Visitors Guide to Mumbai, India

By Sara | April 28, 2017

When you think, “Mumbai”, what comes to mind? Many people say Bollywood, India’s major film industry. Those more familiar with India may comment, “income disparity”, nodding to the drastic quality of life differences between Mumbai’s poor and wealthy. Yet others may answer “variety”, “opportunity”, or even “heat”, pointing out the small and major nuances of the metropolis.

Each of these aspects is a part of Mumbai, and there is so much more that makes up the city. Mumbai is the largest city in India, well known as the Bollywood capital of the world. It is a financial and entertainment center for the subcontinent, has the highest number of millionaires in the country, and is home to one of the largest slums in the world. Covering over 230 square miles, Mumbai is a massive place to explore with endless things to experience.

We spent two weeks in Mumbai, and could go back for another two weeks and not repeat a single attraction. There are endless things to experience in Mumbai, so we’ve put together a “starter kit” for some of the more popular Mumbai neighborhoods.

How to Get Around

While public transportation is available through parts of Mumbai, most people get around via rickshaw or cab service. Keep in mind that Mumbai is a very big city, and going from top to bottom can take well over an hour with traffic. Our suggestion would be to plan activities that are close together, and spend one to two days exploring each area.

Car: Uber is widely available throughout Mumbai, and seldom costs more than $3-6 to get anywhere in the city.

Rickshaw: Rickshaws are available through most of Mumbai, and many drivers rely on the meter for fares, unlike other cities in India. Be sure to either negotiate a rate before you start driving, or ensure that the meter is on to avoid getting ripped off.

What to See

Andheri & Airport Area

Global Vipassana Pagoda
This meditation hall is capped with a gold pointed dome and serves as a place of peace and harmony. It was built out of gratitude to Buddha’s teachings, and offers free meditation courses.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park
For a bit of greenery on a trip to Mumbai, check out the Gandhi National Park. Set across 40 square miles, it’s one of the most visited parks in the world. There are a variety of exhibitions through the park, and visitors should come prepared to walk or rent a bike as the distances are quite far and park transportation is not always reliable.

national park mumbai

Essel World
Essex World is an amusement and water park in north Mumbai that draws almost 2 million visitors each year. Visit for bowling, roller coaster rides, water park fun, and an ice rink.

Aksa Beach
Aska beach serves as a popular weekend destination in Mumbai. It’s a quieter area of Mumbai surrounded by Aska village, and is a good place to step away from Mumbai’s busyness.

Bandra & Juhu

Linking Road
Linking Road extends through a major part of Bandra and is filled with clothes, bags, shoes, and other shopping for bargain prices. It’s well worth a walk through the area.

Linking Road Mumbai

Prithvi Cafe
One of the best cafe’s we visited in Mumbai was the Prithvi Cafe. Tucked on a side street, the cafe is quite spacious with hanging lanterns, fresh baked goods, and plenty of chai. The cafe doubles as a theatre with regular local shows.

Juhu Beach
One of the nicest beaches in Mumbai is Juhu Beach. Located amongst several upscale hotels, the entire Juhu area is home to a slew of celebrities and Bollywood stars. Food vendors and a variety of good restaurants sit both on the beach and in the vicinity.

Juhu Beach Mumbai

Dharavi & Dadar

Dharavi Slums
The Dharavi slums encompass less than one square mile yet are home to almost 1 million people, making it one of the most densely populated places on earth. Most people who reside in Dharavi live on about $1 USD per day, and Dharavi has been subject to many epidemics due to poor sanitation and healthcare. There are guided tours that explain the problems and challenges in more detail throughout Mumbai.

Dadar Flower Market
Photographers may enjoy a stroll through the Dadar Market, which serves as a wholesale flower market for Mumbai’s weddings and events. The best time to arrive is early mornings when the flowers are fresh, as most business is over by 9-10am.

Siddhivinayak Mandir
Mumbai has no shortage of temples, and the Siddhivinayak Mandir is no exception. Said to be one of the wealthiest temples in the city, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shri Ganesh, one of the most worshipped deities in the Hindu religion.

Worli

Quattro Ristorante
If you get tired of Indian cuisine, or just can’t handle the spiciness, Quattro is a fantastic restaurant to try out. Just across from a major mall in Mumbai, Quattro serves true Italian fare and has stellar service. A four course meal for two costs around $40, which is pricey by India standards, but quite affordable for westerners.

Dhobi Ghat
Ever wanted to see the world’s largest open air laundry facility? If it hadn’t crossed your mind, it’s still worth a visit. Dhobi Ghat is where most of the hotels and motels get their sheets cleaned, along with many of the locals. The best view is from the highway bridges, though more adventurous souls can wander through the neighborhood area. Bring a buddy on this trip and beware of scams asking you to pay money to enter.

Dobhi Ghat Mumbai

Nehru Science Center
India places a heavy focus on STEM education, and this interactive science museum assists with that. As the largest interactive science center in India, the museum features over 500 exhibits on energy, sound, kinematics, and mechanics.

Haji Ali Dargah
One of the most recognizable mosques in Mumbai lies on an islet off the coast of Worli. The mosque was constructed in memory of a wealthy merchant who gave up his worldly possessions to travel and teach the Islamic religion. He settled and passed away in Mumbai, with a final wish to be buried wherever his body washed ashore, which is where the mosque now sits today.

Gandhi Museum
Remnants and tributes to Gandhi are visible throughout Mumbai, and India. This museum includes letters written by Gandhi, photos, paintings, and the blood-stained robe that Gandhi wore the day he was assassinated.

gandhi-museum

Hanging Gardens
To get away from the constant hustle and bustle of Mumbai, head to the Hanging Gardens. These terraced gardens offer a quiet atmosphere and some much needed greenery.

AER Bar Four Seasons Hotel
For a glimpse at the Mumbai high life, head to the Four Seasons hotel rooftop bar. The AER bar is a good place to grab a drink and has some incredible views of the city at night.

AER Bar Mumbai

Chor Bazaar (Thieves Market)
One of the major tourist attractions in Mumbai is the Chor Bazaar. As one of the largest flea markets in India, Chor Bazaar has endless antiques and second hand goods. It was nicknamed the Theives market because there is a saying that anything stolen can be bought back at the Chor Bazzar. Queen Victoria herself experienced this when a violin went missing on a visit to Mumbai, and was later found for sale in this market.

