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India Travel Tips

Exploring Rajasthan’s Ranakpur Temple

Between the intricate carvings, jungle views and visiting monkeys, Chaumukha Mandir, the Jain Temple at Ranakpur, will transport you to another world.

Built in the 15th century, this enormous complex has 1,400 pillars, each one hand-carved with its own unique patterns, icons and elements from nature – no two pillars are alike.

Wander around the different chambers and marvel at the craftsmanship that took around 65 years to complete.  Don’t forget to stop for a photo of the lush jungle through the temple windows, or to get a glimpse of the families of monkeys that leap between the columns and domes.

Guides aren’t allowed in the temple, so make sure to grab an audio guide before you head in so that you can make the most of your experience and learn a bit more about the Jain religion if you’re not families with its traditions and beliefs.

Practical Tips for Ranakpur Temple

  1. Cover up your arms and legs.
  2. Leave your shoes and any leather goods you have outside.
  3. You will need on photo ID to leave as a deposit for the audioguide.
  4. Be aware that anyone offering to say a prayer on your behalf will probably be expecting money in return.
  5. Women are asked not to enter if they are menstruating.
  6. The earlier you can visit, the better – tourists are allowed to enter from midday.
  7. Stay away from the monkeys!  They look cute but they can be aggressive when provoked.  The last thing you want on your Indian vacation is to have to get a rabies vaccination.

Perfectly placed on the road between Jodhpur and Udaipur, this amazing site is not to be missed – and provides a nice way of breaking up the drive.  Be warned that the road is windy and bumpy through the countryside, so if you get car sick, think about taking a couple of tablets before you leave…..

If you’d like to visit on of the most beautiful temples in India, you are in luck!  It is one of the many amazing sites on our 14 day Rajasthan tour or you can customize your own holiday using our trip planning service!

Tips for Visiting the Taj Mahal

Show almost anyone a picture of the Taj Mahal and they’ll recognise it instantly. Imposing yet graceful, its true beauty can’t be appreciated in a photo alone – this is a site that has to be seen in real life to be believed. 

A romantic idea… But let’s face it – you won’t be the only person making the pilgrimage. The most visited site in India, tourist numbers for the Taj topped a gigantic 6.5 million in 2018. 

So how can you get the best out of your trip? Here are our top tips for planning your visit to the Taj Mahal:

  • Check it’s open

We know, we know – you’d never show up when it was shut, right? Just remember that opening hours will depend on sunrise and sunset, and that the whole monument is closed to the general public on a Friday. 

  • Wear what you like

There are no strict rules when it comes to clothing, and you’ll see plenty of people dressed to the nines for a romantic photo shoot. Wear what’s comfortable for you, but don’t forget to put on shoe covers before you enter the monument – these are available on-site. 

  • Pick your time carefully

Tourists visit all day, but we’d recommend the dawn session. If you’re lucky enough to get a good sunrise, the colours of the sky really transform the Taj. It’s also the quietest time to visit, with the majority of tourists arriving later in the day.  You can experience the Taj during sunrise on both a private tour by car or an overnight tour. 

  • Remember your mosquito spray

The palace is serenely positioned in front of a river, which creates an aura of peace and tranquillity… it also means that visiting at dawn makes you a part of the mozzies’ breakfast buffet. Don’t forget to wear your bug repellent. 

  • Go to Mehtab Bagh

Mehtab Bagh is a garden that was built across the river from the Taj Mahal and provides a stunning view of the back of the palace (which, thanks to its symmetrical shape is exactly the same as the front). Visit at sunset for the full effect – the peace and quiet make the view all the better.

  • Get a guide

The experience of arriving at the Taj Mahal can be a little overwhelming. A great guide will not only help you navigate the ticket queues, but they can also make sure you get the best out of your visit. There is plenty to learn about the rich history and craftsmanship behind the monument, so it’s worth getting an expert to tell you the whole story.

If you’d like to find out more about organising a tour to the Taj Mahal, we can help. Reality Tours offers private and group tours of Agra for all price ranges.  Find out more here!

Planning Your India Trip

India is considered one of the most diverse countries in the world and it is not difficult to understand why.  With over 100 languages widely spoken, a stunning array of landscapes and a plethora of food to choose from, a trip to India is the equivalent of a trip through Europe.  So how do you even being to plan a trip to Incredible India?

The most important thing to consider is what KIND of trip you want.   Are you limited on time but want to see as much as possible?  Are you traveling on a  budget or are you hoping for some luxury?  Do you want to go slow and steady and soak up the experience?    Whatever type of trip that you want – don’t worry!  India has something for everyone.

