People around the world have mixed feelings regarding India as a travel destination, especially if traveling with children.
Some are attracted to India like a magnet and some would never set foot there even if you pay them.
When we announced to our family and friends that we are embarking on a long journey to India with our then 9 month old and 2.5 year old we saw several eyebrows rising.
There are a lot of prejudices and fears regarding India, some of them stand true and some of them don’t.
We spent 2 months in India and I can assure you that traveling in India with children is POSSIBLE and it is not as crazy as one might think. Moreover now we are back to India for three more months to explore north and northeast of the country.
Yes, it might not be the easiest destination however it is so worth it!
In this article I am covering everything you need to know before coming to India but if I miss something, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below or send me a private message.
What vaccinations you should do before coming to India
Before going to India we went to the International vaccination clinic in Granada, Spain (where we lived at the moment) and this is the list of vaccines we were recommended to take:
Hepatitis A (common-source hepatitis)
Two months itinerary through India
India is not just a big country, it is a huge country! Two months sounds like a long time traveling however looking at the map you realize you can spend so much more time in this diverse country.
The first two weeks we spent in Maharashtra state. We went to Mumbai, Nashik, famous for its wineries, lake Arthur and Aurangabad with its extraordinary rock-cut cave monasteries Ellora and Ajanta.
One simple night bus-and we are in Goa!
We spent one week in Goa at Palolem beach.
After that another overnight sleeping bus and we arrived in Hampi (Karnataka state)-the ruins of an ancient capital of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire. It is truly extraordinary place and one of our favorites places in India. We spent there about 1 week and then decided to go to the north of the country to the mighty state Rajasthan to celebrate Holi festival.
It tuned out southern India doesn’t celebrate Holi, it is more of a northern thing…That’s was the main reason why we left southern India so fast.
Almost the whole month we spent in Rajasthan: Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Jaipur. We loved especially Udaipur-a city on the lake where we celebrated Holi and Jaisalmer-where we went on a camel safari into the Thar desert and spent the night under the stars.
After that – Agra and the Taj Mahal.
Our first night train and we wake up in Khajuraho-known for its “sexy temples”. We loved it there! Such a small and laid-back village, exactly what we needed after hectic Rajasthan and busy Agra.
After Khajuraho we took a night train to our last stop- Varanasi, India’s holiest city.
Our 2 months itinerary encompassed the most touristic and the most famous places. It has its pluses and minuses-a well developed infrastructure as a plus and a lot of crowds as a minus.
Transportation in India
Domestic flights are operated by Vistara, JetAirways, AirIndia and low-cost airlines Air Costa, Air India Regional, SpiceJet, AirIndia Express, IndiGo, GoAir, Air Pegasus, AirAsia India or TruJet.
There are 5 types of trains in India: Express, Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto, Garib Rath Express.
Express- doesn’t really mean fast. It has the lowest priority on the tracks, that’s why it is not an unusual thing for an express train to be 24h late.
Rajdhani- fast long distance train. Usually on time.
Shatabdi- fast sitting trains (sometimes there are coaches with beds). Short distance day time trains.
Duronto-long distance trains. Coaches of all classes. Rarely late since they have the priority on the tracks.
Garib Rath Express- “poor people’s chariot” in Hindi. Budget option for a fast train.
In two months we took the train only twice and both time it was Duronto type train.
There are coaches with AC and without. AC coaches are divided into two classes-3AC and 2AC, according to the amount of beds in the compartment.
In general the trains are more or less comfortable.
3AC ticket costs $15-$25, depending on the distance.
You can buy tickets either at the railway station or through any agency for a $2-$3 commission.
Also in theory you can buy your tickets online but all our attempts failed miserably as you need a phone number in India and an Indian bank number, and other things making it almost impossible for a foreigner traveling India.
Children under 6 years old are free of charge.
Our main mode of transportation in India, besides two times by train, were buses.
When distance between cities is long (8h and longer) night buses are running.
There are ordinary buses where you sit and sleepers (beds instead of seats).
Sleeper buses can be AC and non AC.
The most comfortable are sleepers with AC; beds are very large-4 of us would sleep comfortably through the night.
Thanks to the curtains you feel like you are in a room, away from people’s eyes and attention.
Sleeper buses became our favorite mode of transportation in India! Unfortunately they are not that popular in the northern part of the country.
