Backpacking India: A Comprehensive Guide for Budget Travelers

Backpacking India
Backpacking India

India is a land of vibrant cultures, ancient history, delicious food, and diverse landscapes. Backpacking in India can be an unforgettable experience, but it can also be challenging and overwhelming. In this article, we will guide you through the best places to visit, the dos and don’ts, and everything else you need to know to have a safe and memorable backpacking trip in India.

Table of Contents

  1. Why Backpacking India?
  2. When to Go
  3. Visa Requirements
  4. Pre-Trip Preparation
    • Budgeting
    • Packing List
  5. Safety Tips
    • General Safety Guidelines
    • Female Travelers Safety Tips
  6. Transportation
    • Public Transportation
    • Private Transportation
  7. Accommodations
    • Hostels
    • Guesthouses
    • Homestays
  8. Food and Drink
  9. Popular Backpacking Destinations
  10. Cultural Etiquette
    • Dress Code
    • Local Customs
  11. Must-See Attractions
    • Taj Mahal
    • Varanasi
    • Hampi
    • Pushkar
    • Rishikesh
  12. Off-The-Beaten-Path Adventures
    • Trekking in the Himalayas
    • Exploring the Backwaters of Kerala
    • Camel Safaris in Rajasthan
    • Cycling in Tamil Nadu
  13. Dealing with Culture Shock
  14. Conclusion
  15. FAQs

Why Backpacking India?

Backpacking in India is an excellent way to experience the country’s vibrant culture and diverse landscapes without breaking the bank. India is known for its friendly locals, delicious cuisine, and ancient history. Backpacking offers travelers the freedom to explore the country’s hidden gems and connect with locals on a deeper level.

When to Go

India has a diverse climate due to its size, and the best time to visit depends on your destination. Generally, the best time to visit India is during the winter months from November to February. During this time, the weather is pleasant, and the skies are clear, making it the perfect time for outdoor activities.

Visa Requirements

All foreign nationals, except for Bhutan and Nepal citizens, need a visa to enter India. Visa applications can be submitted online or at an Indian embassy or consulate. It is essential to check the current visa requirements and application process before planning your trip.

Pre-Trip Preparation


India is a budget-friendly destination, but it is essential to plan your budget before embarking on your trip. Accommodation, food, and transportation costs can vary widely depending on your destination and travel style.

Packing List

When backpacking in India, it is essential to pack light and bring appropriate clothing for the weather and cultural customs. It is also important to pack insect repellent, sunscreen, and a first aid kit.

Safety Tips

India is generally safe for travelers, but it is essential to take precautions to avoid becoming a victim of crime.

General Safety Guidelines

  • Keep your valuables hidden and secure.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
  • Only use authorized taxis or transportation services.
  • Be cautious when accepting food or drinks from strangers.

Female Travelers Safety Tips

  • Dress conservatively and respect local customs.
  • Avoid walking alone at night.
  • Stay in well-lit areas and avoid empty streets.


India has an extensive transportation network, including trains, buses, and taxis. It is essential to research the transportation options available at your destination and plan accordingly.

Public Transportation

India’s public transportation system is extensive, and it is the most budget-friendly option for backpackers. Trains and buses are the primary modes of public transportation, and they connect major cities and tourist destinations across the country. The Indian railway system is one of the largest in the world, and it is a popular mode of transportation for backpackers. However, trains can get crowded, so it is recommended to book in advance.

Private Transportation

Private transportation options like taxis, rickshaws, and motorcycles are also available in India. Taxis and rickshaws are ideal for short trips within the city, while motorcycles are perfect for exploring the countryside. However, it is important to only use authorized transportation services and negotiate prices in advance.


India has a wide range of accommodations to suit every budget and travel style. Some of the most popular options for backpackers include hostels, guesthouses, and homestays.


Hostels are a great option for budget-conscious travelers who want to meet other travelers. Hostels in India offer shared dormitory-style rooms with basic amenities like a bed, locker, and shared bathrooms. They are ideal for solo travelers who want to meet other like-minded backpackers.


Guesthouses are another popular accommodation option for backpackers in India. They offer private rooms with basic amenities like a bed, bathroom, and sometimes a kitchen. Guesthouses are ideal for travelers who want a bit more privacy and comfort than hostels.


Homestays are an excellent way to experience Indian culture and connect with locals. Homestays are private homes that offer rooms to travelers, and they usually include meals and other cultural activities. They are ideal for travelers who want to learn more about Indian culture and traditions.

