India Guide

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Date visited India: 14 June 2017
Duration: 3 weeks

The Real India

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Local Holy man.

We had heard India was chaotic and intense. With 1 billion people it was always going to be a bustle, we knew it and mentally prepared accordingly. But, you can never know what it’s really like until you visit yourself.

We touched down in Goa, but it wasn’t until we reached Mumbai that we got the full Indian treatment.

The heat begins to cook you with no escape in Mumbai’s concrete city. It was monsoon season the humidity devilishly high and fiercely draining. Our clothing reduced to wet rags in a few short minutes. There is a stench that hangs in the air constantly. It comes from the litter-lined streets along with the holist of cow’s manure, all masked by the burning of potent incenses. We will not sugar coat it, our skin tones made us shining beacons, someone is always staring. Especially the men, for foreign women it’s hard to ignore what feel like eyes full with lust. Old woman, children and the disabled hone in on anyone who looks different, tapping your car window, in the train station’s, near the bazaars. It takes a thick skin to deal with some of the sights of poverty. This is India, in real life with none of the “Bollywood glitz” sprinkled on it.

In no way is what we have just said a negative! Its is simply the realities of large Indian cities. For a traveller it is wild and intense on first impression, it was always going to be a culture shock that bites to the core. It is all part of the reason travellers chose India. 

It is only once you come to terms with these Indian realities that a beautiful cricket mad country full of happy and kind people will reward you 1000 times over. Under its rough edges is a country of great faith, food, history and a rare beauty. It’s a country that given time you will fall deeply in love with just as we have.

 

 

 

Transport 

Colombo, Sri Lanka to Goa, India

SpiceJet (one stop over in Chennai) LKR 8,773 ($136 USD) each.

We were unable to find direct flights to Goa, so settled for one stopover in Chennai. Yet another sleepover at the airport. Flight times weren’t very long, it was just waiting at the airport that took most of our time. Service on SpiceJet was standard for a budget airline, you get what you pay for.

 

Goa Airport to Vagator, North Goa

INR 1,600 ($24.80 USD) This was divided by 5 people.

Once we arrived at the airport in Goa, we found 3 other travellers also heading to Vagator in North Goa. We flagged down a 7 seater taxi and settled for the price of INR 1,600 (to be divided by 5 of us). The journey from the airport took 1 ½ hour’s, after a long travel day we were so happy to arrive.

Top Tip – There is no ATM at the airport, our taxi driver stopped at 4 local ATM’s, none of our cards worked! Next to the gas station in Vagator there was one last ATM. Here our international travel cards worked! Hoorah!

 

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Monsoon Scooter!

 

Vagator, North Goa to Mumbai

INR 600 ($9.30 USD) Each for SL (sleeper) class Train.

Most train tickets in India sell out months in advance. As we are not that organized we had to get these emergency (Tatkal) tickets from the train station a day before at 11am for sleeper class or 10am for first or AC class.

Tatkal tickets go on sale at specific times one day in advance to everyone in India, so you need to give yourself enough time to fill out the form at the station beforehand be ready to wait in line.

We met these awesome travel bloggers “The Spindrifters” in Sri Lanka and they informed us on these awesome emergency tickets. They have even wrote a blog post entirely on how to get Tatkal train tickets. We followed this word to the word and managed to get some tickets!… Phew, Bianca was getting stressed.

Check out their amazing Tatkal guide here – http://thespindrifters.com/blog/how-to-get-tatkal-train-tickets-in-india/

Unfortunately the only sleeper train we could get from Goa to Mumbai, meant we had to travel from Vagator to Madgaon train station which was 53km away! Only way to get there… was by taxi.

Taxi ride cost us INR 1,200 for the both of us and nearly took 2 hours.

Our train left at 10pm in the evening and we arrived 10am the next day at Mumbai CST train station. As we were in sleeper class, this meant we got a bench like bed all to ourselves, both of us were in the upper berths.

For our first sleeper train in India it wasn’t too bad, it feels a bit dirty, but totally fine. Everyone in the surrounding berths are so friendly and welcoming. When we were uncertain about which train to hop on to start with or where we were, there was always a friendly Indian happy to help us.

 

 

Mumbai to Udaipur

INR 750 ($11.63 USD) Each for SL (sleeper) class Train.

As the train was once again fully booked, we tried our luck with the Tatkal tickets, this time at the Mumbai CST train station. Here they have a separate tourist window which locals can not use, so there’s not many people waiting and it was easier to get tickets.

Mumbai to Udaipur was the longest train we would have taken… a total of 17 hours on a night train. It left at 11.35pm from Bandras Terminus, which was 1 ½ hour by uber from our accommodation. We didn’t arrived just until after 4pm the next day. What a day! We recommend to bring something to entertain yourself for the long trip and a sheet or blanket to lye down onto your bench-like bed.

There are people in the morning selling water and food in the carriages, so don’t worry if you have run out of either.

 

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Beautiful local girls enjoying their train ride.

 

 

Udaipur to Jaisalmer

INR 800 ($12.41 USD) Each for sleeper seat on the Bus. 

This was our first sleeper bus in India so we weren’t sure what to expect. We bought our tickets in advance on makemytrip.com, buses are a lot easier to obtain, as they don’t book up in advance like the trains, you can always by a ticket on the day of your travel. In this situation we bought our tickets online in advance as the website also provided a 20% discount.

We left from the boarding point at 9pm and arrived in Jaisalmer at 8.15am. I booked two sleeper seats next to each other, which turned out to be a little double bed – the two sleeper seats combined into one, on the upper deck. If you are a solo traveler I would suggest buying the one sleeper bed by itself, so you are not sharing the double sleeper with anyone random. At first we were in love with this bus, the mattress was comfortable and big enough for 2 of us to cuddle! There were also built in pillows and the privacy of closing off your area with sliding the window and curtains.

