Planning Your Trip to India

You’ve been dreaming about going to India for ages and ages. And now that you have the time to do so, you can’t wait to just hop on a plane and enjoy the country’s sights and sounds. Not so fast though. For you to have a worry-free and truly relaxing vacation, planning ahead and making an itinerary should be the first thing you should do before you pack. Here’s a step by step guide on how to plan your trip to India.

Step 1 – Get an Indian Visa

Acquire your Indian Visa

All visitors need a visa for India, If you’re staying for less than 72 hours, a transit visa will do. However, if you’re planning on staying longer than that, then you’ll need a tourist visa. Tourist visas are usually good for six months, depending on your nationality. Some countries issue visas for only three months, while some have longer durations such as one year. If you’re a holder of a tourist visa, you’re allowed to remain in India no longer than six months at a time. To apply for a visa, you need to complete an online application form. You’ll also need to submit a valid passport, a recent passport-sized photo and details of your itinerary (see why it’s so important to plan ahead?).

Step 2 – Schedule your trip

Planning a vacation around the weather is a smart move, especially in a country like India. There are three seasons: summer, winter and the monsoon. Summer is from March to May, and though in other countries it is perfect for beach goers, the heat can be unrelenting so you might want to think twice before you go on these months. Every single day in summer is hot, sunny and dry. Though it’s not ideal for those who want to relax and be soothed on their holiday, it’s the perfect weather for visiting the mountains and seeing wildlife in their natural habitat.

Winter is from November to February, and is generally the best time to visit India, when the weather is cool and not so oppressive. Now is the time to frolic in the beaches and have a great time in the country. It’s interesting to note that in India, one can simultaneously enjoy the beaches for swimming and the mountains for skiing at the same time. However, the Himalaya mountains should be avoided at this time because of all the snow, which can be treacherous for the inexperienced climber.

The monsoon season is from June to October. This is an extremely challenging time in India because of heavy rainfall that results in flooding, so postpone all plans of going to India during this time.

Step 3 – Take Special Precautions to Avoid Sickness

Before your departure date, a visit to the doctor is in order to arm yourself against illnesses. Knowing the common health issues one can face during a trip to India will help. As always, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

Pack your medicine

One of the most common travel ailments is diarrhea, due to ingesting contaminated food and water. Some people also find that the spicy fare in India doesn’t agree with their digestive system. Take some anti-diarrhea medicine with you like Imodium, and only drink bottled water. Steer clear of buffets and only eat freshly cooked food.

Another disease that is prevalent in developing countries like India is malaria, which is a disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes, and these insects breed in parts of India where there is stagnant water. Also, mosquito infestation is worse during the monsoon season—another reason to avoid going there during the rainy months. Mosquitoes can also carry a host of other diseases such as dengue fever. Malaria can be prevented by taking anti-malarial drugs. Dengue fever can be avoided by using a strong mosquito repellent on the skin and reapplying as often as needed.

Before leaving, get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B. Also, getting tetanus shots is advisable.

Step 4- Book a Place to Stay

It’s always a good idea to book ahead, especially if you’ll be staying in a major city or if you’re travelling during the peak season. For luxury hotels, check out Mumbai and Delhi. If you’re on a budget, there are many affordable bed and breakfast places in Delhi and Kolkata. If you plan on staying near the beach, consider booking a room in a boutique hotel in Goa.

Step 5- Check out different airlines to get the best rates

The flight to India can take a long time, especially if you’re not coming from Asia. So it makes sense to book seats at good airlines to get your vacation started on the right track. Emirates and Lufthansa have regular flights to India, but they can be quite pricey. If you’re on a budget, your best option is Air India.

Step 6- Pack Smart

Wondering what to take and what to leave behind for your vacation? Here’s a suggestion for your packing list:

  1. Luggage- It’s important to pick the right one whenever you travel. If you’re planning to visit only the major cities, a suitcase or a wheelie is fine. But if you plan to go to the beaches or if hiking is part of your itinerary, you’ll be better off with a backpack.
    Pack your luggage

  2. Clothes- Your t-shirts and jeans are fine to wear in Mumbai and Delhi, where the people are getting very westernized at a rapid pace. If you plan to visit villages or smaller cities, it would do well to dress conservatively. Both ladies and gentlemen should keep shoulders and legs covered, so tank tops and shorts or short skirts are definitely out. Women should always carry a shawl or a scarf.
  3. Personal Care Items- Pack your own hair products because the variety of styling products is very limited. You can buy soap, shampoo, razors and toothbrushes, but bring your favorite brand of anti-perspirant or deodorant. Pack some anti-mosquito lotion and sunscreen too.
  4. Medication- If you’re taking medication, make sure that you have enough for the trip. Also,  pack some Vitamin C , pain killers and anti-diarrhea tablets. You don’t want to be wandering the streets of India late at night in search of a pharmacy if you’re feeling less than stellar, so stash these in your bag just in case.
  5. Footwear- Comfortable walking shoes, a pair of dress shoes and flipflops are all you need. If any activities in your itinerary require special shoes, bring them.
  6. Must-have items- A padlock and key, toilet paper, a small flashlight and hand sanitizer or anti bacterial wipes can be useful items to have on hand. To charge your gadgets, bring a voltage converter and plug adaptor. Oh, and don’t forget to bring a camera. Every corner in India is a photo opportunity in the making.

Upon stepping out of the airport, you will be struck by the heat and the sheer number of people. You’ll also marvel at the mystery, modernity and history of the country.

Passengers boat in India

You will also be treated to sights that you will only see in this part of the world, so keep your eyes open and be adaptable. It is a land where you’ll find cows meandering along all over the place. It is a place where you can gaze upon beautiful people that everywhere you turn, you’ll wonder if you’re seeing a Bollywood star in person. It’s a paradise where all your senses are stimulated, with the loud honking of horns, the heady aromas of spices and incense, the colorful clothing that people wear, and the spicy bite of their cuisine.

This is India. Be prepared to be captivated by this vibrant country.

Stay tuned for the second part of this article next week!

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