Fort

Marine Drive
A trip to Mumbai is not complete without taking a stroll down Marine Drive. The C-shaped boulevard is lined with palm trees and filled with high end hotels and restaurants. Stop by for the view and stay for festivities as nighttime rolls around.

marine drive mumbai

Crawford Market
One of the most famous markets in Mumbai is the Crawford Market. The market is best known for its variety of fruits, vegetables, and poultry items. Another side of the market sells a variety of pets such as dogs, cats and birds. Endangered species are also illegaly sold at this market, so buyers be cautious and considerate.

Flora Fountain
The Flora Fountain is a nice place to take a walk and appreciate an exquisite architectural piece. This heritage monument depicts the Roman goddess Flora and was built in the late 1800’s.

Colaba Causeway
From shopping to dining to art galleries to movies, the Colaba Causeway has it all. The causeway takes some time to explore, so budget at least an afternoon to wander.

Gateway of India
Overlooking the Arabian Sea, the Gateway of India was once used by fishermen as an entry point to Mumbai. Now, the gate welcomes prominent political figures and serves as Mumbai’s top tourist attraction.

gateway-of-india

Bombay High Court
As one of the oldest High Courts in India, the Bombay High Court has jurisdiction over Maharashtra, the state Mumbai resides in, as well as Goa, a coastal state. It is one of the most distinguished courts in the country by both build and duty, and rulings from this court can only be appealed to the Supreme Court of India.

Horniman Circle Gardens
These gardens make up a large park in southern Mumbai, and are surrounded by several offices and banks. The gardens are a nice place to walk around or find some quiet during a day of sight-seeing.

Prince of Wales Museum of Western India
To get a good understanding of Indian history, check out the Price of Wales Museum. With over 50,000 exhibits of Indian history, the museum was founded and named during a visit from Edward VIII, who at the time was the Price of Wales.

Where to Stay

We found choosing a place to stay in Mumbai much more difficult than other cities in India. The hostel scene is not very developed in Mumbai, leaving budget travelers little options. There are many hotels to choose from, all at varying prices, along with several good Airbnb options. We’ve linked to some of our top picks below.

Big Budget: JW Marriot Mumbai Sahar ($150 USD per room) or Mumbai Hyatt Regency ($100 USD per room)
Mid Range Budget: Airbnb ($20 USD to $40 USD per room)
Low Budget: Bombay Backpackers ($14 USD per bed)

Should You Visit Mumbai?

For anyone traveling to India, we’d suggest visiting Mumbai for at least a few days. Mumbai is a massive city with endless areas to explore, and provides a good introduction to the country. To have an enjoyable and safe experience, here are a few parting tips we’ll leave you with:

  1. While you’re out and about, try some of the street food from vendors with long lines. Longer lines usually indicate that the food safe to eat, and tastes good too!
  2. Always travel with a buddy, particularly if you are female. India is a fascinating country, and though Mumbai is progressive in many ways you will likely feel safer traveling in pairs.
  3. As for any city in India, always carry hand sanitizer, a few sheets of toilet paper, and extra rupees (cash), as it can be hard to find these items while you’re out and about.

Have some must-visit places in Mumbai that we missed? Comment your suggestions below!

11 Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

By Sara | April 3, 2017

Kuala Lumpur is one of the most diverse cities in Southeast Asia. As a cultural melting pot with citizens from Asia, India, and expats from all over the world, Kuala Lumpur has a bit of everything.

What we loved most about Kuala Lumpur was the amount of contrast the city had. The downtown area is filled with modern skyscrapers and the iconic Petronas Towers, while the heart and soul of the city beats through traditional neighborhoods and markets.

Kuala Lumpur is a very livable city, and visitors will find no shortage of things to do and places to eat. Whether you’ve got two days to kill or two weeks to explore, here are some of our top recommendations in Kuala Lumpur.

Shop til You Drop at KLCC

The only city we’ve been to that beats Kuala Lumpur in shopping malls is Dubai. KLCC functions as Kuala Lumpur’s city center, and is predominantly filled with multi-story mega-malls. Though the shopping itself is great, and at bargain prices compared to other countries, be sure to also check out the food courts for some incredible meals.

Enjoy the KLCC Lake Symphony Light Show

After a long day of shopping, head outside to the KLCC fountain. Every evening a stunning water light show plays in the middle of the park and lights up the sky with stunning colors.

KLCC Kuala Lumpur

Take a Stroll through the Butterfly Park

Kuala Lumpur’s butterfly park is located right next to the Bird Park and Botanical Gardens. The park has over 5,000 butterflies, and is filled with exotic plants and serene scenery.

Explore the Central Market

Just outside of Chinatown sits the Central Market, an indoor shopping center with handmade goods from around Asia. It’s well worth taking a stroll through the stalls before heading over to Chinatown.

Central market Kuala Lumpur

Haggle in Chinatown

Most major cities around the world have a Chinatown, and Kuala Lumpur is no exception. Travelers can wander endlessly through the rows of vendors selling clothes, trinkets, accessories, and food.

Photograph the Petronas Towers

A trip to Kuala Lumpur would be incomplete without visiting the Petronas Towers. The tallest twin towers in the world are something to marvel at, and are a night photographers dream. The views from inside the towers are just as amazing as from the outside, so take the trip up to the top if you have time.

Petronas Towers Kuala Lumpur

Indulge in Street Food at Jalan Alor

The street food in Kuala Lumpur rivals top european competitors like Prague and Budapest. By far, the best place to go is the Jalan Alor evening market. The road is lined with vendors selling all kinds of authentic Malaysian and Asian cuisine, and it’s a great place to spend an evening relaxing and meeting new people.

Hike at the Batu Caves

For those who like hiking and the outdoors, the Batu Caves is the place to go. The limestone hill leads to a series of caves and temples. Near the top sites one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India.

Batu Caves Kuala Lumpur

Ride the Genting Cable Cars

For a scenic view, ride Kuala Lumpur’s cable cars up to the Genting Highlands. The ride takes about 15 minutes and offers stunning views of Kuala Lumpur and the highlands.