Unfortunately our little berth had a few AC issues! We couldn’t adjust the airflow as it was broken and there was also water dripping out of the AC… this meant we had an awful sleep! We were the only berth that experienced this issue and because it was a full bus we could not change our seats. 

 

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Jaisalmer fort behind us, day of the first All Blacks vs Lions test 2017.

Jaisalmer to Jodhpur

INR 410 ($6.35 USD) Each for SL (sleeper) class ticket on the Train.

This time we took the train to travel to Jodhpur, luckily we were able to book this ticket in advance in Mumbai. The only seats left were in sleeper class, we didn’t mind. We boarded the train at 5pm at Jaisalmer station and didn’t arrive until 10.50pm. The journey itself was alright, Bianca was a bit uncomfortable with the heat as we weren’t in AC class but once the sun went down it was a more bearable ride.

 

Jodhpur to Pushkar (Via Ajmer)

INR 440 ($6.80 USD) Each for “seater” seat on the Bus to Ajmer.
INR 1000 ($14 USD) total for a rickshaw ride from the bypass to our Pushkar accommodation.

I don’t know where to begin with this bus journey… Somehow the bus we booked in advance with makemytrip.com was cancelled and last minute they put us on a local bus leaving an hour and a half later than planned. We didn’t realize what happened until half way through the journey though we thought something fishy was happening time, seats and drop off point had all changed from when we first booked. All without anyone telling us.

Instead of dropping us at the Ajmer bus station, we were unloaded on the side of the main road at the Ajmer bypass instead. There were 2 rickshaws waiting for us just after midnight (2 hours later than we expected) and were charging extortionate prices to get to Pushkar, we had to go with it, as we had no other ride!

We didn’t arrive until 1am in the morning, very grumpy with how the bus situation had been handled and feeling hustled.

I would suggest booking buses on the day, as most of them do not fill up in advance. Clarify with the travel agent all the details and make sure they aren’t sending you on a wild goose chase like us!

 

 

Pushkar to Jaipur

INR 450 ($7.00 USD) Each for “seater” seat on the Bus.

We were a bit weary on this bus journey as our previous bus experience was awful! But it turned out well in the end, we left Pushkar at 8.30pm and arrived on time at 11.30pm. From the main bus station we grabbed a rickshaw to our hotel, at this time at night there were still a lot of rickshaws out so you can bargain a good price. We paid 70 rupees to take us near 1km.

 

  

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Bianca looked beautiful in her Red Sari.

Jaipur to Agra

INR 500 ($7.70 USD) Each for 2nd Class AC on the Train.

Finally we took ride in the more expensive AC carriage, it was a lovely change. We had been traveling around India in 35-40 degrees heat, its clear we were happy in our decision to buy AC tickets. Our train was delayed by half an hour and the total journey time was around 4 hours.

We do recommend the AC carriage for a more comfort able journey, especially in the hotter months.

 

 

Agra To Delhi

INR 300 ($4.60 USD) Each for 2nd Class seat on the Train.

 We caught the Taj Express train from Agra to Delhi, as usual this train was fully packed so we had to tell people in our seats to move. There are many people that buy non-reserved tickets and sit any any seat until the person that has the ticket for the seat arrives, then they move without any resistance. The journey took around 3 and a half hours. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to explore Delhi, our time in India was already up and we had to headed straight to the airport.

We took an Uber from the train station to Indira Gandhi International Airport, it cost around 250 rupees and takes an hour from central Delhi.

Uber is the cheapest, easiest and safest way – we highly recommend when possible throughout India!

 

 

 

Accommodation

Bethany Inn, Vagator – North Goa

Standard Double Room with Fan, INR 670 ($10.40 USD) per night

After have numerous bad experiences with booking.com, we decided to move to Agoda to book most of our hotels/hostels.

 

This was a quaint inn, located close to the centre of Vagator and everything you needed was in walking distance. Our room was very basic and clean, with an ensuite bathroom. The beds were uncomfortable, I don’t think either of us got any decent sleep while we were here.

The WIFI was in and out, thought it was a provider issue, this is common in India and if you are working from abroad like us, can be very frustrating.

There was a scooter hire available here at a decent charge INR250 for the whole day.

Our stay here was nothing special and the staff weren’t very helpful, so we don’t recommend this accommodation to anyone, next door our friends stayed at the Seaview Holiday Apartments and for $1 USD more the room also came with a kitchen. They could recommend this place for us.

 

Abode Boutique Hotel, Mumbai

Superior Luxury Room – INR 10,400 ($161 USD) p/n
Luxury Room – INR 8,000 ($124 USD) p/n
Simple Room – INR 6,500 ($100 USD) p/n
Basic Room – INR 4,000 ($62 USD) p/n

Lovely little boutique Hotel just down the road from Mumbai’s tourist attraction “Gate of India”.
Some hotels/ hostels bandy the word boutique but then don’t back it up. Abode nails it. The scented air when you walk into the hotel, the smooth jazzy covers playing in the background ambiance, brick finishes rugged walls and a lovely reading library corner. Down to the furniture, faucets, the plates, cups and bowls. In my mind boutique is about details, and the Abode was spot on!

Our room was large with the bathroom splitting the area into an open bedroom and a separate sitting area by the door. High ceilings and large raised windows give the room plenty of light while remaining private. The bed is soft and the pillows puffy.

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Our awesome room!

A grand bath is also at your disposal should you wish. Otherwise the smallish bathroom packs a punch. Sweet smelling soap, a shower-head that works properly and a sophisticated hand basin. After walking around all day in Mumbai’s heat. This bathroom is so nice for getting that clean feeling back.

Breakfast was included and apart from the good coffee I recommend you try the egg buhji, it’s a chill scrambled egg with onions and tomato’s. They also provide a spread of bread, muesli, and some other Indian style breakfast items.

 

Yes we 100% recommend anyone to visit this neat little Abode in the heart of Mumbai.

 

Hotel Thamla Haveli, Udaipur

Double Standard Room – INR 645 ($10 USD) p/n

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Hotel Thamla Haveli our accomodation had this beautiful lookout

This was a beautiful find on Agoda, I saw the photos of the amazing roof top and the price and thought it was too good to be true!

We arrived straight from our 17 hour train ride and were so happy to check in our room and cool off in the shower. Our room was very simple but had everything we needed; we recommend booking a room with AC, as it gets very very hot!

The room was also situated on the rooftop with beautiful seating to watch the sun go down and the city light up at night. It had a relaxing ambience, which we enjoyed and also had an in-house kitchen where you can dine in with your own rooftop view. We really enjoyed our stay here and the loved the situation/location of the hotel.

 

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Beautiful building!

Mystic Jaisalmer, Jaisalmer

Deluxe Double or Twin Room – INR 1,500 ($23.24 USD) p/n
Luxury Room – INR 4,500 ($70 USD) p/n

 When we arrived at Mystic the beautiful building immediately blew us away. Built from sandstone its facade is as intricate as some of the buildings we have seen inside great palaces. Inside we were greeted by amazingly friendly staff who gave us plenty of eagerly accepted cold water. It was only 10am yet the temperature was in the high thirties.

 

Our room’s main feature was its large bed. Bedposts with draped curtains matched the feel of the hotel and we were glad to rest in this giant bed after our night bus. Breakfast is included and you have an incredible view of the fort and palace while you eat. I rose early and watched the sunrise from the rooftop, stunning.

Located walking distance to all of Jaisalmers attractions it was a perfect base. We also booked our camel Safari through Mystic, we loved the whole experience. You can read about it here.

We %100 recommend Mystic Jaisalmer.

 

  

 

Ratan Vilas, Jodhpur

Courtyard Standard – INR 3,545 ($55 USD) p/n
Courtyard Superior – INR 4,500 ($70 USD) p/n
Pool Facing Superior – INR 5,670 ($88 USD) p/n

 

Ratan Vilas has been in the same family for an incredible 97years, the family influence is felt throughout the hotel. It has a luxury yet homely feel. At the end of a long driveway a grand building waits. Set back far enough from the street that the bustling horns of the outside world are drowned out by trickling water features.

Although we arrived near midnight our greeting was warm and comforting. We noticed a pool on the way to our room, something we knew we would use plenty over the next few days to escape the heat. Our large room again had a homely feel, comfortable pillows, vibrant décor and a large clean bathroom with a hot shower. Everything a few weary traveler’s needed.

Breakfast buffets are always a favorite and matched with a good quality plunged coffee Bianca and I were fully prepped for our day exploring.

The hotel has its own restaurant and remains open for late arrivals potentially famished from travel. Its open courtyards and lawn give plenty of space to relax and being set back the hotel has lots of privacy. The pool is a godsend in the heat and all amenities are provided for you.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Ratan Vila’s and wouldn’t hesitate to return should we visit Jodhpur again one day.

 

Kanhaia Haveli, Pushkar

Standard room – INR 453 ($7 USD) p/n
Deluxe room – INR 1,360 ($21 USD) p/n
Super Deluxe room – INR 1,889 ($30 USD) p/n

Pushkar is a very small city compared to other places in Rajasthan, it is quiet and chilled which we really liked. We decided to stay in a hotel close to the lake as we have heard everything is walking distance from there.

We found this hotel on Agoda.com. Another great find, and popular among tourists. We booked the standard room as we were only here for one night, very basic, smaller than usual for a bedroom but such a short time it was perfect.

The staff were friendly enough, WIFI was only available in the common areas (which we found standard across India) and the atmosphere was average. Really nothing special about this place at all, the location of the hotel was the main reason why we booked this place, everything is right at your doorstep or a 5-minute walk. If short on time like us then this hotel is doable.

 

Jai Singh Palace, Jaipur

Deluxe room – INR 990 ($15.26 USD) p/n

This was a really great find! We opted for the Deluxe room as it offered AC (our best friend in the heat) and included breakfast, YUSSS always a bonus. The room itself was clean and came with an ensuite bathroom.

The bed was so comfy! In India it is hard to come by a soft bed so we were really stoked.

Jai Singh Palace also offered laundry services here so we got up to date with all our dirty washing.

The staff were very helpful and as usual answered all my many questions. The one thing we did not enjoy was the food service, it was really hard to communicate exactly what we wanted for breakfast. Apart from the food service everything was great and we do recommend staying here as it was in a close proximity of the old city 

 

Sai Palace, Agra

Standard room with fan – INR 515 ($8 USD) p/n
Deluxe room with AC – INR 762 ($11.70 USD) p/n
Executive room – INR 780 ($12 USD) p/n

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It gave another beautiful perspective, one perfect for photos!

We saw a lot of negative reviews online about Agra, so we decided to stay just for one night. The only reason to visit was to see the Taj Mahal at Sunrise.

 

We booked one of the cheaper accommodations balanced with decent reviews, and that was the Sai Palace.

It felt a bit grubbier than the places we were usually staying at but for a cheap price and only a few hours sleep we didn’t mind. They also upgraded us to a private bathroom room. Though the best thing about this place was the location! Only 3 minutes walk to the Taj Mahal west gate, so its perfect to walk over for sunrise. 

 

 

 

 

Food

There are so many amazing types of food here in India, all the curries! We made sure we would try the whole curry selection on the menu to let you guys know our favourites.

All curries we ate were vegetarian and to be honest the food is so flavoursome that we didn’t even mind.

 

  • Jal Frezi – (HOT) Brett’s favourite and the undisputed best curry ever! It is an Indian version of a Chinese stir-fry made with curry spices that will wake up your taste buds!
  • Vindaloo – (VERY HOT) The spiciest curry around is the vindaloo curry, you can choose to have it with meat or in our case a vegetarian version. A tasty dish with some heat to it, made with wine, garlic and many different spices.
  • Biryani – An Indian dish made with highly seasoned rice and with meat, fish or vegetables.
  • Rogan Josh – Is a famous lamb curry that consists of braised lamb chunks cooked with a gravy based on browned onions, yogurt, garlic, ginger and aromatic spices.
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Delicious curry dinner! On the left is the Jal Frezi, Brett’s favourite.

  • Butter chicken – is very popular in the North and one of Bianca’s favourite curries. Nothing beats the creamy thick gravy curry with a garlic naan bread!
  • Tandori chicken – Chicken is marinated in a mixture of yoghurt and spice tandoori masala. Cayenne pepper, red chilli powder and turmeric give it the red colouring. Another popular favourite.
  • Korma – An Indian dish consisting of meat or vegetables braised with yoghurt or cream, water/stock and spices to produce a thick sauce.
  • Dal Makhani – Is a popular dish in the Punjab region, the primary ingredients is whole black lentils, red kidney beans, butter and cream. A tasty and easy vegetarian option.
  • Paalak Paneer – Paalak is spinach and Paneer is cottage cheese. The paneer is either boiled or pan fried and added to a spinach gravy that has been belended with ginger, garlic, green chilli and onion.
  • Dam Aloo – Served as a side dish and commonly found in thali’s. It is a dish of baby potatoes simmered in gravy prepared with tomatoes, onions and a variety of spices. Perfectly eaten well with rice and nanJodhpur, India, top travel guide, Travel Blog, India guide, What to do in india.
  • Thali – Means “plate” in Hindi and in our opinion the perfect lunch meal as you get to taste different dishes all around one big plate. Some restaurants even offer endless refills. If you are eating at a local restaurant like us then no utensils are needed here, only eat by hand!
  • Stuffed Parathas – Indian bread made from wheat or white flour and can be stuffed with a variety of stuffing’s such as; potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, paneer (cottage cheese) and pretty much any vegetable you can think of.
  • Chloe Bature – A combination of spices chickpeas and huge deep-fried flour based bread, so tasty and yummy! Can be eaten at breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Vada Pao – A popular street food, deep fried potato patty placed between two slices of pao (unsweetened buns). You cant go wrong here.
  • Panipuri – Indian street snack. A round, fried crisp filled to the top with flavoured broth, tamarind chutney, chaat masala, potato, onion and chickpeas. All eaten deliciously in one mouthful.
  • Dosa – A type of pancake from a fermented batter. Tradtionally served with hot sambar, stuffing of potatoes or paneer and chutney.
  • Samosa – Deep fried pastry stuffed with mashed boiled potato, onions, green peas, spices and green chilli.
  • Dhokla – is made by steaming fermented mixture of rice, chickpeas and spices. Great alongside a meal or as a snack but don’t forget to accompany with a mint coriander chutney.
  • Pav Bhaji – A famous street dish that consists of a vegetable curry served with a soft rolled bread.
  • Kulfi – is a tasty sweet treat, like ice cream but denser and creamier. You can get different flavors like pistachio, rose, mango and saffron.
  • Ras Malai – Another must try dessert. Made from powdered milk, all-purpose flour, baking powder and oil. It is kneaded to form dough, moulded into balls and dropped into simmering milk cream. Then chilled before serving.
  • Mango Lassi – My favourite drink/dessert here in India. Lassi is like a type of yoghurt/ smoothie drink mixed with your favourite fruit. If you like mangos like us then you must try the mango lassi’s.
  • Masala Chai – You haven’t tried Chai until you visit India. Made from crushed cinnamon, caradom, ginger and cloves, these spices are heated up in a saucepan combined with milk and sugar. We couldn’t get enough of it!
  • Kingfisher – No food blog without letting you know India’s most well-known beer, Kingfisher! Out in the desert in Rajathan no other drink we would rather have. Try the different strength versions and find your favourite.

 

 

Recommended restaurants

Goa

  • Mango Restaurant is a popular restaurant among Indian and western tourists as they serve both Indian and Western food here. Our friends didn’t rate this place for food but we did come here to enjoy a few alcoholic beverages.
  • Ujwal restaurant – Is more of a local restaurant serving some damn tasty curries. As it is in a tourist area we tried a chicken tikka masala and didn’t get sick. We recommend eating here.

 

Mumbai

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    Brett loved these curry wraps

    Gokul bites – We came here everyday for lunch, as it was cheap and also delicious! It was nice for a change not to eat rice, we weren’t getting sick of the curries but of the rice. Here at Gokul bites you can get roti wraps with different vegetarian curries inside and it was so tasty! Recommend going here if you are staying close to the gateway of India like us.

  • Bademiya family restaurant – Another close restaurant to Abode boutique, this started off as a little pop out window and now created as a restaurant chain. For Mumbai prices (Mumbai is one of the more expensive cities) it has standard prices for meals. The curries are average and nothing special. 

