dear 100 hour board,
i want to go to india next summer with my older sister. so...there's a lot to know. here's a barrage of questions: anyone gone there? suggested months of travel? what's the weather like? what's a good length of stay...do you think 10 days is too short (i was in thailand for two months and loved it but my sister wants to only be in india for 10 days and i'm afraid it's not long enough)? i don't like doing the normal tourist stuff...what's fun but different? can i get by with a minimal knowledge of the languages/is english frequently spoken? is it inexpensive to travel, eat, shop, etc...approximately, what's the cost of a meal? um, i know there's more that i can ask, but do you have any general info that would be handy?
I took the liberty of asking Petra's mom, who currently lives in India with her family. Here's what she had to say.
Has anyone gone there? Yes, many people are already here in India and many people come. Tourist arrivals in India are as follows:
- 1995: 2.12 million
- 1999: 2.48 million
- 2000: 2.64 million
- 2002: 2.36 million
Number of tourists visiting the Taj Mahal in 2003: over 3 million (making it the most visited Indian tourist attraction) [BBC Sep 04]
Suggested months of travel? The best time to visit India is from October through February. While it is called winter in India, it is more akin to early fall in the northern hemisphere. It is also the growing season. Evenings are cool, daytimes are perfect. Do NOT visit India in May-July. Daytime temperatures can reach upwards of 115. The monsoon usually arrives mid-June. Temperatures drop to high 80s but humidity rises to nearly 100 percent. If you must visit during the northern hemisphere summer, we recommend August.
What's the weather like? See above.
What's a good length of stay? Do you think 10 days is too short? India is a country of one billion people with a extremely rich history of more than 4500 hundred years covering an area of 3,287,263 km divided into 29 states and 6 union territories. If your goal of tourism is to "get to know" India than you can never stay long enough. There is so much to see and so much to do it is nearly impossible to decide how to go about it. We generally advise people to determine their length of stay based on their own assessment of their personal stamina for over-stimulation. Visiting India is not like visiting other countries. A two month stay in Thailand does not begin to prepare one for a visit to India. India is a constant swirl of chaos, color, smell, taste, heat, extreme beauty, extreme horror, and an endless source of interest. People either hate India, or they love it. How long you stay really depends on how you stay. If you take the luxury route that shelters you somewhat from India, you can stay longer. If you go the bargain route that immerses you, than ten days to two weeks is probably about right.
I don't like doing the normal tourist stuff...what's fun but different? Believe me, in India doing the "normal tourist stuff" is fun and different enough. The best way to plan a trip is to buy a guide book to India. Lonely Planet is a good one for a budget traveler. Read through the book and identify things that seem interesting to you. Plan your trip around that. Keep in mind that India is huge and you can't possibly see everything. If you have a lot of time you can take trains from one end of the country to the other. Airline travel within India is getting cheaper so it is possible to fly from one place to another. The most amazing thing we have seen in India so far--even better than the Taj Mahal-- have been the Ajanta and Allora caves in the state of Maharashtra.
Can I get by with a minimal knowledge of the language? Is English frequently spoken? Yes, wherever you go in India you can find someone who speaks English.
Is it inexpensive to travel, eat, shop, . . . what is the cost of a meal? Once again this depends on you. There is something for every budget. You should expect to pay more than the average Indian for food because you need to be more careful about food contamination but it is possible to get by on very little. The one thing you should keep in mind however is that no matter how stretched for funds you may feel, you are vastly more wealthy than the average Indian. For those of us who live here, there is nothing more irritating than seeing tourists who have spent 5 times as much as the average annual income on airfare alone (no matter how cheap the flight) come to India and bargain over what, in the end, amounts to a few dollars in Western terms. Once again, Lonely Planet is a has suggestions for every budget level.
General info that would be handy? If you want more specific information you can submit a question to the Board who will forward it to me. I can put you in touch with others who have traveled around India. It is an amazing place. If you are up for adventure, you won't regret coming here. It will change your view of the world and life in general. Jai Hind!!!
Petra's Mom, c/o Optimistic.