For budget travellers, India is a dream destination.  Hotels are cheap and hostels are becoming more and more popular around the country.   Starting at around $3 per night for a dorm bed, hostels allow you to meet up with other travellers and usually offer a very social atmosphere.   One of our favorite chains is Zostel. With 36 properties located across India, Zostels are safe, comfortable and centrally located.  Another company that we love is Treebo.  With well-designed rooms and great value rates, Treebo has hotels in over 75 locations across India.  For luxury travellers, India is your oyster!  With fantastic heritage properties, 5-star hotels and gorgeous seaside resorts, India is a country that prides herself on amazing customer service.  Notable chains include Taj Hotels & Resorts, Oberoi, and Neemrana with a variety of beautifully restored fort hotels.  No trip to India is complete without a stay at the iconic Taj Hotel in Mumbai or the quirky Best Exotic Marigold Hotel near Udaipur.

India is also the perfect destination for slow travellers.  Train routes crisscross the country and although some of the trips may be a bit time consuming, they offer a fascinating look into the daily life of India.  The downsides of train travel is that booking train tickets can be a bit confusing (you may or may not need an Indian credit card – this is constantly changing) and tickets tend to sell out very quickly.   If time is of the essence, fast travellers will be happy to know that hiring private cars and drivers is surprisingly reasonable and that flight tickets can be surprisingly cheap on most of the very popular routes.

Top Tip:  Regardless of the type of trip you are taking, it is incredibly important to get a local SIM card.  Without this, it is nearly impossible to use public wifi as a local phone number is often needed for security reasons.   While it is possible to get a SIM card at Delhi’s international terminal,  the shop is usually closed late at night when most international flights from Europe and the US arrive.   For American travellers, make sure that your phone is unlocked as well.

Once you have an idea of how long you will be traveling for and what type of budget you have to spend, you can begin to decide on WHERE you want to go.   Are you a culture-vulture, a history nut or an adrenaline junkie? Do you love beaches, mountains or deserts?  Is soaking up the sun in Goa your idea of a dream trip or is exploring the magnificent forts of Rajasthan more your thing?

Simply put, India has a ton of places to go.  The most famous tourism hotspots include Goa, Kerala, Rajasthan, and the famous Golden Triangle of Jaipur, Delhi and Agra (you can find our top tips for visiting the Taj Mahal here!).

Famous for its forts and palaces, Rajasthan really is the Land of Kings.  From the Golden City of Jaisalmer to the Pink City of Jaipur, Rajasthan’s ancient architecture feels straight out of a fairy tale.  The best time to go on a Rajasthan tour is during the winter months of October – March in order to escape the deadly heat.

Goa is hugely popular partly due to its string of beautiful beaches and also for its colorful architecture.   The laid back vibe of this tiny state makes even the most serious of travellers want to slip on some flip flops and shorts.   Palolem is one of the most famous beaches with good reason.  The beach is perfect for swimming and there is an interesting variety of restaurants and bars to choose from.  Further north, Ashwem offers an attractive respite and its close proximity to Panjim (the state capital) makes it an easy destination to reach.

Nicknamed “God’s Own Country”, Kerala is the home of India’s famous houseboats and no trip to the country is complete without a boat ride through Kerala’s backwaters. Alleppey is the starting point for any backwater adventure.  For tea-lovers, Munnar is the perfect spot to enjoy a delicious cuppa straight from the tea plantation.

But did you know that there is so much more waiting to be discovered?  India is comprised of 29 states and each one has something unique to offer.  Gujarat has spellbinding stepwells and one of the largest salt flats in the world.  Punjab is known for its delectable cuisine and the shimming Golden Temple –  Sikhism’s most holy spot.  West Bengal offers a more laid back vibe than other states and its capital, Kolkata, was India’s colonial capital.   Full of beautiful Victorian buildings and known for delicious street-food, Kolkata is also the starting point of any trip into the Sunderbans, a UNESCO World Heritage site or the Northeast.   The Seven Sisters of the Northeast are one of the most unexplored regions of India and have mind-boggling diversity and a fascinating history. Tamil Nadu is the home of Pondicherry, which boasts a quaint French Quarter that looks more like France than India and a plethora of brightly colored South Indian temples.   Mahabalipuram and Auroville are must-sees and provide a glimpse into India’s past, present and future. Finally, Ladakh is THE place to go for epic road trips with stunning scenery.  Its capital, Leh, is laid-back, friendly and has some of India’s cutest stray dogs!

India certainly deserves her nickname of “Incredible India” and throughout my travels as a solo female backpacker, I have always been treated with warmth and kindness.  So what are you waiting for?

Top Tip:  Organizing a trip to India can be time-consuming, confusing and exasperating.  Let us help make it easier.  Simply email us to say what your interests are, where you want to go, a rough budget and timeframe.  We will make your trip become a Reality!