 

Udaipur

  • Long shore restaurant – Right next our accommodation hotel Thamla Haveli, is the Long Shore restaurant. Serves delicious curries right on the waters edge where you sit on a mattress with your knees crossed, my way of fine dinning.

Be warned if you like spicy food like us and ask for it to be spicy, they probably will not give it to you spicy! No one thinks we can handle the heat.

  • Charcoal restaurant – We did not eat here, but a fellow instagrammer recommended it to us raving about the food and the best rooftop city view. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to check it out.
  • Natraj restaurant – The perfect place for lunch! Located a few kilometers out of the main touristic centre, this restaurant is worth venturing out for. For INR 160 each you will get an authentic Rajasthan Thali, but wait it’s all unlimited so you can eat as much as your heart desires.
  • Pap’s juice’s – If you are like me and craving a smoothie or a healthy muesli breakfast you have come to the right place! Close to the foot bridge to Udaipur city is Pap’s juices. You can find an array of fruit outside serving different types of juices, smoothie‘s and my favourite lassi’s, all so tasty!
  • Street food opposite Jagdish Temple – This was a great find by “The Spindrifters”, we found their street food blog post and ended up at this awesome place that we don’t know the name of. They serve these tasty bowls of smashed up samosa, crud, nuts, baji mix and coriander all for 25 rupees!

 

 

 Jaisalmer

  • Chandan Shree restaurant – A very local restaurant that serves traditional Rajasthan Thali’s for INR 120. Delicious tasters of a variety of curries, you can’t go wrong and what’s better is they keep topping you up, unlimited food! That’s what we are talking about.
  • Ridhi Sihi restaurant – Similar to Chandan Shree, you can get another delicious Thali here – all you can eat! We like going to these kinds of restaurants at lunchtime for a big meal and having a light meal of street food and a mango lassi for dinner.
  • Kanchan Shree Ice Cream – Here they serve the tastiest lassi’s I have ever had! You can get natural Lassi’s or ones that come with ice cream, any flavour you want! I recommend the mango Lassi.
  • Street food – Behind our hotel “Mystic Jaisalmer” is a road full of street food that comes alive at night-time. We sampled all the different varieties of samosas, omletes and fried noodles. All at very cheap prices and making sure they were vegetarian only.

 

 Jodhpur

 

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The blue turban.

  • Stepwell Café – We stumbled upon this quirky café while watching the locals swim in the stepwell. We decided to buy a few drinks and snacks with a good view of the activity below. It was perfect to hang out place and get away from the heat.
  • Blue Turban restaurant – Some locals suggested the Blue Turban restaurant. We took their word and had a delicious romantic dinner on the rooftop, having prime view of the Mehrangarh Fort.
  • On The Rocks – If you are looking for finer dining and great ambience, check out “On The Rocks” restaurant. They serve deliciously tasty food in a perfect outdoor eating environment.

 

Pushkar

  • Il Fornaio restaurant – After 2 weeks in India we caved and decided to eat Italian pizzas for dinner. We weren’t sick of curries just yet but we were craving a delicious pizza and we saw online a great pizza place in Pushkar. We highly recommend Il Fornaio as the pizza is cooked traditionally in a wood-fire oven. Also the price is very reasonably and they serve very large portions.
  • Pawan Falafel restaurant – Another restaurant recommended to us and its another non-Indian. We saw this falafel place and had to try it as we both really like falafel and it was something different that we haven’t recently had. They also do really great Masala Chai here!
  • The laughing Buddha – Here we go, finally an Indian restaurant to recommend! After tasting a few different country cuisines we went back to Indian food, this place is great for delicious curries and at an affordable price. It also has a perfect view overlooking the lake.

 

Jaipur

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    All hands on deck!

    Jaipur Home Cooking School – We had decided to do a cooking class in India, as we love curries so much. We did some research and found “Jaipur Home Cooking School”. Payal was a great teacher. She started the class by taking us to the spice market and explaining to us all about the different spices used in the curries. The next stop was at the vege market where we got to choose one vegetable that we would turn into a side dish. We spent the next 2 hours in her kitchen learning and cooking ourselves: 1x dhal curry, 1x masala curry, 1x vegetable dish, chipati, rice and chai masala. It was such a fun evening and we learnt a lot about Inidan food and their culture. We highly recommend this unique experience with Payal as she is a lovely and informative teacher, we can’t wait to make our own home-cooked curries!

  • Peacock Rooftop Restaurant – Is a popular choice among travellers. It is a quirky rooftop restaurant with excellent service. The ambience was spot on and the food was absolutely delicious. The food is a bit pricey but well worth it and if you are craving western food, there is lots to choose from.

 

Agra

  • Shankara Vegis Restaurant – For what we have heard Agra is over-priced. Luckily we found this decent restaurant that served some tasty food with (finally) a good kick to their curries. Brett and I love our spicy food but for some reason haven’t been served a lot of it. We recommend the food at Shankara Vegis and to top it off they have a roof-top to view the Taj Mahal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Must see & do 

 

North Goa

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Monsoon Scooter!

Little did we know we were travelling to Goa in the wet/monsoon season, we didn’t think much of it at first, we thought maybe it will rain for ten minutes then stop…… no, it pretty much rained the whole entire time! It was very hard to go exploring but we did the best we could, during the high season we can see Vagator light up with sunshine, tourists and trance parties. It is best advised to travel in Goa in the high season.

