“Be the change that you want to see in the world.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
They say you either love it or hate it. With it’s strong smells of spices, fumes, flowers, sweat, animals combined with a warm and strong sun, Mother India can give quite an impact.
But I can tell you one thing: I love it!
Streets bursting with color found in every aspect, whether its a simple yellow painted door, an orange and gold painted Ganesha or a purple sari with turquoise accents. The colors contribute to the energy and spirit found in this country together with the busteling movements of people young and old in every village or city you go.
So where to start when there are so many different options and also so many things to see?!
Plus, you of course must do the tourist route but on the other hand you want to find original hot spots and experience something unique. That is why I give you the ” When in India: Top 10 Tips Tricks, Hidden Gems and Best Places to See “.
Top 10 Tips and Tricks When Going to India
1. Eucalyptus Oil
Bring eucalyptus oil and mix it with normal body cream, it works amazing against mosquitos! This way you don’t have to spray yourself with toxic bug repellent and it also smells good.
Sleeping in a hotel? Bring the soaps along with you when going into the countryside. People with lower incomes love receiving it, as it can be very expensive for them.
Learn a few sayings such as: ‘Namaste’ or ‘Namaskar’, ‘dhanyavaad’ or ‘Aap kaise hain?’. It always makes Indians smile and it can even help is certain situations.
4. “Good Horn, Good Patience, Good Luck & Good Brakes”
This is the saying in India when stepping into a car. Yes, It can be a roller coaster and therefore I would absolutely recommend hiring a driver for your trips on the road. Because honestly, driving and having a truck drive straight at you on your side of the highway with full speed and random cows crossing over, is really not the experience you’re looking for. (Find the name and contact details of our amazing and friendly driver, Musthafa, below)
5. Tour Guide
Reading the Lonely Planet while traveling is nice but hearing the tales and stories straight from locals is way more interesting. For instance the amazing stories our travel guide guru PK told us (his name was to difficult to pronounce, so he said just call me P…K…PK). He had 2 masters is national history and could tell you absolutely anything and everything about India and it’s culture.
6. Delhi Belly
Yup, it can overcome the best of us. A few local tips and tricks that helped (aside of ORS) was the banana milkshake called ‘Lassi’ and eating rauw uncooked rice. The banana’s calm down the stomach and they say that the uncooked rice sucks up the bacteria. I must say it worked like a charm.
After a busy day or week filled with smells, movement, impacts and experiences, try and unwind and treat yourself to a good hotel. Especially after having experience Delhi, it can really be good to let all the thoughts settle down while sitting at a peaceful and quite swimming pool.
(Some inspirational and amazing hotels are found below)
Although the locals will quickly see that you’re a tourist and traveler it’s still good to dress appropriately and especially when going into tempels. Also remember to take off your shoes when entering somewhere.
9. In Between Meals
Make sure you have some kind of yummy snack on you when you’re traveling. You never know when the next stop will be and if there will be any food or water. Also, no one likes traveling cranky and hungry.
10. Paperwork and Visa
In 2015 the laws and regulations have been tightened for people traveling to India and needing a Visa, so be prepared and check check and double check all the required paperwork. For instance we had to our banking transactions from over a time period of 3 months or for example the photo measurements for an Indian Visa is different namely 50x50mm.
Best Places to See, Top Highlights of India and Must do’s
Here’s an overview of where we went and which route we took while traveling for 2,5 weeks.
When traveling on a low budget I would recommend varying certain Hotels found below, as some are more expensive than others. Below you will find small anecdotes of things that I experienced while traveling. I also will give a few tips on food ands drinks! I can absolutely recommend the route found below, as it gives you both the top highlights and a combination of authentic experiences.
Delhi–> Agra –> Jaipur –> Samode –> Jodhpur–> Rawla Narlai–> Udaipur –> Delhi
Order a King Fisher beer first thing when you arrive: Yum!
Take a rickshaw ride through the Chandi Chowk marketplace and experience the bussy bustling of people, food and products.
