Vibrant and diverse with breathtaking sceneries and delicious food, India is a land of multitudes and makes for one hell of a travel experience. Be it food, culture, language, or terrain, no two states are the same, which makes backpacking India a great idea.
But India’s big and chaotic, so you’ll definitely need some help navigating it, which is why we put together the ultimate checklist for your backpacking India tour! Ready to dive in?
Daily Cost of Backpacking India
First things first: just how much is a backpacking India tour going to cost you? It depends on how long you’re planning to stay, but the answer is not that much. Including accommodation, inter-city travel, and food, you can expect to spend around $35-50 CAD/ day.
Best Times To Visit India
Generally, the winter months of October to April are the best months to visit India. This marks the end of the monsoon (rainy) season and the weather turns warm during the mornings and chilly in the evenings. There’s also very little rain during these months, making it perfect for sightseeing. It’s also the festival season, so you’ll get to experience India in all its festive glory!
Avoid going to India during the summer season between May to August, as the temperature and humidity are very high. You’ll be sweltering in the heat and sweating buckets which is NOT a pleasant experience.
The festival of Diwali, celebrated in Oct/ Nov, lights up the entire country.
It’s worth noting that the Himalayan regions up North tend to get colder and experience snowfall, so February-April might be a better time to visit those places.
All foreigners need a valid visa to enter the country. You can easily apply for an e-tourist visa online through this website. The basic tourist e-visa is valid for 30 days with double entry. If you plan on having a longer backpacking India tour, get the 1-year or 5-year e-tourist visa with multiple entries.
Keep in mind that you need to have a Canadian passport that’s valid for at least 6 months from the date of your arrival in India.
The currency of India is the Indian Rupee (INR), and 1 CAD = 62.19 INR. The Indian Rupee is a closed currency, meaning you can only get it in India, so you’ll have to exchange your CAD for INR at the airport after landing, or in banks or ATMs.
Accommodation in India
There are several hotels and hostels in India where you can stay for as little as $10 CAD/ night. Here are some of the best (and cheapest) hostel chains that are perfect for backpackers:
To book your stay, use the following websites as they offer the cheapest prices:
Fancy getting a truly authentic experience by living the Indian way? You can also couchsurf and stay with a local for free! This way, you’ll get the inside knowledge on all the best places to visit as well.
Traveling Within India
When traveling from one state to another:
- Trains. Trains are one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways of traveling cross-country. Get a seat on a Sleeper (SL) train and you’ll reach your destination by the time you wake up. There are 3 AC classes if you want a comfortable and cool ride. If you’re looking to save money, go for the non-AC options. The downside of trains is that the seats get filled very fast, so you’ll need to book your tickets in advance. IRCTC is the official website for booking train tickets.
- Buses. Buses are a slightly more expensive option than trains but are great for last-minute bookings. There are both AC and non-AC options available. Finding the correct bus stop might be a hassle, so don’t hesitate to ask a local for help! RedBus is the most popular website for booking bus tickets.
You’ll get to experience India’s diverse people inside its trains.
When traveling within the same state:
- Local Buses. If you want last-mile connectivity, buses are often your only budget option. There are bus stops almost everywhere and even long journeys are super cheap. Ask a local for help and hop on!
- Local Trains/ Metro. Local trains are another cheap alternative to buses. If you’re in one of the few cities that have Metro trains, you can use them to travel in luxury.
- Cabs/ Taxis. Private cabs/ taxis are the most expensive option out of the three. Depending on the location, you can book a 1-day trip to tourist destinations within the city for somewhere around $30 CAD to $80 CAD. This is a great option for hilly regions or places with rough terrain where local buses and trains aren’t that common.
5 Tips for Your Backpacking India Trip
Now that we’ve covered all the basics, here are some tips to help you make the most out of your trip!
- Eat where the locals eat. That’s where you’ll get the most authentic and delicious food. Street foods are very common (and yummy) in India. You can get a full meal for $1 CAD! Indian food in general tends to be very spicy, so if that’s not your thing, ask for no spice.
Mouth-watering street food in the making.
- Indian SIM card. AirTel and Jio are the biggest network providers in India. You can get a SIM card right at the airport and the staff will help you fill out all the required details.
- Bring a portable water purifier. Don’t drink water straight out of the tap. Bottled water is clean, but if you want to save money and be sustainable, bring your own water purifier.
- Watch out for scams. Many locals try to charge foreigners exorbitant rates, so be on the lookout for that. If you’re backpacking India solo, you’ll most probably find several other solo Indian travelers from other states, especially if you’re staying at hostels. Get a travel buddy if you can.
- Be mindful of local customs. India’s culture is deep-rooted, so read up on local customs before you visit and be mindful of them.
Ready to explore India? Book the cheapest flights from Canada to India here!