No other country in the world has the ability to make you laugh, sing and weep all in one day. The land of wonderful contrasts, travellers booking cheap tickets to India will discover a kaleidoscope of slums and beggars living alongside lavish medieval palaces and sacred rivers. The honking horns, tinny cow bells and screaming babies can sound like chaos to travellers coming off their flights to India. But rather than allow it to distress you, accept it as a warm welcome from a country that makes no apologies for its gregarious character.
Most travellers will take an India flight to Mumbai, capital of the state of Maharashtra, which provides a good introduction to the country. The energy of Bollywood combined with its lively nightlife will give you all the stamina needed to venture on to its other cities. Explore the churches and antiques warehouses of Cochin in the south then drive to Kerala's backwaters and spend a few nights on a houseboat. From there take an India flight to Delhi and travel around the northern part of the country. Visit the spectacular sights of the “Golden Triangle”: Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. If you have some energy left, fly into the sacred city of Varanasi and walk along the ghats (steps) to its holy temples and terraces.
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India is a big country and the climate can vary depending on where you are. Winters are dry and cool and last from December through February. Summer is still dry, but warms up quite a bit. The southwest monsoon season is from June through September; the northeast monsoon season lasts from October to November.
When to fly to India
Generally the best time to take a flight to India, particularly southern India, is January through September, and northeastern India March through August. The desert and northwestern areas are best during the July to September monsoon season. And the best time to visit the mountain regions is summer.
Delhi’s peak tourist season is mid-September through March, during which October to February is considered the best time for flights to India. Mumbai is cooler and drier November through February. Goa’s best season is October to February, and Bangalore’s dry and clear season is December to February.
Indian summers are typically hot (Delhi summers can go above 43 degrees Celsius) and humid. Also keep in mind that a monsoon can disrupt plane schedules and shut down phone systems and electricity.
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Getting around India
Driving in India is not recommended, particularly in the cities. In Old Delhi and Mumbai you can explore the sights on foot. Many visitors hire a car and driver by the day to get around a city, although taxis and rickshaws are an option. For taxis and rickshaws (both auto and bicycle), make sure to negotiate the fare before you set out.
Motorbikes are very popular in Goa, and the state is small enough that a motorbike may be all the transportation you need.
Most cities have a bus system. Generally the buses are hot and crowded, particularly during rush hour, when the additional traffic also affects the bus service. The exception is Chennai where the city buses and suburban trains are fast and economical.
Travelling from one city to another is made easy by domestic India flights.
India insider information
- Delhi, India’s capital, has thousands of years of history, and Old Delhi is a step back in time with its historic buildings, bazaars, and narrow alleys. Throughout Delhi the old and new are side by side: modern skyscrapers, beautiful gardens, and tree-lined avenues. Delhi is modern India, with its contradictions — old and new, affluent and poor — and a rich mix of India’s history, cultures, and religions.
- Goa’s warm weather and sandy beaches bring droves of tourists from India and abroad. A hippie playground in the 60s, today’s Goa has five-star resorts and a party-all-night atmosphere, yet you can find remote and secluded beaches. The cuisine is a mix of Indian and Latin, and a must-do experience is shopping in the thousands of stalls at the Wednesday Market.
- Mumbai (Bombay) has a Victorian-townhouse, English-industrial, coastal-city setting and is India’s richest and most vibrant city. Mumbai has more millionaires than any other Indian city and extreme poverty, a swinging nightlife and the Banganga Tank where pilgrims cleanse their souls. A visit to Mumbai also brings you to some of the best bazaars, sports activities, and performing arts.
- India’s fifth-largest city, Bangalore, has a mild and healthy climate. Bangalore was the first Indian city to get electricity and is now India’s high-technology centre. Cosmopolitan Bangalore has excellent pubs, restaurants, and cafes. It is also a shoppers’ paradise with Mysore silks, sandalwood and rosewood carvings, brass and ivory artifacts, lambani jewellery, and handicrafts from embroidery to pottery.
- Chennai (Madras) has one of the longest urban beaches in the world, but also a large city’s pollution problems. An important centre before the British arrived, Chennai retains the best of southern Indian traditions and remains a gateway to South India. As one of India’s important trade centres, Chennai is a great place for shopping.
- Trivago is a useful website for information about accommodation in India. The site contains user reviews and recommendations on a range of hotels across the country, including those in Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai.