Tag Archives: India with children

When we tell people that we spent two months in India with our children
When we tell people that we spent two months in India with our children

Two months in India with three little children! Wow!

Sarah and her husband 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. 

When we tell people that we spent two months in India with our children, they generally have two responses. The first is “and how was THAT?” And then there is a barrage of questions about sickness, filth, food contamination, drinkable water, diarrhea, bugs, etc.  And it turns out that we weren’t sick, not even once. Actually much to my dismay, I put on a bit of weight!!!

Enjoying the countryside in Kerala

The second thing people say is, “wow, two months! You must have seen the WHOLE country!” Again, totally wrong. In two months of traveling around, spending no more than a week in most places and sometimes just a few days, we saw a fraction of what India has to offer.

India is so large and so diverse, is a world in and of itself. There are a huge variety of climates and ecosystems all within one country. As you travel from one location to another, the scenery and temperature will change drastically. The language also changes.

Being unable to understand Hindi, I could no better understand Punjabi, Tamil or any of the hundreds of other languages spoken in India and felt grateful for the English that people would communicate to me in.  The food was different depending on what part of India you were in – and although you could find dosas, for example, in both the south and north of India, the food and its’ flavour were directly related to the part of the country it came from.

We arrived in Mumbai in early January of 2015 and traveled over to Aurangabad to see the amazing caves of Ellora and Ajanta. We then traveled south to the sanctuary of Hampi. From there we crossed over to the beaches of Goa and made our way south to Fort Kochi and the backwaters and beaches of Kerala. We then escaped the heat and flew north to Delhi and headed to the spiritual city of Rishikesh.

Mumbai Bombay – India with colonial flavours!

Aurangabad Stunning Ellora Caves in Aurangabad

After taking in what we could of the International Yoga Festival, we headed up to a hilltown on the edge of the Himilayas called Mussorie and enjoyed amazing views and cold weather. We made our way back to Delhi by train and did a quick one day trip to Taj Mahal and then flew out. Two months on the move and that was what we saw! Yes it was a lot and it was also nothing, all at once.

Himalaya View View of the Greater Himalayas from Mussorie

We have plans to come back to India. We loved the country and you would be hard-pressed to find nicer and more friendly people anywhere. We want to visit the south-east, French influenced side of the country to enjoy Pondicherry and all around. We would also love to head up to Rajastan and see the magical north that we have heard so much about. I would like to hit the lesser-populated, but hippy vibe beaches of Karnataka too. And of course, I would head back to Hampi – just because this little piece of heaven exists on Earth!

Other blogs by Sarah and Gregor

Goa Goa!

 


Using different modes of travels in India with children
Using different modes of travels in India with children

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. 

Train travel India with children Train travel 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.

Trains

Resting in the AC lounge before train Resting in the AC lounge before train

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.

Tuk Tuk in India Tuk Tuk in India

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

In India a two wheeler is a family vehicle (we only used it to Pose!) In India a two wheeler is a family vehicle (we only used it to pose!)

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 traveling in India with kids
Dispelling the myths of traveling in India with kids

Travelling to India with children: Experiences of a Canadian family with kids aged 12, 10 and 5

When we told our friends that we were going to take our kids to India for two and a half months, some of the responses were “What! Are you crazy!” “Aren’t you worried about getting them getting sick?” “Do you really think it is a safe place to go with kids????” “Why India, why don’t you just stay in Europe?” “Wow, you are brave, but do you think it is responsible to take kids to India, they really don’t have the same immune system.”

Tuk tuk from Hospet to Hampi Travelling by Tuk Tuk from Hospet to Hampi

Well I am happy to say that taking your kids to India is a great idea. I feel like it is a privilege and a real education for kids. There is so much beauty, history, culture, and religion in India, not to mention, really lovely people and wonderful food. Depending on how you travel, you may not be out of your comfort zone at all, or even better, you may be out of your comfort zone and you will see how resilient and adaptable your children are.

Initial experiences of big city Mumbai

When we arrived in Mumbai from snowy Berlin, we jumped in with both feet. We got into a taxi at 6 in the morning to take us to our hotel in Colaba, just over an hour away. You would have thought that it was mid-morning anywhere else with all the action. There were loads of people out and about, traffic and honking had started, there were people sleeping on the streets and all the vendors were just getting set up to start their long day of selling. After a bit of a nap, we went out for a walk to explore a bit. There was lots going on for us to adjust to; the smells, the heat, the noise, the traffic, the quantity of people on the streets, the street people begging and following us. After a little while, we went back inside, debriefing the experience with the children. They found it busy!  Funnily enough, on the next outing only three hours later, this was the new normal and the kids got to see how people live in big cities – and they had no problems navigating this norm from then on.

School trip we met at Fort Daulatabad who wanted a photo with us School trip we met at Fort Daulatabad who wanted a photo with us

Places in India we visited with our children

We have visited loads of places in India, from the caves, to Hampi, to the beaches of Goa and down through Kerala. All of the places have their own set of challenges but most importantly, they all have their unique beauty. In Mumbai, we saw how resilient people are and how they are all trying to make a living. We saw so much honesty and pride that we found it inspiring. At the caves of Ellora and Ajanta, we marveled at a civilization’s rich history and incredible talent, ingenuity and perseverance to create something of such remarkable size and beauty. In Hampi, the landscape is so beautiful and other-worldly that you wonder how places like this exist. Of course, there is the fun of the beaches, playing in the waves and visiting spice plantations. There are the mountains and tea plantations, it goes on and on. In India there is lots of everything and you will never have enough time to explore it all.

What the children learned

And yes, there is poverty and yes, many places are dirty. For us, these are excellent opportunities to show our children how so much of the world lives. In Canada, you would never see so much garbage strewn all over the roads, thrown over the hillsides, in the rivers, etc., so this does several things on our family trip. It makes us appreciate the wealth and infrastructure in our own country (and perhaps feel less resentful about paying taxes), it makes us grateful for our own good fortune, and it allows us to understand what challenges developing countries are facing and accept that all progress is on a continuum. We see the interconnectedness of the world and how our actions at home affect other countries. The learning and understanding of effects of pollution can be seen in some parts of India and not in others. But essentially it is all learning and understanding through experience.

In six weeks, no one has been sick (well, our youngest had a bit of heat stroke but that had more to do with chatting parents then any fault of India!). We have eaten in local restaurants and have had no issues at all with sickness. I actually thought that I might trim down a bit after a Christmas in Germany, but no luck! The food in India is so good that you will eat well. Of course in some of the more touristy places, your kids may be eating Nutella pancakes, pizzas and pastas but in many places, there were no other options than curry – and they managed fine. We always asked the waiters for less spice and between the rice and sauce and naan bread, the kids were never hungry. Add a tasty lassi to their meal and they were happy. For the parents, we love the food!

We have walked the streets at night everywhere and have felt less danger than I would at home. When we have accidentally overpaid, people have pointed out the mistake and returned our change. We have found kindness and generosity everywhere we have been.

Final Verdict on travelling to India with children

Crowds interested in Talia and she is overwhelmed

So I suppose I would close with two comments. One is that the only danger we have found in India are falling coconuts – seriously, I have had two coconuts fall within twenty feet of me. Now that is a large miss, but if one did drop on my head, I don’t think I would fare too well. In many places, they have nets under them, in most places they don’t. So I won’t sit under a coconut tree, but that is a pretty easy danger to avoid and that is the only really danger I look out for here.

And finally, I would say that “No, I am not crazy for taking my kids to India, but rather I am giving them the gift of a lifetime.” I am opening their eyes, showing them the world, breaking down stereotypes and giving them an experience that they will never forget.” I would recommend it to anyone.