and maybe even a hat and gloves for that. Another highlight: two fun and interesting cultural fairs happen in Rajasthan in December: The Kumbhalgarh (01-03/12/2017) and the Mt Abu Winter Festival (29-31/12/2017). For some suggestions on possible travel routes in Rajasthan read more here.

The only issue you might face are the common fog in north India around December and January, especially in Delhi and Agra. This can cause flights and trains to be delayed and a limited view of the Taj Mahal at the break of dawn.

Further north of Delhi and in the North East where the foothills of the Himalayas start it can get quite cold in December. Some years even see snow around Christmas in Shimla, Manali or Sikkim. This can surely be a magical experience beyond imagination but can be quite a disappointment if you came to India to work on your tan. If you are interesting in skiing Gulmarg and Auli are good options. But don’t experience such elaborate resorts as in USA, Canada and Europe.

South India in December   

The retreating monsoon along the east coast of India ends around mid-December. In some years cyclones from the bay of Bengali hit Tamil Nadu at the coast at places like Chennai, Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram. In 2015 Chennai got badly flooded with damages up to $16 Mio. However, this doesn’t happen often and, if at all, only at the beginning of the month. As a former French colony with catholic influences, Pondicherry is a great destination if you don’t want to miss out on some Christmas vibes.

Kerala doesn’t get any more rain in December. While it can be quite warm all around the rest of the year it can be pleasantly warm or even quite cool in December. In the mountain areas around Munnar, Thekkady or Wayanad it can be as low as 17ºC (62ºF). The beaches are very pleasant and the main season is 100% underway so expect a high number of tourists around Varkala and Kovalam. To enjoy a more off-the-beaten-path and less crowded beach we would recommend to stay in Marari, just 45min from Alleppey. Kerala has also many Christian influences, especially in the Backwaters and Kochi region so it would also be a great destination for Christmas. See our route recommendations for Kerala here.

Goa has reached its main season by beginning of the month. If you want to spend Christmas and New Years Eve in Goa, you better book weeks to months in advance and plan a stay for multiple days as many hotels don’t accept short stays. The prices are the highest for the whole year with peak season supplement charges for bookings from Dec 20th to Jan 10th. Same applies to the amount of sunbathing travelers at the beaches – be prepared for low availability and crowded beaches.

Find some route suggestions for two weeks and four weeks in South India here.

In a nutshell: December is main season in Rajasthan, South India and Goa where you would need to make your bookings for transport and accommodations as early as possible, preferably before September. Train Tickets are often booked our three months beforehand and flights can get very expensive. In case of emergency bus tickets would always be available but offer less comfort. Trips to the mountains in North and North-East require very warm clothes and not every activity would be possible, we advise against it.

If you like to escape the Christmas madness and cold temperatures at home on December, plan your trip with us now and we make sure that you get all tickets and stays sorted despite the main season buzz.


Exchanging Money in India
Exchanging Money in India

The following is a guest article from Joe, a hotelier and director of Tripzuki and first appeared on the Tripzuki Blog. Hailing from England, and having lived in different corners of the world, he has a pretty good grip on the situation here, so we got him to write a short post on getting cash in India.

Money in India

 

Future guests would often ask what to do about money while they’re here. Where can I get cash in India? Should I carry cash with me to India? What about travellers’ cheques? Those are probably the top 3 questions people ask.

Firstly, as somebody who travels back and forth to India regularly here’s what I do: just use an ATM and withdraw from my foreign account. However, like all the methods described here, there is no perfect way and all methods come with some charges or complications.

About making card payments in India

Most modern hotels and restaurants in the big cities will take Visa and Mastercard debit and credit card payments, with charges likely to be between nil or 2 to 5%.

Credit cards are good because you may get some protection in case of fraud. Cards in general are bad because of the automated security they put in place, which means when a payment suddenly goes through in Delhi instead of your home country, the computer says ‘Woah, that’s weird! Block that card now!’. You then spend the next hour trying to call your bank, and if you’re really unlucky you’re also standing there with a waiter brandishing your unpaid bill.

In less modern establishments, markets, small family businesses and so on, you’ll be using cash. In other words, you will need cash in India. Oh, it comes in handy for tipping as well.

Forget ‘paisa’ by the way, the lowest denomination of currency in India, you won’t see them or be expected to pay them, though ‘paisa’ in Hindi does mean ‘money’. So what’s the best way to get hold of Indian rupees (also interchangeably written as ‘INR’ and ‘Rs’)?

Using ATMs In India

In most major cities and tourist destinations you will be able to find an ATM, they have spread across the country. You wouldn’t believe how many different banks there are; I counted almost 200 once!

Indian ATMs are a bit quirky in that they’re often a separate, tiny shopfront with a locked door and a half-asleep guard outside. Approach and he’ll open the door for you if it’s not already occupied. Chances are that you’ll have to put your card in and pull it out a second later – swiping it in effect – and in some machines you even have to leave your card in. Anyway, to a foreigner it can be a bit confusing but you’ll get the hang of it, the guard will probably help you if you get stuck (as will most Indians).

There are 2 catches to using ATMs in India. Firstly, there is often a maximum withdrawal limit of 10,000 to 15000 rupees. So if you want more than that, head down the road to another ATM and repeat the process. The second catch is that the bank will give you a crappy exchange rate and your card-issuing bank will undoubtedly charge you a foreign withdrawal fee as well. I paid 5 UK pounds per transaction on my last trip. Banks, huh!

(Few banks which you might see in all cities are HDFC, ICICI, State Bank of India)

Exchange Currency at a Airport

You can usually get rupees at the airport but the exchange rate will be really bad. Not only can it be hard to estimate your spending in advance, but who really wants to carry round a huge wad of notes when they’re on holiday?

Carrying foreign currency while you travel

This can actually be a good option. You can go to an Indian bank that deals with foreign exchange (not all do), stand in line, and get not such a good rate. Alternatively, you can often exchange at your hotel or with a high-street money-changing office (or just a guy that somebody recommends). The rates in this case vary but often don’t get much worse than the banks’ rates. It’s often the case that foreigners worry about being ripped off in India but with money exchange I wouldn’t get paranoid about it. If you go to somebody that is recommended by your hotel then chances are they will have a reputation to maintain, and ripping off tourists makes everybody lose face. Best currencies are US dollars, UK pounds and Euros and AUD.

Travellers’ cheques what are they?

Do people still use these? I guess they do but as mentioned above, not all Indian bank branches deal with foreign exchange, and despite being shockingly behind the times, even the ones that do might not change your cheques. My advice is not to bother with this option.

So in conclusion I’d say there are 2 ways to go about things: take a couple of cards and take some rupees or strong foreign currency. Personally, I’d say just with a couple of cards is the easiest way to travel. Yes, you pay ATM charges, but when you change money you get hit on the exchange rate, that may seem less tangible but it’s still a charge.


Twenty best places to visit in North India
Twenty best places to visit in North India

Twenty best places to visit in North India

It’s only fair to start talking about North India, with the historic Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and then take it trough the deserts of Rajasthan into the magnificent Himalayan paradise destinations. So let’s start where most trips to India start and talk about our twenty top places to visit in North India.

Delhi –A city with character

You’re most likely to land here if you’re visiting India. And when you do, you’ll probably be told about Delhi’s skyrocketing crime rate which is true but there’s more to Delhi than that. It’s a modern city in with a very strong historical essence, in the way it is constructed, in its architecture and especially in the monuments, tombs, temples, and ruins of Old Delhi. Street shopping at Sarojinini Nagar and Janpath, street food all over town, the alternative, designer culture of HauzKhas Village, the hipster feel of Pahadganj… these are things everyone loves about Delhi and yet the luxury shopper or the fine diner will not be pressed for choices with all the high flying malls and luxury stores in town. The city is sprawling and every area is like a world of its own (you can lose yourself just going around the lanes of ChandniChowk). The highways feel like they connect different worlds. Delhi has it all, and all of it makes one mesmerizing metropolis where you can spend months and still keep discovering it with all its fascinating nooks and crannies.

Agra – More than the Taj Mahal

Yes, we all know that the Taj Mahal which is undoubtedly magnificent (especially in changing light at dawn and dusk) is Agra’s claim to fame but there’s a lot more to see here. Agra Fort, Baby Taj (a small unfinished version of the Taj Mahal in black), Akbar’s tomb and the fortress city of Fatehpur (Fatehpur Sikri) are all great monuments, each with its own unique historic significance and architectural genius attached. That’s the least you expect from a city that was India’s capital under the Mughals. Agra city itself can be quite an experience. It’s like a bunch of bazaars put together with most monuments lining the river Yamuna along the eastern side of the city. Taj Ganj is the settlement around the Taj Mahal where you’ll find cheap lodging and lots of small time Marble Inlay makers making replicas of the Taj Mahal and other beautiful pieces of art. Sadar Bazaar has the more swanky accommodation in town, craft emporiums and many restaurants, Further north from Agra Fort there is the commercial Kinari Bazaar which surrounds Jama Masjid. Agra is a great peek into the extravagance and the artistic impulses of the Mughals and their social effects.