Visit the Sri Mahamariamman Temple

Temple-goers may enjoy visiting the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur. The temple is an important place of worship for those who practice Hinduism.

Take a Day Trip to Malacca City

If you’ve exhausted everything there is to do in Kuala Lumpur and want to see a piece of history, take a day trip to Malacca City. The oldest city in Malaysia has a rich history and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

malacca city Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur impressed us more than we were expecting, and has plenty to offer travelers visiting Asia. As a budget-friendly city armed with both modern and classic sites, Kuala Lumpur is a must-visit place on a trip to Southeast Asia.

How Much Does it Cost to Travel India for 3 Months?

By Sara | March 6, 2017

India. When we began contemplating where to go after Europe, we knew that it had to be somewhere different. Though Europe is amazing, we weren’t being pushed to experience a completely different lifestyle in the way that we hoped to.

Our final two choices came down to the east coast of Africa, or the subcontinent of India. If it wasn’t obvious from the title of this post, India was the winner.

We didn’t know much about India other than the fact that most people either loved it and swore it changed their life, or hated it with a burning passion. After spending three full months there, we can see how both types of people arrive at their conclusions.

India is dirty. It’s smelly, smoggy, dusty, a litter mine, you name the type of gross and it can be found. Soap is a rarity, toilet paper is almost non existent, and bugs of every kind live wherever they please. Many of the citizens do not respect each other, and female safety is a legitimate daily concern.

But India is also stunningly beautiful. It has some of the best landscapes in the world. The cuisine is bursting with flavor. The art and textiles are vibrant and one of a kind. Many people will welcome you into their homes as if you were family, and the children just want to be kids like everywhere else.

India is a place of parallels and changed our outlook on many aspects of life. In addition to being an incredible place to explore, India is a very inexpensive country to travel through. We stayed in India for three months and spent a grand total of $3,978. Split between two people, that’s $1,989, or $663 per month. Keep reading to find out how we did it!

Accommodation

While booking accommodation in India is not difficult, there are less options available than when booking in westernized countries. Our favorite way to travel is through Airbnb, but we found that aside from global cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore, there really weren’t a lot of options. Be prepared to stay in either hotels, hostels, or guesthouses through much of India.

Our nightly budget for accommodation in India was $20, which is a generous amount for most of India. Every booking we made was well under this price per night, with the exception of Mumbai. During the three months we traveled through India, we spent a total of $1,108 on accommodation. That’s $12 a day for two people, or $6 a day per person.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that most hostels in India were higher quality than hostels in Europe, and for much better prices. On average, a hostel bunk in India costs $4-6 per person each night. In lieu of shared rooms, many nearby guesthouses rent out private rooms, which range from $8-15 per night.

The tricky thing about housing in India is that the line between basic accommodation and high quality accommodation has a very large price difference. Budget travelers will have an easy time finding affordable places to stay, but those craving western amenities should expect to pay for a 4 or 5 star hotel, which averages $100+ per night in India.

We looked into mid range accommodation at 3 star hotels, but found more often than not that the hotels were infested with bugs or lacked basic amenities, like windows and private bathrooms. We were more impressed with the quality for price we received for budget accommodation than mid-range accommodation, and would recommend either choosing high end or budget stays when visiting India.

When booking accommodation in India, there a few things to keep in mind:

1. Visit the Property

While many times planning accommodation ahead of time is helpful, this isn’t always the case in India. Particularly for long stays, it’s far better to book one night at a highly rated guesthouse, and then spend an hour or two “shopping” for other options. Many times we found places that weren’t advertised online that had better amenities and lower rates than the original place we booked.

2. Read the Reviews

Many budget guesthouses and hostels do not include photos of their property, or include poor or outdated ones. This is a common reality in India, so rely on previous reviews, particularly those with details for a rough understanding of what’s included. Look for reviews that state “hot water”, “clean premises”, “comfortable beds”, and “good wifi”.

3. Be Flexible

Unless you book every night in India at hotels like the Marriott or Hyatt, expect to lower your standards for accommodation. Things like constant hot water, absence of bugs, and quality food are likely to not be present at some of the places you stay, especially in rural India. Arriving with low or no expectations can alleviate some of the stress of not having western amenities.

To get a better idea of how far your money will go, we’ve ranked the cities we visited by accommodation cost. Below you’ll find the top 3 most expensive cities we stayed at in India, as well as the top 3 cheapest cities we stayed in. All of these costs represent either Airbnb or hostel stays.

Top 3 Expensive Cities We VisitedPrice Per Night on a $20 BudgetTop 3 Cheapest Cities We VisitedPrice Per Night on a $20 Budget
Mumbai, India$32Manali, India$9
New Delhi, India$22Agra, India$10
Kochi, India$15Udaipur, India$12

Food

With our accommodation costs so low, we were able to eat as cheaply or as extravagantly as we wanted to. Food is a tricky game in India, because the water is unsafe to drink and many basic food storage standards in western countries do not exist in India.

We followed a general rule of thumb of only eating street food from vendors that had a queue, and sticking to restaurants that had good reviews. For the most part, these principles kept us healthy, though Greg did experience a bout of food poisoning after eating a vegetable dish where the food hadn’t been properly stored.

As a safety precaution, we would not recommend eating any meat in India unless you prepare it yourself. Every time we tried a chicken or beef dish, sections of the meat were not fully cooked. Meat dishes aren’t very common in India because of Hindu beliefs, so if you can go vegetarian while there you’ll probably have some tastier meals anyway!

While we typically like to cook our own meals, we found due to the lack of Airbnb’s that it was seldom an option. Luckily, food in India doesn’t cost very much. A typical meal on the street may run $1-3, and a decent meal at a restaurant costs $5-10. We ate a fantastic 4-course meal at a nice restaurant in Mumbai for $40. Overall, our total food cost for three months in India was $1,382. That’s $16 a day for two people, or $8 a day per person.

Transportation

Last but not least, transportation. We published a full post on transportation in India here, but will touch on it lightly in this post as well. Transportation in India is very cheap, but can also be very difficult to navigate.