Raj Ghat is the place where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated after being assassinated, but to be honest it’s very touristy and there’s not much to see expect a large black marble tombstone.
Visit Humayun’s Tomb at the end of the day to experience a stunning sunset and oasis of orange, yellow and red colors.
We visited one of the biggest Sikh temples named Gurudwara Bangla Sahib and were allowed to take a look in the kitchen while volunteers were making thousands of Naan breads for the entire community to eat during dinner.
When you’re in the Taj Mahal or other buildings take a closer look at the patterns and stones used. For instance, a Jali is a slab of marble that has geometric shapes cut out of it and serves as a screen to protect women’s faces from strange men while looking outside. Each pattern represents a different religion, such as stars often refer to the Islamic origin and flowers refer back to Hinduism. You also often find gems hidden between the patterns and fused in the marble.
Of course a must is the Taj Mahal, visit it really early in the morning around 6:00 a.m. to experience the sun rise (afternoon get’s really busy). To get a good picture try walking to the left and keep your eyes out for the green parrots that fly through the gardens. Legend says that they are the reincarnation of the concubines.
Sikandara is where you will find the resting place of Akbar, one of the greatest Mughal emperors. Notice that there are little to no monkeys at this monument. Our tour guide PK explained that a guard walks around Sikandara with a large black monkey to scare off the other small ones, so tourists don’t get burdened by the monkeys.
The Gateway Hotel has a really nice chef and let’s you make your own Naan bread by inviting you to go backstage.
Our tour guide explained to us that the marble used in the Taj Mahal is a special marble only found in India called Makrana. The Makrana Marble is one of the strongest types of Marble in the world and has a unique aspect of letting light pass through the stone. Our tour guide demonstrated this by putting a flash light up against the stone and the entire wall lit up.
Look up at the sky. No they’re not birds or planes…they’re kites. Hundreds of kites that are thrown up into the air by kids playing in the streets. Jaipur is known for it’s Kite Festival but during the year you will also find them fluttering around.
When driving from Agra to Jaipur make sure to stop and pass the step well located in Abhaneri. The well was originally invented to harvest the rain water to drink water during parched times of the year.
Visit the Amber Fort and take an elephant ride up. The elephants are treated well as they don’t have any scars or injuries, which is usually a good sign and they are decorated with beautiful colors.
Hawa Mahal is an amazing building that is 5 stories high and is covered with screens so that the royal women could observe the street while protected from the view of the strangers below.
Samode Haveli has a beautiful and quiet courtyard where you can relax in the shade underneath pomegranate trees.
After a long day of sightseeing and visiting villages and walking through busy streets, we arrived back at our hotel and sat by the pool and cooled down. So many impressions of people and smells and the warmth hitting your bare legs and arms made the sweat and heat at the end of the day pretty intense. We ordered a cold and refreshing Rose Water Sharbat which tasted so good that I was amazed that the Sandlewood Sharbat would be just as yummy. Sharbat is a popular drink prepared out of flowers or fruits.
Walk through the village with the cobbled stones and see the scala of cows, pigs, sheep and dogs trotting loose through the village. The village is small and friendly and is great to walk through as you will see so many beautiful buildings and people.
Take a camel ride to the old Mughal Gardens called the Samode Bagh and have tea there. Enjoy the garden and the beautiful plants that you find there. Make sure you take some kind of plant encyclopedia with you so you can understand why some plants are uniquer than others.
Samode Palace is a breathtaking hotel with an flabbergasting collection of old timer cars such as Rolls Royce’s and Bentleys that are tucked away in the garage. Behind the hotel there is a path that leads up to a Monkey Forest. Watch out, they can be really in your face and crawl all over you.
Our driver Musthafa turned out to be an amazing cook and during the 2,5 weeks he surprised us with a special dinner that he prepared from the back of the car. It was absolutely ridiculously delicious and also a night to remember as we sat behind the car on a rug while locals came and joined the group. Together with wild dogs, pigs and monkeys we sat around a small burning candle and exchanged funny stories and tales with the locals underneath a sky filled with stars and a bright moon.