 

  • Hire a scooter for the day for INR 250 – 350, this is one of the best ways to get around and explore the nearby beaches.
  • Best beaches to visit of calm turquoise waters and white sand are found in South Goa. If you have enough time to venture down south then make sure to check out these beaches: Palolem, Agonda and Varca.

 

  • Chapora fort – Is close to Vagator town and next to the beach, it is a great place to see the ruins of the fort and a great vantage point of the North Goan coastline.
  • Shop around the markets – There are a few markets going round in North Goa, the famous one being Anjuna markets on a Wednesday, here you can find hippy crafts and great souvenirs – make sure you get your bargaining skill on and bargain to at least half the price.
  • Another great market is Mapusa local market on Friday mornings; this one is more of a local market where you find locals haggling for clothing, produce, antiques and textiles.
  • Ayurvedic oil massage – Is an ancient therapy for healing and detoxifying the body, mind and spirit. It also helps with stress reduction performed with herbal oils. Highly recommend getting this done.
  • Visit a Spice plantation – India is known to be the land of the spices and the best way to appreciate all the different spices they have to offer is by visiting a spice plantation.

 

Mumbai

  • Dharavi Slum with Mohammed, Get the full local experience in Mumbai’s largest slum. Famous for featuring in the Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire. Far from what one might expect Dharavi is full of regular hard working people who know no better, they are happy, they love, they have families and grow inside the 1.7km sq. area which holds more than 1 million people. Plastic recycling, pottery, baking, steel work, leather smiths and tailors are just some of the legitimate industries in the area providing work for the less educated.

 

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Exploring the antique market.

  • Chor antique market, Very local and we struggled to find it after being dropped in the wrong place. Alleyways of antique shops including old clocks, instruments, nautical gadgets, cameras and everything else line the streets. A great place to find a gift or something unique.
  • Gateway of India is a significant landmark in Mumbai. It was built to celebrate and honor the visit of King George V and Queen Mary as Emperor and Empress of India in 1911, but wasn’t completed until 1924. It was the entry and exit point of the British governors back then. There is no entry charge to see this landmark.
  • Take a stroll along the Marine Drive promenade; it is a 4.3km stretch in the south of Mumbai. A perfect place for an evening/morning walk and to sit by and watch the tides go back and forth.

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    Gates of India.

  • Girgaum Chowpatty beach – Wonderful place to watch the sunset and taste a bit of delicious street food during the evening.
  • Jain Temple – Is a popular place of religious significance, built over 100 years ago in 1904, a spectacular temple to see. Be sure to cover your legs, shoulders and make sure you are in barefoot when you enter.
  • Hanging gardens – Walk around the beautiful manicured terraced gardens that are set atop the western side of Malabar Hill.
  • Dhobi Ghat – is the world’s largest outdoor laundry and home to the largest laundrymen community in India. It has become a major tourist attraction, especially among foreigners. There are tours you can take to learn about this community and are able to take photos.
  • Walk around the streets and see if you can star in a Bollywood movie, unfortunately we could find any film sets while we were there. If you have time, go watch one of the Bollywood movies on-screen.
  • Elephant Caves – Can be accessed from a ferry ride from the gate of India. This UNESCO world heritage site are caves dedicated to Lord Shiva and Parvati and the trimuriti, which has the Shiva in three moods. If you have time it is worth going.

 

Udaipur

  • City Palace, one of my favourite palaces in the world is found in Udaipur. Constructed on the banks of the Lake Pichola is a spectacular sight to see both during the day and at night. The palace begun under leadership of Maharana Udai Singh but were completed by his successors. The structure in a nice blend of Chinese, medieval and European form of architecture.
  • Jagdish Temple – located in the city palace complex. This temple was built by Maharana Jagat Singh and dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Beautiful work of art, it is carved out of a single piece of black stone.
  • Watch the sunset at the most popular spot in town, Ambrai Ghat. You wont be alone here, but with prime location of watching the sun go down, it is wel worth it.

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    Exploring our new spot.

  • Gangaur Ghat – is the main ghat situated near the waterfront of Lake Pichola. It is a popular place for locals to have a swim and wash their clothes. Perfect place to chill out in the water and if it gets to hot you can always take a dip.
  • Bagore-Ki-Haveli – Next to the Gangaur ghat on the waterfront, it is another palace. Built by a Mewar prime minister has since been carefully restored. There are 138 rooms with numerous courtyards and balconies. The interior is exquisite, embellished with intricate and fine mirror work.
  • Elephant Gate – for some local shopping of textiles, sarees, produce and souvenirs, it can be found near the surrounding streets of elephant gate. Here you can find it at local prices, as you are not close to the tourist centre.
  • Have a local give you a Henna tattoo – There are many places around Udaipur and India to get a Henna tattoo. While walking through the markets near Elephant gate I asked where I could get Henna done, an old lady led us to this house and a girl in her mid twenties, drew henna on my foot. As we were in more of a local part of town it was nice to be welcomed into someone’s home, and seeing who our money was helping.

 

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Bianca getting a hena temporary tattoo done.

Jaisalmer

 

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The Jaisalmer fort!