During our three months in India, we collectively spent $265 on rickshaw and Uber rides inside each city, and $393 on flights, trains, and longer busses to switch cities and leave the country. Added together for a grand total of $658, that breaks down to about $7.50 per day for two people, or $3.75 per person.

The easiest and fastest way to get around is by plane, and if planned in advance isn’t too expensive. Trains and busses typically cost $5-15 per person, but take much longer and are difficult to book without an Indian phone number and bank account. If you have any plans to take ground transportation, we recommend booking with a travel agent in the city, who will charge a $1 fee in exchange for booking your ticket.

For a more in depth look at navigating India, check out our full transportation post here.

Everything Else

Accommodation, food, and transportation are the biggest costs you’ll have when traveling India, unless you happen to get sick enough for a hospital visit. We met several people on the trip who this had happened to, which is another reason to have a global travel insurance policy.

Though we did not have to pay for hospital expenses, we still had a few extra costs during our time in India. As we mentioned in our 9 Months in Europe post, every month we pay a phone bill of $90 to T-Mobile so that we can both have data automatically in every country. In India, this bill went up by about $20 per month because we used Uber to get around, and the international driver calls cost 20 cents per minute for each call.

Additionally, our 5×5 storage unit with all of our belongings costs $60 per month, and our car insurance for the car we keep in storage is $40 per month. Added together, we paid $669 in phone, insurance, and storage bills while in India.

Be sure to factor in what types of souvenirs you’ll want to bring back from India, because it truly feels like another world, and many states are known for having exquisite textiles, rugs, and fabrics. We shipped one medium sized box back to the states for Christmas for about $15.

Lastly, you will very likely need a visa to visit India! We obtained our 3 month visas while in Spain, and paid $75 per person.

The Total Cost for Three Months in India

Traveling through India has been one of the toughest, but most rewarding experiences we’ve had during our travels. While it certainly isn’t for everyone, it’s a life changing experience for those who do go.Here’s one last full breakdown of how much it costs to travel India for three months.

Total For Two PeoplePrice Per PersonCost Per Person Per Day Over Three Months
Visa Fees$146$73$0.80
Accommodation$1,108$554$6
Food$1,382$691$8
Transportation$658$329$3.75
Bills and Boxes$684$342$4
Grand Total  in India$3,978$1,989$23

On $23 per day, per person we were able to live somewhat comfortably and eat as much as we wanted. We do some freelance work while we travel, and increased our net worth while in India thanks to the low cost of living. This budget could easily slide up or down depending on how high or low your standards are for accommodation, housing, and transportation.

Though India is a rougher and tougher place to travel, it’s a great place for adventurers who are open to new experiences and who have a lower budget. With the exception of the high life that can be found in Mumbai and parts of Goa, expect services to be very basic.

We could have easily spent more money on accommodation in India, but found that we gained a better local insight when staying in budget guesthouses. We also could have saved more money on food, but preferred to have quality, safe meals. Our costs reflect this, and we advise anyone traveling to India to adjust their budgets according to their preferences.

India is the most vibrant country we’ve ever been to, and will remain part of our lives forever.

Udaipur, India: The Perfect City Escape

By Sara | February 11, 2017

After spending two weeks in Jaipur’s vibrant but congested pink city maze, we were eager to board our train to Udaipur. We’d heard nothing but good things about the so called “city of lakes”  and were excited at the prospect of finding another gem like Manali.

The ride to Udaipur was our simplest yet, as the city was only six hours away from Jaipur by train; mere sister cities, by India standards. Upon arriving we instantly noticed something different – smooth roads.

Our rickshaw navigated the streets with a speed unattainable elsewhere in India, where the potholes and jagged road lines prevent efficient speeds and steering.

The second revelation we had was in regards to the air quality. Though still a busy city, compared to Delhi and Jaipur, the air in Udaipur was easy to breathe, and what congestion did exist was lessened by the two lakes flowing through the city’s entirety. 

In central Udaipur sits Lake Pichola, a manmade lake with an island palace in the center.  Bridges link the shortest portions of the lake’s edges together, creating an incredible photo spot. Adjacent to Pichola is The Fateh Sagar Lake, which offers evening boat rides and a sidewalk promenade to take in the views.

The lakes provide a sense of calm and quietness to those visiting Udaipur, and that feeling is matched with the charm of the locals. 

As a part of Rajasthan, the Indian state known for textiles and silks, Udaipur locals largely specialize the arts. From theatre to pointillism to exquisite ink paintings, it’s impossible to not notice the love and care the locals put into their trades.

Craftsmen in Udaipur are always eager to offer a cup of chai and talk about their art forms, and we shared many memorable afternoons in the home galleries of locals.

With hilly views, tranquil lakes, and sunsets that rival the Caribbean, Udaipur natives have learned that rooftop eateries are the way to please tourists. Throughout Udaipur the advertisements for rooftop bars, restaurants, cafes, and guesthouse decks are endless, giving even the most fugal traveler an opportunity to enjoy the view.

Udaipur Sunset

We had initially only intended to visit Udaipur for 5 days, but ended up staying a full two weeks. India is a vast country with a wide range of environments, and Udaipur is one that you won’t want to pass by.

Planes, Trains, and Buses: How to Travel India

By Sara | February 3, 2017

Getting around in India can be a frustrating process. There are a number of ways to travel from city to city, and a number of ways to book tickets. Transportation was an area that we struggled with while in India, and hope to provide some tips so others have a better experience. Here are our best tips to travel India by plane, train, and bus.

Airplanes

If money is no object, flying is the fastest, easiest choice. Simply go to your favorite booking engine and choose your flights. If planned far enough in advance, domestic flights in India only cost $15-50 USD.

Tip: Before booking a flight, check how far the airport is from the city center. Sometimes the cost to the airport ends up being the same cost of a bus ticket due to distance!

Trains

India has one of the largest train networks in the world, and routes that will take you to almost anywhere. Train tickets typically cost $7-30 USD per ticket, depending on distance and dates.

Booking

The trick with trains in India is planning in advance. Tickets sell out quickly, and it’s advised to book 90 days in advance. There are usually still spots up to two weeks ahead, but this isn’t guaranteed.

To book a train ticket in India, you need to create IRCTC account. I’m going to be perfectly honest: this process is an absolute nightmare if you aren’t an Indian national, and doesn’t always work even if you follow the steps to the ’T’. Additionally, you MUST have an Indian phone number to book yourself.

If you feel like jumping through all of the hoops, check out this article for a step by step process to create an account.

If reading the steps makes you dizzy with confusion, or you don’t want to get an Indian phone number, your best bet is to book train tickets through a travel agent. Travel agents can easily be found in every city throughout India, and are typically located on the city’s busiest streets.

Simply tell the agent where you’d like to go, what date you’d like to travel, and what train class you prefer. The agent will charge a 100 rupee ($1.50) fee for booking your ticket, which you pay directly to them, along with the ticket cost. They’ll then give you a paper ticket for your date of travel.

**Tip: It doesn’t hurt to check with your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb host to see if they will book you a ticket through their IRCTC account instead. At the very least, they should be able to point you to a nearby agent.

Train Classes

When choosing your train class, there are several options. This article nicely outlines each option. Our personal recommendation is to choose the side berths in AC2 or AC3 cars for overnight trips, and the AC Seater car for day trips.

On the Train

Once you arrive at the station, find out where your train boards, and then watch for your car. The train car classes are written on the outside of each car, and you have 2-5 minutes from when the train arrives at the station to get on board.

The trains offer meals, typically biryani and chapati along with chai, and cost around 70 rupees ($1.10). From our experience, the train food is safe to eat, so you can expect a decent, hot meal.

Another advantage to trains is having a bathroom on board, although I use this term very loosely. The train bathrooms are quite literally holes in the bottom of the train (you don’t want to walk on India’s train tracks). Be sure to bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you, as the likelihood of either being present is slim to none.

Trains are a great way to experience the Indian culture and countryside, and will get you where you need to be fairly effectively. The major downside of train travel in India is how far in advance reservations typically need to be made. For travelers who enjoy a more flexible schedule, busses may be the better option.

Busses

Busses are another effective way to get around India, and often cost less than train tickets. The major advantage to booking bus tickets is that they are always available and can be booked as late as same day travel. Bus tickets in India usually cost $5-20 USD.

Booking

Booking busses is a bit easier than booking trains, but still has hassles. Services like redbus.com and abhibus.com show bus schedules and allow online booking, but typically don’t accept international credit cards or phone numbers.

Like with trains, the easiest way to book a ticket is through a travel agent.

Types of Busses

Busses in India come in a variety of types. The main options you’ll have are Seater, Semi-Sleeper, and Sleeper. Each of these options has an additional variant of whether you prefer an air-conditioned or non air-conditioned bus.

We found the sleeper busses to be our favorite type of bus travel. Each berth has its own privacy curtain, and enough space to stretch out entirely. Also, unlike trains, the berths don’t fold, so you can have a bed to yourself for the full ride without others sitting on it.

Semi-sleepers can also be a good option, but aren’t as comfortable as sleeper busses. The seats recline almost all the way back, but you have less space to adjust for sleeping.

Seater busses are good for shorter distances or day journey’s, and are the cheapest option.

**Tip: Not all busses are made equal. Volvo busses are the nicest busses India has. If a booking agent offers you a Volvo bus, we’d advise choosing it.

On the Bus

A major drawback to busses is lack of bathrooms and lack of food. The bus driver will stop one time for food, at a restaurant of their choosing. These restaurants don’t typically have great food, so we’d advise bringing your own snacks for the trip.

The busses also don’t have bathrooms, so judge your water intake carefully! Drivers typically stop one or two additional times aside from the food stop for a bathroom break. These stops can be on the side of the road or at a squat toilet facility. Either way, bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer!

More Things to Consider

Long distance travel in India isn’t glamorous, but is certainly an adventure. Here’s a couple more tips to help you on your journey through India.

  1. When making decisions about how to travel, take comfort and time into consideration as well as cost. Often the price difference between flying and taking a train is only a few dollars. The extra time saved and comfort had may be worth the extra cost so you can explore your next destination right away.
  2. When given an option between A/C and non A/C, choose A/C. India is hot, year round.
  3.  Always, always, always bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer. A tiny bottle of hand soap doesn’t hurt either.

Whether flying, taking trains, or taking a bus, those who successfully navigate travel in India can navigate travel almost anywhere else. A little patience and creativity goes a long way, and the stories gained from difficult travel are worth the hassle down the line. We wish you the best of luck!

How India Taught Me Patience

By Sara | January 10, 2017

My parents tell me that when I was little, I was the only kid they knew that operated on a schedule. I woke up and went to sleep at the exact same time every day without fail, save for one night.

As the story goes, I was a year old, standing in my crib in the middle of the night, sobbing my eyes out and pointing at my dresser. After trying the usual baby soothing methods, my Mom followed the path my finger was on to find one of the dresser handles flipped upwards, instead of downwards like all the other handles. A simple flick to change the handle direction, and their clockwork baby was back.

As I’ve grown older, my desire for order remains largely unchanged. Those who know me well understand that I love to be impeccably organized, have things meticulously planned (with an additional plan B,C, and D) and complete tasks with checkboxes on a set timeline. They may also describe my less stellar qualities as impatient or controlling.

Over the years I’ve learned that frustrating as it may be, I can’t force the world to operate on my schedule. Not everyone has the same sense of urgency that I do, and crying until someone flips a dresser handle just doesn’t have the same effect when you’re an adult.

Realizing a fault and changing a fault are two different challenges. After getting frustrated for the umpteenth time on our backpacking trip, I realized that life would be much easier if I could learn to be more flexible.

So, I imposed upon myself the most logical, time effective solution: 3 months of budget backpacking through one of the world’s most notoriously frustrating countries: India.

I figured that if I wanted to live life more flexibly, I should just get on with it already and learn the necessary lessons. So, off to India we flew.

Upon arrival in New Delhi, I was instantly overwhelmed.

Just outside the airport, several of my top frustrations greeted me with enthusiasm. There were bugs everywhere, and they were crawling on me no matter how hard I swatted. The smoggy air felt dirty to walk in. The blazing horns every five seconds set my irritation levels skyrocketing, and the sluggish data speeds prevented me from having control over our navigation in a new country.