Jaipur – A piece of culture

Jaipur is one of the biggest and most bustling cities in the state of Rajasthan. Roam the old city bazaars (which are arranged in a courtyard like fashion around the city palace) for great handicrafts and souvenirs, ethnic wear that’s a class apart both as textiles and accessories, super interesting food (the ‘kachori’ from ‘Kanji’ is a must try as is the traditional ‘dal bati’ at old Jaipuri food joints). Amer Fort with an exquisite light and sound show by night and the brilliance of the Sheesh Mahal (palace of mirrors) by day, the Galtaji temple (or the monkey temple), Nahargarh fort and the lesser known Royal Cenotaphs  are major attractions on the outskirts while Hawa Mahal is an in city visual delight. Photography enthusiasts will have a gala time in Jaipur with its amazing Rajasthani architecture. If you feel like there’s been an overdose of structures, head to the greener Ram Niwas Gardens and visit the Central Museum in the southern part of town. Fort,

Ranthambore – Spot a tiger

This is one of the best Indian destinations for tiger sighting. Of all Indian national parks, you have the best odds of seeing a tiger up close in Ranthambore. The tigers here smugly assume ownership of the place, least perturbed by the visitors and their clicking cameras. You might even have the illusion that some of them are striking a pose for your convenience every now and then. It’s not as easy as it sounds though, any wildlife photographer will tell you that if you’re not one yourself. But the proximity of this reserve to Delhi, Agra and Jaipur (the closest, you actually alight at Savaimadhavpur from the train to get to the park), makes it a much more convenient destination for nature lovers. You will get to see not only tigers but neelgai, chital, jackals, jungle cats, leopards and many birds if you’re aware enough. And the cool new development are the ‘buffer zones’ where you can actually get out of your jeep and walk around, but don’t expect to see a tiger unless you’re really lucky in these areas. Buffer zones are open all year round but the core area of the park is shut from 1st July to 30th September. October to March is the ideal time to visit. Animals frequent the lake in this season since rainwater is scanty. Summers are less crowded due to the extreme heat and winters are extremely busy here, so plan ahead!

Jaisalmer – The desert’s golden edge

Jaiselmer is relatively more difficult to get to (an overnight railway journey from Jaipur or a drive through Jodhpur) but totally worth it. Enjoy the sights and sounds of a typical Rajasthani desert town, go on a camel ride at sunset, camp in the desert amidst the ‘Golden City’s’ sand dunes. People watch here, its great fun. The village folk in their vibrant turbans are all over the bazaar and there is absolutely no match for Jaiselmer’s sandstone structures. Walk through yourself in the meandering streets, with no fear of getting lost in this medieval small town. Go looking for traditional dance performances, and maybe go dune bashing.

Jodhpur – The best fort city in Rajasthan

Jodhpur, in Rajasthan lines the Thar Desert to the east. Almost all houses in the old town are painted in a lovely blue wash and the stunning Meherangarh Fort (easily Rajasthan’s most beautiful) looms over them. Zipling off Meherangarh Fort is a brilliant experience no one should miss (more info. on that here: http://www.flyingfox.asia/cmspage.aspx?pgid=52). Don’t just visit the fort, go around town if you get the time, you’ll find puppet makers, tie and dye artists, spice markets and more. Lose yourself in the bazaars that radiate around the clock tower right in the centre of the city, the age old Sardar Market especially. The wall less Jalori and Sojati Gates will give you a feel of how old a city Jodhpur really is. For the sake of ritual, get a birds-eye view of the ‘blue city’ and keep a photograph of it for fond memory!

Udaipur  – Charming city of Lakes

Udaipur is that rich and romantic setting you’ve seen in old Indian paintings and period films. Lake Pichola is lined by an array of palaces with beautiful balconies, havelis (small homes of the royal era) in pristine white, bathing ghats and lovely root top restaurants from where you can get great views of the lake and lush green hills around it. The Lake Palace hotel floats proudly in the middle of the lake, as does Jag Mandir. You have City Palace to the east of the Lake Pichola and, winding streets of the old city to explore and of course, the Fateh Sagar lake to the north. A drive through the outskirts is very visually rewarding as well, it gives you a real feel of the great Indian dynasty that was.