  • Golden Fort – Is one of the largest and fully preserved fortified cities in the world and a world heritage site. Go up and a walk around, there are many roof-top cafes and restaurants to chill and take in the view.
  • City Palace – Located inside the fort, it is known for its ravishing architecture and intricately carved balconies. You can walk around the inside of the Palace for 500 Rupees.
  • Jain Temple – Also found in the Golden fort. Jain temples are considered to be an old and significant holy shrine, it is dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras and dated back to 12th and 15th
  • Main Bazaar – Perfect place to go shopping and buy some beautiful handicrafts and souvenirs. Tip – you will need to haggle here, as they tend to double the price if you are a tourist.
  • Patwa Haveli – One of the finest, oldest and largest havelis (traditional townhouse) in Jaisalmer. Each corner, pillar and balconies are beautifully designed and decorated. You can enter this Haveli for 50 rupees, we had a lot of fun walking around the empty house and venturing to the rooftop to get a great view of the golden fort.
  • Salim Singh Haveli – Another beautiful haveli, situated beside the hills near Jaisalmer Fort. This is a very distinctive building as the roof has been constructed in the form of a Peacock.
  • Gadisar Lake – Romantic spot to watch the sun setting by the lake. It is surrounded by varieties of temples and shrines, which makes it a beautiful spot for taking photos.

 

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Trudging into the desert camelback!

  • Camel Safari – One of our favourite adventures in India would have to be the camel safari. We booked it through our hotel – Mystic Jaisalmer, it included transport to and from the desert, camel riding, dinner and a bed – All for INR 2,500 each. It was such a true and authentic experience and having the local desert men with us gave us an insight on how they lived. They cooked us a delicious dinner, true Rajasthan style then once it got dark and the stars came out they sang their local songs for us. Our bed was out in the open underneath the stars, it was truly a beautiful experience and could not rave more about it, totally recommend this trip booked through Mystic Jaisalmer!
    Read our full camel safari experience here. 

 

Jodhpur

  • Mehrangath Fort – Is one of the largest forts in India. It is situated 125m above the city and enclosed by thick walls. Inside the walls are beautiful intricate carvings, balconies and courtyards. It costs 600 rupees to enter the fort and includes a audio guide, which was great to learn about the history and hear the stories about this grand place, highly recommend visiting.

 

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Palace official

  • Jaswandth Thada – located down the road from the fort is the Jaswant Thada, it is a cenotaph built in memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II and served as the cremation ground for the royal family of Marwar. Made from marble carved intricately and polished to give a warm glow to illuminate the sun – it is a sight to see.
  • Heritage Walk Blue City – Once you finish touring the Mehrangath Fort, head to the back gate and walk down the hill to the blue city. Bianca loved walking around the different shades of blue buildings and finding a rooftop to climb to view the Fort and the blue city below.
  • Clock Tower – Is an old city landmark surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the Sardar Market. At this market you can find merchants selling vegetables, spices, sweets, silver and handicrafts.
  • Stepwell – Head to the stepwell near there the clock tower and watch the locals bathe and have fun in a beautiful designed stepwell. Or if you are crazy like Brett, join the locals and jump from the very top down to the water below.
  • Umaid Bhawan Palace – Is one of the world’s largest private residences, with 347 rooms served for the royal family of Jodhpur. There is a small part of the palace that houses a museum which you can go and learn more about the royal family.
  • Stretch out and practise Yoga – As you may know Yoga originated in India, so what a better place to practise in the king country itself. We recommend doing it with Priyankas Yoga Studio, a really great teacher and perfect for beginners like us, see link here: https://www.facebook.com/priyankasyoga/

 

Pushkar

  • Brahma Temple – Only Brahma Temple in the world. The temple is a place of deep spirituality; thousands of devotees come here to pay homage to the many gods that live in this temple town.

 

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Beautiful temples line the sides of the Ghat.

  • Pushkar Lake – Pushkar is small enough to walk around everywhere. We enjoyed walking around the lake and seeing the different ghats that the locals were bathing and washing their clothes in. Note – that you will need to take off your shoes when you get close to the lake.
  • Markets – Along the main road parallel to the lake is a road full of small shops where you can buy souvenirs, handicrafts, clothing, gems and much more. I really enjoyed these markets as they had a hippy vibe to them.
  • Savitri Temple – This temple is dedicated to the desolated wife of Lord Brahma, Savitri. Built in 1687, on top of the Ratnagiri Hill behind the Bramha Temple.
  • Camel Safari – If you don’t have time to get to Jaisalmer and would like to go on a camel safari ride then you can jump on a tour here. Of course we do highly recommend doing it in the Jaisalmer desert itself.
  • Pushkar Camel Fair – The biggest event to hit Pushkar is the Camel Fair. It is held each November during full moon and over a period of 14 days. It attracts thousands of camels, horses, cattle and over 400,000 people! Here you can watch the buying and selling of livestock and all the color that goes with this unique carnival.

 

 

  Jaipur

 

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Found a friend at the Monkey temple!

  • Amber Fort – Another beautiful fort made from yellow and pink sandstone and white marble. It is situated on the hill in Amer city, 4km from Jaipur. It is known for its artistic style blending both Hindu and Rajput elements. A steep ten minute walk up the hill is well worth the sights of Amber fort.
  • Jal Mahal Palace – is Located in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur. The Palace and the lake around it were renovated and enlarged in the 18th century by the Maharaja. This is beautiful to see at night when the palace is lit up.
  • Galta (Monkey) Temple – Is a large Hindu temple, 10 km from Jaipur and surrounded by hills on either side. It is known as the Monkey temple as there are many monkeys that surround it, you can buy a few nuts at the gate and feed them. It is such a fun experience and the monkeys are all friendly and free to roam around as they please. Definitely worth it if you have the time.

 

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Amazing view of Jaipur from the wall.

  • City Palace – Situated in the middle of the old city is the beautifully colorful City Palace. We took an audio tour here and learnt a lot about the history of Jaipur.