There are no toilets in the bus however every so often the bus make stops for toilet or little snacks.
AC sleeper bus will cost you $12-$20 depending on the distance. You can buy the ticket at any travel agency. Children under 6 years old are for free.
Short distance buses (under 7h) are usually operated by day buses. There are AC tourist buses often called Volvo buses, operated by private companies and government non-AC buses. Private buses run only few times a day while government buses run pretty much every hour. The difference in price can be substantial.
An average price for a 7h ride on a government bus is $5-$7.
In Rajasthan we had no option but to take day bus since the distance between cities was 7h or less, so no night buses. Quite often we took a government bus and overall it wasn’t that bad. The biggest problem is getting into a new city is very time consuming and tiring. After 7h of bumpy ride the last thing you want to do is sightseeing…so pretty much a travel day is a wasted day. Keep this in mind when planning your trip in Rajasthan.
In the city
You always can flag down a motor rickshaw, but be ready to bargain.
Also in some states there is Uber and its analogue Ola!, quite handy if you have an Indian number with data. You can simply download an app and enjoy a hassle-free ride.
Accommodation in India
You can find anything you want in India, it just depends how much you are ready to spend.
A dorm bed can go as low as $3-$5.
An average room is $15-$20 and higher.
Also bear in mind that prices vary from state to state. During our two months trip throughout India we spent the most in Maharashtra and Goa and we spent the least in Rajasthan and Karnataka.
And it depends on the season. In high season the prices triple.
We book our hotels through booking.com or agoda.com where we usually have good deals because we are super users.
https://www.booking.com/s/43_8/decosj90 Use this link to get a discount on booking.com!
Several times when booking a room beforehand we had an unpleasant experience such as the room description doesn’t correspond to reality or the room that we booked was unavailable. To avoid these situations we simply pin on the map few hotels from booking.com and then just go in person and see whether we like it or not.
Besides you can negotiate the price, especially if you stay for several days.
Children under 6 years old are free and sometimes even under 12 years old! However always check hotel policy regarding children to avoid an unpleasant situation.
Indian cuisine is known as a vegetarian paradise. If you are a meat lover it will be a tough journey for you.
When you grab a menu for the first time, one doesn’t know where to look first.
Dishes and their names vary slightly from state to state but in general you can divide them in the following groups:
Dishes made from stewed vegetables-different vegetables depending on the season.
Paneer- different vegetables with fresh cheese
Spring rolls-flatbread with some stuffing inside
Pakora-deep fried vegetables
Dosa-pancakes from rice flour with or without stuffing. Popular breakfast in Southern India
Dhal-one of the most popular dishes made of lentils.
All types of rice with vegetables and spices.
Lassi, milkshakes-drinks made of fermented milk
Roti, chapatti, naan-different names for flatbread
And variations of these dishes make up a menu of 100 items.
Unsanitary conditions – truth or myth?
Probably one of the strongest associations with India is unfortunately unsanitary conditions.
I haven’t met a single person who hadn’t heard about this problem in India and many travellers avoid India just because of this fear.
I personally think that unsanitary conditions in India are a real thing however the situation is not as critical as one might think.
In two months we haven’t had food poising once but our youngest daughter had a stomach infection after swimming in the pool. However having semi loose stools or a slight sting from eating too much spicy food is more common than we would like.
Regarding food though we are very careful and always follow a set of simple rules:
- Always drink bottled water. Even if offered water at the restaurant, drink only bottled water. Keep in mind that even bottled water can be forged so always check the bottle top to make sure it’s the original seal before you buy it.
- Never buy drinks with ice. Never.
- Avoid fresh juices on the streets. Juicer and fruits are washed with God knows what water and the person who cuts the fruits rarely wears gloves…Well, I haven’t seen once but I just hope I didn’t have enough luck 😀
- Don’t buy already cut fruits that are sold on every corner, instead have a small knife to buy whole fruit and cut yourself.
- When you buy fruits and then wash them, wait until fruits are dry again before eating
- Avoid meat dishes in the cities where meat is not common. I usually follow this rule-if I cant easily find a restaurant where they have meat dishes, I opt for vegetarian food
- If your food has a weird taste, don’t hesitate-give it back to your waiter
- Remember, an expensive restaurant doesn’t necessarily mean a good one. Go to places where you see people eating and if these people are locals it is even better!