It was then and there that I knew coming to India was the right decision.

Over the course of our first week I overcame issues that in any other country would have had me filing a complaint or calling the Better Business Bureau.

Our first Airbnb had not one, but two lizards roaming around. Slimy, green, creepy lizards that are meant to live outdoors. Not to mention the cockroaches who’s home was our bathroom, the lack of accessible, clean drinking water, and the smog that freely seeped into the house through poorly insulated drywall.

It wasn’t by any means easy, but I made a huge amount of progress during that first week in India. Forced to handle frustrations like insects indoors, loud noises, not feeling clean, and not having access to the usual creature comforts of western countries, I slowly started to become more flexible, and less irritable. When you can’t change your situation, what’s the point in getting upset anyways?

As time went on and we traveled further into the depths of India, both Greg and I were consistently tested with challenges.

The utter lack of disrespect for the environment is astounding in India, and the smells that accompany it can make one want to vomit.

The idea that it’s okay to keep the change, no matter the bill size, without asking, can be maddening coming from a society that pays back every small favor.

And the sheer decrease in standards for accommodation, food, and cleanliness took longer to adjust to than we care to admit.

India Traffic Delhi

In India, we learned how to not let a lack of soap, towels, and toilets ruin our day. When lack of basic necessities doesn’t stress you out, not much else does either.

We learned how to sleep through the honking that never ends in this country. The skill of quieting your mind before bed, regardless of your surroundings is incredibly valuable anywhere in the world.

We learned how to brush our teeth with bottled water, identify when we were being scammed, and deal with “Aunt Flo” in a country that largely lacks basic sanitary products. By taking away familiarity and comfort, a whole new opportunity opened to reshape our thinking and processing patterns.

I wasn’t entirely sure what I would find in India. My only hope was that it was a place that would push me to change in ways that Europe and the U.S. hadn’t.

In the past three months I’ve experienced growth in myself, my closest relationships, and my overall worldview. My initial goal of becoming a more patient, less irritable person was met, and I’ll leave India with so much more than that.

When you fling yourself into an environment entirely different than what you’re used to, new perspectives present themselves. Those perspectives allow us to consider problems from a fresh lens, and discover solutions outside the realm of what we thought possible.

For all its hassles and imperfections, traveling through India is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

10 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit Manali

By Sara | December 29, 2016

When we began planning a route through India, Manali was high on our “must visit” list. Though not a major city by any means, Manali has been highlighted more and more as a stunning destination. Located high up in the Himalayas, Manali is a hill station, adventure sport capital, and outdoor wonderland.

One of the best things about Manali is that it offers something for everyone. Thrill seekers come for the large variety of winter adventure sports. Photographers hike for the stunning nature views. Many come to escape the bustle of India’s city life, and some end up staying for good.

In Manali, everyone feels like family, masala tea is guzzled more often than water, and people prioritize mindfulness and leisure. Not convinced of a visit yet? Here’s our top 10 photos of Manali to try and persuade you.

Rooftop View Manali

Scenic Views From Our Guesthouse in Old Manali

Owl Manali Landscape

Early Morning Shot of a Lone Owl

Manali High Point Car

Our Off-roading 4×4 at the Summit

Manali Water

River Beas Running Through Manali

Manali Waterfall

Waterfall Captured on a Hike

Moon Manali

First Light in Old Manali

Pots Manali

Traditional Himalayan Kitchen

Manali Gate

Summit Gate

Manali Layers

Eagle Soaring Over Layers of Mountains

Manali Sara

Gazing at Manali’s Incredible Scenery

Travel in Delhi: Everything You Need to Know

By Sara | December 7, 2016

India is one of the most interesting countries in the world. With over 1.25 billion people, 29 states, and 22 official languages, it’s a place unlike any other.

New Delhi is the primary entry point to India, and at first glance travel in Delhi ca be intense and overwhelming. We spent 10 days in Delhi to really understand and explore the city, and compiled our top tips into this post. Here’s everything you need to know about travel in Delhi, India.

At the Airport

After going through security, you’ll need to pass through the visa checkpoints. They’ll ask you to fill out a form with information about your stay, so be sure to have access to the following information:

  1. Personal details like passport number, visa number, contact information
  2. Full address of the hotel, hostel, or Airbnb you’re staying at
  3. Contact number for someone in India (can be your hotel)

After filling out the form and answering arrival questions, you’re good to go! When you walk outside you’ll see endless taxis. Walk past all of them, and the people who approach you asking if you want a ride.

Find the pre-paid taxi stand, or ask if you don’t see it. This stand is run by the government, so prices to travel in Delhi are fair and inexpensive. Simply tell them the area you wish to go, and pay at the booth in full.

The ticket agent will give you a receipt and direct you to a driver who will take you wherever you need to be. The most you should end up paying at the airport is 500 rupees ($7).

Where to Stay

Choosing a place to stay in Delhi is different than other cities in India. Because the city is so huge and spread out, there is no traditional “city center”. It is instead broken up into Old Delhi, New Delhi, and the surrounding Delhi metropolitan area.

While a number of Delhi’s highlight attractions lie in Old Delhi, it’s the most jam-packed, dirty, and polluted area of India. Because transport options to travel in Delhi are so cheap, and the rest of the attractions are spread out around the city, we’d advise first timers to not stay in Old Delhi.

A better option is to choose anything in the South Delhi area. It’s a cleaner, nicer, more residential area and gives a much kinder introduction to both India and Delhi as a whole. Two great areas to find accommodation are Hauz Khas Village and Greater Kailash.

Use these neighborhoods as guides when searching booking sites like booking.com, hostelworld.com, and airbnb.com.

What to See

There are endless things to see, do and experience in Delhi, so we’ve listed just a few of the highlights below. In general, it’s not advisable to try and pack more than two or three things into one day purely because of the hectic nature of the city.

Try to choose one area that you want to explore each day, and choose things that are close to each other to minimize time looking at maps and flagging down drivers.

Sights in North/Old Delhi

Qutub Minar – The Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minaret (part of a mosque) in the world. Entry for non residents is 500 rupees, and the mosque can also be seen from the nearby Archaeological park just a 5 minute walk away.