Food and Drink

Indian cuisine is diverse and delicious, and it is a highlight of any backpacking trip in India. Some of the most popular dishes include butter chicken, biryani, samosas, and naan. It is important to only drink bottled water and avoid street food that may be contaminated.

India has a wide range of destinations to suit every traveler’s interests. Some of the most popular backpacking destinations include Goa, Rajasthan, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, and Ladakh.


Goa is a popular destination for backpackers who want to experience India’s beautiful beaches and nightlife. It is a former Portuguese colony and has a unique blend of Indian and Western cultures.


Rajasthan is known for its colorful cities, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture. It is home to some of India’s most famous landmarks like the Taj Mahal, Jaipur’s Amber Fort, and Udaipur’s City Palace.


Kerala is a lush and tropical state in southern India known for its backwaters, beaches, and wildlife. It is a popular destination for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts.

Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh is a beautiful mountainous state in northern India. It is known for its stunning scenery, trekking trails, and adventure sports.


Ladakh is a high-altitude region in northern India that is known for its stunning landscapes, rich culture, and adventurous activities like trekking and mountaineering.

Cultural Etiquette

India has a rich culture and history, and it is important to respect local customs and traditions. Some important cultural etiquette tips include dressing conservatively, removing shoes before entering a temple or home, and respecting local customs and traditions.

Dress Code

When visiting India, it is important to dress conservatively and cover your shoulders and knees. Women should avoid wearing revealing clothing, and it is important to remove your shoes before entering a temple or religious site.

Respect for Elders

In Indian culture, respecting elders is a crucial aspect of social etiquette. It is important to address elders with the appropriate title and show them respect and courtesy.

Gift Giving

Gift-giving is a common tradition in Indian culture, and it is a great way to show appreciation and gratitude. However, it is important to choose appropriate gifts and present them with respect and humility.

Safety Tips

India can be a challenging destination for backpackers, and it is important to take precautions to ensure your safety.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is essential when backpacking in India. It can provide coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and other unforeseen events.

Transportation Safety

When using public transportation in India, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings close. It is also recommended to only use authorized transportation services.

Avoid Scams

Scams and petty theft are common in tourist areas, and it is important to be aware of these potential dangers. It is recommended to only use authorized tour operators and avoid giving money to beggars.


Backpacking in India can be a rewarding and unforgettable experience. With a little bit of planning and preparation, travelers can explore the country’s stunning landscapes, vibrant culture, and delicious cuisine. By following cultural etiquette, taking precautions for safety, and being open to new experiences, backpackers can create memories that will last a lifetime.

Similar Articles


Is India safe for backpackers?

  • India can be challenging for backpackers, but taking precautions for safety and being aware of potential dangers can help ensure a safe trip.

What is the best time of year to go backpacking in India?

  • The best time to go backpacking in India depends on the region and the traveler’s preferences. Generally, the winter months from November to February are ideal for most regions.

How can I travel around India on a budget?

  • Public transportation like trains and buses are the most budget-friendly option for backpackers in India. Hostels and guesthouses are also great options for budget-conscious travelers.

What are some must-try dishes in India?

  • Butter chicken, biryani, samosas, and naan are some popular dishes to try in India. However, it is important to only eat from trusted sources and avoid street food that may be contaminated.

What should I pack for a backpacking trip to India?

  • Packing essentials for a backpacking trip to India include comfortable clothing, sunscreen, insect repellent, a first aid kit, and a water bottle. It is also recommended to bring a hat, sunglasses, and a scarf for cultural etiquette.

Do I need a visa to backpack in India?

  • Yes, most foreign travelers require a visa to enter India. It is important to apply for a visa in advance and check the specific requirements for your country of origin.

Can I use credit cards while backpacking in India?

  • Credit cards are accepted in some tourist areas and larger cities, but it is recommended to have cash on hand for most transactions. ATMs are widely available, but it is important to use them during daylight hours and be aware of potential scams.

What should I do if I get sick while backpacking in India?

  • It is important to carry a basic first aid kit and any necessary medications while backpacking in India. If you get sick, it is recommended to seek medical attention from a reputable healthcare provider. It is also important to stay hydrated and avoid consuming tap water or uncooked food that may be contaminated.

Can I find vegetarian food options in India?

  • Yes, vegetarianism is common in India and there are many delicious vegetarian food options available. It is important to communicate any dietary restrictions or preferences to restaurant staff to ensure that your meal is prepared appropriately.

What are some cultural activities to try while backpacking in India?

  • India has a rich cultural heritage, and there are many activities to try while backpacking in the country. Some popular options include visiting historical sites and monuments, attending a traditional dance or music performance, and participating in a yoga or meditation class.
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