Jodhpur is known for its Mirchibada dish which is both spicy and sweet. It’s a filled and fried pepper and really gets your tastebuds going.
Mehrangarh Fort is covered with beautiful colored glass that twinkles in the bright sun and has an incredible view over the city Jodhpur.
The view found at the top is extraordinary as the city is completely blue due to the blue painted buildings and houses below. There are many different tales that are told by the tour guides but the main message stems down to the idea that houses that are painted blue belong to the Brahmins caste. Therefore the houses are often also referred to as the ‘Brahmins houses’.
Umaid Bhawan Palace is the most impressive amazing hotel that I’ve seen in my life. The owner and Maharaja still lives in the right wing.
Even though you might not stay at the Umaid Bhawan Palace I would recommend having lunch there as the palace is intensely luxurious and also extremely old fashioned with animal trophy rooms filled with jaguars, panthers, buffalo’s, antelope’s and more (not to reccomend for the squeamish). When having lunch enjoy the view in the back of the garden with wild peacocks wandering through the grass.
Rawla Narlai, also known as just plain old Narlai, is absolutely a must! This authentic quiet village is a complete change from all the other places you’ve experienced and really shows the peacefulness of India as well.
A must do, is to climb the huge hill located in Narlai to see the amazing view and big white elephant statue on top. Do this early in the morning together with a tour guide and experience the sunrise and colors that will take your breath away. Our tour guide from the hotel brought some warm Masala Chai tea to drink up at the top together with some fresh baked cookies: so nice!
Ask your hotel to arrange a jeep and guid to explore the country side as there are still a few wild leopards roaming the land. The local guide is constantly in contact with a ranger that is tracking the animals to protect them against poachers or other hunters. The experience is thrilling as you see a lot of different animals and if you’re lucky you get to spot the leopard bathing in the sun.
Rawla Narlai Heritage Hotel is extremely friendly and will give you personal guides through the village and also a hike to the top of the hill. I would recommend this hotel to everyone!
Aside of spotting a wilde leopard and climbing the elephant hill we experienced an amazing night at an old water well that was covered with 500+ candles and a traditional musician and singer. We were driven towards the well in a cart that was pulled by two cows through a pitch black village and street. Upon arrival the only light that filled the water well and surroundings was the moon, candles and a huge campfire that was used to cook food on. The air was filled with the crisping fire and the sound of a local indian playing his sitar and singing tales of India. Breathtaking and something that everyone should experience. The Rawla Narlai Heritage Hotel was owner of this well and it’s definitely worth the while to get in touch with them, as they are extremely friendly and will give you a night to remember.
Rent a boat and take a ride on the Lake Pichola, preferably during the late evening when the sun is just about to set. The colors are amazing. Only one tip: wear a lot of bug repellent, because they love the lake.
The City Palace is a huge building that has a small winding path that leads up to it’s gates that are covered with sharp and big spikes. The reason for both the winding turns and spikes on the door, was to slow down a possible intruders that were riding on elephants and that would want to smash down the door with the animals great big head.
Also, visit Sahelion Ki Bari which is known as the Gardens of the Maids of Honour and is filled with beautiful plants and flowers. It’s free to enter and when you enter the gates there’s a trick you can do with the fountains. Clap your hands 2 times and the water fountains will go higher. Clap them again 2 times and they will go lower. Our tour guide did this together with a man that was waiting to turn the water pressure higher and lower to trick the tourists.
Taj Lake Palace is a hotel that is built in the middle of the lake and can only be accessed by boat. Early in the morning you can join a group and follow a yoga class while looking out over the lake.
While we were taking a boat ride along the lake Pichola, which is a man made lake, I saw a man bathing and washing his cloths while his cow was patiently waiting on the side of the bank. The sun was setting and the birds were flying inches above the water.
Photos: All photo’s were taken by me, myself and I.
Contact information Driver
Name: G.M. Musthafa