Qutub Minar Delhi

Mehrauli Archaeological Park – This park is filled with over 100 historical monuments. It’s a nice quiet place to walk around and explore old ruins.

Janpath Street Market – Janpath is a busy market near Connaught place and the India gate. There are a variety of textile goods and trinkets that can purchased for low prices.

Red Fort – The Red Fort is a symbol of India and massive sandstone fortress. Many movies are shot on the premises, and the fort has several museums.

Red Fort Delhi

Jama Masjid – This 17th century mosque is one of the largest mosques in India.

Raj Ghat – This park is also the place where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated, and serves as a memorial to his legacy.

Chandni Chowk – Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest and busiest markets in India, and has been around for over 3 centuries. It’s a busy but fun place to walk around sampling street food and window shopping.

Kari Baoli Spice Market – Just at the end of Chandni Chowk begins the spice market. The sight and smells of rows upon rows of spices is definitely worth a visit.

Delhi Spices

National Gandhi Museum – The Gandhi museum holds collections of books, journals, audio recordings, and other exhibits dedicated to the life of Gandhi.

Garden of 5 Senses – This 20 acre park has a variety of different areas and things to see. It’s an interactive outdoor space and a major part of Delhi tourism.

Sights in Central Delhi

India Gate – The India Gate is a war memorial commemorating Indian soldiers that were killed in the first world war.

India gate Delhi

Connaught Place – Connaught Place is a large financial and business center in Delhi, and has plenty of western tips and restaurants nearby for those craving a small piece of home.

Humayun’s Tomb – This UNESCO world heritage site is the first garden tomb in India. It marks the site of the Mughal Emperor Humayun and is a distinct example of the Mughal architecture found throughout India.

Lodi Gardens – The Lodi Gardens cover over 90 acres and house several tombs. In the morning, many locals visit here for a walk to start their day because it’s a quiet place to rest from the city chaos.

Lodi gardens

Akshardham Temple – Over 70% of Delhi tourists visit this temple, which displays years of Hindi and Indian culture. The complex it resides in has water shows, gardens, and multiple exhibitions.

Salaam Baalak City Walk – This two hour guided tour is conducted by Indian citizens who used to live in the streets. They are now trained guides who want to improve their communication skills, and walk guests through inner city streets. Proceeds go back into the program that assists street kids in Delhi.

Sights in South Delhi

Sarojini Nagar Market – This market is a bit calmer than some of the markets in North Delhi, and has plenty of shopping and food options.

Lotus Temple – The Lotus Temple is worth a visit to see its floral shaped structure. The temple has won several architectural awards and is a nice place to walk around.

lotus-temple travel in delhi

Hauz Khas Village – This area of South Delhi has a number of restaurants, bars, and boutiques. It’s a good place to find handicrafts and hang out for a while.

Kunzum Travel Cafe – For those traveling solo, the travel cafe is a good place to meet other foreigners in India.

Travel in Delhi

There are a number of navigation options for travel in Delhi. Unfortunately, walking is tough to do because of the lack of sidewalks, heavy smog, massive distances, and congestion of traffic.

On a positive note, transportation is very cheap all through India, so finding rides won’t burn a hole in your pocket. The Delhi metro is always the cheapest option, especially if you’re near a metro stop. It can be a little overwhelming at first but tickets only cost a few rupees.

Another option is to take a tuk-tuk. You’ll find these in abundance, and they can take you anywhere you want to go. You’ll need to negotiate to get a reasonable price, and even then will pay more than the standard rate.

The last and most comfortable option is to use Uber or Ola cabs. Uber is present in most cities throughout India, and Ola cabs is there when Uber is not. Both are easy to use apps that charge fair rates.

For Ola cabs, you’ll need an Indian SIM card, but Uber works with your own cell phone number.

The most important thing to remember in India is to take it slow and bring your patience. Even busy places like Delhi are enjoyable to explore when you have an open mind! These tips should help first time visitors with travel in Delhi, and feel free to comment below on any that we missed.

Thanksgiving in India

By Sara | December 3, 2016

I can count on one hand how many times I’ve felt homesick this year. Once the night we left my Mom’s house in Wisconsin. A few times around the six month mark of our travels, and this year as the holiday season started.

While I was mentally prepared for the time spent away from my family, I never took time to process what being abroad for the holidays would feel like. Last week, as my Facebook feed started to fill with friends traveling home, families reunited with pets, and cooking frenzy’s beginning, I truly felt homesick.

Thanksgiving has been a long standing family tradition in my family, and the day is typically filled with a kitchen full of chefs, met later with a giant table of hungry friends and family members. The smells of pumpkin pie and hot apple cider waft through the house as shrieks of laughter from little ones add the perfect ambiance to the ultimate “family day”.

This year, I was at a complete loss on how to celebrate Thanksgiving in India. We’ve been staying in hostels since they’re actually nicer than Airbnb’s and many hotels in India. Though our accommodation had a massive kitchen, there was no oven, no family, and certainly no chance of a turkey.

Greg, ever the optimist, suggested that we splurge a little, and celebrate Thanksgiving in India, turkey and budget be damned. After several prods I agreed, and turned to the ultimate source of inspiration: Pinterest.

Typing phrases like “no bake stuffing” and “pumpkin puree from scratch” had me feeling like a Thanksgiving fraud, but Pinterest came through for me in the end. After a few hours of creative searching, I compiled a list of recipes and ingredients that I was reasonably confident existed in India.

The next day Greg and I headed to the most modern part of Jaipur, where Google said two expat grocery stores existed. The grocery trip ended up taking three hours, two Hindi translators, and a bit of improvisation when we couldn’t find western ingredients.

Fun fact: Mix white sugar with molasses or honey to create a DIY brown sugar!

Some luxury imported ingredients ended up costing us extra, like $15 for a bag of frozen cranberries, and $11 for 250 grams of pecans. Luckily, we made up those costs by the low cost of fruits and veggies, and only spent $5 on apples, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, and 2 pumpkins. In total, the entire shopping list was around $120.