Pushkar – Small, spiritual and hippie

Legend says that Lord Brahma (the Hindu deity who is the creator) dropped a lotus on this little town to the north of Ajmer and that’s how the holy Pushkar lake came to exist. The only Bhrama temple in India, it is an important pilgrimage spot, but more interestingly, it is a hub for hippie travelers. The lake is flanked by hundreds of temples and ghats, along with rooftop cafes, bakeries, etc. and a very colorful market, full of handicrafts, hipster clothing and a variety of food. Sunset by the lake is a great experience. If you come to Pushkar during the camel fair around October/November, you’ll see throngs of pilgrims, folk artists, musicians, camel sellers and buyers, tourists and many more people coming into Pushkar and the entire expanse of dunes around it acquire a lovely festive aura. Climb the hill where the Savitri Temple is to get an unsurpassed view over Pushkar (try to get there by sunrise, or at sun set). The Gayitri Temple offers great sunrise views as well. Make all your bookings in advance if you’re visiting at the time of the fair.

Varanasi – The cradle of Hindu’asm

Also called Benares and Kashi, this is an old city that lies around the banks of the river Ganga. The banks of the river have an array of ghats leading to the holy waters, where you’ll see, priests, pilgrims and other folk in colorful attire, taking a dip, and performing rituals. The ghats of Varanasi are also where many Hindu’s in northern India religiously cremate their dead and where the grand Ganga aarti takes place. Watching the Ganga aarti in this ‘city of light’ said to have been created by the Lord Shiva one of the most intense and moving experiences you can have in India. Varanasi has a unique vibe, probably because it is considered one of the most important pilgrimage spots in the country. It is a city of sages and priests, a strange place where the deities abound and the aged believers wish to breathe their last.

Khajuraho – The erotic temples

The sensual sculptures of the Khajuraho temples are yet unmatched. There is more than one theory for why the Chandella dynasty rulers had such explicitly erotic temples built back in 10-12 centuries AD (which one would imagine were conservative times in a country like India). One particularly funny one is that they were intended to be a ‘how to’ guide for Brahmin boys! A more serious one is that they symbolize Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati’s wedding party. The British rediscovered this forgotten architectural marvel, 400 km from Agra (southeast) and Varanasi (west), in 1838. The Western Group temples are particularly stunning with their pinkish sandstone and almost 3D relief giving of the illusion that the figures are alive with real flesh. Add to this the subtle changes in hues with the changing light of the day, in the moonlight and sometimes floodlights by night and you’ll find yourself just standing there and staring for hours! Khajuraho village, although belittled by the grandeur of the temples, has its own discreet charm, with a laid back pace, a nice market and pretty open-restaurants. The Khajuraho Dance festival is a great time of the year to visit Khajuraho.

Orchha – A smaller gem

Chhattisgarh’s more or less overshadowed gem, Orccha is a must visit if you’re taking a trip to the more famed site of Khajuraho, and even otherwise. In fact, the name itself translates to ‘hidden place’ and this tumble-down medieval town lives up to the title, nestled among dhak forest cover. Orchha is a convenient 18km journey from Jhansi. Its architectural value has been recognized over the years and its lovely shikharas, palatial remains, havelis and cenotaphs in sandstone with flora growing over them have been fortified. They all appear to be making a serene journey in time by the River Betwa. The village is a great place to relax on your way down from more demanding northern towns. Now that Orchha has taken up a bit of the limelight, you might find a lot of guided tours and tourists here, but the best way to enjoy it is to let this bustle clear out a bit, lay back and take in the entire aura of the place at peace.

Kanha National Park – in the lap of nature

Sprawled over 940 sq. km of deciduous forest cover, grasslands, hills and rivers, Kanha National Park to the north of Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh is easily one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in India.  You’ll spot myriad species of birds and animals (tigers as well) here and be mesmerized by the parks early morning beauty. Sighting a tiger here is considered more difficult than other tiger reserves, but it’s totally worth a visit for the rest of the wildlife brilliant, refreshing country side views it offers.

Bandhavgarh National Park – Where the Bengal tigers thrive

195 km from Jabalpur and 237 km from Khajuraho, Bandhavgarh to the north east of Madhya Pradesh is a 448 sq. km. National Park which houses the most number of tigers in India. This is by far the best reserve to track tigers at. You have the best chances of sighting tigers and getting insight into their life and habits if you go here during season time. Accommodation is available near the park entry which makes it all the more convenient and you get to see all sorts of birds while sitting around in your lodge at leisure. Bandhavgarh also has some enthralling ruins for those with an eye for architecture or an interest in history.

