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Go East: Backpacking advice for an India adventure

Backpacking in India is certain to cater for your sense of adventure. It is, after all, a destination that runs at a fast pace. Its colourful culture and vibrant spirit is addictive and is what makes India a popular place to explore. From the swathe of sandy beaches in Goa and the Hindu temples in Hampi, to the distinguished white marbled historic Taj Mahal. Make sure you give yourself enough time to see everything that’s on your bucket list. India is blessed with a beautifully hot climate so it can be easy to run out of energy if you try to pack too much in over a short period. Traveling should be enjoyed so pace yourself and take in the sights, sounds and flavours to fully immerse yourself in the Indian culture.

From things to pack, to eating and drinking advice, here are some hints and tips that’ll help you on your first backpacking trip around India.

Before you travel

As well as booking tickets to India, you’ll need to remember to organise a travel Visa. I’d recommend sorting this well ahead of time. Officially this takes up to two weeks but it’s worth allowing longer. Travel insurance is also a must. From the rackety rickshaws, to the somewhat loose health and safety laws, it pays to protect yourself in case you run into any accidents. Don’t forget to take any injections you need for the trip too.

The weather

Just like at home, the weather can affect what you plan to do, see and explore. The worst thing is turning up to the Taj Mahal for you to barely make out the curve in the domed roof due to thick fog clouding your view. Be prepared and check out the weather before you travel so you don’t end up disappointed. It’ll also help when knowing what things to pack. The seasons generally look like this:

  • Winter (from December to February): Typically, the colder months in the year, and even chillier in the north. Not necessarily a bad time to travel though if you’re used to not seeing much sun. Just check for storms and monsoon updates before you travel.
  • Summer (from March to May): Temperatures can rise above 40° C in some areas but usually settles at a scorching 30° C.  
  • Rainy Season (from June to September): Rain and more rain with hot temperatures are on the menu in these months. This means high humidity and risks of monsoons. Be prepared.
  • Autumn (October): Pleasant temperatures for comfortable exploring. This season has little rainfall from September through to November.

Essentials to pack
If you’re finding that you can’t fit all the items into your rucksack, then you’ve probably over packed. There’s no point trying to stuff that extra pair of flip flops in, you only have two feet after all.

Stuff your backpack with these essential items and you’ll have everything you need to explore safely and in comfort:

  • Earplugs: Some say India never sleeps. Without earplugs, you won’t either.
  • Insect repellent: Due to the hot climate, mosquitoes carrying disease are prolific. Repellent will give you that extra peace of mind.
  • Mosquito net: Just in case your accommodation doesn’t provide this, it’s ultra-lightweight so it’s worth packing one yourself.
  • Electrolytes: Bring a couple of sachets with you, just in case you experience the dreaded ‘Delhi Belly’. These will put the salts back into your body and keep you feeling well.
  • Factor 50+ sun cream: Did I mention India is hot? Protect yourself and your skin.
  • Combination lock: Just in case the hostel doesn’t provide one, keep your belongings safe.
  • Dry bag: Lightweight and it will keep your clothes dry.
  • Easy flowing clothing: You’ll need clothing to cover your shoulders when visiting religious monuments and ladies will have to cover their head when visiting temples, so pack a sarong, scarf or light jacket.
  • Antibacterial gel: Great if you’re planning on taking crowded public transport.
  • Plug adapter: You can get Indian power adapters that combine plug and USB ports for your electronics, phones and gadgets, if you choose to take them.

Food and drink

You’re probably aware of the phrase ‘Delhi Belly’ and, unfortunately, it’s something you could experience if this is your first time traveling around India. As your body gets used to a different cooking styles, you could get an upset stomach, which is likely to occur in the first seven days into your trip. A way to combat this is to avoid seafood, peeled fruit, salads and undercooked meat. Street food is extremely popular in India, which can still be enjoyed. Just be careful of your options and make sure the food is piping hot when served.

Avoid ice and stick to bottled water or packaged soft drinks. If you’re trying to reduce your plastic waste, bring a compact water filter along with you. Depending on the brand, these don’t take up too much room and some are reasonably priced to buy too. These nifty gadgets remove all bacteria and pollutants from water, making it safe to drink.

Common courtesy

While Mumbai and Goa may be more westernised, it’s still common for most Indian cities to have a modest culture. Respect the local customs in India and cover your arms and legs when in bustling public areas, especially in sacred spaces such as temples. It is particularly important for women who will also have to cover their head when visiting temples and religious monuments.

India is a perfect destination for a backpacking adventure filled with historic and cultural wonders to discover. With these tips, you’ll be able to explore them with ease.

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