When we returned to the hostel, I ran into two girls from America. Sarah, from Minnesota, and Chloe, from California. We were all feeling the Thanksgiving blues, and decided to cook the meal together for a ‘Friendsgiving’.

thanksgiving in India friends

Word quickly spread of our endeavor, and over the course of the afternoon we acquired waves of people eager to help chop, slice, and whisk together the meal. I am so grateful that Sarah and Chloe were cooking as well, because I largely underestimated the amount of work it was to create every dish scratch.

thanksgiving cooking

After four hours of cooking, we had prepared a meal of fresh pumpkin soup, garlic mashed potatoes with bacon bits, sweet potatoes with a caramelized pecan topping, apple onion stuffing, brown sugar glazed carrots, and cranberry marshmallow fluff.

thanksgiving in india_food

Twenty people, most of whom hadn’t grown up with the holiday of Thanksgiving, embodied it’s namesake and traditions in an incredibly beautiful, authentic way.

What had started as a resentful holiday ended up being one of my favorite travel moments of the year. As the meal wrapped up and everyone slipped into their respective food coma, I FaceTimed with my family to wish them a happy start to their Thanksgiving. Greg and I have much to be thankful for this holiday season, and will remember our Thanksgiving in India forever.

thanksgiving in india_group

16 Things to Do in Jerusalem

By Sara | November 6, 2016

When planning a trip around the world, Jerusalem isn’t the first place that comes to mind. Located in the heart of Israel near the Dead Sea, Jerusalem is a place that has long been the center of religious conflict. It’s a holy place of worship for Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike and links back to the biblical era.

With dozens of sites holding religious significance, Jerusalem is somewhere that many feel a connection to. Over 3.5 million tourists visit Jerusalem each year, and for good reason! The amount of sights to see and things to do in Jerusalem are endless, so we’ve compiled a brief list of the top things to do in Jerusalem to get you started.

1. Photograph Temple Mount

Temple Mount is one of the most important religious sites in the entire world, and one of the top things to do in Jerusalem. Valued in the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religions, it is a site fought over, worshipped at, and studied in depth. Currently, Temple Mount belongs exclusively to those of the Muslim faith, so Jews flock to the Western Wall to be as close as they can to the temple.

2. Observe at the Western Wall

This ancient limestone wall is a small piece of a larger wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is connected to Temple Mount, the holiest of places in Judaism and the third holiest place in the Muslim religion.

western wall

3. Explore Hezekiah’s Tunnels

Carved under the City of David in ancient times are Hezekiah’s Tunnels. Visitors can tour the tunnels and learn of their history, though be sure to wear proper clothes as the water is quite high.

4. Discover Artifacts at the Israel Museum

Ranked as one of the leading art and archaeology museums in the world, the Israel museum is a great place to visit to learn more about Israeli history. The museum holds a number of precious artifacts including the Dead Sea Scrolls, a nail from the crucifixion period, and artifacts discovered at Masada.

5. Visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum is Israel’s official tribute to those who perished during the holocaust. The museum holds moving stories and mementos of the horrific experiences Jews were subject to.

6. Shop at the Mahane Yehuda Market

Often referred to simply as “the shuk”, the Yehuda market is a 250+ stall area in Jerusalem that sells fresh fruits, vegetables, breads, kosher meat, nuts, and trinkets. It’s the best place to get fresh food in Jerusalem and is open every day.

souks things to do in jerusalem

7. Get Cheap Eats at Cofix

One of the biggest misconceptions about Israel is that it is cheap to travel in. Prices in Jerusalem, and Israel as a whole, are quite high and budget travelers will need to work hard to save. A great budget place is Cofix.

Easily found throughout every major city in Israel, every food item sold at Cofix is priced at 5 shekels, or $1.30. You won’t find prices close to that anywhere else!

8. Climb to the Mount of Olives

When deciding which things to do in Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives should be on your list. Now used as a cemetery, Mount of Olives was once an Olive Tree hillside.

 It is considered a holy place to be buried and holds over 150,000 graves. The Mount also serves as a reference point for many biblical stories. Several events during the life of Jesus took place at the Mount, and it is a place both Jews and Christians frequent.

9. Walk Through the Garden of Gethsemane

At the foot of the Mount of Olives lies the Garden of Gethsemane. As biblical sources tell, the Garden is where Jesus and his disciples prayed the night before he was crucified.

10. Retrace History at the Tower of David Museum

The Tower of David Museum displays 4,000 years of Jerusalem and Israeli history. Jerusalem has had several rulers, and the museum details how the city adapted under each regime using drawings, holograms, and other artistic models.

tower of david museum things to do in jerusalem

11. View the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Two of the holiest sites in Christianity can be found in Jerusalem. Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre lies both the site where Jesus was crucified as well as his empty tomb. Many Christians travel to this church on spiritual pilgrimages.

12. Watch the Sunrise at Masada National Park

Masada is perhaps on of the greatest places in the world to watch a sunrise. The cliffside overlooks the dead sea and Judaean desert, and is best seen in the early morning hours.

13. Float in the Dead Sea

If you’ve ever desired to visit the lowest elevation point on land, come to the dead sea. This salt lake is the deepest salt lake in the world, and is ten times saltier than the ocean. Visitors can float in the water, or purchase the famed dead sea products from nearby shops.

14. Relax at the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

One of the most visited nature sites in all of is Israel, the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve has fresh streams, beautiful waterfalls, and plenty of animals. It’s a great place to relax and unwind after a trip to Masada and the Dead Sea.

things to do in jerusalem_ein gedi nature reserve

15. Stand in the Center of the The Cenacle

The Cenacle is the room where the Last Supper took place. Biblical events like washing of the disciples feet and the descent of the Holy Spirit are also believed to have occurred here.

16. Retrace Footsteps on Via Dolorosa

In Latin, Via Dolorosa means “Way of Suffering”. Via Dolorosa is a street in Jerusalem that is believed to be the path that Jesus walked on his way to be crucified.

The path is marked via stations of significance in the Old City. Via Dolorosa is a good way to sight-see while walking a significant religious pilgrimage.

Explore the City

The amount of things to do in Jerusalem are countless. This list is a starting point, but be sure to do some wandering on your own as well. We’d love to hear some of your favorite things to do in Jerusalem below!