Rishikesh – a charming Himalyan foothill

Rishikesh is one absurd mix of yogis, sanyasis, travelers, hippies, adventure sports enthusiasts and more. It lies on the foothills of the Himalayas, 24 km from Haridwar to the north with the Garhwal Mountains looming above at and the river Ganga flowing by. You’ll find many ashrams and yoga centers here. Go white water rafting, get adventurous with mountaineering or just take one of the easier and more recreational treks. The unparalleled adrenaline rush of bungee jumping and the tranquility which was its original charm, you’ll find it all here in Rishikesh. Walk up-river and a spot amidst the rocks to just sit and be meditative. All in all it is a lovely experience and you can spend quite a while here.

Amritsar – An Awakening of humility

Punjab’s largest city, Amritsar is famous for the Golden Temple with its stately domes which command the view from its busy old town streets. Just walking around the bazaars and narrow by lanes of the old town is also quite an experience in itself. Another thing that all travelers to Amritsar find interesting is the flag retreat at the Wagha border 29 Km to the west (Indo–Pakistan frontier) where Indian and Pakistani soldiers bring down flags in an elaborate manner every evening. If you’re into history, you can probably visit the site of Jalianwala Bagh (where silent protestors were massacred during India’s struggle for freedom).

Chandigarh – An urban design benchmark

The capital of Punjab as well as Haryana and yet of neither because it is a Union Territory, Chandigarh is modeled on Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision for a city that is “symbolic of the future of India, unfettered by the traditions of the past, [and] an expression of the nation’s faith in the future”. Le Corbusier (or Charles-Edouard Jeanneret) designed Chandigarh back in 1952 as a progressive town planning experiment amidst some controversy and the Le Corbesiurs buildings are till date a thing to see amongst designers and architects. It is much cleaner and greener city compared to other major Indian towns. The rock garden here is the most frequented tourist destination in India after the Taj Mahal.

Dharmshala – Center of Buddhism in India

The Dalai Lamas home in exile atop the picturesque Kangra Valley in the Dauladhar Range of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala has a unique spiritual vibe to it. The Dalai Lama resides a few kilometers uphill at McLeod Ganj, and there are a number of monasteries and nunneries spread all over the Kangra Valley. Take home pretty souvenirs made by the Tibetan refugees from the market and eat some of the best momos you get in India. Enjoy soothing Tibetan meals, intellectual and spiritual discourses, and bask in the general feeling of peace and camaraderie here. In the winter you will encounter heavy snowfall and the monsoons are very wet as well, but post monsoon is the most refreshing time to be here. The Museum of Kangra Art in Dharamshala is worth a visit. You might not want to stay in Dharamshala, because it has become a developed city over the years, so walk uphill (or take a bus) to McLeod Ganj and find (via the Tibetan Library and Secretariat) and find one of the many lovely lodging options there. Visit the Dalai Lama temple at the time of chanting for a great experience and spin some prayer wheels there for good fortune. The temple has an exceptional view of the valley too. Dharamshala is the base for a number of superb Himalayan treks. If you’re here during the Dharamshala film festival, do not miss it. Check out the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, head northeast to Dharamkot village; visit the Tushita Retreat Meditation Centre and the Tibetan Children’s Village near Bhagsu. You can spend weeks in these parts and not tire of it at all.

Shimla – Colonial Mountain town

The climb from the Kalka plains to Shimla in the Himalayas is an experience in itself with steep valleys, apple orchards and maize terrace farming all over the slopes. At 2159m, Shimla always has cool weather and great views. No wonder the British made it their summer capital and it still has the colonial aura with churches and mansions, cricket pitches and holiday resorts, immaculately turned out city folk and gentlemen smoking pipes, homes and shops bearing typically British names. Christ Church is a major landmark and Scandal Point is where people gather to chat in the afternoons. The Mall is the prime shopping street of the bazaar with other interesting ones branching away from it. The Gaiety Theatre has regular shows. May–June is season times here and Indian tourists from Delhi and Punjab flock to Shimla at this time, so if you don’t like it crowded you might want to choose a slightly off season period. October and November are the best months, but make your bookings in advance. Keep an eye out for the many activities of the ridge like brass bands, sports screenings and pony rides.