- Regarding street food. Never eat anything that was cooked God knows when and just sits in the sun. Buy only food that is cooked in front of you
- And the most important-always wash you hands with soap or wet wipes.
Baby products in India
To my big surprise the selection of baby products in India is really poor.
Diapers. You can buy diapers pretty much at any shop but most of the packs consists only of 2-4 pieces. This is quite handy if you don’t want to carry massive diaper bags all around with you but can also feel very wasteful. The selection of diaper brands is poor and sometimes you have to shop around for a right size. Also note, all diapers in India are not normal diapers but pants diapers and you have to get used to them J
$0,15 -$0.35 per diaper.
Formula. If you don’t breastfeed your baby I would recommend bringing formula from your country of origin or postpone your trip to India completely. It is rather hard to find formula and when you do find it the selection is very poor. Most are local brands of arguable quality. You will have better luck finding western brands in the malls of big cities like Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore.
Instant porridge. Very poor selection if any at all. Most of what they have contain an insane amount of sugar.
Jar food for babies. None.
Wet wipes, bottles, baby powders, shampoos. You can find all those things pretty much at every corner shop.
There are not supermarkets in India (we found few in the malls in Mumbai and the selection of goods is just sad) and this is the biggest problem. You buy everything at the corner shop. All the goods are piled on top of each other and most of the times you cannot even see what is out there. There is always a vendor at the counter and you ask him what you are looking for. So if this vendor doesn’t speak English well you might just leave empty handed.
Leisure activity with children in India
First of all what is leisure activity with children in India for you?
If you are looking for playgrounds, circuses, theatres, science parks…you wont find it that easily. In fact we haven’t stumbled on a single playground and haven’t heard of any theatre…Who knows; maybe we were not looking hard enough.
But on another hand…the whole trip in India is ALREADY entertainment for children as well as for adults!
Temples, castles, museums and camel rides in the desert-you can find all of it in Rajasthan.
Hampi and Khajuraho- whole complexes in open air.
Beach vacation in Goa…
Also if your children are old enough you can try some sport activity such as white water rafting, hot air ballooning, canoeing, trekking.
So…..in the end there is hardly time or a need for a traditional playground.
Children in India and how to handle an excess of interest
Families’ traveling with children, let alone with young children, is very rare so get ready for an excessive interest towards you.
Indians love children and it has its pluses and minuses.
Every parent loves it when people treat your child kindly and are understanding that children can act like children. So it is much less stress when people don’t give you looks if your child cries in a bus or a restaurant.
On another hand excessive attention towards you and your children can be very tiring.
On top of that Indians don’t perceive personal space as we do in Europe. People grab children’s cheeks, pick them up and start kissing without any warning …needless to say it can be very intimidating for your child and for you. Also Indians take the most selfies out of any culture I’ve seen so far, and they won’t hesitate to be very forceful to snap a selfie with a white baby.
Another reason for you to be on your guards is the fact that Indians can give your kids all sort of sweets without asking and if you follow a diet or just don’t like the idea of your children eating pure sugar…it can be a problem.
In a nutshell, if you travel in India with children, be prepared for all sort of unexpected situation and excessive attention.
Pluses and minuses of traveling in India with children
- Different climate zones: from subequatorial to tropical in the south, to mild and alpine in the north. You always have a possibility to move to a place where it is the most comfortable for you.
- Fresh fruits all year round.
- People are very kind and welcoming towards children
- Children under 6 years old are free in the hotels, transportation and major sites. It saves you quite a bit.
- Experience and memories from your travels will stay with you and your children forever .
- Insanitary conditions are a real thing and you should always be careful of what you eat and drink.
- Indian food is rather spicy and not every child will love it.
- Intense interest in your children can be very tiring.
- If you really want to see India, be prepared for long hours in transport. For some parents this can be challenging.
- India is not meant for strollers. If your children are young, bring a baby-carrier or be ready to carry them around.
Despite all the minuses and all our intense experience we just came back to India and we are happy here. However yes…. attention towards white babies is just insane and drives us crazy, why must they all touch our kids’ faces with their hands that aren’t always clean!?!?!?
Check out more pictures!
Have you been to India? How did it go? Comment below if you have any questions or simply share your experience with us!