 

  • Hawa Mahal – Also known as the “Palace of the Winds”, built with a high screen so the royal women could watch the below festivities without being seen. Constructed from red and pink sandstone, it is located next to the city palace.
  • Johari Bazaar – This bazaar is great for jewellery and gemstone souvenirs, we (mainly Bianca) had a lot of fun looking at different types of gems and stones. Perfect place to buy these.
  • Bapu Bazaar – is the place where you want to buy handicrafts, shoes and sarees. There is a wide selection of beautiful pieces; you are bound to find something special!
  • Jaipur Home Cooking Class – Our highlight in Jaipur was this cooking class. We wanted to learn how to make traditional and authentic curries. Payal was a great informative teacher, who taught us what spices to use to make different curries, alongside the side dishes and the famous chai masala drink. It was such a fun experience and we both can’t wait to put what we learnt into practise back home.

 

 

Agra

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    The wonderful Taj Mahal built for the Kings beloved wife… also where Brett proposed and I said YES!

    Taj Mahal – has been on my bucket list for a long time, so when the day finally came I was so excited to see the great Taj Mahal. Taj was built between 1631 and 1648 by emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife. It is recognised as one of the world’s master pieces. Make sure you get here for sunrise, this the perfect time to take photos as there are not many people and the lighting is soft. We headed straight to the west side and had the place pretty much to ourselves which was really great for photos. I was even lucky enough to be purposed here by Brett, he captured the whole moment and everything was perfect. Taj Mahal will always hold a special place in my heart.

  • Boat ride to view the Taj Mahal – After you have spent some time exploring the Taj Mahal, head out of the east gate and follow the path down to the river. Here you can get a back view of the Taj Mahal on a boat, it’s absolutely magic as you are guaranteed no one in your photos. The boat trip cost 400 rupees and last 10 minutes, well worth it!

 

  • Agra Fort – One of the finest Mughal forts of India, but easily overshadowed by its sister monument, Taj Mahal. Built in 1565 and further additions made later by Shah Jahan using white marble. The fort was built for military purposes, then transformed into a palace by Shah Jahan but later turned into a prison after his son seized power in 1658.

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Tips & Advice

  • The currency is the Indian Rupee
  • Uber is very cheap to use (cheaper than the local taxis and TukTuks) in every major city in India, except you can’t use it in Goa. You can see around how much a taxi/rickshaw ride is with Uber then haggle a price with them; it is preferred to use the local transport.
  • Organise your Indian tourist visa before arrival. You can do this online at https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/index.html
  • Plugs used in India are the three round pins (Type D) in a triangle pattern or 2 pin connections (Type C). They operate on a 230V supply voltage and 50 Hz.
  • We were in the country for a few weeks so we bought a SIM card, they are so cheap and reliable it was worth buying. We went to a tourist centre and bought a Vodafone sim card, all sim cards in India must be registered to that particular person so it will take one day to activate. You will also need to bring your passport and passport photograph in order to register. It cost INR 800 ($12.40 USD) for the SIM card and it comes with 2gb data and 200 minutes of call time.
  • India’s head bob = agreement/disagreement/acknowledgment try decipher the subtleties yourself
  • High season is from October until March, this is also the time when the country celebrates many colorful festivals.
  • Low season is from April to October, this is India’s summer season so it gets very hot! 46 degrees hot! This is also monsoon season, which can get quite wet especially in the south.
  • India is the only country in the world we have found it difficult to get money out of the local ATMs!
  • Do not drink the tap water; try refill your water bottles hostels/hotels instead of buying the plastic bottles.
  • We mainly ate vegetarian food, as we were on a strict schedule we didn’t want to risk it.
  • Never felt at risk of harm here, but as always just be travel smart wherever you go!
  • We did not have any trouble with language barriers, we felt that most people could speak or understand English.
  • Public transport is easier to get around the country. For any long distance commutes we took the train and for any short haul travel we used the bus, both were very easy to use.
  • Tatkal tickets are emergency tickets you can buy at the train station a day before at 11am for sleeper class or 10am for first & AC class. Tatkal tickets go on sale at these times everyday to everyone in India, so you need to give yourself enough time to fill out the forms at the station beforehand and get ready to wait in line. Check the awesome guide on how to buy Tatkal tickets by The Spindrifters here – http://thespindrifters.com/blog/how-to-get-tatkal-train-tickets-in-india/
  • When visiting temples make sure you cover your shoulders and knees, this applies to Male & Female, also take your shoes and socks off, even if they are outdoors.

 

 

 

Helpful words and phrases

 

There are 18 official languages spoken in India, luckily for travellers like us English is often understood. Nonetheless, attempting to speak the local language is always appreciated.

In the North Hindi is widely spoken and in the south it is commonly Tamil.

 

Hindi

Hello                                                 Namasté

Goodbye                                           Namasté

Please                                                Meher bani

Thank you                                        Dhanyavad

You’re welcome                              Aapaka svaagat hai

Pardon me                                        Maf (or shama) kijiyé

Do you speak English?                  Kya aap angrezee bolate hain?

Yes                                                     Ji ha

No                                                      Nahi

 

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Stunning doorways where the highlight of the Palace

 

Tamil

Hello                                             Vanakkam

Goodbye                                      Poyvituvarukiren

Please                                           Tayavu Ceytu

Thank you                                    Nandri

You’re welcome                           Paravaa illa

Pardon me                                    Mannikanum

Do you speak English?              Nienga English pésuviengala?

Yes                                                 Amam

No                                                  Illai

 

 

 

 

Feeling Inspired?

Read about our surreal Camel Safari

OR

See our India Travel Gallery for inspiring photos

 

 

 

* Updated to 2017 prices; Please let us know if there has been any changes to prices or if you have any tips to add.

* This guide is written in our own personal opinion and all recommendations are our own

 

 

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