Kashmir Valley

Kashmir Valley can easily be called India’s most beautiful destination. This exquisite, cool, lush area is like heaven on earth. Whether you come in from the Jawahar Tunnel or Zoji La pass, you’ll find yourself in a fantastic, verdant land, with mountain peaks all around you. The mostly snow capped PirPinjal mountains, bright green fields with corn, wheat, almond, walnut and fruits in abundance, willows and poplars which yield some of the highest quality wood, it’s all here in Kashmir. Not much industrialization and the most amazing food with benign spices blended just right and preparations that’ll make you feel absolutely pampered, what more can you ask for. Kashmiri handicrafts are a class apart. The downside is that there have been years of political and social conflict over Kashmir and so you have to be on your guard around here although it is definitely not reason enough to miss out on its beauty. Drink Kahwah!

Leh and Ladakh

This is a whole separate part of the country, in terms of administration, culture as well as terrain. Literally meaning ‘land of high mountain passes’ and often called ‘little Tibet’ it is very rich in Buddhist culture, despite extreme suppression of it by the Chinese in Tibet nearby. The monsoons hardly make it here and snowfall is very little too. Ladakh is like a Himalayan desert and the ultimate on road experience for bikers and driving enthusiasts. The ‘Raid De Himalaya’ is a very difficult car rally that goes through Ladakh, a major achievement for those who complete it. You’ll see Buddhist prayer flags, monasteries, chotrens outside tiny settlements, gompas and ruins, dotting the otherwise sparse landscape and transitions in terrain which feel like they’re not of this world once you enter Ladakh. Observe the life of the nomads here, it’s as inspiring as intriguing. Leh is Ladakh’s capital, and a thriving city of the Indus Valley with stunning views around it and a lot of tourist activity. Part of the historic Silk Route, Leh is where you’re most likely to arrive on your Journey into Ladakh or for other adventurous side trips. To its north lies KhardungLa, the highest motorable pass in the world which leads you to Nubra valley replete with sand dunes. Yes, be prepared for amazing visual transitions. TsoMoriri is a lovely lake to the south east of Leh in Rupshu and PangongTso (extreme east of Ladakh) is an epic destination, a lake they show in the movies. You can peek into Tibet from here. You need permits to go into most of these parts, so it’s advisable to reach Leh a day early and get these. Kargil (in the stunning Suru Valley) is the largest city here after Leh and it is the midpoint on your way to Srinagar in Kashmir and also the point where the road to Zanskar starts. A jeep or bike is ideal vehicles to traverse these regions. There are reliable busses as well on the Indus Valley highway but they get fewer as the distance from Leh increases, making remote parts (which are the charm of Ladakh) less accessible. If you’re fit enough, there’s no match for trekking of course!


Best Places to Street Shop in Mumbai
Best Places to Street Shop in Mumbai

5023649567_b733513dcf_zIn Mumbai and looking to shop? Ditch the snazzy boutiques and comfort of air-conditioned malls and hit the road for some fun street shopping! Mumbai has some of the best places for clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery and all at affordable prices.

One golden rule though: you have to haggle. Haggling is an art and if you’re up for it, then you’re all set for an awesome shopping spree.

Colaba causeway

In the same area as the Gateway of India and a definite stop for all tourists. The best place to shop for jewellery. Chunky jewellery, neckpieces, danglers, bangles, bracelets, they’ve got it all. They also sell some lovely scarves here and antique wares like clocks, lamps, bells etc. Walk around here just to get a feel of the city, as this is in the heart of the backpacker district in Mumbai

Fashion street

This shopping lane is near Churchgate station. Mainly for clothes and a few shoe stalls, it’s one of the few places that also caters to men. Don’t expect their clothes to last you a life time but at the prices they offer, you can change your wardrobe every three months.

Hill road

A hip shopping locale in the ‘Queen of the Mumbai Suburbs’, Bandra.  Frequently visited by college girls looking for trendy stuff. I love this place for the shoes! Boots, Wedges, Kitten heels, Stilettos, the whole shebang! A good place to get western clothes, gowns or evening dresses stitched.

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Linking road

This is on the other side of Bandra. I guess of the four places, this is the longest shopping lane and it has lots to offer too. You’ll find a string of shoe stalls here but mostly daily wear. There are also quite a few boutiques here, some by budding designers and some export rejects.

Chor bazaar

Literally meaning ‘Thieves Market’, it’s one of the largest flea markets in India. You can find almost anything here and it isn’t limited to just clothes and accessories! The place is massive and has everything from brassware and ceramic to vintage collections. You can even get imported stuff at dirt cheap prices. Brands—think Puma, Nike, Hummel. A paradise for brand-conscious guys that is also light on the pocket!

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By Sneha@stage2.indiasomeday.com